It’s been a long, strange gap between top 10 lists here at Everything But the Music, mostly because I like to tell myself that I’m busy and don’t have as much time as I’d like to dedicate to writing. The truth is that I’m lazy and these are a lot of work to compile, fun as they may be. At any rate, with the incredible success the previous lists enjoyed (tens of page views!), I figured now was as good a time as any to dive back in and give the fans what they want, or perhaps the exact opposite of what they want depending on your viewpoint. Without further ado, here it is: the definitive, inarguable list of the ten best symphonies numbered 2. Continue reading
“Everything in moderation” is a maxim that I generally try to apply to my own life as often as possible. There are exceptions that I allow for, such as chocolate-covered pretzels, sports, and Oxycontin, but for the most part I find that moderation is indeed a functionally useful life tool. Sometimes, though, life presents a grand opportunity to tell moderation to go fuck itself and bask in the warming glow of too much of a good thing. Last weekend Sandy and I embarked on a two-city musical odyssey between Missouri’s two major cities that was a study in contrasts in a lot of ways except one: there was a shitload of good music to be heard. Continue reading
Depending on what day you ask me, I’m equally as fanatic about sports as I am about music. One of my favorite writers in any subject is Bill Simmons, who writes for ESPN about a variety of things, but if we are to believe his 800-page book on the subject, basketball is his area of greatest expertise. It is in said 800-page book that Simmons discusses the careers of the best players in the history of the game. There are many great observations and anecdotes throughout, but some of the best material is about the great Bill Walton.
Bill Walton was probably the 6th or 7th best center in the history of the NBA (certainly behind Russell, Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, Olajuwon, O’Neal), but that is almost entirely due to problems with his feet that still plague him to this day. When he was healthy, though, Walton was one of the most gifted players in history, and it is Simmons’ contention that Walton would have been one of the elite players of all-time had his feet not betrayed him (the reasons for this hypothesis are essentially the point of the entire book, which I would encourage anyone who has even a passing interest in basketball to read).
In one of the discussions about Walton, Simmons debates the merits of transcendence versus stable excellence, asking if one would prefer Walton’s incredibly brief peak as an unparalleled dominant force compared to David Robinson’s long-term excellence (Robinson was a talented player, but he never won a title as the main guy on his team, and in fact got utterly crushed by Hakeem Olajuwon during his prime). This, of course, got me thinking about music, although not in quite the same way.
Continuing what has magically turned into a series that I didn’t intend to start, we’re counting down the 10 Best Symphonies no. 3. The field is more crowded than ever, probably uncomfortably so. I had a hell of a time sifting through all these amazing works, and some pieces that I really love got left off altogether. The most interesting trend I noticed in compiling this list was the startling amount of quality Symphonies no. 3 by American composers; it is very clearly a lucky number. Ives, Copland, Schuman, Rorem, Harris, Bernstein, Cowell, Diamond, Ward, Glass, Hanson, Hovhaness, Mennin, and Sessions all contributed strong entrants to the field (clearly I should have just made a list of Symphonies no. 3 by American dudes). Which of these made the cut? Here we go… Continue reading
The dedicatee of some of the greatest music in the repertoire (both Shostakovich Concertos, the Khatchaturian Concerto, and two Sonatas by Prokofiev), Oistrakh is widely considered the finest violin master in the history of Russia.
The Undisputed King of Bach, Milstein had a 72-year performing career (his debut came in the Glazunov Concerto…with the composer conducting), playing well into his 80′s. His memoir, From Russia to the West, also shows that he ran in an unbelievably cool circle of friends.
The concerto by Johannes Brahms is one of the hallmarks of the violin repertoire. Written for the legendary Joseph Joachim, it is a technically demanding showcase for the soloist, but it is also as musically rich as anything Brahms ever composed. Continue reading
When I first thought about a countdown of the best symphonies numbered four, I sort of assumed it would flow roughly as naturally as the countdown of symphonies numbered five. I was wrong. What an unbelievably crowded field. Normally I would be inclined to use the “honorable mention” as an excuse to list something that may not immediately leap to mind (as in the Don Gillis Symphony no. 5 ½ on the previous list). But when I made my little chart, there was no room for half-assed attempts at getting Mozart 40 or Haydn 94 or 104, or The Poem of Ecstasy on the list, which kind of blows my mind. Obviously the pool of possibilities swells with the inclusion of Brahms and Schumann, but wait until this thing is done and you see who got left off altogether. Without further hyperbole… Continue reading
This week, Anthony Tommasini, the classical music critic of the New York Times, unveiled the culmination of his project to select the Top 10 composers of all-time. First of all, as someone who loves to rank things, I applaud the entire endeavor. Making arbitrary lists in this space isn’t that big a deal, because very few people read it. But doing it in the pages of the New York Times requires a certain amount of intellectual courage. Not only must you contend with people picking apart your arguments, but you must also contend with people picking apart the very concept of having the argument in the first place (best demonstrated by one of the comments that read, “Sorry, but top 10 lists should be beneath those who care about the arts.” Why do people think many classical music fans are uptight snobs?). A couple common criticisms emerged from Tommasini’s criteria: the limited stylistic range of composers (no pre-Baroque and no contemporary composers) and, much more elementally, the subjectivity of greatness. Continue reading