The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Czech Composers of all time. This list of famous Czech Composers is sorted by HPI (Historical Popularity Index), a metric that aggregates information on a biography’s online popularity. Visit the rankings page to view the entire list of Czech Composers.
With an HPI of 86.86, Gustav Mahler is the most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 113 different languages on wikipedia.
Gustav Mahler (German: [ˈmaːlɐ]; 7 July 1860 – 18 May 1911) was an Austro-Bohemian Romantic composer, and one of the leading conductors of his generation. As a composer he acted as a bridge between the 19th-century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. While in his lifetime his status as a conductor was established beyond question, his own music gained wide popularity only after periods of relative neglect, which included a ban on its performance in much of Europe during the Nazi era. After 1945 his compositions were rediscovered by a new generation of listeners; Mahler then became one of the most frequently performed and recorded of all composers, a position he has sustained into the 21st century. In 2016, a BBC Music Magazine survey of 151 conductors ranked three of his symphonies in the top ten symphonies of all time.Born in Bohemia (then part of the Austrian Empire) to Jewish parents of humble origins, the German-speaking Mahler displayed his musical gifts at an early age. After graduating from the Vienna Conservatory in 1878, he held a succession of conducting posts of rising importance in the opera houses of Europe, culminating in his appointment in 1897 as director of the Vienna Court Opera (Hofoper). During his ten years in Vienna, Mahler—who had converted to Catholicism to secure the post—experienced regular opposition and hostility from the anti-Semitic press. Nevertheless, his innovative productions and insistence on the highest performance standards ensured his reputation as one of the greatest of opera conductors, particularly as an interpreter of the stage works of Wagner, Mozart, and Tchaikovsky. Late in his life he was briefly director of New York's Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Mahler's œuvre is relatively limited; for much of his life composing was necessarily a part-time activity while he earned his living as a conductor. Aside from early works such as a movement from a piano quartet composed when he was a student in Vienna, Mahler's works are generally designed for large orchestral forces, symphonic choruses and operatic soloists. These works were frequently controversial when first performed, and several were slow to receive critical and popular approval; exceptions included his Second Symphony, and the triumphant premiere of his Eighth Symphony in 1910. Some of Mahler's immediate musical successors included the composers of the Second Viennese School, notably Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern. Dmitri Shostakovich and Benjamin Britten are among later 20th-century composers who admired and were influenced by Mahler. The International Gustav Mahler Institute was established in 1955 to honour the composer's life and achievements.
With an HPI of 85.62, Antonín Dvořák is the 2nd most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 119 different languages.
Antonín Leopold Dvořák ( d(ə-)VOR-zha(h)k; Czech: [ˈantoɲiːn ˈlɛopold ˈdvor̝aːk] (listen); 8 September 1841 – 1 May 1904) was a Czech composer, one of the first Czech composers to achieve worldwide recognition. Dvořák frequently employed rhythms and other aspects of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia, following the Romantic-era nationalist example of his predecessor Bedřich Smetana. Dvořák's style has been described as "the fullest recreation of a national idiom with that of the symphonic tradition, absorbing folk influences and finding effective ways of using them".Dvořák displayed his musical gifts at an early age, being an apt violin student from age six. The first public performances of his works were in Prague in 1872 and, with special success, in 1873, when he was 31 years old. Seeking recognition beyond the Prague area, he submitted a score of his First Symphony to a prize competition in Germany, but did not win, and the unreturned manuscript was lost until rediscovered many decades later. In 1874, he made a submission to the Austrian State Prize for Composition, including scores of two further symphonies and other works. Although Dvořák was not aware of it, Johannes Brahms was the leading member of the jury and was highly impressed. The prize was awarded to Dvořák in 1874 and again in 1876 and in 1877, when Brahms and the prominent critic Eduard Hanslick, also a member of the jury, made themselves known to him. Brahms recommended Dvořák to his publisher, Simrock, who soon afterward commissioned what became the Slavonic Dances, Op. 46. These were highly praised by the Berlin music critic Louis Ehlert in 1878, the sheet music (of the original piano 4-hands version) had excellent sales, and Dvořák's international reputation was launched at last. Dvořák's first piece of a religious nature, his setting of Stabat Mater, was premiered in Prague in 1880. It was very successfully performed in London in 1883, leading to many other performances in the United Kingdom and United States. In his career, Dvořák made nine invited visits to England, often conducting performances of his own works. His Seventh Symphony was written for London. Visiting Russia in March 1890, he conducted concerts of his own music in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. In 1891 Dvořák was appointed as a professor at the Prague Conservatory. In 1890–91, he wrote his Dumky Trio, one of his most successful chamber music pieces. In 1892, Dvořák moved to the United States and became the director of the National Conservatory of Music of America in New York City. The President of the National Conservatory of Music in America, Jeannette Thurber, offered Dvořák an annual salary of $15,000 – an incredibly lavish sum for the era (equivalent to $452,389 in 2021), twenty-five times what he was paid at the Prague Conservatory. While in the United States, Dvořák wrote his two most successful orchestral works: the Symphony From the New World, which spread his reputation worldwide, and his Cello Concerto, one of the most highly regarded of all cello concerti. In the summer of 1893, Dvořák moved from New York City to Spillville, Iowa, following the advice of his secretary, J.J. Kovarík. Dvořák had originally planned to come back to Bohemia, but Spillville was made up of mostly Czech immigrants, and thus he felt less homesick; Dvořák referred to it as his "summer Vysoka." This is where he wrote his most famous piece of chamber music, his String Quartet in F major, Op. 96, which was later nicknamed the American Quartet. Shortly after his time in Iowa, Dvorák extended his contract at the National Conservatory for another two years. However, the economic crisis of April 1893 resulted in Thurber's husband's loss of income, and directly influenced the National Conservatory's funding. Shortfalls in payment of his salary, along with increasing recognition in Europe and an onset of homesickness, led him to leave the United States and return to Bohemia in 1895. All of Dvořák's nine operas, except his first, have librettos in Czech and were intended to convey the Czech national spirit, as were some of his choral works. By far the most successful of the operas is Rusalka. Among his smaller works, the seventh Humoresque and the song "Songs My Mother Taught Me" are also widely performed and recorded. He has been described as "arguably the most versatile... composer of his time".The Dvořák Prague International Music Festival is a major series of concerts held annually to celebrate Dvořák's life and works.
With an HPI of 83.88, Bedřich Smetana is the 3rd most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 81 different languages.
Bedřich Smetana ( BED-ər-zhikh SMET-ə-nə, Czech: [ˈbɛdr̝ɪx ˈsmɛtana] (listen); 2 March 1824 – 12 May 1884) was a Czech composer who pioneered the development of a musical style that became closely identified with his people's aspirations to a cultural and political "revival." He has been regarded in his homeland as the father of Czech music. Internationally he is best known for his 1866 opera The Bartered Bride and for the symphonic cycle Má vlast ("My Fatherland"), which portrays the history, legends and landscape of the composer's native Bohemia. It contains the famous symphonic poem "Vltava", also popularly known by its German name "Die Moldau" (in English, "The Moldau"). Smetana was naturally gifted as a composer, and gave his first public performance at the age of 6. After conventional schooling, he studied music under Josef Proksch in Prague. His first nationalistic music was written during the 1848 Prague uprising, in which he briefly participated. After failing to establish his career in Prague, he left for Sweden, where he set up as a teacher and choirmaster in Gothenburg, and began to write large-scale orchestral works. In the early 1860s, a more liberal political climate in Bohemia encouraged Smetana to return permanently to Prague. He threw himself into the musical life of the city, primarily as a champion of the new genre of Czech opera. In 1866 his first two operas, The Brandenburgers in Bohemia and The Bartered Bride, were premiered at Prague's new Provisional Theatre, the latter achieving great popularity. In that same year, Smetana became the theatre's principal conductor, but the years of his conductorship were marked by controversy. Factions within the city's musical establishment considered his identification with the progressive ideas of Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner inimical to the development of a distinctively Czech opera style. This opposition interfered with his creative work, and may have hastened a decline in health that precipitated his resignation from the theatre in 1874. By the end of 1874, Smetana had become completely deaf but, freed from his theatre duties and the related controversies, he began a period of sustained composition that continued for almost the rest of his life. His contributions to Czech music were increasingly recognised and honoured, but a mental collapse early in 1884 led to his incarceration in an asylum and subsequent death. Smetana's reputation as the founding father of Czech music has endured in his native country, where advocates have raised his status above that of his contemporaries and successors. However, relatively few of Smetana's works are in the international repertory, and most foreign commentators tend to regard Antonín Dvořák as a more significant Czech composer.
With an HPI of 77.09, Leoš Janáček is the 4th most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 53 different languages.
Leoš Janáček (Czech: [ˈlɛoʃ ˈjanaːtʃɛk] (listen), baptised Leo Eugen Janáček; 3 July 1854 – 12 August 1928) was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and other Slavic musics, including Eastern European folk music, to create an original, modern musical style.Until 1895 he devoted himself mainly to folkloristic research. While his early musical output was influenced by contemporaries such as Antonín Dvořák, his later, mature works incorporate his earlier studies of national folk music in a modern, highly original synthesis, first evident in the opera Jenůfa, which was premiered in 1904 in Brno. The success of Jenůfa (often called the "Moravian national opera") at Prague in 1916 gave Janáček access to the world's great opera stages. Janáček's later works are his most celebrated. They include operas such as Káťa Kabanová and The Cunning Little Vixen, the Sinfonietta, the Glagolitic Mass, the rhapsody Taras Bulba, two string quartets, and other chamber works. Along with Dvořák and Bedřich Smetana, he is considered one of the most important Czech composers.
With an HPI of 72.89, Johann Stamitz is the 5th most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 35 different languages.
Johann Wenzel Anton Stamitz (Czech: Jan Václav Antonín Stamic; 18 June 1717 – 27 March 1757) was a Bohemian composer and violinist. His two surviving sons, Carl and Anton Stamitz, were composers of the Mannheim school, of which Johann is considered the founding father. His music is stylistically transitional between Baroque and Classical periods.
With an HPI of 72.47, Bohuslav Martinů is the 6th most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 40 different languages.
Bohuslav Jan Martinů (Czech: [ˈboɦuslaf ˈmarcɪnuː] (listen); December 8, 1890 – August 28, 1959) was a Czech composer of modern classical music. He wrote 6 symphonies, 15 operas, 14 ballet scores and a large body of orchestral, chamber, vocal and instrumental works. He became a violinist in the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra, and briefly studied under Czech composer and violinist Josef Suk. After leaving Czechoslovakia in 1923 for Paris, Martinů deliberately withdrew from the Romantic style in which he had been trained. During the 1920s he experimented with modern French stylistic developments, exemplified by his orchestral works Half-time and La Bagarre. He also adopted jazz idioms, for instance in his Kitchen Revue (Kuchyňská revue). In the early 1930s he found his main fount for compositional style: neoclassicism, creating textures far denser than those found in composers treating Stravinsky as a model. He was prolific, quickly composing chamber, orchestral, choral and instrumental works. His Concerto Grosso and the Double Concerto for Two String Orchestras, Piano and Timpani are among his best-known works from this period. Among his operas, Juliette and The Greek Passion are considered the finest. He has been compared to Prokofiev and Bartók in his innovative incorporation of Czech folk elements into his music. He continued using Bohemian and Moravian folk melodies throughout his oeuvre, for instance in The Opening of the Springs (Otvírání studánek). His symphonic career began when he emigrated to the United States in 1941, fleeing the German invasion of France. His six symphonies were performed by all the major US orchestras. Eventually Martinů returned to live in Europe for two years starting in 1953, then was back in New York until returning to Europe in May 1956. He died in Switzerland in August 1959.
With an HPI of 71.78, Jan Dismas Zelenka is the 7th most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.
Jan Dismas Zelenka (16 October 1679 – 23 December 1745), baptised Jan Lukáš Zelenka and also known as Johann Dismas Zelenka or Johannes Lucas Ignatius Dismas Zelenka, was a composer and musician of the Baroque period. His music is admired for its harmonic inventiveness and counterpoint. Zelenka was raised in Central Bohemia, educated in Prague and Vienna, and spent his professional life in Dresden. The greatest success during his career was the performance of the extensive composition Sub olea pacis et palma virtutis in the presence of the Emperor Charles VI, shortly after his coronation as king of Bohemia in 1723.
With an HPI of 70.34, Josef Suk is the 8th most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 33 different languages.
Josef Suk (4 January 1874 – 29 May 1935) was a Czech composer and violinist. He studied under Antonín Dvořák, whose daughter he married.
With an HPI of 70.29, Anton Reicha is the 9th most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 31 different languages.
Anton (Antonín, Antoine) Joseph Reicha (Rejcha) (26 February 1770 – 28 May 1836) was a Czech-born, Bavarian-educated, later naturalized French composer and music theorist. A contemporary and lifelong friend of Beethoven, he is now best remembered for his substantial early contributions to the wind quintet literature and his role as teacher of pupils including Franz Liszt, Hector Berlioz and César Franck. He was also an accomplished theorist, and wrote several treatises on various aspects of composition. Some of his theoretical work dealt with experimental methods of composition, which he applied in a variety of works such as fugues and études for piano and string quartet. None of the advanced ideas he advocated in the most radical of his music and writings, such as polyrhythm, polytonality and microtonal music, were accepted or employed by other nineteenth-century composers. Due to Reicha's unwillingness to have his music published (like Michael Haydn before him), he fell into obscurity soon after his death and his life and work have yet to be intensively studied.
With an HPI of 69.96, Eduard Hanslick is the 10th most famous Czech Composer. His biography has been translated into 28 different languages.
Eduard Hanslick (11 September 1825 – 6 August 1904) was an Austrian music critic, aesthetician and historian. Among the leading critics of his time, he was the chief music critic of the Neue Freie Presse from 1864 until the end of his life. He was a conservative critic and championed absolute music over programmatic music for much of his career. As such, he sided with and promoted the faction of Robert Schumann and Johannes Brahms in the so-called "War of the Romantics", often deriding the works of composers such as Franz Liszt and Richard Wagner. His best known work, the 1854 treatise Vom Musikalisch-Schönen (On the Musically Beautiful), was a landmark in the aesthetics of music and outlines much of his artistic and philosophical beliefs on music.
Pantheon has 52 people classified as composers born between 1611 and 1959. Of these 52, 1 (1.92%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living composers include Vladimír Franz. The most famous deceased composers include Gustav Mahler, Antonín Dvořák, and Bedřich Smetana. As of October 2020, 9 new composers have been added to Pantheon including Anton Schindler, Franz Krommer, and Andreas Hammerschmidt.
1860 - 1911
1841 - 1904
1824 - 1884
1854 - 1928
1717 - 1757
1890 - 1959
1679 - 1745
1874 - 1935
1770 - 1836
1825 - 1904
1737 - 1781
1872 - 1916
1795 - 1864
1759 - 1831
1611 - 1675
1750 - 1809
1915 - 1940
1834 - 1874
1879 - 1972
1896 - 1967
1913 - 1980