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Thread: Bach, Mozart and Beethoven

  1. #16
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    How many other composers would I utter in the same breath? Oh dear me. Could I try it with three breaths?

    Albeniz
    Tchaikovsky
    Haydn
    Handel
    Scriabin
    Poulenc
    Honneger
    Grieg
    Wagner
    Alkan
    Mussorgsky
    Smetana
    Janacek
    Sibelius
    Bruckner
    Feinberg
    Schoenberg
    Gershwin
    Joplin
    Medtner
    Mendelssohn
    Brahms
    Froberger
    Sammartini....

    I really don't see the difference. There aren't just a few Greats; There are many of them.
    "Your mathematics are correct, but your physics are abominable..." Einstein

  2. #17
    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by StlukesguildOhio View Post
    Wagner, Schubert, Brahms, Haydn, Handel would all certainly precede Tchaikovsky... after that...? All bets are off.
    Certainly???

    My wife (Hot_townPhilly) would strenuously disagree with the sentiment that the above-mentioned quintet of composers are somehow obviously better than Tchaikovsky. And you know what? Except for Wagner(), I'm not inclined to argue with her.
    The hardest knife ill us'd doth lose his edge. Shakespeare- Sonnet 95

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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Much or all of what Bach, Handel, Haydn, Mozart etc. composed are accessible to us modern folks, as were to their audiences (with the possible exception of some of Bach's "musical science" pieces). There is nothing elitist, bombastic, "hey, look at me", type of approach in their music. They didn't get out of their beds each day thinking "what shall I compose today that will be completely revolutionary for posterity, given that Mr. X composed a particular piece of such quality before me", but they usually wrote a piece for a scheduled evening's entertainment or for commission to get paid to pay bills, or as a CV piece as a job application; pragmatic considerations along the way, and they just happened to be geniuses too, which helped! There is also a consistency of quality in their works.

    With many of the Romantic and beyond composers, you often read of them tearing up/destroying their own works because it wasn't good enough in their own minds. Many wanted to write an equivalent to Beethoven's ninth, or a piano concerto that was better than Mr X's. Or let's do away with recitatives and write a 15 hour long series of operas. Such thinking probably made the music less accessible, as a means of seeking new originality. Handel did not break new grounds in terms of developing a new genre or form, but wrote music of great uplifting quality based on existing styles and forms of his day; he basically "got on with composing".
    I was just thinking something similar to this about "2nd tier" composers following Beethoven, people like Franck, Grieg, Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov. These were mostly work-a-day composers that were just trying to write solid attractive music. And they were pretty darn good at it.

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    It's just kind of common sense or such things.You can have your own greatest composers regardless of whether they are accepted as greatest by the general public.As to why they are widely high-valued,I think it must be the amount of their masterpieces.One could probably compose great compositions such as Pachelbel's canon in d , but their other compositons may be meaningless.

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    Senior Member emiellucifuge's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmisho View Post
    I was just thinking something similar to this about "2nd tier" composers following Beethoven, people like Franck, Grieg, Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov. These were mostly work-a-day composers that were just trying to write solid attractive music. And they were pretty darn good at it.
    I cant tell whether this is a compliment or a serious offence to their spiritual and emotional creativity.

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    Quote Originally Posted by emiellucifuge View Post
    I cant tell whether this is a compliment or a serious offence to their spiritual and emotional creativity.
    Most artists in any genre are not particularly committed to maintaining a reputation as cutting-edge. They are artists and they do art. A lot of archetypal lasting work, the bulk of what defines a genre or period, exists here in what I'm thinking of as the workhorses of the time.

  7. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by Polednice View Post
    I was just reading an interview of Michael Tilson Thomas which prompted me to do a quick search of him on the internet. I came across a quotation attributed to him with which he expressed a much (too) familiar sentiment when asked about his favourite composers:



    Whatever each of our individual tastes may be, I think it's fairly undeniable that these three composers have achieved a certain, untouchable, God-like status. My question is not why them, but rather, why only them?

    This idea quite clearly suggests that nobody since Beethoven has ever reached the same heights as these three Titans. We know of a tremendous number of masterpieces by later composers; we call them geniuses and we listen to their works with the same feeling of awe, but does no one else qualify to be uttered in the same breath as being truly on par with these giants?

    It seems to me that these three composers, deserving as they may be of the esteem in which they are held, have been somewhat removed from their works and idolised as entities of their own. Even if one could make the academic argument that a later composer was just as good (if not better), it almost feels like blasphemy to voice such an opinion.

    Why? I get the impression that it's just too soon. What these three composers have on their side is a temporal distance - they stand as looming figures in history that we cannot reasonably challenge. Later composers are perhaps just a bit too close. Maybe in the next century we'll comfortably tack on a fourth or fifth name to this mightily exclusive list...
    I see what you are saying, but I honestly believe there hasn't been a composer since Van Beethoven who has been as good. Tchaikovsky, Mendelsohn, and a couple of others may come close but Beethoven's 5th, 3rd, 6th, and 9th symphonies, Für Elise, Moonlight.., and so on are the pinnacles of musical brilliance and have earned him a deserved legacy (even if he is a bit fortunate to be mentioned in the same breath as Bach and Mozart.)

    As for the two I just mentioned, everything they put on paper was magic. They were like aliens from a different planet.

    Personally, I would include Handel with these 3 masters.
    Arnold had 12 pickles in his Schoenburger

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    Smile Regarding MTT on Bach, Mozart, Beethoven

    My nomination is:

    Gustav Mahler; Stravinsky; Arnold Schoenberg

    Hank Z.
    Aptos, California; USA
    Last edited by Chi_townPhilly; Jan-15-2010 at 23:15.

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    Under hanks' inspiration, it strikes me that the list has the character of The One Big Guy for each era...but what's missing?: the post-Romantic (I'll call it).

    Bach clearly is the winner of the baroque contest. No one else comes close. Indeed he approaches being the One Biggest Guy of All Time.

    In the Classical arena I would be tempted to nominate Haydn over Mozart. Sorry.

    Beethoven was the start of Romantic era (oversimplifying, of course). It would be rather sad if Romanticism never had a greater figure than the one who started it, as if Romanticism was a sort of one hit wonder of the age. But thinking about it, it is hard to come up with someone bigger. Mahler was influential and comes close, but was he really better than Beethoven? I don't know. Tchaikovsky comes close with a number of factors in his favor as an audience favorite and iconoclast with a sizable output.

    Now to post-Romantic or Modern. Schoenberg was definitely an important figure and a major influence on several generations of composers. Stravinsky though might have an edge as a better composer. Just about anyone can listen to the Firebird or Petrouchka and understand and enjoy them. His output was huge and diverse, eveything from Pulcinella to the Rite of Spring. I can't say the same for Schoenberg.

    So here's my list:
    JS Bach, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky

    And for best composer of all time: JS Bach

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    Quote Originally Posted by kmisho View Post
    Beethoven was the start of Romantic era (oversimplifying, of course). It would be rather sad if Romanticism never had a greater figure than the one who started it, as if Romanticism was a sort of one hit wonder of the age. But thinking about it, it is hard to come up with someone bigger. Mahler was influential and comes close, but was he really better than Beethoven? I don't know. Tchaikovsky comes close with a number of factors in his favor as an audience favorite and iconoclast with a sizable output.
    Beethoven certainly isn't Romantic enough to be champion of Romanticism. But, if we're going to assign somebody as the greatest figure of the Romantic period, then I'm afraid no one can argue with me, it simply has to be, without question, JOHANNES BRAHMS!

  11. #26
    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kmisho View Post
    Under hanks' inspiration, it strikes me that the list has the character of The One Big Guy for each era...but what's missing?: the post-Romantic (I'll call it).

    Bach clearly is the winner of the baroque contest. No one else comes close. Indeed he approaches being the One Biggest Guy of All Time.

    In the Classical arena I would be tempted to nominate Haydn over Mozart. Sorry.

    Beethoven was the start of Romantic era (oversimplifying, of course). It would be rather sad if Romanticism never had a greater figure than the one who started it, as if Romanticism was a sort of one hit wonder of the age. But thinking about it, it is hard to come up with someone bigger. Mahler was influential and comes close, but was he really better than Beethoven? I don't know. Tchaikovsky comes close with a number of factors in his favor as an audience favorite and iconoclast with a sizable output.

    Now to post-Romantic or Modern. Schoenberg was definitely an important figure and a major influence on several generations of composers. Stravinsky though might have an edge as a better composer. Just about anyone can listen to the Firebird or Petrouchka and understand and enjoy them. His output was huge and diverse, everything from Pulcinella to the Rite of Spring. I can't say the same for Schoenberg.

    So here's my list:
    JS Bach, Haydn, Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky

    And for best composer of all time: JS Bach
    I beg to differ once again. I give just as much credit to Sammartini, Frogberger, Handel, Haydn, Palestrina, Byrd, Dittersdorf, Boccherini, as Bach. Bach may be a popular name, but that doesn't earn him superiority. Suffice to say that doesn't mean that he isn't fantastic. But so many others are fantastic too. Opinions are like armpits, we all have them and they all smell. I could listen to Russian Avante Garde composers for an eternity, but that doesn't make them better. A composer isn't good because he/she is obscure, well respected, wrote more works, was full of different sized ponds and different sized ducks (that's a rather old saying, isn't it?), made progress, perfected the current ideas, or wrote complex works.

    A composer is great because he/she is a composer. Each contributes to something on a massive scope, and each has their respective part in it. As long as the composer earnestly contributes a set of good works, they deserve every bit as much credit as someone else who has done the same. You can't compare two entirely different things, and on a fundamental level (I don't mean to offend anyone) it is immoral to judge people on such a cold, calculating tier system.
    "Your mathematics are correct, but your physics are abominable..." Einstein

  12. #27
    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lukecash12 View Post
    I beg to differ once again. I give just as much credit to Sammartini, Frogberger, Handel, Haydn, Palestrina, Byrd, Dittersdorf, Boccherini, as Bach. Bach may be a popular name, but that doesn't earn him superiority. Suffice to say that doesn't mean that he isn't fantastic. But so many others are fantastic too. Opinions are like armpits, we all have them and they all smell. I could listen to Russian Avante Garde composers for an eternity, but that doesn't make them better. A composer isn't good because he/she is obscure, well respected, wrote more works, was full of different sized ponds and different sized ducks (that's a rather old saying, isn't it?), made progress, perfected the current ideas, or wrote complex works.

    A composer is great because he/she is a composer. Each contributes to something on a massive scope, and each has their respective part in it. As long as the composer earnestly contributes a set of good works, they deserve every bit as much credit as someone else who has done the same. You can't compare two entirely different things, and on a fundamental level (I don't mean to offend anyone) it is immoral to judge people on such a cold, calculating tier system.
    I think so too. All these discussions about "greatness" therefore, can only be a relative discussion at most. Bach and Handel are perfect examples. Both born in 1685 (also Domenico Scarlatti) but led very different lives and wrote different types of works during their careers. One wrote music for the glory of God, while the other wrote it for theatre. "Each contributed to something on a massive scope"; as you wrote and enriched the musical development of later composers. One can only assess the relative differences of their works, on a level that is already within greatness.

  13. #28
    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
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    I may be mistaken but I thought the idea behind this thread was why are Bach, Beethoven and Mozart seen as being the 3 greatest composers in the conciousness of the general public. With that in mind I can't see how you can argue against that. People who have no interest in classical music will at least have heard of one of them 3. And I'll wager if you were to poll everyone who listened to classical music and asked them their favourite composers, about 90% of people will mention one of them three.

    Maybe it's because Bach, Mozart and Beethoven transcend the divisions of the arts. They fit in nicely alongsided Shakespeare, da Vinci, Tolstoy, Michelangelo, Picasso and others of such magnitude. Do others attain this place?

    As for composers that are almost on their level I'd say Brahms belongs up there to complete's the 3 Great B's. Tchaikovsky, Haydn, Handel, Wagner, Stravinsky are all excellent and are among the greatest composers but many people will not be familiar with a lot of their output.

    As to why those 3 are considered better than all others may be because they are better than all others.

    I see what you are saying, but I honestly believe there hasn't been a composer since Van Beethoven who has been as good. Tchaikovsky, Mendelsohn, and a couple of others may come close but Beethoven's 5th, 3rd, 6th, and 9th symphonies, Für Elise, Moonlight.., and so on are the pinnacles of musical brilliance and have earned him a deserved legacy (even if he is a bit fortunate to be mentioned in the same breath as Bach and Mozart.)

    As for the two I just mentioned, everything they put on paper was magic. They were like aliens from a different planet.
    All I'm going to say is the best of old Ludwig van is better than the best of the other two, but the worst of Beethoven is worse than the worst of the other two. Therefore the main difference is consistency. I personally would rather listen to any Beethoven symphony over any of Mozart's. Some people like to traverse the Himalayas, whilst others like a summer stroll along the beach.

    If Bach and Mozart were aliens, then Beethoven was deeply human. Bach was concerned with achieving the spiritual through his music and writing for God, whereas Beethoven, in my mind, wrote only for himself and the art.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    A composer isn't good because he/she is obscure, well respected, wrote more works, was full of different sized ponds and different sized ducks (that's a rather old saying, isn't it?), made progress, perfected the current ideas, or wrote complex works.

    A composer is great because he/she is a composer. Each contributes to something on a massive scope, and each has their respective part in it. As long as the composer earnestly contributes a set of good works, they deserve every bit as much credit as someone else who has done the same. You can't compare two entirely different things, and on a fundamental level (I don't mean to offend anyone) it is immoral to judge people on such a cold, calculating tier system.


    When the moon is in the Seventh House
    And Jupiter aligns with Mars
    Then peace will guide the planets
    And love will steer the stars

    This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius
    The age of Aquarius
    Aquarius!
    Aquarius!

    Harmony and understanding
    Sympathy and trust abounding
    No more falsehoods or derisions
    Golden living dreams of visions
    Mystic crystal revalation
    And the mind's true liberation
    Aquarius!
    Aquarius!

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    polednice, lukecash and harpsichord make some great points. But still there is the presistence of the Big Three Bach, Mozart and Beethoven despite our more experienced and refined opinions.

    There is always the interesting problem of whether to call Beethoven romantic or classical. This brings up another question of why the heck are the top three guys selected from such a small range in time, c.1650 to c.1750. Whatever the answer, I think here lies the reason why we can use the term "classical music" to lump together composers as divergent as Buxtehude and Frank Zappa, which in just about any other arena would seem insane.

    And, also, why all from such a small part of the world? Any less myopic view would have to discard the notion that Germany in 1700 was The Pinnacle of Western Music.

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