Narrowly missing the top 10 are the likes of Mendelssohn, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and of course Bach, among other minor figures who I greatly love a few selected works of such as Bortkiewicz, Prokofiev, Godowsky etc.
Also I feel it’s worth mentioning that some of us have composers who we would rank among our top 10 but would never place among the ‘objective greatest’ composers.
That’s why Bowen makes my list, I just absolutely love his sound world and harmonic language. It’s really special to me, and I would actually contend that he did write the occasional masterpiece, just not enough to be considered a ‘great’ composer.
I suppose the same could be said for Alkan - but I’d contend that his 5 greatest works place him among the greats. He wasn’t totally consistent though.
Medtner I’d put up there as one of the true ‘greats’, objectively. He was so damn consistently amazing. MANY masterpieces.
Yeah, obviously there’s a “favourite” v “best” issue. If we’re talking purely on the basis of 88 music, though, I’m not completely convinced Alkan isn’t top 10. I firmly believe the Symphonie is one of the greatest works written for the instrument, and likewise Festin one of the best variation sets.
I think there are two things about loving a composer :
1 - Loving their musical language.
2 - Loving what they say with it.
I love Scriabin’s musical language far more than I enjoy the fundamental harmonic of a composer like Schubert. But what Schubert SAID within his language is just incredible.
Same goes for Beethoven - I don’t particularly like Classical era musical language but he transcended it and made some of the best music ever written - even for people who don’t particularly dig the soundworld of that era.
It does make you wonder what the exact same composer would have composed if they were born in a different ere…What would Schubert have written as a baroque era composer, or a Prokofiev contemporary. It’s fascinating to ponder but I feel sure he would have expressed similar things, just in a rather different language.
I didn’t include Schubert for the reason that, yes there is no argument he was a consummate melodist (perhaps only Bellini equals him), but tbh I find him verbose. If he had Liszt’s sense of dramatic proportion (imo possibly his greatest attribute) I would rate him much higher.
For me, Liszt is much greater than Chopin, because there’s much more to him than just his 88 music. (Oddly, amongst his regularly performed works, I think the concerti are some of the weakest). Liszt is a top ten mofo for me irrespective of best/favourite and top ten irrespective of whether it’s for overall output or just for da 88.
For the record, I think the three greatest composers, in order, are Beethoven, Wagner and Bach.
I rate Chopin extremely highly. Both objectively and personally.
If pushed to give a favourite composer of all, I’d honestly say Chopin.
He speaks directly to the heart, and clearly didn’t give an absolute fuck about being one of the ‘greats’ because he wrote for just the piano. His music is exquisitely painfully intimate. It has the grandeur of the greats in parts but he doesn’t address the world, or an audience, or a group - it feels like a solitary confessional.
Bach and Beethoven are often placed as the greatest but Chopin modestly and accidentally sits aloft along side them in my view.
Hmm, it’s curious. I think Chopin is a very fine minaturist, but, with some exceptions, I’m far less convinced in the large-scale works. I did serious work on the F min fantasy a while back, and had the odd experience of going into the process rather fond of the work, and finishing up actively disliking it.