Friday, January 21, 2011

And the winners are...

I recently took a look at Anthony Tommasini's musings on which twentieth century composers might make a list of the greatest composers ever in the ArtsBeat section of the online New York Times. Earlier Tommasini discussed the four great Viennese composers (Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and Schubert), the Romantics (Chopin, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, and Brahms), Verdi, Wagner, and female composers and whether any of these great composers deserve to be on a list of the world's greatest composers (

Such lists, of course, usually end up telling us more about the person doing the list than the people on the list but hey, let me give it a shot.

For me modern composers like Shostakovich, Ravel, Stravinsky, and Rachmaninov definitely deserve consideration as being among the ten greatest composers of all time. If I had to put a British composer on the list it would be Vaughan Williams rather than Britten who Tommasini mentions. For me contemporary composers are too contemporary to be put on the list at the moment. I do, however, like Part and Gorecki very much. I am not a huge fan of Stockhausen, who Tommasini mentions, though I find "Stimmung" fascinating.

So would any of these modern composers make my list of the greatest composers ever? At the moment (these lists are to some extent always of the moment) I would put Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Mahler, Ravel, and Shostakovich on my top ten list. At the very top would be Ravel. So yes a couple of twentieth century composers would make my list.

The toughest thing, by the way, about being limited to a top ten list of the world's greatest composers is leaving off artists like Berlioz, Chopin, Dvorak, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Rachmaninov, and Stravinsky. Oh, hell, I am going to take Monteverdi off the list and replace him with Chopin. And let me take Vivaldi off the list and replace him with Dvorak. Gotta stop or else I may never get up from my chair again.

Anthony Tomasini, The Top Ten Composers: Which Twentieth Century Masters Will Make the Cut?, 12 January 2011,

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