Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Alexander von Zemlinsky - Die Seejungfrau

Zemlinsky (1871-1942) was a late romantic Austrian composer, whose work has drawn some attention in recent decades. Perhaps his finest work is Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid), a fantasy for orchestra, from 1903. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Peteris Vasks - Cor anglais concerto

Vasks (1946) is a Latvian composer, one of my favourite contemporaries. Among his works, the cor anglais concerto from 1989 stands out, a beautiful lyrical piece of music. Relevant links below (YouTube in four links, 1, 2, 3, 4).

Monday, 29 December 2014

Ferde Grofe - Mississippi Suite

Grofe (1892-1972) was an American arranger and composer, doomed to be remembered only for his Grand Canyon suite. Actually, he composed a number of such American scenery suites, that may be a bit on the light side (and bordering on film music), but that are fun to listen to. I selected the Mississippi Suite (also known as Mississippi: A Journey in Tones) from 1926. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Alan Hovhaness - Symphony No.50 ("Mount St. Helens")

Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) was an Armenian-American composer, whose works often have exotic influences. His rather conservative style, combined with a large number of compositions (e.g. 67 symphonies), have not made him popular with critics, but there are many gems in his repertoire. My favourite is the Symphony No.50 ("Mount St. Helens"), op.360, from 1982. It was inspired by the 1980 eruption of that mountain. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Claude Debussy - String quartet

Debussy (1862-1918) was a French composer who is generally regarded as one of the greatest of all time. I have selected his amazing string quartet op.10 from 1893, which really deserves to be more widely known than it is. Relevant links below.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Arvo Pärt - Spiegel im Spiegel

Pärt (1935) is an Estonian composer, who has become famous with minimalist works frequently with a spiritual or religious inspiration. Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror within mirror) from 1978 is a minimal masterpiece of contemporary chamber music. Originally scored for violin and piano, it has been performed in various other combinations. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

William Henry Fry - Santa Claus, Christmas Symphony

Fry (1813-1864) was a romantic American composer, who is largely forgotten today. Fitting for today, his only work of some reputation is the Santa Claus, Christmas Symphony from 1853. Merry Christmas everybody! Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

John Field - Nocturnes

Field (1782-1837) was an Irish composer, whose main claim to fame is the invention of the nocturnes, short moody pieces for piano, many years before Chopin. His piano concertos are worthwhile as well though. For this post, I have picked all 18 of his nocturnes, composed between 1812 and 1835. Relevant links below (YouTube links in two parts, 1 and 2).

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Alberic Magnard - Symphony 3

Magnard (1865-1915) was a late romantic French composer, probably best remembered for his death (he refused to surrender his property to German invaders and died defending it). His four symphonies are well worth exploring, in particular Symphony No. 3 in B flat minor, Op. 11 from 1896. Relevant links below.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Peter Warlock - The curlew

Warlock, the pseudonym of  Philip Arnold Heseltine (1894-1930), was a British composer. HIs output is rather limited, but it contains one absolute masterpiece: the song cycle The curlew on poems by Yeats, for the unusual combination of voice, flute, cor anglais and string quartet, from 1922. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Max Reger - Four tone poems after Arnold Böcklin

Reger (1873-1916) was a late romantic German composer, whose traditional views have somewhat hampered appreciation of his work. He is mainly remembered for his organ compositions, but he was a skilled orchestral composer as well. His four tone poems inspired by Arnold Böcklin paintings, op.128, from 1913 are really beautiful. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

John Ireland - Piano concerto

Ireland (1879-1962) was an English composer, who made little impact outside the UK. I like his compositions that have been recorded, and none more than the brilliant piano Concerto in E flat major from 1930 - probably my favourite less known piano concerto. Relevant links below.

Friday, 19 December 2014

Cornelis Dopper - Zuiderzee symphony

Dopper (1870-1939) was a Dutch composer, who suffered from neglect because his style was out of tune with his time by a few decades. Still, his music is very much worthwhile exploring, in particular his seven symphonies. Probably his best known work is his seventh symphony Zuiderzee from 1917. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Malcolm Arnold - Four Scottish dances

Arnold (1921-2006) was a British composer, best known for his film scores. He was a classical music composer of considerable substance as well, with inter alia nine symphonies and seventeen concertos. I particularly like his six sets of British/Irish dance suites, of which I selected the Scottish dances from 1957. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Ludwig van Beethoven - Septet

Beethoven (1770-1827) was a German composer, regularly regarded as one of the "big three" (with Bach and Mozart). Personally, I like his music a lot less than most people. I picked a relatively unknown but great chamber music work, the Septet for strings and woodwinds in E flat major, Op. 20, from 1800. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

John Adams - The Dharma at Big Sur

Adams (1947) is a contemporary American composer, whose works have roots in the minimalism movement. His stunning concerto for electric violin and orchestra The Dharma at Big Sur from 2003 is one of the best concertos of this century. Relevant links below (YouTube in 2 parts: 1,2).

Monday, 15 December 2014

Granville Bantock - Hebridean symphony

Bantock (1868-1946) was a late romantic British composer, whose works became more known thanks to a series of CD's on the Hyperion label. I think all of these are very interesting, and the Hebridean symphony from 1913 is a good introduction to his works. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

John Rutter - Requiem

Rutter (1945) is an English composer, mainly known for his choral pieces, which to my taste range from negligible to masterpieces. His best work is his Requiem for chorus and orchestra from 1985, one of the best requiems since Faure and Britten. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Cesar Franck - Le chasseur maudit

Cesar Franck (1822-1890) was a late romantic Belgian/French composer and teacher. He is probably mainly remembered for his only symphony, but I have picked the tone poem Le chasseur maudit (The accursed huntsman) from 1884, a prime example of the genre. Relevant links below.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Othmar Schoeck - Notturno

Schoeck (1886-1957) was an expressionist Swiss composer mainly known for his art songs and song cycles. Probably his greatest work is Notturno, a song cycle in five movements for the rather rare combination of voice and string quartet, op47 from 1933. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Franz Xaver Mozart - PIano concerto 2

FX Mozart (1791-1844) was the youngest son of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Understandably, he struggled to get out of his father's shadow, and did not quite succeed. Gradually though, his charming compositions get more attention. I particularly like his romantic second piano concerto in E flat major, Op 25, from 1818. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Iannis Xenakis - Pleiades

Xenakis (1922-2001) was a Greek composer, who is generally regarded as one of the leading figures of the 20th century avant-garde in classical music. Personally, my reactions to his music are mixed, but there are some real masterpieces in his oeuvre, in particular Pleiades for six percussionists from 1978. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

George Enescu - Symphony 3

Enescu (1881-1955) was the most famous Romanian composer, even though he is mainly remembered for his two Romanian rhapsodies. I have found his works well worth exploring, and none better than the monumental Symphony No. 3 for piano, chorus and orchestra in C major, Op. 21 from 1918. Relevant links below.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Jon Leifs - Hekla

Leifs  (1899-1968) was the most famous composer to have come from Iceland. His work was often inspired by the rugged Icelandic landscape. A good example is the tone poem Hekla, op.52 from 1961, which depicts the eruption of the volcano of that name. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Frederick Delius - Cello concerto

Delius (1862-1934) was an English composer, best known for his vocal works and the short orchestral idyll On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring. Personally, I think his best composition may be the less known Cello concerto from 1921, one of many examples of British composers excelling in this type of work. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Johannes Brahms - Clarinet quintet

Brahms (1833-1897) was a romantic German composer, who is regarded as one of the all-time greatest. Still, his clarinet quintet in B minor, Op. 115, from 1891 is a masterpiece that many people don't know. For me it is one of the two best chamber music compositions of all time. Relevant links below.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Hans Rott - Symphony in E major

Rott (1858-1884) was an Austrian composer, who tragically died at age 25 after a long spell of insanity. His brief output was admired by Bruckner and Mahler, and indeed, his only completed symphony of 1880 foreshadows Mahler's works to some extent. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Robert Moran - Requiem: Chant du Cygne

Moran (1937) is an American composer, many of whose works have been recorded in recent decades. Perhaps his most famous composition is his Requiem [Chant du Cygne] for four choruses and four chamber orchestras, placed in four different parts of a church. This 1990 work was inspired by Mozart's last words. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Leopold Kozeluch - Clarinet concerto 1

Kozeluch (1747-1818) was a Czech composer who was a contemporary of Mozart, Haydn and the younger Beethoven. His music has long been neglected in favour of these giants, but gradually it is getting more appreciated. I very much like his first clarinet concerto. Relevant links below (YouTube in 3 parts: 1,2,3).

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Hamilton Harty - An Irish symphony

Harty (1879-1941) was a late romantic Irish composer, better known in his time as a conductor. His compositions have not gained wide-spread popularity, but there are some real gems in his oeuvre, in particular the melodious Irish symphony from 1904. Relevant links below.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Giacinto Scelsi - Uaxuctum

Scelsi (1905-1988) was an Italian composer, whose work was virtually unknown until the eighties. His masterpiece is the haunting Uaxuctum, for ondes martenot, chorus, 8 percussionists and 23 musicians, from 1966. It was inspired by the legend of a Mayan city that mysteriously disappeared in the ninth century. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 30 November 2014

Joseph Canteloube - Bailero

Canteloube (1879-1957) was a French composer, whose main claim to fame lies in his orchestration of folksongs from the Auvergne for voice and orchestra. These Chants d'Auvergne have been published in five series, and have been recorded many times. One of the songs in particular has gained wide-spread fame: Bailero, the second from the first collection, created between 1923 and 1930. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

John Cage - Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano

Cage (1912-1992) was an American composer, one of the most important in the avant-garde movement. He is doomed to be remembered mainly for the notorious 4′33″, which is performed in the absence of deliberate sound. Many of his other compositions show an original great mind at work as well. A personal favourite of mine is his Sonatas and Interludes for prepared piano from 1948 (a piano with its sound altered by objects placed between or on its strings or hammers). Relevant links below (YouTube in five parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

Friday, 28 November 2014

Joachim Raff - Symphony 5 (Lenore)

Raff (1822-1882) was a German-Swiss romantic composer and assistant of Franz Liszt. His own compositions were very popular at the time, then forgotten, and revived in recent decades. I hold him in high esteem, in particular his spooky Symphony No. 5 in E major ("Lenore"), Op. 177, from 1872. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

John Corigliano - Conjurer

Corigliano (1938) is an American composer who is regarded as one of the leading contemporary composers. His Conjurer, a concerto for percussion and string orchestra from 2007, is a brilliant example of his work, and it ranks for me as one of the best works of the 21st century. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Alphons Diepenbrock - Marsyas suite

Diepenbrock (1862-1921) was a late romantic Dutch composer, to my taste one of the best to come from the Netherlands. I selected the evocative Marsyas suite from the incidental music, composed in 1910. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Fanny Mendelssohn - String quartet in E flat major

Fanny Mendelssohn (1805-1847) was the sister of famous German composer Felix. Her own works are slowly getting recognized as solid romantic works in their own right. I have selected her string quartet in E flat major from 1834. Relevant links below.

Monday, 24 November 2014

Louis Glass - Symphony 2

Louis Glass (1864-1936) was a late romantic Danish composer, a contemporary of the far more famous Carl Nielsen. I discovered his six symphonies recently and found them well worth exploring. I selected the second symphony in C minor, Op. 28, for choir, organ and orchestra, from 1899. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Maurice Ravel - Sheherazade

Ravel (1875-1937) was a French composer, who is generally regarded as one of the all-time greats. Even so, there are somewhat hidden gems in his repertoire. One of my personal favourites is Sheherazade, a cycle of three poems for soprano (or tenor) and orchestra from 1903. A beautiful example of the effect Asia had on European culture at that time. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Xaver Scharwenka - Piano concerto 4

Xaver Scharwenka (1850-1924), not to be confused with his brother and composer Phillipp, was a German composer and pianist. His fourth piano concerto in F minor, Op. 82, from 1908 is beautiful and deserves to be far better known. Relevant links below.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Steve Reich - Different trains

Reich (1936) is an American composer and one of the leading figures of the minimalist movement. His Different Trains, for string quartet and tape, from 1988 is for me one of the best pieces of chamber music composed in recent decades. Especially the second movement, when the scene switches to Europe during the war, is haunting. Relevant links below (YouTube version in three movements: 1, 2, 3).

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Bernard Zweers - Symphony 3

Zweers (1854-1924) was a romantic Dutch composer, whose three symphonies are among the best writen in the Netherlands. His best known piece is his Symphony No. 3 "To My Fatherland" from 1889, a programmatic work, with movements inspired by the Dutch landscapes, coast and capital. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Henryk Gorecki - Kleines Requiem for a Polka

Gorecki (1933-2010) was a Polish composer who catapulted to fame in 1992 when a recording of his third symphony became an unrivaled worldwide commercial success, selling more than a million copies. I have selected his Kleines Requiem for a Polka, for piano and thirteen instruments, Op. 66, from 1993. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Toru Takemitsu - All in twilight

Takemitsu (1930-1996) was a Japanese composer, whom I regard as one of the best of the 20th century. His soundscapes were influenced by Debussy, Messiaen, and Japanese traditional music, and are without exception stunning. For today's post I selected his All in twilight for solo guitar from 1987. Relevant links below.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Joseph Jongen - Symphonie concertante

Jongen (1873-1953) was a Belgian composer, mainly remembered for his organ works. His magnificent and monumental Symphonie Concertante for organ & orchestra, Op. 81, from 1926 is widely seen as one of the best organ concertos in all but name. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Arnold Bax - Harp quintet

Bax (1883-1953) was a British composer, mainly remembered for his excellent symphonies, concertos and tone poems. His chamber music warrants attention as well, for instance the harp quintet from 1919. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Valentin Silvestrov - Silent Songs

Silvestrov (1937) is a Ukrainian composer whose works are mainly in a postmodern style. His extensive song cycle Silent Songs for baritone and piano from 1974 is for me one of the most beautiful song cycles of all time. To quote one critic: "Silent Songs is like no other song cycle you've heard. Completely eschewing overt expression, drama, and vocalism, lasting nearly two hours in performance, and remaining always as soft as humanly possible, it drifts through the air in an irresolute haze -- never competing for your attention, but never allowing you to forget it's there." Relevant links below.

Friday, 14 November 2014

Richard Wetz - Symphony 3

Wetz (1875-1935) was a late romantic German composer, whose works are in the style of Bruckner. I have heard his three symphonies and his Requiem, and I like them very much, in spite of the similarities with his main source of inspiration. His symphony #3 in Bes minor op. 48 from 1922 is probably his best work. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

Gabriel Faure - Piano quintet 2

Faure (1845-1924) was a French composer, who in spite of his capabilities was overshadowed by Debussy and Ravel. His Requiem, an absolute masterpiece, remains immensely popular, but much of his other works deserves to be heard as well, in particular his beautiful chamber music. An example is his second piano quintet in C minor, Op. 115 from 1919. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Douglas Lilburn - Aotearoa overture

Lilburn (1915-2001) was a New Zealand composer, whose work was influenced by the English school as well as Sibelius. His three symphonies are strong works, but perhaps even better is the Aotearoa overture from 1940, which takes its name from the Maori name for New Zealand (land of the long white cloud). Relevant links below.