Anthony Tommasini and the “Greatest” Composers

10

January
2011

Anthony Tommasini, chief music critic of the New York Times, wants to compile a list of the top ten greatest classical composers of all time. And he’s asking us to help him put it together.

As of around 10pm EST (01.09.2011), there are over six-hundred contributions to the search in the comments section of Tommasini’s blog post—ranging from detailed lists and accompanying explanations to a minimal one-word vote, “Albinoni.” No doubt many more people will participate.

Tommasini is candid about the gimmicky nature of the challenge (an exercise of sorts), but he is genuinely enthusiastic about the shared search. Over at the related article, he gives us guidelines for who can be considered and who is out of the running. Predictably, he issues a decree that the list may not include a composer who pre-dates the late Baroque.

You could make a good case for Josquin or Monteverdi, but I won’t. The traditions and styles were so different back then as to have been almost another art form. I’m looking roughly at the era an undergraduate survey of Western civilization might define as modern history.

He is certainly correct in the first sentence above, but so off base in the latter two as to suggest that he may not have a real command of the subject, especially since he goes on to nominate Johann Sebastian Bach as the top composer, who is most certainly a product of many who came before him and one who revered a number of them.

Plus, you could make a similar accusation of Bach in comparison to Wagner, Brahms, [insert dead 20th-century composer here], and so forth. It’s unfair, to say the least, but those are the rules.

Nevertheless, Tommasini poses a fun challenge. He’ll be posting videos like the one below as he acquires a solid roster. For now, we have Bach carved in stone.

Watch “Top 10 Composers: Bach”:

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