Saturday, October 29, 2005

Best music

We often see lists of "The Best 100 Pieces of the 20th Century" etc etc and etc. We never agree with them; see all the responses from people saying "Gee what about this piece by Ladoslav Villivich?" So I thought that I would list great pieces by composers of the 20th (and 21st, don't forget the 21st!) century.

Who to start with? Well, I will pick a name out of the hat - I will start with Philip Glass, simply because I was listening to some in my car yesterday. Here is a list of his best pieces - and not in any particular order:

1. Music in Twelve Parts

Ensemble: Philip Glass Ensemble
Label: Nonesuch
Catalog: #79324
Audio CD (September 17, 1996)
Number of Discs: 3

This is one of the top pieces by Glass, leading directly to Einstein. It is a summation of all of his techniques in minimalism to that point, and at the end of the piece, breaking out into full fledged slinky tonality.

2. Einstein on the Beach

Conductor: Michael Riesman, Robert Wilson, et al.
Ensemble: Philip Glass Ensemble
Label: Nonesuch
Catalog: #79323
Audio CD (September 28, 1993)
Number of Discs: 3

Definitely the opera to own. The orginal recording on Tomato Tecords (also relesed on CD, but no longer available) is also worth having, the Bed scene is much better on the original, and the new recording uses variant texts.

3. Satyagraha

Actors: Leo Goeke, Ralf Harster, Helmut Danninger, Inga Nielsen, Elke Estlinbaum, etc
Directors: Hugo Käch
Format: Color
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Studio: Image Entertainment
DVD Release Date: December 11, 2001
Run Time: 148 minutes

This is the DVD. The opera is based on the life of Ghandi. You can also get the music on CD, but I prefer it with the opera.

4. Akhnaten

Label: Sony
Audio CD (October 28, 2003)

This is the third of the set of Einstein and Satyagraha. It is a bit weaker than the first two, but still has its moments.

5. Koyaanisqatsi

Director: Godfrey Reggio
Format: Color, Closed-captioned, Widescreen, Dolby
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Studio: MGM/UA Video
DVD Release Date: September 17, 2002
Run Time: 87 minutes

Don't get the soundtrack! Get the whole stinking thing! Movie and soundtrack. That's how it should be heard!

6. The Photographer

Conductor: Michael Riesman
Label: Sony
Catalog: #37849
Audio CD (October 25, 1990)

Better to see it with the play.

You notice that these are all his earlier works. I find his later works to be too turgid, too four-square, replacing fame with talent.

Only six pieces, but some of the most influential pieces of our recent history!



Blogger M. Keiser said...

i would agree in part that the works after the early 80s tend to become very formulaic, and very four-square, as you've said, but every now and again he hits something interesting in his later works. Its a strange mixture blandness and an occasional (rare?) brillance. His 5th string quartet isnt all bad at all, and neither are his 2nd and 3rd symphonies, or La belle et la Bete, and several other works. But i have to stress, they're not ALL bad, but it seems one has to sift through a lot of the same to find a gem.

2:48 AM  
Blogger David Toub said...

I agree with you about later Glass. For me, it was largely downhill after Satyagraha---I mean, Satyagraha is such a profound and groundbreaking work, and most of Glass's later works just pale in comparison.

I'd also lobby to add Music in Similar Motion, Another Look at Harmony, Dance, Two Pages, Music in Fifths and Music in Changing Parts to the list.

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have only recently heard "Another Look at Harmony" and I would agre with you there! "Music in Changing Parts" is not one of my favorites, I have to say.

8:34 PM  
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