Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Favorite Composer?

One of the most difficult questions for me to answer is this:

"Who's your favorite composer?"

For some, it's easy. I know some folks who consider Bach the greatest composer of all time. And a few others who think it's Mozart. And they consider that composer to be the greatest because that's who they enjoy the most.

But it's more difficult for me, because I try to listen to each work in the aesthetic context it was written in. I'm not prepared to say that a Palestrina mass is better (or worse) than a Brahms piano sonata. Or that a Haydn symphony is superior to a Dowland lute song. Composers are partially bound by the resources and aesthetics of their day -- the ones that transcend those limitations and speak to us today are the truly great ones.

I have a selection of favorite composers, but I freely admit that not all of them are considered the "greatest," and no one composer matches my emotional need for music all of the time. Sometimes I like the over-caffeinated restlessness of Steve Reich's compositions. Other times the calm serenity of a Dufay mass fills the bill.

Beethoven may have written the greatest symphonies (according to many), but Alan Hovhaness' Symphony No. 2 "Mysterious Mountain" is a work I find consistently moving.

Maybe that's why "Gamut" is the type of show it is. I haven't found that one favorite composer yet, and so I keep looking.

No worries, though. Searching through the collected body of classical music from the past thousand years has been more than half the fun.

- Ralph


  1. Sometimes I think it's impossible for me to decide on a favorite, but at one point early in my blog, I wrote about Beethoven being my favorite composer.

    If I think too long, it gets more complicated than that, but I keep coming back to Beethoven as my overall favorite:

    (Mahler also came up as a favorite from one of our listeners/readers)

    Classically Speaking

  2. If push came to shove, I would have to admit that Ralph Vaughan Williams was my absolute favorite. I'm not claiming he's the greatest composer ever, just the one whose music most consistently speaks directly to me.