Composers The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked  

Ranker Music
1.4k votes 337 voters 5.9k views 33 items

List Rules Vote up who you think are the greatest French composers of all time

Who are the greatest French composers of all time? This list is ranked from best to worst by Classical music fans all over the world. The best French composers hail from all walks of life and lived during various time periods. When it comes to some of the more famous composers on this list, they gained popularity during the Renaissance. Others gained notoriety during the Romantic period. A few of them even wrote music that is still popular today. 

What are some of the names you'll find on this French composers list? Claude Debussy's impressionist style made him a favorite of classical music fans in the 1890s and beyond. The flowing riffs of “Clair de Lune” still make for enchanting orchestrations all over the world. Hector Berlioz is another one of the most talented composers from France.

When it comes to avant-garde French composers it doesn't get much better than the “Gymnopédies” writer Eric Satie. Other good musicians that appear on this top French composers list include Jules Massenet, Jean-Phillipe Rameau and Marc-Antoine Charpentier.

Which of these composers do you think wrote the best pieces? Give your favorite composers a thumbs up and please add any great Classical musicians you think belong on this list.
list ordered by

1
106 37
Claude Debussy is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Classical Anthology, Clair de lune (Orchestre Radio-Symphonique Paris feat. conductor: Loic Bertrand, piano: Peter Schmalfuss

2
92 35
Maurice Ravel is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Classical Anthology, Classic Gala, Bolero / Rapsodie espagnole / Ma mère l'oye / Pavane (London Symphony Orchestra feat. conductor: Claudio Abbado)

3
98 39
Camille Saint-Saëns is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Classical Anthology, Great Violin Concertos, Great Romantic Symphonies

4
65 29
Gabriel Fauré is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Mélodies (soprano: Elly Ameling, baritone: Gérard Souzay, piano: Dalton Baldwin)

5
51 26
Hector Berlioz is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Classical Anthology, Eternal Classics, Great Romantic Symphonies

6
55 30
Georges Bizet is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Classical Anthology, Carmen - Duets & Arias, Georges Bizet

7
58 33
Erik Satie is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Early Piano Works, Volume 2, The Best of Erik Satie

8
37 16
Francis Poulenc is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Parkening and the Guitar: Music of Two Centuries, Songs, Chopin / Fauré / Poulenc: Pieter Wispelwey (cello) And Paolo Giacometti (piano)

9
34 14
François Couperin is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Parkening and the Guitar: Music of Two Centuries, Pièces de Violes - 1728, Music for Harpsichord

10
41 22
Jean-Philippe Rameau is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Harpsichord Works (disc 1), Keyboard Suites, Rameau: Platée / Pigmalion / Dardanus Ballet Suites (European Union Baroque Orchestra feat. conductor: Roy Goodman)

11
36 22
Olivier Messiaen is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Eesti orelid 2, Madeline Forte Plays Piano Music Of Messiaen, Turangalîla-Symphonie / Quatuor pour la Fin du Temps

12
36 23
Jacques Offenbach is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Orpheus in the Underworld and Seven Other Favourites, Gaité Parisienne / Offenbachiana (Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo, feat. conductor Manuel Rosenthal)

13
24 14
Léo Delibes is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Lakmé (Orchestre National de l’Opéra de Monte-Carlo feat. conductor: Richard Bonynge), Lakmé, Delibes: Sylvia Ballet Suite

14
27 17
Jean-Baptiste Lully is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
'50: Harmonia mundi. Le coffret du 50e anniversaire, Petits Motets (Les Arts Florissants feat. conductor: William Christie), Choral Music

15
27 17
Jules Massenet is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Opera Duets (Agnes Baltsa, Jose Carreras, Tallis Chamber Choir

16
13 5
Paul Dukas is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
RohanSrinivasan added Dukas: The Sorcerer's Apprentice / Mussorgsky: A Night on the Bare Mountain / Ravel: Boléro, Orgel-Symphonie / L'Apprenti Sorcier (Berliner Philharmoniker, feat. conductor: James Levine

17
12 5
Édouard Lalo is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
RohanSrinivasan added Great Violin Concertos, The Romantic Album, Cello Concertos (New Philarmonia Orchestra feat. conductor: Sir Charles Mackerras

18
21 14
Charles Gounod is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Opera Favourite Highlights: Bizet / Gounod / Rossini, Faust - Highlights (feat. conductor: Michel Plasson), Faust (Highlights) (Orchestre et Chœurs du Théâtre National de l'Opéra de Paris feat. chorus master: Jean LaForge

19
19 13
Marc-Antoine Charpentier is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Médée (Les Arts Florissants feat. conductor: William Christie), Requiem / Laudate dominum / Exsultate, jubilate

20
10 7
Ernest Chausson is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
RohanSrinivasan added Concerto in D for Violin, Piano and String Quartet / Sonata in G for Violin and Piano, Nicola Benedetti: Szymanowski / Chausson / Saint-Saëns (London Symphony Orchestra feat. conductor: Daniel Harding

21
10 8
Guillaume de Machaut is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
The Complete Recorder Works of Rubbra and Britten (The Flautadors, Dante Quartet), Messe de Notre-Dame (Ensemble Organum feat. conductor: Marcel Pérès)

22
13 13
Darius Milhaud is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
Scaramouche, etc. (Orchestre Philharmonique de Monte-Carlo feat. conductor: Georges Prêtre), Darius Milhaud/Composers in Person

23
7 7
Cécile Chaminade is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
RohanSrinivasan added Fauré / Debussy / Ravel: Piano Trios (Trio Fontenay), Mots d'amour (mezzo-soprano: Anne Sofie von Otter, piano: Bengt Forsberg)

24
4 4
Florent Schmitt is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
RohanSrinivasan added Antoine & Cléopâtre

25
4 5
Vincent d'Indy is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best French Composers of All Time, Ranked
RohanSrinivasan added The 20th-century Concerto Grosso, French Music for Piano and Orchestra (National Symphony Orchestra feat. conductor: Antonio de Almeida, piano: François-Joël Thiollier)