Most underrated composer of 20th Century?

My choice is Bohuslav Martinu .
It's a tie between Martinu and Janacek.
Great minds think alike Rpfef, Janacek was my second choice, tie-breaker was he's much better known.
I guessing probably some well known composers of music in eastern culture totally unknown in the west, much less underrated?

Duke Ellington is far from unknown, but still hugely underrated as a top echelon 20th century music composer overall IMHO.

In more traditional classical music world, how about Villa Lobos? He is high on my list of classical composers to explore deeper based on what I have heard to date.

Western classical music has always had a heavy European bias, for clear historical reasons. Are the most underrated composers of the 20th century likely to still be mined in those waters?
Villa Lobos is certainly right up there, his string quartets were a big surprise to me.

Problem I have with Ellington is you never know what was written by Strayhorn.
Sorta like Beethoven publishing Schubert work as his own.
Western classical music has always had a heavy European bias, for clear historical reasons. Are the most underrated composers of the 20th century likely to still be mined in those waters?

Mapman is asking the question that - as a person whose interest in classical music is equal parts aesthetic and anthropological - probably interests me more than any other.

I would speculate that increased appreciation of alternative musical languages is probably an inevitable result of the shrinking world around us. I'd also expect that compositions employing microtonal scales (whether from Asia or from Western composers who borrowed the approach) will gain more attention from critics and scholars. The evolution of the legacy of Harry Partch, et al will be interesting to watch.

Similarly, it will be interesting to see how the big names of the second half of the century hold up. Will Phillip Glass end up as the most underrated composer of the century or the most overrated? Which also raises the question of opera and its place in this question. Where does Alban Berg belong?

I'm not really proposing any candidates here, just following up on Mapman's interesting observation.
"Problem I have with Ellington is you never know what was written by Strayhorn.
Sorta like Beethoven publishing Schubert work as his own."

YEs, but few in the musical "genius" category achieve all their accomplishments in a vacuum. Nor should they be expected to. The best know who to work with in order to bring out the best. Some play bigger roles and may get more recognition than others. Ellington was clearly the boss and visionary, though Strayhorn's contributions were apparently many.

A purist perspective can be limiting. Stick a footnote to Ellington's claim then for Strayhorn.
Straight up, Ellington claimed works he did not write.
I try to stay away from threads like this, as a professional musician, however I can't resist commenting that Philip Glass will NOT be considered underrated. He is very likely to be considered highly overrated, in fact he is so now by a great many. I like to call him the Andy Warhol of music - pop art at best. Minimalism in music is almost the same thing as Warhol's pop art, except Warhol had to work harder, because he actually drew each part of those paintings over and over again. All Glass has to do is come up with a few different chords and textures, and that's it. Pretty much anyone with basic compositional training could write that stuff. Most of his music would be intolerable, because of its length, without films that go with it. Some go as far as to call minimalism in general an intellectual cop-out. In the case of Glass in particular, I would agree. There are a couple of minimalists who have written some interesting stuff - Steve Reich is the best of them.
If Philip Glass becomes underrated, I think the world is in some deep doo doo.
Learsfool, you are no fool. I could not agree with you more and you put it perfectly.
Lesarsfool, actually, Andy didn't have to draw those over and over. He just picked a photo or drew the image once, had a photo film made, and then had had his studio assistants make silkscreens. Those were then able to be screen printed as fast as he could tell his studio assistants how to mix the ink. So I'm not so sure he had to work harder than Glass ;-)

Arguing the merits of minimalism (both visual and musical) is a zero sum game, no one ever convincingly gains the upper hand. So, how can we reduce the elements of a worthwhile aesthetic experience to the minimum without becoming so reductive that the experience is without meaning?
Easy, I bet 9 out of 10 people would just proclaim it nonsense out of hand.
Sir Arnold Edward Trevor Bax.
"Easy, I bet 9 out of 10 people would just proclaim it nonsense out of hand."

9 out of 10 people are NOT geniuses. :^)

I would tend to agree with the pack on this one for the most part.

Bach is pretty minimalist compared to most that followed. I'd say that's the standard for simplistic quality to compare with.
With regard to the ultimate merits of minimalist music (tho without any suggestion of equivalency and - further - without any personal judgement one way or the other):

I wonder what kind of critique this crew would have provided after the premier of Rite of Spring.
I would have thought it bombastic, if this was about overated Stravinsky would be on my short list.
Dayglow, you certainly can make a strong case for Bax alright !!
I would have thought it bombastic, if this was about overated Stravinsky would be on my short list.

Not terribly surprising. Your list of overrated music would likely be far more interesting to me than your list of underrated music. But personal preferences differ, I guess, and thus the world continues to go 'round.
Rite OF spring rules.

Carmina Burana as well.

Rock on!
Rite OF spring rules.

Carmina Burana as well.

Two of the more interesting classical works out there IMHO.

Rock on!
I think Stravinsky's "L'Histoire du Soldat" is absolutely brilliant. Only a first-rate composer could produce such a work IMO.
Learsfool: I'm curious whether you include John Adams as a minimalist. I completely agree with you about Glass, but think Adams is terrific, and prefer his music to Reich's. Nixon in China is in particular a masterpiece. Nixon the man will be known centuries from now more as the title character from the opera than as a historical crook statesman. Assuming, that is, that culture survives that long, of which I am not optimistic.

And Stravinsky is definitely not overrated. Nor is Schubert the composer. But Schubert the OP?
Tosta, I love " L'histoire du soldat" as well, have seen it live several times.
My point is Stravinsky is at the top of every top ten list of century and I think there are others better, no question he is talented.
i.e I think Bartok Quartets alone put him higher.
++ Bartok. Stravinsky too. Why compare? Each gets their fair share of love.
Well Map, IMHO because there is only so many hours we have on this earth to listen and the good is the enemy of the best.
But then I'm senile.
"there is only so many hours we have on this earth to listen"

THat is true!

One may as well spend it listening to what one enjoys the most.

For me though, I am always thinking there is always other things out there worth my time that I have not discovered yet. So I spend a fair amount of time treading unknown waters, perhaps more so than ever. Only so much time to mine the gems out there that so far have gone undiscovered.

Also, I have become less committed to individual acts, composers, musicians, writers, whatever than ever before. I have may favorites from experience, for sure, but I find there are so many no hit wonders out there in so many genres that finding them can be a full time occupation.

ITs nice to have such problems. Its a good life!
I'm going to go in another direction here, My vote for the most underrated composer of the 20th century (maybe all time) is Benjamin Britten. He is well respected, but I think sadly under represented in the concert hall and on classical radio. I find his music superbly crafted and of the highest value.

Now watch, Learsfool and others who actually know what they are talking about will burst my bubble and tell me he is a hack.
Walk around new york city with philip glass on headphones and then re-consider your opinion of his work. his music is not for concert halls or for playback on home hifis.
Not likely , If Britten wasn't already SO well known he would have been my choice, is my choice for best of 20th with Bartok a close second. But many are coming to that conclusion , so I went for Martinu .

Brownsfan, do you think I'd be smarter to buy a used Sony 5400
or a new Rega or irArcam DAC ? CA 640 as transport.
Map, you are right of course.
But from the perspective of one who hears the footsteps of the Grim Reaper coming ever closer, what Classical can do for you at its greatest, say ,a Bach Cantata, The Monteverdi Vespers, a Josquin Desprez Mass,a Bruckner Motet
or a Mozart Quartet, is to focus you on the eternal and polish
your mind and soul for the coming journey we all must make.

Even the best of the adrenal raisers don't do that.
Schubert, out of curiosity, if time spent on listening to music is so precious why waste any of it posting opinions on the internet?

I'm thankful that I have no such constraints and can listen to most anything that interests me including stuff by Klami, Bantock, Ives, Massenet, ad infinitum, without guilt that I'm not listening (again) to one of the 'greatest composers' or 'greatest compositions' if I were even educated enough to know which ones these may be.

Perhaps ignorance can be bliss after all. :-)
Newbee, because I'm a deeply flawed person who often does stupid things.

Ignorance is not bliss, it is hell itself.
Schubert, Britten is certainly well known and well respected. So why don't I hear his music unless I cue it up myself. That is my point. Something is wrong here. If he is really what people say he is, why is it that at age 60, I have never once heard any of his music in a concert hall, and never once head one of his quartets performed in a chamber series?

As for the transport question, I have no idea which of the 3 might be best as a transport. I do know this, if I were looking for a transport, the PS audio perfect wave would be on my list. I really like the approach of reading, correcting, then playing back what is held in buffer. It seems to me that the approach offers some of what well executed computer based systems can do without having to go all computer geek to pull it off.

Tortilladc, your comment is insightful, and I suspect that you are very right. But great music that endures must by definition have meaning and value outside of a narrow context. Laugh In was a hoot in the 60's, now it is just plain silly tripe.
" Laugh In was a hoot in the 60's, now it is just plain silly tripe. "

That made me laugh!
Beats me fan, I 've heard quite a bit of it live in Germany, Montreal, Tanglewood and Mpls.

In Glasgow too, but you'd expect it there.
Newbee, I assume your post to Schubert was intended to be tongue-in-cheek. At least that's how I chose to read it. But, fwiw, I just listened to Mahler's 4th Symphony on a snowy/rainy/cold miserable day here in Philly while fiddling around on Audiogon.

Just hearing the music in the background is enough for me. Next CD will be the original sound track recording from the Jersety Boys musical, and then maybe a little Mozart, then the Beach Boys, and then ....

Bifwynne, Mahler as background music! Shame on you!!!! You're going to get drummed out of the club. But so far as Mahler goes you've probably picked the best one. :-)

FWIW, in order to conserve time, I usually set aside listening to classical music for those times when I read. Kills two birds at one time, neither being a mockingbird. If the book is really good and I'm listening to merely 'good' music I'm not missing much I guess. If I find myself distracted I don't know whether its because the book is really boring, the music is better than just good, or I'm admiring what I have accomplished in putting together my audio system. Another mystery to solve!

I find it most difficult to read, though, when the music was originally composed for the solo piano by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt, Prokofiev, Schumann or Schubert. I do find it easy to read when the music is transcribed from orchestral works. In fact that is probably my favorite reading music.

Then there is sleeping music, Mozart, maybe at night. :-)
Brownsfan, Perhaps you don't see more of Britten's music in concert or over the radio is because of a general lack of interest. I have tried his music often but outside of a few like The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra, Four Sea interludes, The Prince of the Pagodas, and War Requiem little seems to have stuck.

Reaching for music from the British Isles I usually reach for Bax, Bridge,Stanford, Elgar(not so often), Walton, Vaughan Williams or Bantock. BTW,Chandos has some great audiophile recordings of orchestral music by Bantock which are more than just more cow(paddy)pasture music.

I do think that Bax and Vaughan Williams may be underrated. I love Tintagel.

I feel guilty about Britten but......
Newbee, Britten speaks to me as compellingly as Shostakovich, which is saying a lot. I also like Vaughan Williams, but--- just occasionally. The rest are just hit and miss, much like Britten is for you.
Newbee , Billy Budd and Peter Grimes have sure stuck .
American audiences like warhorses more than europeans, Britten is very popular in Germany, his "Variations on a theme of Frank Bridge" was the theme song on Radio Classic Berlin for a long time. His various cello works are also common there. I heard his Violin Concerto live in Montreal, his music is broadcast a lot on CBC French service as well.

US isn't only place. I love Piano music of BAX as well, very beautiful.
I always find Vaughn Williams material to be interesting and enjoyable. Good Chandos recordings there! Britten probably deserves more kudos on this side of teh pond as well.
Interesting question and some equally interesting nominations. However, I
don't think we have dug deeply enough. First, let's define
"underrated". Do we mean underrated as concerns familiarity
(based on frequency of performance) to the listening public of even above-
average sophistication; or do we mean critical recognition within
musicological circles? They can be two very different things. IOW, a
distinction needs to be made between underrated and neglected. For
instance, Alban Berg is, without a doubt, one of the very greatest twentieth
century composers, but one who the vast majority of "classical music
lovers" are not familiar with. From that standpoint he is vastly
underrated; but, within musicological circles he is most certainly given his
due. At the opposite end of the "accessibility" spectrum we
have George Gershwin. Here is a composer who, while vastly popular, is
unfortunately relegated to the status of "classical-lite"; even
within some critical circles. Some of his works like "Concerto In
F" and even "An American In Paris", while eminently
accessible to the listener, are compositionally brilliant and deserving of
recognition alongside more "serious" works. In spite of his
inaccessibility even Berg is programmed on a somewhat regular basis (the
Met has programmed "Wozzeck" for this season).

The same goes for most of the other nominees, which disqualifies them
from "most underrated" status. I agree with Brownsfan that
Britten deserves much more frequent performance, but hardly a season
goes by at the Met Opera that doesn't include a Britten opera (A
Midsummers Night Dream this season and Billy Budd last). Bartok is
definitely not a contender; his concerto for orchestra is a staple of the
orchestral repertoire. John Adams has unfortunately been lumped in with
the other "minimalists". He is a truly brilliant composer, but
hardly unknown or underperformed. Phillip Glass? Well, he can't even
shine Adams' shoes, shoes, shoes, shoEs, shoEs, shoEs, shOes, shOes,
shOes :-) Janacek is a good runner-up, but I might be inclined to instead
nominate Zoltan Kodaly, Francis Poulenc, or perhaps Alexander Glazunov,
who like Janacek just squeezed by for qualification as twentieth century
composers having composed from the late nineteenth into the twentieth
centuries. The Glazunov violin concerto is one of my very favorite works.

I think that Martinu is a good call on several counts; a brilliant composer
who is particularly deserving of wider recognition especially in light of the
fact that he was extremely prolific. But, even his works are popular in
conservatories and the more adventurous programing. So, my nomination
for top spot has to be the Swiss composer Frank Martin; extremely
interesting music influenced by twelve tone row techniques without
abandoning tonality, and a name that most are not familiar with. For
anyone interested his "Petite Symphonie Concertante" is a
great place to start to learn about his music. Still a young man, but began
his composing career in the twentieth century and sure to be nominated for
most underrated 21st century composer is Thomas Ades.
Frogman, good comments and good distinction between underrated and neglected. Elliot Carter stands out to me as someone who is well respected, but is likely to remain neglected,because his music is so inaccessible. I've tried hard on numerous occasions and I just don't get his music at all. I'm guessing he is going to remain neglected on the concert scene for a very long time.
Its a good point that most of these guys are highly regarded in knowledgeable circles but relatively unknown to the masses. Just goes with the turf I suppose.

Excellent comments. some of the most influential composers were certainly not the most popular (e.g.,Berg, Webern), particularly measured by current fashion.

I like the composers you mentioned, particularly Frank Martin (mainly for choral works) and Thomas Ades. I am a big fan of John Adams too (his violin concerto is one of the finest written).

There are so many that are worthy of being heard. My personal list of favorites include:

Tippett, Alwyn, Walton, Turnage, MacMillan, Lindberg, Tuur, Jongen, Olsson, Boulez, Dutilleau, Milhaud, Durufle, Varese, Boulez, Gubaildulina, Myaskovsky, Tubin, Penderecki, Zemlinksy, Enescu, Dohnanyi, Penderecki, Ligeti, Nono, Bloch, Ruggles, Babbitt, Ives, Beach, Crawford Seeger.

Some that either did very few works or specialize in just certain forms that I like are Whitacre (vocal works) and Partch (Delusions of the Furies being a personal favorite).
True Frogman I thought of that when starting this post but could not have expressed it as well as you have.

I remember being frozen like a deer in the headlights. when I first heard Martin's Violin Concerto on the radio back in the seventies. I did finally get a copy of it with Martin conducting, but his music then was on Swiss labels you couldn't find in the days before Amazon etc.

Glazunov isn't much done in the USA, but he is a concert staple in much of Europe.
Exactly Frogman and Mapman, it's so hard to get a grip on what "underrated" means. My musically well educated colleagues roll their eyes with ennui at the mention of most composer's that the average classical listener has never heard of, so it is all relative. Plus, I agree with earlier statements about cultural prejudices coming into play. I happen to really like Takemitsu & Minoru Miki, but they don't seem to resonate with a large number in the western world. Also like Rautavaara, Lindberg, Kokkonen, and Saariaho, but general appreciation for Scandanavian composers ends with Sibelius and Grieg. Then there are "could have been greats" like Gideon Klein whose life was cut short by a Nazi concentration camp and Karl Amadeus Hartmann whose composing career was pressured by his duties as an administrator resurrecting German musical culture after WWII. Paul Hindemith deserves a place at the table of underrated greats as well IMO.
Amen, Photon46, the amount of fascinating modern music coming out of Finland alone beggars belief.
Not to mention half the conductors in the world are Finnish.
I have a perfect solution to help get any of these fine yet not well known composers some more recognition.

Hire Miley Cyrus' manager/publicist. That guy is awesome! Just ask Britney Spears.

There is a cost associated with fame though. Public twerking may be required! :^)

Or maybe Philip Glass' might suffice? Never seen him have to twerk TTBOMK.
Just a week ago I heard symphonies by Eichberg and I liked them. I had not heard of this composer born in the 1970s. There is a lot of interesting music coming from a wide variety of sources. I even like some of what Golijov is doing, although it sounds like almost crossover to pop music.

Has anyone here listened to the early 1920s opera "Antikrist" by Langgaard? I find that music very interesting--a bit like listening to Hindemith's operas, with a touch of Schoenberg and Wagner. This is another work I happen to stumble upon and liked it a lot.