New Years is approaching, which means that it is time for classical radio stations to run top 100 composer polls for their listeners, then play the results in an on-air marathon. Last year New York classical station WQXR-FM queried the faithful and got a fairly predictable list of warhorses. The number one pick was Beethoven’s Ninth “Choral” Symphony; number two was Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony; number four was Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto, followed by Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. Numbers seven and eight were Beethoven’s Sixth “Pastoral” and Third “Eroica” Symphony.
Do you detect a pattern here? The good news is that ‘QXR’s Q2 “living composers” channel also runs a top 100 marathon, this one for composers who have produced masterpieces over the last 100 years; that is to say, music composed after January 1, 1915. This excludes a lot of well known classics that we may assume to be modern, including many of the works of Debussy, all three of Stravinsky’s most famous ballets, and most everything by Scriabin. I’ll bet that Q2 gets a lot of suggestions that listeners assume were written over the last 100 years, but were in fact written earlier.
Speaking of living people, why not also run a top 100 classical music performers list? As I’ve written before, classical radio needs to become less about passive emphasis on composers, and more about active emphasis on performers. They, after all, are the ones who keep the music alive.
Maybe this sort of poll is already out there, somewhere. I can’t find one myself. If you know about one, let me know.