Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

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lennygoran
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Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by lennygoran » Sat Sep 14, 2019 7:28 am

This list tells you where the review is and where to listen to it--also there are photos. Only ones I know are 6 and 5-saw them both at the Met. Regards, Len



The best classical music works of the 21st century


Over the coming week, the Guardian will select the greatest culture since 2000, carefully compiled by critics and editors. We begin with a countdown of defining classical music compositions, from X-rated opera to high-tech string

quartets


by Andrew Clements, Fiona Maddocks. John Lewis, Kate Molleson, Tom Service, Erica Jeal and Tim Ashley


25 Jennifer Walshe
XXX Live Nude Girls (2003)

Jennifer Walshe asked girls about how they played with their Barbie dolls, and turned the confessionals into an opera of horrors in which the toys unleash dark sex play and acts of mutilation. Walshe is a whiz for this kind of thing:

she yanks off the plastic veneer of commercial culture by parodying then systematically dismembering the archetypes. KM
Read our review | watch a production from 2016 BIFEM

24 John Adams
City Noir (2009)

Adams’s vivid portrait of Los Angeles, as depicted in the film noir of the 1940s and 50s, is a three-movement symphony of sorts, and a concerto for orchestra, too. It’s an in-your-face celebration of orchestral virtuosity that

references a host of American idioms without ever getting too specific. It’s not his finest orchestral work by any means (those came last century), but an effective, extrovert showpiece. AC

23 James MacMillan
Stabat Mater (2016)

The prolific Scottish composer has made an impact on choral music, by drawing on his Roman Catholic roots, most recently in his Fifth Symphony, Le grand Inconnu, and in his Tenebrae Responsories. His Stabat Mater for chorus and string

orchestra, premiered and commissioned by Harry Christophers and the Sixteen, caught the public imagination, its message direct, immediate, radiant and impassioned. FM
Read our review | Watch the world premiere performance at the Vatican

22 Linda Catlin Smith
Piano Quintet (2014)

She holds the fabric between the fingers, she tests the fibres. She leaves space around the material to consider it from this way and that, then sinks in deep. Catlin Smith’s music is slow and quiet but it’s also lush. More than any

minimalist, she takes her cues from Couperin, Debussy and the paintings of Agnes Martin. The results are sparse, rugged and sensual; quiet does not have to mean soft. KM

21 Max Richter
The Blue Notebooks (2004)

Written in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, The Blue Notebooks is Max Richter’s meditation on violence and war, one that was recorded in three hours. The song cycle is linked by narration from Tilda Swinton, but the most

compelling pieces don’t require words. Organum is a funereal organ solo, Shadow Journal a piece of ambient house, but the centrepiece is On the Nature of Daylight (since used on countless films and TV soundtracks), where ever-expanding

layers of strings are used to heart-tugging effect. JL
Richter writes about his composition | Listen on Spotify


20 Caroline Shaw
Partita (2013)

Caroline Shaw’s Partita, written for her own vocal octet Roomful of Teeth, is an explosion of energy cramming speech, song and virtually every extended vocal technique you can think of into its four “classical” dance movements. It might

blow apart solemn, hard-boiled notions of greatness, but it has to be the most joyous work on this list. EJ

19 Cassandra Miller
Duet for cello and orchestra (2015)

A slow cello pivots between two notes, a steadfast voyager on a road laced with spangly seduction (brass fanfares, ardent strings). The journey lasts half an hour; it sums up a resolute lifetime of holding the course in bright and

heartsore times. Miller is a master of planting a seed and setting in motion an entrancing process, then following through with the most sumptuous conviction. KM
Read the review | Listen to an extract.

18 Brett Dean
Hamlet (2017)

The Australian Brett Dean, a viola player in the Berlin Philharmonic before concentrating on composition, found his operatic voice with Hamlet. An ingenious reworking of Shakespeare (libretto by Matthew Jocelyn) which opens with a

fragmented “To be, or not to be…”, it was premiered at Glyndebourne in 2017 with Allan Clayton in the title role and Barbara Hannigan as Ophelia. FM


17 Steve Reich
WTC 9/11 (2011)

It took the quintessential New York composer a full 10 years to process the horrors of September 11 and compose this dissonant threnody, one that sets Reich’s sawing strings against manipulated voices. The recordings of horrified air

traffic controllers and eyewitnesses are spliced and looped, the tonalities of their speech replicated (sometimes almost mockingly) by the Kronos Quartet, before we reach a closure of sorts with a cantor’s prayer. JL

.
16 Rebecca Saunders
Skin (2016)



Rebecca Saunders’s music always makes a visceral and violent, yet sensually resonant, poetry. Composed in collaboration with the soprano Juliet Fraser, Skin takes inspiration from Samuel Beckett, turning the writer’s image of dust as

“the skin of a room” into a 25-minute evisceration of the sounds that the soloist and ensemble can make. Saunders burrows into the interior world of the instruments, and inside the grain of Fraser’s voice – scrapes and screams, breaths

and sighs – and finds a revelatory world of heightened feeling. TS

15 David Lang
Little Match Girl Passion (2007)

Combine Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the Little Match Girl with Bach’s St Matthew Passion, and you have one of the most original vocal works of recent times. Extracts from Andersen’s story and from St Matthew’s gospel are

interleaved with closely woven vocal writing, that is sometimes unaccompanied, sometimes punctuated by discreet percussion and often comfortingly tonal and hauntingly affecting. AC



14 Pascal Dusapin
Passion (2008)

Dusapin’s opera reimagines the final colloquy of Orpheus and Eurydice, on the borderline between life and death, as a meditation on the idea of passion as an expression of desire and suffering. The score subtly alludes to Monteverdi and

French baroque, but the sound world it creates is uniquely Dusapin’s own: tense, quietly mesmerising and austerely beautiful. TA

13 Olga Neuwirth
Lost Highway (2003)

David Lynch’s slightly baffling film – in which a jazz musician murders his wife, goes into a psychogenic fugue and becomes another person entirely – was perfectly suited for adaptation by this eccentric Austrian composer, whose genre-

straddling work explores notions of identity. An immersive production, staged by the English National Opera at the Young Vic, used film, a chirruping electro-acoustic score and the terrifying, androgynous voice of David Moss to further

confuse things. JL

12 Unsuk Chin
Cello Concerto (2009)

A series of concertos, for western and eastern solo instruments, runs like a spine through Unsuk Chin’s orchestral music. But the work for Cello is perhaps the most original and entertainingly disconcerting of all of them, cast in four

brilliant movements that never quite conform to type, while doing everything expected of a concerto, in a fresh and unconventional way. AC

11 Gerald Barry
The Importance of Being Earnest (2012)

With the role of Lady Bracknell given to a bass, the row between Gwendolen and Cecily conducted through megaphones and accompanied by smashing glasses, and most of the text delivered with machinegun rapidity, this operatic take on Oscar

Wilde isn’t for the faint-hearted. But somehow, it brilliantly captures the play’s absurdities while adding a layer of surrealism that is entirely Barry’s own. AC


10 John Luther Adams
Become Ocean (2013)

The monumental orchestral palindrome that made John Luther Adams an internationally renowned composer is a thrilling depiction of water in irresistible motion, in the tradition of music by Wagner, Debussy and Sibelius. But Adams’s

intention is much more than mere description – it’s a warning of what lies ahead for us and our seas if we do not care for them. AC


9 Heiner Goebbels
Hashirigaki (2000)

A Gertrude Stein novel, Japanese folk music and the Beach Boys’ album Pet Sounds aren’t the most obvious sources for one of Goebbels’ uniquely personal fusions of words, music and image. But, as often in his theatre pieces, the most

unlikely ingredients cohere magically, creating a witty, allusive dramatic world unlike any other, with the 1960s sounds counterpointing Stein’s rambling surrealism. AC

8 Jonathan Harvey
String Quartet No 4 (2003)

For live electronics and string quartet, this 2003 work is written in cycles rather than movements, with an idea of dying away, renewal and continuation. Harvey experiments with technology to discover new aural possibilities and keep

the traditional form alive. He wrote all his quartets for the Arditti, knowing they would meet every challenge he put before them. The result is eloquent and lyrical. FM

7 Louis Andriessen
La Commedia (2009)

After collaborating with directors Robert Wilson and Peter Greenaway on previous stage works, Andriessen turned to Hal Hartley for his “film opera in five parts”, a series of reflections on episodes from Dante’s Divine Comedy. A Hartley

film was part of the original staging, but Andriessen’s wonderfully polyglot score, with its host of historical references and exuberant embrace of jazz and folk music, stands on its own. AC


6 Kaija Saariaho
L’Amour de Loin (2000)

Set in 12th-century France, the Finnish-born Saariaho’s first opera, which premiered in Salzburg in 2000, is a haunting tale of a troubadour’s quest for idealised love, as well as a contemplation on life, longing and death. Based on La

Vida breve by Jaufre Rudel, with a libretto by French-Lebanese writer Amin Maalouf, the music has medieval and Middle Eastern echoes but shimmers in Saariaho’s own distinctive and mesmerising voice.FM

5 Thomas Adès
The Tempest (2003)

It starts with a geometric storm and ends with a consolatory chaconne. Thomas Adès’s The Tempest was the catalyst for his creation of a musical language that is at once richly familiar and beguilingly strange. It was a piece that

immediately fulfilled expectations for what Adès would do with the full resources of the Royal Opera House when it premiered in 2004 – and transcended them. TS

4 György Kurtág
Fin de Partie (2018)

Though it often seemed as if Kurtág would never complete the opera on Samuel Beckett’s End Game that he had obsessed about for more than half a century, it eventually appeared in the composer’s 93rd year. An austere, utterly faithful

rendering of the original, mostly delivered in recitative, and reinforced with typically terse, wiry orchestral writing. It is a distillation of the uncompromisingly direct music that Kurtág has composed all through his career. AC

3 Harrison Birtwistle
The Minotaur (2008)

After operas about Punch, Orpheus, Gawain and King Kong, the half-man half-bull protagonist of The Minotaur is perhaps the most sympathetic of Birtwistle’s “heroes”. His death scene, created especially for the bass John Tomlinson, is a

majestic operatic set piece, the climax of a work in which the eruptions of orchestral violence are offset by music of lyrical beauty and pungent transparency. AC


2 George Benjamin
Written on Skin (2012)

George Benjamin’s first full-scale opera, with words by Martin Crimp, arrived in 2012 seemingly timeless in every way, its ultimately gruesome story told grippingly to a modern audience through Benjamin’s tense, precise and often

glowingly beautiful score. Katie Mitchell’s thoughtful staging was only the start: no opera since has had so many different productions in so many theatres. EJ

1 Hans Abrahamsen
Let Me Tell You (2013)

When the 21st century began, the idea that Hans Abrahamsen would compose one of the masterpieces of the next 20 years would have seemed extraordinary. At that time very little of his music had been heard for almost a decade – he had

suffered a creative block that he’s since described as being “paralysed by the white paper”, and from which he eventually rescued himself by composing a series of arrangements, both of his own earlier scores and of pieces by others,

including Bach and Debussy.

Born in 1952 in Copenhagen, Abrahamsen had begun his career as a member of a group of young Danish composers who reacted against what they saw as the overcomplexity of the European new music they heard and who sought a much simpler

style. He explored minimalism and studied for a while with György Ligeti, and soon established himself as one of the younger European composers to watch, his works championed in the 1980s by conductor/composers such as Hans Werner Henze

and Oliver Knussen. After early success came a long silence – he completed just one short piece in eight years, but he did return to composition with the piano concerto that he finished in 2000, in which he started to invent for himself

a totally original and utterly personal sound world.

This list could just as easily be headed by the work that first exploited this newly invented world, Schnee, an extraordinary hour-long ensemble piece from 2008, as by the ravishing orchestral song cycle Let Me Tell You that followed it

five years later. The intricate symmetries and microtonally tinged canons of Schnee define the icy, fragile world that Abrahamsen had been mapping out for himself, and which went on to provide the perfect environment for the settings of

extracts from Paul Griffiths’s novel of the same name that he made for the songs.

Like Griffiths’s book, Let Me Tell You is a portrait of Ophelia, but one that tells her story from her perspective rather than from the way she is portrayed in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. It’s an operatic scene as much as a song cycle, one of

soaring lines and shivering pianissimos, and which makes use of the stuttering repetitions, stile concitato, that Monteverdi introduced into opera four centuries ago to signify anger or anxiety. The vocal writing is astonishingly

assured. It is hard to believe this was Abrahamsen’s first large scale vocal work, and it seems perfectly tailored to the soprano Barbara Hannigan, for whom it was conceived, and for her precious ability to soar ethereally and

effortlessly above the sometimes forbidding, sometimes ravishingly beautiful soundscapes that the orchestra creates beneath her. There is the feeling, Hannigan has said of the cycle: “The music’s always been there,” and the sense of

there being something timeless and utterly inevitable about Let Me Tell You gives it a very special power. AC




https://www.theguardian.com/music/2019/ ... st-century

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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by Lance » Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:15 pm

Hmmm. Not too much there to bring me out. What else are you planning besides the ones you've already seen, Lenny?
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lennygoran
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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by lennygoran » Sun Sep 15, 2019 3:25 pm

Lance wrote:
Sun Sep 15, 2019 2:15 pm
Hmmm. Not too much there to bring me out. What else are you planning besides the ones you've already seen, Lenny?
Lance there's not much there for me either-I might listen to some of the music if it's over at youtube. Regards, Len

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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by barney » Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:54 pm

Really? There's lots there I hope to follow up, and it's excellent to have some guidance in an area of which I am rather ignorant. Well posted, Len.
But it will mostly be via YouTube that I do my exploring.

Rach3
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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by Rach3 » Sun Sep 15, 2019 6:31 pm

Have heard some works by almost all listed, but not the specific works listed.May follow up some since have not heard the listed. To date, none of these I follow closely based on experiences to date, but still early in their development , for some.

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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by Rach3 » Sun Sep 15, 2019 7:48 pm

barney wrote:
Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:54 pm
But it will mostly be via YouTube that I do my exploring.
Fww, might want to try John Adams' ( not John Luther Adams ) Violin Concerto I do like.
Upon further reflection, have heard the John Luther Adams piece mentioned; not my cup of tea.

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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by John F » Sun Sep 15, 2019 9:59 pm

The 21st century has 80 years to go; selecting its best classical works might seem a trifle premature. :) Also, after the top 15 most of which I might agree with, most are by British and American composers, a provincial orientation that's perhaps not surprising given the source but not encouraging.
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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by barney » Mon Sep 16, 2019 6:19 pm

Rach3 wrote:
Sun Sep 15, 2019 7:48 pm
barney wrote:
Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:54 pm
But it will mostly be via YouTube that I do my exploring.
Fww, might want to try John Adams' ( not John Luther Adams ) Violin Concerto I do like.
Upon further reflection, have heard the John Luther Adams piece mentioned; not my cup of tea.
Thank you. I will give that a go. I like the Adams I know, which is the most famous works. Nixon in China, Harmonielehre, Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Didn't enjoy Shaker Loops. The first minimalist work I heard was Reich's Different Trains, and I thought it tremendous, but I tend to find minimalism tedious.

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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by maestrob » Tue Sep 17, 2019 11:56 am

Agree with you, Barney, that John Adams's best work was in the past century. His operas don't quite reach me.

I've got this disc of Glass and Adams Violin Concerti, and enjoy hearing it from time to time. If you don't have it, I think you'll enjoy it.

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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by barney » Tue Sep 17, 2019 5:57 pm

John F wrote:
Sun Sep 15, 2019 9:59 pm
The 21st century has 80 years to go; selecting its best classical works might seem a trifle premature. :) Also, after the top 15 most of which I might agree with, most are by British and American composers, a provincial orientation that's perhaps not surprising given the source but not encouraging.
You old curmudgeon, John! :D This way, we can have the fun of selecting the best works every few years right through the century. Lists like this are meaningless but fun.

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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by Beckmesser » Tue Sep 17, 2019 6:38 pm

I must really be out of touch.

I have "heard of" only nine composers on the list, and aside from John Adams, have probably heard only one work by each.

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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by John F » Tue Sep 17, 2019 8:03 pm

"The best classical music works of the 21st century" pretends to something more definitive than that. Add "so far" and it's OK.
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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by some guy » Wed Sep 18, 2019 2:19 am

I would take it even farther.

I would say that even with "so far," it's still not OK; it still expresses 19th century ideas of canon and quality.

I find those ideas problematic even when applied to music of the past, of a hundred or two hundred years ago (or more). But applied to music of the present, they're obviously absurd. Or should be obvious, anyway. If the point of doing any art is to do something that hasn't already been done, then the art of the present (whenever that "present" happens to be) will be different from that of the past. Different and thus not judgeable by the standards of the past. If you have to judge, then best to wait until the present has become the past.

But for those of us who are impatient, absurdity doesn't matter. The impatient ones want judgement, and they want it now. Hence the rush to list the great works of the twenty-first century before even a fifth of the century has occurred.

Since judgement of the present will consist entirely of the values of the past, any list of "the best" works of the present will also confine itself largely if not solely to works of the present that most resemble works of the past. It's not impossible to apply inappropriate standards, but it is easier to apply standards that are closer to being appropriate, hence the preponderance in any list of this sort of works that sound familiar.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by John F » Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:17 am

some guy wrote:the point of doing any art is to do something that hasn't already been done
There are other reasons for "doing art" and other criteria for judging it than total originality from the ground up. Of course works of art differ from each other to some degree, but there's no need for the differences to be as radical as you would like.

As for postponing judgment, each of us individually makes a judgment whether or not to go to a performance or listen to a piece of music before we've heard a note of it, according to our personal criteria. And we make individual judgments during and immediately after the fact as well, though few of us put these into print. Judgment is unavoidable; our minds and senses are not blank, indifferent to what we see and hear.
some guy wrote:judgement of the present will consist entirely of the values of the past
That's largely though not "entirely" true, it's not only normal but unavoidable, and I've found that the broader and deeper my knowledge and experience of the past, the richer is my experience of the present. As for "appropriate" standards, the moment a work of art exists it becomes part of the past, and if there are any standards at all, they must also necessarily be part of the past. From what you've been saying all this time, I wonder if you have any standards at all, and if you do, what artworks meet your standards and why.
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Re: Guardian's The best classical music works of the 21st century

Post by some guy » Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:08 am

John F wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:17 am
some guy wrote:the point of doing any art is to do something that hasn't already been done
There are other reasons for "doing art" and other criteria for judging it than total originality from the ground up. Of course works of art differ from each other to some degree, but there's no need for the differences to be as radical as you would like.
Best to retain the original syntax when quoting (there's a nice standard for ya), that way you keep to the point rather than turning something in a subordinate clause into the main point. If. If the point of doing any art is to do something that hasn't already been done, then the art of the present (whenever that "present" happens to be) will be different from that of the past. Different and thus not judgeable by the standards of the past. If what you want is some nice baroque music, then Beethoven's just not gonna do it for you. He was doing something different from what Bach did. And if you apply standards appropriate to Bach to the music of Beethoven, Beethoven's not gonna come off very well. The problem with that example, as I see it, is that since we are all of us equally familiar with Beethoven and with Bach, it doesn't seem as if they are all that different. Listeners in Beethoven's time would have been a lot more aware of the differences. And my point was about difference and applying inappropriate standards, not about what the various reasons for doing art are (and of course there are many) nor about the value or not of standards, generally. Steen-Andersen, for instance, fails miserably at being Niels Gade. But he's not trying to be Gade. He's Steen-Andersen. And as Steen Andersen he succeeds brilliantly.

And yes, of course we each make decisions all the time. I think that those local decisions can be distinguished from judgement that presents as having determined the value of the object. I'm aware that in practice they are not. I just think that they can be and probably should be.
John F wrote:
Wed Sep 18, 2019 4:17 am
I wonder if you have any standards at all....
And speaking of standards, another nice standard is to confine oneself in conversations to the things said rather than commenting on the (putative) qualities of the sayer.
"The public has got to stay in touch with the music of its time . . . for otherwise people will gradually come to mistrust music claimed to be the best."
--Viennese critic (1843)

Confusion is a word we have invented for an order which is not understood.
--Henry Miller

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