Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Composers You Should Know: Contemporary Classical

Lists, facts, dates, links, and more, organized by time period

Notable Contemporary Classical Composers (1975 - present)

If you wish to be generally familiar with classical music, here is a short list of composers you should know from this period.

Name

Birth

Death

Nationality

Representative Pieces

Adams, John
 ML410 .A233

1947

 

American

Nixon in China (opera)
Short Ride in a Fast Machine (orchestra)
Phyrgian Gates (piano solo)

Berio, Luciano

1925

2003

Italian

Sinfonia (orchestra & 8 singers)
Visage (tape)
Sequenza IV (piano)
Sequenza VIII (violin)

Chen, Yi

1953

 

Chinese

Suite for Cello and Chamber Winds (chamber ensemble)

Corigliano, John
 ML410 .C786

1938

 

American

Ghosts of Versailles (opera)
The Red Violin (film score)
Symphony No. 2

Crumb, George

1929

 

American

Makrokosmos (amplified piano)
Ancient Voices of Children (soprano & chamber)
A Haunted Landscape (orchestra)

Glass, Philip
 ML410 .G398

1937

 

American

Einstein on the Beach (opera)
Satyagraha (opera)
Glassworks (chamber ensemble)
Photographer (theatre piece)
Koyaanisqatsi (film score)

Higdon, Jennifer

1962

 

American

Violin Concerto (violin & orchestra)
Piano Trio (violin, cello, & piano)

Larsen, Libby

1950

 

American

Dancing Solo (clarinet)
Chanting to Paradise (soprano & piano)
A Lover's Journey (choral)

Ligeti, Gyorgy
 ML410 .L645

1923

2006

Hungarian-Austrian

Piano Etudes (piano solo)
Lux Aeterna (choral)
Atmospheres (orchestra)

Pärt, Arvo
 ML410 .P1755

1935

 

Estonian

Fratres (chamber ensemble)
Magnificat (a cappella choir)
Für Alina (piano)
Penderecki, Krzysztof

1933

 

Polish

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (string orchestra)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (violin & orchestra)
De Natura Sonoris No. 1 & 2 (orchestra)

Reich, Steve

1936

 

American

Come Out (tape piece)
Music for 18 Musicians (mixed chamber ensemble)
Pendulum Music (4 performers)
Clapping Music (2 performers)

Riley, Terry
 ML410 .R499

1935

 

American

In C (any number of performers)
A Rainbow in Curved Air (keyboards & percussion)

Schickele, Peter

1935

 

American

PDQ Bach compositions
Symphony No. 1 "Songlines"
String Quartet No. 5
A Year in the Catskills (woodwind quintet)

Schwantner, Joseph

1943

 

American

And the Mountains Rising Nowhere (wind ensemble)
Sparrows (soprano & chamber ensemble)
Chasing Light (orchestra)

Stockhausen, Karlheinz
 ML410 .S858

1928

2007

German

Gesang der Jünglinge (electronic & concrete music)
Klavierstück IX (piano solo)
Kontakte (electronic sounds, piano, & percussion)
Gruppen (3 orchestras)

Tavener, John

1944

 

British

Mahashakti (violin and orchestra)
Ikon of Light (two choirs and chamber ensemble)

Tower, Joan

1938

 

American

Petroushskates (chamber ensemble
Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (brass and orchestra)

Whitacre, Eric

1970

 

American

Lux Aurumque (virtual choir)
Ghost Train Triptych (wind symphony)
Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings (musical theatre)

Xenakis, Iannis

1922

2001

Greek

Metastasis (orchestra)
Pleiades (percussion)

Contemporary Classical Composers (1975 - present)

If you are a student of Music History or Composition, here is a more detailed list of composers you should know from this period.

Name

Birth

Death

Nationality

Representative Pieces

Adams, John
 ML410 .A233

1947

 

American

Nixon in China (opera)
Short Ride in a Fast Machine (orchestra)
Phyrgian Gates (piano solo)

Argento, Dominick

1927

 

American

From the Diary of Virginia Woolf (voice & piano)
Evensong (soprano, choir, & orchestra)
Postcard from Morocco (opera)

Berio, Luciano

1925

2003

Italian

Sinfonia (orchestra & 8 singers)
Visage (tape)

Sequenza IV (piano)
Sequenza VIII (violin)

Birtwistle, Harrison

1934

 

British

The Mask of Orpheus (opera)
Gawain's Journey (orchestra)

Bolcom, William

1938

 

American

Songs of Innocence and Experience (choirs & orchestra)

Chen, Yi

1953

 

Chinese

Suite for Cello and Chamber Winds (chamber ensemble)

Colgrass, Michael

1932

 

American / Canadian

Winds of Nagual (wind ensemble)
Urban Requiem (4 saxophones & wind ensemble)

Corigliano, John

1938

 

American

Ghosts of Versailles (opera)
The Red Violin (film score)
Symphony No. 2

Crumb, George

1929

 

American

Makrokosmos (amplified piano)
Ancient Voices of Children (soprano & chamber)
A Haunted Landscape (orchestra)

Danielpour, Richard

1956

 

American

First Light (chamber ensemble)
An American Requiem (opera)

Daugherty, Michael

1954

 

American

Metropolis Symphony (orchestra)
Deus ex Machina (piano & orchestra)

Del Tredici, David

1937

 

American

Child Alice (soprano & orchestra)
Ballad in Lavender (piano)

Dun, Tan

1957

 

Chinese

Water Concerto (chorus, orchestra, & water percussion)
Out of Peking Opera (violin & orchestra)

Glass, Philip
 ML410 .G398

1937

 

American

Einstein on the Beach (opera)
Satyagraha (opera)
Glassworks (chamber ensemble)
Photographer (theatre piece)
Koyaanisqatsi (film score)

Górecki, Henryk

1933

2010

Polish

Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"
Kleines Requiem für eine Polka (piano & chamber ensemble)

Higdon, Jennifer

1962

 

American

Violin Concerto (violin & orchestra)
Piano Trio (violin, cello, & piano)

Iannaccone, Anthony

1943

 

American

Apparitions (Band)
Two-Piano Inventions

Kernis, Aaron Jay

1960

 

American

String Quartet No. 2 "Musica Intrumentalis"
Symphony in Waves (orchestra)

Larsen, Libby

1950

 

American

Dancing Solo (clarinet)
Chanting to Paradise (soprano & piano)
A Lover's Journey (choral)

Ligeti, Gyorgy
 ML410 .L645

1923

2006

Hungarian-Austrian

Piano Etudes (piano solo)
Lux Aeterna (choral)
Atmospheres (orchestra)

Lucier, Alvin

1931

 

American

Fragments (string quartet)
I Am Sitting in a Room (tape)
Music on a Long Thin Wire (electronic)

Machover, Tod

1953

 

American

Towards the Center (6 instruments and live computer electronics)
Death and the Powers (opera)
Hyperstring Trilogy (hyperviolin, hyperviola, hypercello, & chamber orchestra)

MacMillan, James

1959

 

Scottish

Veni, Veni Emmanuel (percussion & orchestra)
7 Last Words from the Cross (chorus & chamber orchestra)

Maxwell Davies, Peter
 ML410 .D254

1934

 

English

Symphony No. 10 (orchestra)
An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise (orchestra & bagpipes)

Monk, Meredith
 ML410 .M72

1942

 

American

Songs of Ascension (vocalist & string quartet)
Atlas (opera)

Oliveros, Pauline

1932

2016

American

Sound Patterns (choir)
The Ready Made Boomerang (chamber ensemble)

Pärt, Arvo
 ML410 .P1755

1935

 

Estonian

Fratres (chamber ensemble)
Magnificat (a cappella choir)
Für Alina (piano)
Penderecki, Krzysztof

1933

 

Polish

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (string orchestra)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (violin & orchestra)
De Natura Sonoris No. 1 & 2 (orchestra)

Reich, Steve

1936

 

American

Come Out (tape piece)
Music for 18 Musicians (mixed chamber ensemble)
Pendulum Music (4 performers)
Clapping Music (2 performers)

Riley, Terry
 ML410 .R499

1935

 

American

In C (any number of performers)
A Rainbow in Curved Air (keyboards & percussion)

Rorem, Ned
 ML410 .R693

1923

 

American

Symphony No. 3 (orchestra)
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (voice & piano)

Saariaho, Kaija

1952

 

Finnish

Jardin Secret No. 1 (electronic music)
Laterna Magica (orchestra)

Schelle, Michael

1950

 

American

The End of the World (symphonic band)
Wright Flight (piano and orchestra)

Schickele, Peter

1935

 

American

PDQ Bach compositions
Symphony No. 1 "Songlines"
String Quartet No. 5
A Year in the Catskills (woodwind quintet)

Schuller, Gunther

1925

 

American

Grand Concerto (100 percussionists and keyboards)
Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (orchestra)

Schwantner, Joseph

1943

 

American

And the Mountains Rising Nowhere (wind ensemble)
Sparrows (soprano & chamber ensemble)
Chasing Light (orchestra)

Stockhausen, Karlheinz
 ML410 .S858

1928

2007

German

Gesang der Jünglinge (electronic & concrete music)
Klavierstück IX (piano solo)
Kontakte (electronic sounds, piano, & percussion)
Gruppen (3 orchestras)

Subotnick, Morton

1933

 

American

Silver Apples of the Moon (electronic music)
All My Hummingbirds Have Alibis (interactive orchestra and electronic)

Tavener, John

1944

 

British

Mahashakti (violin and orchestra)
Ikon of Light (two choirs and chamber ensemble)

Tower, Joan

1938

 

American

Petroushskates (chamber ensemble)
Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (brass and orchestra)

Whitacre, Eric

1970

 

American

Lux Aurumque (virtual choir)
Ghost Train Triptych (wind symphony)
Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings (musical theatre)

Wolff, Christian

1934

 

American

Exercises (chamber)
Keyboard Miscellany (piano)

Wuorinen, Charles

1938

 

American

Archaeopteryx (bass trombone & chamber ensemble)
Mass for the Restoration of St. Luke in the Fields (chorus & orchestra)
Orchestral and Electronic Exchanges (orchestra & tape)

Xenakis, Iannis

1922

2001

Greek

Metastasis (orchestra)
Pleiades (percussion)

Young, La Monte

1935

 

American

Five Small Pieces (string quartet)
The Well-Tuned Piano (solo)

Zwilich, Ellen Taaffe

1939

 

American

Symphony No. 2 "Cello"
Rituals (5 percussionists & orchestra)