This is in response to the lack of interest in the Ralph Shapey thread.
After my initial dislike (I didn't like ANY scary music back then), and my subsequent full circle, I found Sessions to be one of the few composers I could get my "complexity" fix from.
Still not a big fan of Black Maskers and Sym no.1, but starting with Sym. no2 (mid 40s) his style begins to congeal.
Then, in the 50s, he adopted the 12tone with the Solo Violin Sonata, Str. Qrt no.2, Sym no.3, Piano Cto, and Str Quintet. He developed a "rocking" motive that he used many times (Sym 3, Sym 5, Piano cto) to great effect, and I find this his "caling card." I believe there is also a chamber orch piece from this era (on Pheonix cd w/Crumb) which I've only heard snippets of.
The Argo cd with Sym. 6,7 & 9, to me, is a high point for this kind of stuff (4-5 on NewWorld). Really gritty, huge, 1960s symphonies written and sounding like they came from a post-JFK/Vietnam world. To ME, IMO, the complimentary composer is Pettersson of Sym 9 and 13, meaning, there seems to be about as many notes in each (a very lot!), and the same kind of angst.
Only Sym no8 have I not heard, though recently recorded on NewWorld.
All the chamber/piano music has been recorded on Koch (except qrt. no2) in committed performances. The first qrt (1937) has a very Germanic, dark 1930s sound...Hindemith, Krenek, Hartmann??...maybe still early Pettersson (1940s). If anyone wants, I'll itemize the chamber, but not right now.
The masterpiece is string quartet no.2. Along with Carter's first...just compare the two to see the wealth of ideas in 1951-2. I just can't say enough about this qrt. It is my fav to listen to around early dusk. And the VoxBox is infinitely preferable to the Julliard's dry acoustic on CRI, though the Julliards have some interesting touches.
Lilacs and the opera I have yet to hear.
cto. for orchestra, his last piece, received an awesome Hyperion recording w/Ozawa. I DO appreciate composers who retain their crankiness to the bitter end!
I might be missing something here, but top 3:
Str. Qrt no2
and for accumulative effect, dig it, Sessions=Pettersson. There, I said it.