I could also have called this the list of the most unfortunately influential composers: composers who cast a malevolent shadow over music history, composers like:
- Richard Wagner (1813 - 1883)
- Charles Ives (1874 - 1954)
- Franz Liszt (1811 - 1886)
- Gustav Mahler (1860 - 1911)
- Johannes Brahms (1833 - 1897)
- Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928 - 2007)
- John Cage (1912 - 1992)
If I have included someone that is a personal favorite, then I'm sorry, but it was going to happen sooner or later.
If I have left out someone that you feel should have been included, I apologize even more! Please let me know in the comments.
I will, out of mercy, just put up a couple of samples for you: Wagner, the Prelude to Act one of Die Meistersinger.
That's just nasty, from beginning to end, isn't it?
So what was it that got me to see that not all famous composers are good composers? What was it that caused the scales to fall from my eyes? Oddly enough, it was a book by Kingsley Amis about a music critic. You can read my post on Kingsley Amis here. I particularly loved this passage:
At first against my will, I listened to Mahler's enormous talentlessness being rendered by Roy and the N.L.S.O. As they went on, flecks of seeming talent began to insinuate themselves. Factitious fuss turned itself into a sort of gaiety; doodles in the horns and woodwind were almost transformed into rustic charm; blaring and banging acquired a note of near-menace; even that terrible little cuckoo-motif reflected something more than the great man's decision to let the world know how jolly preoccupied he had been in those days with the interval of the perfect fourth.I don't know that anyone has better captured the inanity of the first movement of Mahler's Symphony No. 1. Here, have a listen for yourself:
The composer in the above list that I expect to get the most pushback on is Brahms. He did write some pretty good stuff. I've always liked the ballades and the Haydn Variations. But for me he is an instance of TTH: trying too hard! Tom Service does his level best this week to convince us that Brahms' Symphony No. 1 is a great piece of music. But I think he is trying too hard as well. There is just a kind of interminable dreariness to Brahms...