The KUSC Classical Top 100 Analyzed

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Well, the KUSC Classical Top 100 has been fully revealed and with it, some predictable results…and more than a few surprises as well.

To recap, we asked KUSC listeners to vote on their favorite pieces of classical music and then we counted down the top 100 vote-getters on the air. You can view the entire list here. Before I get to what surprised me the most about the results, here are a few things that did not shock me at all.

Predictable result #1: Beethoven dominated. Of the 100 pieces listeners voted as their favorites, 10 were by Beethoven. His music also represented four of the Top 10 works. (You do the math.) In fact, 39.4% of all votes cast in the Top 100 were for pieces by Beethoven. (I did the math.)

Predictable result #2: Bach and Mozart also fared very well. Beethoven had 10 pieces in the Top 100, but Bach and Mozart both weren’t far behind with nine each. Votes for Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart comprised 75.4% of the total votes cast in the Top 100.

Predictable result #3: Rhapsody in Blue slid all the way up into 3rd place. This is a piece of music that has been an important part of the sound of KUSC for many years. It’s part of the fabric of the station.

Now, for the surprises.

surprise me

Surprise #1: No Mozart in the Top 20. For as popular as his music is, it was downright shocking not to find one of his pieces in the Top 20. Many of them are certainly worthy: Sym Nos. 40 or 41, for example. Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. The C-major or d-minor Piano Concertos. Turkish Rondo. Violin Concerto No. 5. But none of these pieces cracked the Top 20. The highest-ranked Mozart piece was the Requiem at #21.

Surprise #2: No Schumann anywhere. This one is our fault. Somehow, none of his music made it onto our online ballot, forcing fans to wage a write-in campaign for their favorites from Schumann. Write-in candidacies are always uphill battles and, unfortunately, it just didn’t work out for Schumann in the end. We realize we whiffed on this and will do better next year. Any of the four symphonies (especially Nos. 1 and 3) deserve to make the list, as does the Piano Concerto, Piano Quintet, and more.

Surprise #3: Curious Wagner selections. I have to say, I’m very surprised by the Wagner choices in the Top 100, but that’s why we vote. In the end, there were three Wagner selections and the only predictable one was Ride of the Valkyries. Strangely, though, it was Siegfried Idyll that walloped The Ride by 19 spots. And, maybe it’s just me, but I was shocked to find that the other Wagner choice was the Rienzi Overture and not, say, Tannhäuser or Die Meistersinger or Lohengrin or another part of The Ring Cycle.

Surprise #4: William Tell misses the mark. Well okay, if he actually missed, his son would be dead, but Rossini’s William Tell Overture only made it to #88 on the Top 100. Maybe it’s overplayed; maybe you’re tired of it. I’d believe that. In any event, it was surprising (if not necessarily disappointing) to see it finish this far down the list.

Surprise #5: Fabulous Fauré. What a beautiful surprise at #51: Fauré’s Requiem. Beating out such stalwarts as the aforementioned William Tell Overture, Für Elise, Mozart’s Sym #40, the Blue Danube Waltz, and 49 others. Again, I’m surprised, but not disappointed.

Surprise #6: #s 2, 4, and 10. Not surprised that Scheherazade (#10), the Brandenburg Concertos (#4), and the New World Symphony (#2) made the Top 100…but it is moderately surprising that they all cracked the Top 10. In particular, the Brandenburgs coming in at #4 is quite a bit higher than I expected.

Surprise #7: The Beeth Goes On. Okay…we know Beethoven did well, but what totally shocked me was the order of the 10 Beethoven pieces in the Top 100.

  • #92 – Piano Concerto No. 4
  • #61 – Violin Concerto
  • #58 – Für Elise
  • #36 – Symphony No. 3, Eroica
  • #22 – Moonlight Sonata
  • #11 – Symphony No. 7
  • #9 – Symphony No. 5
  • #8 – Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor
  • #6 – Symphony No. 6, Pastoral
  • #1 – Symphony No. 9, Choral

So, the mighty 5th symphony comes in as the fourth-most popular Beethoven work. The Pastoral Symphony beats everything except the 9th. And the Eroica Symphony falls to #36. For me, the only predictable result in the order of Beethoven pieces is that the 9th symphony came out on top.

There you have it. Some of my biggest surprises from this year’s inaugural Classical Top 100. What surprised you? What did you find totally predictable? Leave your thoughts in the comments below. Also, please let us know if you enjoyed the Top 100…or if you hated it. Any and all feedback is welcome!

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2 thoughts on “The KUSC Classical Top 100 Analyzed

  1. Brian:

    It troubles me a great deal that your listeners are so stuck in the 19th century and earlier. Here we are in Los Angeles, considered by many to be the most musically progressive city in America, and Beethoven, bless him, still reigns supreme. How disappointing and worrisome!

    I obviously am in a rather small minority, but I wouldn’t vote for any piece composed before Rite of Spring, not even The Firebird. My favorite works are all “modern,” if one can call 100 year old pieces “modern.” Where are John Adams, Steve Reich, John Corigliano, Jennifer Higdon, and John Harbison, to name just a few?

    The results of the poll will probably keep the repertory played on KUSC buried in times gone by. Why is it that pop music is all about the newest, latest material and classical music is all composed by dead, white, Germanic composers? What is the problem with America’s classical music audience? I fear that classical music will die with its current audience. it occurs to me that the results of the poll reflects the audience of KUSC and that it votes for what it hears being played on the station. I listen a lot less than I used to, because of the selection of old music. The station and the listening public feed on one another. Why can’t the station educate and enlighten the public the way so many music organizations around town are doing?

    Please, KUSC: Follow the examples of the Master Chorale, the LA Phil (particularly Green Umbrella), Jacaranda, Monday Evening Concerts, Long Beach Opera, Southwest Chamber Music, etc., et al. Join the modern world!

    Marshall Rutter

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