Who do you consider to be the GOAT amongst classical music composers?

Sysyphus

Talk Tennis Guru
In composition class, Bach was always the textbook example, template and leading star. Talk about mastering the craft.

In addition to being impressive craftsmanship I also find his music enormously beautiful.

More in terms of a personal taste, I like Debussy. And Ravel too. Akin but also different. But there are so, so many who made haunting or gorgeous music throughout the centuries, and ultimately it largely comes down to personal sensibility. Even the most brilliant musical minds can have starkly contrasting preferences.
 
C

Chadalina

Guest
Classical composers relied on talent. I like people who can see music and execute. People think the dude waving his hands has something todo with each musicians sheet. Its like claiming the cart is leading the horse.

 

jhick

Hall of Fame
I gotta go Chopin. Yes, he can sound depressing at times, but I love how he composes and brings out a full range of emotions between minor and major, many times within the same piece.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
Mozart ... immer besser
Beethoven ... Vorsprung durch Technik
Bach ... gibt es keinen Ersatz
The Big Three: Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.
The Big 3 are indeed in a class of their own and you can make a strong case for each. Others may have their defenders (especially the Wagnerians) but none of 'em can match this trio in depth AND width. Let's do the primers:

Bach - The most perfect synthesis of emotion and intellect in music. His miraculous command of counterpoint remains unchallenged to this day (even Wolfgang struggled with it at times), and at his most inscrutable he has been matched only by Beethoven in his great successor's late piano sonatas and string quartets. And he's a terrific tunesmith to boot. In my book there's Bach and there's everyone else.

Mozart - The greatest natural genius in the history of Western music, if not the greatest natural genius period. He happens to be my least favorite of the Big 3 as I find most of his oeuvre too polite, but Don Giovanni, the sublime closing pages of The Marriage of Figaro and Sarastro's high arias in The Magic Flute stand supreme as pinnacles of musical theater, and the legendary unfinished Requiem remains the most bone-chillingly frightening music ever written. Salieri (the fictional one, for the record) had every reason to curse the Almighty for endowing this heavenly creature with so much talent and yet taking him away from us all too soon.

Beethoven - The most widely influential, daringly innovative and intensely personal musician in history. He wasn't as gifted as Bach and (as Ludwig himself painfully admitted) Mozart and didn't share the duo's natural ear for the human voice (the "Ode to Joy" finale of his Ninth Symphony being the most infamous example), but nobody has left a deeper imprint on his music which by turns is as tempestuous, serene, violent, peaceful, impassioned, withdrawn, outgoing and enigmatic as humanly possible. The man was indeed greater than the myth.

As for the rest I actually posted a tentative ranking of the top 30 earlier this year but here it is again, expanded to 50 names with a few changes to the original top 30:

The Kings of Kings
1) Bach, J. S.
2) Mozart
3) Beethoven

The Immortals
4) Handel
5) Schubert
6) Brahms
7) Wagner
8) Haydn
9) Tchaikovsky
10) Schumann

The Übermenschen
11) Stravinsky
12) Verdi
13) Dvořák
14) Chopin
15) Mahler
16) Liszt
17) Mendelssohn
18) Prokofiev
19) Strauss, R.
20) Berlioz

The Royals
21) Debussy
22) Shostakovich
23) Monteverdi
24) Palestrina
25) Bartók
26) Puccini
27) Sibelius
28) Vivaldi
29) Bruckner
30) Purcell

The Wizards
31) Ravel
32) Josquin
33) Fauré
34) Rossini
35) Telemann
36) Britten
37) Bizet
38) Rameau
39) Rachmaninoff
40) Donizzeti

The Grandmasters
41) Hindemith
42) Gluck
43) Saint-Saëns
44) Schoenberg
45) Vaughan Williams
46) Corelli
47) Franck
48) Smetana
49) Couperin
50) Mussorgsky

And these are the ten composers who missed the cut but could easily be swapped with some of the above. Let's call them the Nearers, in order of birth only (since we're entering relatively obscure territory I'm including their full name and also their DOB and country of origin in parentheses):

Machaut, Guillaume de (c. 1300–1377, France)
Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714–1788, Germany)
Weber, Carl Maria von (1786–1826, Germany)
Grieg, Edvard (1843–1907, Norway)
Borodin, Alexander (1833–1887, Russia)
Janáček, Leoš (1854–1928, Czech Republic)
Elgar, Edward (1857–1934, England)
Ives, Charles (1874–1954, USA)
Villa-Lobos, Heitor (1887–1959, Brazil)
Copland, Aaron (1900–1990, USA)

Finally the honorable mentions (130 and counting), grouped by period/style for ease of reference:

Medieval (3)
Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179, Germany)
Léonin (fl. 1150s–c. 1201, likely France)
Pérotin (c. 1155/60–c. 1200/05, France)

Renaissance (14)
Dunstable, John (c. 1390–1453, England)
Dufay, Guillaume (1397–1474, Belgium/France)
Binchois, Gilles (c. 1400–1460, Belgium)
Ockeghem, Johannes (c. 1410–1497, Belgium/France)
Tallis, Thomas (c. 1505–1585, England)
Lassus, Orlande de (c. 1532–1594, Belgium/Germany)
Byrd, William (c. 1539/40–1623, England)
Victoria, Tomás Luis de (c. 1548–1611, Spain)
Marenzio, Luca (1553 or 1554–1599, Italy)
Gabrieli, Giovanni (c. 1554/1557–1612, Italy)
Dowland, John (1563–1626, England)
Gesualdo, Carlo (1566–1613, Italy)
Praetorius, Michael (1571–1621, Germany)
Gibbons, Orlando (1583–1625, England)

Baroque (22)
Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon (1562–1621, Netherlands)
Allegri, Gregorio (c. 1582–1652, Italy)
Frescobaldi, Girolamo (1583–1643, Italy)
Schütz, Heinrich (1585–1672, Germany)
Cavalli, Francesco (1602–1676, Italy)
Lawes, William (1602–1645, England)
D'Anglebert, Jean-Henri (1629–1691, France)
Lully, Jean-Baptiste (1632–1687, France)
Buxtehude, Dieterich (c. 1637/39–1707, Denmark/Germany)
Charpentier, Marc-Antoine (1643–1704, France)
Biber, Heinrich Ignaz Franz (1644–1704, Bohemia/Austria)
Pachelbel, Johann (1653–1706, Germany)
Marais, Marin (1656–1728, France)
Scarlatti, Alessandro (1660–1725, Italy)
Albinoni, Tomaso (1671–1751, Italy)
Zelenka, Jan Dismas (1679–1745, Czech Republic/Germany)
Scarlatti, Domenico (1685–1757, Italy)
Porpora, Nicola (1686–1768, Italy)
Tartini, Giuseppe (1692–1770, Italy)
Locatelli, Pietro (1695–1764, Italy/Netherlands)
Hasse, Johann Adolph (1699–1783, Germany/Italy)
Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista (1710–1736, Italy)

Classical (6)
Soler, Antonio (1729–1783, Spain)
Boccherini, Luigi (1743–1805, Italy)
Clementi, Muzio (1752–1832, Italy/England)
Dussek, Jan Ladislav (1760–1812, Czech Republic/France/England)
Cherubini, Luigi (1760–1842, Italy/France)
Hummel, Johann Nepomuk (1778–1837)

Romantic (54)
Sor, Fernando (1778–1839, Spain/France)
Field, John (1782–1837, Ireland)
Paganini, Niccolò (1782–1840, Italy)
Spohr, Louis (1784–1859, Germany)
Meyerbeer, Giacomo (1791–1864, Germany)
Bellini, Vincenzo (1801–1835, Italy)
Adam, Adolphe (1803–1856, France)
Glinka, Mikhail (1804–1857, Russia)
Alkan, Charles-Valentin (1813–1888, France)
Gounod, Charles (1818–1893, France)
Offenbach, Jacques (1819–1880, Germany/France)
Lalo, Édouard (1823–1892, France)
Gottschalk, Louis Moreau (1829–1869, USA)
Ponchielli, Amilcare (1834–1886, Italy)
Delibes, Léo (1836–1891, France)
Balakirev, Mily (1837–1910, Russia)
Bruch, Max (1838–1920, Germany)
Massenet, Jules (1842–1912, France)
Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai (1844–1908, Russia)
Strauss II, Johann (1825–1899, Austria)
Wieniawski, Henryk (1835–1880, Poland)
Chabrier, Emmanuel (1841–1894, France)
Sullivan, Arthur (1842–1900, England)
Widor, Charles-Marie (1844–1937, France)
Sarasate, Pablo de (1844–1908, Spain)
Duparc, Henri (1848–1933, France)
Parry, Hubert (1848–1918, England)
Tárrega, Francisco (1852–1909, Spain)
Humperdinck, Engelbert (1854–1921, Germany)
Sousa, John Philip (1854–1932, USA)
Chausson, Ernest (1855–1899, France)
Ruggiero, Leoncavallo (1857–1919, Italy)
Ysaÿe, Eugène (1858–1931, Belgium)
Wolf, Hugo (1860–1903, Slovenia/Austria)
Albéniz, Isaac (1860–1909, Spain)
MacDowell, Edward (1860–1908, USA)
Delius, Frederick (1862–1934, England)
Mascagni, Pietro (1863–1945, Italy)
Nielsen, Carl (1865–1931, Denmark)
Glazunov, Alexander (1865–1936, Russia)
Dukas, Paul (1865–1935, France)
Busoni, Ferruccio (1866–1924, Italy)
Satie, Erik (1866–1925, France)
Granados, Enrique (1867–1916, Spain)
Joplin, Scott (c. 1867/68–1917, USA)
Scriabin, Alexander (1872–1915, Russia)
Reger, Max (1873–1916, Germany)
Suk, Josef (1874–1935, Czech Republic)
Holst, Gustav (1874–1934, England)
Kreisler, Fritz (1875–1962, Austria)
Falla, Manuel de (1876–1946, Spain)
Dohnányi, Ernst von (1877–1960, Hungary)
Respighi, Ottorino (1879–1936, Italy)
Medtner, Nikolai (1880–1951, Russia)

Modernist/Early 20th-Century (21)
Enescu, George (1881–1955, Romania)
Kodály, Zoltán (1882–1967, Hungary)
Webern, Anton (1883–1945, Austria)
Varèse, Edgard (1883–1965, France/USA)
Berg, Alban (1885–1935, Austria)
Martinů, Bohuslav (1890–1959, Czech Republic)
Honegger, Arthur (1892–1955, France/Switzerland)
Milhaud, Darius (1892–1974, France)
Mompou, Federico (1893–1987, Spain)
Gershwin, George (1898–1937, USA)
Poulenc, Francis (1899–1963, France)
Weill, Kurt (1900–1950, Germany)
Rodrigo, Joaquín (1901–1999, Spain)
Walton, William (1902–1983, England)
Tippett, Michael (1905–1998, England)
Messiaen, Olivier (1908–1992, France)
Barber, Samuel (1910–1981, USA)
Cage, John (1912–1992, USA)
Ginastera, Alberto (1916–1983, Argentina)
Bernstein, Leonard (1918–1990, USA)
Piazzolla, Astor (1921–1992, Argentina)

Contemporary/Late 20th- & Early 21st-Century (10)
Ligeti, György (1923–2006, Hungary/Austria)
Stockhausen, Karlheinz (1928–2007, Germany)
Sondheim, Stephen (b. 1930, USA)
Takemitsu, Tōru (1930–1996, Japan)
Penderecki, Krzysztof (b. 1933, Poland)
Riley, Terry (b. 1935, USA)
Pärt, Arvo (b. 1935, Estonia)
Reich, Steve (b. 1936, USA)
Glass, Philip (b. 1937, USA)
Adams, John (b. 1947, USA)

Since I was being something of a completist I've included all names with at least one popular or iconic work attached to it. So the likes of Allegri, Pachelbel, Lalo, Humperdinck, Dukas, Weill and Riley are on the list, even though they wouldn't crack my all-time top 100 and might indeed rank below some of the near misses unlisted here. This will be an ongoing project till the end of time, so feel free to make suggestions or criticisms as you see fit.

You're welcome. :cool:
 
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NonP

Hall of Fame
I've updated the top 50 with a few shuffles (from #36 on down) and 18 more honorable mentions (up from 112 to 130, mostly in the Renaissance, Baroque and Classical groups but also including Fernando Sor and Louis Spohr under Romantic and Stephen Sondheim under Contemporary). Like I said this list is always open to revisions, additions and subtractions, so just holla if you've got something to say.

A couple more things. @Gary Duane told me in a private group convo that this is very much like the GOAT debate in tennis except far trickier. Agreed, and here's what I said in response:

Now I will concede that this assessment gets dicier as you go back further in time, because we still don't know enough about [all this] music even when a big name is involved. As you know Handel tends to be ranked rather low among the top 10 (if at all) and Vivaldi still dismissed as a competent if ultimately inconsequential craftsman of ingratiating tunes (though Stravinsky's supposed quip that the latter wrote the same concerto 500 times is in fact something of a myth), but that's largely because much of their important operatic output remains underappreciated if not unacknowledged by most listeners and even many experts. I mean it wasn't until 2000(!) that the Naïve label began recording all of the Italian's extant operas and sacred works, many of them for the first time, and I believe the project is still ongoing. Presumably those who put together their GOAT rankings before the aughts had next to no clue about that treasure trove with lots of hidden gems, and yet they had no qualms about dismissing the indisputable Baroque master as lightweight!

And I will confess that's more or less the same attitude I used to have about Mendelssohn who would mostly strike me (and still does, if to a lesser extent) as Mozart lite, but that began to change when I got acquainted with his stormy (and obscure) piano trios. Ditto Grieg, again until I came across his unabashedly fiery chamber music:


So yeah, there are plenty of booby traps to avoid here, and I will say in my defense that I did try my best to keep my personal bias at bay. As you can see Wolfgang is placed above Ludwig despite my preference for the latter, and guys I don't care much for including Telemann (critics and laypeople alike keep bringing his newly discovered "masterpieces" to my attention but I remain underwhelmed) and Gluck are in the top 50 even though I too prefer many others who didn't make the cut.
And since I've already shared these personal faves from my college days I thought I'd do the same here.

In a dig to @Red Rick about his country's dearth of 1st-rate composers (couldn't locate the best version, alas):


Though Sweelinck is more famous for his keyboard music it was through these sacred works I got to know him first. Used to play them on CD occasionally, especially while in college, and still own both of the Hyperion volumes. This piece is actually somewhat popular around Christmastime, so look for it next time you see a choir in an Xmas program.

From across the Rhineland:


Have yet to meet anyone who upon 1st listen doesn't go, "How in the hell isn't this music more popular?!" I probably prefer it even to the gorgeous 2nd-movement waltz of Suk's teacher and compatriot Dvorak's better-known Serenade for Strings.

The ravishing Passacaglia from Act IV of Henry Purcell's semi-opera King Arthur:


Great as the Brit remained in my estimation throughout college it wasn't until after I acquainted myself with Hyperion's complete sets of his sacred music, odes and welcome/secular songs that I realized what a giant Purcell was. Tend to think he's even greater than Vivaldi, though given the Red Priest's aforementioned vast and important operatic output (which I'm only halfway through) I still rank him over his British near-contemporary for the time being.

I'll end with another all-time fave (if from my post-college years) courtesy of Henry:


As I wrote several years ago the miraculous "Be ravish’d, earth" entry of the tenor voice late into this still criminally obscure hymn is probably Purcell's greatest masterstroke in a body of work chock-full of them. Just sublime.
 

max

Legend
heard some Debussy on the harp the other day; pretty magical. Used to listen to La Mer waking up in the morning. Also like his minimal piano works, e.g., Golliwog and others.
 

junior74

G.O.A.T.
I am particularly weak for Schubert and Chopin outside Big3.

Grieg with better consistency would make the WTF regularly ;)
 

Sport

G.O.A.T.
The Big 3 are indeed in a class of their own and you can make a strong case for each. Others may have their defenders (especially the Wagnerians) but none of 'em can match this trio in depth AND width. Let's do the primers:

Bach - The most perfect synthesis of emotion and intellect in music. His miraculous command of counterpoint remains unchallenged to this day (even Wolfgang struggled with it at times), and at his most inscrutable he has been matched only by Beethoven in his great successor's late piano sonatas and string quartets. And he's a terrific tunesmith to boot. In my book there's Bach and there's everyone else.

Mozart - The greatest natural genius in the history of Western music, if not the greatest natural genius period. He happens to be my least favorite of the Big 3 as I find most of his oeuvre too polite, but Don Giovanni, the sublime closing pages of The Marriage of Figaro and Sarastro's high arias in The Magic Flute stand supreme as pinnacles of musical theater, and the legendary unfinished Requiem remains the most bone-chillingly frightening music ever written. Salieri (the fictional one, for the record) had every reason to curse the Almighty for endowing this heavenly creature with so much talent and yet taking him away from us all too soon.

Beethoven - The most widely influential, daringly innovative and intensely personal musician in history. He wasn't as gifted as Bach and (as Ludwig himself painfully admitted) Mozart and didn't share the duo's natural ear for the human voice (the "Ode to Joy" finale of his Ninth Symphony being the most infamous example), but nobody has left a deeper imprint on his music which by turns is as tempestuous, serene, violent, peaceful, impassioned, withdrawn, outgoing and enigmatic as humanly possible. The man was indeed greater than the myth.

As for the rest I actually posted a tentative ranking of the top 30 earlier this year but here it is again, expanded to 50 names with a few changes to the original top 30:

The Kings of Kings
1) Bach, J. S.
2) Mozart
3) Beethoven

The Immortals
4) Handel
5) Schubert
6) Brahms
7) Wagner
8) Haydn
9) Tchaikovsky
10) Schumann

The Übermenschen
11) Stravinsky
12) Verdi
13) Dvořák
14) Chopin
15) Mahler
16) Liszt
17) Mendelssohn
18) Prokofiev
19) Strauss, R.
20) Berlioz

The Royals
21) Debussy
22) Shostakovich
23) Monteverdi
24) Palestrina
25) Bartók
26) Puccini
27) Sibelius
28) Vivaldi
29) Bruckner
30) Purcell

The Wizards
31) Ravel
32) Josquin
33) Fauré
34) Rossini
35) Telemann
36) Britten
37) Bizet
38) Rameau
39) Rachmaninoff
40) Donizzeti

The Grandmasters
41) Hindemith
42) Gluck
43) Saint-Saëns
44) Schoenberg
45) Vaughan Williams
46) Corelli
47) Franck
48) Smetana
49) Couperin
50) Mussorgsky

And these are the ten composers who missed the cut but could easily be swapped with some of the above. Let's call them the Nearers, in order of birth only (since we're entering relatively obscure territory I'm including their full name and also their DOB and country of origin in parentheses):

Machaut, Guillaume de (c. 1300–1377, France)
Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714–1788, Germany)
Weber, Carl Maria von (1786–1826, Germany)
Grieg, Edvard (1843–1907, Norway)
Borodin, Alexander (1833–1887, Russia)
Janáček, Leoš (1854–1928, Czech Republic)
Elgar, Edward (1857–1934, England)
Ives, Charles (1874–1954, USA)
Villa-Lobos, Heitor (1887–1959, Brazil)
Copland, Aaron (1900–1990, USA)

Finally the honorable mentions (130 and counting), grouped by period/style for ease of reference:

Medieval (3)
Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179, Germany)
Léonin (fl. 1150s–c. 1201, likely France)
Pérotin (c. 1155/60–c. 1200/05, France)

Renaissance (14)
Dunstable, John (c. 1390–1453, England)
Dufay, Guillaume (1397–1474, Belgium/France)
Binchois, Gilles (c. 1400–1460, Belgium)
Ockeghem, Johannes (c. 1410–1497, Belgium/France)
Tallis, Thomas (c. 1505–1585, England)
Lassus, Orlande de (c. 1532–1594, Belgium/Germany)
Byrd, William (c. 1539/40–1623, England)
Victoria, Tomás Luis de (c. 1548–1611, Spain)
Marenzio, Luca (1553 or 1554–1599, Italy)
Gabrieli, Giovanni (c. 1554/1557–1612, Italy)
Dowland, John (1563–1626, England)
Gesualdo, Carlo (1566–1613, Italy)
Praetorius, Michael (1571–1621, Germany)
Gibbons, Orlando (1583–1625, England)

Baroque (22)
Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon (1562–1621, Netherlands)
Allegri, Gregorio (c. 1582–1652, Italy)
Frescobaldi, Girolamo (1583–1643, Italy)
Schütz, Heinrich (1585–1672, Germany)
Cavalli, Francesco (1602–1676, Italy)
Lawes, William (1602–1645, England)
D'Anglebert, Jean-Henri (1629–1691, France)
Lully, Jean-Baptiste (1632–1687, France)
Buxtehude, Dieterich (c. 1637/39–1707, Denmark/Germany)
Charpentier, Marc-Antoine (1643–1704, France)
Biber, Heinrich Ignaz Franz (1644–1704, Bohemia/Austria)
Pachelbel, Johann (1653–1706, Germany)
Marais, Marin (1656–1728, France)
Scarlatti, Alessandro (1660–1725, Italy)
Albinoni, Tomaso (1671–1751, Italy)
Zelenka, Jan Dismas (1679–1745, Czech Republic/Germany)
Scarlatti, Domenico (1685–1757, Italy)
Porpora, Nicola (1686–1768, Italy)
Tartini, Giuseppe (1692–1770, Italy)
Locatelli, Pietro (1695–1764, Italy/Netherlands)
Hasse, Johann Adolph (1699–1783, Germany/Italy)
Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista (1710–1736, Italy)

Classical (6)
Soler, Antonio (1729–1783, Spain)
Boccherini, Luigi (1743–1805, Italy)
Clementi, Muzio (1752–1832, Italy/England)
Dussek, Jan Ladislav (1760–1812, Czech Republic/France/England)
Cherubini, Luigi (1760–1842, Italy/France)
Hummel, Johann Nepomuk (1778–1837)

Romantic (54)
Sor, Fernando (1778–1839, Spain/France)
Field, John (1782–1837, Ireland)
Paganini, Niccolò (1782–1840, Italy)
Spohr, Louis (1784–1859, Germany)
Meyerbeer, Giacomo (1791–1864, Germany)
Bellini, Vincenzo (1801–1835, Italy)
Adam, Adolphe (1803–1856, France)
Glinka, Mikhail (1804–1857, Russia)
Alkan, Charles-Valentin (1813–1888, France)
Gounod, Charles (1818–1893, France)
Offenbach, Jacques (1819–1880, Germany/France)
Lalo, Édouard (1823–1892, France)
Gottschalk, Louis Moreau (1829–1869, USA)
Ponchielli, Amilcare (1834–1886, Italy)
Delibes, Léo (1836–1891, France)
Balakirev, Mily (1837–1910, Russia)
Bruch, Max (1838–1920, Germany)
Massenet, Jules (1842–1912, France)
Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai (1844–1908, Russia)
Strauss II, Johann (1825–1899, Austria)
Wieniawski, Henryk (1835–1880, Poland)
Chabrier, Emmanuel (1841–1894, France)
Sullivan, Arthur (1842–1900, England)
Widor, Charles-Marie (1844–1937, France)
Sarasate, Pablo de (1844–1908, Spain)
Duparc, Henri (1848–1933, France)
Parry, Hubert (1848–1918, England)
Tárrega, Francisco (1852–1909, Spain)
Humperdinck, Engelbert (1854–1921, Germany)
Sousa, John Philip (1854–1932, USA)
Chausson, Ernest (1855–1899, France)
Ruggiero, Leoncavallo (1857–1919, Italy)
Ysaÿe, Eugène (1858–1931, Belgium)
Wolf, Hugo (1860–1903, Slovenia/Austria)
Albéniz, Isaac (1860–1909, Spain)
MacDowell, Edward (1860–1908, USA)
Delius, Frederick (1862–1934, England)
Mascagni, Pietro (1863–1945, Italy)
Nielsen, Carl (1865–1931, Denmark)
Glazunov, Alexander (1865–1936, Russia)
Dukas, Paul (1865–1935, France)
Busoni, Ferruccio (1866–1924, Italy)
Satie, Erik (1866–1925, France)
Granados, Enrique (1867–1916, Spain)
Joplin, Scott (c. 1867/68–1917, USA)
Scriabin, Alexander (1872–1915, Russia)
Reger, Max (1873–1916, Germany)
Suk, Josef (1874–1935, Czech Republic)
Holst, Gustav (1874–1934, England)
Kreisler, Fritz (1875–1962, Austria)
Falla, Manuel de (1876–1946, Spain)
Dohnányi, Ernst von (1877–1960, Hungary)
Respighi, Ottorino (1879–1936, Italy)
Medtner, Nikolai (1880–1951, Russia)

Modernist/Early 20th-Century (21)
Enescu, George (1881–1955, Romania)
Kodály, Zoltán (1882–1967, Hungary)
Webern, Anton (1883–1945, Austria)
Varèse, Edgard (1883–1965, France/USA)
Berg, Alban (1885–1935, Austria)
Martinů, Bohuslav (1890–1959, Czech Republic)
Honegger, Arthur (1892–1955, France/Switzerland)
Milhaud, Darius (1892–1974, France)
Mompou, Federico (1893–1987, Spain)
Gershwin, George (1898–1937, USA)
Poulenc, Francis (1899–1963, France)
Weill, Kurt (1900–1950, Germany)
Rodrigo, Joaquín (1901–1999, Spain)
Walton, William (1902–1983, England)
Tippett, Michael (1905–1998, England)
Messiaen, Olivier (1908–1992, France)
Barber, Samuel (1910–1981, USA)
Cage, John (1912–1992, USA)
Ginastera, Alberto (1916–1983, Argentina)
Bernstein, Leonard (1918–1990, USA)
Piazzolla, Astor (1921–1992, Argentina)

Contemporary/Late 20th- & Early 21st-Century (10)
Ligeti, György (1923–2006, Hungary/Austria)
Stockhausen, Karlheinz (1928–2007, Germany)
Sondheim, Stephen (b. 1930, USA)
Takemitsu, Tōru (1930–1996, Japan)
Penderecki, Krzysztof (b. 1933, Poland)
Riley, Terry (b. 1935, USA)
Pärt, Arvo (b. 1935, Estonia)
Reich, Steve (b. 1936, USA)
Glass, Philip (b. 1937, USA)
Adams, John (b. 1947, USA)

Since I was being something of a completist I've included all names with at least one popular or iconic work attached to it. So the likes of Allegri, Pachelbel, Lalo, Humperdinck, Dukas, Weill and Riley are on the list, even though they wouldn't crack my all-time top 100 and might indeed rank below some of the near misses unlisted here. This will be an ongoing project till the end of time, so feel free to make suggestions or criticisms as you see fit.

You're welcome. :cool:
One of the best comments ever posted on TTW. Thank you for sharing your wide wisdom on the topic with an extremelly big and accurate list. What I like about your list is that, as you knew that 50 is a relatively small number, you extended its size with over 130 honorable mentions. In your roughly top 200 list, you include almost every single historically relevant classical music composer to ever be born. Thanks again.
 
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BlueB

Legend
The Big 3 are indeed in a class of their own and you can make a strong case for each. Others may have their defenders (especially the Wagnerians) but none of 'em can match this trio in depth AND width. Let's do the primers:

Bach - The most perfect synthesis of emotion and intellect in music. His miraculous command of counterpoint remains unchallenged to this day (even Wolfgang struggled with it at times), and at his most inscrutable he has been matched only by Beethoven in his great successor's late piano sonatas and string quartets. And he's a terrific tunesmith to boot. In my book there's Bach and there's everyone else.

Mozart - The greatest natural genius in the history of Western music, if not the greatest natural genius period. He happens to be my least favorite of the Big 3 as I find most of his oeuvre too polite, but Don Giovanni, the sublime closing pages of The Marriage of Figaro and Sarastro's high arias in The Magic Flute stand supreme as pinnacles of musical theater, and the legendary unfinished Requiem remains the most bone-chillingly frightening music ever written. Salieri (the fictional one, for the record) had every reason to curse the Almighty for endowing this heavenly creature with so much talent and yet taking him away from us all too soon.

Beethoven - The most widely influential, daringly innovative and intensely personal musician in history. He wasn't as gifted as Bach and (as Ludwig himself painfully admitted) Mozart and didn't share the duo's natural ear for the human voice (the "Ode to Joy" finale of his Ninth Symphony being the most infamous example), but nobody has left a deeper imprint on his music which by turns is as tempestuous, serene, violent, peaceful, impassioned, withdrawn, outgoing and enigmatic as humanly possible. The man was indeed greater than the myth.

As for the rest I actually posted a tentative ranking of the top 30 earlier this year but here it is again, expanded to 50 names with a few changes to the original top 30:

The Kings of Kings
1) Bach, J. S.
2) Mozart
3) Beethoven

The Immortals
4) Handel
5) Schubert
6) Brahms
7) Wagner
8) Haydn
9) Tchaikovsky
10) Schumann

The Übermenschen
11) Stravinsky
12) Verdi
13) Dvořák
14) Chopin
15) Mahler
16) Liszt
17) Mendelssohn
18) Prokofiev
19) Strauss, R.
20) Berlioz

The Royals
21) Debussy
22) Shostakovich
23) Monteverdi
24) Palestrina
25) Bartók
26) Puccini
27) Sibelius
28) Vivaldi
29) Bruckner
30) Purcell

The Wizards
31) Ravel
32) Josquin
33) Fauré
34) Rossini
35) Telemann
36) Britten
37) Bizet
38) Rameau
39) Rachmaninoff
40) Donizzeti

The Grandmasters
41) Hindemith
42) Gluck
43) Saint-Saëns
44) Schoenberg
45) Vaughan Williams
46) Corelli
47) Franck
48) Smetana
49) Couperin
50) Mussorgsky

And these are the ten composers who missed the cut but could easily be swapped with some of the above. Let's call them the Nearers, in order of birth only (since we're entering relatively obscure territory I'm including their full name and also their DOB and country of origin in parentheses):

Machaut, Guillaume de (c. 1300–1377, France)
Bach, Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714–1788, Germany)
Weber, Carl Maria von (1786–1826, Germany)
Grieg, Edvard (1843–1907, Norway)
Borodin, Alexander (1833–1887, Russia)
Janáček, Leoš (1854–1928, Czech Republic)
Elgar, Edward (1857–1934, England)
Ives, Charles (1874–1954, USA)
Villa-Lobos, Heitor (1887–1959, Brazil)
Copland, Aaron (1900–1990, USA)

Finally the honorable mentions (130 and counting), grouped by period/style for ease of reference:

Medieval (3)
Hildegard von Bingen (1098–1179, Germany)
Léonin (fl. 1150s–c. 1201, likely France)
Pérotin (c. 1155/60–c. 1200/05, France)

Renaissance (14)
Dunstable, John (c. 1390–1453, England)
Dufay, Guillaume (1397–1474, Belgium/France)
Binchois, Gilles (c. 1400–1460, Belgium)
Ockeghem, Johannes (c. 1410–1497, Belgium/France)
Tallis, Thomas (c. 1505–1585, England)
Lassus, Orlande de (c. 1532–1594, Belgium/Germany)
Byrd, William (c. 1539/40–1623, England)
Victoria, Tomás Luis de (c. 1548–1611, Spain)
Marenzio, Luca (1553 or 1554–1599, Italy)
Gabrieli, Giovanni (c. 1554/1557–1612, Italy)
Dowland, John (1563–1626, England)
Gesualdo, Carlo (1566–1613, Italy)
Praetorius, Michael (1571–1621, Germany)
Gibbons, Orlando (1583–1625, England)

Baroque (22)
Sweelinck, Jan Pieterszoon (1562–1621, Netherlands)
Allegri, Gregorio (c. 1582–1652, Italy)
Frescobaldi, Girolamo (1583–1643, Italy)
Schütz, Heinrich (1585–1672, Germany)
Cavalli, Francesco (1602–1676, Italy)
Lawes, William (1602–1645, England)
D'Anglebert, Jean-Henri (1629–1691, France)
Lully, Jean-Baptiste (1632–1687, France)
Buxtehude, Dieterich (c. 1637/39–1707, Denmark/Germany)
Charpentier, Marc-Antoine (1643–1704, France)
Biber, Heinrich Ignaz Franz (1644–1704, Bohemia/Austria)
Pachelbel, Johann (1653–1706, Germany)
Marais, Marin (1656–1728, France)
Scarlatti, Alessandro (1660–1725, Italy)
Albinoni, Tomaso (1671–1751, Italy)
Zelenka, Jan Dismas (1679–1745, Czech Republic/Germany)
Scarlatti, Domenico (1685–1757, Italy)
Porpora, Nicola (1686–1768, Italy)
Tartini, Giuseppe (1692–1770, Italy)
Locatelli, Pietro (1695–1764, Italy/Netherlands)
Hasse, Johann Adolph (1699–1783, Germany/Italy)
Pergolesi, Giovanni Battista (1710–1736, Italy)

Classical (6)
Soler, Antonio (1729–1783, Spain)
Boccherini, Luigi (1743–1805, Italy)
Clementi, Muzio (1752–1832, Italy/England)
Dussek, Jan Ladislav (1760–1812, Czech Republic/France/England)
Cherubini, Luigi (1760–1842, Italy/France)
Hummel, Johann Nepomuk (1778–1837)

Romantic (54)
Sor, Fernando (1778–1839, Spain/France)
Field, John (1782–1837, Ireland)
Paganini, Niccolò (1782–1840, Italy)
Spohr, Louis (1784–1859, Germany)
Meyerbeer, Giacomo (1791–1864, Germany)
Bellini, Vincenzo (1801–1835, Italy)
Adam, Adolphe (1803–1856, France)
Glinka, Mikhail (1804–1857, Russia)
Alkan, Charles-Valentin (1813–1888, France)
Gounod, Charles (1818–1893, France)
Offenbach, Jacques (1819–1880, Germany/France)
Lalo, Édouard (1823–1892, France)
Gottschalk, Louis Moreau (1829–1869, USA)
Ponchielli, Amilcare (1834–1886, Italy)
Delibes, Léo (1836–1891, France)
Balakirev, Mily (1837–1910, Russia)
Bruch, Max (1838–1920, Germany)
Massenet, Jules (1842–1912, France)
Rimsky-Korsakov, Nikolai (1844–1908, Russia)
Strauss II, Johann (1825–1899, Austria)
Wieniawski, Henryk (1835–1880, Poland)
Chabrier, Emmanuel (1841–1894, France)
Sullivan, Arthur (1842–1900, England)
Widor, Charles-Marie (1844–1937, France)
Sarasate, Pablo de (1844–1908, Spain)
Duparc, Henri (1848–1933, France)
Parry, Hubert (1848–1918, England)
Tárrega, Francisco (1852–1909, Spain)
Humperdinck, Engelbert (1854–1921, Germany)
Sousa, John Philip (1854–1932, USA)
Chausson, Ernest (1855–1899, France)
Ruggiero, Leoncavallo (1857–1919, Italy)
Ysaÿe, Eugène (1858–1931, Belgium)
Wolf, Hugo (1860–1903, Slovenia/Austria)
Albéniz, Isaac (1860–1909, Spain)
MacDowell, Edward (1860–1908, USA)
Delius, Frederick (1862–1934, England)
Mascagni, Pietro (1863–1945, Italy)
Nielsen, Carl (1865–1931, Denmark)
Glazunov, Alexander (1865–1936, Russia)
Dukas, Paul (1865–1935, France)
Busoni, Ferruccio (1866–1924, Italy)
Satie, Erik (1866–1925, France)
Granados, Enrique (1867–1916, Spain)
Joplin, Scott (c. 1867/68–1917, USA)
Scriabin, Alexander (1872–1915, Russia)
Reger, Max (1873–1916, Germany)
Suk, Josef (1874–1935, Czech Republic)
Holst, Gustav (1874–1934, England)
Kreisler, Fritz (1875–1962, Austria)
Falla, Manuel de (1876–1946, Spain)
Dohnányi, Ernst von (1877–1960, Hungary)
Respighi, Ottorino (1879–1936, Italy)
Medtner, Nikolai (1880–1951, Russia)

Modernist/Early 20th-Century (21)
Enescu, George (1881–1955, Romania)
Kodály, Zoltán (1882–1967, Hungary)
Webern, Anton (1883–1945, Austria)
Varèse, Edgard (1883–1965, France/USA)
Berg, Alban (1885–1935, Austria)
Martinů, Bohuslav (1890–1959, Czech Republic)
Honegger, Arthur (1892–1955, France/Switzerland)
Milhaud, Darius (1892–1974, France)
Mompou, Federico (1893–1987, Spain)
Gershwin, George (1898–1937, USA)
Poulenc, Francis (1899–1963, France)
Weill, Kurt (1900–1950, Germany)
Rodrigo, Joaquín (1901–1999, Spain)
Walton, William (1902–1983, England)
Tippett, Michael (1905–1998, England)
Messiaen, Olivier (1908–1992, France)
Barber, Samuel (1910–1981, USA)
Cage, John (1912–1992, USA)
Ginastera, Alberto (1916–1983, Argentina)
Bernstein, Leonard (1918–1990, USA)
Piazzolla, Astor (1921–1992, Argentina)

Contemporary/Late 20th- & Early 21st-Century (10)
Ligeti, György (1923–2006, Hungary/Austria)
Stockhausen, Karlheinz (1928–2007, Germany)
Sondheim, Stephen (b. 1930, USA)
Takemitsu, Tōru (1930–1996, Japan)
Penderecki, Krzysztof (b. 1933, Poland)
Riley, Terry (b. 1935, USA)
Pärt, Arvo (b. 1935, Estonia)
Reich, Steve (b. 1936, USA)
Glass, Philip (b. 1937, USA)
Adams, John (b. 1947, USA)

Since I was being something of a completist I've included all names with at least one popular or iconic work attached to it. So the likes of Allegri, Pachelbel, Lalo, Humperdinck, Dukas, Weill and Riley are on the list, even though they wouldn't crack my all-time top 100 and might indeed rank below some of the near misses unlisted here. This will be an ongoing project till the end of time, so feel free to make suggestions or criticisms as you see fit.

You're welcome. :cool:
Amazing list! You know your music, Sir!
Agree on Bach, big 3 and almost everything else.
I'd have Vivaldi much higher, one of my personal "feel good" faves. Probably Mussorgsky a bit higher too...

Sent from my SM-G965W using Tapatalk
 
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I have Bach and Mozart sharing the throne. Bach was more fun to play for me on piano back in elementary music school and sounds better on guitar which I'm playing now. I have soft spot for composers for lute, guitar and similar string instruments, Carulli, Auguado, Sanz, Giuliani, Sor, Carcassi, Corbetta, de Visee etc. Currently exploring the Renaissance period and it fantastic what those composers were coming up with then. Classical music is kind of proof of spiritual devolving of humanity imo.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
Grazie mille for your thumbs-up! I'm glad some of y'all found the list worthwhile!

Now some housekeeping:

One of the best comments ever posted on TTW. Thank you for sharing your wide wisdom on the topic with an extremelly big and accurate list. What I like about your list is that, as you knew that 50 is a relatively small number, you extended its size with over 130 honorable mentions. In your roughly top 200 list, you include almost every single historically relevant classical music composer to ever be born. Thanks again.
Yes, I didn't wanna leave out anyone significant and the list will be continuing to grow and undergo many changes and revisions. Feel free to chime in anytime!

Amazing list! You know your music, Sir!
Agree on Bach, big 3 and almost everything else.
I'd have Vivaldi much higher, one of my personal "feel good" faves. Probably Mussorgsky a bit higher too...
As you might have noticed I do hold Vivaldi in very high esteem indeed thanks to his operas many of which are only recently being rediscovered. Ditto Handel. Practically nothing about the ranking/list is set in stone except maybe for the top 3-4. Bach, Mozart and Beethoven are truly laws unto themselves and I don't see anyone overtaking Handel for the "vice" spot as the rest of the Immortals' oeuvres except maybe Haydn's are more or less open books.

I have Bach and Mozart sharing the throne. Bach was more fun to play for me on piano back in elementary music school and sounds better on guitar which I'm playing now. I have soft spot for composers for lute, guitar and similar string instruments, Carulli, Auguado, Sanz, Giuliani, Sor, Carcassi, Corbetta, de Visee etc. Currently exploring the Renaissance period and it fantastic what those composers were coming up with then. Classical music is kind of proof of spiritual devolving of humanity imo.
More of the neglected classical guitar is always welcome! And good calls on Sanz and Giuliani. Not sure actually how I missed the latter, but will be including him in my next update.
 
I have Bach and Mozart sharing the throne. Bach was more fun to play for me on piano back in elementary music school and sounds better on guitar which I'm playing now. I have soft spot for composers for lute, guitar and similar string instruments, Carulli, Auguado, Sanz, Giuliani, Sor, Carcassi, Corbetta, de Visee etc. Currently exploring the Renaissance period and it fantastic what those composers were coming up with then. Classical music is kind of proof of spiritual devolving of humanity imo.
I like early music (middle ages, renaissance, and so forth.) There is some incredibly beautiful music for those instruments you mentioned. I have been listening to Luys de Narvaez's Los Seys Libros del Delphin de Musica and I've been hooked for the last few days. For example, listen to the piece that starts at 11:09 in the video below. There is a vital urge, a passion, and poignancy that the music has captured and been transported and bequeathed unto us through the almost 500 years (half a millenium) since this was composed. Amazing!


There is a lot of wonderful sacred music also from the middle ages and renaissance.
 
As for naming a GOAT composer, it's just too tough. I could probably tell you composers who aren't GOATs, but to pick a GOAT is too difficult, especially because they composed in different eras and had a different competition, no?

Just kidding, but not really. I go more by specific works I like. I might listen to Narvaez above right now, later do some Mahler, then some Beethoven, tomorrow morning some Bach followed by some Berg or some Debussy, and so forth. Anyone who loves music realizes that there is no point in human history that would have been better to be born in than nowadays (notwithstanding the fact that the Apocalypse and Global Extinction will probably happen next week, but I digress.)
 
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I like early music (middle ages, renaissance, and so forth.) There is some incredibly beautiful music for those instruments you mentioned. I have been listening to Luys de Narvaez's Los Seys Libros del Delphin de Musica and I've been hooked for the last few days. For example, listen to the piece that starts at 11:09 in the video below. There is a vital urge, a passion, and poignancy that the music has captured and been transported and bequeathed unto us through the almost 500 years (half a millenium) since this was composed. Amazing!


There is a lot of wonderful sacred music also from the middle ages and renaissance.
Coincidentally, I just listened to some Narvaez yesterday from that same YT video. His music is fantastic. 11:09 practically smells of middle ages. Dowland and Kapsberger are amazing too.


Listen to this Kapsberger's piece (I time stamped it) and the one after it. Is that rock, heavy metal, Nirvana, Metallica, Rolling Stones? Nothing new under the sun. :)


Also, if I had to make a big 3, I'd put Vivaldi before Beethoven.

 

NonP

Hall of Fame
Coincidentally, I just listened to some Narvaez yesterday from that same YT video....
Dowland's lute music is easily among the most gorgeous ever written - listening to his (near) complete works as interpreted by Anthony Rooley and the Consort of Musicke has gotta be one of my most pleasurable experiences ever - but it's probably as one of the three greatest composers of British song (along with Purcell and Britten) that he left his most enduring legacy. Here's "In darkness let me dwell," justly considered one of the very finest songs in the English language:


But my all-time fave Dowland is none other than "Flow, my tears." I've probably never been as smitten with any other music as I was in college with Dowland's greatest hit, and when I say "smitten" I mean it quite literally - I'd lie in bed and play it on repeat while following the lyrics over and over like a hopelessly lovelorn boy. It's one of those rare works of art - like Monteverdi's madrigal Lamento della ninfa, another fave from my college days - which can be faulted for being too short:


Also I don't remember listening to an all-Kaspberger album before and that O'Dette (who's as usual his reliable self) one is indeed amazing. Thanks for that. Seriously thinking about adding him to the list!

And if you like bouncy Vivaldi that much there are other great candidates than the hackneyed Mandolin Concerto! I'm especially fond of the 5th "Paris" Concerto, or particularly its delectable 2nd Ciaccona movement which screams Venice! more than any other piece I know of:


I'd go with these +Stravinsky for The Big Four
No, it's Handel!

In all seriousness, I actually had Stravinsky ahead of Schumann in my original ranking but changed my mind later. I mean, how can you not tip your hat to Herr Robert after revisiting this cycle for the 146835th time:


Igor is a god in his own right, of course. I know you're a great admirer of The Rite of Spring (and I believe also The Firebird) but his most gorgeous ballet has gotta be Petrushka (with all due respect to Pulcinella):

 
But my all-time fave Dowland is none other than "Flow, my tears."
I'm not a fan of trained operatic singing in classical music. If I could hear a Bard himself sing it with (preferably) gravely voice, then maybe. If there's singing , I usually give it a pass. I'm fascinated what highly trained human voice is capable of, but still it's not pleasure to my ears. Flow My Tears is just too dramatic for my taste. Possibly I too could be smitten by it in time of great emotional distraught? We all have different tolerance for melancholy in different times I guess.
And if you like bouncy Vivaldi that much there are other great candidates than the hackneyed Mandolin Concerto! I'm especially fond of the 5th "Paris" Concerto, or particularly its delectable 2nd Ciaccona movement which screams Venice! more than any other piece I know of:
Hackneyed? Well, I like what I consider good. Don't care if it's famous, underappreciated or completely forgotten. Bouncy can be used to describe something forgettable or completely unique and noble. This particular mandolin concerto (C Maj RV 425) is not all Allegro Vivace aka Bouncy though. Largo part is quite wonderful and enriches the piece by giving it time to "breathe". However, I posted it mainly because it has plucked string instrument as a lead, not because I was nominating it for single greatest achievement of signore Antonio. That honor belongs belongs to hyper hackneyed "Four Seasons". :)

 

NonP

Hall of Fame
I'm not a fan of trained operatic singing in classical music. If I could hear a Bard himself sing it with (preferably) gravely voice, then maybe. If there's singing , I usually give it a pass. I'm fascinated what highly trained human voice is capable of, but still it's not pleasure to my ears. Flow My Tears is just too dramatic for my taste. Possibly I too could be smitten by it in time of great emotional distraught? We all have different tolerance for melancholy in different times I guess.
No problemo, you're certainly not the only one who feels that way. And if you think "Flow, my tears" is too dramatic I can see why you can't warm to opera!

Hackneyed? Well, I like what I consider good. Don't care if it's famous, underappreciated or completely forgotten. Bouncy can be used to describe something forgettable or completely unique and noble. This particular mandolin concerto (C Maj RV 425) is not all Allegro Vivace aka Bouncy though. Largo part is quite wonderful and enriches the piece by giving it time to "breathe". However, I posted it mainly because it has plucked string instrument as a lead, not because I was nominating it for single greatest achievement of signore Antonio. That honor belongs belongs to hyper hackneyed "Four Seasons". :)

Oh don't get me wrong, I meant "hackneyed" only in the sense it's played very often! Didn't mean to say it's bad. Hell, last year I invoked the H-word while referring to Handel's sublime "Ombra mai fù" (though TBF I was talking more about its use in cinema) but in fact I was about to say quite the opposite for Daniela Vega's soulful rendition in A Fantastic Woman:


(I know you just said you don't care for the singing which in this case is barely better than competent, but you should understand my enthusiasm if you've seen the film and particularly its lovely ending.)

As for the Red Priest's best work, hard to argue with The Four Seasons and one could go for the Gloria too, but my personal fave is his lesser-known Stabat Mater (yeah I know it's another one for the voices, sue me):

 
As for the Red Priest's best work, hard to argue with The Four Seasons and one could go for the Gloria too, but my personal fave is his lesser-known Stabat Mater (yeah I know it's another one for the voices, sue me):

That one is actually very listenable for me, thank you. It's not that I can't enjoy any opera, but I'm very picky of the color of the voice.
 

NonP

Hall of Fame
That one is actually very listenable for me, thank you. It's not that I can't enjoy any opera, but I'm very picky of the color of the voice.
Prego! And again gotcha regarding your particular taste in vocal timbre! If you aren't completely immune to the felicities of the (operatic) human voice and worship Vivaldi so much I strongly suggest you begin exploring his operas. As I said upthread I'm still working my way through Naïve's Vivaldi Edition, but I've heard enough and it's really his obscure theatrical works that earned him a top 30 spot on my list, even higher than Purcell who's my 3rd fave Baroque composer after Bach and Handel. La verità in cimento was a particular revelation for me:

 

SystemicAnomaly

Talk Tennis Guru
...

No, it's Handel!

In all seriousness, I actually had Stravinsky ahead of Schumann in my original ranking but changed my mind later. I mean, how can you not tip your hat to Herr Robert after revisiting this cycle for the 146835th time:


Igor is a god in his own right, of course. I know you're a great admirer of The Rite of Spring (and I believe also The Firebird) but his most gorgeous ballet has gotta be Petrushka (with all due respect to Pulcinella):

Thanks for the Petrushka. While Le Sacre du printemps and The Firebird are my favorites from Igor, I also admire Petrushka. Have seen it live as a ballet (in Oakland) and as a symphonic piece (SF Symphony). While I recognize Beethoven as one of The Big 3, I actually listen to Stravinsky and Vivaldi a fair amount more than Ludwig.

Note really a huge fan of Schumann or Romantic era music, in general. Sure, grew up with Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Chopin, Rossini, Brahms, Liszt, Wagner, Schumann, Smetana and others -- thanks to cartoons, Disney's Fantasia and recordings of the Boston Pops. But don't listen to much Romantic era music these days except for Mussorgsky, Wagner and Beethoven.

Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky are favorites.
 
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NonP

Hall of Fame
Thanks for the Petrushka. While Le Sacre du printemps and The Firebird are my favorites from Igor, I also admire Petrushka. Have seen it live as a ballet (in Oakland) and as a symphonic piece (SF Symphony). While I recognize Beethoven as one of The Big 3, I actually listen to Stravinsky and Vivaldi a fair amount more than Ludwig.

Note really a huge fan of Schumann or Romantic era music, in general. Sure, grew up with Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Chopin, Rossini, Brahms, Liszt, Wagner, Schumann, Smetana and others -- thanks to cartoons, Disney's Fantasia and recordings of the Boston Pops. But don't listen to much Romantic era music these days except for Mussorgsky, Wagner and Beethoven.

Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky are favorites.
Ain't nothing wrong with preferring certain composers and/or musics! I'm surprised, though, at the number of mentions Vivaldi has been garnering here. I knew Antonio was popular with laymen but not quite to this degree.

Stravinksy's orchestration throughout his ballets is truly something, and in this department he's indeed one of the precious few who can challenge his beloved Tchaikovsky and his teacher Rimsky-Korsakov. But then the 20th century also had Mahler, Debussy, Strauss (he of the 2001 piece, not the waltzes though Johann wasn't half bad himself), Ravel, Respighi, Bartok, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and less famous guys like Villa-Lobos (it's largely due to his masterful orchestration that I rate him so high), Korngold and Takemitsu who knew their way with the orchestra. Talk about an embarrassment of riches!

If I had to pick one absolute fave, though, it'd be Ravel, particularly his masterpiece Daphnis et Chloé which since its debut in 1912 has been the envy and nightmare of every orchestrator at all levels:


This olla-vogala guy who posted this vid goes a bit over the top in his praise, but he's not exaggerating much when he says "whole shelves of orchestration textbooks could be eliminated without loss by simply replacing them with an astute examination of this score." If you thought Maurice's orchestral treatment of Pictures at an Exhibition (hey your fave!) was as good as it gets, prepare to be dazzled even more.
 
Prego! And again gotcha regarding your particular taste in vocal timbre! If you aren't completely immune to the felicities of the (operatic) human voice and worship Vivaldi so much I strongly suggest you begin exploring his operas. As I said upthread I'm still working my way through Naïve's Vivaldi Edition, but I've heard enough and it's really his obscure theatrical works that earned him a top 30 spot on my list, even higher than Purcell who's my 3rd fave Baroque composer after Bach and Handel. La verità in cimento was a particular revelation for me:
I hardly find time to listen to music for fun and relaxation these days. When I do it mostly guitar. Something like this, for example:

 
Coincidentally, I just listened to some Narvaez yesterday from that same YT video. His music is fantastic. 11:09 practically smells of middle ages. Dowland and Kapsberger are amazing too.


Listen to this Kapsberger's piece (I time stamped it) and the one after it. Is that rock, heavy metal, Nirvana, Metallica, Rolling Stones? Nothing new under the sun. :)


Also, if I had to make a big 3, I'd put Vivaldi before Beethoven.

Thank you, I will listen to this later or tomorrow.
 

kramer woodie

Professional
I like Chop-In, but enjoy a 20th century composer piano player Sergei Rachmaninoff more! I like the piano player the most even though no one to this day I have heard of can play every darn last note of the 2nd or 3rd Concertos. Many have said his hands were so big he had an advantage. Sounds just like tennis excuses to me, "players being too tall".

I also have a liking for the Billy Strayhorn's of the world. Imagine a 16 year old composing not only the music, but also the lyrics to "Lush Life" and on short notice invited to an audition using the direction to get there to write "Take the "A" Train".

Also, must include Steve Vai, when auditioning for Zappa, Zappa ask Vai to play something on the 25th fret, Vai did and got hired as a teenager.
If you don't play a guitar ask somebody who does about playing on the 25 fret.

My list could go on and on, but I will stop with the above.

Shalom
 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
@Gary Duane end this once and for all.
OK. I talk about this every day in lessons, so here goes:

Classical music, with a big C, is already a limiting box that people use to try to hem in composers. But if we talk about the traditional Classical period, Mozart is king, with Haydn #2. I believe almost any musician on the planet will agree. Haydn wrote some REALLY cool stuff, but there is only one Mozart.

Then you have to go backward and forward. JS Bach was so much better than anyone else in the Baroque period that he just stands out. Out of all his thousands of compositions, I don't know more than a fraction, but the moment something of his comes on a station, I know it's him. What he did he just did better than anyone else. To this day people all round the world study his counterpoint, and that includes jazz musicians. But in that period you have to give honorable mention to Handel. His lyrics sort of sucked. ;)

Then forward: Beethoven was a force of nature and is generally described as a bridge, more Classical in form but probably the first true Romantic in that he wanted to write only what he wanted to write, when he felt like it, and in the style that seemed right to him. There is a reason why so many people love Beethoven.

I would not think of weighing those three against each other because they were all from different eras and obeyed different rules. Mozart and Beethoven are a lot closer than most people think in terms of power, drama and sheer originality, but Mozart (unfortunately) was not only older but also died much younger. He was dead in 1791, and Beethoven lived to 1827. I have to look up the dates every time because my memory for dates is crap, but he was around 36 years longer, and music evolved quickly, always has. Mozart was only about 14 years older, so if he had lived to age 70, God only know what he could have written by then. If you compare Beethoven and Mozart in the same year, comparing the last things Mozart wrote, he was right there with Beethoven in writing music that was in every way revolutionary. Think about this: he wrote his last symphony, the Jupiter Symphony, in 1788. What did Beethoven write about then? He did not finish his first symphony until 1801, 13 years later. His earliest sketches seem to be from around 1785.

So take a few minutes to compare these. I would never say that either one of these geniuses is better than the other, but note the Beethoven wrote his symphony in the same key.

Mozart's last symphony, last movement. Gardiner uses period instruments, so pick someone else for a more modern recording.


By the way, every great composer steals. Crappy composers steal badly, the best ones take old ideas and create new miracles. At times I can hear the Brahms 1st Symphony in this, the last movement, and I'd wager he knew this very well.

Beethoven's first symphony, and remember Beethoven had 13 years of instrument changes to jump on, meaning he already had a huge advantage re instrument revolution.

 

Gary Duane

G.O.A.T.
Now, I've probably bored the crap out of everyone, but you move forward from Beethoven and just about every decade introduces another genius. Right around 1810, a bit earlier or later, you have Chopin, Liszt, Schumann, Verdi and God only knows who I just left out. Schubert was a frightening genius, so I think of him sort of bridging Beethoven and that 1810 group. Then it just keeps going and going. I would never compare composers from different eras, so pitting Bach against Tchaikovsky against Stravinsky is pointless. But if you want to get people to listen to the old guys, all insanely popular composers in their own times, you want to point out some genius composing right now, so one example of a young guy, just fully coming into his own right now. He was still 22 when he became a two-time Grammy winner. I never know what he is going to do next, and this is at least closest to his most recent.


He was still 22 when he became a two-time Grammy winner.
 
Even tho he had short, stubby little fingers, Segovia was a truly outstanding talent on the guitar.
His fingers were on the shorter side but their look was accentuated by a professional deformation even more. Fingers gain muscle from constant practice and it only goes to width. So relatively normal hand will after many years of practice be much thicker. It is actually an advantage for a guitar player in few ways to have shorter and wider fingers because it's much easier to hold barre chords with wide finger (multiple strings with one finger) and shorter fingers are capable of achieving greater speed. Practice also develops elasticity so reaching across the fingerboard is not a problem even if fingers are not long.

His fingers look very chubby in his later years:



But not so much when he was young:

 
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