German composer and pianist, Ludwig van Beethoven, remains one of the most admired composers in the history of Western music even two centuries after his death. Born into a musical family, he was initially tutored by his father. He found success early as a pianist and went on to become an admired composer despite suffering from hearing-impairment.
Romantic Era virtuoso pianist and composer Frédéric Chopin, nicknamed The Poet of the Piano, is remembered as the inventor of the instrumental ballade. The legendary composer mostly created solo piano masterpieces but also experimented with piano concertos and chamber pieces. He was influenced by Bach, Mozart, and Polish folk music.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was the first Russian composer to place Russian music on the international stage. Often described as a musician who transcended the stereotypes of classical Russian music, Tchaikovsky is credited with making the Western world take note of Russian music. Although he was criticized by the critics, his popularity among the public never faded.
Claude Debussy was a French composer whose career spanned over 30 years. Regarded as one of the most influential composers of his generation, Claude Debussy's works have influenced several other composers, such as Bill Evans, George Benjamin, Olivier Messiaen, and Béla Bartók. Claude Debussy is also regarded as the first Impressionist composer, though he rejected the term.
Franz Liszt was a Hungarian composer, conductor, arranger, music teacher, and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic era. Considered one of the greatest pianists ever, Liszt's works influenced his contemporaries and successors alike. Perhaps his greatest legacy is his work as a teacher, although his rich body of work might suggest otherwise; he taught people like Karl Klindworth among other pianists.
Legendary Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi is best remembered for his masterpieces such as Requiem, Rigoletto, Falstaff, and Otello. He was also briefly associated with the Risorgimento movement meant to unify Italy and thus composed many choruses reflecting the spirit. He was inspired by composers such as Bellini and Donizetti.
Four-time Grammy-winning Russian composer and pianist Igor Stravinsky is regarded as one of the greatest composers of the 20th century. He is remembered for his ballets The Firebird, Petrushka, and The Rite of Spring. He broke the traditional flow of music and incorporated his own style.
12 Erik Satie
Erik Satie was a French pianist and composer. An influential artist during his time, Satie's works served as a predecessor to later artistic movements like repetitive music, minimalism, and the Theatre of the Absurd. Apart from being a musician, Erik Satie was also a prolific writer, who contributed to publications, such as Vanity Fair and 391.
Sergei Prokofiev was a Russian Soviet pianist, composer, and conductor. Renowned for creating masterpieces across various genres, Prokofiev is widely considered one of the 20th century's major composers. Many other composers like Arthur Honegger have called Prokofiev the greatest contemporary musician of all time. An open pianists' competition, which is held every year in Ukraine, is named after Sergei Prokofiev.
Antonín Dvořák was a Czech composer who achieved worldwide recognition for his works. His life and career inspired the 1980 historical biographical film Concert at the End of Summer, in which Dvořák was played by actor Josef Vinklář. Canadian children's author Ian Krykorka has based many of his works on some of Antonín Dvořák's operas.
Born into a musical dynasty, composer Giacomo Puccini lost his father at age 5. Some of his best opera pieces include Madama Butterfly and La Bohème. The suicide of his maid, who was wrongly accused by his wife of being in an affair with him, affected his later career adversely.
17 Edvard Grieg
Jean Sibelius was a Finnish violinist and composer. Widely regarded as Finland's greatest composer, Sibelius' music is credited with having kindled nationalism in Finland during the country's struggle for independence from Russia. His work has inspired other important composers like Douglas Lilburn. The International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition, which is held every five years, is named after him.
19 Fred Astaire
Fred Astaire was an American actor, television presenter, dancer, choreographer, and singer. Widely regarded as the most influential dancer in film history, Astaire was known for his innovation, perfectionism, and an uncanny sense of rhythm. Also known for his fashion sense, Fred Astaire remained a male fashion icon throughout his career, which spanned more than seven decades.
21 Edward Elgar
Florence Foster Jenkins was an American socialite who was often ridiculed and mocked for her poor singing ability, which in turn made her popular. Known as the world's worst opera singer, Jenkins became a musical cult-figure in New York City due to her technical incompetence as an amateur soprano. Her life inspired several plays and films, including Florence Foster Jenkins.
Hector Berlioz was a French Romantic conductor and composer who was highly regarded in places like Russia, Britain, and Germany. Although he did not achieve fame as a composer, Berlioz became renowned internationally for his skills as a conductor. He also wrote musical journalism, which includes his influential work, Treatise on Instrumentation.
25 Cole Porter
Russian composer and pianist Aleksandr Scriabin is considered one of the most innovative and controversial of early modern composers. Interested in music from an early age, he built pianos as a young man and didn’t take long to establish himself as a brilliant composer. Unfortunately, he died at the height of his career, at the age of just 43.
Jimmy Durante was an American comedian, actor, singer, and pianist. Widely regarded as one of America's most popular and familiar personalities of all time, Durante was often characterized by his Lower East Side accent, gravelly speech, and a prominent nose. Also known for his charitable work, Durante worked closely with Fraternal Order of Eagles, which raises money for abused children.
28 Ma Rainey
Irving Berlin was a composer and lyricist. He made tremendous contributions to the Great American Songbook and is widely considered one of the greatest songwriters in American history. He had an extensive career spanning six decades, during which he composed an estimated 1,500 songs. He received the Lawrence Langner Tony Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
30 Scott Joplin
32 Charles Ives
34 Alban Berg
Johann Strauss II, also known as The Waltz King, was initially pushed by his composer father Johann Strauss I to become a banker, while he learned the violin secretly and conducted a restaurant band. Best remembered for his iconic composition The Blue Danube, he redefined the 19th-century waltzes and operettas.
37 Leos Janacek
Leos Janacek was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, and teacher. He is credited to have created an original, modern musical style inspired by Moravian and other Slavic folk music. He was deeply influenced by folklore and by the works of his contemporary and friend, Antonín Dvořák. The Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra is named in his honor.
39 Ernest II
Ernest II, the eldest son of Duke Ernest I, had been the duke of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. He was quite close to his brother, Prince Albert, consort to England’s Queen Victoria. Best known for his support of the German unification, he was also a skilled composer of operas and an avid sports lover.
While he grew up listening to Russian folk songs and church music, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov later joined the navy with his brother. One of the legendary Russian composers known as The Mighty Handful, he is remembered for his pieces such as Flight of the Bumblebee from the opera Tsar Saltan.
Clara Wieck Schumann was a German pianist, teacher, and composer. One of the most famous pianists of the Romantic era, Schumann changed the way concerts were conducted during her time and made a long-lasting impression as a pianist. She also influenced other pianists through her teaching; among her students were famous English pianist, Mathilde Verne.
Georges Bizet was a French composer whose career was cut short by his untimely demise at the age of 36. Since his death in 1875, Bizet's final work Carmen has become one of the most frequently performed works in the opera repertoire. Although he couldn’t achieve success during his lifetime, Bizet's death is considered a loss to French musical theatre.
Modest Mussorgsky was a Russian composer best remembered for being part of a renowned 19th-century Russian composers group known as The Five. An innovator of Russian music, Mussorgsky worked towards achieving a Russian musical identity that challenged the already established Western music, which was generally considered conventional at that time.
One of the greatest composers of all time, French pianist and organist Gabriel Fauré is best remembered for his masterpieces such as Requiem. His music career began at 9, when he was sent to Paris to become a choirmaster. At 75, he was awarded the Grand-Croix of the Légion d'honneur.
Hungarian violinist and composer Joseph Joachim was trained in Budapest and London before he became the director of the Hochschule für Ausübende Tonkunst in Berlin. He formed the Joachim Quartet and gained fame as a music teacher. He is best known for his versions of works by legends such as Beethoven.
Bedrich Smetana was a Czech composer remembered for his opera, The Bartered Bride. Considered the father of Czech music, Smetana was a prodigy whose first public performance came at age six. He then went on to establish himself as one of the most important composers of Czech music. Smetana has been honored with a Walk of Fame star in Vienna.
50 Carl Orff
German composer Carl Orff is remembered for his work in operas and his innovative music education system, which relied on group exercises and playing percussion instruments. A man who had started training in music at 5, Orff later co-founded the Günther School to impart lessons in dance, music, and gymnastics.