As I write this blog entry, I’m nearly finished with The AYICM Awards for 1926.
After I’ve finished the series of podcasts I create for each year in music history I study, I go back through all the music featured on those shows and rank the compositions by genre — orchestral works, solo piano pieces, operas, etc. It’s a lot of listening, once again, and the last time I’ll spend with those works before moving on to the next year in classical music.
The purpose of all this listening is to come up with a Top 5 list for each musical genre, naming finalists for the best composition in each. Then, once I’ve named the #1 composition in each genre, I draw a Top 5 compositions of the year from that list. Starting at #5 and reading up to #1 in the podcasts, I’ll name my choice for the finest composition of the year at the end.
It’s the A Year in Classical Music Awards — the AYICMies!
To clarify: the awards actually go to specific recordings, not to the compositions themselves, in the abstract. In my experience of music it takes a great performance to reveal the greatness of a composition. I wouldn’t think as highly of Janáček’s Sinfonietta if I’d never heard Charles Mackerras and the Vienna Philharmonic play it; the place of the Mahler symphonies in the canon of classical masterworks wasn’t clear to most people until they heard Leonard Bernstein’s first recorded Mahler cycle in the ’60s.
Of course, much (but not all!) of the decision-making that goes into these rankings will be a matter of personal preference, and I expect a lot of disagreement from my listeners. But that’s why the podcasts include the discussion forums down below: let the debates begin!