What first came into your mind with the mention of famous classical piano composers? You probably don’t like classical pieces, but some of them are still famous until these days. Some catchy pieces are put in memes, and they are very well-known. Those pieces are also relaxing to listen to when sleeping or working as well. You will find 10 famous classical piano composers and their famous pieces below, and many of them are recognizable since the first few seconds.
1Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Year: 1756 – 1791
When it comes to classical piano composers, Mozart is always one of the first names that come across people’s minds. He was not only famous but also influential and prolific with his skills. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart showed his stupendous ability from his earliest childhood at the age of 5 years old. At that time, he already mastered keyboard and violin and started composing music before performing before the European royalty. This is without a doubt why he was recognized as one of the best composers in the history of Western music.
This Austrian composer created hundreds of concertos, masses, sonatas, strings of operas, and symphonies of classical music throughout his career. His father, Leopold Mozart, was also extremely talented as he was a successful composer and violinist. He had an older sister, Maria Anna (nickname Nannerl), who also started music at an early age. Leopold introduced Nannerl to keyboard when she was 7, and three-year-old Wolfgang mimicked her playing. With their father’s encouragement and guidance, their ability to play multiple musical instruments from an early age is extraordinary.
It did not take long for Wolfgang to exhibit his incredible talents that excelled beyond his father’s teaching. Before 10 years old, he mastered harpsichord, organ, piano, viola, and violin with outstanding demonstration. He got married to Maria Constanze in 1782, and they had 6 children together. Despite his success, Wolfgang faced financial difficulties due to his extravagant lifestyle. Mozart died in 1791 of illness without a certain cause of death besides the description of the symptoms. Decades later, there were rumors that his wife had poisoned him but there was no basis for that.
2Ludwig van Beethoven
Year: 1770 – 1827
The music style of this German composer and pianist makes him one of the most famous classical piano composers until today. In fact, his works rank in the most performed of classical music through years and years for centuries. Ludwig van Beethoven was deaf, but that did not stop him from exhibiting his passions and outstanding talents in music. He did not only compose but also redefined piano sonatas, reinvented the symphony, and reshaped string quartets. His father, who was a singer, was his first teacher who also inspired him to love music.
Beethoven started his musical career when he withdrew from school to study music full time when he was 10 years old. At 12 years old, he composed his first music in C minor which was unusual for music at that time. He moved to Vienna in his early twenties, then gained his fame and began playing in the salons of the Viennese nobility. When he was 25, Beethoven started to go deaf so he communicated by using conversation books. His friends would write down what they wanted to stay so that he could respond.
Even when he was deaf, Beethoven also composed some of his best music; making him one of the greatest musical geniuses. This famous classical piano composer was 30 when he performed his first symphony in the Burgtheater in Vienna. Then he kept composing music despite the fact that his hearing getting worse and worse. Beethoven also went through a few serious illnesses until his death in 1827 after spending one year sick in bed. An autopsy revealed that Beethoven suffered from significant liver damage due to his heavy alcohol consumption.
Year: 1792 – 1868
With talented musicians as parents, it was without a doubt that Gioachino would grow up on the same path. His father played horn and trumpet while his mother was an opera singer, and Gioachino inherited a combination of those. He learned to play piano and sing when he was a little boy, and his road success began. Gioachino wrote his first opera when he was 18 years old, and his most famous piece was The Barber of Seville. During that time, he was also the most popular opera composer until he stopped writing operas when he was 37.
This Italian composer traveled to many countries to perform and he was so famous at the time that even Beethoven praised him. He wrote 32 operas and 2 symphonies along with many cantatas, chamber music pieces, and oratorios. Gioachino married Isabella Colbran, who was a leading soprano singer, in 1822 but the marriage was not a happy one. His wife died in 1845, and he married Olympe Pelissier, who was his mistress, in 1846. In 1855, Gioachino moved to Paris where he spent his remaining life until his death of colorectal cancer in 1868.
Year: 1803 – 1863
This German piano composer was famous for his light music and piano arrangements of popular orchestral works. One of his famous pieces is No 8 Synthesia, and that piece definitely brings back memories of many people’s childhood. Another thing that he is known for these days is his book called Vorschule im Klavierspiel that he wrote in 1851. It is the Beginning Piano School or Elementary Instruction Book for the Piano, and this book has been a great influence. This book is a compilation of 106 simple exercises for piano as the initiation into the study of this instrument. He died at the age of 60 years old, and the cause was unknown.
Year: 1838 – 1875
Famous for his amazing masterpiece Carmen, Georges Bizet was one of the remarkable piano composers at that time. His father was a singing father and his mother was a successful pianist who gave him his first piano lessons. He was so talented he enrolled Paris Conservatory when he was only 10. Because of his talents at a young age, Georges won so many prizes for playing piano before he wrote his own symphony. This French composer was also recognized for his ability to compose original and memorable melodies from time to time.
Carmen, the most famous opera that he composed did not receive good reviews during the first opening in Paris. Many critics said there were no good tunes, so the audience also stayed away. Georges was a heavy smoker, and he suffered from depression and several illnesses for most of his life. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack in the middle of the night 3 months after the premiere of Carmen.
Four months later after his death, Carmen was a massive hit in its opening in Vienna. He died without knowing that his last opera was a success and became one of the most popular operas. Carmen along with many of his other works began to be performed more frequently in the 20th century. Georges Bizet became recognizable as one of the famous piano composers with originality only after his death.
6Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky
Year: 1840 – 1893
Pyotr (Peter in English) was a good musician as a kid, but his parents did not approve of his dream. They said it was not an acceptable profession so they made him study law instead. Even after he graduated and worked as a bureau clerk in the Ministry of Justice, his love for music never stopped. When he was 21, Pyotr took music lessons at the Russian Musical Society then enrolled St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1861 after he gave up his job.
In 1865, his work Characteristic Dances was first publicly performed at a Pavlovsk Concert. Then he continued to compose more amazing pieces, and some of his best works were Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, etc. Apart from his struggle to pursue his dream with music, his love life was also difficult for him. He engaged with a Belgian soprano in 1868 but the relationship ended because she refused to live in Russia. Nine years later, he got married to his former student to repress his homosexuality but left her after 10 weeks.
Pyotr attempted to commit suicide in 1877 after the divorce, but he failed to do so. Three years later, he composed one of his most famous pieces Overture which brought him many positive comments. During that time, a wealthy widow who was a big fan of his music regularly sent him money. The purpose was for him to concentrate on composing without having to worry about making a living. Despite her help, they never met and both of them agreed on that term as well.
During his lifetime, this Russian composer created a number of ballets, chamber music, concertos, operas, and symphonies. Pyotr also traveled all over Europe and some parts of America to perform his music. He died in 1893 of cholera, but some biographers believed that it was suicide after the humiliation of a sex scandal trial. Pyotr formed a relationship with a male member of the Russian aristocracy, and suicide was his only choice.
Year: 1843 – 1907
Edvard was Norway’s most famous piano composer thanks to the lessons and teachings from his mother. Because many members of the Grieg family were musical, his parents fully supported his dream to be a musician. When he was 15, his parents sent him to study at the best music conservatory in Germany which he was not really like. After his graduation, he spent his time in Denmark where he met and married his cousin who was a singer.
Although living in Denmark, Edvard gave concerts all over Europe due to his active career as a pianist. The special thing about him is that he always came back to Norway every summer to compose. He also concentrated his efforts on learning more about traditional Norwegian music which became an important part of his compositions. Throughout his life, he was a great champion of Norwegian art, music, and theater. He died of a heart attack in 1907, but his legacy extends through his influence and music.
8Frank White Meacham
Year: 1856 – 1909
He was one of the piano composers whose famous work was one, the one that many people recognize right away. Frank’s most famous piece is American Patrol which he originally wrote for piano in 1885. The format of this piece was also very popular in the second half of the 19th century. There are also similar compositions such as Arab Patrol, Ethiopian Patrol, Owl’s Patrol, Turkish Patrol, and more. Most 90’s people know the American Patrol immediately from the game Circus Charlie. A majority of his works were early ragtime works, military marches, and tribute pieces. This American composer died of pneumonia in New York in 1909.
Year: 1862 – 1918
Every pianist knows Clair de Lune, and Claude Debussy was the one who composed this amazing piece. This French piano composer was one of the most prominent figures in the field of music because of his talents. He started his first piano lessons when he was 7, and went to the Paris Conservatory at the age of 11. By 12 years old, he won the Prix de Rome that financed him to study in Italy for 2 years.
Claude won a lot of prizes throughout his career, and he also composed some of the best pieces as well. His music is special and unique because it is very easy to love but hard to explain. Many of his works like Claire de Lune or Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune were inspired by poems and other forms of that. He died in 1918 nine years when his heart deteriorated after he was diagnosed with cancer. His fame lives on as one of the most influential composers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Year: 1895 – 1982
When he was a child, his mother who was an accomplished pianist taught him how to play the piano. He studied at the Munich Academy of Music when he was 17 until the war began. Then he served in the German Army during World War I and he was severely injured and nearly died. He survived the war, and he held multiple positions at opera houses in Darmstadt and Mannheim. This music composer pursued his career and passion in music until the Nazis came into power and another war began.
Carl was not only a piano composer but also a music educator who was famous for his Cantata Carmina Burana. This German musician managed to set up a place for himself and music even when the Nazis came to power. In fact, many Nazi elites celebrated his music in the early 1940s especially the Carmina Burana. He married 4 times, and he only had one daughter and the relationship between them was not so good. Carl died of cancer in 1982, leaving beautiful music pieces that are still played to these days.