Famous British Classical Music Composers

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William Byrd (1543-1623)
  • William Byrd is perhaps the greatest English composer of all time. With hundreds of individual compositions, Byrd seemingly mastered every style of music that existed during his lifetime, outshining Orlando de Lassus and Giovanni Palestrina. Apart from his choral works, Byrd is considered by many to be the first "genius" of the keyboard. Many of his piano works can be found in "My Ladye Nevells Book" and the "Parthenia."

    Thomas Tallis (1510-1585)

    • Thomas Tallis flourished as a church musician, and is considered one of the church's best early composers. Tallis served under four English Monarchs and was treated very well. Queen Elisabeth granted him and his pupil, William Boyd, exclusive rights to use England's printing press to publish music; a first of its time. Although Tallis composed many styles of music, the majority of it is arranged for choir as Latin motets and English anthems.

    George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)

    • Though born in the same year as J.S. Bach in a town fifty miles away, George Frideric Handel eventually became a British citizen in 1727. Handel, like Bach, composed for every musical genre of his time, and even created the English oratorio. While living in England, Handel spent a majority of his time composing operas that were, unfortunately, far from successful. In response, he focused more on his oratorios, and in 1741, he composed the most famous of them all - "The Messiah."

      Henry Purcell (1659 - 1695)

      • With a lifetime of only thirty-five years, Purcell achieved musical greatness. He became considered one of England’s greatest composers and the most original composer of his time. Purcell was extremely talented in word-setting and composed very successful works for stage.

      Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)

      • In a sea of Mozart, Beethoven, and Bach, composers like Ralph Vaughan Williams often go without notice. I'm a big fan of his Mass in G minor and The Lark Ascending. Vaughan Williams composed a variety of music including religious music like the mass, operas, symphonies, chamber music, folk songs, and film scores.

      Gustav Holst (1874 - 1934)

      • Holst, another great British composer, is best known for his work "The Planets." This orchestral suite with seven movements, each representing a planet except for Earth, was composed between 1914 and 1916. Holst attended the Royal College of Music and was even classmates with Vaughan Williams. Holst loved music and was greatly influenced by other composers. In fact, he fell madly in love with Wagner's music after seeing a performance of Wagner's Ring Cycle at Covent Garden.

      Benjamin Britten (1913-1976)

      • Benjamin Britten is one of Britain's most famous 20th century composers. With a handful of popular works including the War Requiem, Missa Brevis, The Beggar's Opera, and The Prince of the Pagodas, Britten's compositions will still be performed hundreds of year's later just as the great composers before him.