Winter Quiet Drive

We hope you enjoyed this year's Essential Classical and Jazz Countdowns! Lists are at the bottom of this post. And thanks for your support during our Essential Winter Quiet Drive...but we're not quite at our goal. Can we count on you to contribute now?

That’s right, you voted Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), your No. 1 most essential classical composer. His symphonies, operas, concertos, and compositions, in every genre of the time, remain to this day an incredible marvel of genius. And today is the wunderkind from Salzburg's birthday! So we're celebrating with a morning of music devoted exclusively to the great composer.

Four notes (the first three of which are the same) say “classical music” to more people around the world than any other bit of music anyone else has ever written. When Ludwig van Beethoven finally chose those notes, he not only figured out the beginning of his Fifth Symphony and branded classical music forever, he also staked a claim—with an audacity and a power unlike anyone else before or since—to be recognized as “the” composer of classical music.

That clean, clear, flexible, and soulful voice can only belong to "The Queen of Song," Ella Fitzgerald. She amazes us with her improvising, range, and pristine intonation sounding like a trumpet at times. And she makes us laugh out loud when she scats, sounding like she knows something we don’t.

But above all, Ella sounds like a lady, and one of the greatest jazz performers of any kind, of any time. You voted her the No. 1 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

"Study Bach. There you will find everything." That's what Johannes Brahms said about the King of Baroque. Johann Sebastian Bach is the composer, above all others, whom other composers point to as The One. We're celebrating his 333rd birthday on March 21st! Join us at the top of each hour for works by Bach!

Miles Ahead is the name of an album and a film, and also where Miles Davis falls in the Countdown. He's your No. 2 Most Essential Jazz Artist this year.

If you “Take Five” to listen to music “In Your Own Sweet Way,” then let’s call a Time Out and just say that you’re thinking of Dave Brubeck. Enough of you did to vote him your No. 3 Most Essential Jazz Artist.

There’s something about those tunes. From Romeo and Juliet to The Nutcracker to the 1812 Overture to the Serenade and symphonies and concertos, Tchaikovsky’s melodies were the first bits of classical music many of us first fell in love with.

Don’t let that big smile fool you into thinking that Satchmo was only an entertainer. He was the most important pioneer in jazz. He basically re-invented trumpet playing. He was hugely popular in five decades and over many periods in jazz. With playing, singing, and even acting, Louis was the international ambassador for the American art form of jazz.

The lovable curmudgeon is on everyone’s short list of favorites, it seems, so it’s no surprise that Johannes Brahms is the No. 5 Most Essential Classical Composer by your vote. The symphonies, the Requiem, the concertos and chamber works, and piano pieces and songs—he wrote everything except an opera.

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