Hall of Fame 2015: what would the great composers have voted for?

19 January 2015, 17:27 | Updated: 20 January 2020, 15:05

Voting in the annual poll of the world’s favourite music is now open – but if you’re stuck for ideas, here’s a run-down of which pieces we think the great composers might have thrown their weight behind.

Mozart might have voted for…

Mozart – The Marriage of Figaro
Mozart – Clarinet Concerto in A major
Haydn – Cello Concerto No. 1

Mozart as depicted in the film Amadeus would have just voted for himself in the Hall of Fame because, well this: 

But in real life, the great composer particularly admired the music of Joseph Haydn. He even went so far as to say “he alone has the secret of making me smile and touching me to the bottom of my soul”. So once he’d voted for his own works (and who could blame him?), perhaps his third choice would have gone to one of Haydn’s great works, like his First Cello Concerto – last year’s No. 254.

Mendelssohn might have voted for…

Bach – St Matthew Passion
Bach – Brandenburg Concertos
Bach – Cantata No. 140 ('Wachet auf')

On 11 March 1829 the most exciting young conductor of the time – Felix Mendelssohn – conducted an obscure work by a little known composer. The piece? The St Matthew Passion by Bach – a piece which is now one of the most famous and loved pieces of classical music ever written.

Mendelssohn was given the manuscript of the work by his grandmother Bella Salomon and he began to champion Bach’s work. It’s largely thanks to him that Bach is now recognised as one of the greatest composers who ever lived. He later called the piece “the greatest of Christian works” – surely that would have been his top choice.

Beethoven might have voted for…

Mozart – The Magic Flute
Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 21 
Haydn – Symphony No. 45 ('Farewell') 

As a young boy, Beethoven was desperate to meet his hero, the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He made the journey to Vienna to meet the great composer with a letter of introduction from a mutual friend.

After little Ludwig had performed one of his own works, Mozart is said to have called out to his wife Constanze "Stanzi, Stanzi – watch out for that boy. One day he will give the world something to talk about.”

A few years later, Beethoven wrote a series of variations on an aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute, the 7 Variations on Mozart’s ‘Bei Männern, welche Liebe fühlen’, so perhaps that opera would have been his top choice. And, as he also took lessons from Haydn, maybe he'd have given him a vote too.

Debussy might have voted for…

Handel – Water Music
J.S. Bach – The English Suites
Purcell – Suite in G major 

Debussy was one of a handful of Romantic composers to look back to the Baroque period for inspiration. He even wrote pieces using Renaissance dance forms, such as sarabandes, minuets and even – in his Suite bergamasque – a passepied.

So Debussy may well have voted for some of the great Baroque pieces for his Hall of Fame choices. And maybe he would have gone for Handel’s Water Music for his top choice – a piece which includes many of those dance forms he so admired.

Richard Strauss might have voted for…

Wagner – Tannhäuser
Wagner – Tristan and Isolde
Mendelssohn – Octet in E flat major  

When he was just 10 years old the young Richard Strauss heard Wagner’s operas Tannhäuser and Lohengrin for the first time. His view of Lohengrin – the tale of a mysterious knight who appears riding on the back of a swan – was that it was ‘terribly sweet and sickly’.

But Wagner’s music had a huge impact on Strauss – so much so that Strauss is reported to have said that “as far as he was concerned, Richard Wagner was the only composer besides Mozart who could be taken seriously.” His music was, however, also influenced by very different music by the likes of Mendelssohn and Schumann. 

Wagner might have voted for…

Meyerbeer – Robert le diable
Meyerbeer – Les Huguenots
Meyerbeer – Le prophète 

If the word ‘fanboy’ had existed in the 19th century, Wagner would have been the ultimate Meyerbeer fanboy.

After seeing one of the composer’s epic, over-the-top operas he said: “My head and my heart are no longer mine to give away – they are your property, my master; The most that is left to me is my two hands – do you wish to make use of them?; I realise that I must become your slave, body and soul, in order to find food and strength for my work, which will one day tell me of my gratitude...”

Did restraining orders exist in the 19th century?

Don’t forget you could win £1,000 if you vote in the Hall of Fame. You can cast your vote online, by post (Classic FM Hall of Fame, WC2H 7LA) or by telephone (0330 33 33 122).

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