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.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

George Butterworth - The Banks of Green Willow

George Butterworth (1885-1916) was an English composer and one of many casualties of the Great War, the end of which we remember today on Armistice Day. Outside England he is practically unknown, but his small oeuvre contains beautiful music in the pastoral English style. I have selected his idyll for orchestra The Banks of Green Willow from 1913. Relevant links below.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Charles-Marie Widor - Symphony for organ No. 5 in F minor

Widor (1844-1937) was the most important of a group of French composers whose works were mainly for the organ. His ten symphonies for organ solo are inspired, even though only the exuberant toccata final movement of the fifth (from 1880) has gained wide-spread recognition. For me, the complete organ symphony should be played to put the toccata into perspective. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Michael Haydn - Requiem

Michael Haydn (1737-1806) was the younger brother of Joseph Haydn. His Requiem (Missa pro defuncto Archiepiscopo Sigismundo) from 1771 foreshadows Mozart's later masterpiece and is well worth investigating. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Samuel Barber - Knoxville: Summer of 1915

Barber (1910-1981) was an American composer best remembered for his Adagio for strings. My favourite in his repertoire, and indeed one of my all-time favourite classical music compositions, is Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1947), a setting for soprano and orchestra of a prose text by James Agee. Relevant links below.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Gerald Finzi - Cello concerto

Finzi (1901-1956) may not be among the most famous British composers, but he is a personal favourite of mine. His concerto for cello and orchestra in A Minor, Op 40, from 1955 is one of the most successful cello concertos of all time. It is a tragic piece, inspired by his leukemia diagnosis a few years before. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Sofia Gubaidulina - String quartet 3

Gubaidulina (1931) from Russia is my favourite contemporary composer. Her third string quartet from 1987 is an intriguing experiment in sounds. One of its peculiarities is the way the strings are sometimes played by bouncing rubber balls on them. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Josef Suk - Asrael Symphony

Suk (1874-1935) was a late romantic Czech composer and son-in-law of Dvorak. His symphony in C minor, Op. 27 ("Asrael"), from 1905 is his masterpiece. It was inspired by the death of first his father-in-law, and then his wife. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A blog on classical music

Since 1986, classical music has been playing an important part in my life. With this blog I would like to share a large number of great compositions, from baroque to contemporary, with links to the works on YouTube. I will be focusing on less well known composers in general, but the big names will be featured as well. I do not intend to write too much about the pieces, but I will include some relevant links, and let the music speak for itself. I aim to post a few items per week. I hope you enjoy it! Image sourced from here.