Classical Composers on STAMPS

Are you a stamp collector? I used to be, but not anymore. However, I still enjoy looking at stamps and being fascinated by the different designs. One afternoon, I was looking at my stamp collection, which made me wonder if any musicians were shown on the stamps. Well, the answer is yes, and in this article, we are going to look at that.

The first adhesive postage stamp was developed and issued in the United Kingdom. This first series, known as the Penny Black, was issued in 1840 and featured a profile of Queen Victoria. However, the first stamps featuring musicians were released in Austria in 1922, a few years after Austria became an independent nation.

Penny black

Seven musicians were featured in this first set of stamps. Can you name all of them?

stamps featuring 7 classical composers

From the top left: Franz Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, and Franz Schubert.

From the bottom left: Anton Bruckner, Johann Strauss, and Hugo Wolf.

I was not able to recognize Anton Bruckner and Hugo Wolf.

Following the first set of musicians-related stamps released in Austria, Germany released a set featuring famous German people. In addition to the two great composers, J.S. Bach and Beethoven, the set of 16 stamps also included two great German poets, Goethe and Schiller, as well as philosopher Immanuel Kant.

stamps featuring famous German people

It is not surprising that Beethoven and J.S. Bach were celebrated in stamps. There are many beautiful designs featuring them on stamps and the first cover. To show just a few, I have found this stamp featuring J.S. Bach pretty interesting. It was issued in 1997 in Cuba and showed images of Bach and the manuscript of his Violin Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001.

Bach stamp
J.S. Bach: Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001 – I. Adagio (Itzhak Perlman, violin)

In addition to Cuba, Mauritania (the Islamic Republic of Mauritania) released a set of two stamps featuring J.S. Bach and Handel in 1985, the 300th year of their birth. Notice that the portrait of J.S. Bach appears slightly different, leading me to ponder what J.S. Bach actually looked like.

Cuba Bach and Handel on stamps

Many countries issue stamps featuring Beethoven, especially during 2020, his 250th birth year. I particularly like the ones issued in Guyana and Portugal.


250th year beethoven stamp


portugal beethoven anniversary stamp

Also in 2020, the Republic of Niger issued a set of four stamps, including one with the monument of Beethoven in Bonn. However, the stamp did not feature Beethoven’s birth year but Covid-19.

Stamps featuring classical composer statues with face masks

Polish composer Frédéric Chopin is regarded as the most influential composer in Polish history. In 1927, he was honored with his first appearance on a Polish postage stamp, part of a series of four commemorative stamps featuring renowned Poles. Additionally, 1927 marked the inaugural International Chopin Piano Competition.

polska stamp featuring Chopin

Poland released three designs for this important national date, celebrating the 150th anniversary of Chopin’s birth in 1960. Unifying them was Chopin’s name in block print at the bottom.

Stamps celebrating 150th anniversary of Chopin’s birth in 1960

Another important figure after Chopin, Ignacy J. Paderewski, was not only a Polish pianist and composer but also famously known as the prime minister and foreign minister of Poland who signed the Treaty of Versailles, which ended World War I.

Ignacy J. Paderewski stamp 1
Ignacy J. Paderewski stamp 2

Mozart and his music are popularly featured on stamps, including this collection issued by Japan to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Japan-Austria Friendship.

stamp featuring Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

I also found the bottom one, issued by Germany, very charming. It was released in 1991 to celebrate the 200th year since the first production of Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” in 1791. It depicts a 1791 theater flyer for the opera and includes a snippet of Mozart’s music.

Mozart's Magic Flute stamp

Looking for stamps from different countries has also taught me about some new musicians who are lesser known but important to their countries. For example, Brazilian composer Antônio Carlos Gomes (1836-1896) and his work Il Guarani were featured in the stamp issued by Brazil in 1970. Antônio Carlos Gomes was a non-European opera composer who succeeded in Italy during the “Golden Age of Opera” alongside contemporaries like Verdi and Puccini. Il Guarany was based on José de Alencar’s novel O Guarani. The world premiere occurred at La Scala, Milan, on March 19, 1870, and it was a tremendous success.

Carlos Gomes: Il Guarany – Act I: Overture (Bonn Beethovenhalle Orchestra; John Neschling, cond.)

Brazil O Gurani stamp
Il Gurany music score stamp

Lou Koster (1889-1973), a native of Luxembourg, was a composer renowned for her expertise in violin and piano. She pursued her musical education at the Luxembourg Conservatory until 1906 and subsequently served as a faculty member starting in 1908. The stamp was issued in Luxembourg in 2003 to remember Koster’s 30th Death anniversary.

Stamp featuring Lou Koster
Lou Koster: Ouverture legere (Estro Armonico Luxembourg Chamber Orchestra; Jonathan Kaell, cond.)

This article provides a brief overview of a small collection of stamps featuring composers. It is not an exhaustive list, but I hope you find this selection of stamps as interesting as I do.

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