Musical Differences

Norm’s latest poll (of composers) is open until 6th March. Email your five favourites to him by then at:


For the record mine are as follows:

1. Ludwig Van Beethoven – A difficult choice between him and JS Bach but Beethoven’s greater range trumps Bach’s possibly larger talent. It would have been a closer thing if Beethoven hadn’t composed the later string quartets, widely derided as the music of a madman at the time, and ultra-futuristic sounding even now. Listen to them after the 1st and 2nd Symphonies for a reminder of how far he travelled musically in his life.

2. JS Bach – It’s difficult to talk about Bach without overdoing the superlatives so I’ll just remind people that some of the greatest music in the Western canon – his religious and secular Cantatas – were written to be the throwaway pop music of their day.

So far, so conventional. Let’s stir things up a bit…

3. Richard Wagner *cough* Yes I know, I know, but the music is still awesome. Turn the lights down low, the volume way up and be prepared to be transported to a different world.

4. Benjamin Britten – He doesn’t seem to get as much attention as he might these days but was responsible for an enormous array of interesting music – despite some duff stuff aswell. I can’t quite get to grips with classical versions of folk songs, to my mind they always sound better in the original form. Nonetheless, his stuff is always interesting and hugely varied. Try the cheap compilation discs for a taster.

5. James MacMillan – Okay he’s probably not written enough to be on a list of all time greats but dead Germans will always dominate on such occasions unless we have some positive discrimination. Let’s hear it for the Ayrshire born ex-YCL’er described as the pre-eminent Scottish composer of his generation.