The “Greatest” Composers, Ctd

12

January
2011

New York Times critic Anthony Tommasini has put out a call to help him build a list of the top ten classical composers. So far, it has yielded hundreds of responses as varied as the backgrounds and names of those participating.

He’s thrown down the gauntlet and begun with J.S. Bach, dismayed readers by limiting choices on either end of music history, and inspired a lot of feedback in the process (some of which he replies to).

Here are a some choice perspectives.

“Don’t Come here either,” Vermont:

The greatest composer? WOW! Now there’s a question I’ve debated for over 25 years. For sheer enjoyment, I’m stuck between Mozart and Beethoven…easy choice those two, but I’ve remained deadlocked between them. For absolute breathless power and range, it has to be Beethoven. But Mozart was such a prolific and original composer, I can’t rule him out of my personal debate.

John Plotz, Hayward, California:

Why has no one (so far) mentioned Brahms, whom I adore? Especially his chamber music — so melancholy sometimes but always with a throb of joy underneath. To say nothing of being sexy.

The flip side of Brahms, I have always thought, is Scarlatti (D, not A) whose lovely keyboard pieces always have a thread of sadness or despair, no matter how gay the surface.

I don’t know whether either of those guys was an important influence. I just know I love them.

Pierce Randall, Atlanta, GA:

If I could have only one vote, though, it would be that Prokofiev stay off. It’s nothing personal or political, but I can’t stand his stuff.

Jonathan, Milwaukee:

I haven’t read through all the postings…but I certainly hope someone has already included Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber….a composer who wrote music that makes me think that “there is something in it of Divinity more than the ear discovers: it is a Hieroglyphical and shadowed lesson of the whole world….”

Gerald Brennan, Ann Arbor, MI:

Josquin. C’mon. Put him in there. Completely ignore Hildegard (the first composer for whom we HAVE A NAME – and it’s a WOMAN of all things), Lassus, Monteverdi, Byrd, Purcell, etc., but put Josquin in there to show SOME awareness of music history.

There are many, many more.

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