Classical music written in collaboration

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



Concertante works

Vocal and choral

Chamber music


Piano solo

Piano four-hands

  • 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.[22]

Electroacoustic music

  • Collaboration has been a constant feature of Electroacoustic music, due to the complexity of the technology. Since the beginning, all laboratories and electronic music studios have involved the presence of different individuals with diverse but intertwined competencies. In particular, the embedding of technological tools into the process of musical creation resulted in the emergence of a new agent with new expertise: the musical assistant, the technician, the tutor, the computer music designer, the music mediator (a profession that has been described and defined in different ways over the years) – who can work in the phase of writing, creating new instruments, recording and/or performance.[23] He or she explains the possibilities of the various instruments and applications, as well as the potential sound effects to the composer (when the latter did not have sufficient knowledge of the programme or a clear idea of what he or she could obtain from it). The musical assistant also explains the most recent results in musical research and translates artistic ideas into programming languages. Finally, he or she transforms those ideas into a score or a computer program and often performs the musical piece during the concerts.[24] Examples of collaboration are numerous: Pierre Boulez and Andrew Gerzso, Alvise Vidolin and Luigi Nono, Jonathan Harvey and Gilbert Nouno, among others. Composers remain the sole authors of this music works, whereas musical assistants are mentioned within the musical documentation (scores, press, program notes) as music assistants or computer music designers.

Other forms of musical collaboration

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. Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed, 1954
  4. 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 Archived 2010-09-29 at the Wayback Machine
  10. Letters from a life: The selected letters of Benjamin Britten 1913-1976
  11. Britten-Pears Foundation
  12. Amazon
  13. Dibble, Jeremy (2013). Hamilton Harty: Musical Polymath. Woodbridge, Surrey: Boydell Press. p. 72. ISBN 978-1-84383-858-6.
  14. mfiles. Retrieved 14 August 2014
  15. Seraphim Trio Archived 2011-07-16 at the Wayback Machine
  16. Wonderland Project
  18. Piano Solos. 1935. Retrieved 12 August 2014.
  19. Matthew Quayle Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  21. L. Zattra (2013) "Les origines du nom de RIM (Réalisateur en informatique musicale)" Actes des Journées d’Informatique Musicale (JIM 2013), Saint-Denis, 2013, pp. 113-120. (referenced 12/13/16).
  22. L. Zattra, N. Donin (2016) "A questionnaire-based investigation of the skills and roles of Computer Music Designers" Musicae Scientiae, September 2016 20: 436–456, doi:10.1177/1029864915624136. (referenced 12/13/16).
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