World’s favourite classical musician? Yes, there is one

World’s favourite classical musician? Yes, there is one


norman lebrecht

February 25, 2021

Eat your heart out, Lang Lang.

The German-American violinist David Garrett has come top of the uDiscover Classical 100 – a poll to find the world’s most popular classical musician.

Close behind in second was Andrea Bocelli.

Donald Trump is demanding a recount.


  • David K. Nelson says:

    Given Bocelli’s seemingly immense popularity, I am actually surprised — and frankly am pleased — that a violin player comes out ahead, even if by a hair (and such hair!). And if it is to be a violinist, I’d rather it be David Garrett than Vanessa Mae, for a variety of reasons, even though both players have some genuine technical skills. I think Garrett is fundamentally a more sound player.

    But even so, Trump or no Trump, I too propose a recount. At the risk of introducing a version of the discredited (racist) “poll tax,” I suggest that there be a qualification before voting for the world’s most popular classical musician. My criteria: be able to name twenty classical musicians, living or dead. Pass that test and THEN vote. I predict very different results. I have this hunch that a great many people who were polled with this question possibly could only name two or three, hence the outcome.

    • HugoPreuss says:

      That would be an excellent prerequisite. And yes, it will be regarded not so much as a poll tax, but rather as a “literacy text”, which was also used in the Southern US with predictable results. But in this case I would wholeheartedly support your idea.

      A pretty good indication that this is sound is the list downhill. It gets much more serious once we reach the double digits. And no disrespect to Mr. Cho (#4) and Ms Benedetti (#5), but for me the serious list begins with #6: Martha Argerich.

    • Le Křenek du jour says:

      May I suggest a minor alteration to your excellent preliminary test?
      Be able to SPELL approximately — within the bounds of autocorrection accuracy — the names of but TEN classical musicians. Then be allowed to vote.

      The literacy criterion may sound ableist. I assure you it is not. Teaching has taught me that those who try hardest in this discipline are not the most privileged kids, with the easiest access to media, books, technology, gadgets, you name it. Those who try hardest are those who have to queue up for culture, because they cannot scoop it with the silver spoon that others are born with; they’ve earned their ticket, and they deserve to have their voice heard.

    • buxtehude says:

      Speling doan matter DK, he is er he ain.

    • Greg Bottini says:

      What a great idea, David!
      Before I was hired to work in the classical department of Tower Records, I was given a test with about twenty questions on it. Questions such as: “what voice type was Caruso?”, “what orchestra was George Szell most known for as its conductor?”, “how many string quartets did Beethoven write?”, and so forth.
      There was even a funny one on the test: “Who wrote the Verdi Requiem?”
      I happened to answer all of them correctly, and I was hired.
      I don’t know if this was standard procedure at all Tower stores, but the manager of the classical department at the Stonestown San Francisco store was kind of a stickler.

      • Donald Wright says:

        That brings back fond memories of “my” Tower Records in San Jose, practically around the corner from where I lived. I often dropped by there after work because the store was open until midnight. The classical section was large and walled off (with glass) from the other sections. And there was always a knowledgeable attendant on duty. But gradually folk and jazz were moved in, and the classical selection began to shrink. And then no one was on duty there. (One time I was standing behind the counter looking through the CD-review books, and happened to be well-dressed, since I’d come from work. A person came up and asked me for various Wagner recommendations, and I proceeded authoritatively to offer my best advice. Finally after about 10 minutes I had to reveal that I didn’t work there. We exchanged numbers, and more than 25 five years later, we’re still good friends!) Eventually the glass completely disappeared, and there was hardly any classical music left. And the hours began to be cut back more and more. Eventually the chain folded and the store disappeared. The building is now occupied by a BevMo (liquor store). I no longer visit there with my heretofore accustomed frequency. Although thinking about the loss makes me want to return at my earliest convenience!

        • David K. Nelson says:

          Greg and Donald’s recollections remind me of a story, told to me as true, of someone going to a record shop and overhearing an exasperated clerk loudly tell off an inquiring customer: “Lady, this is a record store. We don’t sell handles to ANYthing.”

        • Greg Bottini says:

          Thanks for your reminiscences, Donald!
          I later worked at the Tower Classical Annex at Columbus and Bay, across the street from the main store; the encroachment of other musical genres didn’t happen at the Annex (with the exception of a small jazz section, due to one of our buyers’ love of jazz).
          Last time I went by there, the old Annex store was still unoccupied.
          And I’m with you re: BevMo!

    • caranome says:

      With such tests, you might as well forget doing just about any polls about any subject beyond Kim Kardashian’s hip size or Oprah’s latest diet. Who is buried in Grant’s tomb will return “don’t know” 46% of total.

    • Dan says:

      I wouldn’t call either of them classical musicians.

  • christopher storey says:

    Never ‘erd of ‘im

  • Roman says:

    Did they have any criteria of who could take a position in the rating? I mean, if it were allowed to vote for David Garett, why not to vote for Alicia Keys, also a classical pianist of Moonlight sonata? Or Putin, who is also a well-known pianist?

  • Ricardo says:

    Which one is the real one?

  • I was right to think that this standing is stupid and ridiculous

  • Mayflower says:

    At least he’s a real classically trained musician, unlike Bocelli.

    • David Smith says:

      It is said that Albert Sammons took up the violin at the age of 18 and never had a lesson in his life and when Heifetz was asked to come over and play a concert here in England, he remarked, “ you don’t need me you’ve got Sammons”.

      • David K. Nelson says:

        Not exactly – Sammons studied as a boy with his father, who was said to be an able amateur. Sammons was playing professionally – meaning for money – at age 11. Margaret Campbell’s book on violinists mentions lessons with John Saunders and Frederick Weist-Hill. Alfredo Fernandez is also listed among his teachers. Weist-Hill and Fernandez were pupils of Ysaÿe. But yes, Sammons was about as close to self taught as you are going to find.

  • Barry Guerrero says:

    ‘Crossover’ would far more accurate than “classical”.

  • Stuart says:

    Have to say I have never heard of him, which isn’t saying much. That the “world” in this poll is represented by a mere 11,000 votes says much more. And it does sound like the ballot box was stuffed on this one.

  • Alank says:

    Can you leave it and move on? Are new cognitively debilitated President cannot even count much less conduct a recount

    • Donald Wright says:

      The intimation about someone else’s cognitive impairment might perhaps have beed rendered somewhat more cogent had the writer been able to distinguish between the verb “are” and the personal pronoun “our”!

      • अशु says:

        Sounds the same, in many regions. In a civilized writing system, that’s what matters. Touching and sad: anglophones really have no idea how meaningless these shibboleths of their barbaric orthography appear to those who are at home in the world of language.

  • Fred Funk says:

    And the LEAST favorite classical musician is, what, a viola player with NO fashion sense???

  • Sheila Novitz says:

    Good grief. To me (perhaps not to anyone else) this is a truly silly poll. I can name a number of musicians whom I believe to be truly great, but the entire world’s “favourite”? What are the criteria? Which kinds of classical music? Until this minute I did not know that David Garrett is a “classical” musician, yet I listen to concerts by all the great orchestras, most of the truly great instrumentalists and many chamber groups. I think this “poll” is meant to be a joke, right? The worst part of it is the thought that Lang Lang could ever be considered anyone’s favourite “musician.”

  • Garreth can play some classical music but he waste talent and went to Juliard where he lost chanses due to pure classical teaching there to
    become thrue violin player legend.They put him there by mesteake as he is cross clasicaal musician.
    Waldemar Janyszka

  • Gary Freer says:

    Could be worse – might have been Nige or Katherine bleedin Jenkins.

  • CYM says:

    OMG !! … And they multiply

  • Violin accordion says:

    Richly deserved

  • Willem Philips says:

    Well, neither is a “classical” musician. Both were trained in the classical idiom, but both are definitely crossover musicians at the present time. That’s not to say they are untalented or not good musicians, but they’re crossover folks.

  • Ann Marie Buscema says:

    No it’s Hauser

  • Peter Cane says:

    Sorry…not so outstanding.
    I could play the same.
    This is far from world class.

  • Diana says:

    What about Sjtephan Hauser

  • Violin accordion says:

    Does no one listen to his concertos ?