It's about time to make the hard choices for Norm's latest poll – "top classical composers of all time". I've already offered a long list of eleven here so now I have to get serious. In coming to a final decision I've been guided by my experiences and joys both of listening and playing (piano and violin in a previous life). Somehow there's no place for Mozart, Schubert, Chopin, Debussy, Bartók and Stravinsky. So here goes, in ranking order and with some brief notes:
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827). The towering genius of classical music – an extraordinary visionary living through a revolutionary age that is reflected in the music. Must listen: Late String Quartets, Piano Sonata Op. 106 (Hammerklavier), Symphony No. 7.
- Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). He bridged nineteenth-century romanticism and the new classicism with their austere and dark textures. The seven symphonies are simply astounding. Must listen: Symphonies No. 5 and No. 6.
- Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750). His output embraced almost every musical genre of his time and opened up new dimensions of technical and artistic complexity. Must listen: Goldberg Variations and Sonatas and Partitas for Violin.
- Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975). He tried to reconcile the musical revolutions of his time and give voice to revolutionary socialism. Must listen: Symphony no. 13 (Babi Yar) and String Quartets.
- Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643). He made the breakthrough in harmonic form and wrote in a multiplicity of styles from secular madrigals to opera. Must listen: Vespers of 1610 and Orfeo.