Acoustic Sounds
David Hancock's Bugatti
By: John Marks

June 28th, 2024



A Listener’s Guide to Non-Toxic Modern Classical Music

These pieces are just good music, period.

David Hancock with a friend and his Bugatti. Courtesy the Hancock family.

It seems I never get tired of telling “David Hancock Stories.”

David Hancock was the legendary recording engineer responsible for the famous 1967 Donald Johanos/Dallas Symphony Rachmaninoff Symphonic Dances LP, as well as Arturo Delmoni’s & Meg Bachman Vas’ Songs My Mother Taught Me. What many audiophiles might not know, is that David also was a Juilliard-trained classical pianist.

David had strong opinions about modern music. David once asked me, “John, do you know why they call it ‘Contemporary’ Music?” When I replied that I did not, David said:

“Because most of it is a con, and all of it is temporary.”

I do not agree. Not all music that is modern is destined for the trash heap of history. I think that many (but, of course, not all) audiophiles are denying themselves a lot of great music, because of a mistaken prejudice along the lines of, “If it was composed in the 20th century, and it is not a film score, it probably is difficult and unrewarding to listen to.”

I will be the first to agree that strict “academic” 20th-century 12-tone (serial) music can be rough sledding—especially upon the first hearing. However, there are countless pieces of music written by 20th-century (and later) composers that are very accessible, listenable, and rewarding.

There are magnificent musical works still being written… although, I hasten to acknowledge that the modern pieces I myself consider to be great music are, for the most part, non-symphonic, or even non-orchestral works.

That’s because composers who still write music that is: “formal, tonal, and melodic” don’t get the support in academia and/or from foundation boards (and their advisors) that the more aggressively modernistic, trendy composers do.

I don’t think that anyone who works in music will deny that. Orchestras are very expensive beasts to feed, and so their minders are often risk-averse in programming. Bottom line: it’s a lot easier to arrange the première performance of a new string quartet piece or a new art song, than of a new symphony.

Therefore, the following list of works that I consider to be the creations of musical geniuses is quite varied in terms of the performance forces each piece requires.

Now, it should go without saying that we can no more “un-hear” Bach’s greatest cantatas or instrumental works (let alone, Beethoven’s well-fed warhorses), than we can “conveniently un-remember” Auschwitz or Nagasaki. DUUH.

Therefore, it almost goes without saying that today’s “non-toxic” classical composers ARE standing on the shoulders of giants.

And yes, I do think there is a little nod to Allegri’s Miserere (composed 1638) at the climax of Eric Whitacre’s magisterial When David Heard (composed 1999). Whitacre’s work (of course) fits into a hundreds-years-long tradition of Music for the Death of a Royal Youth (regardless of what a worthless schmuck any given royal youth might have been).

The conventional wisdom is that Modern Music as such arose with the 1913 première of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. However, as an arbitrary starting date for my mini-survey, I chose 1950. Also, in terms of selecting pieces, I avoided out-and-out retro or neo-Romantic compositions, such as Howard Hanson’s Second Symphony. But if you aren’t familiar with that work, by all means check it out.

Given that Rachmaninoff breathed his last in 1943, and that his Symphonic Dances were written in 1940, the Symphonic Dances are excluded by my 1950 cut-off date. But all audiophiles should hear David Hancock’s 1967 Dallas recording at least once, so they can marvel at how up-to-date an orchestral recording that is well over 50 years old can sound. (The digital rip on offer via Qobuz is very good.)

Naturally, I chose pieces that have personal resonance for me. My own taste in music runs to compositions that take themselves seriously—in other words, my taste is the complete opposite of the music offered by most commercial classical FM stations during Morning Drivetime. I have not much interest in music that is bright, perky, tuneful, undemanding, and for the most part utterly predictable.

So here is an impressionistic, and therefore by definition incomplete, very personal (and brief) chronological survey of more than 50 years of modern compositions that I surmise many audiophiles have not yet heard. I believe they will enjoy the music immensely. To repeat, this list is not an exercise in “eating spinach because it is good for you;” these pieces are just good music, period.

Because not everyone has Qobuz, I am embedding YouTube performances, but not all the recommended pieces are up on YT in live-performance form. For you Qobuz subscribers:

= = =

(1) Alan Hovhaness: Symphony 2, “Mysterious Mountain”
(orchestral) (composed 1955)

In 1940, in what I think was quite obviously a gauntlet-tossing-down in the direction of academic serialism (12-tone music), Alan Hovhaness set forth his Humanistic manifesto:

It is not my purpose to supply a few pseudo-intellectual musicians and critics with more food for brilliant argumentation, but rather to inspire all mankind with new heroism and spiritual nobility. This may appear to be sentimental and impossible to some, but it must be remembered that Palestrina, Handel and Beethoven would not consider it either sentimental or impossible. In fact, the worthiest creative art has been motivated consciously or unconsciously by the desire for the regeneration of mankind.

Hovhaness’ music was informed by his studies of not only the Christian tradition of Chant, but also of Indian and Asian music. Hovhaness’ earliest success in symphonic form was his second effort, “Mysterious Mountain,” which was fortunate in its early champions Fritz Reiner, the Chicago Symphony, and RCA Records.

“Mysterious Mountain”’s spare architecture of modal elements wrapped in exotic sonic textures rises to an austere majesty that owes not much at all to the 19th-century European symphonic tradition, and which owes nothing to the Second Viennese School.

Recommended LP: Fritz Reiner, Chicago Symphony Orchestra RCA Living Stereo LSC-2251 (1958). Richard Mohr, Producer; Lewis Layton, Engineer. (It seems there are bargains to be had!)

= = =

(2) Benjamin Britten: Nocturnal Op. 70, after John Dowland
(classical guitar solo) (composed 1963)

Benjamin Britten’s inspired reworking of John Dowland’s Renaissance (1597) lute song “Come, Heavy Sleepe” fell like a thunderclap across the world of classical-guitar music (and the world of modern music in general). Nocturnal is generally regarded as one of the most important (and is often called the single most important) pieces for solo classical guitar written in the 20th century.

Britten inverts the usual virtuoso-variations form. He starts with a deconstructed version that is farthest from the original. With each successive iteration, the music moves closer to the uncomplicated pathos of Dowland’s yearning for the sleep that is death. Britten dedicated the piece to guitarist Julian Bream.

 Recommended LP: Julian Bream, 20th-Century Guitar, RCA Living Stereo LSC-2964 (1967).

= = =

(3) Morton Feldman: Rothko Chapel
(wordless chamber chorus, vocal soloists, celesta, percussion, viola solo) (composed 1971)

Morton Feldman wrote a piece specifically for one room: a privately-funded interfaith chapel in Texas that had been designed to house and display massive paintings by the Abstract Expressionist Mark Rothko. Feldman’s Rothko Chapel, for soprano, alto, chorus, percussion, celesta, and viola is one of the most organically magical pieces of modern music.

Just as Britten’s Nocturnal deconstructs toward simplicity, Feldman’s Rothko Chapel moves toward an encounter with what Feldman (in a related context) called “[a] very few essential things.”

Rothko’s huge dark canvasses remind me of a particularly Spanish form of Catholicism (or at least, of a particularly Spanish form of Catholic art). Feldman’s Rothko Chapel similarly conveys a sense of mourning, but also a sense of being outside time.

I know of nothing else like it. I think that Rothko Chapel is an absolute necessity for Cultural Literacy in Classical Music.

Recommended LP: Morton Feldman: Rothko Chapel/For Frank O'Hara, Columbia Odyssey Y-34138 (1976).

= = =

(4) David Del Tredici: Final Alice
(from Alice In Wonderland) (for amplified soprano/narrator, folk group, and orchestra) (composed 1976)

David Del Tredici wrote a series of large orchestral works wherein Tredici obsessed over the relationship between the real-world people in the background of the Alice in Wonderland stories, those being “Lewis Carroll” (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) and the 11-year old Alice Pleasance Liddell. His In Memory of a Summer Day (part one of Child Alice) won for Tredici the Pulitzer Prize in Music.

Strangely enough, Final Alice was commissioned for the Chicago Symphony in honor of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the United States. Wha? Where I come out on that is, there’s something essentially American about cultural “borrowing.” I also have it on good authority that when Final Alice had its Boston Symphony premiere, the rapturous standing ovation at the end lasted more than 20 minutes.

The soprano soloist both narrates, by reciting from Alice in Wonderland’s courtroom scene, and sings arias based on poems connected with that work. The final aria, the Acrostic Song “A Boat, ‘Neath a Sunny Sky,” is heartrendingly poignant. It’s almost an elegy for Alice; or perhaps, for innocence.

The YouTube above is audio-only of Barbara Hendricks’ (who created the role) Acrostic Song. “Acrostic” meaning that the first letter of each line of text, when read vertically, spells something, in this case the real Alice’s full name. To give a “Steampunk” vibe to the end of this hour-plus-long work, the orchestral musicians hiss out the name of each line’s first letter.

Tredici’s music, on the surface so much like a nursery song, has subtle and perhaps troubling depths. And there’s a least one phrase that always makes me think of Elgar. Final Alice ends with the oboe playing Tuning A, making the evening something of a musical palindrome. But, leading up to the very end, the soprano, speaking, counts up to 13, in Italian.

Get it?

Recommended LP: Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Barbara Hendricks et al., Sir Georg Solti, conductor. London Records LDR 71018 (1981). James Mallinson, producer; James Lock, John Dunkerly, Michael Mailes, engineers. (Note, this is one of the earliest Digitally-Recorded LPs I am aware of.)

= = =

(5) Arvo Pärt: Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten
(string orchestra and a single tubular bell) (composed 1977)

Britten’s spare and unornamented music made Arvo Pärt believe he had found a truly kindred spirit. So, Pärt was confounded when Britten died before he could meet him.

Pärt composed, as a memorial, an elegy for string orchestra and a single bell. The bell is tuned to A, and the entire piece is based on a slowly descending natural-minor scale that is also in A.

65 measures in, the first violins stop playing the A-minor scale, and hold the note C for more than 250 beats—a gesture that calls to mind the vibraphone ostinato toward the end of Rothko Chapel. Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten is one of Pärt’s most popular pieces, and deservedly so.

Recommended LP: The Sound of Arvo Pärt, Warner Classics 0825646043798 (2015). (This is the only LP option; the sources are presumably digital.)

= = =

(6) Toru Takemitsu: From Me Flows What You Call Time
(concerto for five percussionists and orchestra) (composed 1990)

Self-taught Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu was influenced by the music of Olivier Messiaen. Later in life, he was also influenced by traditional Japanese music. Takemitsu’s From Me Flows What You Call Time is a concerto for five percussionists and orchestra.

But rather than being a “Louie Bellson Bash Fest,” over the course of its 25-minute running time, From Me Flows What You Call Time is often sparse and understated—almost to the point of being “ambient” music, but with more structure, as subtle as that structure and the sound are.

From Me Flows What You Call Time was commissioned for the 100th anniversary of Carnegie Hall. I therefore can’t help but think that Takemitsu might have been indulging himself in an “Insider’s Joke” bit of musical Pun-ditry.

That’s because the flute solo that From Me Flows What You Call Time begins with strikes me as so similar to the bassoon solo that starts Rite of Spring that, in an Alternate Universe, there would be copyright-infringement litigation.

Recommended LP: Apparently, no LP version exists.

= = =

(7) Jaakko Mäntyjärvi: Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae
(a-cappella chorus, soprano soloist, and cantor) (composed 1997)

The title is Latin for, “The Song of Maritime Calamity.” In 1994, an Estonian passenger ferry took on water and sank with the loss of 852 lives. One of the texts set in this astounding work for chorus and soloists is a transcript of a Latin-language Finnish radio news broadcast on the sinking.

However, it is the opening of the piece that is sublime—in the sense of terrifying. After a choral sigh and whispered invocations of the Requiem text, the soprano soloist sings a wordless folk-style lament.

The whispers are indistinct—they may be a tone painting of the sounds of the water against the hull, or of the whispered prayers of the passengers. The tenor declaims the news story in Latin, creating an eerie echo of The Evangelist in Bach’s Passions. The words move on to Psalm 107 ("They that go down to the sea in ships...").

Canticum Calamitatis Maritimae is a tremendously serious work, imaginatively conceived, and performed with dignity and compassion.

Recommended LP: Apparently, no LP version exists. However, the Chandos Hybrid SACD offers the option of 5-channel DSD.

= = =

(8) Eric Whitacre: When David Heard
(a-cappella chorus) (composed 1999)

  Eric Whitacre's surname is pronounced WITT-uh-kurr. Therefore, it is not pronounced the same way as “Whiteacre,” the imaginary plot of land beloved of teachers of law-school Property courses. Eric Whitacre was born in Nevada in 1970. He was admitted to the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He then joined the choir, for no other reason than that there were lots of cute girls in the soprano section. (At the time, he could not read music.)

However, once the choir's coursework started (with Mozart’s Requiem), Whitacre found his true calling. “In my entire life I had seen in black and white, and suddenly everything was in shocking Technicolor. It was the most transformative experience I've ever had… .” Whitacre tells that story in the first of his endearing series of TED Talks.

Whitacre published his first music, the choral piece "Go, Lovely Rose," at age 21. He followed that in relatively short order with a monster piece for symphonic band, Ghost Train. Despite its composer's characterization of it as "just a giant half-educated guess," Ghost Train quickly racked up more than 1,000 performances and 40 recordings. After graduation, he went on to graduate studies at the Juilliard School.

Whitacre developed a remarkably distinctive style. You can parse antecedents all you wish (though that task usually strikes me as an exercise in projection)—the bottom line is that, whether you end up positing synthesizer prog-rock or Benjamin Britten as "the more important influence," Whitacre is the genuine article.

Whitacre's choral-writing style favors wide-open chords, often in parallel motion, that can be very tough to sing. He also sometimes ends a melodic phrase with a parallel lowering of degree; which, from now on, I will refer to as "Whitacre's Dopplerization."

As noted at the beginning of this article, Whitacre wrote When David Heard in a pre-existing musical tradition, one that dates back at least to the early 1600s. He wrote When David Heard for his friends, a couple who had lost a baby boy. Which only makes the repeated phrase “My son” all the more heartbreaking.

I think of the difficult middle section as a “tone painting” of the voices inside King David’s head as he melts down. The climax of When David Heard is an 18-part choral chord, which to this day Whitacre says is painful for him to hear.

If someone sat you down, and you did not know When David Heard, and they played it for you, telling you it was a new piece by Arvo Pärt, you'd probably just think it was another in a very long line of works of unalloyed genius from Pärt.

Recommended LP: Apparently, no LP version exists.

= = =

(9) John Adams: The Dharma at Big Sur
(concerto for six-string electric violin and orchestra with piano) (composed 2003)

John Adams’ The Dharma at Big Sur could have been a Dog’s Breakfast of what I call “Good Career Move” music, but: It is not. It’s the real thing, a virtuoso violin concerto (albeit for six-string electric violin) such that, were Paganini around today, I think he’d be a bit envious of both the composer and the performer.

The Dharma at Big Sur starts with droning chords (played by “Sampler 1” and “Sampler 2”) that call to mind Indian music. That makes me smile, because reed organs such as the harmonium were brought to India by Protestant missionaries. In turn, Indians modified the design to allow for hand-pumping in place of foot pedals, at the same time making the instrument more portable.

Intriguingly, composer Adams specified that certain instruments (the keyboard samplers, the piano, and the two harps) were to be tuned in Non-Equal-Temperament “Just Intonation.” I assume for a more consonant, more “otherworldly” sound. The two harps are tuned in just intonation in the keys of B and E, respectively. The piano and the samplers are tuned in the justly-intonated key of B.

The Dharma at Big Sur was commissioned for the opening of the Walt Disney Hall. Its two parts are respectively tributes to the melodic inventiveness of Lou Harrison and the insistent rhythms of Terry Riley. The soundscape is an engaging cross of ambient, even trancelike orchestral backgrounds with an increasingly demanding violin part that moves ever-closer to a huge tonal resolution.

Tracy Silverman premiered the piece, and he later recorded it with the composer and the BBC Symphony Orchestra. However, Leila Josefowicz’s 2010 live performance with the Los Angeles Philharmonic is even more propulsively energetic. Josefowicz’s performance was not released on physical media, but it can be heard via Qobuz, and CD-quality downloads are available here:

Recommended LP: Apparently, no LP version exists.

= = =

(10) Morten Lauridsen: “Sure On This Shining Night” (text by James Agee)
(chorus and piano) (composed 2005)

James Agee (1909-1955) had a difficult and comparatively brief life. Born in Knoxville, Tennessee, his life was upended at age six when his father was killed in an automobile accident. Thereafter, Agee and his younger sister Emma were sent off to various boarding schools. Agee was a member of the class of 1932 at Harvard. Upon graduation, he went to work for Time, Inc.’s magazine Fortune. In 1934, he published his only volume of poetry, Permit Me Voyage.

In 1938 Agee wrote a brief prose piece, “Knoxville, Summer of 1915” that Samuel Barber later (1948) set for soprano and orchestra. In 1938, Barber had set another Agee text, “Sure On This Shining Night,” a brief poetic fragment from the Permit Me Voyage poem “Descriptions of Elysium.”. Barber’s “Shining Night” setting is solidly in the core or standard vocal repertory, both in its solo-voice and choral versions.

More recently (2005), composer Morten Lauridsen’s choral setting of “Sure On This Shining Night” has earned worldwide currency for its soulful treatment of Agee’s enigmatic, pensive, yet I think ultimately hopeful lines.

Agee later participated in the writing of two of the most famous films of the era, The African Queen and Night of the Hunter. He was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1958 for his autobiographical novel A Death In the Family. Agee’s reputation as a writer is usually thought to rest upon A Death In the Family and his Depression-era journal Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. But it cannot be doubted that Agee was one of the most important English-language art-music lyricists of the 20th century. That is, as long as one judges by quality, and not merely quantity.

© 1934 by Yale University Press; scanned from the Collected Poems of 1968;
reproduced under the Fair Use Doctrine.

I think the first thing to be aware of in Agee’s concise, nearly telegraphic ten-line text is the colloquial or vernacular nature of the language. “Sure,” I am sure, is a regionalism for “Surely.” And I am equally sure that Agee expected his opening lines to evoke resonances of Psalm 23’s “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.” I think the same regional voice appears when Agee writes “This side the ground” rather than “This side of the ground.” (I think the plain meaning of that is to note that the poet is alive, and not dead and buried.)

The poem is structured as one sentence over four lines, followed by four one-sentence lines, and concluding with one sentence over two lines. I think that the last sentence presents the crucial tension of the poem.

And because almost all of Agee’s writing was to some degree autobiographical, I think the last lines also point to the central tension in Agee’s life. Agee is wandering far and wandering alone, but at least he is weeping from wonder, and not from despair. The night is dark enough that the stars are casting shadows, but the stars themselves take note of what is on Earth, and Kindness must keep watch as well.

Agee’s first boarding school was an Episcopalian school not far from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. I am sure that Agee had many occasions to recite Psalm 23 in Chapel.

I am also sure that Agee struggled with the problem of how a supposedly loving God could allow a six-year old boy’s father to die. I think that this poem is an outgrowth of that struggle, and I think that Lauridsen’s setting captures the tension between the woundedness and the hopefulness perfectly.

Recommended LP: Apparently, no LP version exists.

To quote my mentor Boris Goldovsky (of the Metropolitan Opera), “That’s it, Kiddos!”

# # #


  • 2024-06-29 05:43:02 AM

    Musigny wrote:

    My favourites: Howard Hanson's Symphonies 1-7. Hanson's Concerto for organ, harp & strings. Randall Thompson's Symphony No. 2, David Diamond's Symphonies 2 & 4.

  • 2024-06-29 06:52:09 AM

    Jennnifer Martin wrote:

    Eric is an amazing talent and a wonderful person. Dozens of superlative works for choir as well as for wind band. By the way, his wife is the fantastic soprano Hila Pitman.

    • 2024-06-29 02:07:46 PM

      John Marks wrote:

      Hi, Jennifer, thanks for reading and thanks for writing in. Eric is a wonderful person. He once declared himself to be a "fan" of my writing about music. I also have huge admiration for Hila Plitmann. For a while there was a YT up of her totally amazing "Acrostic Song" with the Detroit Symphony, but it was taken down. I feel I have to update you, sad to say, that that marriage ended, and now Eric has a new wife and AFAIK they have a kid.

      • 2024-06-29 11:57:38 PM

        Jennnifer Martin wrote:

        Oh no! I hadn't heard that. The last time that I saw them together was at a conference hotel. They were on the same floor as I, and one morning, the two of them walking down the hallway toward the elevatory with the sun shining behind them, they looked like they were walking in slow motion like one of those old shampoo commercials. Ha! Wonderful folks and huge talents both.

  • 2024-06-29 04:10:36 PM

    Tony Almeida wrote:

    That Agee/Lauridsen piece IS beautiful! Especially nice commentary on the wording and structure of the poetry John. I first fell for the Agee/Barber "Knoxville: Summer of 1915". Then I read almost everything James Agee had written, including trips to the library to look in old bound copies of Fortune magazine. My favorite Agee line comes from a Life magazine article in 1949, "Comedy's Greatest Era" where he describes a movie scene - ''Laurel and Hardy are trying to move a piano across a narrow suspension bridge. The bridge is slung over a sickening chasm between a couple of Alps. Midway they meet a gorilla.''

    • 2024-06-29 04:26:21 PM

      John Marks wrote:

      Thanks, Tony. "Knoxville" is a perfectly realized work of art. I have never heard a version I prefer to Dawn Upshaw's.

      And yes, right now, I would have to say that Lauridsen's "Shining Night" is the most beautiful 21st-century classical work I can think of.



  • 2024-06-29 06:21:21 PM

    Darryl Lindberg wrote:

    Excellent article! Another Hovhaness work that might interest Tracking Angle readers is his Symphony #4 (1958), performed by the Eastman Symphonic Winds Ensemble, conducted by A. Clyde Roller (Mercury SR 90366 or Golden Imports SRI 75010; LP, of course!). The B side is Vittorio Giannini's Symphony #3 (1958). Both fit into the timeframe of your discussion.

    • 2024-06-29 11:59:58 PM

      Jennnifer Martin wrote:

      Being an EWEphile (lol) I've long loved that recording, though I think that the Giannini is "not worthy" (as a work, not as a recording). I liked Clyde very much in the few brief encounters I had with him.

  • 2024-06-30 01:34:55 AM

    Jeff wrote:

    Great article and suggestions on expanding our classical palette. I am surprised you didn’t mention some greats from the last 50 years. Ligeti, Norgard, Rautavaara, Vasks, Toch, to name some. Also, I have been exposed to so much via ECM recordings of fringe music by Rypdal, Tormis etc… I know you can’t encompass all of “contemporary “ classical music in an article, just adding my two cents for anyone interested.

  • 2024-06-30 03:45:39 AM

    Fred Morris wrote:

    Thanks Mark - many nuggets here! I would include George Lloyd’s symphonies 6-12, all post 1950 and wholly delightful. Complete cycle just reissued on CD in Lyrita boxes.

  • 2024-06-30 03:04:36 PM

    Michael Johnson wrote:

    I think in the world of composition academia and up-and-coming composers, serialism and the new york school of composition is largely dead, and has been for 15-20 years. Most of the new orchestral works I hear and play are largely very tonal and more influenced by John Adams and Jennifer Higdon than Pierre Boulez or Anton Webern. Even Penderecki abandoned that harmonic language later in life and embraced the triad once again.

    I really liked the list, I would also add David Maslanka and Esa-Pekka Salonen to the list, even though Salonen is a little more "out there", he still weaves beautiful melodic lines into his works.

  • 2024-07-07 03:02:46 PM

    Jack Pot wrote:

    Many thanks for these recommendations, also from readers, which I will eagerly explore. May I add that the label TRPTK regularly releases contemporary music exquisitely recorded on SACD and HiRes Audio? Most is for small ensembles, but The Forest in April is a cello concerto by JP de Graaff fabulously interpreted by cellist Maya Fridman. His concerto nr 4 on the same SACD suffers from all that I dislike in contemporary classical music. Barbara Hannigan, singer and conductor, also encourages new composers' works. Check out H Abrahamsen's Let me tell you. The same applies for violinists Daniel Hope and Gidon Kremer. And let us not forget the oeuvre of Shostakovich and especially his contemporary Weinberg. What about John Rutter?

    • 2024-07-09 04:42:36 PM

      John Marks wrote:

      Thanks for reading, and thanks for writing in.

      As far as everyone's suggestions: Thanks, but, I assigned myself a limit of 10 pieces, to keep readers from being overwhelmed, and I also decided to chose pieces that were more accessible than challenging. I think that the two absolutely greatest violin concerti (greatest, not most popular) are those of Elgar, and Shostakovich (No. 1). However, the word Monumental does not begin to describe those massive works. You need a long attention span, and you must be able to listen "in depth."

      My label JMR released Nathaniel Rosen's critically-acclaimed Shosty's cello concerto with the Sofia, Bulgaria Philharmonic, so nobody can accuse me of neglecting him. But that concerto is a bit of a tough sell, it's more than a bit dark and foreboding. John Rutter--I got his permission to arrange some of his works for string quartet, so again, J'y suis. But, IMHO John Rutter is a contemporary composer, but he is not "Modern" in style. I think he's 50% Neoclassical and 50% Neo-Romantic, and that's not what my article was about.



  • 2024-07-07 03:02:48 PM

    Jack Pot wrote:

    Many thanks for these recommendations, also from readers, which I will eagerly explore. May I add that the label TRPTK regularly releases contemporary music exquisitely recorded on SACD and HiRes Audio? Most is for small ensembles, but The Forest in April is a cello concerto by JP de Graaff fabulously interpreted by cellist Maya Fridman. His concerto nr 4 on the same SACD suffers from all that I dislike in contemporary classical music. Barbara Hannigan, singer and conductor, also encourages new composers' works. Check out H Abrahamsen's Let me tell you. The same applies for violinists Daniel Hope and Gidon Kremer. And let us not forget the oeuvre of Shostakovich and especially his contemporary Weinberg. What about John Rutter?