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 Recording of the Week  Contemporary Music

We have just started a promotion on Contemporary Music, and I decided a few weeks ago that, as a potentially slightly difficult proposition to some people, it would make sense for me to introduce it in one of these newsletters. I had not realised however quite what a difficult subject it would be to summarise in the usual two or three short paragraphs. By its very nature it is always changing, and the composers and works I studied at school and University are not really considered ‘contemporary’ anymore!

Crumb - Makrokosmos
Crumb - Makrokosmos

The first problem then was to decide what to put into such a promotion. We based it around some of the major specialist contemporary labels, but even that produced difficulties. German label Wergo for instance have been making recordings since the early 1960s, but in the early days their main objective was to learn more about the musical thoughts of Schoenberg and his students, as well as the equally ostracized compositional arts of composers like Hindemith and Stravinsky in order to understand better the (then) newest ideas of people like Boulez, Nono and Stockhausen. Much of their early catalogue therefore wasn’t even contemporary at the time it was recorded. The opposite seems to be true of Messiaen in that because he was so quickly taken up by several of the major labels, the independent specialists seem to have left him alone (presumably as they felt their limited resources would be better used elsewhere). As a result you won’t find as much Messiaen in here as you would probably expect (although of course as Messiaen died back in 1992 you could argue that strictly speaking he shouldn’t be in a ‘contemporary’ promotion anyway.)

We debated for a long time about how best to structure this special offer, and I won’t bore you with all the details, but what we have finally opted for is a promotion based largely around still-living composers with some of the more significant ones of the late twentieth century also included. There should be something for everyone in there with the important names of the last century like Berio and Stockhausen well covered, along with the established (and still writing) big names like Adams, Glass, Nyman and Rautavaara. There is also plenty of the ‘current’ generation with composers like Julian Anderson and Magnus Lindberg also included, as well as the more popular “mystic minimalism” variant well represented by Arvo Pärt and Henryk Górecki.

And finally for those who like a recommendation, I should point out that the last three Gramophone Awards Contemporary Category winners are all included and are shown below.

View the Contemporary Music Special offer page here.

2008 Gramophone Awards - Contemporary Winner

Jonathan Harvey - Timepieces

u Komsi (soprano), BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Ilan Volkov & Stefan Solyom

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

2007 Gramophone Awards - Contemporary Winner

Anderson, Julian: Alhambra Fantasy, etc.

C Symphony Orchestra, Oliver Knussen

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC

2006 Gramophone Awards - Contemporary Winner

Lindberg, M: Clarinet Concerto, etc.

ri Kriikku (clarinet), Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Sakari Oramo

Available Formats: CD, MP3, CD Quality FLAC