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There are many composer throughout history that should have his or her place on such a list as this one, but to try to limit myself, I've picked out a few that really, really mean something to me.
Also to be noted is that these are all western composers (for referance, see Music History 102) but that I do also appreciate composers and music from other parts of the world, notably traditionally Indian and Australian music, Norwegian folk music and certain oriental vocal early music. But in those genres it is harder to pinpoint certain musical pieces with composers, and hence they fall out of the scope of this list. Maybe some time in the future I'll create an additional list with these musics listed and shared.
A small note : There are a few composers / arrangers that I havn't listed below which I also like. The reason is of course that they havn't produced enough of what I like to make it to the list, that I don't find their genious, and simply that they have in addition to the good stuff produced too much boring stuff. In no perticular order; deLasso, Mozart, Beethoven, Grieg, Janacek, Mahler, Händel, de Morales, von Bingen, Gabrieli, Ferrari, Dowe, Gluck. Also note that Henry Purcel, Schütz and Tieleman are missing from the below list; not because they shouldn't be there, but because I havn't had time for entering them yet. They're on their way, though.
Anyway, the western composers, in chronological order ;
Tielman Susato ( 1500? - 1561 )
One of my first kicks with mediveal and rennesaince music was Dutch composer and arranger Susatos "Dansereye" which truly spellstruck me. Here was a different kind of music, first sounding simple but soon revealing complex and interesting patterns and sounds. I still get a kick out of this music, and his music is truly recomended. It is classified as "rennesaince dance music" ; why don't you try dancing to this?
Trivia : BLACKMORE'S NIGHT's song "The clock ticks on" from Shadow of the Moon contains some of Tielemans scores. I have never heard this music nor of the group before, but I'm told that within a certain heavier genre than what I'm used to, they're "heavy stuff."
Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina ( 1525? - 1594 )
Aaaahh, the profound sounds of the most beautiful sacred music. He was especially known for his play with polyphonic harmonies, and wrote over 100 settings of the mass and the motets. This music truly takes you away from this physical life, and creates a cloud upon which you can float. I often do that.
Claudio Monteverdi ( 1567? - 1643 )
Claudio Monteverdi is probably my favourite composer of all time. A composer of the late renneisanse / early baroque era, he is actually most famous for the first real opera, "L'Orfeo" (1607), but I'm more in love with his sacred music, especially the 1610 Vespers and the "Selva Morale e spirituale", which I regard as a true masterpiece.
I'm toying with the idea of creating a dedicated website dedicated to Claudio Monteverdi full of references and historical stuff, for the sharing of information, research and opinions of people of the world. I've got Claudio Monteverdi up and running, but at the moment it is only a placeholder. Now that xSiteable is reaching some advanced features I've been looking for, the time to dig out that site has come. Stay tuned.
Update : I'm entering data into databases (XML) for the purpose of this site, so work has started. No promises on times here, but within a year or so (meaning at the end of 2004) something should definetly be up. Stay tuned; there will probably be announcements on this on my blog.
Heinrich Ignaz Franz Biber ( 1644 - 1704 )
Biber is one of those rare birds I keep stumbeling into. Just by chance I got to hear "Agnus Dei" from his "Missa Bruxelliensis", and totally fell in love with it. A contemporary of protestant Bach, Bibers domain was of a more catholic approach, and his music demonstrates this to the full. Most known for his two masses ("Missa Bruxelliensis" and "Missa Salisburgensis") and his violin motets, he displays some other less know pieces that are really worth a listening. Let him surprise you.
Francesco Scarlatti ( 1660 - 1725 )
Scarlatti was one of the better composers that frequented the papal domains with a quite impressive vocal production, with at least one of the better "Miserere Mei, Deus" I know. For a smaller introduction, go here. Or, you could check out his bigger and more famous brother at the Scarlatti Project. He's also worth a listen.
Pietro Paolo Bencini ( 1675? - 1755 )
Now this guy deserves some words and praise! Bencini was to me quite unknown until Fabre-Garrus made a recording of selected pieces for vespers for the virgin Mary. I bought it on a whim wanting to compare Monteverdis Vespers to others (same liturgy). It must have been one of the better whims I've had; Bencini is truly one of the most beautiful and compellig composers I've ever heard. Truly. Really. I know of two recordings dedicated to Bencini (which I've got, of course), and heard that certain other recordings contain the odd piece, although I havn't heard any of these. Yet.
Johann Sebastian Bach ( 1685 - 1750 )
Well, what can I say about Bach which hasn't already been said? He is simply one of the most incredible composer of all time, regardless of genre, age, instrumentation, complexity or anything you might think of. There is a lot of joy in this music, and although Bach has been critizised for being to strict with tempo, no one can groove like this guy!
I suggest you start your musical search with this link to find out more about this incredible composer and organ virtouse.
Hector Berlioz ( 1803 - 1869 )
Berlioz is the only composer I really like within the romantics, mostly because Berlioz was no ordinary romantic ; his music was grand and compelling, often thrilling and with a certain nerve that gave him a stamp of being a bit of a crazy lunatic of his contemporaries. I think he is truly refreshing and original.
Erik Satie ( 1866 - 1925 )
Talking of wierd people, here is the champion of wierdness and eccentricism. Satie is the most exciting composer I think I know of. He produced a whole set of music for piano that can only be described as "different", in any approach. He also composed one of the most beautiful pieces I know, the "Gymnopedies 1-3", which I'm sure you've heard but never knew who created. I hope this little intro will inspire you to search a little more for this really ingenious musician and composer who was my first true classical love.
Serge Prokofiev ( 1891 - 1953 )
Talk about huge compositions, and Serge is your man. Make it big, and make it Russian! The orchestrations he uses are truly remarkable and thrilling, and he is yet one of those composer you cannot tire of.
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