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.