Jimmosk's Unknown Composers

Hendrik Andriessen (Dutch, 1892 - 1981)
His son Louis has been getting a lot of attention lately for his music, which is minimalist. But Hendrik is well worth seeking out. His music is a little astringent at times, but basically tonal -- even things based on twelve-tone rows sound like they're in a key. Andriessen puts a lot of tunes in his pieces, most of them good ones. Check out his Variantions and Fugue on a theme by Kuhnau, Symphony #4, Ricercare.
Listen to 18 seconds (194K) from Andriessen's Ricercare (Residentie Orchestra of the Hague / Ed Spanjaard. Olympia OCD 507)

Kurt Atterberg (Swedish, 1887 - 1974)
I once heard someone call him "a John-Williams-wannabe". That's actually a pretty good bumper-sticker-sized description. Ultraromantic, lots of brass, lots of ornamentation around his melodies. Given my own introduction to classical music, I'd put this up there with The Planets and Tchaikovsky as a good stepping stone into symphonic literature. Check out his symphonies #1&3, the Ballad Without Words, and his Suite Barocco .
Listen to a big theme from Atterberg's 1st symphony, 17 seconds (188K) (Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra / Stig Westerberg. Sterling CDS 1010-2)

Arthur Bliss (English, 1891 - 1975)
He writes sort of in the bravura style of Rachmaninov -- quite tonal and lyrical, though not as memorable. Still, he's good enough to make his current obscurity an injustice. Check out: Music for "Things to Come", Melee Fantasque, Concerto for Two Pianos. I'd stay away from his piano concerto (subtitled "for the people of the United States of America" -- perhaps he didn't like us that much? :-)
Listen to the opening 16 seconds (177K) of Bliss's 2-Piano Concerto (Cyril Smith and Phyllis Sellick, pianists / City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra / Malcolm Arnold. Not available on cd)

Norman Dello Joio (USA, 1913 - 2008)
Walter Piston and David Diamond seem to be the figures getting the most attention in the current "Rediscover American Composers" sweepstakes, but while I like the latter and can appreciate the former, I'm surprised it's not Dello Joio in the spotlight. He writes accessible, slightly jazzy pieces with Hansonesque melodies. They don't stick in my head terribly long, but I enjoy their passing through. Check out: Homage à Haydn, Fantasy and Variations for piano and orchestra, Meditations on Ecclesiastes. Avoid: Air Power.

Vagn Holmboe (Danish, 1909 - 1996)
I don't think he truly belongs on this Unknown Composers page anymore, since his star is fast ascending, in my country at least. A traditionalist, he continued the line of symphonists that thinned out quite a lot in the past seventy years. His music has hints of both Nielsen and Vaughan-Williams, with a great deal of energy propelling its developments. Check out: symphonies #6 and 8
Listen to 19 powerful seconds (201K) of Holmboe's Symphony #8 (Royal Danish Orchestra / Jerzy Semkow. Not available on cd)

Mieczyslaw Karlowicz (Polish, 1876 - 1909)
Probably more famous for having been killed in an avalanche than for any of his music (why are composers' deaths so talked-about?), he's got some lovely, tuneful pieces waiting to be rediscovered. You'd expect someone in a movement called 'Young Poland' to use a lot of folk songs or imitations, but I don't hear any. Many of his works are symphonic poems, but my favorite things of his are (i.e., Check Out:) the early Violin Concerto and his Symphony, "The Revival". They vaguely remind me of Goldmark.
Listen to a piece of the flashy third movement of Karlowicz's Violin Concerto (15 seconds, 167K) (Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, violinist / Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra / Witold Rowicki. Olympia OCD 304)

Alberic Magnard (French, 1865 - 1914)
A French Bruckner? Well, no, but that's what passages of his 3rd symphony suggest to me. His 4th is much spritelier, far more melodies per movement than Anton's, and more varied orchestration. Check out: symphonies #3 & 4
Listen to a transitional passage from the first movement of Magnard's 3rd Symphony (10 seconds, 112K) (Orchestre du Capitole de Toulouse / Michel Plasson. EMI CDC 7-54015-2)

Andrzej Panufnik (Polish, 1914 - 1991)
He's apparently a lot more popular in the UK than here, although you can find a number of his pieces on lps in used record stores. There's a feeling of minimalism to his melodies, and the way he repeats and reiterates motifs, but far from the American minimalist school. He got more abstract, more eager to alter the traditional forms in which he'd previously written, later in his career. I like these a little less, but still enjoy listening to them. Though they don't sound much alike, I tend to group him with Alan Hovhaness as the two most-likely-to-have-been-famous-if-the-serial-style-hadn't-become-so-powerful mid-20th-century composers. Check out: Sinfonia Rustica, Autumn Music, Concerto Festivo
Listen to a frisky section from Panufnik's Violin Concerto (19 seconds, 199K) (Krzysztof Smietana, violinist / London Musici / Mark Stephenson. Conifer CDCF 182)

Gabriel Pierne (French, 1863 - 1937)
He's a great orchestrator, and comes up with lots of neat instrumental combinations. He writes tunes quite prolifically, too. Maybe he's thought of as being too light to be considered 'serious music' -- Massenet seems to have been blackballed in a similar manner -- if so, he's being done an injustice. Sure, there's sparkle in his music, but there's drama as well. Check out his Suites from "Cydelise et la Chevre-Pied" and "Ramuncho", Piano Concerto

Kaljo Raid (Estonian, 1922 - 2005)
I've only heard one piece of his, but that was enough to immediately rank him among the Great Unknown Composers. His Symphony #1, on volume one of Chandos's "Music from Estonia" series, has a boring last movement but two before that which are heaven. They remind me of Sibelius's Kullervo symphony, only better. Extremely dramatic, lots of fanfare and pulse, combined with shimmery, still sections. Frequent chills up my spine! I know of nothing else by him (please tell me if you know of anything else!), but definitely check this symphony out!
Listen to 16 seconds (172K) of the first movement of Raid's Symphony #1
Listen to 9 seconds of fanfare (93K) from the second movement of Raid's Symphony #1
(both Scottish National Orchestra / Neemi Jaärvi. Chandos 8525)

Sergei Taneyev (Russian, 1856 - 1915)
There ain't no justice. Here's someone who wrote the second-best Russian symphonies of the 19th century (after Tchaikovsky). Yes, better than Glazunov; yes, better than Borodin (much as I like them both). This guy should be played by every big orchestra several times each year. Instead, only half of his symphonies are recorded. Sergei could write big melodies, and did rhythmic things with them that make them roar in your ears. When around 1988 I first heard his 4th symphony, on a great Arabesque cassette with Yuri Ahronovich, I posted about it on rec.music.classical (yes, I'm a net.old-timer) and was told to seek out his 2nd symphony as well. It was every bit as amazing and memorable. So in a way I'm repaying a debt by encouraging more people to seek out his music and clamor for the recording of more of it.... Check out: Symphonies #2 & 4 Avoid: Music by Alexander Taneyev, Sergei's relative. It's nowhere near as good.
Listen to 17 exuberant seconds (189K) of Sergei Taneyev's 4th symphony Follow the bouncing beat! (London Symphony Orchestra / Yuri Ahronovich. Not available on cd)

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