8-Year-Old Takes On NY Times Music Critic

The chief music critic for the 'New York Times' recently spent two weeks writing articles and blog posts, as well as posting videos, that centered on his quest to determine the ten greatest composers of all time. The series provoked a strong response from readers, with none gaining quite the attention of an 8-year-old boy from Manhattan. Despite his age, this budding music critic passionately and politely argued for his own top ten list.

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The First List

Anthony Tommasini's project to choose the ten greatest classical music composers was an ambitious and contentious one. Rather than simply crafting a list, Tommasini set about a thoughtful and exhaustive exploration of the criteria for how such a daunting list can be created. The project was inspired by a high school student who interviewed the critic for a paper on differing musical tastes. It inspired Tommasini to seriously reflect upon such debatable criteria as popularity, personal taste, range of works and influence on the field.

The ultimate list was topped by Johann Sebastian Bach. The top three was rounded out by Beethoven and Mozart, making a formidable trio of musical greatness. Schubert, Debussy and Stravinsky were next, followed by Brahms, Verdi, Wagner and, finally, Bartok. Tommasini was quick to point out the awe-inspiring list of composers he left out, including Chopin, Monteverdi, Schoenberg and Haydn. As it turns out, Tommasini wasn't the only one with regrets about his list.

A Young Challenger

Lucas Amory is not a professional music critic for a leading newspaper. He's an 8-year-old boy from the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He responded to Tommasini's project by sending a hand-written letter containing two lists: those Lucas considered the ten greatest composers and those he personally preferred. For the first list, Lucas agreed with Tommasini about the top three, but diverged in the fourth spot by selecting Haydn over Schubert, noting that he's sorry if he hurt the feelings of the Times critic.

Lucas went on to add Tchaikovsky, Chopin and Liszt, all of whom were absent from Tommasini's list. For his personal list, Lucas drew a picture to illustrate the hard-fought victory Schumann won over Tchaikovsky for the top spot. This list also included Rachmaninoff, Rossini, Paganini, Prokofiev and Grieg. The list concluded with a succinct, 'Well, that's about it.'

No Ordinary 8-Year-Old

Lucas Amory is not a typical 8-year-old. Aside from reading and responding to stories on classical music in the New York Times, he's a pianist and serious student of music. Lucas studies at the Special Music School at the Kaufmann Center in New York.

His appreciation of classical music, and his ability to differentiate between personal favorites and widely-admired greats, may be a natural outcome of his lineage. His parents, Misha Amory and Hsin-Yun Huang, are both respected violists. Like his parents, Lucas may be destined for a long career in music and music appreciation.

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