Tag Archives: modernism

Olivier Greif’s Sonate de Requiem, Trio avec piano

Olivier Greif was one of those musicians: he entered the Paris Conservatory at age ten, and in 1967, at the age of seventeen, won the first prize for composition. The bulk of his output is chamber music, largely sonatas for … Continue reading

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Nona Hendryx and Gary Lucas’s The World of Captain Beefheart

It’s pretty audacious to record an album of Captain Beefheart’s music, but apparently guitarist Gary Lucas is that kind of guy. He comes by it honestly, though. He played in a late incarnation of Beefheart’s Magic Band in the 1980s, … Continue reading

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Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra, Sz. 116; Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion, Sz. 110; Improvisations on Hungarian Peasant Songs, Sz. 74

If you’ve been following our explorations of twentieth-century Western music, you already know a bit about Béla Bartók, one of the century’s most singular and prodigious talents. “Prodigious” because his career spanned the first half of the century, from the … Continue reading

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Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5, Op. 47, Chamber Symphony for String Orchestra, Op. 110a

When I was first making my acquaintance with the range of the twentieth-century “classical” canon, the Shostakovich Fifth was the penultimate achievement of Soviet music. Shostakovich, although a loyal Soviet citizen, was also an artist, which is a breed not … Continue reading

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Leon Fleisher’s American Album: Aaron Copland, Piano Sonata; Roger Sessions, From My Diary; Leon Kirchner, Piano Sonata; Ned Rorem, Three Barcarolles

American music of the twentieth century, at least that variety that styles itself “serious” music, is inhabited by a range of highly independent composers. One of its most notable aspects, in fact, is its resistance to “schools” outside of the … Continue reading

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Richard Strauss’ Don Quixote, Sonata for Cello and Piano; Sonata for Violin and Piano in E-flat Major, Op. 18; George Enescu’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in A minor, Op. 25

Richard Strauss, to me, is one of those protean composers who developed in the artistic ferment of Europe that stretched from the 1890s to the years encompassing World War I. He was, at least as much as any of his … Continue reading

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Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings: Orchestral and Chamber Works

Samuel Barber is one of those composers I haven’t paid enough attention to, except for the Adagio for Strings, which at its best is an overwhelming piece of music — but more on that later. Barber was born into comfortable … Continue reading

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Guarneri Quartet’s The Hungarian Album (Ernö Dohnányi, String Quartet No. 2 in D-flat Major, Op. 15, String Quartet No. 3 in A Minor, Op. 33; Zoltan Kodály, String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10)

The Guarneri Quartet is one of the most distinguished ensembles of the latter half of the twentieth century. It was founded in 1964, reportedly at the instigation of Alexander Schneider of the legendary Budapest String Quartet, although Arnold Steinhardt’s recollection … Continue reading

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Works of Igor Stravinsky

Works of Igor Stravinsky is a massive set: 22 CDs of performances of Rite of Spring, Petrouschka, L’Histoire du Soldat, Symphony in E-Flat, The Rake’s Progress and more under the direction of the composer, with additional performances by his disciple … Continue reading

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Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque; Maurice Ravel’s Sonatine, Valses nobles et sentimentales, Alborada del gracioso

After I had gained a little background in what we call “classical” music (which is to say, Western art music of whatever era and style, whether it is truly classical or not), the customary juxtaposition of Claude Debussy and Maurice … Continue reading

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Alfred Schnittke: Symphony No. 9/ Alexander Raskatov: Nunc dimittis

To Soviet composer Alfred Schnittke, music provided continuity, a connection with history and, in fact, to all of life. This is, perhaps, not so surprising: his musical education took place largely in post-War Vienna, and if anything typifies the life … Continue reading

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Miranda Cuckson, Blair McMillen: Bartók, Lutosławski, Schnittke

If I had to choose one word to describe the music of Central and Eastern Europe in the years after World War II, it would be “restless.” This restlessness actually predates the War, having its roots in the Vienna of … Continue reading

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Béla Bartók: Bartók’s Sonata for Solo Violin, Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano

If I seem to be enthusiastic about the music of Béla Bartók, it’s only because I am — you’d have to be, to sit and listen to more than five hours of his music for solo piano. Happily, he was … Continue reading

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Gustav Mahler: The Complete Symphonies

Both Tim Page and Erik Ryding, in their essays accompanying this Sony reissue of Leonard Bernstein’s landmark cycle of the complete symphonies of Gustav Mahler, give Bernstein pride of place in Mahler’s “rehabilitation” in the 1960s. While I don’t want … Continue reading

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Béla Bartók: Bartók: Solo Piano Works

Vol. I: Seven Sketches (Sz 44), Sonata 1926 (Sz 80), Fifteen Hungarian Peasant Songs and Dances (Sz 71), Four Dirges (Sz 45), Allegro Barbaro (Sz 49) Vol. II: Suite (Sz 62), For Children (42 Hungarian Folk Songs) (Sz 42), Three … Continue reading

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Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band’s Trout Mask Replica

The avant garde of one generation is often the mainstream of future generations. Thus, Yoko Ono’s ululations of the Sixties influence The B-52s’ warbling in the Eighties; Velvet Underground’s dark, jagged art-rock informs punk and postpunk bands too numerous to … Continue reading

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