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Despite the increasing appeal of popular music, orchestral music has flourished in the modern era, often looking to alternative influences and stylisms. Here are some of the most famous modern composers.
Bela Bartok (1881-1945) drew on his Hungarian folk roots to revolutionise opera, chamber music and ballet. Regarded as a great thinker as well as a musician, his influence will remain for years to come.
Philip Glass (1937- ) started out as a minimalist with works such as 'Strung Out' but later expanded his oeuvre into symphony with operas like Satyagraha, based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi. Glass is active in the Free Tibet cause.
Noted for his great leaps forward in total serialism, Pierre Boulez (1925- ) is one of France's most famous modern composers. Although he hasn't composed much in recent years, his greatest work is considered to be 'Pli Selon Pli', based on the verse of the poet Mallarmé.
Most famous for his opera 'Peter Grimes', Benjamin Britten (1913-76) was the leading light of Britain's classical music scene in the twentieth century. He was above all a deeply moral artist, expressing an enmity towards violence with his acclaimed 'War Requiem'.
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The most important exponent of the postmodern movement, Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007), simultaneously delighted and outraged the public with operas such as 'Light' in which the members of a string quartet were suspended by helicopters above the venue they were performing at. The conductor Sir Thomas Beecham was once famously asked if he had ever conducted any Stockhausen. He replied that he hadn't, but he might well have trodden in some.
Another of the world's most famous composers was Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971) who turned his back on Romanticism in favour of a more avant-garde, irregular style epitomised by the ballet 'Firebird'. He then reworked a number of classic compositions in a modernist, experimental manner. He is roday regarded as highly influential on French and American classical music.
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) embraced the broadening media-music sphere to become a TV star, a great pianist and a conductor as well as arguably the finest American classical artist of his time. As well as writing ballets and operas he turned his hand to popular musicals, creating such hits as 'West Side Story'.
|George Gershwin |
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Like Bernstein, George Gershwin (1888-1937) also expanded his horizons by composing Broadway musicals such as 'Oh Kay', 'Strike Up the Band' and 'Girl Crazy'. He also absorbed the influence of the jazz that was popular in his time to write the iconic 'Rhapsody in Blue'. Gershwin's last notable composition was 'Porgy and bess' which incorporated the music and experience of African-Americans in a wholly unprecedented way. Along with the others in the list, Gershwin can truly be one of the greatest and most famous modern composers to have blessed the world.