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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2019 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Superconductor Top Ten: Composers

Ludwig van Beethoven,
making sure he's on top of the list.
In The New York Times, music critic Anthony Tomassini spent a week working on The Greatest: his list of the top ten composers of all time. And his is a good list, carefully thought out.

Since this is a brilliant, self-written classical music blog (and since I'd never do something so gauche as to borrow an idea in the world's most reliable newspaper) I'm just going to do my ten favorite composers. And I'm going to do it in five minutes.

As always, this lis(zt) is purely biased (or biased and puerile) and reflects nothing more than the opinion of the entire Superconductor editorial staff.

Which is me.

It's roughly in order of preference and how much time I spend listening to the composers on it.

1) Ludwig van Beethoven
The father of the Romantic movement and the great symphonist. Beethoven's music resounds with a shout of humanity and warms the spirit with endless humanism and hope.

2) Richard Wagner
We won't sugar-coat it. Richard Wagner takes second place on our list, despite the fact that he was an egotistical, hate-filled huckster who couldn't write a piano sonata to save his life. Not that he wanted to--he was too busy working on the Ring.

3) Richard Strauss
Another ethically questionable person, but Strauss could write for the orchestra like nobody else. But his best work was for the soprano voice. Small wonder--he was married to one.

4) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The genius whose reputation and personality were both assassinated by the film Amadeus. Mozart's music speaks with an eternal beauty that is timeless and brightens even the darkest day.

5) Giuseppe Verdi
Stirring tunes, emotional duets, and some of the cleverest theatrical ideas that are still copied from, borrowed and revered today. ("Why not a singing hunchback?")

6) Franz Joseph Haydn
'Papa', as he was called was an endlessly inventive melodist who worked at a lightning pace--and birthed the symphony and the string quartet. But he also wrote operas, oratorios, and enchanting piano sonatas.

7) Giaochino Rossini
The Barber of Seville would be enough to ensure this master of Italian comedy a place on this list. His tragedies are pretty good too. And then there's his greatest opera, William Tell.

8) Hector Berlioz
Along with Wagner, Berlioz did his bit to expand the voices and possibilities of the symphony orchestra. An unabashed classicist who directed music back towards the unfashionable ideals of the 18th century, Berlioz was also an acidic critic who made his share of enemies. He died, a great man who was unappreciated in his lifetime--and Les Troyens is his masterpiece.

9) Franz Liszt
The god of the piano. Ten fingers, lightning speed, and a seven-decade career replete with musical invention. A great writer of orchestral music. A genius, a teacher, a philanthropist. And he could play almost anything--from his own atonal works to Beethoven's nine symphonies on the 88 keys.

10) Claude-Achille Debussy
Debussy's music surges with power, emotion and inspiration, even in the quietest moments.

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