My Favorite Classical Compositions Of The Twentieth Century (And They’re Very Accessible)

Well, think Gyorgy Ligeti’s Atmospheres is very accessible, despite its lack of melody and, according to Ligeti, “dense canonic structure.”  A short piece, it is frighteningly stratospheric before deliquescing.

Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G is snappy and limpid in its first movement and  incalculably beautiful in its second.  Its third is pleasantly bouncy.  A masterpiece.  Even greater is Bartok’s Music for Strings, Percussion and Celesta, evoking the terrors of the twentieth century.  It is somber, eerie and adventurous.

Also, it never gets sentimental, and neither does the String Quartet No. 1 (“The Kreutzer Sonata”) of Leos Janacek, an opus as controlled as it is capricious.  It’s dark too, though not as dark as Symphony No. 2 by Arvo Part. Menace is everywhere in this not-great but good modern composition, and so is a lovely conclusive quote from Tchaikovsky.

To be continued

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