Beethoven vs. Bach vs. Mozart: who is the best?

August 15, 2011 at 11:28 PM ·

Who is the best? Beethoven, Bach, or Mozart?

Replies (47)

August 15, 2011 at 11:47 PM ·

Bach. The other two really aren't bad though ;)

August 15, 2011 at 11:52 PM ·

 Bach. nuff said

August 16, 2011 at 01:50 AM ·

A few specifics maybe?  Best at what?

As significant as all three composers are, I'm thinking of compositions by each of them that I doubt the others could have pulled off so effectively; e.g., Bach S&Ps, Mozart Requiem, Beethoven VC.

August 16, 2011 at 02:55 AM ·

I was mainly looking for other people's opinions. I cant exactly ask my dad which of  Mozart's Violin Concertos he likes best. His response would probably be "the one with the violins". And I cant ask my mom what Brandenburg Concerto she likes best because she hasnt heard of them. Also I cant ask my friends at school what is their favorite movement from Beethoven's 9th, 7th, or 3rd symphonies, because they havent heard any of them. I just wanted to know who is your favoite and why.  (I like Beethoven.....I feel the emotions in his music better than most other composers, though Bach is very good.) 

August 16, 2011 at 03:09 AM ·

 "Favorite" is not the same as "Best," you know.  "best" implies an absolute standard; 'favorite' is preference.

Each of them has written things that speak to me at different times, in different moods.  Bach is, for me, the most 'versatile,' both when I'm playing and when I'm listening, but at the same time, I'm less tolerant of a less-than-first-rate performance with his music.

Mozart probably offers more sorrow under his joy than any other I can name (though I imagine plenty would--will--argue that).

Beethoven is a Titan; and that sometimes leaves me in the dust, but I dearly love his symphonies, quartets, and sonatas.

Maybe just enjoy them all, rejoicing that each lived.

August 16, 2011 at 04:25 AM ·

 Which is best? Pears, apples or oranges?

August 16, 2011 at 04:54 AM ·

And lest us not forget pineapples and mangos.

But even with apples I like golden delicious my son likes Granny Smith.

As a sometimes one-key flute player some days I love C.P.E as much his father.

The three masters you mentioned could do things structurally that I believe approaches perfection. But each one can also touch the emotions.

When I was stuck in the baroque for many years I used to joke that music started going down hill with Mozart. No one believed me, nor did I expect them to.

I have a lot of Bach, Beethoven and Mozart on my MP3 player, but lately I have been hooked on Sarasate.

Remember the three ‘B’s of music Berry, Brubeck and the Beetles. Or maybe it’s supposed to be Bach, Beethoven and Brahms.

I think I’ll have a couple more dates and go to bed. I’ve definitely been up too long.

August 16, 2011 at 01:04 PM ·


August 16, 2011 at 05:27 PM ·

How fast did Mozart turn out symphonies?

August 16, 2011 at 05:27 PM ·

How fast did Mozart compose symphonies?

August 16, 2011 at 06:12 PM ·

  Da-da-da-dun! Beethoven Rocks!


I already settled this...

August 16, 2011 at 06:13 PM ·

 "How fast did Mozart compose symphonies?"


How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

August 16, 2011 at 06:42 PM ·

How fast did Mozart turn out symphonies?
How fast did Mozart compose symphonies?

I saw these as two separate questions.

But being a person who has owned two so called complete organ works of Bach, one vinyl in the 70’s and one Cd (16 of those puppies). And yes I have listened to them multiple times. I took this as an underhanded reference to Bach’s habit of rebranding works.

Ok the flute duet did sound ok with violin, cello and piano (ok it was great). And we all know about the “I need the Brandenburg commission when?” thing.

Hey, he was a professional, and a well tempered one at that. Ok, he had a little trouble holding jobs.

The only problem I have is trying to hum a fugue. A guess there is an art to it.

August 16, 2011 at 08:13 PM ·

Just easier to hum a fugue if you enjoy multiple personalities.

August 16, 2011 at 10:40 PM ·

I didnt mean to type How fast did Mozart turn out symphonies.....I typed it then decided that wasnt the question I wanted to ask, but forgot how to edit it. I asked it to see aproximately how many symphonies he would have composed if he died at 70 if he continued composing at the rate that he was at the time of his death.

August 17, 2011 at 01:53 AM ·


I’m just being silly and opportunistic. I enjoy music humor, much to the chagrin of my oldest son's musician friends. Plus having an engineer for a wife I need any outlet I can get.

But yes that would be a good question.

 Marjory, Very funny, hee, hee. Has anyone seen Willie the operatic Whale.

August 18, 2011 at 09:12 AM ·

Mozart's Linz(er) symphony, K425, was, apparently, composed in four days.


August 18, 2011 at 01:40 PM ·

It would be of interest to explore the group of articles by Anthony Tommasini (music critic at the New York Times) naming his choices for the 10 best composers of all time (he has J.S. Bach in the number one spot). There are reasons one might question some of his specific choices - but they interesting.

This website is related to the articles:


August 18, 2011 at 05:23 PM ·

this might be of interest - years ago, when i was due to go into the hospital for an operation, i transferred mozart's sonatas for piano and violin (walter klein and arthur grumiaux) onto tape cassettes for my (this will date me) sony walkman - i thought they'd be a joy to listen to while convalescing.  i tried ... but mozart's irrepressible chit-chat proved to be really agitating - a right pain in the ear, literally - sounding a bit like woody-wood-pecker on speed.

beethoven's was the first classical music i ever heard and i've always loved him - i appreciate you not having anyone nearby to relate to - it was the same for me.  if i was stranded on a desert island with only one composer to listen to, i'd choose bach ... but beethoven was the first.

August 19, 2011 at 04:44 PM ·

For listening to a solo intsturment - Bach

For perfect serenity - Mozart

For a sense of wonder - Beethoven

Thank the Muse for all three !

August 19, 2011 at 06:44 PM ·

 I read those NY Times articles when they came out--I guess I was less impressed.

Likewise, this is a subjective question.  As someone pointed out, there's no yardstick for measuring their relative "greatness."  I'm not bothered, as one of my college teachers was, by the fact that Beethoven didn't have the success with opera that Mozart did.

For years I listened to far more Bach than Mozart or LVB.  But for half of my life it's been more Beethoven, by a long shot.  Especially the piano sonatas and the string quartets.  I could coast a long way with those works and nothing else.  It's wonderful stuff.   

August 20, 2011 at 01:19 PM ·

Beethoven. And in this order:

  1. Violin sonatas (no. 5's Adagio molto espressivo)
  2. Piano Sonatas
  3. Symphonies

August 21, 2011 at 07:38 AM ·

Here's one for you:

Who's the best? Batman, Spiderman or Superman?

August 26, 2011 at 05:25 AM ·

I like Bach's songs because they build my technique. But I love to hear and play Mozart's and Beethoven's songs also. Their songs are more "fun" than Bach's :)

-shasha (13 years old)

August 26, 2011 at 04:55 PM ·

 It's sort of a silly topic, comparing the greatness of three different generations of composers.  Bach, being the epitome of the high baroque style with his driving contrapuntal textures.  Mozart is worlds away, stylistically with his simple, elegant classicism.  Had he lived another 20 or 30 years, we could make a reasonable comparison with Beethoven, but they had drastically different circumstances.   Beethoven  was a child of the revolution and a man of the world during the Napoleonic wars.  His music is infused with passion that is right there on the surface.  Mozart is equally passionate, but you must seek it out - he won't slap you in the face with it.  Maybe instead of who's the best, we should ask who's the worst?  Both Bach and Mozart composed with unbelievable fluency and were seemingly incapable of writing a bad piece of music.  Beethoven worked and reworked his compositions, chipping away at them until what remained was a masterpiece, but he DID know how to write a stinker - ie: Wellington's Victory!  Of the three, I spend the most time listening to Beethoven, then Bach, then Mozart, but that doesn't mean this is the order of greatness - it's probably the opposite.

October 26, 2011 at 11:47 PM ·





October 27, 2011 at 12:18 AM ·

 @John Cadd, re Haydn's 1st symphony in D. I also listen to it frequently. For me it is the beginning of the classical symphonic era, and, by extension, all symphonies composed thereafter. Btw, my favorite recording is by Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music – I think there's no better baroque ensemble to do it justice.

October 27, 2011 at 02:06 AM ·

Beethoven. Cause thats the one I'm working on now.  But stick around it will be Bach and Mozart in due course... 

Though if you are hungry, none of them are as good as a mango...

October 27, 2011 at 03:49 AM ·

 Who is the best???? I can't really say. I personally like Beethoven more over Bach and Mozart mainly because there are more pieces by him that I'd rather play or listen to than that of Bach or Mozart. However, I agree with one of the previous posts, they are all good.


October 27, 2011 at 03:50 AM ·

October 27, 2011 at 04:37 AM ·

A good piece is a piece that one can remember after hearing only once. Mozart is by far the best composer.

October 27, 2011 at 11:39 AM ·

Mozart is nice

Beethoven is great

but Bach is never-ending

October 27, 2011 at 03:36 PM ·

In the jazz world, we say, "It depends on what talks to you."

In the Classical/Baroque world, what talks to me depends on the day, my mood, and the specific piece.

Almost any day, some of Beethoven's work can leave me cold.

Funny, somebody said The Linz was composed in only four days. It is my favorite Mozart symphony, hands down, because of what it evokes only in my imagination and what I was experiencing when I performed in it.

October 27, 2011 at 04:56 PM ·

 I'm going to vote for Bach. If I had to choose one composer that offered the largest variety of music, he would win for me. With Bach you have solo and accompanied violin music (sonatas), concertos, solos "in" larger works and so on. Curiously I also find Bach more spiritual than either of the others.

There, I've said it.

October 28, 2011 at 12:45 AM · "Bach is never-ending"

I'd say so! – if you've been in a string quartet struggling through The Art of Fugue, and then after an hour one of its members discovers that her edition is ever so slightly different from the others, and those very slight differences turn out to be critical!

(all the above happened last Monday, so it's still fresh in my mind.)

October 28, 2011 at 03:02 PM · I can provide the definitive answer to the original question: yes.

October 28, 2011 at 11:42 PM · "A good piece is a piece that one can remember after hearing only once. Mozart is by far the best composer."

There are plenty of pieces I've remembered quite well after one hearing that I don't consider particularly good -- some children's songs, for instance. To me, a good piece is one that I find appealing and challenging at the same time -- it hooks me to the point that I have to hear it again -- precisely because I know there's a lot more I have to get out of it.

Case in point: Wagner's Ring tetralogy. It took some work -- and time -- on my part. But it was worth it. I love Mozart's music, too; but when it comes to opera, I'd rather sit through a few hours of Wagner, especially his later works, than a few hours of Mozart. Unlike the Mozart works, the Ring won't let you stop the show to applaud arias, duets, and ensemble numbers. To me, the unbroken tissue of musical drama makes a far more compelling experience.

October 29, 2011 at 01:28 AM · Isnt that quote almost a definition of an ear worm? To me one aspect of a truley great piece is that I hear more in it virtually every time I hear it and that is somehow reborn with each great musician.

October 29, 2011 at 02:33 AM · There are other baroque composers that I enjoy listening to more than Bach. Maybe that's because I've been listening to him for so long it's more interesting to hear similarly styled music from other composers. The A minor fugue of his Well Tempered Clavier is taken almost exactly from a violin sonata written by Archangelo Corelli, one of Bach's predecessor/contemporaries. You can hear from listening to these two composers how German music was inspired by Italian music of the time. I want to know, who is better? Bach or Corelli?

October 29, 2011 at 11:23 PM · "I want to know, who is better? Bach or Corelli?"

As wonderful as Corelli's music is, did Corelli compose anything on the level of the St. Matthew Passion or the Mass in B minor or the Brandenburg Concertos or the Goldberg Variations?

October 30, 2011 at 04:51 AM · I don't know, my recorded music collection simply isn't large enough.

October 30, 2011 at 06:48 PM · I would like to know what Mozart and Beethoven would have done had it not been for Bach´s work preceeding theirs.

October 31, 2011 at 06:37 AM · "I would like to know what Mozart and Beethoven would have done had it not been for Bach´s work preceeding theirs."

It's hard to say. Beethoven may have had an entirely different approach... he focused so much on developing motives in his music. Then again, he still would have had Handel (poor, neglected Handel) to look up to, and Mozart as well.

What would Mozart do? He would have written some of the finest operas of all time, as well as symphonies, string quartets, piano trios, concerti, dance tunes, concert arias, etc., etc., etc. Mozart's musical influences were so diverse that I doubt losing one even as mighty as Bach would have changed his output that much. Remember, Bach didn't write any string quartets, symphonies, operas, piano trios. Not that he couldn't have written masterworks for any of these genres, he just lived in a different time.

October 31, 2011 at 08:29 AM · Greetings,

Tim, I also think Beethoven was very influenced by Haydn and perhaps vice versa. It`s easy to forget their lives overlapped to some extent.

There are examples of Haydn`s works that sound more wayward and experimental than Beethoven at times.



October 31, 2011 at 03:30 PM · In the rarified atmosphere of "Beethoven vs. Bach vs. Mozart," comparative ratings are pointless. And how, then, does one evaluate the unique and irreplaceable Brahms, Bartok, Paganini, Goldmark, Barber, Shostakovich, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev, Elgar, Wieniewski, etc.? I have just obtained a CD of the Sibelius Concerto played by the great Yulian Sitkovetsky, and I'd like to see someone convince me that this isn't the greatest performance of the greatest violin concerto. And that's considering that I idolize the Oistrakh and Heifetz and Stern and Kovakos (and so many other) renditions. Sitkovetsky plays that 3rd Movement counter-melody in harmonics with a technique, tone, voice, and depth that is breathtaking. If you haven't heard this performance, it will (at least while you're listening to it) make you forget about Beethoven and Bach and Mozart.

November 1, 2011 at 12:00 AM · "I also think Beethoven was very influenced by Haydn and perhaps vice versa."

Right you are, of course! Here I am going on about Handel getting the respect he deserves and I leave out the godfather of Viennese classicism. Though Ludwig didn't like to admit it, he was surely shaped as a composer by his "lessons" with Haydn.

November 1, 2011 at 12:22 AM · "There are examples of Haydn`s works that sound more wayward and experimental than Beethoven at times."

A good example is perhaps the opening of his Creation, which, as our conductor averred when we were rehearsing for a performance of the complete work a few weeks ago, "the like of it wasn't to be heard again until Wagner".

You need also look no further than the wonderful variety and invention in his extant 107 symphonies.

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