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Contemporary Classical/Romantic Music?

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Chops
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Movie soundtracks seem to be the only source of good orchestral contemporary music, as far as I've experienced. When at the symphony, and a modern composer's music is played, it's typically atonal and random, and certainly not enjoyable. I'd love to find some modern composers who write good classical.

Briefly asked: Does anyone know of any good contemporary romantic/classical composers? There's gotta be some good composers out there!

Edited by Chops
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Movie soundtracks seem to be the only source of good orchestral contemporary music, as far as I've experienced. When at the symphony, and a modern composer's music is played, it's typically atonal and random, and certainly not enjoyable. I'd love to find some modern composers who write good classical.

Briefly asked: Does anyone know of any good contemporary romantic/classical composers? There's gotta be some good composers out there!

There are quite a few, many of them fairly obscure. First, Americans. A contemporary you must check out is Eric Ewazen. His style is influenced partly by English folksong; he specializes in music for brass and winds.

http://ericewazen.com/

From an older generation and somewhat famous is Robert Ward; another one whose reputation suffered during his lifetime was Alec Wilder, because he straddled the boundary between classical, jazz, and popular song. Lowell Liebermann is extremely good.

Also, British classical muic of the 20th century was generally tonal and tuneful. Keeping those requirements in mind, I'd suggest William Alwyn (quite romantic), Malcolm Arnold (romantic in places, neoclassical in others, and often cheeky and fun--though his symphonies are generally quite a bit darker; look for his chamber music [besides the string quartets] and his concertos--both of his clarinet concertos were written for Benny Goodman, for example, and are quite interesting), and Alan Rawsthorne (more of a modernist in the neoclassical strain of Hindemith and Stravinsky, but if I remember correctly he was also committed to a Laborite program of writing music accessible to regular modern listeners). What I've heard of Lennox Berkeley's music is very good, but you'd want to avoid his son Michael's music. Similarly, many Swedish composers up to about 1960 wrote quite traditional music--Hugo Alfven, Kurt Atterberg, Ture Rangstrom, and Vilhelm Peterson-Berger are good lesser-known lights from that period, though they don't count as contemporary, fer sure fer sure. Edward Tubin (Estonian) wrote a series of modern romantic symphonies you might want to sample to see if he's to your taste, and if you do like him (he's tough as granite in places and not always pretty but certainly dramatic and tough-minded) then give Vagn Holmboe (Danish) a try; I consider him one of the finest composers of his century, but he's not light and easy but rather Ibsenesque, if you know what I mean--no compromise in his search for musical truth but broadly tonal. Again, they're both from an older generation and not strictly speaking contemporary, but they might interest you and are not so commonly heard in the States.

Let's see...Alla Pavlova has written four very fine symphonies, quite romantic and Russian in sound. Samuel Zyman (Mexican) has written some very fine works as well. Two interesting composers who sound surprisingly alike in places are Peter Sculthorpe (Australian) and Minoru Miki (Japanese); they write music with strains of what I believe is sometimes called a "Pacific" school of composing; both draw on elements of non-western music in essentially western forms (traditional Japanese music for Miki and Indonesian and aboriginal music for Sculthorpe), and in my experience Miki is more consistent than Sculthorpe. If this interests you, Miki's Eurasian Trilogy is the work to look for; it's in three parts taken from Japanese poetic thought, jo-ha-kyu (slow introduction, complex middle section, and a fast conclusion), for which the first is a prelude for Japanese instruments and strings, the second a concerto for koto and orchestra, and the last his Symphony for Two Worlds, which I like very much indeed. There's a CD of Sculthorpe's music on Naxos tht's good too; it includes his didgeridoo concerto "Earth Song." He also has some good string quartets. Reza Vali (born Iranian, now I think an American citizen) is also worth looking for; he writes music in western styles that are quite listenable, but many of them are based on Persian modal music rather than tonal music; again, Naxos has a CD of his music, including a flute concerto, that's quite good, and he's written some fine string quartets as well as a large number of quite listenable settings of Persian folksongs. And finally, if you don't know it, you must find the music of Jean Francaix; he lived through most of the 20th century and composed up until the end (1997); he was the epitome of the witty, urbane, deliciously tuneful French musical craftman with the perfect light touch. He'd be classified as neo-classical rather than romantic. His chamber music is very fine and his concertos are delightful; I especially recommend his Concerto for Two Guitars and his Piano Concerto.

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Briefly asked: Does anyone know of any good contemporary romantic/classical composers? There's gotta be some good composers out there!

Also, you might make a point of checking out music for winds and symphonic band music. It was a refuge for more traditional American composers during the 50s-70s. A number of fine Italian-American composers, for example, wrote solid, interesting, often beautiful music for symphonic band during those days (Norman Dello Joio, Vincent Persichetti, Vittorio Giannini, and Paul Creston). Among contemporaries, David Gillingham, Frank Ticheli, and David Maslanka have all written extensively and well for symphonic bands. (Eric Ewazen, whom I mentioned before, has also.)

Ronald Perera has written some very fine choral and vocal works (The Outermost House, Crossing the Line, Visions). Two contemporary (though not young) composers who have written deliciously for voice are Ned Rorem (of course) and Dominick Argento; they've also written fine instrumental music, and both are considered neo-romantics. Gerald Cohen and Osvaldo Golijov have written beautiful vocal and instrumental music based in Jewish traditional music, and somewhat along those lines Thomas Pasatieri's Letter to Warsaw is very good.

All this is, of course, in addition to the standard famous American neo-romantics like Barber, Hanson, and (before 1950) Diamond, the neo-classicals like Piston, and the nationalist composers like Harris and Schuman (when Copland was being tonal, he fit into the first and the third categories); I assume you're already familiar with them.

Edited by Adrian Hester
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John Williams is good. He wrote the scores for (among other movies) Star Wars, ET, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Schindler's List, and Home Alone. Actually, I think he's done the score for every Steven Spielberg movie aside from The Color Purple.

Naturally! When it comes to movie soundtracks, his music (and more particularly, his themes) are amazing. As for soundtrack composers, I really enjoy Hans Zimmer as well. I was looking more for non-movie and non-videogame composers (although the track "Cohen's Masterpiece" from the BioShock soundtrack is phenomenal).

There are quite a few....

Thank you Adrian! I'll be sure to check out all those suggestions! That should keep me busy for a while!

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John Williams is good. He wrote the scores for (among other movies) Star Wars, ET, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Schindler's List, and Home Alone. Actually, I think he's done the score for every Steven Spielberg movie aside from The Color Purple.

As a matter of fact, I'll be seeing Williams conduct the New York Philharmonic on September 14th! I am excited beyond words!

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As a matter of fact, I'll be seeing Williams conduct the New York Philharmonic on September 14th! I am excited beyond words!

That's awesome! I was lucky enough to get to see him live with the Chicago Symphony back in '99 at Ravinia, conducting some of his more popular movie music. It was a blast! I'd love to see him again if he ever comes to the Chicago area again.

Actually, I don't think this recommendation matches what you're looking for, now that I think about it.

I'll still check them out regardless. I like listening to new stuff, and maybe I'll like it. I can tell you that I've been listening to Alla Pavlova's stuff and loving it so far (that which you can listen to freely from the Naxos site, which will hold me over until the CDs arrive). I haven't had much of a chance to listen to the others yet, but I definitely will. Thanks again for the suggestions.

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  • 4 months later...

Reviving this thread to make a couple of additions I should have thought of earlier...

A number of fine Italian-American composers, for example, wrote solid, interesting, often beautiful music for symphonic band during those days (Norman Dello Joio, Vincent Persichetti, Vittorio Giannini, and Paul Creston).

And then there's Giannini's student Nicolas Flagello. I recommend him very highly.

Ronald Perera has written some very fine choral and vocal works (The Outermost House, Crossing the Line, Visions). Two contemporary (though not young) composers who have written deliciously for voice are Ned Rorem (of course) and Dominick Argento; they've also written fine instrumental music, and both are considered neo-romantics.

And Morten Lauridsen has written some very fine choral music.

Edited by Adrian Hester
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And Morten Lauridsen has written some very fine choral music.

Oh, yes! My choir has sung his "O Magnum Mysterium" and "Se per havervi, oime" and both are beautiful.

Some other works I've really enjoyed singing: Daniel Pinkham's Wedding Cantata, "Ave Maris Stella" by Otto Olsson, "Sleeping Out: Full Moon" by Joshua Shank, "Music to Hear" by George Shearing (fun choral jazz, with texts by Shakespeare) and "Leonardo Dreams of His Flying Machine" by Eric Whitacre.

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Hey all, my first post on this site, on a very favorite subject. (I seem to remember my first post at SOLO was also on classical music. :D ) I see that Adrian H. definitely knows his stuff. As far as film composers go, and for decidedly Romantic content, Ennio Morricone is the standard composer of our era. He has a few famous scores to Sergio Leone films, but my favorite is his score to a lesser-known film, The Legend of 1900 starring Tim Roth. The official soundtrack version is the best, but you can get a flavor for it from some live YouTube’d performances such as this one:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Q0eRsdB7Mz8

After Morricone I would mention John Barry, who scored Out of Africa and Somewhere in Time.

I’ve got a whole page almost overflowing with classical/Romantic favorites and clips at my website:

http://www.geocities.com/cathcacr/topalbums.html

Edited by Chris Cathcart
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Oh also, as far as contemporary non-film composers go, there's not much Romanticism these days, but one notable exception I can think of is the Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara. There are obvious Romantic elements in his "Cantus Arcticus" (concerto for recorded birdsong and orchestra), "Anadyomene: The Adoration of Aphrodite," the adagio movements of his flute and clarinet concertos, and his Symphony No. 7 ("Angel of Light"). Much of his other stuff is quite modernistic (which sometimes holds some interest for me, but it's not Romantic).

Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood has classical training and does some pretty modern semi-Romantic composition, as in his soundtrack for There Will be Blood.

Outside of Rautavaara and film composition, I don't know much in the way of contemporary Romantic work in the classical vein. Some pop and rock, yes, but it seems "standard classical" composers gave up for whatever reason after Mahler, Sibelius, Nielsen, Delius, Vaughan Williams, Howard Hanson, Maurice Durufle, et al. After Shostakovich, who was part Romantic, mostly modern, it's pretty much gone from that scene. :D

Edited by Chris Cathcart
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I just found a YouTube clip of Rautavaara's Cantus Arcticus, Movement 3 - "Swans Migrating."

:D

(This may not exactly be "contemporary" -- it was composed ca. 1972. But hey, it's still almost the only semi-well-known thing since ca. 1950 in non-film classical that has a strongly Romantic flavor.)

Edited by Chris Cathcart
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  • 1 year later...
Movie soundtracks seem to be the only source of good orchestral contemporary music, as far as I've experienced. When at the symphony, and a modern composer's music is played, it's typically atonal and random, and certainly not enjoyable. I'd love to find some modern composers who write good classical.

Briefly asked: Does anyone know of any good contemporary romantic/classical composers? There's gotta be some good composers out there!

I would check out Kalevi Aho, one of the students of Rautavaara, his music couldn't all be considered romantic, but quite a lot of it is based in tonality and the use of melody, I especially like his 8th symphony. Keep in mind there are many contemporary composers who have written in a multitude of styles, some of Rautavaara's symphonies are completely atonal. Also there are composers like Part, Gorecki, and Penderecki, who started out very atonal, but have changed to a more tonal language. If you are interested in tonal contemporary music I would recommend looking into the later works of the three composers I just named as well. All three write music that is very religious in nature, but nonetheless very beautiful. I also recommend Max Richter, who is somewhat of a minimalist, but not of the pulse music style of Reich and Glass, which I also find quite interesting. I believe he classifies his style as Post-Classical. And forgive me but I feel I have to correct you that Atonal music usually isn't "random" as you put it. Also you aren't really going to find many living composers that write traditional romantic music in the exact style of that era, as that would be comparable to writing a contemporary novel using the language of Dickens or Dostoyevsky, and in my opinion a stagnation of art, however there are many composers who write tonal music that can be considered to work towards the aesthetic aims of the romantic movement, and that someone interested in that movment would find quite enjoyable. Hope this helps!

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- Samuel Barber (lost him in 1981): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hz53wlVGJU

- Rene Gruss, calls himself 'underground classical' because he writes melodically (alive and composing): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4Hjvo-myv8

- Ottorino Respighi, Italian Romantic (died in 1936): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKXkFZ4FqQ8

- Max Bruch, German Romantic (Died 1920):

- Giancarlo Menotti, Neo-Romanticist (we lost him recently, 2007):

- Richard Hundley (alive and composing, though extremely old at this point):

- Víctor Carbajo (alive and composing):

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- Samuel Barber (lost him in 1981): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_hz53wlVGJU

- Rene Gruss, calls himself 'underground classical' because he writes melodically (alive and composing): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s4Hjvo-myv8

- Ottorino Respighi, Italian Romantic (died in 1936): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cKXkFZ4FqQ8

- Max Bruch, German Romantic (Died 1920):

- Giancarlo Menotti, Neo-Romanticist (we lost him recently, 2007):

- Richard Hundley (alive and composing, though extremely old at this point):

- Víctor Carbajo (alive and composing):

...

There is [was] also Alan Hovhaness... http://www.hovhaness.com/

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Chops, it might have helped if you had mentioned some composers you liked and disliked. The range of people that have been mentioned encompasses a range of styles. Several composers mentioned are, in my judgment (which is unknown to everyone), far wide of “romantic”. I love Brahms and Chopin, but can’t stand Hovhaness, or Durutle, or even Mahler, for that matter. I have found only one Samuel Barber piece that I consider “romantic”, and it is ultimately depressing.

I have an addition to the list. This composer is very mixed. He wrote several symphonies that are trash. Later in life, he heard one of his own symphonies and is quoted as saying, “If that is modern music, I don’t like it.” Unfortunately, he wrote only a couple pieces that will move many romantics. His name: Ralph Vaughan Williams. He died in 1958. I especially recommend the “Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis” (1909). Also listen to “The Lark Ascending” (1914). You will find melody and drama and triumph.

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  • 1 year later...

Not to split hairs...but to split hairs :) :

The phrase "Contemporary Classical/Romantic Music" does not really make sense in the strict musicological sense. The correct term for what people refer to as classical is: Western Art Music.

As such the question should be "Contemporary Art Music in a Classical/Romantic style?"

Best regards,

Ken

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