The Top 10 Classical Music Composers

Anthony Tommasini, music critic of the New York Times, has compiled a list of the top 10 classical music composers. This is not just a list plucked from the air, in the manner of the protagonist of Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity (who makes endless lists of songs. Rather, Mr Tommasini has polled readers, and provides ample justification for the inclusion of each composer on the list. Such lists are always subjective, but this is interesting because it has caused a stir amongst musicologists by seeming to give credibility to the idea of a classical Top Ten. Readers will, I am sure, have their own top 10, and I would be more than happy to hear about them!

See the list and read the accompanying article, including Mr Tommasini’s justification for inclusion of particular composers here

For what it’s worth, here is my own list (it is biased towards composers for the piano, of course):

1. Bach – obviously. The Grandfather of them all.

2. Haydn. Father of the symphony and ‘sonata’ as we understand it today. Beethoven’s teacher.

3. Mozart.

4. Beethoven. A revolutionary.

5. Schubert. Had a major impact on those that followed him, particularly Wagner, Mahler, Berlioz. Bridged the Classical and Romantic periods.

6. Chopin. Took the piano to its absolute limits and forced pianists to rethink the way the instrument was made and used. Helped in development of modern piano as we understand it today. Particularly influenced Debussy, Syzmanowski.

7. Liszt. Do not underestimate the wide-ranging influence of Franz Liszt.

8. Stravinsky. Father of 20th century ‘modern’ music.

9. Debussy. Impressionist and symbolist. Did incredible things with the piano – forget it’s a piano when playing his music!

10. Bartok. Draws on folk traditions and “the people’s music”.



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