Author Topic: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?  (Read 13631 times)

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Greta

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'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« on: May 16, 2007, 12:23:45 PM »
Okay, I'm trying to explore the serialists and avantgardists all that mid 20th c. jazz, but don't know where to begin with the following composers...

Karlheinz Stockhausen
Luciano Berio
Anton Webern
Alban Berg
Milton Babbitt
John Cage
George Crumb
Iannis Xeniakis
Elliott Carter
Edgar Varese
Arvo Part
Pierre Boulez
Luigi Dallapiccola
Sofia Gubaidulina

I see this list is the noted "2nd Viennese" or "Darmstadt" guys. ;)
 
If there are any others that would be good to listen to please suggest! Maybe it will help if I say what I've liked too...well, I like Messiaen a lot, love Ligeti, doing fair on Schoenberg, but am just getting into his later stuff. I think I might like Berio of all things, because I like some pieces by younger composers that are said to be influenced by him. I love humor. :D

I'm pretty familiar with the rather accessible guys (Bartok and Hindemith are faves), or at least have an idea where to begin.

Offline 71 dB

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #1 on: May 16, 2007, 12:37:50 PM »
Begin with the one you are most interested of.
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Offline Brewski

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #2 on: May 16, 2007, 12:38:29 PM »
Greta, you'll get probably many suggestions, but since you suggested Berio, try one of the recordings of Sinfonia.  The central movement takes the Scherzo of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, and grafts onto it bits and pieces of Beethoven, Ravel and other composers, along with texts by Samuel Beckett.

And since Gubaidulina is one of my favorites, perhaps seek out any of her string quartets, which are excellent introductions to her singular sound world.  She is heavily concerned with texture, and explores many unusual combinations of instruments, as well as unusual uses for those instruments.

If you like solo piano music, Paavali Jumppanen's recording of Boulez's three piano sonatas is quite remarkable.

Just to get you started!   ;D

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Offline Maciek

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #3 on: May 16, 2007, 12:43:02 PM »
Hi Greta!

Wow, only while I was typing this - 3 new replies popped up!

I think 12-tone Part is rather insignificant in comparison to his later work. But I'm no Part expert.

That's a pretty good list. Though, of course, there are always names you could add... But maybe expanding is not what you should be doing at the moment.

I've started several threads on particular Polish post-1945 composers - and have listed those threads (along with the composers' birth dates) in the first post of this thread. I think Lutosławski would fit your list nicely. And maybe Penderecki...

Maciek

Drasko

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #4 on: May 16, 2007, 12:43:53 PM »
Luciano Berio - Sinfonia, Folk Songs, Voci





Arvo Part - Tabula Rasa, Fratres, Cantus in memory of Benijamin Britten


Offline Maciek

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #5 on: May 16, 2007, 12:45:19 PM »
Alexandra Vinao : Son Entero

Interesting. Care to elaborate? (I've never heard of this composer.)

Maciek

Offline Maciek

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #6 on: May 16, 2007, 12:59:02 PM »
Thanks. 8)

Greta

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #7 on: May 16, 2007, 01:11:42 PM »

I've started several threads on particular Polish post-1945 composers - and have listed those threads (along with the composers' birth dates) in the first post of this thread. I think Lutosławski would fit your list nicely. And maybe Penderecki...

Maciek

I adore Lutoslawski!! Really, he was amazing. Penderecki is great too. Yeah, I see them as a bit more 'accessible' than the ones I named. ;D Definitely Szymanski and Szymanoski (I always get them confused, don't know if that's spelled right!) are on my list...do they also fall under the sort of more accessible crowd?

And I completely forgot Birtwhistle! Knew that list didn't look right. ;) And Tippett, I've been meaning to hear A Child of Our Time for ages...

I'm pretty open to anything really. I'm at that listening point where I'm just trying various things to see what sticks!

Offline Maciek

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #8 on: May 16, 2007, 01:29:10 PM »
I adore Lutoslawski!! Really, he was amazing. Penderecki is great too. Yeah, I see them as a bit more 'accessible' than the ones I named. ;D

That's probably always the case before you get to know a composer better. ;)

Quote
Definitely Szymanski and Szymanowski (I always get them confused, don't know if that's spelled right!) are on my list...do they also fall under the sort of more accessible crowd?

Well, definitely not part of a crowd ;) but I'd say they're quite accessible. Szymanowski is of a completely different time (died in 1937). Szymanski is always using a sort of decontextualized tonal system, so in a way he's very accessible (his music almost always sounds familiar in an uncanny way). I think all of those composers I listed in the Polish post-1945 thread are quite accessible, maybe Meyer and Bloch less so but only very slightly. But then, I'd call many (perhaps most :o) of the composers on your list quite accessible, so maybe you shouldn't take my word for it... ;D

Happy exploring! I'm sure it will be.

Cheers,
Maciek

Offline Cato

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #9 on: May 16, 2007, 01:38:01 PM »
Dudes!  Dudettes!   8)  Something is terribly wrong here!!!

You have all failed so far to mention the one composer who is "difficult," yet is one of the greatest ear-stretching, soul-smashing, take-no-prisoners composers of the 20th century!!!

Karl Amadeus Hartmann!!!

Start with the First Symphony, and if you survive, continue your journey, grasshopper!!!    0:)


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gomro

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #10 on: May 16, 2007, 04:53:12 PM »
Don't know all these guys and gals. Some I do:

Karlheinz Stockhausen - Mantra; Michaels Reise; Tierkreis; Refrain; Kontakte; Gruppen; Oktophonie; Lichter-Wasser; Inori (probably my favorite Stockhausen piece for orchestra); Trans. And many others...

Luciano Berio - one of my favorite works by Berio, the 2-Piano Concerto, is apparently not available on CD. Too bad. Otherwise, the starter list would be Points on the Curve to Find; Visage; Sinfonia; & the Chemins and Sequenza series.

Anton Webern - Symphony; Concerto

Alban Berg - Lulu Suite; Concerto for violin

Milton Babbitt - Relata I

John Cage - Sonatas and Interludes for Prepared Piano; String Quartet in four parts; The Seasons

George Crumb - Voice of the Whale; Ancient Voices of Children; the Makrokosmos series; Star-Child; A Haunted Landscape; Black Angels; Echoes of Time and the River

Iannis Xenakis - Pleiades (for percussion sextet); Jonchaies; Orient-Occident; Terretektorh; Eonta; Akrata; Pithoprakta

Edgard Varese - Ameriques; Arcana; Ionisation; Ecuatorial; Poeme Electronique; Octandre

Pierre Boulez - Repons; Pli Selon Pli; Sur incises; Le Marteau sans Maitre; Third Piano Sonata

Luigi Dallapiccola - Il Prigioniere; Variazioni for orchestra

Mauricio Kagel - Duodramen; Liturgien; Szenario (these three are on a superb Naxos disc); Sankt-Bach-Passion; 1898

Charles Wuorinen - Genesis; Mass; Third Piano Concerto; Two Part Symphony; The Mission of Virgil; Trio for Bass Instruments; New York Notes


pjme

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #11 on: May 17, 2007, 12:03:43 AM »
Dudes!  Dudettes!   8)  Something is terribly wrong here!!!

You have all failed so far to mention the one composer who is "difficult," yet is one of the greatest ear-stretching, soul-smashing, take-no-prisoners composers of the 20th century!!!

Karl Amadeus Hartmann!!!

Start with the First Symphony, and if you survive, continue your journey, grasshopper!!!    0:)

For Hartmann fans :

Capriccio recently issued a disc with Sinfonia tragica and the concerto for viola, piano, winds and percussion.¨Possibly both works in world premiere performances ( I'm not sure..).
Berlin Radio SO conducted by Marek Janowski. tatjana Masurenko is the viola soloist, Frank Immo Zilcher the pianist

Capriccio CAP 7112



Since I haven't heard the CD yet, I quote records International :

Description: First recording of the 1954-56 viola concerto, dedicated to Primrose. Berg’s chamber concerto is the work’s primary inspiration, the piano and viola separated in the same way as in the older composer’s work while there are also similarities to Bartók’s unfinished viola concerto. With all the warmth of strings removed (and of oboes and horns too), Hartmann adds an extensive percussion group to still provide a kind of opulence when he wants to. In the first movement if often seems as if a lighthearded viola concerto with wind accompaniment and a more aggressive piano concerto, accompanied by percussion have been squashed together. The slow second movement is densely polyphonic while the finale adds Blacher’s concept of “variable meter” to the techniques of the first movement. Also otherwise unavailable on CD is the Sinfonia (1940 with small revisions from 1943), whose first movement was later used as part of the Symphony No. 3 and whose second is full of quotes and allusions to other “degenerate” musicians, Berg in particular with elements of Wozzeck depicting the brutality of the Nazi regime. Tatiana Masurenko (viola), Frank-Immo Zichner (piano), RSO Berlin; Marek Janowski. SACD






Offline Sergeant Rock

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #12 on: May 17, 2007, 02:16:54 AM »
We know you love Mahler, Greta. I agree with Bruce. You must hear the Sinfonia.

Greta, you'll get probably many suggestions, but since you suggested Berio, try one of the recordings of Sinfonia.  The central movement takes the Scherzo of Mahler's Resurrection Symphony, and grafts onto it bits and pieces of Beethoven, Ravel and other composers, along with texts by Samuel Beckett.

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Don Giovanni

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #13 on: May 17, 2007, 07:44:28 AM »
Okay, I'm trying to explore the serialists and avantgardists all that mid 20th c. jazz, but don't know where to begin with the following composers...

Karlheinz Stockhausen
Luciano Berio
Anton Webern
Alban Berg
Milton Babbitt
John Cage
George Crumb
Iannis Xeniakis
Elliott Carter
Edgar Varese
Arvo Part
Pierre Boulez
Luigi Dallapiccola
Sofia Gubaidulina

I see this list is the noted "2nd Viennese" or "Darmstadt" guys. ;)
 

Webern is probably the best place to start before you experience the later serialists. You can pick up Boulez's recording of Webern's complete (numbered) works at a reasonable price.

As many people have said, Berio is another composer to try out: listen to some of the Sequenzae to hear some instruments taken to their extreme (no.3 for voice especially).

Since your list contained the 'Darmstadt' composers, it was missing two important names: Luigi Nono and Bruno Maderna. Nono, who coined the term 'Darmstadt', was one of the greatest composers of post-1950 serialism. His work is probably the most uncompromisingly political I've ever heard.

Offline CS

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #14 on: May 17, 2007, 09:00:46 AM »
If you like Mahler, you might like Webern's Passacaglia, Berg's 3 Pieces for Orchestra, and Hartmann's Symphony No.1.

Offline Maciek

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #15 on: May 17, 2007, 01:36:47 PM »
Nono, who coined the term 'Darmstadt', was one of the greatest composers of post-1950 serialism. His work is probably the most uncompromisingly political I've ever heard.

I don't think you can call Nono's (or anyone else's) music political. Even The Internationale is not political as music.

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #16 on: May 17, 2007, 01:52:22 PM »
Elliott Carter is neither a serialist, nor a Viennese, nor a member of the Darmstadt school, but he certainly is a challenging mid-20th-century composer. I'd recommend you begin with the stuff he was writing at midcentury. There's a great disk on Nonesuch that contains the Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano with Two Chamber Orchestras (1961), the Cello Sonata (1948) and the Sonata for Flute, Oboe Cello and Harpsichord (1954). These are all imprtant works and a great place to start. You should also try first two string quartets (1951 and 1959) — both major major major pieces — which are also available on Nonesuch, in great performances by the Composers Quartet.

Another poster recommended the Night Fantasies (1980) for piano. That takes some getting used to, I think, but you can listen to it for free at artofthestates.com, in a great performance by Stephen Drury. Art of the States also also offers Changes, a short work for guitar, and the Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for Woodwind Quartet (1950), which is another great starting point.

Enjoy!

Offline not edward

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #17 on: May 17, 2007, 02:23:03 PM »
Okay, I'm trying to explore the serialists and avantgardists all that mid 20th c. jazz, but don't know where to begin with the following composers...

Let me jump in late on a few of these:
 
Luciano Berio: Sinfonia is one of the key 60s works. The Chailly recording on Decca is the best I've heard, but Boulez's recording is almost as good and now available at budget price.

Anton Webern: The cheap entree is the first volume of Robert Craft's Webern series on Naxos. The expensive one is one of the Boulez complete works sets.

Alban Berg: The violin concerto. Eloquence has Szeryng's fine account along with the violin and piano concertos of Schoenberg.

John Cage: ECM has a great disc with the early ballet The Seasons, the Concerto for Prepared Piano and Orchestra, and the late Seventy-Four. This gives you a sample of each of Cage's three main periods.

Iannis Xenakis: there's a Col Legno disc in their Collage midprice series that includes three of Xenakis' best works: Ata, Metastasis and Jonchaies. Great stuff.

Elliott Carter: The Nonesuch recording of the Cello Sonata, Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord, and Double Concerto is the touchstone for new Carterites. The two sonatas are tonal but use the techniques of his mature music, the Double Concerto is his mid-period style in full flow. For a blast of his late works, the new Bridge disc with Dialogues, the Boston Concerto, Cello Concerto and ASKO Concerto is hard to beat.

Edgar Varese: Chailly's two-disc set on Decca is outstanding--and contains every note he published.

Arvo Part: Two ECM discs contain most of the best of Part: Tabula Rasa and Arbos. As far as I'm concerned, nothing else he wrote touches the magnificent beauty of Tabula Rasa, Cantus and Stabat mater.

Pierre Boulez: Probably the sur Incises disc on DG. Rituel is the work that got me into Boulez in the first place, though.
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Offline Maciek

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #18 on: May 17, 2007, 02:34:24 PM »
Okay, I'm trying to explore the serialists and avantgardists

Arvo Part


I've mentioned my ignorance in this field earlier - I'd really like to hear a recommendation of some of the earlier, 12-tone Part. Has anyone heard anything worth hearing? Or anything at all? ;)

Maciek

Offline not edward

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Re: 'Difficult' Mid 20th c. Composers - Where to Begin?
« Reply #19 on: May 17, 2007, 02:40:07 PM »
I've mentioned my ignorance in this field earlier - I'd really like to hear a recommendation of some of the earlier, 12-tone Part. Has anyone heard anything worth hearing? Or anything at all? ;)

Maciek
I'm not sure if any of Part is strict 12-tone: even the most 'modernist' pieces of his tend to suddenly throw in tonal chords or whatever. I guess the most obvious selections would be the first two symphonies, the cello concerto and Credo, but all of them have more in common with Schnittke than any kind of serialism. (And they're way less subtle and less fun than Schnittke, IMO.)
"I don't at all mind actively disliking a piece of contemporary music, but in order to feel happy about it I must consciously understand why I dislike it. Otherwise it remains in my mind as unfinished business."
 -- Aaron Copland, The Pleasures of Music