Movie music shoots ahead in world’s biggest classical music poll after year of lockdown

5 April 2021, 20:40

Film music celebrates a record year in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, after a year of lockdown
Film music celebrates a record stint in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, after a year of lockdown. Picture: Universal / Getty / PA

John Williams, Hans Zimmer and John Barry are more popular than ever, while Debbie Wiseman is the most voted-for, living British composer.

Film music has donned its finest dress, owned the red carpet, and scooped the shiniest awards in the Classic FM Hall of Fame 2021.

With the nation finding a new love of watching movies during lockdown, the popularity of film scores is at an all-time high, according to our countdown of the Top 300 most loved pieces of classical music, this Easter weekend.

It was another record year for film composers in the Hall of Fame, with 34 film scores appearing and making up 11 percent of the total music. This was up considerably from last year when there were 28 film music entries, and even more notable when compared to the very first Hall of Fame, 26 years ago, when there were only two film score entries.

The most popular film score is John Williams’ haunting soundtrack to Schindler’s List, at No. 16. And Williams, the great composer behind iconic movie themes for Star Wars, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park and Jaws, also reclaims the title as the most popular living composer, with nine entries.

2021 has seen the best ever results for other film composers, including Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, Inception) and John Barry (Dances with Wolves, Out of Africa). Both composers have five pieces each in the Classic FM Hall of Fame – their highest number ever.

Read more: The Classic FM Hall of Fame 2021 has been revealed >

The acclaimed composer and conductor Debbie Wiseman OBE becomes the most popular living British composer for the first time, with four pieces in the Classic FM Hall of Fame, including two new entries – The Mythos Suite and Wolf Hall.

Wiseman, who is Classic FM’s Composer in Residence, has enjoyed recent success with her album The Glorious Garden, which celebrates the great outdoors, and her 2020 composition, Together, written for those at home or self-isolating during lockdown.

The composer said: “I'm completely blown away by the results. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for me and supported my music. It's very gratifying to know that alongside all those wonderful works by the truly great composers, there is a place in the hearts of the public for new music, whether written for film, TV or the concert hall.”

Mozart takes the crown as the most popular composer, with 16 entries. Beethoven has five pieces in the Top 20, which is more than any other composer. And Vaughan Williams’ enduringly beloved The Lark Ascending has been voted No. 1, making it a record eleven years now that the piece has taken the top spot.

Read more: ‘The Lark Ascending’ tops world’s biggest poll of classical music tastes for eleventh year >

The highest climber in this year’s chart is the soundtrack to the video game series Kingdom Hearts by the Japanese composer and pianist Yoko Shimomura, who also had a new entry with her music for Final Fantasy XV. Climbing 159 places to No. 86, Kingdom Hearts is the highest placed video game score this year.

Among the other 48 new and re-entries are Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s arrangement of ‘Deep River’, ‘War Song’ by the Scottish composer Phamie Gow, Elmer Bernstein’s scores for The Magnificent Seven and To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as Eimear Quinn’s In Paradisum. And Clara Schumann’s Piano Concerto entered the chart again after over 20 years.

Read more: English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor makes comeback in world’s biggest classical music survey >

Classic FM’s John Suchet said: “After the year that we’ve all experienced, with many of us watching more films at home than ever before, it is perhaps no surprise that movie music is at a record high, representing 11 percent of the total chart.

“It is also clear that alongside the all-time favourites, there is a growing popularity of new classical music for film, television, video games and concerts – and with it, a new and younger audience. As a station which believes that classical music is for everyone, regardless of your age or background, this is music to our ears.”

The Hall of Fame is voted for entirely by the public, and saw more than 156,000 votes cast this year – the highest number in six years – with 48 new or re-entries, making it a year with some of the biggest shake-ups for more than 15 years.

Click here to listen to the Classic FM Hall of Fame 2021 on Global Player, the official Classic FM app.