Last Composer Standing – the retro edition
November 19, 2009 by Norman Lebrecht
As debate continues in several languages over who will still be heard 50 years from now, several readers have asked how accurate our forecasting can be.
Well, let’s go back to 1959 and ask which living composers, in the view of listeners at that time, would be likely to endure.
Shostakovich, for sure – he was the flagship musician of the Soviet Union, and everyone thought the USSR was forever.
Stravinsky had just produced Threni.
Britten was receiving more opera stagings than any of his contemporaries.
Bernstein and Copland were universally renowned, if only for West Side Story and Appalachian Spring.
Samuel Barber had just opened the new Met with Vanessa; Rodgers and Hammerstein were reaching apotheosis with the Sound of Music.
None of these selections would have appeared contentious or doubtful. Hindemith, still alive, would have seemed a dead cert. Kodaly, likewise.
The last one might have been a modernist – Berio, Boulez or Stockhausen – but who could have forseen the importance of Cage and Feldman, the emergence of Ligeti and Sondheim, the birth of the Beatles?
If anyone had put it to the test, Khachaturian and Menotti might have made it into the top ten.
Please don’t attempt to cast a retro vote, but I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.
Next Article Previous Article