If you are a lover of classical music, you must know some tunes and musicians from this genre. If you seek to know more about classical music, you are in the right place because you will get to know some of the most famous classical musicians of all time.
In most cases, Classical music inspires people, evokes feelings of uplift, or even expresses boredom. This depends on the people that the music is communicating with.
The 20 best classical musicians point out some of the greatest classical music singers in history. You might have heard some of them or will also get to know about people whose songs you’ve listened to but never knew their names.
The list has not been written using a particular order because all the musicians listed made history and are considered great in this genre.
1. Luciano Pavarotti
Luciano Pavarotti began his music career in the 1960’ and 1970s. Although his goal was to do soccer, he could not resist the passion he had for singing.
He grew up in an environment that enabled him to grow a passion for music. His father was a musician but was unable to pursue a career due to neurological health issues.
In the 1990s, Luciano had become one of the most respected classical musicians and earned 17 curtain calls. If you grew up in a house that loved listening to opera, then you must have been listening to some of his songs. His name continued to get recognized by people outside the world of opera when he teamed with Domingo and Carreras.
Luciano also did cross-genre work, and this led to the formation of Pavarotti and friends. This became a part of Luciano’s humanitarian work.
2. Placido Domingo
If you happen to mention the name Placido Domingo to any person who loves Latin-American music, the chances are high that they know him. During his era, he was nicknamed the King of Opera because he was one of the highly recognized classical musicians in the world.
Domingo showed an interest in singing before he turned eight years old. He grew up in Mexico with his parents and never gave up on his passion for singing until he became one of the most famous musicians during his era. In the 1980s, he was well known in different parts of the world, and his music career was at its climax.
Domingo has introduced many people to opera during his music career. In the 1990s, he formed the Three Tenors, which included Luciano Pavarotti and Jose Carreras. In recent years, the musician has worked as a director in an opera company.
3. Jessye Norman
Norman is one of the opera’s top soprano artists that could not be left out of this list. Her love for music is also based on her background, because her family was known to have an amateur background in singing.
Her family members would sing at home and in church. During her eighth birthday, the musician was given a radio to mark her love for music.
In 1996, Norman featured as a performer in the Atlanta Olympic Games, which contributed to her fame. Norman continues to shine as a classical musician and, in 2015, won an award from a non-profit organization based in Israel. However, she is no longer an opera performer but has chosen to do recitals.
4. Yo-Yo Ma
Ma, a Chinese-American who claims to have been born in France, is one of the best cellists in the world. His music career was inspired by his father, who was a music teacher and a composer.
His father would wake him up early to practice playing instruments. Ma has performed with musicians that are not part of the classical genre, making experimentation a part of his musical style.
Ma was asked to play in the ceremony to mark the 9/11 attack anniversary. The musician believes that music can be used as a healing tool in times of tragedy, and he proved his view during the anniversary’s performance.
Ma has won several awards during his music career. He has a reputation for being one of the top musicians on the Billboard charts. He has also won several Grammy awards.
5. Frederica Von Stade
Von Stade is one of the classical musicians who had professional training for her voice. However, her music career can be attributed to her father, who used to play polo but died before she was born. When she joined Mannes College of Music, she developed more interest in music, and her career kicked off in her mid-20s.
She won various awards, and one of them included the Ordre des Arts et des Letters’ highest honor officer. During her career, she has worked with other musicians, which contributed to her being one of the vocally trained musicians of the time. One of the instances where she worked with other musicians is when she was cast as Cherubino and sang alongside Kiri te Kanawa, who had just joined the opera.
6. Andre Rieu
Andre is one of the leading world orchestra leaders and violinists. Andre was born in 1949 and began his music career at a very early age. The musician worked with Johann Strauss to bring back the old-school waltz into people’s minds.
He did this in a fun way that made it possible for him to create a kind of classical music that is acceptable to people of different age groups. Andre has mastered mixing musicals and film scores and brings in some acts from the pop and rock genres.
Andre bases his music on the idea that classical music should be fun and not how many people perceive it. If you have watched his music, you must have noted that the audience would dance along, clap or laugh during the performance. This is not the kind of video you get when watching music by many classical musicians.
7. Karl Jenkins
Karl Jenkins is well known for his classical crossover and chart-topping work Adiemus. Karl is considered legendary in the world of classical music due o the amazing tunes that he made.
Kar began his music career at an early age because he got inspiration from his father. His father was an organist, school teacher, and choirmaster.
From the 1960s to 1972, Karl played jazz music and then moved to progressive rock and classical music. This era only lasted up to 1984. During this time, Karl’s career in music began to gain more fame as he joined his friends to begin a media company.
While running the media company, he could compose music and make arrangements for various TV arrangements. He also received a knighthood for his work in composing music.
8. John Williams
John Williams is famous for being one of the composers that brought back the life of music in Middle Earth. He worked closely with various directors such as Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus, and George Lucas to imprint some of the most famous movies of their era.
Williams is among the world’s oldest composers who began studying piano at a very early life. Before becoming the world’s most famous composer, he worked as a jazz pianist and a studio musician. He is known for playing the piano in one of the most famous movies, known as the Mockingbird.
William’s dream was to become the best concert pianist. However, this changed, and he decided to become a composer. His piano skills did not go to waste because they helped him a lot with composing different tunes. William has won several awards for his work and among them are 20 Grammys.
9. Howard Shore
Howard Shore was born in Canada and is well known for composing classical-style covers for more than 80 movies. He did one of the famous covers for the well-known movie, The Lord of the Rings and the Silence of the Lambs. If you have watched these movies, then you are already familiar with Howard Shore’s work.
Howard has won various awards, three of them from academies. He has also won various Golden Globes, and this indicates how great his classical-style music was.
Howard Shore is also famous for orchestral works that were not written for the purpose of including them in movies. The Fly is another famous work that was based on the movie named The Fly.
10. The Piano Guys
If you are a lover of classical music, then you must have heard about the Piano Guys. Although this list is about the most famous classical musicians, it would not be complete without including the well-known classical music group, The Piano Guys.
If you have watched their performances, you might only have seen Steven Nelson, who plays the cello, and Jon Schmidt, who plays the piano. The other two musicians of the group, Al Van der Beek, are the composers, while Paul Anderson is responsible for making videos.
The name Piano Guys came from the music that Paul Anderson owned while living in Utah. He met with Jon in his store when Jon came to practice playing piano, and they ended up making one of the most famous YouTube channels. Then the group is currently known for mashups using classical music and pop music.
11. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang is one of the well-known composers of his era. He wrote 41 symphonies and Italian operas, such as the Cosi fan Tutte and The Marriage of Figaro. He also did various chamber works, which are among the most loved works of classical music in today’s era.
Unfortunately, his career did not last long because Wolfgang died at the age of 35 years. However, his work remains one of the most famous pieces of classical music, and this has helped maintain his memory over the years.
12. Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig is often termed the greatest composer of his time. Ludwig made a huge revolution in orchestral music using the Eroica symphony, written during the Romantic era.
His music was known to capture an individual’s inner struggle and the joy of life. This is why his music remains one of the best classics being listened to in today’s world.
Ludwig’s performances would turn heads because they left an individual overwhelmed by feelings of admiration and love. His performances attracted a large audience and were always filled with joy.
13. Antonio Vivaldi
If you are looking for famous musicians from the Baroque era, the list would not be complete without Antonio Vivaldi. During his era, Antonio wrote 500 concertos, and among them are the four seasons. They include four violin concertos, and each one of them is a representation of the four seasons of the year.
Antonio’s work remains among the best classical music being listened to today. Antoni had a great mastery of harmony, melody, and scoring.
This is why his music had a large audience and still has. If you are looking for music that will leave you in awe, you should search for his tunes.
14. Claude Debussy
Claude is well known for the changes he made to classical music works. Among the host’s most famous works is the Prélude à l’après midi d’une faune. This work made a huge transformation in the world of music.
Claude was a French composer responsible for works such as the Clair de Lune and the Pelles et Mélisande. He was known as the musician that brought color to the world of music. His performances were lively, and one would not wish to miss any of them.
15. Richard Wagner
Richard was a German composer who revolutionized the art form. Richard is well known for the epic operas that he created in the 19th century. He created four operas which were accompanied by various monumental works.
Richard built an opera house which he used to host creations. He also invented the Leitmotif, which is a musical device that can see specific melodies.
It detects the melodies that have been composed to depict certain ideas or characters. The device played a major role in changing how people composed operas.
16. Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss is one of the classical musicians who had one of his works banned due to censorship. The act, known as Salome, premiered in 1905 and was a shock to classical music.
It had murderous and erotic themes which were set in a religious context. Its message brought a lot of controversies and had to be banned.
However, this did not stop him from progressing his musical career. Richard Strauss made other works such as Don Quixote and Sprach Zarathustra. These works greatly contributed to his fame during his era.
17. Franz Schubert
Franz was an Australian composer who did not have a long life in his music career. He lived a short life, but he was able to make a huge impact on the world of classical music during this time.
Franz Schubert composed more than 600 songs and more than 8 symphonies. He is said to have created 13 symphonies, but he did not complete some of them.
18. Camille Saint-Saens
Camille was a French composer who was well known as the best polymath in the history of music. Camille was multilingual, and this helped him in progressing his career. He was an organist, pianist, and conductor.
He was also a well-respected poet and author. He also pursued a career in astronomy and archaeology. However, his other career did not set back his music career.
Camille was good at sight-reading, and his work remains one of the most treasured by music lovers. Film scores also found his music to be astonishing.
19. Igor Stravinsky
Igor is one of the musicians remembered due to a riot that occurred when one of the greatest works he had composed was about to be played. The riot occurred during the world’s ballet premiere, and the ballet happened to be The Rite of Spring, composed by Igor Stravinsky. The choreography was to be done by Sergei Diaghilev.
Igor’s work sounds as spectacular as it did during the time it was composed. Among such works are the Petrushka and the Firebird. He was well known for his history-making tunes that proved to be one of the best hits of the time.
20. Frederic Chopin
Frederic was one of the well-known Romantic composers of the era and was also a keyboard virtuoso. Frederic’s seminal works include virtuosic waltzes, nocturnes, and preludes. He also creates solo piano music which remains to be one of the finest in history.
Frederic is also known as one of the classical composers and singers who lived a lavish lifestyle. He maintained this lifestyle by teaching piano to the richest people in Paris.
Frederic was never pleased by the idea of people paying him for the lessons he offered. Therefore, he developed a technique to look away as the learners left their fee on the mantelpiece.
This list does not mean that these were the only classical musicians of the 20th and 21st centuries. There are other musicians that you might have heard about and have not been included in this list. The truth is, these two centuries had many established musicians whose work remains to inspire other people but could not all fit in this list.
The next time you think of listening to classical music, and you don’t know what to choose, you can search for one of these musicians, and you can be assured of getting good music to listen to. If you haven’t listened to classical music before, we hope that this list will give you an insight into where to begin developing your interest in classical music.