It's been a century since Igor Stravinksy's The Rite of Spring ushered in an age of radical musical transformation that changed the face of music. A succession of great twentieth century composers went on to create music that transcended tradition and moved the art form in a direction unlike anything the world had heard before. Now Sony Masterworks celebrates these musical visionaries and introduces their groundbreaking works to a new generation of listeners with a series of releases collectively titled "Prophets of the New," available now in digital download format and as manufacture-on-demand CDs.
The first release includes recordings of both The Rite of Spring and Debussy's contemporaneous Jeux, both conducted by Pierre Boulez, one of the major interpreters of twentieth century music (and a "Prophet of the New" himself as a composer). Regarding The Rite of Spring, Boulez wrote that it "has become...the cornerstone of modern music." Jeux, written for Diaghilev's Ballet Russes in 1912, was Debussy's last work for orchestra.
The second release presents Luciano Berio conducting his own orchestral works including perhaps the Italian composer's most famous piece, the 1968 Sinfonia for orchestra and eight voices, with its tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., and its great third section building explicitly on the music of Gustav Mahler and incorporating the words of Samuel Beckett. "[T]here was not a dull moment anywhere," wrote Harold C. Schonberg in the New York Times of the Sinfonia, "one of the musics of the future," while Time called it a "white-hot musical experience that invokes the malaise of the times better than all the sit-ins, beards, beads and clubbings that wrench contemporary life." Also included are Berio's Concerto for Two Pianos, Allelujah II, and Nones. It is the first digital release of these recordings.
The third release presents three major works by Elliott Carter, the Pulitzer Prize-winning modernist master who died just last year at 103. Written in the 1950s and '60s, they include the Variations for Orchestra (called "a masterpiece" by none other than Stravinsky himself) and the Double Concerto for Harpsichord and Piano with Two Chamber Orchestras. The packaging features Carter's own liner notes to the original Columbia Masterworks recordings of those works. The release is rounded out by Carter's Piano Concerto performed by Jacob Lateiner, who commissioned and premiered the piece, with the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Erich Leinsdorf. All these performances are released here digitally for the first time.
The fourth offering is devoted to the more subdued, often abstract music of Morton Feldman, one of twentieth century music's most original voices. A highlight is Rothko Chapel, written in the early 1970s to honor the abstract painter Mark Rothko and to debut at the famous (and then-new) Rothko Chapel, the Houston "spiritual environment" that has since been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Evoking a continuity in the progression of the music spotlighted in this series, Feldman's original liner notes (included) relate that "The soprano melody...was written on the day of Stravinsky's funeral service in New York." The release also includes For Frank O'Hara, recorded in 1968, and the hauntingly atmospheric The King of Denmark performed by famed percussionist and musical innovator Max Neuhaus. These performances, too, have never before been released digitally.
The final release in the "Prophets of the New" series, entitled The New Music, is the first digital reissue of a seminal 1967 album that features representative works by four important composers of the postwar era. All were conducted by Bruno Maderna, an early champion of contemporary music who led premiere performances of many works that went, as the included original liner notes explain, "beyond the classical stage of twelve-tone music, taking their lead from Webern and aiming at the serialization of all musical elements in one unified structure."
Taken as a whole, "Prophets of the New" is an eye-opening exploration of the most important developments in music over the past century, collected and reissued with a fresh twenty first century perspective.
-- Karlheinz Stockhausen's 1952 Kontra-Punkte put the young German in the front ranks of composers of the time. -- In Krzysztof Penderecki's Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 strings (winner of the UNESCO prize in 1961), "every possible way of attacking a note is explored." -- In American composer Earle Brown's Available Forms I, the aleatory principle - freedom of choice in performance - is carried to the extreme. -- Henri Pousseur's Rimes pour differentes sources sonores represents an early example of electronic music, combining electronic sounds recorded on tape with live instruments.
Sony Masterworks comprises Masterworks Broadway, Masterworks, Okeh, Portrait, RCA Red Seal and Sony Classical imprints. For email updates and information please visit www.SonyMasterworks.com.
SOURCE Sony Masterworks
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