There are not many classical musicians who have successfully combined commercial and artistic success – perhaps because most of the world’s famous classical musicians all became popular posthumously. Our list of classical musicians tries to how that there are successful ones who have been able to fuse artistic integrity with financial benefits. Enjoy reading and discovering.
Net Worth: $6 million
Nigel Kennedy is the child prodigy who was able to pick out tunes after just listening to them at the age of just 10 years old. At 17, he studied music at the Yehudi Menuhin School of music. He then went on to the Julliard School in New York studying under Dorothy DeLay.
At the age of just 16, he was invited by jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli to perform with hm at the Carnegie Hall. Kennedy recorded his first studio album in 1984 with Edgar’s Violin Concerto and, of course, it was his Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons with the English Chamber Orchestra released in 1989 that was a worldwide hit, selling over 2 million copies, and it remained on top of the UK Classical charts for over a year. It has remained one of the best-selling classical albums ever.
Nigel has also released a number of cross-over albums and recordings including a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s Fire for his 1993 album: Stone Free: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix. He’s also recorded covers of the Doors like Riders on the Storm: The Doors Concerto with Jaz Coleman, a violin based orchestral version of the songs from Doors. He’s also made his mark on singers like Kate Bush and Sarah Brightman.
All in all, he has released over 42 albums.
Nigel is known to be rather demanding in terms of rehearsals be a live performance, and has often clashed with concerts administrators who typically only allow up to 2 rehearsals only, whereas Kennedy has always preferred 3 to 4.
Still, this violin virtuoso is difficult insofar as his music is concerned, and that’s because he is a perfectionist, and is one of the world’s finest.
As of 2021, he is estimated to have a net worth of $6 million, and that’s only because he’s less active on the concert scene and has not released any new recordings since 2016. He did say in 2017 that he was going to quit playing classical music.
Vanessa-Mae Vanakorn Nicholson
Net Worth: $45 million
Vanessa-Mae is one of the wealthiest entertainers who is also an Olympian, having competed for her native Thailand in the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Vanessa started at the age of eight with a period of intensive study under Professor Lin Yao Ji of the National Conservatoire of Music in Beijing. Mae later returned to London and entered the London Royal College of Music.
At age 13, Mae was the youngest to have recorded both Beethoven and Tchaikovsky violin concertos, according to the Guinness World Records. Since then, she has recorded numerous albums and performed in various concert halls throughout the world.
Mae’s style and persona on stage is rather appealing to non-classical music lovers as she appears much more in the style of a rock or pop artist.
Many critics have labeled her style as sexually exploitative, encapsulated in her now-famous wet T-shirt video made when the violinist was just 15 years old. In the controversial video, Vanessa-Mae emerged from the Mediterranean Sea in a soaking wet white sheath gown, so lightweight that it was barely visible.
She is equally adept at playing her eighteen-century acoustical violin and her electric jazz violin.
Vanessa has won the Echo Klassik, Classic Without Frontiers Award and Best Seller of the Year for “The Violin Player,” 1996, and the World Music Award, 1997.
While she has been off the music scene for a while, Vanessa-Mae is staging a new concert for November 2020.
As of 2021, Vanessa-Mae is estimated to have a personal fortune of $45 million.
Net Worth: $30 million
Lang Lang’s style of playing has stirred controversy in the classical music world with some critic calling him the J. Lo of classical music. However, for this young accomplished pianist, it’s his showmanship that has attracted fans and his innate musical talent is not lacking either as one critic pointed out: “You hear him play, and he never ceases to touch your heart”.
Lang Lang has also sometimes crossed over to the pop world. On 8 February 2015, he played with Pharrell Williams and Hans Zimmer at the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, performing Pharrell’s hit single Happy.
Lang Lang has recorded 16 studio albums and 4 live albums, in addition to having performed in concert halls the world over.
He has been honored with a host of awards and accolades. His DG recording of Beethoven Piano Concertos Nos. 1 and 4 with Christoph Eschenbach was nominated for a Grammy Award during the year of its release. His Chopin Album with Sony was awarded the 2013 Echo Klassik Award.
As of 2021, he has an estimated personal fortune of $30 million.
Net Worth: $20 million
Yuja Wang lives in New York and is one of the youngest classical musicians to watch. Her ascendancy to the world’s classical stage has been impressive, having started learning the piano at age six, and entering the Beijing’s Central Conservatory of Music at only just seven years old.
At 11, Wang entered the Morningside Music Bridge International Music Festival (at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta) as the festival’s youngest student.
When she reached the age of 15, Wang entered the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where she studied for five years with Gary Graffman and graduated in 2008.
Since 1998, Wang has been collecting one award or accolade after another, beginning with the third prize in the Ettlingen International Competition for Young Pianists.
In 2006, Wang made her debut with the New York Philharmonic at the Bravo Vail Music Festival. She performed the following season with the orchestra again under Lorin Maazel during the Philharmonic’s tour of Japan and Korea.
Wang’s breakthrough came in March 2007 when she replaced Martha Argerich in concerts held in Boston. Argerich had canceled her appearances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra on four subscription concerts from March 8 to 13. Wang performed Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with Charles Dutoit conducting.
Since then she has gone from strength to strength. As of 2021, Wang has performed with many orchestras, including Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and Washington, in the U.S.
In 2019 she played tribute to Kennedy Center Honoree Michael Tilson Thomas with a rendition of “You Come Here Often?”
As of 2021, Yuja Wang has an estimated net worth of some $20 million.
Net Worth: $3 million
Anoushka Shankar is a British Indian sitar player and composer. She is the daughter of the world renowned Pandit Ravi Shankar and Sukanya Rajan, and the half-sister of Norah Jones.
Anoushka began her training with her father Ravi at the age of seven, accompanying him on the tanpura (which is like a Chinese Er-hu) at his performances.
She gave her first public sitar performance on 27 February 1995 at the age of 13, at Siri Fort in New Delhi as part of her father’s 75th birthday celebration concert. For this solo debut, she was accompanied by tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. Her first experience in the recording studio came that same year when Angel Records released a special four-CD box set called In Celebration, to mark her father’s birthday.
By the age of fourteen, she was accompanying her father at concerts around the world. At fifteen, she assisted her father on the landmark album Chants of India, produced by George Harrison. Under both their guidance, she was responsible for notation and eventually of conducting the performers who took part in the record. After this experience, the heads of Angel Records came to her parents’ home to ask to sign her, and Shankar signed her first exclusive recording contract with Angel/EMI when she was sixteen.
As a classical sitar player, Shankar has performed all over the world, often pairing up with more contemporary classical musicians such as Joshua Bell. She has also performed under the baton of legendary conductors such as Zubin Mehta.
She has been nominated for numerous Grammy awards, 6 in total so far. Apart from Grammy awards nomination, she has won numerous awards such as the Best Artist Songlines Music Award for her alum Traveller.
She has released 10 studio albums and five live albums. As of 2021, this prodigious daughter of Ravi Shankar is estimated to have a net worth of $3 million.
Net Worth: $3 million
John Adams is an American classical composer and conductor with over 60 major works to his name. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2003 for his On the Transmigration of Souls (2002), a piece for orchestra and chorus commemorating the victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks.
In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, he has also been awarded the Erasmus Prize, five Grammy Awards, the Harvard Arts Medal, France’s Ordre des Arts et des Lettres, and six honorary doctorates.
The first work of his oeuvre was called Phrygian Gates, finished in 1977. It was a piano solo piece. This was quickly followed by China Gates and Shaker Loops. In 1979, he finished his first orchestral work, Common Tones in Simple Time, which was premiered by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra under Adam’s baton.
Since then, he has composed Nixon in China (1987), the Death of Klinghoffer (1991), Doctor Atomic (2005), Girls of the Golden West (2017), among others, which are operas, and Common Tones in Simple Time (1979), The Chairman Dances (1985), Fearful Symmetries (1988), Eros Piano (1989), Mr. Father Knew Charles Ives (2003), City Noir (2009), Must the Devil Have All the Good Tunes? (2018) which are orchestral opuses, and also chamber music like Gnarly Buttons (1996) and Second Quartet (2014).
This prolific composer is a classical treasure of America, and as of 2021, is estimated to have a personal fortune of some $3 million.
Net Worth: $5 million
Called the Dean of American Composers, Aaron Copland’s music evokes the vast American landscape and pioneer spirit.
His music was rooted in the 1930s and 1940s which included Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid and Rodeo, his Fanfare for the Common Man and Third Symphony.
Aaron produced mainly ballets and orchestral works, but he also ventured into other genres like chamber music, vocal, opera and film scores.
In the 1930s, after returning from studies abroad with various musicians, such as Rubin Goldmark, Nadia Boulanger and Paul Vidal, Copland returned to the U.S., and composed music in the modernist style, which was not commercially successful, especially in the depression era.
He changed to a more accessible style which was both artistic and commercially viable.
In the 1940s, he incorporated the twelve-tone serial techniques into his works, such as the Piano Quartet published in 1950, and the Piano Fantasy published in 1957, Connotations for orchestra and Inscape for orchestra in 1967.
From the 1960s onwards, Copland’s musical work became more conductorial than composorial. He was a frequent guest conductor of orchestras in the US and the UK, and made a series of recordings for Columbia Records.
Copland has garnered various awards, which included the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, Fulbright Program, Handel Medallion, Charles E. Lutton Man of Music Award, Kennedy Center Honors, Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic or Comedy Score, Academy Award for Best Original Dramatic or Comedy Score, National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize for Music, Rome Prize, Presidential Medal of Freedom, Grammy Trustees Award, and the Congressional Gold Medal.
As at the time of his death in 1990, Aaron Copland was worth approximately $5 million.
Net Worth: $3 million
Richter is a German-British composer and pianist. He works within postminimalism and is one of the growing number of classically trained artists who fuses contemporary classical with alternative popular musical styles. Richter is classically trained, having graduated in composition from the Royal Academy of Music, and studied with Luciano Berio in Italy.
Richter also composes music for stage, opera, ballet, and screen. He has often featured with other musicians, as well as with performance, installation, and media artists. So far, he has recorded eight solo albums, and his music is widely used in cinema and for television series, such as for HBO. Richter had created and composed the musical score of Ari Folman’s Israeli animated war film Waltz with Bashir (2008), for which he garnered widespread success. In 2017, Richter’s re-composition of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons was used in The Crown season 2 as the score for Princess Margaret’s turbulent relationship with photographer Anthony Armstrong-Jones.
His landmark work is widely thought to be his solo debut Memoryhouse, which was an experimental album of “documentary music” recorded with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra which explores real and imaginary stories and histories.
As of December 2019, Richter has passed one billion streams and one million album sales.
As of 2021, Max Richter is estimated to have a personal fortune of $3 million.