articles / Pop Culture

Night on Beard Mountain: An Investigation of the Greatest Beards in Classical Music

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.

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.)

Most Inverted – Arvo Pärt

Composer 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.

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.

charles Koechlin
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.

Most Dangerous – Richard Wagner

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.

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.

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?

Most Audacious – Jacques Offenbach

 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.

Best Moustache – Sir Edward Elgar

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.

Written by:
Brian Lauritzen
Brian Lauritzen
Published on 10.31.2017