Happy birthday to five great composers who celebrate major milestones this year.

As a wise man once wondered (it was Alex Ross), “Is there a deeper, possibly unnatural, connection between music and death? Why is classical music, more than other arts, so preoccupied with the works of the no longer living? What other art routinely celebrates anniversaries of deaths as well as births?”

We mark these anniversaries all year long because it’s a great excuse to experience a lot of great music. For the most admired birthday boys (and it is mostly boys, with one notable exception in 2012), it’s a time for the launch or completion of major recording projects, lavish boxed sets, pre-concert talks, radio saturation and, of course, Limelightfeatures. If the job is properly done, we should be thoroughly sick of even the most beloved composer by the end of the year – Chopin 2010, anyone?

Last year Liszt was the centre of attention as we discovered a more serious, sensitive side to the showy virtuoso for the bicentenary of of his birth. Leslie Howard couldn’t get enough of him, releasing his Guinness World Record-holding Hyperion series of the...

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