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Top Five Notable Composer Anniversaries in 2014

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As 2013 came to a close, so did the bicentennials of Richard Wagner and Giuseppe Verdi, as well as the centennials of Benjamin Britten and Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring. But 2014 brings about a new crop of honorees and the promise of performances, recordings and other celebrations devoted to them. Here are the top five anniversaries that classical music lovers should mark on their calendars:

1. C.P.E. Bach

When Mozart said “Bach is the father, we are the children,” he was not speaking of Johann Sebastian Bach, but his son, Carl Philipp Emanuel. J.S. Bach’s fifth child and the most musically prodigious of his brood, C.P.E. would have been 300 on March 8, an anniversary that will be noted around the globe. The site, a repository of information about the composer, already lists 185 events in Germany pegged to anniversary. Meanwhile, six German cities that have strong ties to the composer—Berlin, Leipzig, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Potsdam and Weimar—will each hold festivals in his honor. Closer to home, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, will play the younger Bach alongside the works of his father on Jan 12.


2. Richard Strauss

When music ensembles in Germany aren’t feting Bach, chances are that they’ll be honoring Richard Strauss, who would have turned 150 in June. Celebrations are centered in Dresden, the site of several premieres of Strauss’s most famous operas. Both the city’s Semperoper and the Staatskapelle have programmed a number of his works for this occasion. Concerts and opera performances worldwide will revisit favorite works such as Der Rosenkavalier and Ariadne auf Naxos. Other ensembles are to use the celebration as an excuse to present rarities like Strauss’s one-act opera Feuersnot, which will be staged in Vienna and Palermo.


3. Christoph Gluck

If this season seems to have an abundance of early French opera, it is most likely due to the 300th anniversary of the birth of Christoph Willibald Gluck. (Some opportunistic companies have bundled the 250th anniversary of the death of his contemporary, Jean-Philippe Rameau, into the celebrations, as well.)  The composer’s best known works, Iphigenie en Tauride and Orpheo ed Euridice, are more present than ever this year in opera houses. Meanwhile, groups such as Montreal’s Les Violons du Roy will present lesser-known works including his ballet Don Juan. (Right: Gluck painting via Wikipedia Commons.)


4. Louis Andriessen

Global celebrations aren’t solely reserved for the long deceased. In recent years, living luminaries such as Steve Reich and Philip Glass have enjoyed season-long birthday parties. This year’s recipient is Louis Andriessen, who turns 75 on June 6. Still prolific, the Dutch composer will see the release of his 2011 Grawemeyer-winning opera, La Commedia; the premiere of his concerto for percussion, Tapdance; and a week-long festival of his work in Washington, D.C.


5. Terry Riley's In C

In 2009, Carnegie Hall celebrated the 45th anniversary of Terry Riley’s game-changing work, In C. With a gathering of 70 performers that spoke to the significance of the work, the concert brought together Osvaldo Golijov, Philip Glass, Dennis Russell Davies, Morton Subotnick, Riley and the Kronos Quartet, who organized the event, to play a 98-minute version of the work. When In C premiered in November 1964, the piece, comprised of 53 musical phrases that each musician cycles through at his or her own pace, was lauded as the first minimalist masterwork. It has only increased in esteem since. In 2009, the critic John Rockwell wondered how the 50th anniversary of In C would compare to the ambitious concert five years earlier. We expect that new music fans will not let this milestone come up short.