A teen sits at a desk in front of a window, composing music.

Throughout history, there have been enormously talented composers who, even in their youth, created awe-inspiring works of art that continue to captivate audiences to this day. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of these young geniuses and explore their contributions to the world of classical music.

1. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Mozart is often hailed as the enfant terrible of classical music. This prodigious composer started creating masterpieces at the tender age of 13. Can you imagine writing symphonies while your peers are busy trading Pokémon cards? Well, Mozart did it, and he did it with flair! The artistic influence of his father, Leopold, can’t be ignored, but young Wolfgang’s undeniable talent was evident even at this early stage.

The Fatherly Touch

It’s speculated that Leopold, a skilled composer in his own right, may have had a hand in shaping some of Mozart’s early works. However, the extent of his involvement remains a topic of debate among musicologists. Regardless, it’s clear that Papa Mozart played a key role in nurturing his son’s budding genius.

2. Franz Schubert (1797-1828)

A 14-year-old boy writes a symphony(!), but instead of finishing it, he leaves it hanging. Schubert would move on to write his first official (and complete) symphony just two years later. By the time he was 19, he had already penned six symphonies! Talk about setting the bar high for future generations!

3. Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

While most 15-year-olds are busy worrying about their social lives, Mendelssohn was busy writing his First Symphony. This masterpiece premiered at a soirée celebrating his sister Fanny’s 19th birthday. Felix’s talents didn’t go unnoticed; his first trip to England led to great acclaim and a following in Britain. His visit even inspired him to compose his famous “Scottish” Symphony, which took over a decade to complete.

4. Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921)

Saint-Saëns was a wonderkid who first dazzled audiences with his piano skills at the age of 10. By 13, he was studying organ performance at the Paris Conservatory. His formal composition lessons began under Fromental Halévy, who also taught Bizet and Gounod. His First Symphony was written at the age of 16, and was being performed by the time he turned 20.

5. Georges Bizet (1838-1875)

Bizet’s prodigious talents were evident from a young age, leading to his enrollment at the Paris Conservatory before he even hit double digits. At 17, he composed his Symphony in C, which showcased a mastery of orchestration and counterpoint reminiscent of Mendelssohn’s works. Surprisingly, Bizet showed no interest in having this piece performed or published – it remained unheard during his lifetime.

6. Alexander Glazunov (1865-1936)

Just when you thought teenage achievements couldn’t get any more impressive, along comes Glazunov, who penned his First Symphony at a mere 16 years old. Under the guidance of Russian composer Rimsky-Korsakov, this “Slavonian Symphony” became a resounding success, leaving audiences astonished at the sight of a teenage composer in his school uniform. Glazunov did receive some input from Balakirev, but his prodigious talent was undeniable.

7. Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

Shostakovich composed his First Symphony as a graduation piece from the Petrograd Conservatory, finishing it by the time he was 19. The premiere was organized by the Conservatory’s director, Alexander Glazunov (yes, the same prodigy we just mentioned), and took place in the same hall where Glazunov’s First Symphony premiered 44 years earlier.

8. Oliver Knussen (1952-2018)

At the young age of 15, Knussen composed his First Symphony and later conducted its premiere with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall. His work displayed a wide range of influences, including Britten, Berg, and other mid-century symphonists. Knussen’s early start in the world of composition was undoubtedly a harbinger of his future success.

9. Jay Greenberg (1991-)

Jay Greenberg is a modern American composer who began playing the cello at the age of two and entered the prestigious Juilliard School at 12. By 2005, he had already written five symphonies, with his first album featuring the London Symphony Orchestra performing his Fifth Symphony. Unlike many of the other prodigies we’ve mentioned, Greenberg primarily composes using computer software.

10. Frederic Chopin’s Cheekbones (1810-1849)

Okay, so cheekbones aren’t a composer, but we couldn’t resist including them anyway. Young Chopin’s musical genius was rivaled only by his striking good looks. With cheekbones that could cut glass, it’s no wonder he captured the hearts of many admirers.

The world of classical music has been blessed with numerous young prodigies whose contributions have left a lasting impact, once again confirming that (at least at some point) age is only a number. As we continue to discover and celebrate the achievements of young composers, we can look forward to a bright future for classical music.

Feeling generous? 😊