Best Classical Composers and Their Best Works, Ranked: Part 2

I collected 30 lists of the best classical music composers from the Internet and combined them into a single meta-list.  Here is Part 2 of the list, organized by rank: every composer whose name was on three or more lists, with the most-listed composer on top.  As with all lists, this one will spark debates, such as (1) Why is a particular composer not on the list? and (2) Why was a particular composer rated so low/so high? I can confess my personal disappointment that I could not find three “Best Composers” lists containing the names of Anton Webern or Alban Berg, two important figures in early 20th Century art music.

To see the beginning of the list, go here. To see a version of the list organized by composer’s date of birth, go here.

On 4 Lists
HILDEGARD VON BINGEN
(1097-1179)
Birthplace: Bermersheim vor der Höhe (?), Holy Roman Empire (now Germany)
Period/Style: Medieval

  • Ordo Virtutum (c. 1151) (morality play)
  • O viridissima virga (1140-1175) (antiphon)
  • O vis aeternatis (1140-1175) (response)
  • O Jerusalem aurea civitatis (1140-1175) (sequence)
  • O presul vere civitatis (1140-1175) (sequence)
  • O quam mirabilis (1140-1175) (antiphon)
  • O Euchari in leta via (1140-1175) (sequence)
  • Caritas Habundat In Omnia (1140-1175) (antiphon)
  • O frondens virga (1140-1175) (antiphon)
  • Ave, generosa (1140-1175) (hymn)
  • O ignis spiritus Paraclitus (1140-1175) (sequence)

WILLIAM BYRD (1543-1623)
Birthplace: London, England (now UK)
Period/Style: Renaissance

  • Infelix Ego (1591) (motet)
  • My Ladye Nevells Booke (1591) (keyboard)
  • Mass in Three Parts (1592-1595) (sacred vocal music)
  • Mass in Four Parts (1592-1595) (sacred vocal music)
  • Mass in Five Parts (1592-1595) (sacred vocal music)
  • The Great Service (1597-1599) (sacred vocal music)
  • Ave Verum Corpus (1605) (gradual)
  • Assumpta Est Maria (1605) (gradual)
  • Hodie Simon Petrus (1607) (gradual)
  • O Magnum Misterium (1607) (gradual)
  • Fitzwilliam Virginal Book (c. 1612) (portion) (keyboard music)

JEAN-PHILIPPE RAMEAU (1683-1764)
Birthplace: Dijon, France
Period/Style: Baroque

  • Gavotte and Variations in A minor (1727) (chamber music)
  • Hippolyte et Aricie (1733) (opera)
  • Castor et Pollux (1737) (opera)
  • Les Indes Galantes (1735) (opera-ballet)
  • Les Indes Galantes Suite (1735) (orchestral music)
  • Dardanus (1739) (opera)
  • Pieces de clavecin en concert (1741) (chamber music)
  • Suite in A major (from Pieces de clavecin en concert) (1741) (chamber music)
  • Tambourin (from Suite in A major) (1741) (chamber music)
  • La Princesse de Navarre (1744) (opera-ballet)
  • Platée (1745) (opera)
  • La Dauphine (1747) (keyboard music)
  • Zaïs (1748) (opera)

CHRISTOPH WILLIBALD GLUCK (1714-1787)
Birthplace: Erasbach, Upper Palatinate (now Germany)
Style/Period: Classical

  • Orfeo ed Euridice (1762) (opera)
  • Alceste (1767) (opera)
  • Iphigénie en Aulide (1774) (opera)
  • Iphigénie en Tauride (1779) (opera)

GIOACCHINO ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Birthplace: Pesaro, Papal States (now Italy)
Period/Style: Early Romantic

  • La Scala di seta Overture (1812) (orchestral music)
  • L’Italiana in Algeri (1813) (opera)
  • L’Italiana in Algeri Overture (1813) (orchestral music)
  • Il Barbiere di Siviglia (The Barber of Seville) (1816) (opera)
  • La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie) (1817) (opera)
  • La Gazza Ladra Overture (1817) (orchestral music)
  • Semiramide (1823) (opera)
  • Semiramide Overture (1823) (orchestral music)
  • La Cenerentola (1817) (opera)
  • Guillaume Tell (1829) (opera)
  • Guillaume Tell Overture (1829) (orchestral music)
  • Stabat Mater (1832) (sacred vocal music)

BEDŘICH SMETANA (1824-1884)
Birthplace: Litomyšl, Hapsburg Empire (now Czech Republic)
Period/Style: Romantic/Nationalist

  • The Bartered Bride (1866) (opera)
  • String Quartet No. 1 in E minor “From My Life” (1876) (chamber music)
  • Má Vlast (My Homeland) (1879) (symphonic poem cycle)

JOHANN STRAUSS II (1825-1899)
Birthplace: St. Ulrich, Austria
Period/Style: Late Romantic

  • On the Beautiful Blue Danube (1866) (waltz)
  • Artist’s Life (1867) (waltz)
  • Thunder and Lightning (1868) (polka)
  • Tales from the Vienna Woods (1868) (waltz)
  • Wine, Women and Song (1869) (waltz)
  • Vienna Blood (1873) (waltz)
  • Die Fledermaus (1874) (operetta)
  • Emperor Waltz (1888) (waltz)

GABRIEL FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Birthplace: Pamiers, France
Period/Style: Late Romantic

  • Nocturnes Nos. 1-13 (c. 1875-1921) (keyboard music)
  • Violin Sonata No. 1 (1876) (chamber music)
  • Requiem (1877) (sacred vocal music)
  • Piano Quartet No. 1 (1879) (chamber music)
  • Piano Quartet No. 2 (1886) (chamber music)
  • Pavane for Chorus and Orchestra (1887) (orchestral music with chorus)
  • La Bonne Chanson (1894) (song cycle)
  • Pelléas et Mélisande (1898) (orchestral music)

LEOŠ JANÁČEK (1854-1928)
Birthplace: Hukvaldy, Moravia, Austrian Empire (now Czech Republic)
Period/Style: Late Romantic/Nationalist

  • Jenůfa (1903) (opera)
  • Taras Bulba (1918) (orchestral music)
  • Káťa Kabanová (1921) (opera)
  • The Cunning Little Vixen (1923) (opera)
  • String Quartet No. 1 “Kreutzer Sonata” (1923) (chamber music)
  • The Makropulos Affair (1925) (opera)
  • Sinfonietta (1926) (orchestral music)
  • Glagolitic Mass (1927) (sacred vocal music)
  • String Quartet No. 2 “Intimate Pages” (1928) (chamber music)

JEAN SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Birthplace: Hämeenlinna, Grand Duchy of Finland (now Finland)
Period/Style: Late Romantic/Early Modern/Nationalist

  • Karelia Suite, Op. 11 (1893) (orchestral music)
  • Lemminkäinen Suite, Op. 22 (Four Legends from the Kalevala) (1895) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 1 in E minor, Op. 39 (1899) (orchestral music)
  • Finlandia, Op. 26 (1899) (tone poem)
  • Symphony No. 2 in D major, Op. 43 (1902) (orchestral music)
  • Violin Concerto in D minor, Op. 47 (1905) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52 (1907) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 4 in A minor, Op. 63 (1911) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 5 in E-flat major, Op. 82 (1919) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 6 in D minor, Op. 104 (1923) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 7 in C major, Op. 105 (1924) (orchestral music)
  • Tapiola, Op. 112 (1926) (tone poem)

GUSTAV HOLST (1874-1934)
Birthplace: Cheltenham, England, UK
Period/Style: Modern

  • St. Paul’s Suite, Op. 29, No. 2 (1913) (orchestral music)
  • The Planets, Op. 32 (1916) (orchestral music with chorus)
  • The Hymn of Jesus, Op. 37 (1917) (sacred vocal music)
  • Egdon Heath, Op. 47 (1927) (tone poem)

CHARLES IVES (1874-1954)
Birthplace: Danbury, Connecticut, US
Period/Style: Modern

  • Symphony No. 2 (1897-1901) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 3 “The Camp Meeting” (1901-1904) (orchestral music)
  • The Unanswered Question (1906, rev. 1935) (two chamber ensembles and solo trumpet)
  • Central Park in the Dark (1898-1907) (orchestral music)
  • A Symphony: Holidays (1904-1913) (orchestral music)
  • String Quartet No. 2 (1907-1913) (chamber music)
  • Three Places in New England (Orchestral Set No. 1) (1903-1914) (orchestral music)
  • Piano Sonata No. 2 “Concord” (1909-1915) (keyboard music)
  • Symphony No. 4 (1910-1916) (orchestral music)
  • Songs (songs)

GEORGE GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Birthplace: New York City, New York, US
Period/Style: Modern/Jazz

  • Rhapsody in Blue (1924) (piano concerto)
  • Piano Concerto in F major (1925) (piano concerto)
  • Three Preludes (1926) (keyboard music)
  • An American in Paris (1928) (orchestral music)
  • Porgy and Bess (1935) (opera)

OLIVIER MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Period/Style: Modern

  • La Nativité du Seigneur (1935) (keyboard music)
  • Quartet for the End of Time (1941) (chamber music)
  • Turangalîla Symphony (1948) (orchestral music)

PHILIP GLASS (1937- )
Birthplace: Baltimore, Maryland, US
Period/Style: Modern/Minimalism

  • Einstein on the Beach (1976) (opera)
  • Glassworks (1982) (chamber music)
  • Koyaanisqatsi (1982) (film score)
  • Violin Concerto No. 1 (1987) (orchestral music)
  • Powaqqatsi (1988) (film score)
  • Metamorphosis I-V (1988) (keyboard music)
  • Symphony No. 1 “Low” (1992) (orchestral music)
  • The Hours (2002) (film score)

3
PÉROTIN
(fl. c. 1185-1205)
Birthplace: France (?)
Period/Style: Medieval/Notre Dame/Ars Antiqua

  • Viderunt omnes (c. 1185-1205) (organum)
  • Sederunt pricipes (c. 1185-1205) (organum)
  • Alleluia “Posui adiutorium” (c. 1185-1205) (organum)
  • Beata viscera (c. 1185-1205) (conductus)

GUILLAUME DE MACHAUT (c. 1300-1377)
Birthplace: near Reims, France
Period/Style: Medieval/Ars Nova

  • Inviolata gentrix (after 1358) (motet)
  • Messe de Nostre Dame (c. 1360s) (sacred vocal music)
  • Hoquetus David (1360s) (hocket)
  • Douce dame jolie (virelai)

GUILLAUME DUFAY (1397-1474)
Birthplace: Beersel, Flanders (now Belgium)
Period/Style: Renaissance/Burgundian

  • Adieu ces bons vins de Lannoys (1426) (rondeau)
  • Nuper Rosarum Flores (1436) (motet)
  • Missa Se la face ay Pale (c. 1450s) (cantus firmus mass)
  • Missa L’homme arme (c. 1460) (cantus firmus mass)
  • Missa Ecce Ancilla Domine (1465) (cantus firmus mass)
  • Alma redemptoris mater (motet)

GIOVANNI GABRIELI (1554-1612)
Birthplace: Venice, Republic of Venice (now Italy)
Period/Style: Late Renaissance/Early Baroque/Venetian School

  • Sacrae symphoniae (1597) (motets/canzonas/sonatas)
  • Sonata pian’ e forte (1597) (sonata)
  • Sacrae symphoniae (1615) (motets/canzonas/sonatas)
  • In ecclesiis (1615) (motet)
  • Canzoni e Sonate (1615) (canzonas/sonatas)

CARLO GESUALDO (c. 1566-1613)
Birthplace: Venosa, Kingdom of Naples (now Italy)
Period/Style: Late Renaissance/Early Baroque

  • O Vos omnes (1603) (responsory/motet)
  • Moro, lasso, al mio duolo (1611) (madrigal)
  • Tenebrae Responsories (1611) (sacred madrigals)

HEINRICH SCHÜTZ (1585-1672)
Birthplace: Köstritz, Free State of Thuringia (now Germany)
Period/Style: Early Baroque

  • Psalmen Davids, Op. 2 (1619) (sacred vocal music)
  • History of the Resurrection, Op. 3 (1623) (oratorio)
  • Cantiones Sacrae, Op. 4 (1625) (sacred vocal music)
  • Symphoniae Sacrae, Book I, Op. 6 (1629) (sacred vocal music)
  • Musikalische Exequien, Op. 7 (1636) (sacred vocal music)
  • Seven Last Word of Jesus on the Cross (1645) (sacred vocal music)
  • Symphoniae Sacrae, Book II, Op. 10 (1647) (sacred vocal music)
  • Symphoniae Sacrae, Book III, Op. 12 (1650) (sacred vocal music)
  • Christmas History (1664) (oratorio)

ARCANGELO CORELLI (1653-1713)
Birthplace: Fusignano, Papal States (now Italy)
Period/Style: Baroque

  • 12 Trio Sonatas, Op. 1 (1681) (chamber music)
  • 12 Trio Sonatas, Op. 2 (1685) (chamber music)
  • 12 Trio Sonatas, Op. 3 (1689) (chamber music)
  • 12 Trio Sonatas, Op. 4 (1694) (chamber music)
  • 12 Sonatas, Op. 5 (1700) (chamber music)
  • Violin Sonata in D minor, Op. 5, No. 12 ”La Folia” (1700) (chamber music)
  • 12 Concerti Grossi, Op. 6 (1714) (orchestral music)
  • Concerto Grosso in D major, Op. 6, No. 4 (1714) (orchestral music)
  • Concerto Grosso in G Minor, Op. 6, No. 8 “Christmas Concerto” (1714) (orchestral music)

HENRY PURCELL (1659-1695)
Birthplace: London, England (now UK)
Period/Style: Baroque

  • Dido and Aeneas (1688) (opera)
  • King Arthur (1691) (semi-opera)
  • The Fairy Queen (1692) (semi-opera)
  • Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day: Hail! Bright Cecilia (1692) (ode)
  • Come ye sons of art, away (1694) (ode)
  • Funeral Music for Queen Mary II (1695) (march/canzona)
  • The Indian Queen (1695) (semi-opera)
  • Rondeau (from Abdelazer) (1695) (incidental music)

FRANÇOIS COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Birthplace: Paris, France
Period/Style: Baroque

  • Leçons de ténèbres (1714) (sacred vocal music)
  • Ordre 6 in B-flat major, No. 5 “Les baricades misterieuses” (1717) (keyboard music)
  • L’apothéose de Lully (1724) (chamber music)
  • Les Nations (1726) (chamber music)

GEORG PHILIPP TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Birthplace: Magdeburg, Duchy of Magdeburg, Brandenburg-Prussia (now Germany)
Period/Style: Baroque

  • Overture in C major “Water Music: Hamburg Ebb and Flow” TWV55: C3 (1723) (orchestral suite)
  • 12 Paris Quartets, TWV43 (1730) (chamber music)
  • Tafelmusik (1733) (chamber music)
  • Don Quixote Suite (1761) (orchestral suite)
  • Suite in A minor for Recorder (or Flute) and Strings, TWV55:a2 (orchestral suite)

DOMENICO SCARLATTI (1685-1767)
Birthplace: Naples, Kingdom of Naples (now Italy)
Period/Style: Late Baroque/Early Classical

  • Stabat Mater (1715) (sacred vocal music)
  • Sonata in D minor, K.9 “Pastorale” (1738) (keyboard music)
  • Sonata in B minor, K.27 (1738) (keyboard music)
  • Sonata in B minor, K.87 (1746) (keyboard music)
  • Sonata in A Major, K.208 (1753) (keyboard music)
  • Sonata in E major, K.380 “Cortege” (1753) (keyboard music)
  • Sonata in D minor, K.141 (1757) (keyboard music)
  • Sonata in D major, K.491 (1757) (keyboard music)
  • Sonata in D major, K.492 (1757) (keyboard music)
  • Sonata in C major, K.513 (1757) (keyboard music)
  • Salve Regina (1757) (sacred vocal music)
  • Sonata in E minor, K.402 (keyboard music)
  • Sonata in D minor, K.517 (keyboard music)

CARL MARIA VON WEBER (1786-1826)
Birthplace: Eutin, Duchy of Holstein, Holy Roman Empire (now Germany)
Period/Style: Early Romantic

  • Clarinet Concertino in E-flat Major, Op. 26 (1811) (orchestral music)
  • Clarinet Concerto No. 1 in F minor, Op. 73 (1811) (orchestral music)
  • Clarinet Concerto No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 74 (1811) (orchestral music)
  • Clarinet Quintet, Op. 34 (1814) (chamber music)
  • Invitation to the Dance, Op. 65 (1819) (keyboard music)
  • Konzertstücke in F minor for Piano and Orchestra, Op. 79 (1821) (orchestral music)
  • Der Freischütz (1821) (opera)
  • Der Freischütz Overture (1821) (orchestral music)
  • Euryanthe (1823) (opera)
  • Euryanthe Overture (1823) (orchestral music)
  • Oberon (1826) (opera)
  • Oberon Overture (1826) (orchestral music)

GAETANO DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Birthplace: Bergamo, Lombardy, Cisalpine Republic (now Italy)
Period/Style: Early Romantic

  • Anna Bolena (1830) (opera)
  • L’elisir d’amore (1832) (opera)
  • Lucrezia Borgia (1833) (opera)
  • Lucia di Lammermoor (1835) (opera)
  • La fille du régiment (1840) (opera)
  • La favorite (1840) (opera)
  • Don Pasquale (1843) (opera)

ALEXANDER BORODIN (1833-1887)
Birthplace: St. Petersburg, Russia
Period/Style: Late Romantic/Nationalist

  • Symphony No. 2 in B minor (1876) (orchestral music)
  • String Quartet No. 1 in A major (1879) (chamber music)
  • In the Steppes of Central Asia (1880) (symphonic poem)
  • String Quartet No. 2 in D major (1881) (chamber music)
  • Prince Igor (1887) (opera)
  • Polovtsian Dances (from Prince Igor) (1887) (orchestral music with chorus)

GEORGES BIZET (1838-1875)
Birthplace: Paris, France
Period/Style: Late Romantic

  • Symphony in C major (1855) (orchestral music)
  • The Pearl Fishers (1863) (opera)
  • Djamileh (1871) (opera)
  • L’Arlesienne Suites Nos. 1 & 2 (1872) (incidental music)
  • Carmen (1874) (opera)

EDWARD ELGAR (1857-1934)
Birthplace: Lower Broadheath, England, UK
Period/Style: Late Romantic

  • Enigma Variations, Op. 36 (1899) (orchestral music)
  • The Dream of Gerontius, Op. 38 (1900) (orchestral music with chorus)
  • Introduction and Allegro, Op. 47 (1905) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 1 in A-flat major, Op. 55 (1908) (orchestral music)
  • Violin Concerto in B minor, Op. 61 (1910) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 2 in E-flat major, Op. 63 (1911) (orchestral music)
  • Cello Concerto in E minor, Op. 85 (1919) (orchestral music)
  • Pomp and Circumstance Marches, Op. 39 (1900-1930) (orchestral music)

RALPH VAUGHAN WILLLIAMS (1872-1958)
Birthplace: Down Ampney, England, UK
Period/Style: Early Modern/Nationalist

  • A Sea Symphony (Symphony No. 1) (1909) (orchestral music)
  • Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910) (orchestral music)
  • A London Symphony (Symphony No. 2) (1914) (orchestral music)
  • The Lark Ascending (1914) (violin concerto)
  • Symphony No. 4 in F minor (1934) (orchestral music)
  • Fantasia on “Greensleeves” (1934) (orchestral music)
  • Symphony No. 5 in D major (1943) (orchestral music)

PAUL HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Birthplace: Hanau, Germany
Period/Style: Modern

  • Viola Sonata, Op. 11, No. 4 (1919) (chamber music)
  • Kammermusik, No. 1, Op. 24, No. 1 (1921) (orchestral music)
  • Das Marianleben, Op. 27 (1923, rev. 1948) (song cycle)
  • Cardillac (1926) (opera)
  • Symphony “Mathis der Maler” (1934) (orchestral music)
  • Der Schwanendreher (1935) (viola concerto)
  • Mathis der Maler (1938) (opera)
  • Nobilissima visione (1938) (orchestral music)
  • Ludis tonalis (1942) (keyboard music)
  • Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes of Carl Maria von Weber (1943) (orchestral music)
  • Requiem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” (1946) (sacred vocal music)

AARON COPLAND (1900-1990)
Birthplace: Brooklyn, New York, US
Period/Style: Modern

  • Piano Concerto (1926) (orchestral music)
  • El salón México (1936) (orchestral music)
  • Billy the Kid (1938) (ballet)
  • Rodeo (1942) (ballet)
  • Lincoln Portrait (1942) (orchestral music with narrator)
  • Fanfare for the Common Man (1942) (orchestral music)
  • Appalachian Spring (1944) (ballet)
  • Symphony No. 3 (1946) (orchestral music)
  • Clarinet Concerto (1948) (orchestral music)
  • Old American Songs, No. 2 (1952) (song cycle)

SAMUEL BARBER (1910-1981)
Birthplace: West Chester, Pennsylvania, US
Period/Style: Modern

  • Adagio for Strings (1936) (orchestral music)
  • Violin Concerto (1939) (orchestral music)
  • Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1947) (orchestral music with voice)
  • Sonata for Piano (1949) (keyboard music)
  • Hermit Songs (1953) (song cycle)
  • Piano Concerto (1962) (orchestral music)

JOHN CAGE (1912-1992)
Birthplace: Los Angeles, California, US
Period/Style: Avant-garde/Chance music

  • First Construction (in Metal) (1939) (music for mixed ensemble)
  • Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano (1948) (keyboard music)
  • String Quartet in Four Parts (1950) (chamber music)
  • Imaginary Landscape No. 4 (1951) (music for 24 performers & 12 radios)
  • Concerto for Prepared Piano and Chamber Orchestra (1951) (orchestral music)
  • Music of Changes (1951) (keyboard music)
  • 4’33” (1952) (conceptual art)
  • HPSCHD (1969) (amplified harpsichords and taped computer-generated music)
  • Cheap Imitation (1969) (keyboard music)
  • Etudes Australes (1975) (keyboard music)
  • Roaratorio, an Irish Circus on Finnegans Wake (1979) (chamber ensemble and spoken word)
  • Europeras 1 & 2 (1987) (opera with taped music)

BENJAMIN BRITTEN (1913-1976)
Birthplace: Lowestoft, England, UK
Period/Style: Modern

  • Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10 (1937) (orchestral music)
  • Sinfonia da requiem, Op. 20 (1940) (orchestral music)
  • A Ceremony of Carols, Op. 28 (1942) (music for voices and harp)
  • Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings, Op. 31 (1943) (song cycle)
  • Peter Grimes, Op. 33 (1945) (opera)
  • The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra (Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Purcell), Op. 34 (1946) (orchestral music)
  • Billy Budd, Op. 50 (1951) (opera)
  • The Turn of the Screw, Op. 54 (1954) (opera)
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Op. 64 (1960) (opera)
  • War Requiem, Op. 66 (1961) (sacred vocal music)
  • Death in Venice, Op. 88 (1973) (opera)

GYÖRGY LIGETI (1923-2006)
Birthplace: Dicsőszentmárton, Transylvania (now Romania)
Period/Style: Modern

  • Musica ricerata (1953) (keyboard music)
  • Atmosphères (1961) (orchestral music)
  • Aventures (1962) (chamber music with voices)
  • Lux Aeterna (1966) (vocal music)
  • Le Grand Macabre (1977) (opera)
  • Études for piano, Books 1-3 (1985-2001) (keyboard music)