Skip to comments.The Greatest [Top Ten Composers of all time revealed!]
Posted on 01/23/2011 1:38:09 PM PST by Pharmboy
HERE goes. This article completes my two-week project to select the top 10 classical music composers in history, not including those still with us.
Left, 1. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). From top left, 2. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), 3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 91). 4. Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828). From middle left, 5. Claude Achille Debussy (1862 1918), 6. Igor Stravinsky (1882 1971), 7. Johannes Brahms (1833 97). From bottom left, 8. Giuseppe Verdi (1813 1901), 9. Richard Wagner (1813 83), 10. Bela Bartok (1881 1945).
I am about to reveal my list, though as those who have been with me on this quest already know, Ive dropped hints... And the winner, the all-time great, is ... Bach!
My top spot goes to Bach, for his matchless combination of masterly musical engineering (as one reader put it) and profound expressivity. Since writing about Bach in the first article of this series I have been thinking more about the perception that he was considered old-fashioned in his day. Haydn was 18 when Bach died, in 1750, and Classicism was stirring. Bach was surely aware of the new trends. Yet he reacted by digging deeper into his way of doing things. In his austerely beautiful Art of Fugue, left incomplete at his death, Bach reduced complex counterpoint to its bare essentials, not even indicating the instrument (or instruments) for which these works were composed.
On his own terms he could be plenty modern. Though Bach never wrote an opera, he demonstrated visceral flair for drama in his sacred choral works...
The obvious candidates for the second and third slots are Mozart and Beethoven. If you were to compare just Mozarts orchestral and instrumental music to Beethovens, that would be a pretty even match....
(Excerpt) Read more at nytimes.com ...
Go at it, boys and girls...
Stravinsky and Bartok, and no Handel? Pathetic list. Vivaldi, C.P.E. Bach and Hayden are all better than Bartok.
Bah BAH Bahdebah BAH bah Bahdebah BAH bah bahdehbah bummmm.
Sergei Rachmaniov is one of my favorites.
How about P.D.Q. Bach?
Nah, I agree. No Chopin, no Handel, no Vivaldi... Not right!
Regardless of how anyone builds out their own personal list from 4 onwards, clearly, the gold, silver and bronze must always go to Bach, Bethoven, and Mozart. About those 3 (in whatever order) there can really be no debate.
After that, I think it’s fair game.
Chopin is a giant. As is Mahler. As is Liszt.
As for Bartok, I’m not sure he is even the greatest Hungarian composer (see Liszt...), let alone the #10 of all time.
But that’s the beauty of this sort of exercise. And I think the livelier our opinions, the better it is for everyone! (I think this author has done his due dili, for sure).
By the way...has anyone read much of Alex Ross? I really enjoy (am doing so at the moment) his The Rest is Noise. Brilliant writer.
Tchaikovsky... He’s gotta be on that list.
ahhhhhh .... Bachhhh .....
No argument about the top three.
From there, it’s a little dicey. Gotta have Haydn and Handel in there.
Knock off Stravinsky and Bartok and replace them with Haydn and Handel and they may have something.
Bach, Mozart, Beethoven are my top three. Brahms belongs near the top. Chopin also should be on the list.
Stravinsky was a nutjob who did much to kill classical music.
I like Bartok, but I’m not sure he belongs in the top ten. Same with Debussy. Some nice stuff, but pretty wussy.
I’d certainly stick Vivaldi in there, and a few other earlier composers, while axing Stravinsky.
Just so. I mentioned a few other earlier composers—and Hayden and Handel are certainly two of them.
I’d put Tchaikovsky third and Chopin fourth.
L’ll Wayne is dah bes compos ever, yo. Ya no wah I be sayin’.
But the Unfinished and especially the Ninth Symphony are astonishing. The Ninth paves the way for Bruckner and prefigures Mahler.”
Something about Ludwig van looking down from on high, makes it, er, difficult for any of these fellas (Schubert, Mahler, Bruckner) to make it beyond Nine, and complete a Tenth Symphony.
How do you come to that conclusion about Stravinsky? He wrote great music for well into his 80s. Do you prefer Schoenberg?
And...where is Scriabin????!!!
(Sort of joining in the fun here....but in all seriousness....you don’t get to Stravinsky without Scriabin...which is to say, that none of these guys, not one of them, truly, truly, truly, stands on their own. They are unthinkable without all of their predecessors. Such is the nature of the west, with all of its mammoth cultural achievements).
Re: Tchaikovsky. I would wager that the author would say that he didn’t do anything original in terms of harmony to allow him to be among the greats. The real question seems to be then, what is greatness? Does it have to include radical innovation? The author I think says yes...and that is highly debatable, and would be fascinating.
Change the criteria, and Tchaikovsky clearly makes the cut.
Thanks for the ping!
Classical Music Ping List ping!
If you want on or off this list, let me know via FR e-mail.
And JS Bach IS the greatest. ;-)
Id certainly stick Vivaldi in there, and a few other earlier composers, while axing Stravinsky”
Hmmmmmm.....I suppose this is a conservative website, after all.
But, wow, that’s ....an ...interesting substitution!
Bach’s music is academic. It can be quite revealing if you are taking it apart note by note and using it for study.. but not much else in terms of listening enjoyment. Just my opinion. But as a composer, Mozart has no equal. There’s Mozart, and there’s everybody else.
I’m with you. Where is Handel?
Mozart should be first. And where is Rossini? This *is* a pathetic Liszt. (Where is Franz?)
With exceptions of course, such as the Partita no 3.
A personal favourite of mine Felix Mendehlsson.....but probably not innovative enough to make the top ten.
I am just relieved the VERDI is on the list. I am surprised Tchaikovsky is not. He did it all. Opera, ballet, orchestra, piano. His Nutcracker is some of the greatest music ever written. Too sentimental, I guess.
I’d toss Wagner off the list and put Mahler on. Toss Stravinsky and Bartok off and replace with Handel and Haydn.
What about John Lennon?
Like comparing apples, oranges, star fruit, pineapple, and prunes ugh.. plums.. and maybe raisins or grapes..
Then you must have never heard Fernandino Carulli.
The video accompanying this article is very good...and only 7 minutes long. Very well worth watching!
No Prokofiev or Dvorak or Janacek?
No Hayden, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, or Schumann? This list is a joke.
Bartok and Debussy make it? Please.
Nothing new. Brilliant, but nothing new.
Can Lennon really stand on his own...without McCartney and George Martin?
I never saw a picture of Bartok. Funny, I expected him to look like Bela Lugosi.
Yeah, I guess my point was that this list has a particular bent. You could add Gershwin for example. But he would not fit in well with the style of the other composers. It should say “Top Ten CLASSICAL Composers.”
“This *is* a pathetic Liszt.”
And it is!
Carulli did for the guitar (including working with guitar makers to improve the instrument’s sound), as Mozart did for the pianoforte.
No way. Bartok? Debussy? Stravinsky? I’d replace those with Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, and Mendelsohn. I’d probably dump Verdi and Wagner as well.
Well, here's one with a countryman who comes close!
Taken probably in the early 40's with (and by!) Fritz Reiner.
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