New York Times music and food critic Anthony Tommasini is exploring the qualities that make a classical composer great, maybe even...the best! On January 21st, he will unveil his list of the top ten classical composers of all time. Period. The best. And none of them get a prize because they're dead. Tommasini describes the whole process as "absurd, of course, but fascinating." And we agree!
This sort of bold list-making is exactly what we expect from The New York Times. Composers such as Johannes Brahms, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and Ludwig Van Beethoven (to name just a few) are all long overdue for some well-deserved exposure to fans of notated music. As Johann Nikolaus Forkel recently wrote in his 1802 expose of composer Johann Sebastian Bach, "If the art is to remain an art and not to be degraded into a mere idle amusement, more use must be made of classical works than has been done for some time." That these great men could be so unfairly unrepresented in the mainstream world of music is not only a tragedy, but a clear indication of a conspiracy to bury the history of Western civilization - specifically that of Europe. Thankfully, there are radical papers like the New York Times and writers like Tommasini who are seeking to correct this imbalance. Tommasini writes: "I'm looking roughly at the era an undergraduate survey of Western civilization might define as modern history." Absolutely. Makes sense. Otherwise you'd have to consider that the majority of music made on this planet isn't even notated. Somewhere, we have to draw the line!