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Jurassic Shark

Recommend classical works that deserve more international recognition, by composers from your home country.

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All countries have some important national composers that more or less help shaping the country's identity. Others just make good music without tapping into the national feeling. Either way, I'm looking for those works that haven't gained as much attention as they deserve across the country's boarders.

 

I'll start with three highly melodic 20th century works by Norwegian composers, all conducted by the great Bjarte Engeset:

 

 

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Liszt

Bartók

Kodály

Ligeti

Rózsa

Damnit, we're just too well-known!

 

Uhhh...

 

Ferenc Erkel! Big romantic composer.

 

He became nationally detested by every student through winning the contest for writing a melody for our anthem: (excuse the old, bad recording, this is supposedly the closest to his original writing, not the reworked funeral procession)

 

He also introduced grand opera to the country, here's two excerpts from Hunyadi László (his operas have grand heroic historical settings, this one goes back to the reneissance, choosing a new king, political intrigue and so forth), the Overture and the widely known Dance:

 

His Festive Overture ain't bad, has elements of the anthem:

 

If you wanna go different, say avantgarde, there's Kurtág and his best-known Games for Piano, here's an excerpt:

 

Or his mystical contemporary Stele:

 

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15 minutes ago, Jurassic Shark said:

If you guys cared to read the thread title a bit more carefully, you'd realise that I'm asking for works that deserve more recognition, not composers. So a relatively unknown masterwork by a famous composer totally qualifies for this thread. :)

 

Well then!  I can promote my personal favorite Copland work and  my Youtube channel!

 

Aaron Copland - Piano Quartet

 

 

 

This was my first score video back in March.  I guess the Third Symphony is officially my favorite, but the Piano Quartet I feel the most truly personal emotional connection to.

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This doesn't really belong to this thread, but I'll allow it: What's your thoughts on the music of Alan Hovhaness? I like some of his works, such as the symphonies Nos. 2 and 22 and his cello concerto, but I find a lot of his works too similar to each other and perhaps a bit underdeveloped. 

 

 

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2 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

This doesn't really belong to this thread, but I'll allow it: What's your thoughts on the music of Alan Hovhaness? I like some of his works, such as the symphonies Nos. 2 and 22 and his cello concerto, but I find a lot of his works too similar to each other and perhaps a bit underdeveloped. 

 

 

 

2 and 22 (Mysterious Mountain and Mount St. Helens) are really the only ones I'm very familiar with.  His slight air of "new age-iness" kind of put me off at first, and he's a bit programmatic for my recent tastes, but I definitely appreciate such a distinct, talented American voice finding such popularity.

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John Weinzweig! 

 

Been enjoying his wind quintet and the symphonic ode lately, for starters.

 

As a side note, Glenn Gould's take on the Goldberg variations are must-listens for any Bach junkie. 

11 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

I'll start with three melodic 20th century works by Norwegian composers, all conducted by the great Bjarte Engeset:

Halvorsen is one that I've been fairly familiar with for a little bit. Entry of the Boyards is quite good.

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1 minute ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

As a side note, Glenn Gould's take on the Goldberg variations are must-listens for any Bach junkie. 

 

Of course! I prefer the 1981 recording.

 

Regarding Canadian works that should get more recognition: If I were a Canadian, I'd recommend Mozetich's concerto for two harps:

 

 

 

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Those are indeed nice. How well known is Mozetich in Canada?

 

19 minutes ago, The Illustrious Jerry said:

Halvorsen is one that I've been fairly familiar with for a little bit. Entry of the Boyards is quite good.

 

Halvorsen is good, but a composer I find even better is Svendsen. Check out his two symphonies!

 

 

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Honestly, I couldn't really say, as I don't know that many classical fans around here. I found out about him just over a year ago, but I don't listen all that regularly.

 

While we're on the topic, I'm doing some exploring. About to listen to Harry Somers first symphony- I like what I hear so far. I'll bookmark those Svendsen symphonies.

 

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4 minutes ago, Dixon Hill said:

American by birth is hard.  But American as in writing in this country for a decent portion of their life is a little easier.  This is the first that comes to mind, a work I've loved since childhood.

 

 

 

Ha, sounds very film music at core points.

 

 

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11 hours ago, Jurassic Shark said:

This doesn't really belong to this thread, but I'll allow it: What's your thoughts on the music of Alan Hovhaness? I like some of his works, such as the symphonies Nos. 2 and 22 and his cello concerto, but I find a lot of his works too similar to each other and perhaps a bit underdeveloped. 

 

 

 

I completely agree. He had a powerful voice, but he was too prolific for his own good, and wrote without a filter. Je actually once had to burn hundreds of works 'cause there were just too many in his house. Astor Piazzolla was the same way--and frankly I think John William's has been close to the edge. They have these mountain peaks of great works, with hundreds of nondescript trees between them that form a blur.

 

 

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12 minutes ago, Dixon Hill said:

Yes undoubtedly very filmic at points.  I still remember air conducting the second movement like a dope.

 

I'd say 70's Williams (The Fury, Superman), in particular.

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26 minutes ago, Nick Parker said:

 

I completely agree. He had a powerful voice, but he was too prolific for his own good, and wrote without a filter. Je actually once had to burn hundreds of works 'cause there were just too many in his house. Astor Piazzolla was the same way--and frankly I think John William's has been close to the edge. They have these mountain peaks of great works, with hundreds of nondescript trees between them that form a blur.

 

I think that could be said about many composers who have composed great works but without necessarily being great composers. They keep on composing and honing their skills, and once in a while a gem turns up.

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7 minutes ago, publicist said:

It can be said about any prolific composer. Great or not. The chances for greatness are just less slim in the first case.

 

See now I've listened to some prolific composers where--while yes of course there's some stylistic similarity and certain choices made through matter of personal taste--I could never mistake one piece for another, as I have with some.

 

A theory of mine, that of course could be entirely wrong, is the source of inspiration they use. I think when composers just sit down to write music music, so to speak--especially if they write at say a piano--it's easier for them to fall into certain habits and grooves and avoid as much as possible the risk of breaking the "flow state" they probably get. Williams has stated that he writes music purely as a sonic form, but he's been wise to write concerti for different players and instruments, which force him to break from certain comfort zones and minimize bleed throughout his compositions.

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9 minutes ago, publicist said:

It can be said about any prolific composer. Great or not. The chances for greatness are just less slim in the first case.

 

I guess so. I was just thinking about these almost-greats versus the few towering figures in music history that I find to almost always have something interesting to say. But that's also highly subjective.

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13 minutes ago, Nick Parker said:

See now I've listened to some prolific composers where--while yes of course there's some stylistic similarity and certain choices made through matter of personal taste--I could never mistake one piece for another, as I have with some.

 

A theory of mine, that of course could be entirely wrong, is the source of inspiration they use. I think when composers just sit down to write music music, so to speak--especially if they write at say a piano--it's easier for them to fall into certain habits and grooves and avoid as much as possible the risk of breaking the "flow state" they probably get. Williams has stated that he writes music purely as a sonic form, but he's been wise to write concerti for different players and instruments, which force him to break from certain comfort zones and minimize bleed throughout his compositions.

 

While i don't see a concise argument here i will say that especially in Williams' case the different hats he wears are make him a weak candidate for instant recognizability. Though in all fairness i hardly feel the need to listen to dozens of works by a particular composer just because (had to listen to tons of Chopin while staying in Poland and what a bore it was after a while!). Too much stuff out there. I did that duty in my 20's for select film composers and even there a admit today that there was a lot of clutter.

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3 minutes ago, publicist said:

 

While i don't see a concise argument here i will say that especially in Williams' case the different hats he wears are make him a weak candidate for instant recognizability. Though in all fairness i hardly feel the need to listen to dozens of works by a particular composer just because (had to listen to tons of Chopin while staying in Poland and what a bore it was after a while!). Too much stuff out there. I did that duty in my 20's for select film composers and even there a admit today that there was a lot of clutter.

 

You wouldn't say Williams' voice shines through on pretty much every piece he writes? I don't think he's ever really worn a lot of hats in the concert world.

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Williams the composer has three distinct personalities, of which i see the most overlap in film composing and composing for public occasions (the style people tend to associate im most with) whereas his concert works are a sharp departure in terms of harmonic language, idiom etc. In that he's a bit like Franz Waxman, but guys like Rózsa, or even Horner or Goldsmith sounded pretty spot-table all the time.

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On 8/3/2019 at 1:55 AM, Marian Schedenig said:

Nice idea for a thread. Not easy for an Austrian, but I'll try to think of something.

 

Thanks. I've been thinking about it for a while, since there's many very good works by composers from my own country that aren't well known beyond the boarder. I'm sure that Austria also has good music that's important nationally, buy not well known elsewhere.

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Here's a lesser known, and sadly rarely performed, work by Bruckner:

 

 

 

And here we have the only symphony by Hans Rott:

 

 

Rott was born in 1858, studied with Bruckner, and briefly roomed with Gustav Mahler. The first movement of his symphony was his submission to a composition contest during the final year of his studies at the age of 20. It was ridiculed by the entire jury, except for Bruckner, who - himself no stranger to rejection, reportedly stood up and said: "Stop laughing, gentleman, you will yet hear great things by this man". Rott completed the symphony in 1880 and presented it to Brahms, who told Rott that he had no talent whatsoever and should give up music.

 

None of Rott's works were published during his lifetime. His tragic fates highlights the toxic, conservative climate in Vienna's music circles during the second half of the 19th century. Meeting with artistic rejection at every turn, Rott developed mental issues. At the age of 22, failing to secure a studentship in Vienna, he accepted a position as a choir director in Germany. On the train journey leaving Vienna, when another passenger tried to light a cigarette, Rott threatened him with a revolver, claiming that Brahms had filled the train with dynamite. Rott was commited to a mental hospital, where he spent the rest of his short life. Rott died of tuberculosis at the age of 25.

 

There's a clearly noticeable Bruckner (and obviously Wagner, and in the fourth movement even, ironically, Brahms) influence in the symphony, but it also clearly had an almost uncanny influence on Mahler. When listening to it, especially the 3rd and 4th movements, keep in mind that it was written eight (!) years before Mahler's first.

 

Edit: Oh man. Like the rest of the music world, I usually forget that this exists, and whenever I rediscover it, I'm amazed all over again. I'm in tears listening to the finale. Just imagine what else Rott might have written if he had worked for 50 instead of ~5 years.

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Austria of course also has its share of composers whose works were branded as "entartete Musik" by the Nazis and who were either murdered during the Nazi regime or fled Austria to live in exile. The traditional symphonic Hollywood film score owes a lot to them (and contemporaries from other European nations who shared similar fates). Many of them were all but forgotten in Austria after the war. One of them was Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who in his early years was one of the greatest stars of Vienna's music scene, but only slowly got rediscovered and musically rehabilitated decades after the war.

 

Another was Egon Wellesz. Born in 1885, he fled to England in 1938 and died in Oxford in 1974. Among his works (more than 100 in total) are 9 symphonies. I have yet to become familiar with his music myself, but some of his earlier symphonies show a clear Bruckner influence. Here's the 3rd, which was published posthumously and only had its world premiere in Vienna in 2000:

 

 

 

 

 

 

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