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"The Ten Greatest Composers" -- NY Times's new list


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#1 bart

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 05:55 AM

After a long preliminary discussion, Anthony Tommasini of the NY Times has finally published his personal "Top 10 List of Composers (Starting with Bach Was the Easy Part)"

http://www.nytimes.c...usic&adxnnlx=12

1) J.S. Bach
2) Beethoven
3) Mozart
4) Schubert
5) Debussy
6) Stravinsky
7) Brahms
8) Verdi
9) Wagner
10) Bartok

Any agreements or disagreements about names, rankings, etc.? Or ... questions about just how meaningful this project is?

It was nice to see at least three composers who wrote directly for ballet and were interested in and challenged by the art -- Debussy, Stravinsky, and Bartok. (Thank you Messrs. Diaghilev and Balanchine.) I guess if you include music composed for mandatory ballet sequences in operas, you have to add Verdi and Wagner and possibly more.

#2 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 06:58 AM

A little :o to see that neither Schumann nor Mendelssohn made the cut, but then again, it's Mr. Tommasini's list, and not mine, isn't it? :wink: When you're working that altitude of the musical stratosphere, it's hard to pick only ten. Thank God for the abundance of genius! :beg:

#3 MakarovaFan

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 07:19 AM

I'd replace Bartok with Tchaikovsky for his magnificent contributions to ballet as well as his genius as a melodist and orchestrator. I also think he should be ranked higher than Stravinsky.

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 07:48 AM

I think that there's still an echo of the "war" against Tchaikovsky left over from postwar - "All it is is LOUD, mixed with pretty tunes!" But you're right.

#5 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 08:47 AM

[size="5"]Where on earth is Mr. T there...?!?!?![/size] :speechless-smiley-003: :wallbash:

Edited: Oops..I see there were some comments about it. Anyway...if he's not there, that list is useless. Rebelling and so listening to "Little Russian" as I write... :mad:

#6 darlindancer

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 08:53 AM

Certainly a grand list, and I agree with them all, but it would need to be the top 15 for me. Of course, Tchaikovsky would need to make the top 10 for me, and somewhere in there also would be Chopin, Dvorak and Grieg.

#7 Helene

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 09:13 AM

If Tommasini were interested in ballet at all, he would have noted Stravinsky's partnership with Balanchine when he listed Stravinsky as a world changer.

Verdi and Wagner wrote little beyond opera. I suspect that if Tomassini had considered ballet, Tchaikovsky's other works, the majority of his output, might have neutralized selecting him.

#8 volcanohunter

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 12:22 PM

Personally, I would have put Beethoven first, Brahms higher up and ditched Wagner and Bartok for a pair a pre-Baroque composers. I'm partial to Tallis and Lassus, but I certainly wouldn't object to the inclusion of Palestrina, Victoria or Byrd.

I understand the exclusion of Tchaikovsky. His music is too uneven for him to qualify for the top ten. For every moment of unadulterated genius like the White Swan adagio or Letter Scene, there are demerits like the 1812 Overture, most of the Fourth Symphony, the "Uzhel' teper'" chorus from Eugene Onegin (I always burst out in giggles when it starts) or that absurd number from Swan Lake Ashton used for his pas de quatre coda. The last barely qualifies as music at all. (Skip ahead to 5:42 http://www.youtube.c...h?v=Go8GDWx_5JQ.) I happily concede that Tchaikovsky is the greatest ever composer for winds.

#9 Quiggin

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 01:16 PM

I love Tchaikovsky too, especially in Mravinsky's accounts, which gives Tchaikovsky more complexity. But he reprises phrases too often, repeats them in twos and twos, without varying or redeveloping them enough.

My list would include (not in any order):

1) J S Bach - because he develops everything as he goes on and, as Rosen or Adorno point out, never has to recapitulate at the end.
2) Beethoven - for the sonatas, the bagatelles, and all the odd variation sets (Olli Mustonen has a wonderful disc of them) and the late string quartets.
3) Mozart - for the concertos and the piano variations, which include the real "Mozartiana," and the quartets dedicated to Haydn.
4) Haydn - the piano sonatas and Variations in F
5) Debussy - especially in the robust architecture and playfulness of Richter's 1967 live Spoleto recordings of Book I & II Preludes - complete with the thud of a chair crashing to the floor
6) Satie - an important influence on Stravinsky and Debussy - for his work for Diaghilev; for his music for sea cucumbers
7) Buxtehude
8) Chopin
9) Mahler - for the most wonderful live music performance experiences there can ever be
10) One of the contemporary Italians - Donatoni or Castiglioni

Stravinsky I like a lot for his wonderful patchwork colors and the brilliance of the early work. But it seems he's often getting by on a pass - is it because he really doesn't develop any ideas?

#10 bart

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Posted 23 January 2011 - 06:40 PM

I feel bad about Tchaikovsky being left out, but have to agree with those who feel that the unevenness, etc., might exclude him. I've just been listening to the Symphony No. 3 -- the music from Diamonds -- and find it charming but rather thin. It's the choreography that, somehow, makes it seem deeper. Maybe certain Tchaikovsky needs the visualization provided by choreographer and dancers in order to come fully to life. I'd include much of the score to Swan Lake in this hypothesis.

If such lists were a question of personal taste, I have to confess that I would leave out Debussy. But, after reading Howard Goodall's chapter "Music and the Ballets Russes," (*) I see this composer in a new light -- as enormously innovative and deeply influential on other composers (including Stravinsky) as well as on audience taste.

(*) In Jane Pritchard, ed., Diaghilev and the Golden Age of the Ballets Russes 1909-1929.

#11 papeetepatrick

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 02:55 PM

de;leted

#12 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 03:50 PM



#13 volcanohunter

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 04:33 PM

I know you won't agree with me, Cristian, but this example only confirms for me why Tchaikovsky didn't make Tommasini's list. I can't imagine any of his preferred composers writing anything so bombastic (not even Wagner) or crass.

#14 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 05:14 PM

I know you won't agree with me, Cristian,..


You're right! :thumbsup: :flowers:

BUT...

Give me-(or give HIM)- another chance...pleeeeeeease. :beg:



#15 Helene

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 05:42 PM

I know you won't agree with me, Cristian, but this example only confirms for me why Tchaikovsky didn't make Tommasini's list. I can't imagine any of his preferred composers writing anything so bombastic (not even Wagner) or crass.

I find Wagner's "Rienzi" crass, and other great composers had a bomb or two -- and Mozart was the king of recyling -- but I think that was the exception to the rule.


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