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cubozoa's avatar

Who is the greatest composer?

Asked by cubozoa (1198points) January 26th, 2011

A journalist for the New York times has recently compiled a top 10 greatest composer list:
1 Bach
2 Beethoven
3 Mozart
4 Schubert
5 Debussy
6 Stravinsky
7 Brahms
8 Verdi
9 Wagner
10 Bartók

So, what do you jellies make of this? Who would you have included? Who is out of place in this list?

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30 Answers

cockswain's avatar

I like Beethoven best of all. I find his music to be more passionate than Bach’s. Also, I think Chopin needs to be on that list. I personally consider him better than Bartok and Verdi.

nellybar's avatar

I’m surprised Bartok is there…But I agree with the top 4.
Where’s Vivaldi?

nellybar's avatar

@cockswain I agree that Chopin should be on the list.

absalom's avatar

Call me a prole, but I feel Shostakovich should be on there somewhere.

Bach is an obvious first pick.

cubozoa's avatar

@absalom I am quite fond of Shostakovich too. If I was going to pick a Russian for my top ten, it probably wouldn’t be Stravinsky!

filmfann's avatar

On the list: Mozart
Off the list: George Gershwin

marinelife's avatar

Where is Handel? I think he deserves a place.

etignotasanimum's avatar

I agree with @filmfann about Mozart and Gershwin. I’ve loved Gershwin since I was really young, and I’m fairly surprised he didn’t make the list.

jazmina88's avatar

Shostakovich, for sure
and since we are going 20th century American, Bernstein!!

Kardamom's avatar

I think Bach is #1 and Mozart is #2 and I agree that Chopin and Handel should be on there. For a modern composer, I would put John Williams on this list. And if you aren’t simply talking about classical music, I don’t see how you could leave Lennon and McCartney off the list. And possibly Scott Joplin and George Gershwin.

Earthgirl's avatar

Definitely add Chopin, definitely. I love the Russians, so keep Stravinsky and add Tchaikovsky. I am no classical music expert but I believe IMHO he deserves to be there for Nutcracker and Swan Lake alone. Ditto Puccini for Nessun Dorma.

Kardamom's avatar

@Earthgirl You’re so right about Tchaikovsky! And I might like to throw John Phillip Souza into the mix too.

Cruiser's avatar

Steve Morse….that journalist needs to get out of the ancient past!!

DominicX's avatar

Um…where the hell is Tchaikovsky? This list is an insult! ;)

But seriously, Tchaikovsky should definitely be there. I might drop Stravinsky and Bartok in favor of Tchaikovsky and Saint-Saens, but that’s just me…

cockswain's avatar

Tchaikovsky was a surprise for me too, but it could be because, despite a few excellent pieces, IMO he produced a lot of mediocre stuff. Not all mediocre, but a lot.

I’ve played classical piano for 30 years and somehow have never heard of Saint-Saens. Can you recommend something impressive?

DominicX's avatar


lol if you don’t mind telling me, what mediocre pieces of Tchaikovsky are you referring to? (I might be able to say that Tchaikovsky is my favorite composer, so I’m always curious to hear criticism of him).

Saint-Saens is most famous for the Danse Macabre, Carnival of the Animals, Organ Symphony, his violin concerti, and his 5 piano concerti. Here’s the finale of his Organ Symphony:

cockswain's avatar

I’d have to do a decent amount of research to dig out opus numbers of pieces I played through that I found slightly tedious. I suppose I’m judging him mainly for piano works, since I was more intimately involved with those. I do like Chanson Triste.

I’m not discounting him. As I said, I’m surprised he didn’t make the list and was guessing why the critics omitted him. Obviously Swan Lake was a significant accomplishment, as well as his sixth? symphony. I’m not well-versed in his violin concertos, even though I’ve heard several of them.

That Organ Symphony sounds familiar. I’ll download some of his stuff and put it on my iPod.

DominicX's avatar


Do you know any names? I actually haven’t even heard Chanson Triste, so I probably don’t know too much Tchaikovsky piano music, but I do know a few works. Have you played any of Tchaikovsky’s piano concerti?

(Also, the 6th and 4th are usually regarded as his greatest symphonies, along with his one violin concerto, the serenade for strings, his other ballets, and more).

cockswain's avatar

I don’t know names, sorry. I played piano concerto #1. One of the first pieces I played of his (after Nutcracker) and he was my favorite composer for a while after that.

In the process of finding which concerto that was just now, I listened to other works. I’ve been reminded of his genius, and I like him way better than Bartok.

The Serenade of Strings reminded me of Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings (in title only). I haven’t heard anything else my him. Was he a one hit wonder, or did he do other good stuff?

DominicX's avatar

Tchaikovsky was anything but a one-hit wonder! To my knowledge, his most popular pieces are: The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, Romeo and Juliet Overture, Serenade for Strings, Marche Slave, Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Symphony No. 6 in B minor “Pathetique”, Capriccio Italien, Piano Concerto No. 1 in Bb minor, 1812 Overture, and so on and so forth…

cockswain's avatar

I know that. I was asking you about Barber.

DominicX's avatar

Oh whoops… :\ Damn. This is when I wish you could delete posts…

I don’t know much about Barber, though, sorry…

cubozoa's avatar

So, everyone is happy with Debussy at No.5? I don’t see any comments about him!

marinelife's avatar

I agree with you about deleting Debussy. (We can replace him with Chopin.)

Another one that I might add is Scarlatti.

Kardamom's avatar

@marinelife Ok, so now I’ve never heard of Scarlatti (Barber or Saint-Saens) Guess I’ll be checking out itunes tonight!

marinelife's avatar

Here is one of my favorite Scarlatti Sonatas.

cockswain's avatar

Barber’s Adagio for Strings was featured in the movie Platoon. I think it was the piece playing when Willem Dafoe’s character is being killed.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, Bach is number one. Right now our choir is rehearsing St John Passion. Makes your health melt.

Kardamom's avatar

How did Johann Strauss escape this list? His name is synoymous with the waltz.

Hey @mattbrowne Have you ever heard of a British boys choir called Libera? I got one of their CD’s called Angel Voices awhile back and it blew me away. I think you might enjoy it.

Here are a few selections from that CD. Going Home, Stay With Me and Adoramus

mattbrowne's avatar

@Kardamom – Yes. I actually own several Libera CDs, including Angel Voices. Yes, absolutely wonderful. I also like their John Rutter and Gabriel Fauré pieces.

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