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Thread: Your Favorite 20th/21st Century Composers

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    Default Your Favorite 20th/21st Century Composers

    Again, this thread is inspired by another thread... or actually two: the thread on Richard Strauss in which several of us defined what we admired about this composer, and the thread on favorite living composers. What I am after is not simply a list of 3 or 5 or 10 favorite composers... but rather your favorite (not necessarily the "best" or who you think is the "best") but your favorite composer in each of the following musical genre:

    1. Opera

    2. Choral Music

    3. Lieder/Song

    4. Symphonic

    5. Concerto

    6. Chamber Music

    7. Solo Instrumental

    8. Another genre of your choice


    Last edited by StlukesguildOhio; Nov-10-2011 at 06:22. Reason: Added Category: Concerto (duh!)

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    Senior Member DavidMahler's Avatar
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    OPERA: Strauss wrote the greatest series of opera in the 20th century, but Bluebeard is probably my favorite opera of the 20th century. Puccini is like Justin Bieber to Strauss's Beatles (sorry Puccini fans) Wozzeck gets a nod and Britten has a great series of operas which don't quite make the cut to the top of the list.

    Choral - Schoenberg wrote some great choral pieces. Orff again takes the McDonalds prize

    Lieder/Song - Has to be Mahler....discussion over (Das Lied von der Erde is the great song cycle of ALL TIME)....

    Symphonic - Mahler followed by Shostakovich

    Concerto - Elgar's Cello Concerto is my favorite written in the 20th Century, but Bartok's 3 piano concertos and amazing second violin concerto allow him to win this. Sibelius's violin concerto is amazing too, but that was like 1902 and I ultimately think of it as a late 19th Century concerto.

    Chamber Music - Not the strongest century for this genre, but Reich's large chamber ensemble works are amongst my favorites. Shostakovich's string quartets as well as Bartok's are great, but I would actually choose Reich here in some ways for sheer originality. Hindemith is on a second tier here but excellent as well. Arnold's string Quartets are worth listening to.

    Solo Instrumental - aka Piano......Gotta be Debussy and Ravel

    Ballet Music - Stravinsky takes SECOND tier to Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe which folks...is the greatest ballet score ever written in terms of pure musical genius.

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    1. Opera: Puccini (Honorable mention to Gian Carlo Meniotti)

    2. Choral Music: Tough category... I will pick Healy Willan

    3. Lieder/Song: George Gershwin

    4. Symphonic: Gustav Mahler (H.M. to Charles Ives)

    5. Chamber Music: Maurice Ravel (H.M. to Shostakovich)

    6. Solo Instrumental: Claude Debussy (H.M. to Jehan Alain)

    7. Another genre of your choice - I choose Andre Mathieu for "concertos", with an H.M. to John T. Williams for "film music")

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    Senior Member clavichorder's Avatar
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    Opera: know nothing about it

    Choral Music: do Mahler symphonies with a chorus count?

    Lieder/Song: Mahler and Medtner

    Symphonic: Mahler, Shostakovich, Nielsen, Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Debussy, Britten for most major that I've heard.

    Chamber Music: Hindemith(I like the wind quintet), Stravinsky(Soldier's tale), but I know little else.

    Solo Instrumental: Medtner piano works, Prokofiev sonatas, Debussy, Ravel, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff.

    Popular: Beatles

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    Senior Member DavidMahler's Avatar
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    Oh for popular music.

    Beatles take it all the way for the ability to be extremely successful, but artistically viable.

    On a personal level, I am 100% convinced that Elliott Smith improved drastically upon what the Beatles started and he would be my pick as the greatest songwriter not only of the 20th century but potentially of all time, alongside Gershwin, Ellington, Wolf, Brahms, Schumann and Schubert. Not trolling

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    1. Opera
    - Berg
    - Puccini
    - Schoenberg
    - Richard Meale (who I think was one of the finest Australian composers of the c20th - esp. significant are his Voss and Mer de Glace)

    2. Choral Music
    - No particular preference here, anything from c20th goes with me here, except maybe aspects of "holy minimalism" which I'm beginning to tire of after it's been rehashed for like 30+ years.

    3. Lieder/Song
    - I like the Americans - eg. Ives, Gershwin, Bernstein, Barber, Rorem, etc.
    - Britten & probably other UK, eg. Vaughan Williams
    - Piazzolla
    - Lutoslawski
    - Zemlinsky, R. Strauss

    4. Symphonic
    - Shostakovich, Prokofiev
    - Ives, Hovhaness, Bernstein
    - Lutoslawski, Szymanowski

    5. Concerto - probably too many to mention, but -
    - 20th. cent. Viennese School
    - Hindemith
    - Rozsa
    - Basically any guitar concerto, eg. Rodrigo, Villa-Lobos, Castelnuovo-Tedesco
    - Dutilleux, Lutoslawski, Shostakovich, Myaskovsky - cello
    - Peter Sculthorpe, Margaret Sutherland - to put in some Aussies!
    - Tippett
    - Carter

    6. Chamber Music - again, quite a lot, but here are some that come straight to mind -
    - Ives, Carter, USA Minimalists, Bernard Herrmann
    - Berg
    - Janacek
    - Shostakovich, Schnittke
    - Messiaen
    - Hindemith
    - Tippett, Walton, Elgar
    - Xenakis
    - Piazzolla
    - Richard Meale, Matthew Hindson (to mention two Aussies)

    7. Solo Instrumental - again, here's a selection -
    - Boulez
    - Berg
    - Xenakis
    - Castelnuovo-Tedesco
    - K.A. Hartmann
    - Peter Sculthorpe, Ross Edwards (two Aussies, in terms of their guitar works)
    - Scelsi
    - Messiaen
    - Widor, Langlais, Alain - organ
    - Bartok
    - Ives, Carter, Barber, Sessions, Griffes, Copland - piano sonatas

    8. Another genre of your choice - I put in 3 for the price of 1 here!

    - Electronic/electro-acoustic/music with amplification, etc. - Varese, Xenakis, Saariaho, Barry Conyngham, Roger Dean (two Aussies)

    - Musicals - Kander/Ebb (Cabaret), Bernstein/Sondheim (West Side Story)

    - Operetta - Lehar, jazz operetta - Abraham, Stolz, Benatzky, Piazzolla (Maria de Buenos Aires)
    Last edited by Sid James; Nov-10-2011 at 11:31.

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    Senior Member StlukesguildOhio's Avatar
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    1. Opera- Richard Strauss is the clear choice. Puccini and Britten are the only possible contenders... and IMO... not too close... much as I love Puccini. Strauss has two harrowing, expressionist masterpieces: Salome and Elektra, the magnificent Der Rosenkavalier, which builds upon the operatic traditions of Mozart and Johann Strauss... and then there are a handful of further operas nearly equal to these: Ariadne auf Naxos, Arabella, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Daphne, etc...

    2. Choral Music- Ultimately, I would have to go with Benjamin Britten. I love Rachmaninoff's Vespers, John Taverner's Shunya, Barber's Agnus Dei, John Adams' Harmonium, and several other marvelous choral works including those by Arvo Part, Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, and Herbert Howells, but Britten has such a wealth of wonderful choral music that straddles the line between traditional and Modernist... the central work being the great War Requiem.

    3. Lieder/Song- I have to go with Richard Strauss again. The three great song cycles of this period, IMO, are Mahler's The Song of the earth, Strauss' Four Last Songs, and Peter Lieberson's Neruda Songs. All three are truly heart-wrenching. Strauss, however, has such a wealth of songs beyond this cycle that are truly brilliant that I must go with him.

    4. Symphonic- Let's see... we have Mahler's final 5 symphonies vs Sibelius, Nielsen, Shostakovitch, Prokofiev, etc...I end up going with Mahler.

    5. Concerto- There's Ravel's exquisite Piano Concerto, Shosty's Cello Concerto, Henri Dutilleux's brilliant efforts, and that of Bartok. In the end I have to go with Rachmaninoff.

    6. Chamber Music- I'll go with the odd choice of Toru Takemitsu. Takemitsu simply had an absolutely exquisite sensitivity to orchestration and orchestral color... merging the Impressionism of Debussy and Ravel with the traditions of Japanese music. The runners up: Shostakovitch for his string quartets, Koechlin, and Debussy.

    7. Solo Instrumental- I have to go with Debussy. His Images pour piano, Estampes, Children's Corner, Préludes, Études, etc... are among the most exquisite... and innovative compositions of the period. The possible runner's up include Shostakovitch (his Preludes and Fugues) and Charles Koechlin (Les Chants de Nectaire).

    8. Another genre of your choice- Ballet- Stravinsky (obviously... with Prokofiev not far behind).

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    1. Opera - Britten, Puccini and Janacek.
    2. Choral - not sure.
    3. Lieder/song - Shostakovich, Mahler.
    4. Symphonic - Shostakovich, Mahler and Simpson.
    5. Concerto - Schnittke.
    6. Chamber - Shostakovich, Poulenc, Bartok and Hindemith.
    7. Solo Instrumental - Ravel, Debussy and (late) Skryabin.
    8. Another genre - 'best all-rounder' - Bernstein the composer for having one foot in both the concert hall and Broadway, also for being a conductor, pianist, lecturer, showman etc.

    Sorry I can't narrow it down any further.
    Last edited by elgars ghost; Nov-10-2011 at 08:17.

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    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
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    1. Opera - Bartok is my guy as Bluebeard's Castle is among my favorite works of all time, however I must acknowledge R Strauss is no slouch here, and possibly the 'greatest' in the 20th century in this area.
    2. Choral - Penderecki. His St. Luke Passion is my favorite choral work of the 20th century.
    3. Lieder/ Song - Probably Mahler, but must admit this isn't my area of expertise. Again R Strauss seems very good here too.
    4. Symphonic - Mahler takes it for me followed closely by Sibelius.
    5. Concerto - Ravel (PC in G / PC for left hand) followed by Bartok.
    6. Chamber - Ravel's SQ is probably my favorite 20th century chamber work, but Bartok has many great SQ's, in the end Bartok edges out Ravel here.
    7. Solo Instrumental - Ravel, followed closely by Joaquin Rodrigo and Debussy.
    8. Ballet - Ravel. I saw Daphne and Chloe performed this year it was an amazing experience - and its currently my favorite ballet of all time.
    Last edited by tdc; Nov-10-2011 at 08:58.

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    I don't want to think too much, so I'll list the most obvious ones to me.

    1. Opera - Richard Strauss by a clear easy lead. I don't see any greater opera composer after him since.

    4. Symphonic - Mahler

    8. Ballet - Prokofiev

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    Senior Member pjang23's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by itywltmt View Post
    7. Another genre of your choice - I choose Andre Mathieu for "concertos"
    Cheers, fellow Canadian

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    1. Opera- Alban Berg

    2. Choral Music- Benjamin Britten

    3. Lieder/Song- Reynaldo Hahn

    4. Symphonic- Olivier Messiaen

    5. Concerto- Witold Lutoslawski

    6. Chamber Music- Brian Ferneyhough

    7. Solo Instrumental- Claude Debussy

    8. Another genre of your choice- Kaija Saariaho

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    1. Opera- Puccini and Strauss equally, these two stand pretty far ahead of the rest. Honourable mention to Janecek, Schreker and for the sake of originality, Franco Alfano whose own work apart from the controversial Turandot completion is highly underrated - these are operas to be seen though rather than to be heard apart - and I don't say that as a criticism, I feel the same about many of Strauss' operas (Ariadne, Salome). Of more recent work I'm intrigued by excerpts I've heard of Saariaho's L'amour de loin, but have not yet heard it whole. Aulis Sallinen is another Finn whose operas should be better known.

    2. Choral Music- Penderecki, Schnittke, Ligeti, Part

    3. Lieder/Song- Strauss by far, though I have a soft spot for Lutoslawski's cycle

    4. Symphonic- Too many in this field for me to pick an overall favourite.. no one really stands out as dominant.. I'll list a few and will learn to live with the small armada of omissions (applies to the other categories as well really)... in no particular order.. Shostakovich, Zemlinsky, Schnittke, Scelsi, Strauss, Respighi, Debussy, Sibelius... hmm.. as suspected, not satisfied with my list, but to make it longer is to make it meaningless.. I find the 21st century portion a bit sparse so I'll nominate Giacomo Cataldo who I discovered recently, though its probably too soon to make such pronouncements. Hence part of the problem, in 2011 the most renowned living composers will still be those who had significant careers in the 20th century.. which brings me back to Penderecki...

    5. Concerto- Prokofiev, Rachmaninov, Shostakovich

    6. Chamber Music- Shostakovich (the quartets are one of the major cycles in the genre of any century)

    7. Solo Instrumental- Debussy, Bartok, Medtner

    8. Another genre of your choice- Ballet? Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet, and Stravinksy's three (Petrushka, Rite, Firebird)

    A final musing, it has always appeared to me that the 20th century really saw the Russian school come into its own after its rapid development in the 19th.

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    Senior Member itywltmt's Avatar
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    Healy Willan is also Canadian (if only by adoption...)

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    Senior Member Olias's Avatar
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    1. Opera- Not really qualified to say. I'm a Mozart and Bel Canto guy.

    2. Choral Music- Bernstein (WSS, Mass, Chichester)

    3. Lieder/Song- Copland (Old American Songs, Poems of Emily D.)

    4. Symphonic- Shostakovich

    5. Concerto- Copland, Prokofiev, and Higdon

    6. Chamber Music- Shostakovich (especially the SQ)

    7. Solo Instrumental- Debussy

    8. Another genre of your choice- Ballet music of Copland and Bernstein

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