- Symphony No. 4 ("Heroes"), for orchestra: Neuköln
- Threnody (for the Victims of Hiroshima), for 52 strings
- Toccata for violin & piano
- Sonatas and Interludes, for prepared piano: First Interlude
- Fünf Nachtstücke, for violin & piano: 1. Elegie
- Quattro Pezzi su una nota sola (Four Pieces on Only One Note), for 25 musicians: 1.
- In C, for unspecified performers: [Excerpt]
- String Quartet No 2
- Déserts for brass, percussion, piano & tape: Beginning
- Songs, Drones and Refrains of Death, for baritone, electric guitar & double bass, amplified piano & harpsichord, & 2 percissionists: Death Drone 2
- Bagatelles (6) for wind quintet: Allegro grazioso
- Silenzio, pieces (5) for bayan, violin & cello: II
- Beta, electronic work
- Shaker Loops, for 7 strings or string orchestra: A Final Shaking
- Piano Concerto No.1
- Fratres, for strings & percussion
Sonic Rebellion: Alternative Classical Collection
The Naxos label diverges from its usual plain graphic design with this attempt to create the idea of an "alternative classical" genre, an idea that has paid big dividends when applied to rock and country music. Most of the selections are drawn from existing Naxos releases, with a few taken from discs by Denmark's Da Capo and Germany's CPO labels. The contents do not represent any new trends but rather package existing styles together as examples of "sonic rebellion." The idea is a good one, and the new listener in search of an introduction to the styles of the late twentieth century can turn to this selection with confidence. Further, close observers of contemporary trends may see this collection as a set of tea leaves suggesting what is wearing well and what isn't. For example, most of the music has a tonal center; just a few works are really classifiable as atonal, and Penderecki's well-known "Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima" is a clear textural study rather than a difficult systematic work. Minimalism appears in several guises, and the realization of Terry Riley's pioneering "In C," with voices mouthing "ta" syllables, is an unusually lively one. The collection favors aggressive, monumental sounds such as those in Scelsi's "Quattro pezzi per orchestra," perhaps on the belief that they would appeal to rock fans, but they are balanced by lean pieces like Nancarrow's "Toccata for violin player and piano." The sequencing makes sense, with the only really extreme electronic piece, Danish composer Jørgen Plaetner's "Beta," feeding into the quasi-electronic "Shaker Loops" of John Adams. The monumental Bartók-meets-Sibelius language of Rautavaara's "Piano Concerto No. 1" was a good pick to bring the curtain down; this composer's appeal to diverse audiences has widely been demonstrated. Whether the idea of alternative classical music has merit remains to be seen -- classical music is already alternative, at least most of the time. But this disc is optimal for a classroom anthology of music from the second half of the twentieth century.
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Even people who like classical music tend to run screaming when they hear names like Penderecki, Ligeti and Cage. But it’s hard to blame them. The majority of concert halls and classical music stations play it safe, programming little but such familiar composers as Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, etc. Nothing wrong with those gentlemen, but anyone looking for something a little more experimental is pretty much on their own. They couldn’t do better than check out this sampler of alternative classical music that’s guaranteed to blast some fresh sounds into complacent ears. It features no less than 16 modern composers of intimidating reputation, yet adventurous listeners will be surprised at how accessible and engaging their music can be. All of the pieces on this disc are easily digestible, even for those unfamiliar with music that takes unusual melodic twists and turns. Space limitations prevent listing all the tracks, but I have to call out Philip Glass’ “Heroes Symphony,” based on the Bowie/ Eno recording, for its lush, atmospheric tonalities. Likewise Penderecki’s “Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima,” one of the darkest, yet most moving pieces of music ever written. Jørgen Plaetner’s “Beta” is a wild electronic soundscape from some dark, unfathomable id, while Arvo Pärt’s “Fratres for Strings & Percussion” exudes hypnotic serenity. All of the compositions explore strange and compelling sound textures, and while a fair share of them veer into atonality, they do so in surprisingly lyrical fashion. For my money (heck, this CD costs less than a fancy Starbucks drink), this is the classical music bargain of the year.