Happy Birthday, Composers!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

This year Chopin and Schumann turn 200, giving musicians a chance to revel in the height of romantic 19th century music. While concerts dedicated to this bicentenary abound, a number of other composers are also celebrating anniversaries.

Though they might not get the same festival treatment as Chopin and Schumann, their birthdays shouldn’t go unnoticed. Here are the Top 5 composers (not named Chopin or Schumann) with birthday anniversaries we can celebrating this year:
 
1. There is no need of an anniversary to celebrate the work of Gustav Mahler. Just because his compositions seem ubiquitous, doesn’t mean his 150th birthday should be ignored. Mahler scholar, Gilbert Kaplan, lectures on “Hope, Despair and Love, the Emotional Rollercoaster of Mahler’s Music” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on February 19.

2. American composer Samuel Barber hits 100 in March, a few weeks after Gil Shaham plays his Violin Concerto with the New York Philharmonic. Juilliard’s Focus Festival from January 22-28 features several Barber compositions in its exploration of American composers.

3. Last year was the centenary of Isaac Albéniz’s death, and this year is the 150th anniversary of the Spanish composer’s birth. Though he wrote his most famous works for the piano, arrangements for the guitar are even more popular. Peter Fletcher plays a selection at Weill Recital Hall on March 27.
 
4. Hugo Wolf also reaches his sesquicentennial this year. The Austrian composer, best known for lieder and chamber works, will be represented on both fronts at this spring. Juilliard’s Ensemble ACJW performs his Italian Serenade on March 11, and sublime soprano, Dorothea Röschmann will sing a selection of songs at Zankel Hall on April 12.
 
5. A composer doesn’t need to celebrate a big birthday posthumously. Helmut Lachenmann brings his 75th birthday party to Columbia’s Miller Theater, as he conducts two new music ensembles, Signal and JACK Quartet, in works spanning his career.

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