Saturday, 31 January 2015

Galina Ustvolskaya - Symphony 5 ("Amen")

Ustvolskaya (1919-2006) was a Soviet/Russian composer and pupil of Shostakovich. Her uncompromising music is not the easiest to appreciate, but I find it is extremely rewarding. Her fifth symphony (Amen) from 1990 is typical of her sparse style. It is scored for reciter, violin, oboe, trumpet, tuba, and percussion (a wooden cube). Relevant links below.

Friday, 30 January 2015

Camille Saint-Saëns - Requiem

Saint-Saëns (1835-193521) was a French composer best remembered for a few works (Symphony 3, Danse macabre, Carnaval des Animaux). There are many other compositions that deserve attention, such as his concertos and his chamber music. I have chosen his stunning and little known Requiem, for soloists, chorus and orchestra, Op. 54, from 1878. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Arthur Honegger - Pacific 231

Honegger (1892-1955) was a Swiss composer who lived most of his life in France. I can take or leave his five symphonies, but the short symphonic poem Mouvement symphonique No. 1 (Pacific 231) from 1924, inspired by the sounds of a locomotive, is unique. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Nikolai Myaskovsky - Symphony 6

Myaskovsky (1881-1950) was a Soviet Russian composer, who was once highly regarded, then fell out of favour, and is making a comeback in recent years. Central in his oeuvre are his 27 symphonies, of which I have selected my personal favourite, symphony No. 6 in E flat minor, Op. 23, from 1923, for large orchestra and mixed chorus. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Joaquin Rodrigo - Concerto Andaluz

Rodrigo (1901-1999) was a Spanish composer, doomed to be remembered for just one or two compositions: the world famous Concierto d'Aranjuez and the Fantasia para un gentilhombre, both for guitar and orchestra. His other works are well worth listening to, especially his many concertante compositions. As an example I have selected the Concerto Andaluz for four guitars and orchestra from 1967. Relevant links below.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - String Quintet in G minor

Mozart (1756-1791) was an Austrian composer, generally regarded as one of the greatest of all time. Most people know his late symphonies, later piano concertos, clarinet concerto, requiem, a handful of operas and Eine kleine Nachtmusik. His chamber music is less well known but it contains absolute gems, such as the string quintet for two violins, two violas and cello, no. 4 in G minor (K. 516). Relevant links below.

Composition [AllMusic]

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Gavin Bryars - Cadman Requiem

Bryars (1943) is a British composer, one of my favourites from the contemporary generation. My choice is the impressive Cadman Requiem for four voices and strings, from 1989. It was composed for a friend who perished in the Lockerbie air disaster. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Erich Wolfgang Korngold - Violin concerto

Korngold  (1897-1957) was an American composer of Austro-Hungarian birth. Best remembered for his film scores, his classical music compositions have been getting more attention in recent decades. I have selected his unashamedly romantic violin concerto in D major, Op. 35, from 1945. Relevant links below.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Amy Beach - Gaelic symphony

Beach (1867-1944) was a romantic American composer, who is regarded as one of the more important female composers. Her masterpiece is the Symphony in E minor ("Gaelic"), Op. 32, from 1896, which shows influence from Schumann, Dvorak, Parry and Stanford. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 22 January 2015

George Crumb - Black angels

Crumb (1929) is a contemporary American avant garde composer. Probably his best-known work is the frightening yet haunting Black angels (Images I), for electronically amplified string quartet from 1970. Relevant links below (YouTube link in 3 parts, 1, 2, 3).

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Cecile Chaminade - Flute concertino

Chaminade (1857-1944) was a late romantic French composer, whose charming melodic works are gathering more attention in recent decades. Perhaps her best work is the Concertino for Flute and orchestra (or piano), Op. 107, from 1902. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Sergei Prokofiev - Alexander Nevsky

Prokofiev (1891-1953) was a Russian composer, who is justly famous for his ballets, symphonies, concertos, and sonatas. I have selected a personal favourite from his repertoire, Alexander Nevsky, a cantata for mezzo-soprano, chorus and orchestra, Op. 78, from 1938. Relevant links below.

Monday, 19 January 2015

Luis de Freitas Branco - Symphony 1

Freitas Branco (1890-1950) was a Portuguese composer, whose rather romantic initial style (Franck with a dash of Debussy) was out of touch with its times. That said, his works are accomplished and great to listen to, especially his four symphonies. I chose his first symphony from 1924. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Lou Harrison - Double Concerto for violin, cello and Javanese gamelan

Harrison (1917-2003) was an American composer, famous for the regular inclusion of Asian elements in his work. A good example is his Double Concerto for violin, cello and Javanese gamelan from 1982. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Tomas de Victoria - Officium Defunctorum

Victoria (1548-1611) was a Spanish renaissance composer, and to my taste the best composer prior to Vivaldi. His masterpiece is his second Requiem (Missa pro defunctis) from 1585, also known as Officium Defunctorum, for six voices. Relevant links below.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Alexander Borodin - String quartet 2

Borodin (1833-1887) was a romantic Russian composer and chemist. He is well regarded for a number of compositions, like the Polovtsian Dances. To my taste, his best work is the second string quartet in D major from 1881, one of the highlights of chamber music, Relevant links below.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Aulis Sallinen - Symphony 7 ("The dreams of Gandalf")

Sallinen (1935) is a Finnish composer, whom I rank as one of the best living composers in the world. As good as his chamber music and vocal works are, his main strength for lies in his symphonies. I have selected the seventh symphony, Op. 71 ("The Dreams of Gandalf") from 1996. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Benjamin Britten - War Requiem

Britten (1913-1976) was a British composer, who is generally regarded as a very important figure in 20th century classical music. In spite of that, it is remarkable that many people know very few of his works. Personally, I think his operas are the best since Richard Strauss, and the War Requiem for soprano, tenor, baritone, boys' voices, chorus, chamber orchestra, orchestra and organ, Op. 66, from 1961 is simply sublime. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Astor Piazzolla - Bandoneon concerto

Piazzolla (1921-1992) was an Argentine composer, most famous for his tangos. A superb bandoneon player, he wrote the most famous and most accomplished concerto for bandoneon and orchestra, nicknamed Aconcagua (date not retrieved, probably 1970s). Relevant links below.

Monday, 12 January 2015

Jehan Alain - Litanies

Alain (1911-1940) was a French composer, the brother of famous organist Marie-Claire. His early death (he fell in WW2) limited his output, but especially his organ works are excellent. I have selected his Litanies from 1937. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Giuseppe Martucci - La Canzone dei ricordi

Martucci (1856-1909) was a romantic Italian composer, best known as the only one of his contemporary compatriots not to have written an opera. The neglect of his works (including two symphonies and piano concertos) is undeserved. I have selected what I think is his best composition, the song cycle La Canzone dei ricordi (The song of memories), seven songs for soprano and orchestra, op68b from 1887. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Alvin Lucier - I am sitting in a room

Lucier (1931) is an American avant-garde composer, specializing in experimental music and sound installations that explore acoustic phenomena and auditory perception. I am sitting in a room from 1990 pushes the definition of music to its limits, but is hauntingly fascinating. A speaker reads a text that explains the procedure which involves recording the speech and then playing it back dozens of times in the same room. It is re-recorded each time, causing the resonances of the room to gradually take over from the spoken words. Relevant links below.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Hugo Alfven - Symphony 4 ("Fran havsbandet")

Alfven (1872-1960) was a late romantic Swedish composer, whom I regard as the best from that country. Especially his orchestral works (including five symphonies three Swedish rhapsodies) are stunning. I have selected his fourth symphony  ("Fran havsbandet", From the Outermost Skerries), op39 from 1919, including parts for soprano and tenor. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Gustav Holst - Japanese suite

Holst (1874 – 1934) was an English composer doomed to be remembered by one work, the orchestral suite The Planets. His other compositions are very much worthwhile too, though. I particularly like the Japanese suite op33 from 1915. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Luciano Berio - Folk songs

Berio (1925-2003) was a modernist Italian composer, whose experimental work tends to make him less frequently listened to by a majority of classical music lovers. I like quite a lot of his work, in particular the quirky song cycle Folk songs for soprano and 7 instruments (or orchestra) from 1964. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov - Trombone concerto

Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908) was a romantic Russian composer, who has remained popular because of a handful of compositions (Scheherazade and The flight of the bumblebee are typical music for the millions works). I have selected his highly enjoyable and almost unknown Concerto for trombone and military band in B flat major from 1877. Relevant links below.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Gavriil Popov - Symphony 2 ("Motherland")

Popov (1904-1972) was a Soviet composer, who is hardly known outside his home country. His works are very much in the Soviet style, but still show considerable talent. I quite like his patriotic second symphony ("Motherland"), op.39, from 1944. Relevant links below (YouTube in three links, 1, 2, 3).


Sunday, 4 January 2015

Ernest Farrar - Heroic elegy

Farrar (1885-1918) was a British composer, whose life was cut short by the Great War. Some of his works are gradually being recorded, and show a strong talent. Perhaps his most poignant composition is the Heroic elegy, op.36, from 1918, shortly before he fell. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Olivier Messiaen - Quatuor pour la fin du temps

Messiaen (1908-1922) was a French composer, who is widely regarded as one of the most important of the past one hundred years, and yet remains largely unknown to a considerable percentage of the classical music lovers community. I have selected his awesome Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the end of time) for violin, cello, clarinet and piano, from 1941. Relevant links below.

Friday, 2 January 2015

Howard Hanson - Symphony 2 ("Romantic")

Hanson (1896-1981) was a neo-romantic American composer, whose excellent cycle of seven symphonies make him a contender for the title "greatest American symphonist" for me. I picked his masterpiece, the justly named Romantic symphony no. 2, op.30, from 1930. Relevant links below (YouTube in 3 links, 1, 2, 3).

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Max Bruch - Violin concerto 2

Bruch (1838-1920) was a romantic German composer, mainly remembered for his first violin concerto. Actually, I like everything I have heard from him so far (and that's quite a lot), definitely a compose worth exploring. I have selected his less played second violin concerto in D minor, Op. 44, from 1878, a jewel. Relevant links below.