Saturday, 28 February 2015

Ottorino Respighi - Church windows

Respighi (1879-1936) was an Italian composer, who is mainly remembered for his three Roman symphonic poems: Fountains of Rome (Fontane di Roma), Pines of Rome (I pini di Roma), and Roman Festivals (Feste romane). Beyond these one can find lots of fascinating music - I consider him the greatest Italian composer. I have selected the exuberant Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows), four impressions for orchestra, from 1926. Relevant links below.

Friday, 27 February 2015

He Zhanhao and Chen Kang - Butterfly Lovers Violin Concerto

He (1933) and Chen (1935) are two Chinese composers who collaborated to write one of the most popular violin concertos of the 20th century (taking into account its immense popularity in China). The work, inspired by a famous Chinese Opera, dates back to 1959, but it sounds much older (yet, in spite of its anachronicity, it is really very attractive). Relevant links below (YouTube in 2 parts, 1, 2).

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Frédéric Chopin - Polish songs

Chopin (1810-1849) was a romantic Polish composer, whose piano works ensured him a place among the all-time greats. I have selected a virtually unknown aspect of his oeuvre, the 17 songs for voice and piano, op.74, from 1829-1836. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Franz Schmidt - Symphony 4

Schmidt (1874-1939) was a late romantic Austrian composer, whose reputation has suffered from his Nazi sympathies. His music is excellent though, and the tragic Symphony No. 4 in C major from 1933 is one of the best of the post-Mahler era. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Ferruccio Busoni - Piano Concerto

Busoni (1866-1924) was an Italian composer, who is mainly known for his Bach transcriptions and the piece I selected, his colossal concerto for piano and orchestra with male chorus in C major, Op. 39, from 1903. Relevant links below.

Monday, 23 February 2015

Gerard Grisey - Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil

Grisey (1946-1998) was a French avant-garde composer who specialized in spectral techniques. His works may not be easy on the ear, but they are very rewarding, and none more than Quatre chants pour franchir le seuil for soprano and ensemble, from 1998. Relevant links below (YouTube links in 7 parts, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7).

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Charles Griffes - The pleasure dome of Kubla Khan

Griffes (1884-1920) was an American composer, whose style was close to French impressionism. His works are not that well known, but always tuneful and good to listen to. I have selected his tone poem for orchestra, The Pleasure-Dome of Kubla Khan, Op. 8, from 1917 (based on an earlier piano composition). Relevant links below.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Zoltan Kodaly - Sonata for cello

Kodaly (1882-1967) was a Hungarian composer, who was unfortunately overshadowed by his contemporary compatriot Bartok. His main claim to fame is his sonata for solo cello, op.8, from 1918, arguably the greatest cello piece after Bach's six suites. Relevant links below.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Paul Hindemith - Mathis der Maler symphony

Hindemith (1895-1963) was a German composer, whom many have heard of without having CD's of him in their collection. Their miss. I had wanted to post his beautiful vocal work When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd (A Requiem for those we love), but there is no good complete version on YouTube. Well, his neoclassical symphony Mathis der Maler from 1934 (based on the opera of the same name) is equally beautiful. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Hendrik Andriessen - Miroir de peine

Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981) was a Dutch composer, and father of the more famous composer Louis Andriessen. His style showed a clear French influence. I have selected his beautiful song cycle Miroir de Peine, originally for voice and piano from 1923, orchestrated in 1933. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Jean Sibelius - Tapiola

Sibelius (1865-1957) was a Finnish composer, generally regarded as one of the greatest symphonists. It is remarkable though that many classical music lovers rarely venture beyond the seven symphonies, the violin concerto and occasional pieces like Finlandia and Valse triste. I have selected what I consider his best work, his final completed composition, Tapiola, Op. 112, from 1926, one of the greatest symphonic poems of all time. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Toshiro Mayuzumi - Nirvana symphony

Mayuzumi (1929-1997) was a Japanese composer, who like most of his countrymen was doomed to stay in the shadow of Takemitsu. His works are very worthwhile, in particular the fascinating Nirvana symphony for male chorus and orchestra from 1958. Relevant links below.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Joao Bomtempo - Requiem

Bomtempo (1775-1842) was a Portuguese composer who is virtually unknown outside Portugal, in spite of some impressive works, in particular his concertos. His masterpiece is his Requiem for soloists, chorus and orchestra, Op. 23, from 1818. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Bo Holten - Clarinet concerto

Holten (1948) is a contemporary Danish composer with a substantial oeuvre including six operas, two symphonies, and five concertos. I have selected his impressive clarinet concerto from 1990. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Léon Boëllmann - Suite Gothique

Boëllmann (1862-1897) was a romantic French composer, known primarily for his organ works. His most famous composition is the Suite Gothique, Op. 25, from 1895. Relevant links below.

Friday, 13 February 2015

Arthur Benjamin - Symphony 1

Benjamin (1893-1960) was an Australian composer, who is mainly remembered for a charming piece of light music (Jamaican rumba). His serious music includes a number of operas, chamber music, several concertos, and a single impressive symphony (from 1945), which I selected for today's post. Relevant links below (YouTube links in four parts, 1, 2, 3, 4).

Thursday, 12 February 2015

Modest Mussorgsky - Songs and dances of death

Mussorgsky (1839-1881) was a romantic Russian composer, with a handful of compositions in the standard repertoire (Pictures at an exhibition, Night on bald mountain, Boris Godunov). I have selected the beautiful song cycle Songs and dances of death from 1877. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Jacques Ibert - Flute concerto

Ibert (1890-1962) was a 20th century French composer, whose works are always interesting, even though not of the class of Debussy, Ravel or Messiaen. I have selected one of his most popular works, the exuberant flute concerto from 1933. Relevant links below (YouTube link in three parts, 1, 2, 3).

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Lera Auerbach - Dreams and whispers of Poseidon

Auerbach (1974) is a Russian-born American composer. Her works are well worth exploring. Dreams and whispers of Poseidon is a symphonic poem from 2005, in which a theremin and a musical saw add to the usual orchestral pallet quite effectively. Relevant links below.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Erkki Melartin - Symphony 3

Melartin (1875-1937) was a late romantic Finnish composer, destined to remain in the shadow of Sibelius. His oeuvre is quite interesting, especially the six symphonies. I have selected Symphony No. 3 in F major, Op. 40, from 1907. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Anton Bruckner - String quintet

Bruckner (1824-1896) was a romantic Austrian composer, who is quite rightly hailed as one of the greatest symphonists of all time. For me, his unfinished 9th symphony is a candidate for the title best symphony ever. His other works have drawn much less attention, but his Quintet for strings in F major, WAB 112, from 1879 deserves to be far better known. Relevant links below.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Thomas Ades - Concentric Paths

Ades (1971) is a contemporary British composer, who is regarded as one of the best of his generation. I have selected his fascinating violin concerto Concentric Paths from 2005. Relevant links below.

Friday, 6 February 2015

Ralph Vaughan Williams - On Wenlock Edge

Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was a British composer, who is generally regarded as one of the best from that country. His symphonies, concertos, and other orchestral works are well known, but I have selected his beautiful On Wenlock Edge, a song cycle for tenor, piano and string quartet, from 1909. Relevant links below.

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Howard Shore - The Lord of the Rings Symphony

Shore (1946) is a Canadian composer, notable for his film scores, first and foremost the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He crossed over into classical music territory by rearranging parts of the LotR sound tracks into an extensive symphony (symphonic suite would be a better name) for orchestra and chorus in 2003. Relevant links below.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Robert Fuchs - Serenade 3

Fuchs (1847-1927) was a romantic Austrian composer and outstanding teacher (his students include Enescu, Mahler, Wolf, Sibelius, von Zemlinsky, Korngold, Schmidt, and Schreker). His own compositions are rarely played, but especially his five orchestral serenades are very rewarding. I have selected his Serenade No. 3 in E minor, Op. 21, from 1878. Relevant links below.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

William Alwyn - Lyra Angelica

Alwyn (1905-1985) was a British composer, possibly best remembered for his dozens of movie scores between 1941 and 1963. His classical music output has seen increasing interest as well, and quite rightly so. The highlight of his repertoire is what I consider one of the best concertos of all time, Lyra Angelica for harp and strings from 1954. Relevant links below (YouTube in four parts, 1, 2, 3, 4).

Monday, 2 February 2015

Gösta Nystroem - Ishavet

Nystroem (1890-1966) was a Swedish composer, whose orchestral works (including six symphonies and three concertos) deserve to be better known than they are. I have selected his symphonic poem Ishavet (Arctic Ocean) from 1925. Relevant links below.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach - Organ concerto in G major

CPE Bach (1714-1788) was for me the most talented of the many composing sons of JS Bach. I especially like his concertos, clearly foreshadowing the famous Mozart ones. I have selected his Concerto for organ (or harpsichord), strings and continuo in G major, H. 444, Wq. 34, from 1760. Relevant links below.