The following people are considered by Pantheon to be the top 10 most legendary Composers of all time. This list of famous 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 Composers.
With an HPI of 88.83, Frédéric Chopin is the most famous Composer. His biography has been translated into 153 different languages on wikipedia.
Frédéric François Chopin (born Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin; 1 March 1810 – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist of the Romantic period, who wrote primarily for solo piano. He has maintained worldwide renown as a leading musician of his era, one whose "poetic genius was based on a professional technique that was without equal in his generation".Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola in the Duchy of Warsaw and grew up in Warsaw, which in 1815 became part of Congress Poland. A child prodigy, he completed his musical education and composed his earlier works in Warsaw before leaving Poland at the age of 20, less than a month before the outbreak of the November 1830 Uprising. At 21, he settled in Paris. Thereafter – in the last 18 years of his life – he gave only 30 public performances, preferring the more intimate atmosphere of the salon. He supported himself by selling his compositions and by giving piano lessons, for which he was in high demand. Chopin formed a friendship with Franz Liszt and was admired by many of his other musical contemporaries, including Robert Schumann. After a failed engagement to Maria Wodzińska from 1836 to 1837, he maintained an often troubled relationship with the French writer Aurore Dupin (known by her pen name George Sand). A brief and unhappy visit to Mallorca with Sand in 1838–39 would prove one of his most productive periods of composition. In his final years, he was supported financially by his admirer Jane Stirling, who also arranged for him to visit Scotland in 1848. For most of his life, Chopin was in poor health. He died in Paris in 1849 at the age of 39, probably of pericarditis aggravated by tuberculosis. All of Chopin's compositions include the piano. Most are for solo piano, though he also wrote two piano concertos, a few chamber pieces, and some 19 songs set to Polish lyrics. His piano writing was technically demanding and expanded the limits of the instrument, his own performances noted for their nuance and sensitivity. His major piano works also include mazurkas, waltzes, nocturnes, polonaises, the instrumental ballade (which Chopin created as an instrumental genre), études, impromptus, scherzi, preludes, and sonatas, some published only posthumously. Among the influences on his style of composition were Polish folk music, the classical tradition of J. S. Bach, Mozart, and Schubert, and the atmosphere of the Paris salons, of which he was a frequent guest. His innovations in style, harmony, and musical form, and his association of music with nationalism, were influential throughout and after the late Romantic period. Chopin's music, his status as one of music's earliest celebrities, his indirect association with political insurrection, his high-profile love-life, and his early death have made him a leading symbol of the Romantic era. His works remain popular, and he has been the subject of numerous films and biographies of varying historical fidelity. Among his many memorials is the Fryderyk Chopin Institute, which was created by the Parliament of Poland to research and promote his life and works. It hosts the International Chopin Piano Competition, a prestigious competition devoted entirely to his works.
With an HPI of 66.98, Krzysztof Penderecki is the 2nd most famous Composer. His biography has been translated into 53 different languages.
Krzysztof Eugeniusz Penderecki (Polish: [ˈkʂɨʂtɔf pɛndɛˈrɛt͡skʲi]; 23 November 1933 – 29 March 2020) was a Polish composer and conductor. His best known works include Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima, Symphony No. 3, his St Luke Passion, Polish Requiem, Anaklasis and Utrenja. Penderecki's oeuvre includes four operas, eight symphonies and other orchestral pieces, a variety of instrumental concertos, choral settings of mainly religious texts, as well as chamber and instrumental works. Born in Dębica, Penderecki studied music at Jagiellonian University and the Academy of Music in Kraków. After graduating from the Academy, he became a teacher there and began his career as a composer in 1959 during the Warsaw Autumn festival. His Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for string orchestra and the choral work St. Luke Passion have received popular acclaim. His first opera, The Devils of Loudun, was not immediately successful. Beginning in the mid-1970s, Penderecki's composition style changed, with his first violin concerto focusing on the semitone and the tritone. His choral work Polish Requiem was written in the 1980s and expanded in 1993 and 2005. Penderecki won many prestigious awards, including the Prix Italia in 1967 and 1968; the Wihuri Sibelius Prize of 1983; four Grammy Awards in 1987, 1998 (twice), and 2017; the Wolf Prize in Arts in 1987; and the University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition in 1992. In 2012, Sean Michaels of The Guardian called him 'arguably Poland's greatest living composer'.
With an HPI of 64.16, Witold Lutosławski is the 3rd most famous Composer. His biography has been translated into 41 different languages.
Witold Roman Lutosławski (Polish: [ˈvitɔld lutɔsˈwafski] (listen); 25 January 1913 – 7 February 1994) was a Polish composer and conductor. Among the major composers of 20th-century classical music, he is "generally regarded as the most significant Polish composer since Szymanowski, and possibly the greatest Polish composer since Chopin". His compositions—of which he was a notable conductor—include representatives of most traditional genres, aside from opera: symphonies, various orchestral works, chamber works, concertos, and song cycles, some of which he orchestrated. Of these, his best known works are his four symphonies, the Variations on a Theme by Paganini (1941), the Concerto for Orchestra (1954), and a cello concerto (1970). During his youth, Lutosławski studied piano and composition in Warsaw. His early works were influenced by Polish folk music and demonstrated a wide range of rich atmospheric textures. His folk-inspired music reached its peak with the Concerto for Orchestra (1954)—which first brought him international renown—and Dance Preludes (1955), which he described as a "farewell to folklore". From the late 1950s he began developing his own characteristic composition techniques, which incorporated his own methods of building harmonies from small groups of musical intervals. He readily engaged in twelve-tone and aleatoric music, all while preserving traditional melodic and harmonic techniques. During World War II, after escaping German capture, Lutosławski made a living by playing the piano in Warsaw bars. After the war, Stalinist authorities banned his First Symphony for being "formalist"—allegedly accessible only to an elite. Lutosławski believed such anti-formalism was an unjustified retrograde step, and he resolutely strove to maintain his artistic integrity. In the 1980s, Lutosławski gave artistic support to the Solidarity movement. The recipient of numerous awards and honours, near the end of his life, he was awarded the Order of the White Eagle, Poland's highest honour.
With an HPI of 61.45, Henryk Górecki is the 4th most famous Composer. His biography has been translated into 44 different languages.
Henryk Mikołaj Górecki ( gə-RET-skee, Polish: [ˈxɛnrɨk miˈkɔwaj ɡuˈrɛt͡skʲi]; 6 December 1933 – 12 November 2010) was a Polish composer of contemporary classical music. According to critic Alex Ross, no recent classical composer has had as much commercial success as Górecki. He became a leading figure of the Polish avant-garde during the post-Stalin cultural thaw. His Anton Webern-influenced serialist works of the 1950s and 1960s were characterized by adherence to dissonant modernism and influenced by Luigi Nono, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Krzysztof Penderecki and Kazimierz Serocki. He continued in this direction throughout the 1960s, but by the mid-1970s had changed to a less complex sacred minimalist sound, exemplified by the transitional Symphony No. 2 and the Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs). This later style developed through several other distinct phases, from such works as his 1979 Beatus Vir, to the 1981 choral hymn Miserere, the 1993 Kleines Requiem für eine Polka and his requiem Good Night.Górecki was largely unknown outside Poland until the late 1980s. In 1992, 15 years after it was composed, a recording of his Symphony of Sorrowful Songs with soprano Dawn Upshaw and conductor David Zinman, released to commemorate the memory of those lost during the Holocaust, became a worldwide commercial and critical success, selling more than a million copies and vastly exceeding the typical lifetime sales of a recording of symphonic music by a 20th-century composer. Commenting on its popularity, Górecki said, "Perhaps people find something they need in this piece of music [...] somehow I hit the right note, something they were missing. Something somewhere had been lost to them. I feel that I instinctively knew what they needed." This popular acclaim did not generate wide interest in Górecki's other works, and he pointedly resisted the temptation to repeat earlier success, or compose for commercial reward. Nevertheless, his music drew the attention of Australian film director Peter Weir, who used a section of Symphony No 3 in his 1993 film Fearless. Apart from two brief periods studying in Paris and a short time living in Berlin, Górecki spent most of his life in southern Poland.
With an HPI of 60.20, Moritz Moszkowski is the 5th most famous Composer. His biography has been translated into 26 different languages.
Moritz Moszkowski (23 August 1854 – 4 March 1925) was a German composer, pianist, and teacher of Polish-Jewish descent. His brother Alexander Moszkowski was a famous writer and satirist in Berlin. Ignacy Paderewski said: "After Chopin, Moszkowski best understands how to write for the piano, and his writing embraces the whole gamut of piano technique." Although less known today, Moszkowski was well respected and popular during the late nineteenth century.
With an HPI of 60.17, Nikolai Myaskovsky is the 6th most famous Composer. His biography has been translated into 34 different languages.
Nikolai Yakovlevich Myaskovsky or Miaskovsky or Miaskowsky (Russian: Никола́й Я́ковлевич Мяско́вский; Polish: Mikołaj Miąskowski, syn Jakóbowy; 20 April 1881 – 8 August 1950), was a Russian and Soviet composer. He is sometimes referred to as the "Father of the Soviet Symphony". Myaskovsky was awarded the Stalin Prize five times, more than any other composer.
With an HPI of 59.69, Sylvius Leopold Weiss is the 7th most famous Composer. His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.
Sylvius Leopold Weiss (12 October 1687 – 16 October 1750) was a German composer and lutenist. Born in Grottkau near Breslau, the son of Johann Jacob Weiss, also a lutenist, he served at courts in Breslau, Rome, and Dresden, where he died. Until recently, he was thought to have been born in 1686, but recent evidence suggests that he was in fact born the following year.Weiss was one of the most important and most prolific composers of lute music in history and one of the best-known and most technically accomplished lutenists of his day. He was a teacher to Philip Hyacinth, 4th Prince Lobkowicz, and the prince's second wife Anna Wilhelmina Althan. In later life, Weiss became a friend of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and met J.S. Bach through him. Bach and Weiss were said to have competed in improvisation, as the following account by Johann Friedrich Reichardt describes: "Anyone who knows how difficult it is to play harmonic modulations and good counterpoint on the lute will be surprised and full of disbelief to hear from eyewitnesses that Weiss, the great lutenist, challenged J.S. Bach, the great harpsichordist and organist, at playing fantasies and fugues." Sylvius Weiss's son Johann Adolph Faustinus Weiss succeeded him as a Saxon court lutenist. (Johann Adolf Hasse married to Faustina Bordoni were obviously close friends).
With an HPI of 58.56, Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska is the 8th most famous Composer. Her biography has been translated into 24 different languages.
Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska (1829/1834 – 29 September 1861) was a Polish composer. Bądarzewska was born in 1829 in Mława or 1834 in Warsaw to Andrzej Bądarzewski and Tekla Bądarzewska (Chrzanowska). Andrzej Bądarzewski was a successful police commissioner, and moved his family to Warsaw in 1835. Tekla married Jan Baranowski and they had five children in their nine years of marriage. Bądarzewska-Baranowska died on 29 September 1861 in Warsaw. Her grave in the Powązki Cemetery features a young woman with a roll of sheet music titled La prière d'une vierge. One of her daughters, Bronisława, was enrolled at the Warsaw Institute of Music in 1875. A crater on Venus is named after her.
With an HPI of 58.39, Mieczysław Weinberg is the 9th most famous Composer. His biography has been translated into 19 different languages.
Mieczysław Weinberg (also Moisey or Moishe Vainberg, Moisey Samuilovich Vaynberg; Russian: Моисей Самуилович Вайнберг; Polish: Mojsze [Mieczysław] Wajnberg; 8 December 1919 – 26 February 1996) was a Jewish composer from Poland who resided in the USSR. Ever since a revival concert series in the 2010 Bregenz Festival in Austria, his music has been increasingly described as "some of the most individual and compelling music of the twentieth century". Weinberg's output was extensive, encompassing 26 symphonies, 17 string quartets, nearly 30 sonatas for various instruments, 7 operas, and numerous film scores.
With an HPI of 58.30, Martin Agricola is the 10th most famous Composer. His biography has been translated into 27 different languages.
Martin Agricola (6 January 1486 – 10 June 1556) was a German composer of Renaissance music and a music theorist.
Pantheon has 33 people classified as composers born between 1486 and 1972. Of these 33, 3 (9.09%) of them are still alive today. The most famous living composers include Zbigniew Preisner, Jan A. P. Kaczmarek, and Abel Korzeniowski. The most famous deceased composers include Frédéric Chopin, Krzysztof Penderecki, and Witold Lutosławski. As of April 2022, 4 new composers have been added to Pantheon including Karol Lipiński, Carl Schuricht, and Karol Kurpiński.
1810 - 1849
1933 - 2020
1913 - 1994
1933 - 2010
1854 - 1925
1881 - 1950
1687 - 1750
1834 - 1861
1919 - 1996
1486 - 1556
1769 - 1854
1789 - 1831
Which Composers were alive at the same time? This visualization shows the lifespans of the 25 most globally memorable Composers since 1700.