It depends on how you define "great".
Mozart or Stravinski were probably the best technicians. Not that
they didn't compose with a lot of heart.
Beethoven was - by a wide margin - the most courageous. His life in
music would be an inspiration if he'd been in any career. The Lance
Armstrong of composers.
My personal favorite - again, by a wide margin - is Bach, because he
was "all of the above", and because he was an inspiration to "all who
followed". Tremendous heart and emotion. Unbelievable intellect.
Courage? - imagine him being belittled to his sons in his own home by
a then-popular composer whose name I can't even remember. He took it
in stride, and even chose his greatest competitor (Teleman) as his
On a different level, I find Mahler personally touching. He hits me
where I live.
Although 20th C. music dominates my CD collection, especially the last
50 years, Bach is by far the winner in total number of CDs. The
greatest, and apt to remain in that position in my lifetime. And--we can
celebrate his 322nd birthday this Wednesday.
I am interested to see that both contributors agree with me about
If I had to restrict the range to 20th century music, I would choose
John Rutter - you'll gather I enjoy choral music!
> I am interested to see that both contributors agree with me about
> If I had to restrict the range to 20th century music, I would choose
> John Rutter - you'll gather I enjoy choral music!
I take it, then, you've never heard anything by Benjamin Britten,
Gerald Finzi, Herbert Howells, Ralph Vaughan Williams, or even Randall
This question cannot really be answered as each ages music can not be
compared, it all comes down to taste.
I think its clear that the greatest of the baroque composers was JS Bach.
From the previous period in history Montiverdi is about the best of those
which are still known.
In the classical and romantic periods I would go for Beethoven over Hatdn or
I actually don't like romantic music much at all so I don't listen to enough
to give an opinion.
When you get into the 20th century it gets more difficult as there are so
many different camps but for me John C Adams has to be one of the greatest
composers of this part of the century.
> This question cannot really be answered as each ages music can not be
> compared, it all comes down to taste.
I've been waiting for this one in order to ask what you all think of John
Winsor's book, _Breaking the Sound Barrier_. Has anyone read it? Is he full
of crap or is he on to something? (Basically he argues for the notion of
objectively determinable progress in music.)
Myself, I liked the book, but I can't claim to be musically trained.
... I would assume that, since Bach, the "progress" has been
Seriously, the Classical period represented a dumbing-down compared to
the Late Baroque, the Romantic Period possibly an upswing in some
respects, and everything after "Tristan" was a rescue mission for the
existance of music as an artform. Popular music, outside of some cute
moments, is a structural and artistic disaster. (No multi-movement
works, no vertical or horizontal structure. Imagine what Bach was
faced with in the Cantatas and Passions: OK, JS, write a "song" on
this specific emotion, and make the music match the emotional content
of the poetry or scriptural text exactly. Use fugue as much as you
Or, you could go the other way, and claim that Wagner was the pinnacle
of all that is good in Western Culture. I think that was the view at
You have to grant that the question itself alows for the responder's
subjective values. IMHO, JSB did the best job of covering all the
This is the most absurd, musically illiterate commentary I have ever read.
> This is the most absurd, musically illiterate commentary I have ever read.
Your continued illumination of the subject of music is a gift beyond
measure, Alpha. Thank you, thank you.
Remove accidentals to obtain correct e-address
That was certainly the view of my piano teacher. She considered early
music (which for her seemed to start with early baroque) to be
important becasue it lead up to the great composers of the 19th
century, and most 20th century music to be crap.
I would somewhat disagree and suggest that Yes's 1975 "Relayer" album was
multi-movement work (although you needed to reverse the sides of the LP so
the order was "Sound Chaser"--"To Be Over"--"Gates of Delirium") with a
great deal of vertical and horizontal structure -- I know from a personal
conversation with Pat Moratz (who I think contributed more than most people
realized to that album's uniqueness) that they were not only taking lessons
from Stravinsky but also from composers like Delius -- but at the same time
people who were self-annointed devotees of "real" rock were telling me that
Yes wasn't a real rock band.
I would also add that the reason that "Classical" music dumbed-down was a
weariness with the kind of thick contrapuntal texture of the Baroque. But I
would hesistate to call anything by CPE Bach "dumbed-down" -- simpler in
texture for sure, but what sophistication in composition. Much the same
thing happened when Terry Riley composed "In C" when you had Pierre
Bouleshitte leading riots in Darmstadt, Cage making star charts into music
charts, and Babbitt saying he didn't care if you listened to his music or
not. The early Renaissance was a similar reaction to the extreme ornateness
in late Medieval music (Solage, Senlesche). "Simplicity, simplicity!" (To
which Ives is known to have said, "God DAMN simplicity!")
Wasn't punk a reaction against disco? That's not quite the same thing, but
disco sucked so bad,,,,
Oh, come on, there have been scores more absurd and musically illiterate
comments. I rate it a fair to middling absurdity and musical illiteracy.
Matthew H. Fields http://www.matthewfields.net
Music: Splendor in Sound