Musician seeks 17 others for repetitive good times.
April 16, 2006 11:42 PM   Subscribe

What other orchestral music should I try next?

I am somewhat ill-educated in the world of orchestral music. My favourite composers are currently John Adams and Debussy. Adams I enjoy for the accessibility, the propulsive rhythm, the vibrant textures, and his occasionally electronics-inspired orchestrating : The reverse-attack mid-section in Naive And Sentimental Music was particularly enjoyable for me, though Harmonielehre is probably my favourite work of his. Debussy I enjoy for the off-kilter and jazz-inspired (inspiring?) harmony.

Outside of I have a love of both electronic/experimental/ambient music, and a well crafted pop song.

I have already checked out the American Mavericks broadcast, which covered John Adams, and listened to most of the minimalist composers.

I really enjoyed Alarm Will Sound's reinterpretation of Aphex Twin.

I seem to enjoy full-orchestra pieces more than quartets or solo piano work.

Where next?
posted by Jon Mitchell to Media & Arts (19 answers total)
posted by tumult at 12:58 AM on April 17, 2006

You could try a little Ravel or Shostakovitch, perhaps: either composer’s piano concertos would be good starting-points.

More traditionally classical, but still with a slight hint of the 20th century, Sibelius wrote a whole lot of fine orchestral music: my own favourite works of his are the 5th symphony, and ‘Tapiola.’ If you like that Nordic vibe, then the composer Einojuhani Rautavaara’s works combine some echoes of Sibelius, with more modern off-kilter harmonies: try his 1st & 3rd Piano Concertos, or the piece 'Cantus Arcticus,' if you're so inclined.
posted by misteraitch at 1:00 AM on April 17, 2006

I'm a Debussy fan, and I also enjoy Wagner's 'Prelude to Tristan und Isolde'. Beautiful use of harmony, including progressions that just hang in the air without any resolution...
posted by xvs22 at 2:56 AM on April 17, 2006

posted by Marquis at 3:19 AM on April 17, 2006

I agree Rautavaara might be to your taste. This disc (Amazon) might make a good starting place.
posted by Wolfdog at 4:23 AM on April 17, 2006

Dvorak's Salvonik Dances. It's Eastern European mayhem!
posted by plinth at 4:29 AM on April 17, 2006

Since you're into John Adams, Jennifer Higdon is another interesting contemporary composer who has done orchestral works. I heard her speak and listened to a selection from one of her orchestra pieces (I forget which, unfortunately) and found it accessible and enjoyable.
posted by ludwig_van at 5:32 AM on April 17, 2006

You might check out Pärt or Górecki if you like Adams & Debussy.
posted by Johnny Assay at 5:58 AM on April 17, 2006

You might like Michael Gordon. CRI put out a good introductory album of his works some years ago: Big Noise from Nicaragua. Weather is also very good, and sounds quite a bit like Adams to my ear in some parts. Glenn Branca's music is similar, but much more raw (intentionally so). Symphonies 1 or 3 for choice.

Terry Riley's work allows for a bit more improvisation than say Adams or Gordon but he's in the same basket in my mind. A Rainbow in Curved Air or Chanting the Light of Foresight are my faves.

On the Debussy front, for lushness, you may also enjoy D'Indy and Delius. On a related but more modern track, try Darius Milhaud, particularly his ballets (L'Homme et son désir (1918) Le Bœuf sur le toit (1919), and La Création du monde (1923) are my favorites) . Milhaud's harmonic innovations can be a little off putting at first, but it's amazing music.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 7:02 AM on April 17, 2006 [1 favorite]

i second arvo part and henryk gorecki. gorecki's symphony of sorrowful songs is very popular, but for a good reason. it's stunningly beautiful.

big influences to ambient/electronica/idm are undoubtedly steve reich, philip glass, morton feldman, terry riley.

john corigiliano's also a great intense modern composer. (symphony no. 1)

contemporary must-listens are rachel's, max richter, ryan teague, johann johannson,
posted by nona at 7:30 AM on April 17, 2006



I'm embarassed to say I'm not familiar with any of the works the poster cites, but if you're looking for jazz-inspired harmony, Gershwin's another obvious choice.
posted by gsteff at 7:39 AM on April 17, 2006

Bernstein is another jazz-inspired composer (he wrote the music for West Side Story). Lots of his works are very accessible, and the Chichester Psalms is beautiful.
posted by Lotto at 8:02 AM on April 17, 2006

Give Michael Nyman's music a listen. He's most well known as a film score composer, often for the films of Peter Greenaway (though I believe they had some sort of falling out over the way his score was treated in "Prospero's Books.") But he's also a sort of "modern classical" composer in his own right. I have a disc of 3 suites for string quartet by Nyman that I really like - a very Adams-like use of pulse and rhythm. He's also combined bits of his film score for "The Piano" into an actual Piano Concerto, which I really love - lush and gorgeous. I have the first recording of that which also came with a piece called "Music a Grand Vitesse" (Music at High Speed) which was composed for the opening of the TGV high-speed trains in France - this is probably his most Adams-like piece.
posted by dnash at 8:19 AM on April 17, 2006

Philip Glass. I just had a listen to Harmonielehre and it has a lot of similarities to some of Glass' work.

I'd recommend all of the symphonies (Symphonies 1 and 4 are interpretations of David Bowie's albums of the same names, but bear practically no resemblance IMHO). The Low Symphony (Symphony #1) and Symphony #2 are particularly interesting, but Symphony #5 is the most 'epic'.

Glass's Violin concerto is also an excellent place to start. Or if you're particularly fond of the cello, Naqoyqatsi.

I'd personally suggest avoiding his minimalist stuff unless you're prepared for it, as it tends to give people a bad impression of someone who hasn't composed minimalistic music for decades and whose modern orchestral work is vivid and engaging.

Use the novel Glass Engine to listen to some of his work for free online. Beyond being a useful tool, it's a fun toy too.
posted by wackybrit at 9:05 AM on April 17, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks for the suggestions, all - I won't best answer, since it's all highly subjective, and I won't know until I've listened to them, and they're all really helpful answers.

I've got some Philip Glass already, after seeing Koyaanisqatsi live, but you were on the right track, I do like him too.

Sibelius and Shostakovich I will definitely check out, since my local symphony (Vancouver) are playing some of his works later this year, along with some Adams.

posted by Jon Mitchell at 9:41 AM on April 17, 2006

Sounds like you might be interested in Tone Poems.
posted by fvox13 at 10:49 AM on April 17, 2006

Totally left field here but if you can find some early Durutti Column, I highly recommend you give it a listen:
The Return of the Durutti Column
Another Setting
Without Mercy
Circuses and Bread
Sporadic Recordings
posted by jockc at 11:38 AM on April 17, 2006

For Sibelius, the Davis/BSO set of symphonies and tone poems (1,2) is good.
posted by Wolfdog at 3:06 PM on April 17, 2006

It sounds like you would love the daily radio show New Sounds. webcast at or broadcast at 11pm EST at 93.9 FM in the metro NYC area.
posted by allterrainbrain at 5:24 PM on May 16, 2006

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