Surely the world would be a much poorer place if not for the music of George Frideric Handel. It seems I can't go a day without listening to an oratorio, an opera or another piece by this composer. There's a richness to this music that is irresistible. It's at once light and free while also strong and forceful — he had that rare skill of combining two diametrically opposed forces into a sensory delight.
Giuseppe Verdi wrote opera of immense scale and tragedy. It's a music that combines the vastness of the landscape with a pharaonic sense of majesty to tell the story of love and suffering — like two chairs side by side set against the vastness of the landscape. The story unfolds before them while they sit, not focused on each other but on the world at large.
While a Franz Josef Hayden composition is truly sublime and enriching, his symphonies are often humorous and carry within their structure a surprise. While we enjoy the familiar language of the piece, we also get the joke for a quiet chuckle. It's like a brick chimney that gets flattened and flared in a way that's the opposite of what one would expect.
Antonín Dvořák came to the United States and, as only a newcomer could, taught Americans how to learn from the music of our folk heritage. In fact, this is his great contribution to music, the ability to understand and learn from indigenous and folk sources to create a lasting and inspiring music from the bottom up.
The music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is always joyful, exuberant and sensual. And it is a music that must be shared. So as we gather to enjoy one another we are to be surrounded by music that must rise up and fill the space while the light comes streaming in from above.
Johann Sebastian Bach composed music that had incredible structure and order while it was also supple and light. Above all, it's the ability to create this amazing complexity from the simplest of motifs, like simply combining a grid and an arch with sunlight and nature to create a space of amazing richness.
Aaron Copland composed what, to my mind, is the best American music of the 20th century. While rooted in the American experience, this music is joyous, optimistic and forward looking. It is a music that speaks to the wondrous landscape of America.
As with Copeland, Madison Avenue has done much to turn the works of George Gershwin into clichés. But no matter, these works embody what would become known as the American century. In what can only be described as symptomatic of so much of America, Gershwin so admired the French composers that he asked to study under them. Surely he was able to beat the French at their own game but didn't, unlike Frank Lloyd Wright, know it.