For the first time since 1996, Beethoven has beat Mozart at the classical music charts.

The annual poll is conducted by Classic FM, in which Beethoven has taken the title of most popular composer over Mozart, with nineteen spots in the top three hundred chart, together with three in the top ten. This compares to Mozart’s sixteen pieces that were in the running. This poll has been conducted for the past 21 years, but this year was different as it attracted a total of 170,000 votes. This large turnover on the subject of classical music made it the biggest “public vote” in the world.
Why Beethoven’s victory is a big deal

But why is the world talking about these two musicians who have been pitted against each other since time immemorial? The answer lies in the past. A very long time ago, these two musicians came across each other and the influence of one over the other has been the topic for essays and discussions for classical music lovers all over the world.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was famous for composing choral music, symphonies and music for the opera. He is said to have composed over 600 pieces of music. His style was very classical due to the time in which he was born- the mid-1700s. Nevertheless most of his music is very parallel and the equilibrium of his pieces unaffectedly flows into one another. Neither the dynamics nor the speed differs much in his symphonies and the musical pieces are very easy to follow. 

In the spring of 1787, a young Ludwig van Beethoven made an appearance in Vienna. Though he was there for a short period of time, he was introduced to the ever talented Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart requested him to play something, and Beethoven obliged but was chanced with a very cold reaction from the great composer. On noticing this, Beethoven asked to be allowed to improvise and just feeling inspired by being in the presence of one of the greats, someone he revered so dearly, he played in a manner in which he took over Mozart’s undivided attention. He spoke in hush tones to a bystander and said, “Mark that young man; he will make himself a name in the world!” Beethoven’s work was greatly influenced by Mozart even after the stalwart’s untimely death at only 35 years in 1791. For example, while composing his “Fifth Symphony”, he said to have copied a passage from Mozart’s “40th Symphony”, the third movement of which it opens with, has a similar theme to Mozart’s work.  
Technical Beethoven, Carefree Mozart

Apart from Beethoven using pieces from Mozart, they do not have many similarities. One big difference between the two composers is the “theme” that the two composers use in their works. The mood of Mozart’s pieces is time and again light and carefree, whereas Beethoven’s mood is seen to be darker. Also, Mozart tends to compose more simplistic music on the other hand Beethoven compositions are complicated, more technical music.

The largest listener’s poll conducted by Classic FM has pitted Beethoven against Mozart, with the former emerging as the more popular composer. The annual poll results have traditionally had Mozart in the topmost position. John Suchet ,a Classic FM presenter said, “Ever since we launched the first Classic FM Hall Of Fame in 1996, Mozart has taken precedence. I think that Beethoven’s new position as the most popular composer has to do with films such as the Oscar-winning The King’s Speech, which famously used his 7th Symphony, but his music is so universally popular.” He added later, “If you land on any street in any town in any country of the world, someone will know Beethoven’s work.”  The German composer has 19 of his pieces on the top lists, with Piano Concerto No 5 (Emperor), Symphony No 6 (Pastoral) and Symphony No 9 (Choral) taking three of the top ten spaces. The Austrian child prodigy Mozart only had oen piece in the top ten (Clarinet Concerto), with 16 pieces in the overall list.

Here is a list of the other contenders. For the seventh time since 1996 (and reclaiming his last year’s title), Ralph Vaughan Williams’s “The Lark Ascending” has been voted the most favorite classical music piece.
The Classic FM Hall Of Fame 2016 – top 10 is:

  1. Vaughan Williams – The Lark Ascending
  2. Rachmaninov – Piano Concerto No 2
  3. Vaughan Williams – Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis
  4. Elgar – Enigma Variations
  5. Beethoven – Piano Concerto No 5 (Emperor)
  6. Allegri – Miserere
  7. Mozart – Clarinet Concerto
  8. Beethoven – Symphony No 6 (Pastoral)
  9. Beethoven – Symphony No 9 (Choral)
  10. Elgar – Cello Concerto


This year’s chart featured an assorted range of classical music from well-known living composers to the timeless favorites who remain as popular as ever.

Image: Tony Bowden