Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Greatest Composers?

A young friend recently e mailed to ask if I'd seen the New York Times series by Anthony Tommasini naming the 10 greatest composers. Here's my reply:

I saw the Times piece and the media. I imagine Tommasini was told by his editors to do something really provocative, hence this study. I never do these "best of" lists well. I can't get away from subjectivity. To me, greatness in any endeavor belongs to those who break the mold and force the rest of us to think in a different way. So my list would be something like this:

Josquin Missa Pape Marcellae
Monteverdi Vespers of 1610, L'Orfeo, Poppea
Bach Passions, Brandenburg Concerti, Cello Suites, everything
Haydn-perfecting the string quartet
Mozart everything
Beethoven symphonies, quartets, Missa Solemnis, everything
Wagner Tristan und Isolde
Mahler Symphony 3, Das Lied von der Erde
Stravinsky Rite of Spring
Schonberg Moses und Aron
Ives Concord Sonata

That's 11 , not 10-but its my blog so what the hell.

And yes, it breaks my heart to omit Verdi and Puccini. Their operas have given me more pleasure then many of the above named, but truly great in the mold breaking sense, I'm afraid. One could argue for Gershwin. Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorak, all magnificent (what's more exquisite than Schubert's Die Forelle?) but they don't predict what is to come.

Anybody want to list their favorite composers?

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