Tommasini’s Top-10 Classical Composers – See the List

New York Times music critic Anthony Tommasini has ranked the greatest classical composers of all time. We listen, and ask how.

Russian composer Igor Stravinsky poses in Boston Jan. 12, 1944. (AP)

Anthony Tommasini is as refined and delicately tuned and nuanced a music critic as you will ever find.

But the chief classical music critic for the New York Times had a rough idea: to rank the greatest classical music composers of the age; to take the geniuses of opera, symphony, sonata – and give us the same kind of top ten list we make for Lady Gaga, Jay-Z, Pit Bull, T-Pain.

Readers responded:  “stupid, vulgar, insane.” He did it anyway. And it’s pretty interesting. Here’s a clue:  Bach rocks.

-Tom Ashbrook


Anthony Tommasini, classical music critic for the New York Times. Read his article, “The Greatest,” and watch his videos on Bach, Beethoven, and more.

Tommasini’s list:

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)

Here’s On Point’s “playlist” for this show. This is music that host Tom Ashbrook, guest Anthony Tommasini, and producer Pien Huang have cued up in coordination — we try to get to them all:

Music for “Top 10 Composers” with A. Tommasini

Billboard:  BEETHOVEN‘s 6 Bagatelles, Op.126: 1. Andante Con Moto

Script: MOZART’s Overture, “The Marriage of Figaro.”  By the Vienna Philharmoniker & Claudio Abbado.

A Segment

BACH’s Prelude & Fugue No. 9 In E Major, BWV 854: Prelude, by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould

BARTOK’s String Quartet Number Three, First Movement: BB 93.  Performed by Amati Quartet (1995)

WAGNER’s Prelude to Die Walküre, Preformed by the Kassel State Theatre Orchestra (Roberto Paternostro, conductor, 2007)

B Segment

VERDI’s Falstaff, Act One, Scene One: Falstaff! Olà! (Dr. Caio/Falstaff/Bardolfo/Pistola)

BRAHMS’s Second Piano Concerto in B Flat Major, First Movement, Op. 83.  Performed by the Asturias Symphony Orchestra; with Jorge Federico Osorio (piano), Vladimir Atapin (cello), and Maximiano Valdes (conductor) (2003)

STRAVINSKY’s Symphony of Psalms, Movement Three (Alleluia).  Performed by the Warsaw Philharmonic Choir & Orchestra; with Igor Stravinsky (conductor, 1965).

DEBUSSY’s La Terrasse des Audiences du Claire de Lune

DEBUSSY’s Claire de Lune, performed by the Spanish pianist Joaquín Achúcarro.

C Segment

SCHUBERT’s “Im Dorfe” from the Winterreise Song Cycle: Opus 89, D. 911.  Performed by Ronald Dowd, tenor & John Winther, piano (1991)

MOZART’s “Jupiter” Symphony #41 In C, K 551, “Jupiter” – 2. Andante Cantabile.  By Claudio Abbado & the London Symphony Orchestra.

BEETHOVEN’s String Quartet Number Twelve in E Flat Major, First Movement: Opus 127, Performed by the Berlin Philharmonia Quartet (1997).

BACH’s Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 – Kyrie: Kyrie Eleison (opening).

BACH’s Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 – Credo: Et Expecto.  Performed by the Netherlands Chamber Choir and the Orchestra of the 18th Century, conducted by Frans Bruggen.

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