A confession: I am not fond of “Best of ..” lists. I even find them a bit exasperating. They are especially popular at the ends and beginnings of calendar years, but they pop up year round, too. People often ask me for lists of the “best” baroque music or recordings.
The main reason I don’t care for these well-intentioned lists is their attempt to put an objective categorization on what is typically highly subjective material. My ten favorite compositions (or whatever) might not be yours … and why should anyone’s ten (or hundred) favorites of anything be deemed the “best”? Don’t get me wrong — I certainly have my favorites, whether it’s music or food or recreational activities, and I know you do, too. That’s a good thing! But my favorites can change as my experiences widen, my tastes evolve and even as my mood changes.
When speaking of an art form, “best of” lists can be especially exasperating because they are a static review of something dynamic, and they imply a finite limitation. That’s contrary to the idea of the creative process! And how many times have you heard someone giving their “10 best” list of something, with the disclaimer that it was difficult (or impossible) to limit their list? While there might be certain fixed things that are definitive, or historically important, or significant in meaningful ways, I’m not completely comfortable with the idea that this automatically makes them the “best.” And I’m uncomfortable with the subtle implication that anything else is lesser.
So, I might share some of my favorite compositions or CDs, but don’t look for a Sunday Baroque “Best Of” list in the future! What are some of your favorite baroque compositions and why do you like them?