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


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#16 bart

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 05:59 PM

I find Wagner's "Rienzi" crass,

I suppose you are right, but it was by far my favorite Wagner when I was a child, along with the "Ride of the Valkyrie".

Come to think of it, my favorite Tchaikovsky in those days was "Francesca di Rimini," :smilie_mondieu: which has a certain crassness of its own..

Fokine choreographed something to Francesca di Rimini but I don't know if it survives. Has any ballet composer ever choreographed to Rienzi?

I suppose that all composers make mistakes occasionally. It's also true that tastes change over time. Tommasini seems to be basing his choices on the relatively low proportion of such mistakes in a composer's works, along with such variables as innovation and one's influence on other serious composers.

#17 papeetepatrick

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Posted 24 January 2011 - 06:24 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.


Oh my god, Tchaikovsky didn't make the delicate, refined Tommasini's Illumined List!!!??? I don't think either Piotr or I will be able to get over this, you know. And maybe even based on one of the greatest works ever written for piano and orchestra--fabulous to either play with orchestra (and I have) or hear (esp. by a 'piano animal' like the great Martha Argerich, the BEST.). Crass???? I don't think so. But you're right: I can't imagine Tchaikovsky's great piano concerto (terrible that the one used for 'Ballet Imperial' doesn't come even close to this one as a piece of music, although it's pretty fantastic too) making something as [size="6"]crass[/size] as a 'Ten Best' List by some two-bit NYTimes critic, who just wants to show his cultivated tastes. I wrote up 50 greatest composers I could think of, and the whole thing so frikkin' silly I deleted all of it (yes, even with 50, not just the ludicrous '10 Best', which just sounds like Facebook or Twitter; Piotr Illyich must have turned over in his grave at his omission from this illustrious survey--some snubbings just plain HURT!!! As for the 'bombastic', don't knock it, they all did it. And just to think, Wagner might have done it too...might have been bombastic...jeez...and all the while I thought it was something else...

All I've gotta say is Liszt is in the TOP FIVE as well. Wrote TONS of bombast. You think Bach and Beethoven didn't? Well, they did.

#18 Mashinka

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 05:45 AM

Leaving out Handel bothers me most, though I'm not sure if he enjoys the same degree of popularity in the US as in Europe where he is a staple of both the opera house and concert hall.

Looking at the names included on the list I wondered if they were chosen because of their influence on the music of their day. Wagner was hugely influential where other composers were concerned and Debussy and Stravinsky both signalled changes in attitudes to music, but if that was the case where are the likes of Monteverdi, Josquin des Prez or even Hildegard of Bingham?

I'm sure that a personal top ten would be a different set of names to ten most important and few would omit Tchaikovsky, but is one's taste in music led by intellect or emotion?

And by the way, Vivaldi should have made that list too.

#19 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 09:15 AM

Oh my god, Tchaikovsky didn't make the delicate, refined Tommasini's Illumined List!!!???[ ... ]which just sounds like Facebook or Twitter...


:rofl:

I notice how all this people choose to denote the titles of their lists-(just as Macaulay's "best something ballerina")-as if this is THE one and only consensus in world history-(or at least the only one worth to look at). Let's keep it humble and start using the first person, I think..."MY favorites so and so...". (But then, we're talking about an even harder thing...being humble)

Anyway...if anything, leaving out Tchaikovsky, Liszt and Chopin of ANY list... :mad:

#20 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 11:11 AM



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.


Forget me, but I didn't know what "crass" meant, so I went to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, and I found that it is synonym of:

[size=4]"common, coarse, crude, gross, ill-bred, illiberal [archaic], incult, insensible, low, lowbred, lowbrow, raffish, rough, rough-hewn, roughneck, rude, rugged, tasteless, uncouth, uncultivated, uncultured, unpolished, unrefined, vulgar".[/size]

Poor Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto # 1... :crying:

#21 bart

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Posted 25 January 2011 - 12:19 PM

Three comments:

(1) Remember, this is a list that has been limited, arbitrarily, to 10 names. Adding another name means eliminating one already on the list. For example, to include Vivaldi is to cut someone else out. Who?

(2) For those who are upset about the very nature of the list -- especially by someone a mere music critic -- I recommend reading the series of articles and blog posts that led up to this Final Ten. Tommasini has expressed his own ambivalence about the project -- has raised all the questions one could ask about such a project -- has consulted with some of those readers who have been commenting on his earlier writings. He has discussed the pros and cons of including many composers who, in the end, did not make the cut. I think that, on the whole, he did a pretty conscientious job of explaining everything he has considered, evaluated, and thought about prior to the final publication of the list. I urge everyone to read the whole article or, even better, all the earlier articles addressing this project.

(3) For me, the real function of such list is to encourage readers to ponder just what it is they value in the music they love most. If including Bartok and eliminating Tchaikovsky, Handel, or Sibelius leads people to get in touch with why they agree or disagree with any part of this arbitrary list, I think Mr. Tommasini has done a useful service to classical music.

P.S. The references to "crassness" were quite narrowly focused on two works: Rienzi and Francesca da Rimini. neither of which is typical of Wagner's or Tchaikosvsky's oeuvre. I am sure that there was no intent to suggest disdain for either Wagner or Tchaikovsky in a larger sense.

#22 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 29 September 2012 - 01:18 PM

Still can't get over that useless list...



#23 dirac

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 12:17 PM

Three comments:

(1) Remember, this is a list that has been limited, arbitrarily, to 10 names. Adding another name means eliminating one already on the list. For example, to include Vivaldi is to cut someone else out. Who?

(2) For those who are upset about the very nature of the list -- especially by someone a mere music critic -- I recommend reading the series of articles and blog posts that led up to this Final Ten. Tommasini has expressed his own ambivalence about the project -- has raised all the questions one could ask about such a project -- has consulted with some of those readers who have been commenting on his earlier writings. He has discussed the pros and cons of including many composers who, in the end, did not make the cut. I think that, on the whole, he did a pretty conscientious job of explaining everything he has considered, evaluated, and thought about prior to the final publication of the list. I urge everyone to read the whole article or, even better, all the earlier articles addressing this project.

(3) For me, the real function of such list is to encourage readers to ponder just what it is they value in the music they love most. If including Bartok and eliminating Tchaikovsky, Handel, or Sibelius leads people to get in touch with why they agree or disagree with any part of this arbitrary list, I think Mr. Tommasini has done a useful service to classical music.

P.S. The references to "crassness" were quite narrowly focused on two works: Rienzi and Francesca da Rimini. neither of which is typical of Wagner's or Tchaikosvsky's oeuvre. I am sure that there was no intent to suggest disdain for either Wagner or Tchaikovsky in a larger sense.


Thanks for reviving this thread, cubanmiamiboy. I would agree with bart that if "top ten best or worst" lists serve no other use (and you could argue they don't), they do force critics to make discriminations and defend their choices, and it's often interesting to see how they do that.

#24 Birdsall

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Posted 30 September 2012 - 12:50 PM

The problem with these lists is that they are too general. Someone who adores ballet is usually going to want to make sure Tchaikovsky is on the list. Someone who loves opera much more might never think to put Tchaikovsky on the list. Also, you run into the problem of the person creating the list having a preference for baroque music or romantic or 20th century, etc. which would sway the list heavily in one direction. Someone above pointed out that Handel is missing but probably wouldn't be if the person were from England or Germany. I think a list like this is way too broad. I think it is probably fun to create a list thought, so I understand someone trying. I love Bellini's Norma so much that I would put Bellini on the list for that work alone, but I also know that he is not really going to make many people's Top Ten Greatest composers b/c his stature is not that of Wagner or Verdi.

#25 YouOverThere

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Posted 28 November 2012 - 10:23 PM

How 'bout a compromise? Since not everyone is a fan of Tchiakovsky, why not add Prokofiev instead? Would anyone dispute that his score for Romeo and Juliet is a work of genius?

#26 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 12:52 AM

Why not call it My Ten Favorite Composers rather than Best?

#27 Helene

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Posted 29 November 2012 - 11:48 AM

I don't think "My Ten Favorite Composers" is necessarily the same as "The Ten Best Composers." I can appreciate the historical importance of a number of composers, but that doesn't stop me from loving my Puccini more than a few of them.

I think there's a place for "This Is Why I Think These Ten Composers Are the Most Important in Classical Music," but the "Best" thing is a bit superfluous, IMO.

#28 Mashinka

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 03:36 AM

This article is very similar to the list of composers being discussed, but interesting none the less. Looks like Rite of Spring is outright winner, but I was pleased Britten and Puccini were in with a mention; though I’m surprised no one nominated anything by Ravel or Shostakovich. The question is what is your favourite piece of 20th century music rather than most outstanding or seminal etc. and I find it hard to picture someone going home of an evening to chill out by listening to Stockhausen. Personally I’m not sure if I could decide on just one piece, half a dozen spring to mind with me. Anyway, here’s the link if anyone cares to comment.
http://www.guardian....ival-favourites

#29 Helene

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Posted 30 November 2012 - 11:44 AM

I'm torn between Shostakovich's 2nd Piano Trio, the Bartok String Quartets, and "Wozzeck." That doesn't even include "Agon" or anything else by Stravinsky. I don't get very far into the 20th century, though.

#30 dirac

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Posted 01 December 2012 - 10:27 PM

How 'bout a compromise? Since not everyone is a fan of Tchiakovsky, why not add Prokofiev instead? Would anyone dispute that his score for Romeo and Juliet is a work of genius?


Thanks for reviving this topic, YouOverThere. I don't know that I'd class Prokofiev with Tchaikovsky in terms of talent, honestly, but it could be a matter of taste.

The question is what is your favourite piece of 20th century music rather than most outstanding or seminal etc.


That's an interesting link, Mashinka. I agree that there's a big difference between choosing one's favorite music and making a qualitative judgment -- I also doubt that Mark Elder comes home after a hard day and puts on "The Rite of Spring," but you can have "favorite" music for different occasions and purposes.


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