When you think of the classical era, the period of music between 1750-1825, you might be thinking of Beethoven and Mozart.
Surely, these three composers represent the pinnacle of the era, becoming immortalized within classical music canon.
However, much likeable music written by other composers is abundant in this era.
And, it’s about time the world became more familiar with some of these forgotten stars of classical music.
Some composers are right on the cusp of the Classical and Romantic eras; a few of these, such as Schubert and Rossini, we will consider to be more active in the Romantic era, and thus not included in today’s list of 10 other great composers.
Here are 10 incredible classical era composers NOT named Beethoven, Haydn, or Mozart.
10) Carl Ditters Von Dittersdorf
A friend to both Mozart and Haydn, Dittersdorf wrote some joyful, memorable melodies any Classical era listener would appreciate.
Some would say Ditterdorf’s gift of Italian-Austrian melody is the end of his legacy; his capability of developing ideas was certainly not as great as that of his two immortal acquaintances.
On the other hand, his simple, most elegant works, such as the slow movement of his Symphony No. 4 in F Major, never attempted brilliance, favoring elegance over clever complexity.
In an era dominated by three supreme geniuses, Dittersdorf deserves a nod among the more important classical era composers of his day.
9) Carl Czerny
Is Czerny’s music too academic and formal for inclusion on a list like this?
It’s debatable; including Czerny’s counterpart Hanon on a list like this would certainly feel strange, considering his remembered work was primarily meant to strengthen piano technique, and not for concert performance or enjoyment.
But, Czerny’s enduring popularity in the piano exercise repertoire is surprising; while thousands of etudes, lesson books, and exercises have been published over the last two centuries, Czerny’s School of Velocity still comes to mind as the staple for fostering technical brilliance.
Lang Lang’s recent 2019 recording of the opening of the School of Velocity is compelling, and reminds one of the many hours spent building up a musical foundation.
Outside of the School of Velocity, Czerny wrote some compelling and much underappreciated Nocturnes and Etudes for the technically accomplished pianist.
Recommended Works: School of Velocity, Etude in G Minor
8) John Field
Known as the inventor of the Nocturne, compositions distinctly inspired by nighttime, John Field actually composed a total of 18 Nocturnes. Listening to this music, it is clear that Chopin, that composer more famously associated with the genre, took significant influence from John Field.
In fact, just looking over the score to the first Nocturne, one could easily mistake it for an early composition of Chopin.
Field was actually a piano student of another composer mentioned later in this list, Muzio Clementi, one of the Classical era’s most important piano composers.
In an era dominated by composers of German and Austrian heritage, Field is a national Irish treasure whose work is finding more and more interpreters.
Recommended Works: Nocturnes, Variations on Karaminskaya
7) Antonio Soler
Not to be confused with classical contemporary Antonio Salieri, Antonio Soler, sometimes known as Padre Antonio Soler, was a Catalan composer who wrote numerous one-movement solo keyboard works, much like his more famous Baroque predecessor Domenico Scarlatti.
Taking holy orders at the age of 23, he composed 100s of compositions while serving as a monk for the Catholic Church.
Much of Soler’s work encompasses a Scarlatti-like bombast, conveying in just a few minutes a complete, virtuosic keyboard work.
Outside of his solo keyboard work, he also is the author of six concertos for two organs, a joyful and curious collection of keyboard duets.
Recommended Works: Keyboard Sonata No. 48 in C Minor
6) Christoph Willibald Gluck
Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice is canon in the classical music repertoire, an opera about the myth of Orpheus, the God of music. Orfeo belongs in the azione teatrale genre of opera, essentially a shorter scale opera presented for the aristocracy.
Gluck was a composer who wrote music for the royal court, much like his contemporary Joseph Haydn. He was appointed kapellmeister – or “master of music” – by the Duke of Saxony in the 1750s.
Later in his career, Gluck was keen to innovate opera, creating a set of structural principles that would guide his composition. These operatic reforms included no da capo arias, no vocal improvisation, and simpler melodies.
Gluck’s legacy is tangible in music history; his work had a profound impact on German opera, particularly Carl Maria Von Weber and Richard Wagner.
Recommended Works: Orfeo ed Euridice, Iphigénie en Tauride
5) Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach
One of JS Bach’s 20(!) children, CPE Bach is perhaps the most remembered of all the Bach musical children.
And, what a composer CPE Bach was! Churning out music at nearly the same speed as his father, many of his symphonies were actually quite popular during his lifetime.
Indeed, CPE Bach was at one time more famous than his father, who remained in relative obscurity until many decades after his death.
Despite his large artistic output of symphonies, concerti, and chamber music, CPE Bach’s most enduring work is his simple, elegant, and widely known Solfeggietto. Scored for one piano, the music is a favorite of young pianists showcasing their advanced technique.
Recommended Works: Solfeggietto, Keyboard Concerto in G Major
4) Muzio Clementi
In his time, Clementi was the classical-era Chopin; an influential composer who wrote, almost exclusively, piano music. The BBC even called Clementi “The father of the piano.”
Clementi took part in a piano duel against Mozart; at the time, Clementi was 29, and Mozart was 25.
In the duel, each composer had to improvise on an original theme Although Mozart is certainly history’s more remembered composer, Clementi actually won this piano battle.
Clementi has had somewhat of a revival in recent years; Lang Lang released a short LP playing his Sonatina in C Major. The revival has led to a surprisingly high listenership for this once obscure composer, with over 150,000 listeners a month on Spotify alone.
Recommended Works: Sonatina in C Major, Gradus Ad Parnassum
3) Johann Nepomuk Hummel
Hummel is still practiced daily by classical trumpet players, as his trumpet works are staples of college audition repertoire.
Some of his repertoire represents the Classical era at its most chromatically extensive, pushing traditional Classical era harmonies to their limits.
Listening to his Piano Concerto in A Minor, one wonders whether Beethoven and Chopin had heard the piece before composing some of their own piano music.
In fact, Robert Schumann himself dedicated study to this work, believing it to be among the best concertos of its time.
Hummel’s music may be overshadowed by that of Mozart and Beethoven; taking a second look at this composer’s fecund output reveals a chromatic individualism that would go on to influence a generation of Romantic era composers.
Recommended Works: Piano Concerto in A Minor, Trumpet Concerto in E Flat
2) Luigi Cherubini
When Beethoven deems you his best contemporaneous composer, you must be a special talent. Such is the case of Cherubini, one of music history’s most underrated artists.
Born in 1752, Cherubini produced an enormous output of operas that were once championed by Rossini.
His Symphony in D Major, as heard above, sounds like it could have been written by a young Beethoven.
Perhaps his most well-known work is Médée, an opera noted for its intense difficulty. The final aria of this work was considered lost for over 200 years, until researchers from Stanford & the University of Manchester discovered it in 2013.
Recommended Works: Médée, Symphony in D Major
1) Luigi Boccherini
One can explore the work of Boccherini for hours, devouring his courtly melodies, solemn slow movements, and extremely underrated repertoire.
Boccherini’s chamber work can be as compelling and inventive as that of Beethoven and Mozart.
His most famous work is, by far, the Minuetto from his String Quintet in E Major. Often heard today as a work portraying a comical pretentiousness, the rent of the quintet is as marvelous as its famous third movement.
Boccherini was an important composer in the transition between the Baroque and Classical periods of music. Often deemed “Rococo,” his work could be considered either late Baroque or early Classical.
Whatever you label Boccherini, we recommend Boccherini be added to your classical era music playlist.
Featured photo of Luigi Boccherini via Wikimedia Commons