Naxos has a spate of exciting releases coming out, including recordings of works by Carter, Wuorinen, Coates, and Hersch, all of which will be covered in subsequent columns. Today’s posting focuses on their recently released new music sampler.
Want to familiarize yourself or your loved ones with modern classical music, but not sure where to begin? Sonic Rebellion, a compilation of excerpts from Naxos recordings, is an excellent single disc starter kit. The CD features composers in most of the main stylistic idioms prevalent in recent times: modernism, minimalism, aleatory, neo-romanticism, and even electronic music. Naxos is to be applauded for selecting a nice balance of compositions — both watershed works as well as several pieces that aren’t by the “usual suspects.”
Highlights include Conlon Nancarrow’s Toccata for Violin and Player Piano, a lively piece featuring rhythmically complex music that doesn’t take itself too seriously. At the other end of the spectrum is Krysztof Penderecki’s moving string orchestra piece Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima, which employs clusters of sounds in a pileup of dissonances, signifying a long woe-filled keening. Jorgen Plaetner’s Beta bridges the gap between avant-garde electronic compositions and popular electronica. A portion of Charles Wuorinen’s Second String Quartet asserts the enduring vitality both of modernist post-tonality and the traditional chamber music milieu.
Of course, the bits and pieces here are not enough to give a thorough grounding in the music of our time. Hopefully, the CD will inspire listeners to dig further, in the process gaining greater appreciation for the abundant and diverse riches available in contemporary concert music.