Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Gramophone for June features contemporary composers. Most are familiar to me, but a few are not. I am listing them in chronological order.

Arvo Pärt (1935) I discussed his The Passion of our Lord according to Saint John here. This is one of his most important works. If you haven't heard him, you should. I made some silly remarks about him in an article about minimalists here.

Steve Reich (1936) is someone I also consider a minimalist. I'm only familiar with his Drumming which consists of drumming. He was a pioneer in minimalism.

Philip Glass (1937) By now I've heard a lot of Glass, another minimalist pioneer. I wrote about the movie Koyaanisqatsi here. I wrote about his attempt to alter ones perception of time here. Lately I have seen another performance of Satyagraha at the Met, and last summer it was Orphée at Glimmerglass. Orphée was surprisingly beyond my previous experience of him and really quite a good opera.

John Corigliano (1938) I loved The Ghosts of Versailles which was lying around in my video collection. This opera should be done more often. I also enjoyed my most recent experience of him, Fern Hill for soprano, chorus and orchestra. He writes well for singers, both solo and chorus and is enjoyable to sing. His material is pretty low key. Post modernists are not difficult, on average.

John Tavener (1944) I regret that I am not familiar with him. I will put him on my list.

Peter Lieberson (1946) is most famous for being the husband of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, the great mezzo who performs his most famous piece Neruda Songs which I reviewed here. Lorraine brought him out of himself.

John Adams (1947). I would consider John Adams minimalist for Nixon in China, but not lately. I have panned him pretty badly for Doctor Atomic here and El Nino here, but this was primarily for his association with the extremely annoying Peter Sellers. I loved Nixon and never dislike his music. He is keeping up with the times in his all noises overture to Doctor Atomic.

Kaija Saariaho (1952) I went mad for L'Amour de Loin, even if it did involve Peter Sellers who was extremely not annoying in this production. I tried to describe the music. She is doing a new opera for Santa Fe this summer.

Magnus Lindberg (1958) I had never heard of him before and don't see any operas listed. I'll look into him.

Osvaldo Golijov (1960) Everyone who reads this at all should know that I adore him. I was privileged to see his St. Mark Passion in London. I also reviewed Ayre the cd and in live performance and Oceana here. He is exciting for his ethnic elements from a variety of cultures. I am also familiar with his opera Ainadamar.

Jennifer Higdon (1962) I don't see operas listed for her which probably accounts for why I am not familiar with her.

Thomas Adès (1971) is famous for the opera The Tempest, but I haven't seen it. This is a hole in my education that should be filled.

Based on my experience Saariaho could be considered difficult, but in general all these composers are accessible to music lovers. I would have to say that I am doing a pretty good job of keeping up with things.

If they only write instrumental pieces, then I am not to blame for not knowing them.


Paul said...

"Nixon in China" is being performed here in Denver next week -- apparently a new production revised from the original that has floated around since its premiere. I'll probably attend, but I'm prepared not to like it (have heard some excerpts and hoping the sum is better than the parts). The Colorado Symphony just presented Corigliano's Piano Concerto to great acclaim (according to both local classical music critics). I heard one of his pieces at the Chautauqua Festival in Boulder last summer (orchestral: cannot recall title) and was impressed. I've also heard excerpts from "Ghosts of Versailles," but modern opera rarely does anything for me. I guess I'm just a bel canto guy at heart.

Dr.B said...

Nixon is a lot of fun, even if there are slow patches. I liked the coloratura aria for Madama Mao. I also enjoyed watching the humiliation of Henry Kissinger, but this may be more political than operatic. I liked the role of Mao and his translators.