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Anthony Tomassini's 10 Best Composers list

Connemara

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Thoughts on it? http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/23/ar...s.html?_r=1&hp
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).
 

edinatlanta

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HMm......
 

Neo_Version 7

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Where is Max Martin? Dr. Luke? List is rubbish.
 

aportnoy

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Mahler and Puccini so need to be on that list.
 

Pennglock

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Predictable, but I don't think Schubert deserves #4, or even top 10.
 

Thomas

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Originally Posted by Pennglock
Predictable, but I don't think Schubert deserves #4, or even top 10.

I agree, but say that without having listened to his leiders. Perhaps that will change my mind.

Bartok I would do without.

I think the list could have used at least one modern Russian: I go back and forth between Prokofiev and Shostakovich - probably the latter would be my pick.
 

L'Incandescent

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This seems a lot like those lists that Rolling Stone trots out every other issue: greatest albums of the decade, greatest songs of the decade, 100 greatest guitar solos, 37 greatest walking bass lines recorded between 1966 and 1974 on Fender Precision basses with maple fingeboards, etc. They're good for sparking conversation, but no one should take them too seriously.

That said, Schubert at number 4 and the absence of Mahler are certainly surprising. I'd love to see Stockhausen on the list somewhere, but I think he's still too recent. When we think of Stockhausen, the first word that comes to mind isn't "great," but "weird." But I think he's great too.
 

GQgeek

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Rambling thoughts:

Not sure I understand what the criteria were. Was it for the "best" composers? How do you score such a thing? is there an matrix of sheer output vs. quality? How is quality defined? Are they trying to take from each period?

Tchaikovsky didn't put out any where near as much as some of the classical composers, but i've got to say that a lot of Mozart is just plain meh and not very thrilling. Some of it is great though. I think Tchaikovsky's violin concerto is one of the best. Pathetique is awesome. 1812. The Nutcracker. Swan Lake. A couple good piano concertos. 6 symphonies (4/6 my faves). These are all regulars in any concert hall. 1812 is use all over the place. He composed what are probably the 2 most popular ballets ever.

I definitely wouldn't have made Bach #1. I would probably have given that to Beethoven. Bach had tremendous output but Beethoven's stuff is better imo. Bach is kinda boring by comparision.

I don't really like Stravinsky so he'd be out but I understand why he's on the list.

Bartok could be cut. Debussy I don't know well enough to comment, but that might be saying something in itself. Mahler seems like a big omission, especially against some of the people that made the cut.

This is all totally subjective, of course.
 

tagutcow

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Originally Posted by L'Incandescent
That said, Schubert at number 4 and the absence of Mahler are certainly surprising.

Yeah, I tend to associate Schubert with dirgey, samey, plodding minor key pieces. I always thought of him as overrated. As for Mahler, who else is even battling him for second place as a symphonist?

Well, maybe Tchaikovsky, who's also absent. I'd say the list is slanted away from symphonies and towards opera.

Not a popular choice, I realize, but Schoenberg composed masterpieces in a dizzying variety of genres, with an idiomatic mastery of every instument combination he tackled. My own preference is to rank composers with a broad stylistic compass like Schoenberg over more idiosyncratic composers like Messiaen and Webern. Unfortunately, I think most people have Schoenberg mentally filed away with J.S. Bach as academically important composers that are good to know of, but not necessarily to listen to.

I'd love to see Stockhausen on the list somewhere, but I think he's still too recent. When we think of Stockhausen, the first word that comes to mind isn't "great," but "weird." But I think he's great too.
I've really only started to listen to Stockhausen recently, but can't say I think he deserves inclusion in the list. As far mid-Century European avant-garde composers go, I'd easily rank both Boulez and Berio over him.
 

L'Incandescent

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Originally Posted by tagutcow

I've really only started to listen to Stockhausen recently, but can't say I think he deserves inclusion in the list. As far mid-Century European avant-garde composers go, I'd easily rank both Boulez and Berio over him.


I love Boulez's work, and would definitely want him in the list, except that the rules excluded living composers.

What I love about Stockhausen is that each work creates its own sonic world. (Not literally each work, of course.) There's Stimmung, which is completely unlike Gesang der Junglinge, which is completely different from Hymnen, Helicopter String Quartet, Telemusik, Carre, etc. Not only are these works essentially "one-offs," but they're all very listenable. Boulez was my first love among mid-20th century composers, but it took me years of listening to finally "get it." Stockhausen's works, on the other hand, are very beautiful even for people with little exposure to avant-garde classical music. While Boulez's sound tends to be cold and indifferent, Stockhausen's is very passionate and human. (Those are massive generalizations, of course.)
 

tagutcow

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Originally Posted by L'Incandescent
I love Boulez's work, and would definitely want him in the list, except that the rules excluded living composers.

What I love about Stockhausen is that each work creates its own sonic world. (Not literally each work, of course.) There's Stimmung, which is completely unlike Gesang der Junglinge, which is completely different from Hymnen, Helicopter String Quartet, Telemusik, Carre, etc. Not only are these works essentially "one-offs," but they're all very listenable. Boulez was my first love among mid-20th century composers, but it took me years of listening to finally "get it." Stockhausen's works, on the other hand, are very beautiful even for people with little exposure to avant-garde classical music. While Boulez's sound tends to be cold and indifferent, Stockhausen's is very passionate and human. (Those are massive generalizations, of course.)


I gotta be honest here... I haven't heard any of the pieces you've listed. I've heard some 50s stuff like the Klavierstücke and Gruppen. I also have a CD of Mantra around here that, shamefully, I've never gotten around to listening to.

I disagree with your characterization of Boulez, of course; there's a fun, loopy element to early pieces like Notations and marteau that I think many people miss out on. And from what little I've heard of Stockhausen, I think he suffers in comparison to Boulez when it comes to little things like expressive use of rhythm and melodic contour. But I admit I'm biased towards Boulez' more linear style of composing than to the more gestural/textural forms of music prevalant in post-war Europe.
 

L'Incandescent

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Originally Posted by tagutcow
I gotta be honest here... I haven't heard any of the pieces you've listed. I've heard some 50s stuff like the Klavierstücke and Gruppen. I also have a CD of Mantra around here that, shamefully, I've never gotten around to listening to.

I disagree with your characterization of Boulez, of course; there's a fun, loopy element to early pieces like Notations and marteau that I think many people miss out on. And from what little I've heard of Stockhausen, I think he suffers in comparison to Boulez when it comes to little things like expressive use of rhythm and melodic contour. But I admit I'm biased towards Boulez' more linear style of composing than to the more gestural/textural forms of music prevalant in post-war Europe.


I agree completely with this, actually. I admit that I do miss out on the loopy, fun elements in Marteau, though! I'm going to give it another listen and see if I can detect that. Do you have a favorite recording of Marteau? I'm partial to the 2005 Deutsche Grammophon recording with Hilary Summers and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, although I suspect I'm in the minority among Boulez fans.
 

tagutcow

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Originally Posted by L'Incandescent
I agree completely with this, actually. I admit that I do miss out on the loopy, fun elements in Marteau, though! I'm going to give it another listen and see if I can detect that. Do you have a favorite recording of Marteau? I'm partial to the 2005 Deutsche Grammophon recording with Hilary Summers and the Ensemble Intercontemporain, although I suspect I'm in the minority among Boulez fans.
I have an old Boulez-conducts-Boulez vinyl album on Turnabout. I don't know if it's available on CD, but it sounds fantastic both in terms of performance and sound quality (even on my $100 Sears turntable!) I also have a KammarensembleN (???) CD of marteau selections which is awful awful awful. I'm sure people in general would esteem these works more highly if they were typically performed better. Anyway, as far as compiling a top 10 composers list (as opposed to a top 10 favorite composers list), it shouldn't be that difficult to do correctly. The names have all already been listed in this thread. A person just getting into classical music could easily spend years listening to these composers' output. After that, they could start worrying about Hummel and Franck.
 

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