Top Five Special Anniversaries of 2012

Monday, January 02, 2012

Adios, Liszt and Mahler. With the New Year comes a new group of top composers (and one piece) that will be marking major milestones this year:

1. Claude Debussy

Debussy is the largest figure looming on this year’s list of big birthdays. The French composer would have turned 150 on August 22. Though works like Le Mer and Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faun are repertory staples, almost every orchestra has either unveiled a concert or has one in the works to honor a founder of Impressionistic music. Along with his greatest hits, look for some of his lesser-known masterpieces like his works for two pianos and four hands, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

2. John Cage

John Cage devotees around the world will be able to “hear” the composer’s silent scores, admire his paintings and read new studies about one of the 20th century’s iconic artists over the year. A number of events, such as Juilliard’s FOCUS! Festival to “Sounds Re-imagined: John Cage at 100,” have already been scheduled for the big birthday, as Allan Kozinn writes in The New York Times. Many of the concerts, readings and exhibitions are listed on the John Cage Trust Web site.

3. Conlon Nancarrow

Though he primarily wrote works for machines rather than musicians, Conlon Nancarrow and his approximately 50 studies for player piano will be spotlighted for the composer’s centennial. Nancarrow, who died in 1997, lived most of his life in Mexico, hand-punching holes to created multi-tempo pieces that were too complex for people to play (though some such as Bang on a Can’s Evan Ziporyn have arranged his works for several instruments). Composer and Nancarrow biographer Kyle Gann will host an online symposium in the fall.

4. Philip Glass

American minimalist Philip Glass gets the unique pleasure (on this list at least) to celebrate a milestone birthday in the flesh, as he turns 75. The American Composers Orchestra has planned a party at Carnegie Hall, and the Park Avenue Armory has dedicated its second annual Tune-in Music Festival to him. A quick peak at his upcoming calendar of events shows his schedule in this anniversary year is anything but minimal. 

5. Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire

Rather than devote the final spot on our list to a person, we’re acknowledging a monumental piece that debuted on Oct. 16, 1912: Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Schoenberg announced his embrace of dissonance—and invented the technique of Sprechstimme—with this work for a single speaker and five musicians. Among the dozens of performances happening over the year, highlights include eighth blackbird’s 2009 Pierrot, which pairs the music to a theatrical dance performance. Meanwhile, Pierre Boulez will be conducting and talking about Schoenberg’s music as part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Beyond the Score series, featuring pianist Pierre Laurent Aimard.

Weigh in: What anniversary are you looking forward to in 2012? Please leave your comments below.

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Comments [7]

David S Bundler

Omnipresent M.M.; I am coming to respect the depth of your perception. To the reverend; Debussy is well worth exploring, I pray you come into the means of owning some. Some of it is quite deep and requires repeated listenings. Walter Gieseking's piano, which is unsurpassed in performance, is sometimes budget priced since it is older. Jeux is the final work he, himself, orchestrated, and takes many listenings to really hear that what first sounds like swirls, is complex counterpoint of the highest order (C.D. edited Bach for a publisher so was VERY familiar). Also there are pieces like Images and Nocturnes for orchestra, that are love at first listen. And Delius? From El Salvador comes a reminder about someone whose music can sound as American as Mark Twain? I would suggest anyone who likes the more popular Debussy will also like Delius, perhaps the Florida Suite. (Not to be confused with FloRida the hip hop guy). I look forward to 2012, and more Meltzer.

Jan. 13 2012 11:12 PM
Michael Meltzer

It is possible to have a classical radio station without the Debussy Piano Preludes, just as it is possible to have a garden without flowers.
But, why?

Jan. 04 2012 10:50 PM
Rev Leslie M. Celadhan, IFM from Long Island

Thank you Michael Meltzer ~ I have recently taken a special interest in Debussy and find his music absolutely wonderful. These days I rely on radio for listening and learning. So if all Debussy's lesser-played pieces can find their way to my ears, it would be very nice.

Jan. 04 2012 09:56 PM
Ernesto from El Salvador

Do not forget about Frederick Delius

I wrote two notes (sorry, in spanish) abour him (150th aniversary)

Jan. 04 2012 10:10 AM
Barry Owen Furrer

2012 also marks the 100th anniversary of the sinking of RMS Titanic. The musical connection I make is the important role the ship's "band" or better, parlor orchestra played during the final hours. These skillful and dedicated souls kept the panic down to a minimum as they played knowing they would soon become casualties. After the tragedy, many musical memorials and fundraisers were held in New York including a grand concert at the Metropolitan Opera House with many of the greats donating their services. An interesting and almost unbelievable act of ignorance on the part of the White Star Line was billing the parents of one of the lost musicians for the cost of his White Star musician's coat as it was not returned following the accident!

Jan. 03 2012 09:48 PM
Les Bernstein from Miami, Florida

I'm looking forward to three. The original version of "Ariadne auf Naxos", Erich Leinsdorf's birth, and Giovanni Martinelli's debut at the Metropolitan Opera as "Ernani."

Jan. 03 2012 05:42 AM
Michael Meltzer

2012 is also the 100th Anniversary of the publication of Debussy's Second Book of Preludes for Piano Solo.
Since WQXR has hardly made the rounds of the First Book, and almost never in original piano solo form as written, a broadcast cycle of ALL Preludes, AS written, would be a nice birthday present for the composer.

Jan. 03 2012 12:19 AM

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