Friday, November 20, 2009

The 10 best classical pieces of the past millennium

by Michael Arnowitt

Here's a list of great pieces of the past thousand years - for the most part, I selected compositions that were either extremely influential on the future development of music, or pieces that were high points of their eras.

At some point I'll try to post here a few personal thoughts on each piece's significance and why it made my top 10. But for now, here's the list and I invite your comments.

Believe me, it wasn't easy to pick Bach or Beethoven's greatest piece.

Back in 2000 I was artistic director of the Vermont Millennium Music Festival, a novel event that presented in chronological order representative music from the year 1000 to the year 2000. It was quite an adventure to research all the nooks and crannies of music history and I definitely came away from the experience with a great admiration for how much incredible music composers have created, and continue to create. As a performer, I try to support composers and their ongoing magic act picking notes out of the air, taking their ephemeral thoughts and sensations and turning them through the language of music into something that can move and touch others.

1. Hildegard - Symphonia (composed 1140's)
2. Perotin - Viderunt omnes (composed c. 1198)
3. Guillaume de Machaut - Messe de Nostre Dame (composed mid-1300's)
4. Thomas Tallis - Spem in alium, for 40 solo voices (1573)
5. Claudio Monteverdi - Orfeo (1607)
6. Johann Sebastian Bach - Brandenburg Concertos (1717-1721)
7. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - String Quintet in G minor, K. 516 (1787)
8. Ludwig van Beethoven - Symphony no. 3 "Eroica" (1803)
9. Igor Stravinsky - The Rite of Spring (1911-1913)
10. Olivier Messiaen - Quartet for the End of Time (1940)


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