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Best Composers By Composition Type


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I'm sorry if this overlaps with other topics, but I thought this might be an interesting idea.

I think we too often see questions like "who is the best overall classical composer?", when in reality, many of them excelled in some areas and were weaker in others.

I thought it would be interesting to break down this question into the various composition types. For example:

Who is the best composer of...

- symphonies

- operas

- piano pieces

- violin pieces

- string quartets/quintets

- piano chamber music

- etc.

And of course, you can mention your favorite overall composer as well.

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Well, I'm taking my shot, and am pretty sure that I'll take some heat for my answers as well, despite these showing my well-known preferences...

Overall favorites: Tchaikovsky, Mahler.

Symphonies: Mahler, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky.

Operas: Verdi, Puccini, Bizet, Tchaikovsky, Wagner (not a big fan of his, but can't deny his overwhelming influence), Rossini.

Ballet: Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Ravel, Prokofiev, Khachaturian.

Piano (solo) pieces: Chopin, Debussy.

Piano (concerti): Rachmaninov, Grieg, Prokofiev, Bartok.

Violin & viola pieces: Vivaldi, Beethoven, Mozart, Hindemith.

Cello pieces: Saint-Säens, Shostakovich.

Piano chamber pieces: Brahms.

String quartets: Shostakovich, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Borodin.

Tone poems: Tchaikovsky, Richard Strauss.

Lieder: Mahler, Schubert, Tchaikovsky.

Choral music: Haendel, Mahler, Orff, Gorecki.

I might be adding something else, but that's it for now.

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Classical symphonies: Mozart - both g minor symphonies, Beethoven's 3rd

Romantic symphonies: Schubert's unfinished, Tchaikovsky's 4th, 5th and 6th, Mahler's 4th, Maadetoja's 2nd

Modern symphonies: Prokofiev's 1st, Shostakovich's 1st and 5th, Rautavaara's 3rd, 5th (especially recommended!) and 7th, Duttileux's 1st and 2nd

Slovenian symphonies: Skerjanc's 4th and 5th - this one is on youtube, Skerl's 4th

Tone poems: R. Strauss - undisputed master

Operas: Verdi, Puccini, R. Strauss's Rosenkavalier, Sallinen, Golob, Kozina (Equinox)

Piano Concertos: Rachmaninov's 2nd (I dislike the 3rd though), Rautavaara's 1st, Prokofiev's 2nd

Violin Concertos: Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky, Khachaturian, Prokofiev's 1st, Rautavaara

Clarinet Concertos: Mozart, Weber, Lindberg

Cello Concertos: Dvořak, Shostakovich's 1st, Rautavaara, Kokkonen, Golob

String quartets: Beethoven (undisputed master), Grieg, Bartok, Shostakovich, Sallinen's 3rd

Piano sonatas: Beethoven, Skrjabin, Prokofiev

I would write more, but my daughters are awake, I just don't have time now. ;)

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Symphonies: Mahler, Shostakovich, and Beethoven

opera: Verdi, Wagner, Puccini, John Adams and Philip Glass are not as good, but I really like their operas

piano: Chopin....duh....also Liszt is good too, as well as Beethoven

Violin: Mendelssohn

Oboe: Bach, Vaughan Williams, Mozart, Strauss, Albinoni, Telemann

string quartets: Haydn, Beethoven

Saxophone: Philip Glass concerto for Sax. Quartet

Wind Ensemble: Grainger, Shostakovich, Holst, John Mackey, Frank Tichelli

Alive today: Joel Puckett, John Corigliano, Theofandis (did I spell it right?), Jennifer Higdon

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Overall: Mahler

Symphonies: Mahler, Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Berlioz, Saint-Saens

Operas: Wagner, Humperdinck, Verdi, Rossini, Bizet, Leoncavallo,

Incidental Orchestral (Overtures etc): Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bartok, Saint-Saens, Rimsky-Korsakov, Lutosławski, Schoenberg (among others)

Ballet: Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Prokofiev

Keyboard (solo): Bach, Beethoven, Lizst, Schumann, Widor (organ)

Concertos: Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Bach, Rachmaninoff, Grieg

Chamber: Bach

String quartets: Beethoven,

Tone poems: Strauss, Debussy

Lieder: Mahler

Choral music: Mendelssohn, Rutter, O.C. Christiansen.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Symphonies: Mozart, Kraus, Haydn

Operas: Monteverdi, Handel

Keyboard : Froberger, Franz Tunder, Buxtehude, Frescobaldi, Bach, Reincken, Böhm

Concertos : Torelli, Corelli, Albinoni, Petri, Dall'Abaco, Locatelli, Bach

Vocal music; Schutz, Monteverdi, Tunder, Buxtehude

Chamber : Corelli, Buxtehude, Torelli, Dall'Abaco, Locatelli

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Guest Locrian

- symphonies

Charles Ives

- operas


- piano pieces


- violin pieces


- string quartets/quintets

Elliott Carter

- piano chamber music

Miles Davis

- etc.


- favorite composer

Your mom

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These are all likely to change from day to day but for today anyway:

- symphonies

Schnittke, Bruckner, Simpson, Beethoven, Lutoslawski, Knussen

- operas

I detest all opera that I've heard but I'll go with Wagner because of his influence on pretty much everyone.

- piano pieces (solo)

Beethoven, Debussy, Ligeti, Messiaen, Schnittke, Dallapiccola

- piano pieces (concerto)

Bartok, Lutoslawski, Mozart, Milhaud, Berkeley

- violin pieces

Lutoslawski, Bach, Berg, Ades

- string quartets/quintets

Beethoven, Bartok, Shostakovich, Carter, Simpson, Berg

- chamber music

Messiaen, Martinu, Brahms, Takemitsu

- Vocal music

Schubert, Barber, Berg, Schoenberg, Schnittke

Overall: Beethoven. I know it's the cliched choice but I honestly could've written Beethoven under every heading (except vocal and opera) and it would have been completely justified. I don't think there has been or ever will be a better composer.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Symphony: Beethoven, Haydn, Sibelius, Mahler, Lutoslawski, Nielsen

Opera: Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Janacek, Britten

Tone poem: Sibelius, R.Strauss, Dvorak

Other orchestral music: Stravinsky, Ligeti, Elgar

Solo piano: Bach, Beethoven, Bartok, Brahms, Messiaen, Debussy, Rachmaninov

Chamber: Bartok, Beethoven, Brahms, Carter, Boulez, Schubert

Song: Faure, Schubert, Schumann

Choral: Elgar, Tallis, Haydn, Josquin des Prez

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  • 1 month later...

I guess I might as well answer my own question:

Symphonies: Beethoven, Mahler, Tchaikovsky

String Quartets: Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schubert

Piano Chamber Music: Brahms, Dvorak, Schubert

Overtures: Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Tchaikovsky

Violin Concertos: Goldmark, Mendelssohn, Sibelius

Viola Concertos: Bartok, Hindemith

Cello Concertos: Dvorak, Elgar

Piano solos: Debussy, Rachmaninoff, Ravel, Schubert

Overall favorite: ...... probably Tchaikovsky, but it's hard to pick.

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of the composers i've been listening to lately

chamber music - lachenmann, barrett, sciarrino, kagel, nono, marini, sainte-colombe

orchestral music - messiaen, dutilleux, murail, vivier, lutoslawski

music with soloists - carter, berio

choral music - ferneyhough, berio, gesualdo, stravinsky, xenakis

solo vocal music - ligeti, codex chantilly composers

piano music - schumann

electronic music - stockhausen, reynolds, zorn, boulez

opera - sux |:<

composer most likely to be mentioned somewhere on this list in the near future - radulescu

favourite composer - idk

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i know, I was just kidding;)

But it is the only Mozart work I like. Its gloomy, deliciously sad...

I find many of his minor key works to be very good. I think it's a shame that he didn't write more.

I think I heard somewhere that he liked writing in major keys because it made minor key development sections more interesting.

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- Symphonies: Beethoven, Bruckner, Haydn, Mozart, Shostakovich (esp. 4th & 8th)

- Operas: Mozart, Verdi

- Piano pieces (solo): Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann

- Piano Concertos: Mozart, Beethoven, Bach

- Violin solos: Bach (undisputed master), Paganini

- Violin Concertos: Bach (also double concerto), Beethoven, Brahms, Khatchaturian

- Cello Solos: Bach (ultimate master)

- Cello Concertos: Elgar

- String quartets: Beethoven (undisputed master), Cherubini, Haydn, Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Franck, Mansurian, Shostakovich (4th, 5th, 7th & 8th in particular), Martinu

- String Quintets: Mozart (undisputed master, nothing like k. 516), Schubert, Bruckner

- Piano chamber music: Brahms, Schumann, Mendelssohn

Categories you had failed to mention:

Overtures: Beethoven

Oratorios: Handel

Masses: Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn

Requiems: Mozart, Cherubini, Faure

Ballet: Tchaikovsky, Khatchaturian

Organ Solo: Bach (undisputed master)

Modern Choral Favourite Composer: Pärt

Favourite Modern Contemporary (Living) Composers: Pärt, Mansurian, Sharafyan

Some favourites I cannot quite place into a category: Rameau, Handel (concerto grossos), Dvorak

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  • 4 weeks later...

One day when you grow out of your "everything dark and brooding is totally awesome" phase, you will realize how great Mozart's major-key works are as well. Just because they have a sunnier disposition does not mean they are lesser works (although, admittedly, his minor-key works/movements are very, very, very good). Choosing between the later concertos (which, along with opera, was the category I would say he most consistently wrote masterpieces) is difficult, but 20, 21, 24, and 25 seem to me to be a bit above the rest. Only #26 is somewhat of a let-down.

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