Posts Tagged ‘Stravinsky’

top 10 classical composers?

February 2, 2011

Who are the top ten classical composers – ever?

We all have our own lists, cultivated and groomed and backed up by reasons that are equally solid. It can be a quite a bit more challenging to describe why a big name composer didn’t make it onto your list.

Today’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook featured a conversation with Anthony Tommasini, the chief classical music critic for the New York Times, talking about his top ten list. Why no Tchaikovsky, or Vivaldi or Chopin? Tommasini has sound reasons for his decision on those names, and he talks a lot about that in the show. Not every caller on the show seemed convinced.

This is actually a question that was passed around among my fellow classical hosts and aficionados at Vermont Public Radio couple of weeks ago, when Tommasini’s article first appeared in the Times. There was general concensus on Mozart, Bach, and Beethoven. Most of also chose Wagner. After that – the lists included everyone from Chopin and Liszt to Projofiev, Haydn, Bartok and Mahler.

Who’s on your top ten list?

Here’s Tommasini’s:

1. Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

2. Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)

3. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 – 91)

4. Franz Peter Schubert (1797-1828)

5. Claude Achille Debussy (1862 – 1918)

6. Igor Stravinsky (1882 – 1971)

7. Johannes Brahms (1833 – 97)

8. Giuseppe Verdi (1813 – 1901)

9. Richard Wagner (1813 – 83)

10. Bela Bartok (1881 – 1945)

And here’s my list, in no special order:

– Bach, Mozart, Stravinsky, Haydn, Wagner, Beethoven, Schubert (those SONGS!), Bartok, Mahler & Monteverdi.

If I could choose a top fifteen, I would add Shostakovich, Handel, Debussy, Brahms and Mendelssohn. It’s impossible to create such a small list on someting as subjective as music and not leave someone important out. If I had twenty or thirty to choose, I’d have no trouble doing that either! (Dvorak, Schumann, Verdi, Puccini … stop me now…)

Leave a comment here with yours, love to see your picks.

what to play

April 28, 2010

Last Wednesday after catching opening night at the New York Philharmonic’s Stravinsky festival, I descended into the 66th street subway and was met with the sound of a saxophone playing the opening notes of Stravinsky’s Firebird ballet music. What a coincidence, I thought, of all the things he could have been playing – !

Several folks I was with who had also just heard the same piece played by the Philharmonic, remarked on the serendipity of it all and dropped dollar bills and coins into the young man’s open case. He continued playing, impassively keeping his eyes on the sheet music propped up in front of him.

The next night I left Lincoln Center again (this time following the new production of Rossini’s Armida, at the Metropolitan Opera), and heard the same familiar strains floating up to meet me on the subway stairs. It was my turn to drop a few coins in the young man’s sax case – partly for his artistry, but mostly in support of his shrewd busking savvy.

Gotta give it to him, he knew what people wanted to hear. That, too, is a big part of being a performing musician.

vcme winter concert: 2newtoo

February 6, 2010

This weekend is another adventurous outing with Vermont’s Contemporary Music Ensemble! Tonight’s winter concert includes two new works by two Vermont composers, Thomas Read and David Feurzeig. The program also includes The Consuming Bog by 17-year old Nicolas Chlebak (winner of the 2009 Vermont All State composer competition) and a work by VSO composer-in-residence, David Ludwig. The second half of the concert begins with pianist Michael Arnowitt performing a handful of of the Etudes for Piano by György Ligeti.

I went to VCME’s concert last night (same program) at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier – stay tuned for pictures and the recap!

vermont mozart festival @ the radiator, event #3

August 4, 2009
8/3/09 - Andrew Schwartz, as viewed through a segment of his own bassoon.

8/3/09 - Andrew Schwartz, as viewed through a segment of his own bassoon.

Even the largest orchestras, while they may may have a few dozen string players, rarely employ more than one or two full-time bassoonists.

“It has to come from a place of passion,” were the words of long experience from bassoonist Andrew Schwartz, when I asked what advice he gives his students on how to rise to the top as a performer on such a specialty instrument. He also emphasized the hard work, practice and tenacity aspects (oh, that!) of his own successful career.

8/3/09 - VT Mozart Festival Exec. Director Tim Riddle & bassoonist Andrew Schwartz

8/3/09 - VT Mozart Festival Exec. Director Tim Riddle & bassoonist Andrew Schwartz

Schwartz visited the Radiator yesterday for the grand finale in a series of three “Mondays with Mozart” this summer, in partnership with the Vermont Mozart Festival. He’s a regular performer with the Festival, and has a featured role in the concert coming up this Friday (playing Mozart’s only remaining Bassoon Concerto).

As the Burlington Yoga Studio filled with listeners and late afternoon sunlight, Schwartz opened the session by handing out pieces of his bassoon. Yes, segment by segment, the instrument was dispersed throughout the room to amused audience members who hesitantly accepted them, turning the burnished pieces over and over and glancing at each other with some puzzlement.

Schwartz explained, “I always like to hand out the pieces of my bassoon. It really shows people, it’s just a bunch of sticks!” Then as quickly as he had distributed them he collected the parts, assembled them, and launched a lively and entertaining session that included famous bassoon highlights from Dukas’ The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Stravinsky’s haunting opening to The Rite of Spring, and – of course – “Grandpa’s” voice from Peter and the Wolf.

Just a bunch of sticks? So are chopsticks and pencils. And toothpicks, for that matter. They sure don’t sound like that.


(“World of Music” returns from summer hiatus on Monday, August 17th, starting at 3pm EDT. Listen online at The Radiator, or in Burlington, VT at 105.9FM.)

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