20th Century Composers: what you didn't know.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

New York Times critic, Alex Ross will guide audiences through a revelatory exploration into the history of 20th-century chamber music. This playlist concert will feature excerpts by 13 composers - we took a closer look to the story behind some of the pieces.

Looking for a musical taster? Listen to our playlist on Spotify.


SCHOENBERG | Pierrot Lunaire (1912)

The work required 40 rehearsals before its premiere in 1912. It is a set of poems that mocks religion and disturbed some listeners enough to say that the composer should be shot. Schoenberg was quoted to say “If they were musical, not a single one would give a damn about the words. Instead, they would go away whistling the tunes".


RAVEL | Chansons Madécasses (1923) 

The composer chose the fifth, eighth and twelth poems from a small book of poetry entitled Chansons Madécasses (Songs of Madagascar by Évariste Parny). These were the most suitable as they matched the peculiar exotic style that suited Ravel’s tastes.


BARTÓK | Contrasts (1938)

Was commissioned by American jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman and first performed and recorded by Goodman, Bartok and violinist Joseph Szigeti. 


MESSIAEN | Quartet for the End of Time (1941)

Piece was written while Messiaen was a prisoner of war in Germany (during WWII) and was performed by fellow prisoners. The work was inspired by text from the Book of Revelation. Read more.


LIGETI | Balada si joc (Ballad and Dance) (1950)

Ligeti, often best known to the wider audience for excerpts of his music being used in film soundtracks, especially in the films of Stanley Kubrick. 

Ligeti, Requiem - featured in 2001 Space Odissey. 


STRAVINSKY  | Three Songs from William Shakespeare (1953)

The first art song settings that Stravinsky had made in English. Uses text from some of Shakespeare’s best known works - Eighth Sonnet, The Tempest, and Love’s Labour’s Lost. 


JENNY MCLEOD | For Seven (1966)

Lilburn chose this as the first score to publish under his newly founded Waiteata editions imprint. McLeod did not believe that the work could ever be played in New Zealand, however it received its NZ premiere in 1992 by new music ensemble CadeNZa.


BERIO | O King (1968)

Is a work dedicated to the memory of Martin Luther King, American pastor and civil-rights activist.


XENAKIS | Charisma (1971)

Pioneered the use of mathematical models in music, such as applications of set theory and game theory. Also graduated from the National Technical University of Athens with a degree in civil engineering.


DAVID LANG | Short Fall (2000)

The composer wanted to write a piece “in which a large amount of effort was expended to go a very small distance”. Is part of a larger work, Child, which is Lang’s attempt to examine experiences as he remembers them from his childhood.


Alex Ross with Bianca Andrew & STROMA: touring NZ 20-30 May. Find out more here.