Contemporary composers. Please help.


I would greatly appreciate any help with contemporary (20-21st century) classical music. At this point my favorites are:
Alfred Shnittke, Arvo Part, Steve Reich.
Glass, Adams, Xenakis are not in that heavy rotation.
Tried Shoenberg and Stockhousen, so far they are beyond my understanding.

Thank you,
You must add Gyorgi Ligeti to you list. He does have some really far out stuff but also some very easy to like stuff as well. I listen to all the contemporary classical music and he is my favorite.

You might also check out Morton Feldman, some consider it to much repetition but since you like Reich I think you should give it a try.

One more mention that might easily be missed but I think is also one of the best is Giacinto Scelsi.
Thank you Ejlif,
Any particular Ligeti I should start with?
I remember starting with Ligeti Edition 7 chamber music, still one of my favorites. Ligeti Edition 3 works for piano is probably my all time favorite. I was able to see this performed live and that was a real treat (it took a world class pianist a year to learn to play these pieces) Also as far as larger orchestral works try out the Ligeti Project volume 2. These could be considered a little more difficult but once you get Ligeti a little bit and like it you can't not like these too. The Ligeti Project recordings are very good sounding too. If you really liked his stuff and you got all the Editions 1-7 and Project discs you would have it mostly covered.
Try Gorecki especially his Symphony #3. Dawn Upshaw's performance gets a lot of deserved play but my favorite is with Zolia Kilanowicz and the Polish National Orchestra.

Ludovico Einaudi may be more pop but his Divenire CD is a favorite as is Jim Chappelle's Dusk for solo piano
Take a look (listen) at Tan Dun as well.
I like Ukrainian composer Valentin Silvestrov symphonies.
Thanks everybody!
If it's not too much to ask, could you guys name some albums of recommended composers.
Thanks again,
Penderecki- Violin Concerto No2 (Mutter/LSO. DG Label)

Poul Ruders-Violin Concerto No1 ( Rebecca Hirsch Violin) Unicorn-Kanchana Label
Robert Maggio, "Seven Mad Gods," and "Riddles." If you want something more eclectic, try Eighth Blackbird, any of their recordings. They do works by various contemporary composers. (Another vote for Gorecki's Symphony #3, it's sublime.)
Plenty of both living and dead composers. Among the living, try the following:

Krystztof Penderecki (try a choral work like "Credo")
Osvaldo Golijov (very accessible, and wide in range of types of music composed)
Eric Whitacre (young American composer of unique sounding songs).
Thomas Ades (I like just about everything he writes, even his opera)
Einojuhani Rautavaara (incredibly prolific composer)

Schoenberg wrote some pretty daunting serial works, but, he also composed a lot in a very melodic, late romantic style. Try Verklarte Nacht ("Transfigured Night") or his oratorio "Gurrelieder."

Bartok, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich are also good composers to listen to music with modern sensibility, but, music that still retains melody (while emphasizing new harmonic relationships). Benjamin Britten is one of the giants of the 20th century that should also be explored, along with Walton and Ralph Vaughan Williams.

Have fun in your explorations.
One could also add John Adams-
'The Death Of Klinghoffer' opera.
How about Jennifer Higdon? She's got her own unique thing happening! and .. it's not just out there stuff. I find her composing so very interesting yet it's very structured. Enjoy the search

I'll 2nd Bartok, Stravinsky, and Shostakovich, & add Elliott Carter & Messian. Britten, Ralph Vaughan Williams, & Copeland tend to be very "accessible", serious, but you don't have to wear a Hair Shirt to listen to them.

You HAVE to have Bartok's "Music for Strings Percussion & Celesta", & "Concerto for Orchestra". The Shostakovich String Qts., & the 24 Preludes & Fugues, are gorgeous. Pick almost any Stravinsky work, I suppose the Rite of Spring is a good place to start, it caused a riot when premiered in 1917 I think.

I left out Debussy & Ravel, but you should know them too.....very "pretty", French. And Listening to Charles Ives will put hair on your chest....
To elaborate on Bartok, to me, his string quartets are among the greatest works in that genre. Other 20th century string quartets to get are those of Shostakovich, the huge number of Villa Lobos quartets (some of the most overlooked works), and the quartets of Alwyn.

For choral works, there is a hybrid SACD/CD on the Chandos label, titled "Eternal Rest," that has terrific works by Mantyjarvi, Tichelli, Frank Martin, and Rene Clausen (all 20th century composers).
For something new to the list I would add Hindemith specifically his Symphony in E flat conducted by Bernstein
and two Ballet suites The Four Temperaments and Nobilissima Visione

Charles Ives's symphonies 1-3 with Bernstein if possible

Khachaturian's Spartacus and Gayaneh conducted by Khachaturian with the Vienna Philharmonic
Given the OPs listed favorites, I'd suggest Peteris Vasks, Kalevi Aho, and Aullis Sallinen. I also second the recommendation of The Ligeti Project Vol. II on Teldec.

Schoenberg's Verklärte Nacht and Gurrelieder are late Romantic works, which may or may not be to your taste. I would however urge you to hear the Chamber Symphonies.

I hope the thread does not get off topic, with every composer who lived into the 20th Century being recommended.
Poulenc, Del Tredici (Final Alice), Bernstein, Prokofiev, Elgar, Sibelius, Menotti. . . among others previous mentioned.
Wow!!! Thank you guys! Thanks for such a great response.
I'll try to pick as many as I can. Some titles I aready have, so if you guys don't mind, I'm going to share some impressions to more properly defy my sphere of interest at this moment.

Thanks again.
I'd like to mention Britten's string quartets. This maybe heresy, but I prefer them over Bartok's quartets. I like the Belcea Quartet's recording of these works. Also, check out Jennifer Higdon's piano trio and look for her violin concerto for which she won a Pulitzer today I've been told. I heard this work premiered by Hilary Hahn in Indianapolis and it is a very worthwhile piece of music.
If you like Reich you might try the tonal minimalists such as Niblock, Tenny, Palestine, and Lucier. If you like 12 tone try Webern, Schifrin, and maybe even Verese. Also try Zorn, Cage, and most importantly MORTON FELDMAN if you like Part especially.
In addition to the good recommendations already listed I'll add Robert Simpson.

Not heresey to prefer the Britten string quartets more than the Bartok. Britten was quite the master of virtually all musical forms. I particularly like his chamber works, songs and his operas. Have you heard the Alwyn quartets? He is another overlooked English composer.


You should get a listener's guide of some sort that describes the music, gives a brief biography and lists recommended recordings.

The hard part is finding the gems by composers who have little or no reputation who wrote only a few works worth tracking down. Given how personal favorites can be, it is hard to make recommendations for such composers or specific works (As an example, I like Rued Langgaard's "Antichrist," but it may not be a good general recommendation).
If you are interested in exploring further along those lines, and want either a high quality (& free!!) download or simply to research and sample-listen prior to purchasing LPs, definitely check out this website, which is a serious attempt to archive important 'new music', contemporary classical, etc. They have Kagel, Subotnick, Parmegiani, Hindemith, Babbitt, Cage, etc.
Ligeti has arrived. Amazing!
I started to put the list for the next week, with so many great advises I'm going to be busy for a wile.

Thank you guys!!!
I think you'll love Gavin Bryars. While you are at it, try some of Ryuichi Sakamoto's more classical stuff...amazing.

Which Ligeti pieces have you acquired? He had quite a range of compositions and styles, from his early works which are reminescent of Bartok, to his electronic compositions and then to certain elements of the minimalist schools (he admire Reich and Riley).

I have a couple of additional suggestions. If you like solo piano music, look for the works composed for player piano by Conlon Nancarrow. These are unique works that are unplayable by a human.

From your list of likes, I would guess that you would like spare, contemplative works. You might find Ludovico Einaudi interesting, though it is a bit on the tuneful and "easy listening" side, and you appear to be much more adventurous. Still, worth checking out.
I got the Ligeti Works from Sony, box set. Chamber Music, Strings, piano and mechanical music are great! Opera and the vocals are not just my cup of tea. It matter of personal taste and has nothing to do with great composer.
Couple of days ago I rediscovered Pandora. Highly usefull radio. Customized according to your guys advices it is a great tool to dicover new music.

Thanks again.