Friday, August 10, 2007

Best music of any late-20th century composer?

Conlon Nancarrow (above) died on August 10 1997. György Ligeti rated him as the most important composer of the second half of the twentieth century, saying: "For me it's the best music of any living composer today".

Personally I have found the new MDG Scene releases of Nancarrow's Player Piano Studies recorded on a Bösendorfer Grand with a 1927 Ampico Player Piano Mechanism very rewarding, and my header photo from 1950 is taken from volume 1 of that excellent series. There is an fine biography of Nancarrow by Jürgen Hocker, but it is, alas, only available in German. The extraordinary jazz-like music of Conlon Nancarrow will be familiar to many of my readers. But if you don't know it there is a real discovery awaiting. Follow these two paths to Kyle Gann's Nancarrow web resources and book, and then watch a video by Tal Rosner. This uses Nancarrow's music arranged for two pianos by Thomas Adès, who is video artist Tal Rosner's partner .

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2 comments:

Pliable said...

Nice link from Sequenza21 with some useful discussion of Nancarrow's real status.

More musical trivia for August 10. Alexander Glazunov was also born on this day, in 1865.

And non-musical trivia. On this day in 2003 the highest temperature ever was recorded in the UK - 38.5 degreesC (101.3F). And on this day in 2005 Lee Seung Seop died from exhaustion in South Korea after playing the computer game StarCraft continuously for 49 hours.

Garth Trinkl said...

I seem to recall attending an Alice Tully Hall, New York, concert in which the American pianist/arranger/commissioner Yvar Mikhashoff (d. 1993) played his own one and two piano arrangements of some of Nancarrow's Player Piano Studies. I recall that he rushed to the concert from another, almost concurrent gig across town.

Gann also lists Yvar Mikhashoff as having arranged Nancarrow's Studies 1, 2, 3c, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 14, 18, and 19 for small emsemble. Last season, the American emsemble Alarm Will Sound toured chamber arrangements of Nancarrow by Mikhashoff, Gavin Chuck, and Derek Bermel:

http://alarmwillsound.com/events/current.html