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Beethoven overtakes Mozart as most popular composer

Rick FulkerMarch 29, 2016

How many of Beethoven's works can you recognize? According to a 170,000-vote survey, the composer is now more popular than his predecessor Mozart - in part, thanks to cinema.

Cartoon rendering of Beethoven, Copyright: Fotolia/freehandz
Image: Fotolia/freehandz

In the Classic FM Hall of Fame Chart, founded by the British broadcaster in 1996, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has always marked up the highest number of favorite works - until now. The results of the most recent survey were announced on Monday (28.03.2016). With 16 of the 300 most popular works having come from his pen, Mozart remains a strong contender but ranks second after Ludwig van Beethoven, overtaking Amadeus with 19 of his works in the Top 300 and three in the Top 10.

One reason for Beethoven's growing popularity, said radio host John Suchet, is to be found in the use of his music in films such as "The King's Speech" of 2010.

Beethoven's Seventh Symphony is to be heard there - and according to Wikipedia, in 13 other films. But beyond this, said Suchet, "His music is so universally popular, if you land on any street in any town in any country of the world, someone will know Beethoven's work."

A cardboard Mozart in Salzburg. Photo: Markus C. Hurek
Coming in an unaccustomed second: AmadeusImage: picture-alliance/M. C. Hurek

Further survey results revealed that "Shenmue," written for a video game by Japanese composers Yuzo Koshiro and Ryuji Iuchi, is the most successful among new compositions. On the strength of his score to the new Star Wars film, American composer John Williams enjoys the status of most popular living composer.

The No. 1 spot, however, is occupied by a work that predates the media age: Written in 1914, British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams' "The Lark Ascending" tops the list for the seventh time.