Who are the 10 “best composers ever”?

Posted on: January 10, 2011

In Sunday’s (1/9) New York Times, Anthony Tommasini writes, “You know that a new year has truly arrived when critics stop issuing all those lists of the best films, books, plays, recordings and whatever of the year gone by. These lists seem to be popular with readers, and they stir up lively reactions. Like other critics I enjoy recalling the pieces and performances that struck me as exceptionally good, or exceptionally bad, during the year in classical music.  Yet in other fields, critics and insiders think bigger. … The Top 10 composers of all time. Now that’s the list I have secretly wanted to compile. It would be absurd, of course, but fascinating. … What criteria might you apply? Would a composer’s influence and popularity factor in? Schoenberg was arguably the most influential composer of the 20th century. That he pushed tonality past the brink and devised a technique to supersede it completely shook up the music of the era. Every composer in his wake had to come to terms with Schoenberg. But on the basis of his actual pieces, many of which excite and move me, does he make the Top 10?  What about a composer whose range was narrow but whose music was astonishing? Chopin, a staggering genius, wrote almost exclusively for the piano.” Tommasini goes on to propose his own list, weighing pros and cons.

Posted January 10, 2011