Asking help from Classical Music buffs – Updated

During a discussion on the Art of Memory Forum, it was suggested that existing artworks could be used as miniature memory palaces. Indigenous cultures have used art as mnemonic, as was also the practice in medieval times.

I decided to test the idea using Pieter Bruegel’s Children’s Games. The Wikipedia entry gives 80 games as shown, so there are 80 obvious locations possible.

I have decided to encode classical composers. I have just started to listen to a lot more classical music than before, but know very little about the topic.

Original post included: Below is a list of 100 composers since the Baroque. So could I please have help reducing the list? Who can I eliminate at the stage without missing out on the major composers? Is there anyone missing?

After much debate and much discussion, I didn’t get to reduce it much, but there were a lot of changes. Below is the list I am working from now. Thank you to all those musical types who helped so much!

Baroque Period: 1600–1750
1 Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179)
2 Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
3 Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677)
4 Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632–1687)
5 Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
6 Henry Purcell (1659–1695)
7 Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725)
8 Tomaso Albinoni (1671–1750)
9 Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
10 Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767)
11 Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764)
12 George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)
13 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
14 Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)
Classical Period: 1750–1820
15 Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1714–1787)
16 Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1806)
17 Johann Christian Bach (1735–1782)
18 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
19 Franz Xaver Sussmayr (1766–1803)
20 Bedrich Dionys Weber (1766–1842)
21 Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770–1827)
22 Niccolo Paganini (1782–1840)
23 Carl Maria von Weber (1786 – 1826)
24 Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792–1868)
25 Franz Peter Schubert (1797–1828)
26 Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti (1797–1848)
Romantic Period: 1820-1900
27 Louis-Hector Berlioz (1803–1869)
28 Fanny Mendelssohn (1805–1847)
29 Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)
30 Frederic Chopin (1810–1849)
31 Robert Alexander Schumann (1810–1856)
32 Franz Liszt (1811–1886)
33 Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813–1883)
34 Giuseppe Fortunino Frencesco Verdi (1813–1901)
35 Jacques Offenbach (1819–1880)
36 Clara Wieck Schumann (1819–1896)
37 Cesar Franck (1822–1890)
38 Bedřich Smetana (1824-1884)
39 Anton Joseph Bruckner (1824–1896)
40 Johann Strauss II (1825–1899)
41 Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
42 Eduard Strauss (1835–1916)
43 Charles-Camille Saint-Saens (1835-1921)
44 Georges Bizet (1838–1875)
45 Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (1839–1881)
46 Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
47 Antonín Dvorak (1841–1904)
48 Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843–1907)
49 Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov(1844-1908)
50 Gabriel-Urbain Fauré (1845–1924)
51 Leoš Janáček (1854-1928)
52 Sir Edward William Elgar (1857– 1934)
53 Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
54 Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)
55 Achille-Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
56 Richard Strauss (1864–1949)
57 Jean Sibelius (1865–1957)
58 Erik Satie (1866–1925)
59 Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)
60 Sergei Vasilievitch Rachmaninoff (1873–1943)
61 Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg (1874–1951)
62 Gustav Theodore Holst (1874–1934)
63 Charles Edward Ives (1874–1954)
64 Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
65 Béla Bartók (1881–1945)
66 Artur Schnabel (1882–1951)
67 Percy Grainger (1882 – 20 February 1961)
68 Zóltan Kodály (1882–1967)
69 Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)
70 Alban Berg (1885–1935)
71 Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofieff (1891–1953)
20th Century: 1900–present
72 George Gershwin (1898–1937)
73 Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)
74 Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)
75 Samuel Barber (1910–1981)
76 Peggy Glanville-Hicks (1912–1990)
77 Benjamin Britten (1913–1976)
78 Dulcie Holland (1913–2000)
79 Peter Sculthorpe (1929–2014)
80 Arvo Part (1935–)
81 Philip Glass (1937- )
82 Carl Vine (1954- )
83 Elena Kats-Chernin (1957-
84 Nigel Westlake (1958- )
85 Margaret Sutherland (1897–1984)
Back burner
1 Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa (1566-1613)
2 Witold Roman Lutosławski (1913 – 1994) (Polish)
3 György Sándor Ligeti (1923 – 2006)
4 John Adams
5 Carl Heinrich Biber (1681-1749)
6 Darius Milhaud
7 Luigi Cherubini
8 Zbigniew Preisner
9 Michael Nyman

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Author: lynne

I am an Honorary Researcher at LaTrobe University. I am the author of 19 books, the most recent being 'Spiders: learning to love them' (Allen & Unwin), 'Knowledge and Power in Prehistoric Societies' (Cambridge University Press, 'The Memory Code' (Allen & Unwin, AUS; Pegasus Books, US and Atlantic Books, UK), 'Memory Craft' (Allen & Unwin, AUS; Pegasus Books, US) [and foreign translations, audio versions and so on]. My latest book is co-authored by Margo Neale. 'Songlines: the power and promise' and published by Thames & Hudson with the National Museum of Australia.

25 thoughts on “Asking help from Classical Music buffs – Updated”

  1. If you want an exquisite introduction to Benjamin Britten, then listen to “A Ceremony of Carols”. “A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” takes a theme by Baroque composer Henry Purcell (who allegedly died as a result of being locked out by his wife for coming home inebriated) and passing it through the families of the orchestra. He is definitely a keeper. And I think Sharon’s list is excellent!

    1. No need to promise to stop! I just store everything for when I can get to it. I get obsessed with whatever memory experiment I am working on. That is the beauty of these methods – they provide such a firm foundation that it just leaves you wanting more. It is a really interesting period of history. I have lots of hooks in the first half of my 20th Century palace. I love contemplating a given historical character and then look at them in terms of the other characters and events I have in their stage of history – along with just before them and just after. Influences are a really investing aspect of the mulling I do over my memory palaces.

      I have recorded this note for when i get to Shostakovotch. Thank you – and no need to stop commenting. Everything you say has been fascinating.


  2. Some might disagree, but I would say Philip Glass is an important 20th century composer who should be in the list.

  3. Also, be careful of listing Clara Wieck Schumann. Is she on the list because without her the list is exclusively male? There are more important male composers who outrank her (Luigi Cherubini, anyone?). The fact is, there haven’t been many influential female composers. This is sad, and we should encourage change for the future, but we shouldn’t try to rewrite history because of modern ideology. (If you do want women on the list, add Fanny Mendelssohn.)

  4. Sharon’s list is pretty good (in my opinion, obviously).

    Absolutely Shostakovich and Britten must stay. Who the hell is Bedrich Dionys Weber? He can go. John Rutter writes a lot of hyper-populist stuff, and I wouldn’t put him on a list of important classical composers.

    I’m surprised no one has listed Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov or, to a lesser extent, Darius Milhaud, Bedřich Smetana or Leoš Janáček.

    Be careful of listing Clara Wieck Schumann. Is she on the list because without her the list is exclusively male? There are more important male composers who outrank her (Luigi Cherubini, anyone?). The fact is, there haven’t been many influential female composers. This is sad, and we should encourage change for the future, but we shouldn’t try to rewrite history because of modern ideology. (If you do want women on the list, add Fanny Mendelssohn.)

    1. Hi Martin,

      Thank you so much for this list. I didn’t notice the absence of Rimsky-Korsakov, who my father used to like. He is in. All your comments have been noted for the final cull and additions.

      Thank you also for the comment on female composers. I am intrigued why there aren’t influential female composers. Well-read women authors, even if they used male pseudonyms initially, started appearing in the mid-19th century. Why not composers? I can think of a number of reasons why it would be harder for a composer, but this is one of the questions which will arise from this experiment.

      As will patterns in countries of origin and influences.

      I have noted the additions and deletions. Thank you.

  5. Focus on JS Bach over the other Bachs. Maybe include the other Bachs as a subset or addendum attached to him.

    1. That is a good idea. Using hooks to add subsequent information is the way memory palaces work, so this is terrific. One Bach!

      Thank you!

  6. I’d definitely add Claudio Monteverdi to Baroque, maybe instead of Naudot. And probably just one Scarlatti will do (more versatile Allessandro or more influential Domenico – your call 🙂 You could also skip Alberti. In Classical period you could skip at least one of the Bachs (Johann Ernst or Wilhelm Friedemann or both).How about Romantic period with just one Johann Strauss (II) and without Bellini? Not sure about Clara Wieck too, maybe another great female composer from the XXth century instead, like Germaine Tailefferre or Sofia Gubaidulina?

    1. Naudot has two crosses (two people named him to leave out) so I suspect he is going. I have added Monteverdi to the “add” list which I will ask for opinions when I get this list down a fair way.

      Clara Wieck is the only female. Why are there so few female composers? I have added the two you noted and all your other comments. This is really helpful. I am learning a lot just from all the comments here and on social media.

      Thank you, Krzysztof!

  7. My suggested list (only mine, of course!)

    Baroque Period: 1600–1750
    1 Henry Purcell (1659–1695)
    2 Alessandro Scarlatti (1660–1725)
    3 Tomaso Albinoni (1671–1750)
    4 Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678–1741)
    5 Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767)
    6 Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764)
    8 George Frideric Handel (1685–1759)
    9 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750)
    10 Giuseppe Domenico Scarlatti (1685–1757)

    Classical Period: 1750–1820

    16 Christoph Willibald Ritter von Gluck (1714–1787)
    20 Franz Joseph Haydn (1732–1806)
    24 Muzio Clementi (1752–1832)
    25 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)
    27 Bedrich Dionys Weber (1766–1842)
    28 Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770–1827)
    29 Niccolo Paganini (1782–1840)
    30 Carl Maria von Weber (1786 – 1826)
    31 Gioachino Antonio Rossini (1792–1868)
    32 Franz Peter Schubert (1797–1828)
    33 Domenico Gaetano Maria Donizetti (1797–1848)

    Romantic Period: 1820-1900
    34 Vincenzo Bellini (1801–1835)
    35 Louis-Hector Berlioz (1803–1869)
    36 Johann Strauss I (1804–1849)
    37 Jacob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn (1809–1847)
    38 Frederic Chopin (1810–1849)
    39 Robert Alexander Schumann (1810–1856)
    40 Franz Liszt (1811–1886)
    41 Wilhelm Richard Wagner (1813–1883)
    42 Giuseppe Fortunino Frencesco Verdi (1813–1901)
    43 Charles François Gounod (1818–1893)
    44 Jacques Offenbach (1819–1880)
    45 Clara Wieck Schumann (1819–1896)
    46 Cesar Franck (1822–1890)
    47 Anton Joseph Bruckner (1824–1896)
    48 Johann Strauss II (1825–1899)
    49 Johannes Brahms (1833–1897)
    50 Eduard Strauss (1835–1916)
    51 Georges Bizet (1838–1875)
    52 Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (1839–1881)
    53 Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840–1893)
    54 Antonín Dvorak (1841–1904)
    55 Jules Massenet (1842–1912)
    56 Edvard Hagerup Grieg (1843–1907)
    57 Gabriel-Urbain Fauré (1845–1924)
    58 Sir Edward William Elgar (1857– 1934)
    59 Giacomo Puccini (1858–1924)
    60 Gustav Mahler (1860–1911)
    61 Achille-Claude Debussy (1862–1918)
    62 Richard Strauss (1864–1949)
    63 Jean Sibelius (1865–1957)
    64 Erik Satie (1866–1925)
    66 Alexander Nikolaevich Scriabin (1872–1915)
    67 Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872–1958)
    68 Sergei Vasilievitch Rachmaninoff (1873–1943)
    69 Arnold Franz Walter Schoenberg (1874–1951)
    70 Gustav Theodore Holst (1874–1934)
    71 Charles Edward Ives (1874–1954)
    72 Joseph Maurice Ravel (1875–1937)
    73 Béla Bartók (1881–1945)
    75 Igor Stravinsky (1882–1971)
    76 Zóltan Kodály (1882–1967)
    78 Alban Berg (1885–1935)
    79 Sergei Sergeyevich Prokofieff (1891–1953)

    20th Century: 1900–present
    80 George Gershwin (1898–1937)
    81 Francis Poulenc (1899–1963)
    83 Maurice Durufle (1902–1986)
    86 Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)
    87 Olivier Messiaen (1908–1992)
    88 Samuel Barber (1910–1981)
    89 William Howard Schuman (1910–1992)
    90 Gian Carlo Menotti (1911–2007)
    91 Jean Françaix (1912–)
    92 Benjamin Britten (1913–1976)
    93 Bernd Alois Zimmermann (1918–1970)
    97 William Mathias (1934–1992)
    98 Arvo Part (1935–)
    99 John Rutter (1945–)

    1. Thank you, Sharon. I have marked your eliminations on my master sheet. I have a lot of comments on facebook, so I shall do tallies! Much appreciated!

    2. Thank you. I have added crosses next to those you cut out. Schnabel is the first to go. He has three crosses already. This is very helpful.

  8. Looking at the list, I’d encode all before the 20th century section to the painting. Then later if you want the new stuff, put it somewhere else.

    1. What about Shostakovich and Britten? Should they stay? Gershwin and Webber, I can leave out because they are familiar, and the rest I don’t know. Sounds like a good suggestion. Thank you, Sharon!

      1. I’m not sure where my list went? I can post it again if needed. The above comment is from Christopher.

        1. Did you have a list of those to eliminate? I’d like to see it. A list of those to leave is a bit more difficult, but I can compare it against what I get once all the comments on Facebook and here have been considered. I do want opinions!

    2. Thank you, Christopher. They all have one cross now, although I am worried about leaving out Shostakovich and Britten. Not that I know anything about them except that their names are familiar.

      1. They should stay. Shostakovich’s story is absolutely fascinating, and rich with potential memory palaces when you get to know his use of musical quotes and encodings. (His own name encoded as Dsch – D E flat C B throughout his music. I personally love his quotes from the opera Carmen in his 5th symphony – a supposed (forced) ode to the glory of the Soviet Union with the finale using the melody to the line “prends guard à tois” from Habanera among the many quotes.) Don’t get me started on this topic!

        1. How fascinating. Shostakovich and Britten are staying! Now I want to start adding all this material. I shall start listening to Shostakovich today!

          Thank you!

          1. Good luck with that! Not all of his music is easy listening. I’d start with his 5th Symphony

            This essay is a good primer on his life under Stalin and a listening guide to his 5th Symphony, including lots of samples of what to listen out for.


            “It is as if someone were beating you with a stick and saying your business is rejoicing, your business is rejoicing. You rise shakily and go off muttering, our business is rejoicing, our business is rejoicing.”

            This is the first of a 4 part listening guide to the 5th that is quite good too. The conductor narrates the Symphony.


          2. Thank you, yet again. I have noted this. It is hard to know where to start, but I will first check what CDs I have (it is the easiest way for me to listen for reasons to do with internet reliability in my studio) and work from there. I also like the control of CDs, so i can listen to parts over and over. My non-musical brain needs that to get any level of familiarity.

            I shall go and start sorting and listening now!

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