Who are the ten “greatest” composers?

Posted on: January 21, 2011

In an article featured Friday (1/21) on the front page of The New York Times online, classical music critic Anthony Tommasini completes his two-week project exploring the question of the ten “greatest” composers of all time. “And the winner, the all-time great, is … Bach! To step back for a moment, I began this project with bravado, partly as an intellectual game but also as a real attempt to clarify—for myself, as much as for anyone else—what exactly about the master composers makes them so astonishing. … My top spot goes to Bach, for his matchless combination of masterly musical engineering (as one reader put it) and profound expressivity. … The obvious candidates for the second and third slots are Mozart and Beethoven. If you were to compare just Mozart’s orchestral and instrumental music to Beethoven’s, that would be a pretty even match. But Mozart had a whole second career as a path-breaking opera composer. Such incredible range should give him the edge. Still, I’m going with Beethoven for the second slot. … However hard wrought, Beethoven’s works are so audacious and indestructible that they survive even poor performances.” Tommasini’s other picks are, in order, Schubert, Debussy, Stravinsky, Brahms, Verdi, Wagner, and Bartok.

Posted January 21, 2011