Thursday, April 26, 2018

Classical music of the past 100 years [5] 1958-1967

Too many listeners of classical music think that over the past 100 years or so, nothing worthwhile has been composed. In this recurring series, I will be posting one composition per year from 1918 until 2017, with every selected composer featuring only once (and not necessarily with their imo best work). I'm aiming for composers who represent the more modern age, skipping many famous names from before 1918 who also composed in this time slot (such as Sibelius and Richard Strauss). Overall I wanted to get a reasonable mix of symphonies, concertos, other orchestral works, chamber music, solo instrumental compositions, and vocal creations, but excluding opera altogether. I have grouped the works per period of ten years, with one post per month for each subsequent decade. Youtube links are not included as they tend to disappear with time - they are easily googled anyway. If you like classical music, but are reluctant to explore the 20th and 21st century works, this series of posts might give you a bit of a nudge to start listening.
  • 1958 Britten - Nocturne
  • 1959 Poulenc - Gloria
  • 1960 Penderecki - Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima
  • 1961 Leifs - Hekla
  • 1962 Cowell - Symphony 16 'Icelandic' 
  • 1963 Bernstein - Symphony 3 'Kaddish'
  • 1964 Shostakovich - String quartet 9
  • 1965 Tveitt - Hardanger fiddle concerto 2
  • 1966 Ligeti - Lux aeterna
  • 1967 Lutoslawski - Symphony 2
In this fifth helping, we have as usual a mix of well-known composers and more obscure ones. Bernstein may be best remembered for his conductor work and West Side Story, but he composed plenty of serious music, including three symphonies. Russia's Shostakovich is generally regarded as the most important composer of symphonies since Mahler, but I opted for one of his fascinating string quartets. UK's Britten is represented in the list with his orchestral song cycle Nocturne.  Even if you have not heard of Hungary's Ligeti, one of the big names of 20th century music, you may recognize this piece from the movie 2001: A space Oddyssey. Penderecki and Lutowslawski (together with Gorecki) are arguably the most important Polish composers of the 20th century, and are represented by two widely contrasting works. French composer Poulenc makes the cut with his impressive Gloria, and three less known names complete the list: Iceland's Leifs with one of his dramatic scores, American Cowell with an Iceland inspired symphony, and Norway's Tveitt with a work that also appeared in my Unusual Concertos series.

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