Classical ?: Favorite 20th Cent. composers?

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dragfree

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I'm searching for new and interesting music. I'm familiar with the greats (Sibelius, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, etc.) and most well-known near-greats (Copland, Barber, Vaughan Williams, etc.), as well as many of the better-known contemporary composers (Adams, Reich, Riley, Glass, Pärt, etc.). If anyone has any suggestions for less-well-known 20th Century composers whom they believe deserve wider recognition, I'm all ears.

(I'd appreciate keeping your suggestions to traditional composers of "serious" or "classical" music. Ellington and Strayhorn and Mingus were certainly great, along with Lennon/McCartney and Gary Brooker and Elvis Costello and many other pop musicians, but those are different subjects.)
 

Operator99

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Henryk Gorecki, Leos Janacek,Carl Nielsen, Krzysztof Penderecki,Heitor Villa-Lobos, William Walton
 

dragfree

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Thanks for responding, Operator. I have some Gorecki (incl. the famous 3rd) & Penderecki & Villa-Lobos, Nielson's symphonies & concertos & some other pieces, but haven't given Janacek much chance and hardly know Walton at all (just the violin, viola, & cello ctos). What would you recommend? And are you and I (and Tulsagentleman) the only classical music listeners on this board? Even when I was wild teenager crazy for Hendricks, Traffic, Led Zepplin, etc., I still loved Bach, Beethoven, & Stockhausen!
 

tulsagentleman

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Gustav Mahler, Richard Strauss, Giacomo Puccini, Claude Debussy, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Dmitri Shostakovich, Benjamin Britten, Frank Bridge, Edward Elgar, Claude Debussy, Gustav Holst, Charles Ives, Paul Hindemith, Francis Poulenc, Béla Bartók, and of course George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein. One of my favorites is Oliver Messiaen who just passed away in 1992. His organ works are wonderful, especially "The Nativity".

There are many composers of the 12-tone school who were influenced by Arnold Schoenberg, to include Anton Webern and Alban Berg. There are others but I am not that familiar with them because frankly, I'm not a big fan.

Not to get into a debate, but I would include Paul McCartney in the list for his "Liverpool Oratorio", "Standing Stone", etc. Certainly there are others as well that we have all overlooked.

I suspect that there are many more lovers of classical music that lurk here. Many of us who enjoy "the Classics" also enjoy a lot of other genres. I am a music lover, and traditional classics are just part of that.

While we are on the subject, just what is "Classical" music anyway? We have mentioned a myriad of composers who have created music of enormous variety. Is it classical because people dress up in evening clothes to play it? Is it "serious" music because the performers refrain from wiggling their hips? Hey, it's all rock and roll to me. :)
 

dragfree

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Bridge, huh? I know Gramophone has been raving about the Maggini Qt's Bridge cycle...what else of his might you recommend? Re. the 12-tone school, I'm no fan, either (think that was a wrong turn, a mistaken effort at 'modernism'...but do rather like some Schoenberg, i.e. the Chamber Symphonies & Verklärte Nacht.

Just what is "classical" music? Aside from that narrow definition re. music of the 18th Century ending roughly with Beethoven as the transitional figure leading to Romanticism, it's surprisingly hard to define. "I can't exactly describe it, but I know it when I hear it" just won't do. Nor will such broad definitions as "music composed in a traditional genre conforming to an established form and appealing to critical interest and developed musical taste." But attempts to define it more clearly do not lend themselves to brevity; this web article makes a valiant effort but is hardly succinct. Perhaps this would make an interesting subject for a thread.

BTW, are you familiar with the Kronos String Quartet's rendition of Jimi Hendrix's Purple Haze?
 

tulsagentleman

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Kronos playing Purple Haze? Too cool! I would give it a listen if I could find it.

Which reminds me, I left Alfred Schnittke off my list and I have a nice recording of The Kronos Quartet playing his string quartets. Yes, I know it's 12-tone, but I like it anyway.

Bridge (I think) was a student of Britten and did some nice symphonic works and quite a bit for cello. You might like "The Complete Music For Cello & Piano" by Penelop Lynex And Alexander Wells. There are others.
 

dragfree

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Actually, Britten was Bridge's student. Looking into him a bit more it seems he's generally regarded as woefully underappreciated. I listened to a few pieces on Naxos's site--sounds well worth further investigation so I added a couple to my Amazon cart. And since I love cello I'll check out Wells & Lynex, too. Thanks for the tip!

Here's an Amazon link for the Kronos recording referenced above. And if you like that sort of genre-bending, you might also find the Uptown String Quartet interesting. (One of the members is Max Roach's daughter.)
 
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tulsagentleman

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Ok, Britten was Bridge's atudent. I knew they were connected somehow. I agree that Bridge is underappreciated and well worth investigating. Let me know what you think after a good listen.

I checked your link to the Kronos recording - mostly string quartets by avante guard composers. The only one I recognized was Glass. I have a certain respect for this sort of thing, but it can be hard to listen to. I listened to the sample of Purple Haze and agreed with the reviewer who said: "The only piece that jars is "Purple Haze," which, sorry folks, just doesn't work with strings. While I greatly applaud Kronos' willingness to try on a rock masterpiece, Hendrix said everything that needs to be said."

Interesting, but no cigar.
 

Morfious

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My classical knowledge is minimal compared to most, but what about Johnny Williams? (Jaws, superman, Star Wars, ET, Jurassic Park etc) I like his stuff quite a bit. I find it quite relaxing to prepare dinner to nice classical music.
 

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Actually, though he mostly composes movie music (a lamentable but financially rewarding waste of talent) he has written a few serious compositions, one of which--a concerto for bassoon, entitled Five Sacred Trees--is a hauntingly beautiful work that I treasure.
 

tulsagentleman

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Thanks Morfious, John Williams should definitely be on the list, and not just for the strictly classical pieces. A lot of the orchestral music he has composed for motion pictures is very interesting and conveys great emotion. We come back to quibbling over the definition of "classical" music. Surely Williams is not disqualified because he has made a good living out of his work. (TulsaGentleman ducks as Dragfree prepares to fire)

I'm off to search for "Five Sacred Trees".
 

dragfree

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I agree, Bill--John Williams's film scores are great. Other fine composers have done a lot of noteworthy work in the medium: Nino Rota, Henry Mancini, Howard Shore, John Barry, Michel LeGrand, Maurice Jarre, Ennio Morricone, and many others. And of course, bona fide "great" classical composers like Stravinsky, Copland, Walton, & Shostakovich have done movie music in the past.

You're right that this raises again the question of what defines "Classical" music. I might even be inclined to agree that some film scores qualify, or at least might qualify with a little judicious editing. After all, the ballet scores of Prokofiev & Tchaikovsky certainly qualify as classical music, and though they differ from film scores in that the music is integral to the dance and not merely incidental to it, even some purely incidental theatrical music is equally well-accepted as serious classical music. I think, for instance, of Sibelius's music for The Tempest, Pelleas et Melisande, and Swanwhite, each of which I like very much. I know that some conductors have adapted some film music for the concert hall, and--at least in the case of masters like Rota & Jarre--not just for "pops" type performances, either.

Another issue to be considered is originality, considering how much of film music is simply plagiarized from the classics--from the Mozart Concerto now known as the "Elvira Madigan" (after the movie that "borrowed" it), to Howard Shore's recent award winning LOTR score that included substantial reworkings of Sibelius's 3rd Symphony. Ah, well, we won't settle this now, and probably not without substantial discourse. So let me finish by adding a bit more info re. Five Sacred Trees. It's on a wonderful disc by Sony featuring Williams conducting the LSO and including fine performances of works by Takemitsu, Hovhanness, and a young contemporary American named Tobias Picker. I'm not sure if the typical 30 second web sample will do it justice, but if you like that sort of thing, I doubt you'll be disappointed.

By the way, Bill, I did check about emailing you, but that option isn't available for you from this forum. (I understand, of course--who needs more spam?)
 

tulsagentleman

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After I replied to your message last night I went looking for Five Sacred Trees, first on allofmp3, then iTunes, then found it on Amazon.com. That is basically my search sequence for almost everything. Fortunately, it was available on Amazon as a "used" recording from several places at a good price. I ordered it from caimon.com, not because they were the cheapest, but because they were close and I have had good luck with them before. I am looking forward to listening to it.

If you will click on the little orange box with PM in it at the bottom of this entry, you can send me a private message. I know it works because I have received a few messages that way. When you do so, give me your email address and I will respond to you directly. I don't mind chatting with you in the open but I'm not sure our conversation is of general interest. It is a treat for me to have another classical music lover to chat with.
 
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