Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Classical Compositions of… the 1950s

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What can I say? I'm an ass and a lost cause.

Feel bad for cutting Babbitt's 2nd SQ at the last minute tho. Sorry anatol.

coco vide (pomenitul), Friday, 20 March 2020 16:10 (three months ago) link

Turn of the Screw or Déserts or any of the Stockhausens or the Takemitsu or 4’33" or the bird catalogue or jeez I dunno man.

That Barraque is fierce too

I can't pay no doctor bill, but Whitey's on the McAloon (Noodle Vague), Friday, 20 March 2020 16:12 (three months ago) link

Might vote 4'33" on principal but

I can't pay no doctor bill, but Whitey's on the McAloon (Noodle Vague), Friday, 20 March 2020 16:13 (three months ago) link

Speaking of Takemitsu's Requiem, I've always been fond of this anecdote, here retold by Alex Ross:

The work that launched Takemitsu’s international career was the Requiem for Strings, written in 1957. Stravinsky happened to hear it during a trip to Japan; radio engineers played it for the great man by accident, and, when they were about to go back to the intended playlist, he asked them not to stop. Stravinsky praised the composer in interviews, and prizes and commissions from Western groups quickly followed. The Requiem shows Takemitsu’s style in embryo: the first violins begin with a soft, sustained F-sharp; second violins and cellos add a thick chord that consists of E-flat-major and B-flat-major triads superimposed; and the violas play a high phrase that twists slowly in place as harmonies shift underfoot. Peter Burt, in his book “The Music of Toru Takemitsu,” observes that the first few bars vaguely resemble Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” and speculates that Barber’s score may have been found in the library of the American Civil Information and Education unit in Tokyo.


coco vide (pomenitul), Friday, 20 March 2020 16:17 (three months ago) link

Nag! Nag! Nag! is missed.

coco vide (pomenitul), Friday, 20 March 2020 18:27 (three months ago) link

^ yeh

xp love that story

budo jeru, Friday, 20 March 2020 19:21 (three months ago) link

this is hard.

listened to two versions of “music of changes” yesterday (david tudor and herbert henck), can’t decide which made me feel more depressed

budo jeru, Friday, 20 March 2020 19:24 (three months ago) link

Any favourite recordings?

The Graham Anthony Devine album of Ohana guitar music on Naxos Music Library (with Si le jour parait ... and Cadran lumière) is good imo. My 10-string playing friend likes Nicolo Spera's.

Sund4r, Friday, 20 March 2020 23:09 (three months ago) link

XXP: Aw shucks. I needed a nap (or several) after rolling out a ballot-based poll at strange hours this week. :)

My first instinct is actually to opt for Musique funèbre, if only because that (and Lutoslawki generally) was a very early gateway into this sort thing. (Maybe it's unhip, but the importance for me of Naxos CDs selling at 4-for-$20 pre-filesharing cannot be underestimated. LOL. I made low-risk investments in their Quatre Études de rythme and Boulez piano sonatas not long after that, come to think of it!)

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Saturday, 21 March 2020 02:43 (three months ago) link

The Idil Biret disc of the Boulez sonatas? I often listened to that with a bottle of wine in my first apartment.

Sund4r, Saturday, 21 March 2020 02:46 (three months ago) link

Yeah! I shall have to dig it out. It's been a while...

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Saturday, 21 March 2020 02:53 (three months ago) link

The naxos lutoslawski series was fantastic

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Saturday, 21 March 2020 03:22 (three months ago) link

:) I was a complete n00b so was lucky to have stumbled on it. I was all "these discs are selling for peanuts in non-specialist suburban stores -- why isn't everyone listening to Lutoslawsli and Messiaen all day? This Lutoslawski fellow should be a household name!" etc. LOL.

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Saturday, 21 March 2020 04:23 (three months ago) link

Welcome back, NNN!

Re: Boulez's sonatas, I'm fond of Paavali Jumppanen's set, recorded under the composer's supervision (iirc). There are more fiery interpretations, but his approach works wonders for #3 in particular.

coco vide (pomenitul), Saturday, 21 March 2020 13:38 (three months ago) link

^ noted, and placed on a wee playlist:


Nice to have this bonus excuse for (re-)listening once more. There a number of things here I claim to "know" but "heard a few times circa 2003" would be more devastatingly accurate. :)

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Saturday, 21 March 2020 23:30 (three months ago) link

My typos are getting ridiculous. "cannot be OVER-estimated" is what I meant several posts back. Blimey.

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Saturday, 21 March 2020 23:35 (three months ago) link

jumppanen hollerin’ with joy what with all these fine recommendations !

budo jeru, Sunday, 22 March 2020 00:31 (three months ago) link

Please listen to Julian Bream's recording of "El Polifemo de Oro" btw.

Sund4r, Monday, 23 March 2020 14:09 (three months ago) link

^^^ listen to this man, he knows what he's talking about.

coco vide (pomenitul), Monday, 23 March 2020 14:13 (three months ago) link

Ha, thx

Sund4r, Monday, 23 March 2020 14:53 (three months ago) link

outstanding work again from pomenitul; thanks to these polls C20th classical has dominated my listening all year and I am dutifully working through this goldmine of a list. lots I haven't heard before. early favourites from the discoveries so far: the earle brown piece & the deliciously sparse pleasures of ustvolskaya.

what a decade! it's all over the place. all the ligeti pieces are really interesting and neat and I like them all (any suggestions for a better fifties SQ?), as well as the six bagatelles, but I will save my ligeti vote for his unbeatable sixties run. penderecki's emanations for two string orchestras tuned a minor 2nd apart is also worth a shout even if this textural string stuff is done better later.

I have to out myself as a savage oaf and admit I've always struggled with messiaen's piano music. catalogue d'oiseaux sounds like a wonderful idea on paper but I have always found it a slog and it put me off messiaen for years. much prefer the colour of oiseaux exotiques and especially the way he marinates in the organ's thick, chunkiness in livre d'orgue.

I've got a soft spot for the villa-lobos guitar concerto & I love all of lou harrison's guitar music - I think his pre-modern/eastern tendencies are well-suited to it - and serenado por gitaro from the suite for national guitar is a gorgeous highlight (ropey grasp on dates for his pieces but I think the rest of the suite was composed much later).

I am ofc tempted to vote for the bracing US Highball; jovially bellowing like some sort of train pirate in just intonation w/ all that propulsive percussion and those kitharas that sound like they're melting - the day that this isn't amazing to me will be a sad one. it's so rooted in the depression and forties tho it feels odd to vote for it as a fifties piece. probably would have voted for diamorphoses if it was listed, I can still hear a keen freshness in its visceral building sound, but will probably happily vote for either of the other xenakis pieces or gesang der junglinge (which probably shouldn't be here either really but it cannot be denied)

There is no music I hate more in the world than musicals

me too man, me too

ogmor, Tuesday, 24 March 2020 15:43 (three months ago) link

Booming post, ogmor! I used to fully share your reservations about Messiaen's ornithological piano music, but they've subsided over time, partly thanks to videos such as this one:


I've got a soft spot for the villa-lobos guitar concerto

So do I, yet I somehow conjured up an internal narrative according to which I'd forgotten to poll it in the 1940s, even as (I now realize) it was composed in… 1951. Mea culpa, once again. I've listened to Julian Bream's recording of it (with André Previn and the London Symphony Orchestra) more times than I can remember.

coco vide (pomenitul), Tuesday, 24 March 2020 16:08 (three months ago) link

There is no music I hate more in the world than musicals

me too man, me too

Not me. (Well, if we're talking musicals of the last 40 years or so, then yes, me too.)

coronoshebettadontvirus (Eric H.), Tuesday, 24 March 2020 16:19 (three months ago) link

I grew up on marx bros (but that's not really the same thing) and I do have some fondness for gene kelly but in general I cannot abide that sort of glitzy theatricality, even if westside story isn't a particularly egregious example

ogmor, Tuesday, 24 March 2020 16:38 (three months ago) link

I've no choice but to agree with that, musicals are vile.

Ogmor's proper post makes me really want to dive into this decade and reflect. A chance I will get in my corona deserted office tomorrow!

Le Bateau Ivre, Tuesday, 24 March 2020 16:39 (three months ago) link

have all of you musical-haters stopped to consider that


valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 24 March 2020 16:52 (three months ago) link

What a list! I went for Agon but I barely know 5% of this.

Michael Jones, Tuesday, 24 March 2020 17:20 (three months ago) link

xp the Rum Tum Tugger is a terrible bore

ogmor, Tuesday, 24 March 2020 17:22 (three months ago) link

Also managed to miss all of the C20th polls... I'd have broken Metamorphosen's duck in the '40s poll, I think.

Michael Jones, Tuesday, 24 March 2020 17:37 (three months ago) link

I've no bone to pick with the Rum Tum Tugger as long as he remains silent and under (paper) house arrest, i.e. in Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.

coco vide (pomenitul), Tuesday, 24 March 2020 18:24 (three months ago) link

I haven't figured this out yet. I'll never figure this out.

coco vide (pomenitul), Monday, 30 March 2020 14:40 (three months ago) link

Btw don't forget to request 1960s titles if you suspect I may forget them (not an ill-founded hunch tbh). As always, I'll do my best to include as many as possible.

coco vide (pomenitul), Monday, 30 March 2020 16:24 (three months ago) link

don't envy you the job of whittling it down to fifty - this is why I suggested five year polls :) I am sitting in a room is probably one of the lucier pieces least likely to qualify for inclusion but it's so beautiful & fragile & unique & perfect, and there aren't many occasions to talk about it so I will at least mention it here

ogmor, Monday, 30 March 2020 17:22 (three months ago) link

It's a wonderful piece, but I think it would be a better fit for our upcoming electroacoustic/musique concrète/sound art poll (at least I hope it's upcoming – who would be best suited to such a task?).

coco vide (pomenitul), Monday, 30 March 2020 17:53 (three months ago) link

Does being in lockdown speed up time? Thought I still had ages to decide on a pick here!

xp that poll should def happen! Won't do it alone but would help out tbh.

Heh, I guess it does.

xp my knowledge of the stuff is severely lacking so someone else would definitely have to take over.

coco vide (pomenitul), Monday, 30 March 2020 18:46 (three months ago) link

Obvious chestnuts:
Berio - Sinfonia
Stockhausen - Stimmung
Riley - In C
Glass - Music in Similar Motion
Ligeti - Atmospheres
Penderecki - Threnody...

Guitar music:
Britten - Nocturnal after John Dowland, op. 70 (Bream recording recommended again)
Stephen Dodgson - Partita
Maurice Ohana - Si le jour parait ...

Sund4r, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 02:47 (three months ago) link

As far as the actual 50s poll, it probably comes down to Le marteau vs Brindle. I realize the former is the more important and greater work but the personal connection with the latter is strong.

Sund4r, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 02:48 (three months ago) link

I could check the other thread, but I'm guessing it may have been you that lobbied for inclusion of the Brindle, Sund4r? If so, thanks! Enjoyed it, and there's a fair chance I wouldn't ever know about it otherwise. :)

anatol_merklich, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:00 (three months ago) link

Yes, glad you liked it.

Sund4r, Tuesday, 31 March 2020 19:02 (three months ago) link

I may just switch to 5 years for the remaining polls per ogmor's suggestion because my current longlist for the 60s is as excruciating as you'd expect.

coco vide (pomenitul), Tuesday, 31 March 2020 21:05 (three months ago) link

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Wednesday, 1 April 2020 00:01 (three months ago) link

Fuck it, I'm voting Scelsi.

coco vide (pomenitul), Wednesday, 1 April 2020 00:47 (three months ago) link

Anyone want to rep for Galina Ustvolskaya? Three pieces here and I've heard none before.

They represent a bleaker, starker, less consolatory late Shostakovich avant la lettre (he reportedly told her that she influenced him, not the other way around). For the Grand Duet, try Mstislav Rostropovich and Igor Uriash. The Violin Sonata is well served by Patricia Kopatchinskaja and Markus Hinterhäuser (on an excellent ECM disc). As for the 4th Piano Sonata, I like Ivan Sokolov's take, among many others.

coco vide (pomenitul), Wednesday, 1 April 2020 12:36 (three months ago) link

fwiw (nothing as i don't vote in polls lol) a vote for anything also counts as a vote for 4'33", you just assume it's being performed somewhere poorly soundproofed with e.g. zimmerman's canto di sperenza bleeding thru the walls, to be officially part of the cage performance ("noises of your body" etc)

this is canon

mark s, Wednesday, 1 April 2020 12:44 (three months ago) link

nothing as i don't vote in polls lol

C'mon mark, don't be such a hipster.

coco vide (pomenitul), Wednesday, 1 April 2020 12:46 (three months ago) link

mark not voting is canon too iirc

Anyway Pom, huge thanks - again - for the recommendations!

Btw are you familiar with this book? Performing Pain: Music and Trauma in Eastern Europe Looks rad!


I had no idea he'd need my help.

Publius Covidius Naso (pomenitul), Thursday, 2 April 2020 00:13 (three months ago) link

D'oh, a long phone call prevented a last minute vote. Maybe imagine that Le Marteau sans maître or Quatre Études de rythm has a "1" against it rather than no votes.

Nag! Nag! Nag!, Thursday, 2 April 2020 00:21 (three months ago) link

Who voted for the Dallapiccola btw? I'm pleasantly surprised – I almost didn't include because I assumed no one would care.

Publius Covidius Naso (pomenitul), Thursday, 2 April 2020 00:24 (three months ago) link

^Teacher and major influence on Brindle (who got my vote in the end).

Sund4r, Thursday, 2 April 2020 03:44 (three months ago) link

D'oh, forgot to vote! Would've gone with Junglinge in the end...

If anyone's interested, I wrote
about the Brindle piece some years ago, when I still wrote words outside message boards.

Sund4r, Thursday, 2 April 2020 12:56 (three months ago) link

Only thing I ever published

Sund4r, Thursday, 2 April 2020 12:56 (three months ago) link

Thanks, and bookmarked.

Publius Covidius Naso (pomenitul), Thursday, 2 April 2020 13:10 (three months ago) link

An embarrassment of riches, split in twain:

Wherein We Elect Our Favourite Classical Compositions of… the 1960s – Part I (1960-1964)

Publius Covidius Naso (pomenitul), Thursday, 2 April 2020 13:45 (three months ago) link

today i learned RVW was working on an opera on Thomas the Rhymer at the time of his death

feel pretty robbed tbh!

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Thursday, 2 April 2020 13:58 (three months ago) link

Really really should have remembered to vote. For Marteau sans maitre.

ascai, Thursday, 2 April 2020 14:49 (three months ago) link

I’ve just realised that Shostakovich 11 (Year 1905) was omitted even from the Hon mentions. Outrage. I was saving my Shosty vote for that. Harrumph.

Jeff W, Thursday, 2 April 2020 15:32 (three months ago) link

Sorry, Shosty may well be my favourite composer on some days but I can’t stomach the 11th and the 12th. God knows I’ve tried.

Publius Covidius Naso (pomenitul), Thursday, 2 April 2020 15:34 (three months ago) link

looove the first movement, can take or leave the rest

valet doberman (Jon not Jon), Thursday, 2 April 2020 15:34 (three months ago) link

i like the 12th

ciderpress, Thursday, 2 April 2020 15:35 (three months ago) link

Haha, tbh, rereading my own old paper, I had to review what some of those set theory concepts were. :\

Sund4r, Friday, 3 April 2020 04:31 (two months ago) link

I read as much as I conceivably could of your article, Sund4r, and it reminded me that I am but a rank amateur when it comes to this stuff! I know enough to grasp the overall premise, but your analysis is several magnitudes of complexity and insight beyond my meagre musicological – and mathematical – understanding.

Publius Covidius Naso (pomenitul), Saturday, 4 April 2020 13:13 (two months ago) link

It was more technical/arcane than I remembered tbh. The math that you need to be able to read and apply pitch class set theory is mostly just arithmetic, though, really.

Sund4r, Saturday, 4 April 2020 21:41 (two months ago) link

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