Name the composer that you just can’t live without? That puts a pep in your step, or soothes a weary heart, or makes you wonder anew at the universe? A quick poll of the Limelight offices yields a range of replies, eventually culminating in admissions of defeat – it’s an impossible question, surely. But listeners across Australia have been asked to do just that, with composers the demonstrably fruitful theme of this year’s ABC Classic 100 countdown. The broadcaster has received a record-breaking 127,971 votes for more than 500 different composers since voting opened in April, making this Countdown one you won’t want to miss. ABC Classic presenters including Ed Ayres, Greta Bradman, Mairi Nicolson and Russell Torrance, plus a slew of special guests, will reveal the top 100 composers this weekend, culminating in a special celebration of the victor.

Hildegard of Bingen, composer and saint

“Every year with the Classic 100 we see people really wanting to share the music that’s really close to their hearts, and what’s always amazing about the countdowns is that you hear these stories from every corner of the country about the place that music has in peoples’ lives,” says Toby Chadd, Content Manager of ABC Classic.

While favourite symphonies, operas and chamber pieces have all jostled for a spot in the top 100 in years past, 2019’s broader theme has proved especially inviting. Chadd is unsurprised, given that asking for somebody’s favourite composer is in many ways the definitive question for classical music lovers. He also believes that voting is a means of expressing gratitude to those composers who have most enriched listeners’ lives.

“It’s incredible that music is able to give you a sense that you almost know the person who wrote it, and that sense of connection has been something that’s come out really, really strong in this countdown,” he says.

Although listeners won’t know who’s top of the tree until 4pm on Sunday, Chadd is unafraid to drop some tantalising hints. Most encouraging is that 18 living composers have made the cut, with 10 Australians also on the list.

“What do these things signify? One is that music and music being composed now is flourishing just as much as at any other time in history. We see that all the time with the way our audience connects with the music we broadcast, particularly as people listen to music in more ways than they have ever had in the past. What it really signals is the vibrant music community there is at the moment,” he says.

Given the significant role that film has in introducing audiences to classical music, it’s not surprising that a number of composers for the big screen have made it in the top 100.

Another stat to pique the interest is that eight composers will be making their Classic 100 debuts this year. “It’s really fascinating because you would have thought that in going for a definitive list of top composers, that over the past 20 years or so we’ve been running Classic 100s that most composers would have got a word in there,” Chadd reflects.

He promises that this year’s countdown will once again deliver “two days of amazing music and great company”. Listeners will hear from the living composers that have made the final cut, while the countdown’s big reveal is set to be a grand celebration.

“It’s all about celebrating the music that Australia loves and that’s what we’re going to be provided, a big celebration of all this incredible music.”


The ABC Classic 100 countdown starts this Saturday 8 June at 9am AEST and wraps up Sunday 9 June 4pm AEST, followed by a special program to celebrate the winning composer