There are a number of orchestras and artists that are working hard to help us open our horizons beyond the standard repertoire of Bach, Beethoven & Brahms or Mahler, Mendelssohn & Mozart. OK, no one limits there, but you get the idea. We’ll do Handel & Haydn but more rarely Bartok and Buxtehude, let alone Higdon and Humperdinck. Now, it’s been a fairly long tradition to place lesser known or contemporary pieces next to more standard repertoire in orchestral performances. Recently, more has been done to do so in recorded works; artists like Hillary Hahn placing Higdon next to Tchaikovsky or Anne Akiko Meyer’s inclusion of Arvo Pärt’s Passacaglia in her The Four Seasons: The Vivaldi Album have allowed a larger audience to hear works to which we might not naturally be drawn.
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra is another great example; not only do they include great contemporary and other lesser known works, they make available via free live webcast. So we hear Anne Akiko Meyers play Mason Bates, Hillary Hahn play Higdon and the DSO play Piazzolla’s Sinfonia de Buenos Aires (with concertina!)
There have certainly been those who focus on contemporary orchestral music such as the Kronos Quartet, but to have Hillary Hahn come out with her In 27 Pieces: the Hilary Hahn Encores with contemporary pieces really encourages a wider audience to pay attention. I confess that I’ve been underwhelmed in the past with much of contemporary orchestral music, but opening up to beautiful music like The Beatitudes has placed that behind me.
Kronos Quartet – The Beatitudes [Music of Vladimir Martynov]
There are some pieces I will never love and I will probably always prefer Bach & Mozart, but I now hear and know how much I’ve missed. So while I’ll never be a Philip Glass fan, I can still appreciate his String Quartet No. 5.
Listen to a little Somei Satoh or Manuel de Falla, Toru Takemitsu or Michael Tippett, Michio Miyagi or even Philip Glass and hear the world you’re missing.