The 18th and 19th centuries saw many of the greatest composers of classical piano music in human history. Beginning with the baroque era and moving forward, famous classical piano composers such as Bach and Beethoven composed many classical piano pieces and symphonies known and loved today.
These classical piano composers are thought to be the fathers of classical music, from which much of our modern-day pieces derived their roots. Here are some of the most famous piano composers of all time.
1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Arguably one of the most well-known and most famous classical piano composers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an extremely influential composer widely known for his works during the Classical period. Born in 1756 in the town of Salzburg, Mozart composed piano music but also symphonies and operas. He composed over 600 pieces during his life, the most famous of which include “Sonata” and Symphony No. 41 “Jupiter.” During his death in 1791 at the young age of 35, Mozart was also completing his well-known work “Requiem,” which is unfinished.
2. Ludwig van Beethoven
Born shortly after Mozart in 1770, Ludwig van Beethoven is an admired composer of piano music during the classical music period. His own father initially taught Beethoven piano and composition but later began taking lessons from a local composer and conductor. One notable fact is that of his “deafness,” which he acquired in 1798. His most famous works include many Sonatas and Concertos, such as Piano Sonata No. 8 and Concerto No. 5. Many lovers of classical music and common folk alike also recognize the tunes to Fur Elise and Fidelio.
3. Franz Liszt
Liszt, born in 1811, was considered a child prodigy. He is considered one of the greatest pianists ever to live. He toured throughout Europe and America giving concerts; his appearances included duets with many other famous musicians and composers such as Franz Schubert and Felix Mendelssohn. Most of his compositions were for piano solo or for piano with voice and orchestra. As well as piano music, Liszt wrote songs (and collected folk songs from Hungary), lieder, orchestral works including symphonies, sacred choral works including masses (he conducted these in Rome’s Church of San Lorenzo), operas, and even a symphony for organ. He died in 1886.
4. Johann Sebastian Bach
Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685. He was a German composer during the late Baroque period. His pieces are still widely circulated among piano soloists and orchestras alike. Today, many people recognize his beautiful compositions such as Ave Maria, Air on the G String, and Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. Before his death in 1750, at the age of 65, Bach had composed over 1000 pieces of music.
5. Joseph Haydn
Born in Austria in 1732, Joseph Haydn became well known for his classical music styles for symphonies and strings. His impressive composing skills have given him the title of “Father of the Symphony” and “Father of the String Quartet.” Haydn also composed many piano pieces, the most famous of which include Sonata in D minor and Fantasia in C Major. His passing in 1809 marked the end of a great composer for symphonies.
6. George Frideric Handel
The arrival of George Frideric Handel in 1685 was the arrival of a mastermind capable of composing many operas, oratorios, cantatas, and more. His most famous piece, the Messiah, which contains the Hallelujah chorus, has become a staple piece of music in many Christmas and Easter celebrations for Christianity and secular gatherings alike. His most famous pieces composed for the piano or the organ include Organ concertos Op. 4 and Op. 7. He passed away in April of 1759.
7. Antonio Vivaldi
Born in 1678k, Antonio Vivaldi was a talented composer, violinist, teacher, and priest. During his childhood in Venice, his father taught him violin and developed extensive musical knowledge. Vivaldi is most well-known for his compositions for the violin, such as the concerto The Four Seasons. He also composed various sacred choral works and over 50 operas. Vivaldi’s music is considered influential to many of the later classical composers, such as Bach. Despite his current fame and popularity, Vivaldi died in poverty in 1741.
8. Frederic Chopin
The turn of the 19th century saw a new generation of famous piano composers such as Frederic Chopin. Chopin was a Polish composer whose unique taste in music led to the composition of many waltzes, nocturnes, and mazurkas. Influenced by traditional Polish folk music and combined with the classical styles of the famous composers before him, Chopin’s music is easily recognizable and unique. His most famous works include Nocturnes, Op. 27, and Scherzo No. 2 in B Flat Minor.
9. Claude Debussy
Claude Debussy was born in 1862 to a modest french family. Although he wrote many orchestra pieces and piano compositions, he completed only 1 opera during his lifetime. The most well-recognized of his works include Clair De Lune and Bruyeres. Written towards the end of his life, The Girl with the Flaxen Hair is also frequently performed by classical music lovers and recognized by many. His death occurred in March of 1918.
10. Johannes Brahms
Born in 1833 to a Lutheran family in Hamburg, Germany, Johannes Brahms is considered one of the fathers of classical music to compose during the Romantic period. He spent much of his life in Vienna composing and conducting. However, he did not compose as much as some of the earlier classical music composers, Johannes Brahms, composed several orchestra pieces and choral works. His most famous piano pieces include No. 1 in D minor and No. 2 in B-flat minor. Many also recognize his choral piece, A German Requiem. He died just before the turn of the century in 1897.
11. John Philip Sousa
One of the latest composers of the romantic era is the American composer John Philip Sousa. His American style of music brought a new taste to the end of the classical period. He is well-known for his military marches and upbeat songs. Many of his pieces were inspired during his time in the military as a lieutenant commander. His most famous marches include “The Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Semper Fidelis” which is now used as the official march for the US Marine Corps. He died at the age of 77 in 1932.
Many composers of the classical music era composed symphonies and piano pieces that are still well-known and loved today. Some pieces, such as Handel’s Messiah and Sousa’s “The Stars and Stripes Forever,” are still widely circulated at Christmas and the Fourth of July. Other influential music formed impressive symphonies, which are yet to be rivaled in modern music. Music today would not be the same were it not for famous classical piano composers such as Mozart and Bach.