Classical music written in collaboration

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In classical music, it is relatively rare for a work to be written in collaboration by multiple composers. This contrasts with popular music, where it is common for more than one person to contribute to the music for a song. Nevertheless, there are instances of collaborative classical music compositions.


The following list gives some details of classical works written by composers working collaboratively.

Opera and operetta[edit]

  • Federico Chueca and Joaquín Valverde Durán collaborated on a number of zarzuelas. Chueca provided most of the melodies and Valverde provided the orchestral polish. Their collaborations included Un maestro de obra prima (1877), La Canción de la Lola (1880), Luces y sombras and Fiesta Nacional (both 1882), Cádiz (1886), El año pasado por agua (1889), and other operas. Their masterpiece was La gran vía (Madrid, 1886). Valverde Durán also collaborated with Ruperto Chapí, Tomás Bretón, his own son Joaquín "Quinito" Valverde Sanjuán, and other composers. Quinito Valverde Sanjuán also collaborated with other composers, such as Tomás López Torregrosa, Ramón Estellés, Rafael Calleja and José Serrano, however, his contribution to these works was more significant than his father's had been to his.
  • In 1929, Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill collaborated on the opera Der Lindberghflug (Lindbergh's Flight), based on the writing of American pioneer aviator Charles Lindbergh. This was later changed by removal of Hindemith’s contribution, renaming it to Der Ozeanflug (The Flight across the Ocean), and removal of Lindbergh’s name. The opening line was changed from "My name is Charles Lindbergh" to "My name is of no account".
  • In 1937, Arthur Honegger and Jacques Ibert wrote the opera L'Aiglon. Ibert wrote Acts 1 and 5, Honegger the rest. In 1938, they again collaborated on an opera, this time Les petites cardinal.


  • In 1956 appeared Don Perlimpin (also seen as Don Perlimpinada), a collaboration between Federico Mompou and Xavier Montsalvatge. Most of the work was by Mompou, but Montsalvatge helped with the orchestration and linking passages, and added two numbers of his own.[2]


  • Johann Strauss II collaborated on a number of pieces with his brothers Josef and Eduard, mostly famously Pizzicato Polka (1870) with Josef.
  • In 1937, shortly after they first met at the ISCM Festival in Barcelona, Benjamin Britten and Lennox Berkeley together wrote Mont Juic, a suite of Catalan dances. It was named after the Barcelona hill on which they had heard some popular tunes. For many years, it was not known which composer wrote which movement,[6] but Berkeley later revealed he had written only the first two movements. It was published as Berkeley's Op. 9 and Britten's Op. 12.[7]

Concertante works[edit]

Vocal and choral[edit]

  • In the early 1830s, Felix Mendelssohn published two sets of 12 songs each, as Opp. 8 and 9. Three songs in each set were written by his sister Fanny Mendelssohn.[3] While each song was the product of one composer alone, as sets, they were collaborations.
  • In 1840, around the time of their marriage, Robert Schumann and Clara Schumann published a set of 12 songs called Gedichte aus Liebesfruhling (Love's Spring). Clara wrote numbers 2, 4 and 11, while Robert wrote the rest. It was published as Robert's Op. 37, but Clara's songs were also given the opus number 12 in her own catalogue of works.
  • In 1881, Gabriel Fauré and André Messager collaborated on Messe des pêcheurs de Villerville (Mass of the Fishermen of Villerville). Messager wrote sections 1 and 4 (Kyrie and O Salutaris), and Fauré wrote sections 2, 3 and 5 (Gloria Benedictus, Sanctus and Agnus Dei). The first performance was accompanied by a harmonium and a violin. For the second performance with orchestra the following year, Messager orchestrated the first four sections, and Fauré the last.

Chamber music[edit]

  • In 1887, Glazunov, Lyadov and Rimsky-Korsakov wrote a string quartet called "Name Day" (Jour de Fete).[3]


Piano solo[edit]

  • In 1819, the publisher Anton Diabelli invited a large number of Austrian composers to each write a variation on a little waltz (or ländler) he had composed, to go into an anthology to be called Vaterländischer Künstlerverein, and 51 of them responded. Ludwig van Beethoven composed not one but 33 variations, which were originally published as his Diabelli Variations, Op. 120, and later as Part I of the anthology. Part II comprised the single variations by each of the 50 other composers. These people are mostly now forgotten, but they include such names as Carl Czerny, Franz Schubert, Franz Liszt and Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Part II has long since become a musical footnote, while Beethoven's set quickly acquired a life of its own and is considered one of the greatest achievements of the piano literature.

Piano four-hands[edit]

  • In c. 1888, remembering their 1883 trip to the Bayreuth Festival to hear Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle, Gabriel Fauré and André Messager wrote a piece for piano four-hands called Souvenir de Bayreuth (subtitled Fantaisie en forme de quadrille sur les thèmes favoris de L'Anneau Du Nibelung de Richard Wagner). It was not published during their lifetimes and appeared in print only in 1930.[20]

Other forms of musical collaboration[edit]

Another case of note was that of Eric Fenby, who worked as amanuensis for the blind Frederick Delius. Delius would dictate the notes and Fenby would transcribe them. While Fenby was himself a composer, these works on which he and Delius worked together were a collaboration in terms of the labour involved in writing them down, but not in terms of the musical ideas, which were entirely Delius's own.

Film scores over the years have tended to be collaborative projects in various ways, from the simple matter of orchestrators working with the sketches by the composer, to multi-composer collaborative efforts. Originally, with the studio system, composers often contributed parts of a score assigned by the head of the music department. Sometimes this was music not specific to that film for lower budget movies. In modern times, collaboration is seen in such groups as Remote Control Productions. True collaboration has also occurred, with such varied examples as Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman, who together composed the music for The Egyptian (1954); and Hans Zimmer and James Newton Howard, who wrote the music for two Batman films, Batman Begins (2005) and The Dark Knight (2008).


There are various cases where a later composer has transformed an existing work or group of works into a new form, but this would generally be considered an arrangement by another hand, rather than a collaboration. Examples of this would include:

  • Franz Liszt's many piano arrangements of symphonies and other works by composers such as Ludwig van Beethoven and Franz Schubert. Liszt was the most prominent of a great number of composers who arranged the works of others for other combinations of instruments.
  • Charles Gounod took the harmonies from Johann Sebastian Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C major from Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier, and added his own melodic line, setting it to the words of the prayer Hail Mary (in Latin, Ave Maria). His setting was called Ave Maria.
  • Edvard Grieg wrote additional piano parts for a number of solo piano sonatas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, to be played simultaneously with the original music, on piano four-hands. Mozart's original score was untouched. The resultant work is certainly music by both Mozart and Grieg, however they did not collaborate in the ordinary sense of the term, Mozart having died 52 years before Grieg was born.
  • Leopold Godowsky's reworking of Frédéric Chopin's études by playing two études simultaneously, or playing in the left hand the music originally written for the right hand, and vice versa. (See Studies on Chopin's Études.)
  • Arthur Benjamin took a number of unrelated harpsichord sonatas by Domenico Cimarosa, arranged them for oboe and orchestra, and grouped them into a work he called "Oboe Concerto on Themes of Cimarosa". Concert promoters and record companies often gave it the misleading title "Oboe Concerto by Cimarosa", arr. Benjamin, but in this form it was perhaps more Benjamin's work than Cimarosa's.
  • In a similar but slightly different vein, Alan Kogosowski arranged three solo piano pieces by Frédéric Chopin for piano and orchestra, and grouped them into a work that he himself gave the misleading title "Piano Concerto No. 3 in A major by Chopin".
  • During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, a group of six composers including Yin Chengzong rearranged the Yellow River Cantata by Xian Xinghai into a four-movement piano concerto entitled Yellow River Piano Concerto.


There are also instances where a work was left unfinished at the composer's death, and was completed by another composer. In such cases, the later composer generally strives to ensure the finished product is as close as possible to the original composer's intentions, as revealed by their notes, rough drafts, or other evidence. One of the best known examples is the completion by Franco Alfano of Giacomo Puccini's opera Turandot. There may also be a case for describing Sir Edward Elgar's Symphony No. 3 as a work by both Elgar and Anthony Payne. However, these types of works cannot properly be called collaborations.


  1. ^ Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed, 1954: Vol. 1, Bizet, Georges, p. 734
  2. ^ Naxos
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed, 1954
  4. ^ a b Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed., 1954: Vol III, Goossens, Eugene (iii), p. 715
  5. ^ Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed. (1951), Vol. III, p. 715
  6. ^ Chester Novello
  7. ^ Music Web International
  8. ^ Slonimsky, Nicolas (January 1947). Roy Harris. 33 1 (The Musical Quarterly ed.). 
  9. ^ cocteau, satie & les six
  10. ^ Letters from a life: The selected letters of Benjamin Britten 1913-1976
  11. ^ Britten-Pears Foundation
  12. ^ [1]
  13. ^ Amazon
  14. ^ Dibble, Jeremy (2013). Hamilton Harty: Musical Polymath. Woodbridge, Surrey: Boydell Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-84383-858-6. 
  15. ^ mfiles. Retrieved 14 August 2014
  16. ^ Seraphim Trio
  17. ^
  18. ^ Piano Solos. Google Books. Retrieved 12 August 2014. 
  19. ^ Matthew Quayle
  20. ^