A brief History of Classical Music
through its essential compositions

(compiled by Piero Scaruffi)


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Synopses of classical musicians
These are the composers born after 1949. Click here to go back to the beginning

Opera


Elodie Lauten (USA, 1951): Waking in New York (1998)
Anthony Davis (USA, 1951): X - The Life and Times of Malcolm X (1986)
Wolfgang Rihm (Germany, 1952): Dionysos (2010)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): L’Amour de Loin (2000)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Only the Sound Remains (2018)
Tod Machover (USA, 1953): Valis (1987)
Dennis Johnson (USA, 1954): November (1959)
Tobias Picker (USA, 1954): Emmeline (1996)
Tobias Picker (USA, 1954): Therese Raquin (2000)
Mamoru Fujieda (Japan, 1955): Patterns of Plants (2014)
Bright Sheng (China, 1955): Nanking! Nanking! (1999)
Michael Gordon (USA, 1956): Van Gogh (1991)
Paul Dolden (Canada, 1956): L'Ivresse De La Vitesse (1999)
Paul Dolden (Canada, 1956): Entropic Twilights (2002)
Paul Dolden (Canada, 1956): Below The Walls Of Jericho (1989)
Tan Dun (China, 1957): Ghost Opera (1994)
Tan Dun (China, 1957): Marco Polo (1996)
Mikel Rouse (USA, 1957): Failing Kansas (1994)
Mikel Rouse (USA, 1957): Dennis Cleveland (1996)
Chaya Czernowin (Israel, 1957): Pnima ins Innere (2000)
Chaya Czernowin (Israel, 1957): Infinite Now (2017)
Chaya Czernowin (Israel, 1957): Heart Chamber (2019)
Erling Wold (USA, 1958): A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil (1995)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): Ainadamar (2005)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): Tenebrae (2002)
George Benjamin (Britain, 1960): Into the Little Hill (2008)
George Benjamin (Britain, 1960): Written on Skin (2012)
George Benjamin (Britain, 1960): Lessons in Love and Violence (2018)
Jack Heggie (USA, 1963): Dead Man Walking (2000)
Thomas Ades (Britain, 1971): Powder Her Face (1995)
Thomas Ades (Britain, 1971): The Tempest (2004)
Thomas Ades (Britain, 1971): The Exterminating Angel (2017)
Huang Ruo (China, 1976): An American Soldier (2018)
Missy Mazzoli (USA, 1980): Song from the Uproar (2012)
Luciano Chessa (USA, 1981): A Heavenly Act (2011)
Luciano Chessa (USA, 1981): Extremist Banquet at the Castle by the Lake (2016)
Ashley Fure (USA, 1982): The Force of Things (2017)

Instrumental


James Dillon (Britain, 1950): The Book of Elements (2002)
Ethan Haimo (USA, 1950): Piano Sonata (1986)
Rick Sowash (USA, 1950): Sunny Days for trio (1994)
Lepo Sumera (Estonia, 1950): Symphony 4 (1992)
Lepo Sumera (Estonia, 1950): Symphony 5 (1995)
Lepo Sumera (Estonia, 1950): Symphony 6 (2000)
Nancy Galbraith (USA, 1951): Wind Symphony 1 (1991)
Jakob Ter Veldhuis (Holland, 1951): Paradiso (2001)
Jon Rose (Britain, 1951): Instrumentum Diabolicum (1990)
Jon Rose (Britain, 1951): The Virtual Violin (1993)
John Burke (Canada, 1951): Remember Your Power (2000)
Paul Dresher (USA, 1951): Liquid and Stellar Music (1981)
Paul Dresher (USA, 1951): Channels Passing (1982)
Paul Dresher (USA, 1951): Double Ikat (1989)
Paul Dresher (USA, 1951): Concerto for Violin and Electro-Acoustic Band (1997)
Paul Dresher (USA, 1951): Concerto for Quadrachord & Orchestra (2012)
Paul Dresher (USA, 1951): Sound Maze (2015)
George Tsontakis (USA, 1951): Ghost Variations (1991)
George Tsontakis (USA, 1951): Violin Concerto No. 2 (2008)
Hans Abrahamsen (Denmark, 1952): Schnee for large ensemble (2008)
Hans Abrahamsen (Denmark, 1952): String Quartet No. 3 (2008)
Hans Abrahamsen (Denmark, 1952): Double Concerto for violin, piano and strings (2011)
Hans Abrahamsen (Denmark, 1952): String Quartet No. 4 (2012)
Hans Abrahamsen (Denmark, 1952): "Let me Tell you" for soprano and orchestra (2013)
Olivier Knussen (Britain, 1952): Concerto corno (1994)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Stilleben (1988)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Du Cristal (1989)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Notes on Light (2006)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Terra Memoria (2007)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Laterna Magica, (2008)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): D'Om le Vrai Sens (2010)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Circle Map (2012)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Earth's Shadows (2013)
Christian Zanesi (France, 1952): Concert Imaginaire (1984)
Christian Zanesi (France, 1952): Grand Bruit (1990)
Christian Zanesi (France, 1952): L'Aube Rouge (2006)
Daniel Teruggi (Argentina, 1952): Sphaera (1993)
Daniel Teruggi (Argentina, 1952): The Shining Space (1999)
Rhys Chatham (USA, 1952): Die Donnergotter (1986)
Rhys Chatham (USA, 1952): A Crimson Grail (2005)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): From The Grammar Of Dreams (1996)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Io (1987)
Kaija Saariaho (Finland, 1952): Stilleben (1988)
Philippe Chamouard (France, 1952): Symphonie Tibetaine (1997)
Richard Einhorn (USA, 1952): Voices of Light (1995)
Stephen Hartke (USA, 1952): Violin Concerto (1992)
Stephen Hartke (USA, 1952): Clarinet Concerto (2001)
Stephen Hartke (USA, 1952): The Ascent of the Equestrian in a Balloon (1995)
Stephen Hartke (USA, 1952): Symphony 3 (2003)
Wolfgang Rihm (Germany, 1952): Tutuguri (1982)
Ellen Band (USA, 1952): Radiatore (1998)
Michael McNabb (USA, 1952): Invisible Cities (1985)
Takashi Yoshimatsu (Japan, 1953): Symphony 5 (2001)
Tod Machover (USA, 1953): Nature's Breath (1989)
Akira Nishimura (Japan, 1953): Concerto cello (1990)
Daniel Asia (USA, 1953): Piano Concerto (1994)
Giorgio Battistelli (Italy, 1953): Experimentum Mundi (1981)
Giorgio Battistelli (Italy, 1953): Impressions d'Afrique (2000)
Wendy Chambers (USA, 1953): The Grand Harp Event (1984)
Wendy Chambers (USA, 1953): Symphony Of The Universe (1989)
Wendy Chambers (USA, 1953): Mass for Mass Trombones (1993)
Wendy Chambers (USA, 1953): Twelve Squared (1994)
Pierre Bastien (France, 1953): Mecanium (1988)
Luther Adams (USA, 1953): In The White Silence (1998)
Reed Ghazala (USA, 1953): Threnody To The New Victims Of Hiroshima (1995)
John Oswald (Canada, 1953): Plexure (1993)
Carl Stone (USA, 1953): Woo Lae Oak (1981)
Carl Stone (USA, 1953): Nyala (1995)
John Zorn (USA, 1953): Archery (1979)
John Zorn (USA, 1953): Spillane (1986)
John Zorn (USA, 1953): Cobra (1984)
John Zorn (USA, 1953): Kristallnacht (1993)
John Zorn (USA, 1953): Redbird (1995)
John Zorn (USA, 1953): Aporias (1998)
John Luther Adams (USA, 1953): In The White Silence (1998)
John Luther Adams (USA, 1953): The Immeasurable Space of Tones (2001)
John Luther Adams (USA, 1953): Become Ocean (2013)
Tobias Picker (USA, 1954): Piano Concerto 2 (1983)
Bun-Ching Lam (China, 1954): Lu (1983)
Bun-Ching Lam (China, 1954): Like Water (1995)
Bun-Ching Lam (China, 1954): Song of the Pipa (2001)
Bun-Ching Lam (China, 1954): Atlas (2004)
Benedict Mason (Britain, 1954): String Quartet 1 (1987)
Anders Hillborg (Sweden, 1954): Violin concerto (1992)
Anders Hillborg (Sweden, 1954): Clarinet concerto (1998)
John Woolrich (Britain, 1954): It is Midnight Dr Schweitzer (1992)
John Woolrich (Britain, 1954): A Leap in the Dark (1994)
Jan Sandstrom (Sweden, 1954): Motorbike Concerto (1989)
Elliot Goldenthal (USA, 1954): Juan Darien (1988)
Elliot Goldenthal (USA, 1954): Fire Water Paper (1996)
Elliot Goldenthal (USA, 1954): Othello (1998)
Michael Daugherty (USA, 1954): Metropolis Symphony (1993)
Michael Daugherty (USA, 1954): UFO for Solo Percussion and Orchestra (1999)
Michael Daugherty (USA, 1954): Piano concerto Deus Ex Machina (2007)
Michael Denhoff (Germany, 1955): Mallarme` Quartets (2000)
Bright Sheng (China, 1955): H'un (1988)
Bright Sheng (China, 1955): String Quartet No. 3 (1993)
Diamanda Galas (USA, 1955): Litanies Of Satan (1982)
Diamanda Galas (USA, 1955): Panoptikon (1983)
Diamanda Galas (USA, 1955): Deliver Me (1986)
Toshio Hosokawa (Japan, 1955): Voiceless Voice in Hiroshima (2001)
Zbigniew Preisner (Poland, 1955): La Double Vie de Veronique (1991)
Richard Danielpour (USA, 1956): American Requiem (2001)
Steven Mackey (USA, 1956): Ravenshead (1998)
Jouni Kaipainen (Finland, 1956): Symphony 1 (1985)
Jouni Kaipainen (Finland, 1956): Symphony 2 (1994)
Michael Gordon (USA, 1956): Percussion Sextet "Timber" for six amplified 2x4s (2012)
Michael Gordon (USA, 1956): Weather (1999)
Michael Gordon (USA, 1956): Decasia (2001)
Michael Gordon (USA, 1956): Rushes (2012) for seven bassoons
Michael Gordon (USA, 1956): Timber (2009) for six wooden 2x4s
Guo Wenjing (China, 1956): Concerto For Erhu And Orchestra (2006)
Linda Catlin Smith (USA, 1957): Cut Flowers (2009)
Linda Catlin Smith (USA, 1957): Drifter (2009)
Tan Dun (China, 1957): Water Passion After St Matthew (2000)
Ellen Fullman (USA, 1957): Work for 4 (1987)
Randy Greif (USA, 1957): Verdi's Requiem (1997)
Bob Ostertag (USA, 1957): All The Rage (1992)
Bob Ostertag (USA, 1957): The Book of Hours (2012)
Mikel Rouse (USA, 1957): Quorum (1984)
Bechara El-Khoury (Lebanon, 1957): Ruins of Beirut (1985)
Edmund Campion (USA, 1957): "Natural Selection" (1996)
David Lang (USA, 1957): Little Match Girl Passion (2008)
David Lang (USA, 1957): Before Gravity - Gravity - After Gravity (2012)
David Lang (USA, 1957): Symphony for a Broken Orchestra (2017)
Chaya Czernowin (Israel, 1957): Maim (2007)
William Basinski (USA, 1958): The Disintegration Loops (2002)
Julia Wolfe (USA, 1958): Anthracite Fields (2014)
Miya Masaoka (USA, 1958): While I Was Walking I Heard A Sound (2003)
Miya Masaoka (USA, 1958): For Birds, Planes & Cello (2005)
Erling Wold (USA, 1958): Missa Beati Notkeri Balbuli Sancti Galli Monachi (2010)
Magnus Lindberg (Finland, 1958): Kraft (1985)
Magnus Lindberg (Finland, 1958): Piano Concerto (1994)
Esa-Pekka Salonen (Finland, 1958): Violin Concerto (2009)
Esa-Pekka Salonen (Finland, 1958): Cello Concerto (2017)
Dan Plonsey (USA, 1958): Moving About (2001)
Sebastian Currier (USA, 1959): Theo's Notebook (1992)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Atempause (2001)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Oh I See (2016)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Mensch und Tier (2009)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Reibung & Verschleiss (2004)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Es wird sich zeigen (1998)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Stachel der Empfindlichkeit (1998)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Kurbel und Wolke 1997)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Doina (1996)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Galopp (1996)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Vertraute Raetsel (1996)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Reibstoff (1995)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Lauschangriff (1995)
Carola Bauckholt (Germany, 1959): Pumpe (1994)
Salvator Brotons (Spain, 1959): Stabat Mater (2000)
Erkki-Sven Tuur (Estonia, 1959): Violin Concerto (1998)
James MacMillan (Britain, 1959): Seven Last Words (1994)
John Kennedy (USA, 1959): Naturali Periclitati (2007) for solo piano
Alexander Shchetynsky (Ukraine, 1960): Annunciation (1998)
Urmas Sisask (Estonia, 1960): Spiral Symphony (1999)
Jay Kernis (USA, 1960): Quartet 1 (1990)
Jay Kernis (USA, 1960): Quartet 2 (1997)
Wolfgang Plagge (Norway, 1960): Trumpet Sonata (2001)
Ezequiel Vinao (Argentina, 1960): Etudes for Solo Piano (1993)
Maria Schneider (USA, 1960): Winter Morning Walks (2013)
Jaron Lanier (USA, 1960): Mirror/Storm (1998)
Jaron Lanier (USA, 1960): The Navigator Tree (2000)
Jaron Lanier (USA, 1960): Earthquake (2006)
Bill Alves (USA, 1960): The Question Mark's Black Ink (1986)
Bill Alves (USA, 1960): Concerto for Violin and American Gamelan (2004)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind (1994)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): La Pasion Segun San Marcos (2000)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): Oceana (1996)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): Ayre (2004)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): How Slow The Wind
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): String Quartet Tenebrae (2002)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): La Pasion Segun San Marcos (2000)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): Cello Concerto Azul (2006)
Osvaldo Golijov (Argentina, 1960): Siderius (2010)
Haukur Tomasson (Iceland, 1960): Piano Concerto 2 (2009)
Haukur Tomasson (Iceland, 1960): Melankolia Perpetualis for bass voice and 4 players (2014)
Haukur Tomasson (Iceland, 1960): Fletta for choir and orchestra (2011)
Haukur Tomasson (Iceland, 1960): String Quartet Long Shadow (2002)
Laurence Crane (Britain, 1961): Piano Piece No.23 - Ethiopian Distance Runners (2009)
Lowell Liebermann (USA, 1961): Concerto piano 2 (1995)
Daron Hagen (USA, 1961): Songs of Madness and Sorrow (1997)
Michael Torke (USA, 1961): Color Music (1985)
Michael Torke (USA, 1961): Music on the Floor (1992)
Michael Torke (USA, 1961): Rapture (1998)
Gabriella Gullin (Sweden, 1961): Requiem (2002)
MarcDalbavie -Andre (France, 1961): Seuils (1993)
Nicolas Bacri (France, 1961): Sinfonia 3 (1988)
Nicolas Bacri (France, 1961): Sinfonia 4 (1996)
Michael Gendreau (USA, 1961): Grand Surface Noise Opera Nr 7 (1995)
Wynton Marsalis (USA, 1961): In This House On This Morning (1992)
Wynton Marsalis (USA, 1961): Blood on the Fields (1997)
Wynton Marsalis (USA, 1961): All Rise (1999)
Eric Glick-Rieman (USA, 1962): Trilogy From The Outside (2008)
Jennifer Higdon (Ireland, 1962): Concerto for Orchestra (2002)
Jennifer Higdon (Ireland, 1962): Percussion Concerto (2009)
Allison Cameron (Canada, 1963): A Blank Sheet Of Metal (1987)
Allison Cameron (Canada, 1963): Gibbons Moon (1991)
John Metcalfe (USA, 1964): Scorching Bay (2004)
Augusta-Read Thomas (USA, 1964): In The Sky At Twilight (2002)
Georges Lentz (Luxembourg, 1965): Caeli Enarrant (2001)
Anton Batagov (Russia, 1965): Music For The 35 Buddhas (2001)
Anton Batagov (Russia, 1965): The Wheel Of The Law (2002)
Hans Tutschku (Germany, 1966): Departs (1998)
Hans Tutschku (Germany, 1966): Dialog fuer 2 Instrumentalgruppen (2007)
Dan Joseph (USA, 1966): Percussion and Strings (2004)
Dan Joseph (USA, 1966): Tonalization (2009)
Cesare Valentini (Italy, 1967): Concerto for Cello, Piano and Strings (2003)
Mark Applebaum (USA, 1967: Echolalia (2006)
Jesper Koch (Belgium, 1967): Earth My Likeness (2001)
Mark Applebaum (USA, 1967): Scipio Wakes Up (1995)
Mark Applebaum (USA, 1967): Plundergraphic (2002)
Olga Neuwirth (Austria, 1968): Bahlamms FEst (1999)
Olga Neuwirth (Austria, 1968): Construction in Space (2000)
Dan Trueman (USA, 1968): Machine Language (1999)
Klaus Lang (Austria, 1971): Black Light (2013)
Klaus Lang (Austria, 1971): Hungry Star (2012)
Klaus Lang (Austria, 1971): The Path of the Prince I (1996)
Thomas Ades (Britain, 1971): Asyla (1997)
Thomas Ades (Britain, 1971): America A Prophecy (1999)
Thomas Ades (Britain, 1971): Concentric Paths violin concerto (2005)
Thomas Ades (Britain, 1971): Tevot (2007)
Luciano Chessa (Italy, 1971): Il Pedone dell'Aria (2006)
Luciano Chessa (Italy, 1971): Inkless Imagination IV (2008)
Luciano Chessa (Italy, 1971): Recitativo, Aria e Coro della Vergine (2008)
Luciano Chessa (Italy, 1971): Ragazzi Incoscienti Scarabocchiano sulla Porta di un Negozio Fallito an.1902 (2009)
Nikola Kodjabashia (Macedonia, 1970): Bildbeschreibung (2001)
Nathaniel Stookeys (USA, 1970): Junkestra (2007)
Lera Auerbach (Russia, 1973): Double Concerto (1997)
Zhao Lin (China, 1973): Double concerto Duo for Sheng, Cello, and Orchestra (2013)
Minas Borboudakis (Greece, 1974): Chorochronos I (1997)
Minas Borboudakis (Greece, 1974): Chorochronos II (2002)
Bruno Mantovani (France, 1974): Concerto pour Violon (1997)
Bruno Mantovani (France, 1974): Turbulences (1998)
Alex Mincek (USA, 1975): Pendulum VII (2012)
Alex Mincek (USA, 1975): Double Concerto for flute, percussion, and string orchestra (2010)
Mason Bates (USA, 1977): Mass Transmission (2012)
Mason Bates (USA, 1977): Digital Loom (2006)
Mason Bates (USA, 1977): Liquid Interface (2012)
Mason Bates (USA, 1977): The B Sides (2009)
Mason Bates (USA, 1977): World's Greatest Synth (2019)
Jason Freeman (USA, 1977): Glimmer (2004)
Ge Wang (China, 1977): Twilight (2013)
Luciano Chessa (USA, 1981): Petrolio (2004)
Ashley Fure (USA, 1982): Filament (2018)
Caroline Shaw (USA, 1982): The Listeners (2019)
Caroline Shaw (USA, 1982): Partita for 8 Voices (2013)

Composers born in the 18th century

Composers born in the 19th century

Composers born after 1899

Composers born after 1929

Composers born after 1949


See the note at the bottom of this page about the country credited for the musician (it is not necessarily the country where the musician was born, and not the country that exists today but didn't exist back then).

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The Essential Sonatas
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The Greatest Pianists
The Essential Concertos (except piano)
The Greatest Violin Players
The Essential Trios, Quartets, Quintets, Sextets
The Greatest Flutists, Cellists, etc
Music for Chamber Ensemble
The Essential Operas
The Greatest Sopranos
The Essential Ballets
The Best of Early Electronic Music
The Greatest Vocal Music
Best of Jazz Music
Best of Rock Music
Note about crediting the country: The country that i list next to the name is not necessarily the country of birth. First of all, i have decided that the country of birth should reflect the status at the time, unless the person physically grew up somewhere else. For example, Italy's national hero Garibaldi was NOT born in France, even though Nice today is French. He was born in Nice, Italy, because back then Nice was Italian. Septimius Severus was a Roman, not a Libyan. Kafka was an Austrian, even though today Prague is not in Austria. Otherwise we should change the birthplace of people every time the borders change. Of course, if i had the space, i would specify the region: Prokofev was born in the Russian province of Ukraine, Stalin was born in the Russian province of Georgia, etc... but i would still write Garibaldi was born in the Italian province of Piedmont (because Nice back then was part of Piedmont). So i prefer to look at the original borders, not today's borders (which will change tomorrow).
This rule needs to be corrected for "accidental" births: the Italian poet Ungaretti was born in Egypt but he grew up in Italy; the US astronaut Michael Collins was born in Rome but he grew up in the USA; Natalie Portman is not an Israeli; Keanu Reeves is not a Lebanonese; Emma Watson is not a French; Nicole Kidman is not a Hawaiian; the singer Freddie Mercury was not a Kenyan. Even this rule can be tricky to apply: Muzio Clementi was born and raised in Italy but moved to England as a teenager.
The biggest problem is with the West European empires that stretched over multiple continents and were never really one country: was Tagore a British or Indian poet? Was Doris Lessing a Rhodesian or British writer? I am leaning towards writing British Empire. If you only write "India" or "Rhodesia", you mislead. Lessing was not an African writer, and Tagore was born in Kolkata which became part of India only after the British left (previously it was part of the Mughal empire, a Muslim empire that never called itself "India").
For people born centuries ago the discussion becomes even more complicated. We routinely think of Vivaldi as being "Italian" and Bach as being "German". Neither Italy nor Germany existed at the time. Vivaldi was born in the state of Venezia/Venice. Bach was born in a tiny state that was part of the Holy Roman Empire. Torelli was born in Verona, which belonged to the Republic of Venice. Tartini was born in a town that belonged to the Republic of Venice although today it is part of the country of Slovenia. Monteverdi was born in the state of Milan (which was under Spanish domination) but he started his career in Venice. Southern Italy was part of the Kingdom of Naples, which changed hands a few times but was mainly a Spanish colony.