Among the silly lists that music magazines publish in a desperate bid to claim readers’ attention and raise their blood-pressure, none in recent memory has been sillier than ’50 people who changed classical music… forever’ in the February issue of BBC Music magazine.
About 45 of the changers and saviours are obvious names. The rest are provocations, Jesus gets included with the rather tame excuse of ‘imagine life without Handel’s Messiah’. And Charlotte Church is there because she inspired ‘the mother-and-father of all bickering over what constitutes ‘classical’ music.’
Oh, really? Much of Handel’s Messiah uses Old Testament texts, not much Jesus there. And few remember or care what Charlotte, the Jackie Evancho of her day, got up to when she was 12. No one, surely, takes these lists seriously.
The more so when BBC Music has omitted from its transformational 50 the two opera singers who invented the cult of celebrity, Maria Malibran and Jenny Lind. Not to mention the founders of the conducting profession, Hans von Bülow and Artur Nikisch. Or Gustav Mahler, who introduced irony and spatial awareness to the symphony. Or Charles Ives who proposed polystilism. Or George Gershwin, the first crossover composer.
It does, however, include Donald Grout.
How silly is that?