Beethoven has taken out the top spot in this year’s ABC Classic 100, which asked listeners across the country to name the composer they just couldn’t live without. Having clearly struck a chord, the broadcaster received a staggering 127,971 votes overall, setting a new record in the annual poll’s 18-year history.


“This year’s Classic 100 has been an amazing journey,” said Toby Chadd, Content Manager of ABC Classic. “We’ve heard about the music that you love – from iconic film composers to home-grown talent to the acknowledged classical greats. Beethoven narrowly beat Bach and Mozart to the crown, and we’re celebrating in style with a performance of his ‘Ode to Joy’ featuring an 800-strong choir at the Sydney Opera House, followed by a reading of his heart-wrenching ‘Testament’ from John Bell.”

Unsurprisingly, the composer is no stranger to the Classic 100, with 89 of his works having made it into previous countdowns. His Choral Symphony has enjoyed the spotlight a remarkable eight times, whilst four of his works have placed first in past Classic 100 polls.

“Beethoven was music’s biggest revolutionary,” said Classic Breakfast’s Russell Torrance. “He took the niceties of the existing musical world and blew them apart. There are moments of exquisite quiet and contemplation in his music, like the Moonlight Sonata. But his trademark is those barnstormers we know and love, full of power, melancholy, and the ultimate triumph of the human spirit.

“You just have to say, ‘da da da dummm’, and we all know it’s Beethoven. But despite being such an icon, he knew human frailty as well as anyone: he wrote many of this greatest works after he had gone deaf. Even now, two centuries later, his music has the power to touch our lives.”

This year’s countdown has yielded a number of interesting results, with 18 living composers having made the cut. Among them were John Williams, Arvo Pärt, Ennio Morricone, Howard Shore, Sally Whitwell and William Barton, the latter also the youngest composer featured in the top 100 and one of 10 Australians to feature. Barton is further distinguished by the fact that this represents his Classic 100 debut, alongside composers Ludovico Einaudi, Peggy Glanville-Hicks, Graeme Koehne, Fanny Mendelssohn, Max Richter, Domenico Scarlatti and Clara Schumann. Of the Australian composers, Elena Kats-Chernin fared best, coming in at 16, two ahead of Peter Sculthorpe. ABC Classic will be publishing the composers who ranked 101 to 200 on its website later tonight.

The Classic 100: Composer boxset is available to pre-order now