Cello Concerto in E minor Opus 85 (4) Edward Elgar Download 'Cello Concerto in E minor Opus 85 (4)' on iTunes
Katherine shares some of her favourite contemporary classics.
‘I think it’s interesting,’ says Katherine, ‘that these days when it’s said that fewer people are religious, a lot of the most popular music being composed is still drawing on the bible or religious texts.’ One of the leading contemporary composers of religious music is John Rutter. His rare melodic gift and captivating harmonic flair have combined in a series of unforgettable choral gems that have touched the hearts of millions around the globe. He wrote his simple, beautiful setting of ‘The Lord is My Shepherd’ as part of his Requiem but it’s become a stand-alone favourite.
The Estonian composer Arvo Pärt is an extraordinarily reclusive yet successful musician. His 1978 piece 'Spiegel im Spiegel' is among his most famous compositions. Pärt started out as a composer by embracing many of the popular avant-garde musical approaches of the day. But in the late 1970s, he completely abandoned this approach. 'Spiegel im Spiegel' was one of his first musical demonstrations of his change of heart. ‘Some people call his music minimalist but I think it’s a lot closer to sacred traditions like Gregorian chant,’ says Katherine. ‘Slow moving, slowly developing themes that create a soul-stirring feeling for the listener.’
Another living master of sacred music is Morten Lauridsen, an American composer who started out life as a forest fire fighter. Although composed in 1994, O Magnum Mysterium took a good few years before garnering such widespread praise. And while it is performed all year round, the piece is, at its heart, all about Christmas. As the composer himself has said, ‘I wanted this piece to resonate immediately and deeply into the core of the listener, to illumine through sound.’ He certainly achieved just that.
Jon Lord, who died in 2012, was the keyboard player with the rock group Deep Purple but he had a solid classical piano background and always wanted to fuse rock with classical music. In 1970 he even got Deep Purple involved in a concerto for group and orchestra, which he co-composed with Malcolm Arnold. His Durham Concerto was his first solely classical piece, commissioned by Durham University to celebrate its 175th anniversary. It’s a deeply evocative work with hues of folk music running throughout and brilliant uses of orchestral colour.
A contemporary choral piece that has had more than three million viewings on You Tube, Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque mixes together individual vocal parts by 185 singers from 12 different countries in an extraordinary online choir experiment. ‘Amazing how technology has made music so much more accessible,’ says Katherine. ‘I sometimes wonder what someone like Mozart would make of the fact that pieces only heard played live by a limited audience in his own time can now be listened to any time of the day or night anywhere in the world without a musician in sight!’
A contemporary composer whose fame and success is now global thanks to his recordings and the radio is Ludovico Einaudi. He started out studying with the avant-garde composer Luciano Berio and making music which is quite different from the pieces we know and love today. Le Onde (‘The Waves’) was Einaudi’s first big hit, and it’s also the title track from his first major album, released in 1996. It takes as its inspiration the Virginia Woolf novel The Waves and the undulating, hypnotic melody evokes images of the rhythms and patterns of the ocean.
Welshman Karl Jenkins began his musical career as a jazz and rock saxophonist before moving onto composing for commercials. His big breakthrough was the bestselling Adiemus: Songs of Sanctuary. But with The Armed Man - A Mass for Peace, his music came of age. It was commissioned by the Royal Armouries Museum for the Millennium celebrations, and to mark the museum’s move from London to Leeds. And it was dedicated to victims of the crisis in Kosovo.