I am totally fascinated by Anthony Tommasini's search for the top 10 composers.
I don't know why.
"He is greater"
Richard Strauss said of Jean Sibelius
This begs the question, what is compositional "greatness"? In Strauss's mind it was something more than skill. That doesn't really make it fair, does it?
We understand that composers are born with a certain amount of God-given (or St.-Cecilia-given, take your pick) talent, but are they also imbued with "greatness"? And, if so, does this skill have any bearing on "greatness"?
And if composers are able to study music and hone their craft, are they also able to increase their "greatness" quotient?
Bach was tremendously skilled, and also "great". His music conveys more than technical mastery. There is a depth of feeling, a certain rhetorical pathos in much of Bach's music. How did he achieve both of these feats?
This is all speculative and theoretical, and that's what makes it fun, I guess.
But I do know one thing: if Strauss ranks higher than Sibelius on your list, you had better try again.
Labels: Bach, Jean Sibelius, NYT
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