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Rooster_Ties

"Modern" counterpoint and fugal writing - favorite composers, and specific works

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Impossible to bring up this topic without mentioning Paul Hindemith, who does modern counterpoint about as well as anyone.  His chamber music, in particular, is just loaded with it -- including the nearly 3 dozen(!) sonatas he wrote for various solo instruments + piano.  I have to confess that there really aren't too many individual pieces by Hindemith that really stand out to me the most (as favorites), because all of it is all so engaging.  Like everything is a super-solid 7 or 8 (on a 10 scale), but I've never become so fond of any one piece that I might 'up it' to a 9 or 10.  I think I have about 25-30 hours of Hindemith on CD, and especially love Ludus Tonalis (1942) -- his 25-movement, hour-long solo piano study in counterpoint.

Stravinsky's Symphony in C (1938-40) is another particular favorite of mine, and definitely is loaded with tons of modern neo-classical counterpoint.  I've wanted to hear Symphony in C performed live for 15-20 years, I think I'm FINALLY going to get my chance next year, when the Jacksonville (FL) symphony is performing it here in DC at the Kennedy Center in March (2020).  I've been looking for it on symphony programs since the turn of the century, and I've never once seen it programmed (alas) -- until now, finally!

And of course, Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues (1950-51) for solo piano is another modern favorite in fugal writing (2+ hrs worth!).

That's probably enough to get the ball rolling.

But I might also mention that while usually not considered neo-classical (or maybe only their early output), and often more thoroughly modern (even 12-tone in the case of Sessions), some other composers that I think employ a LOT of really great contrapuntal writing, include...

  • Roger Sessions (1896-1985) -- especially his later symphonies #6 thru #9 (though they're more serial too).
  • Boris Blacher (1903-75) -- his symphony (1938), and piano concertos #1 (1947) and #2 (1952) come to mind.
  • Ernst Krenek (1900-91) -- I know his symphonies best, but he wrote a veritable mountain of music (almost 250 works with opus numbers).

 

Edited by Rooster_Ties

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Many of the Nancarrow player piano studies would fit the bill, I guess: some amazing canonic writing!

...and I'm not sure if I'm always a fan, but some of Sorabji's fugal writing is pretty remarkable, I guess..: 

 

A student of mine has just worked on a prelude and fugue by Rodion Schchedrin as well...super austere Soviet writing, but really crafted stuff...

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There's always Sorabji, about whom opinions vary widely but whose music I've enjoyed in limited hearings.

Strongly agreed on Hindemith.

Nancarrow's Three Canons for Ursula (for regular piano) is interesting.

Rodion Shchedrin is an excellent pianist as well as composer; he wrote a Polyphonic Notebook and a set of 24 Preludes and Fugues. I like his music but some dislike his politics (rather cozy with the Kremlin in the USSR era).

In the composer/pianist category, is Busoni's Fantasia contrappuntistica too old to count? Busoni's music definitely deserves attention.

Funny thing about the Shostakovich P&F: I enjoy them, but in the old days when I used to read rec.music.classical.recordings, a number of the Usenet savants regarded them as practically pianistic doggerel. But I suspect many of said savants also waxed enthusiastic about Joyce Hatto's pianism :D (I'd given up Usenet by the time that hoax was exposed).

Edited by T.D.

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The Hindemith is even more gorgeous fun when reading along with the illustrated version he made for his wife Gertrud:

7129.jpg

Hindemith1.jpg

http://www.mtosmt.org/issues/mto.10.16.3/mto.10.16.3.walden.html

The facsimile edition, btw, is still available from Hindemith's publisher Schott:

https://de.schott-music.com/shop/ludi-leonum-no38752.html

ed_8200-hindemith_648_.jpg

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

That said - how about Shostakovich?

813oiFEtdDL._SL1402_.jpg

Edited by mikeweil

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The counterpoint in the first movement of Hindemith's "Mathis Der Maler Symphony" builds up to pure ecstasy at the orchestra tutti.

Charles Koechlin's mastery of counterpoint is evident in his numerous chamber pieces, but takes on mystical proportions in the last section of his masterpiece, "Les Bandar-log, Op.176

William Walton's powerful use of counterpoint in the last movement of his first Symphony established his reputation as a symphonic composer. One of the movements of his Second Symphony uses fugal technique to great advantage.

Honnegger's Symphonic Movement "Rugby", has some great contrapuntal writing for the winds in this energetic, episodic piece.

Edited by sgcim

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On ‎6‎/‎5‎/‎2019 at 0:00 PM, Rooster_Ties said:

I might also mention that while usually not considered neo-classical (or maybe only their early output), and often more thoroughly modern (even 12-tone in the case of Sessions), some other composers that I think employ a LOT of really great contrapuntal writing, include...

  • Roger Sessions (1896-1985) -- especially his later symphonies #6 thru #9 (though they're more serial too).
  • Boris Blacher (1903-75) -- his symphony (1938), and piano concertos #1 (1947) and #2 (1952) come to mind.
  • Ernst Krenek (1900-91) -- I know his symphonies best, but he wrote a veritable mountain of music (almost 250 works with opus numbers).

Quoting my own first post in this topic, does anyone else hear some parallels in Sessions, Blacher, or Krenek?? -- to I guess one would call 'more traditional' modern counterpoint (i.e. Hindemith (generally, or at least often), and Shostakovich's 24 Preludes and Fugues).

I realize those three are a good bit more "modern" (Sessions later symphonies, especially).  But to my ears, at least part of their sound-world seems at least related to counterpoint (as my understanding of it goes).  OR, perhaps as usual(?), are my ears on backwards again? :P

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The fugue (last movement) of Szymanowski's third piano sonata.

 

 

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