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Night on Beard Mountain

Posted By: Brian Lauritzen · 7/28/2011 12:00:00 AM

If you’re like me, when you think of classical composers who have great beards you think first of Johannes Brahms.  It certainly is legendary, both for its bushiness and its artful presentation.  But a great number of composers have sported abundant facial hair at one time or another…and I think it’s time for some awards.

Most Brahmsian – Charles Gounod


 
Fitting that we start with the composer who best emulates the most iconic classical music beard.  It’s got heft; it’s got curls; and most of all it’s got attitude.

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Best Shape – Giuseppe Verdi



Verdi’s beard is so well-sculpted there is even a style that bears his name.  Note the rounded chin and moustache definition—true hallmarks of a Verdi Beard.  (By the way, other notable wearers of the Verdi Beard: Peter Tchaikovsky and Antonín Dvorák.)

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Most Inverted – Arvo Pärt

 

The contemporary Estonian composer proves that you don’t have to have fruitful follicles on your head in order to sprout a forest on your face.

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Least Kempt – Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov / Charles Koechlin (tie)

 

It’s really a toss-up here.  Scheherazade could run out of stories and be beheaded long before anyone could get the tangles out of Rimsky-Korsakov’s mess.  

 

As for the lesser-known, but enormously prolific Koechlin: if he had written one fewer symphonic poem, perhaps he could’ve had time for a trim…or two.

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Most Dangerous –Richard Wagner


I hate do to this to one of my favorite composers, but according to Geekologie’s The Trustworthiness of Beards chart and Wagner’s unmistakable neck beard, I have no choice.

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Most Pubescent – Modest Mussorgsky



It’s like the first time you tried to grow a beard but there were patches that didn’t completely fill in.  I remember shaving that all off out of sheer embarrassment, but Mussorgsky embraces the wispiness.

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Best Attention to Detail – Erik Satie

 

Looking at pictures of Erik Satie, it’s clear he spent a lot of time trimming and shaping his beard.  He also, it seems, spent a great deal of time shopping for glasses.  Not surprising for a man who owned 100 umbrellas…and only ate food that was white.  Was The Velvet Gentleman the original hipster?

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Most Audacious – Jacques Offenbach

 

There’s something missing here.  I feel like Offenbach was going for the Brahms beard but then decided to shave right down the middle of his face.  It takes a man who is quite secure in his identity to rock these mutton chops on steroids.  Then again, he did write light opera.

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Best Moustache – Sir Edward Elgar

 

This gets nominated for its sheer volume alone.  Imagine the beard-growing possibilities here!  Why Elgar never let his beard reach its full potential, I guess, is the eternal enigma.

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Best in Show

Here’s where it’s up to you.  Who do you think has the greatest beard among these classical composers?  Is Brahms still the King of Beards?  Cast your vote in the box below.

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  1. Michael posted on 07/29/2011 08:03 AM
    I think you forgot a couple of notable hirsute individuals:

    FĂ©lix-Alexandre Guilmant - very Brahms-ian (is that even a word?)
    Franz von Suppe - without a doubt, one of the CLASSIC beards of all time!

    Personally, I'm leaning towards von Suppe for my fave!
    1. Brian Lauritzen posted on 07/29/2011 10:19 AM
      @Michael Brahmsian is definitely a word! (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brahmsian) And I love Franz von Suppe's beard. What is it with light opera composers and their beards? (Offenbach, von Suppe, J Strauss Jr., A Sullivan...)
  2. Eden Lowry posted on 07/29/2011 12:25 PM
    Lou Harrison is a grave omission
  3. Libby Huebner posted on 08/08/2011 05:02 PM
    LA's very own Morten Lauridsen is right up there in the Composer Beards Hall of Fame
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