An Unrepentant Modernist's Hierarchy of Modern Composers

by Christopher Fulkerson

CF's Composition Desk

"Heavy Dudes"

In Five Graded Categories:
Indispensible; Good; Problematical; Second Rate; Charlatan
Including a nowhere-nearly complete list of composers suggested for further research

Indispensible 20th-Century Composers, “Basic to Any Collection”
Bartok, Bela – Berg, Alban – Berio, Luciano – Boulez, Pierre – Carter, Elliott – Dallapiccola, Luigi – Debussy, Claude – Gerhard, Roberto – Hartmann, Karl Amadeus – Hindemith, Paul – Ives, Charles – Janacek, Leos – Ligeti, Gyorgy – Messiaen, Olivier – Ravel, Maurice – Respighi, Ottorino – Schoenberg, Arnold – Sessions, Roger – Stravinsky, Igor – Varese, Edgar – Webern, Anton – Wolpe, Stefan – Xenakis, Iannis

Good Modern and Twentieth-Century Composers (Including the Occasional Post-Romantic Composer)
Babbitt – Baraque – Barber – Berger – Blacher – Bloch – Blomdahl – Boulenger – Bowles – Brandt – Bridge – Busoni – Carillo – Carpenter – Casella - Castelnuovo-Tedesco – Cerha – Chadwick - Chavez, Carlos - Clementi, Aldo – Copland - Crawford-Seeger – Creston – Crumb – Davies, P.M. - De Falla - D’Indy, Vincent – Diamond – Dukas – Enesco - Etler, Alvin - Farberman, Harold - Faure, Gabriel – Feldman – Ferneyhough, Brian – Foote - Foss, Lukas - Francaix, Jean – Gershwin, George - Giannini, Vittorio – Ginastera - Gould, Morton - Haba, Alois - Hanson, Howard – Harris, Roy - Heiden, Bernhard – Henri – Henze – Holst – Honegger – Hovhaness – Ibert – Khachaturian – Kodaly - Koechlin, Charles – Krenek - Leibowitz, Rene - Lieberson, Peter – Lutoslawski - MacDowell, Edward – Mahler, Gustav - Malipiero, Gian F. – Martin – Martinu - Miaskovski, Nikolai - Milhaud, Darius - Milner, Anthony – Nabakov, Nicholas - Nancarrow, Conlon – Nielsen – Nono - Ornstein, Leo - Parker, Horatio - Petrassi, Geoffredo – Pettersson - Piston – Pizzetti - Porter, Quincy - Poulenc, Francis – Previn, Andre - Reger, Max – Reynolds - Riegger, Wallingford – Rudhyar, Dane (Daniel Chenneviere) – Rodrigo - Ruggles, Carl - Salzedo, Carlos – Scelsi – Schaeffer - Schmitt, Florent - Schreker, Franz - Schuller, Gunther – Schuman – Scriabin – Shapiro, Harold - Shere, Charles - Sibelius - Siegmeister, Elie – Sims, Ezra - Sollberger, Harvey - Still, William Grant – Richard Strauss - Subotnick - Swift, Kay - Swift, William - Szymanowski, Karol – Takemitsu – Taylor, Deems - Tippett – Turina - Vaughn Williams - Villa-Lobos - Wagenaar, Bernard - Walton, William - Wellesz, Egon – Wuorinen, Charles - Zemlinsky, Alexander - Zimmerman, Bernd Alois – Zwillich, Ellen

Problematical – A “Head’s Up” to Various Issues
(Some of these composers are among the very finest, but in each case there is some aspect that renders an approach to their work tricky in one way or another.   This information is presented only to point out some “Things You May Wish to Know;” Fact-based observations not intended to be related and that may or may not matter; evaluation may depend on one’s interests.   For example, if you listen to one of Krzysztof Penderecki’s pieces, it may be in a style widely at variance with other of his pieces.   That is neither good nor bad, you may say; but it may mean that your first exposure to his music is incomplete.   Please note that “openly gay agenda” refers not to a composer’s personal life, but to active elements within the work. Any Nazi or Communist is therefore Anti-Modernist; you can usually derive the reverse as well: Anti-Modernists are almost invariably, knowingly or unknowingly, participating in Nazi elitism, Communist populism,or both)  

Bernstein, Leonard          (Varies Styles Widely; Openly Gay Agenda; and: Pro-Socialist-Realist, i.e., Pro-Stalinist!)
Britten, Benjamin         (Obsolete Idiom; Openly Gay Agenda)
Cowell, Henry                  (Varies Styles Widely; Inconsistent Quality)
Durufle, Maurice         (Obsolete Idiom)
Egk, Werner                  (Committed Nazi)
Eisler, Hans                  (Committed Communist)
Hauer, Georg M.         (Eccentric)
Herrmann, Bernard          (Film Composer)
Kabalevsky, D.                  (Committed Stalinist)
Khennikov, Tikhon         (Arch-Stalinist)
Moore, Douglas         (Obsolete Idiom)
Orff, Karl                           (Committed Nazi)
Penderecki, K.                  (Varies Styles Widely)
Pfitzner, Hans                  (Arch-Nazi; Obsolete Idiom)
Prokofiev, Sergei         (By the End, Occasionally Stalinist)
Rachmaninoff                  (Obsolete Idiom)
Rochberg, George          (Varies Styles Widely)
Schnittke                           (Varies Styles Widely; Eccentricities; Plagiarism)
Shostakovitch                  (Obsolete and Stalinist Idiom)
Stockhausen                  (Varies Styles Widely)
Thompson, Randall (Obsolete Idiom; Unexpected Agendas [Anti-Catholic, etc.])
Weill, Kurt                  (Committed Communist)

Second Rate
Menotti, Gian Carlo (Stale, Even Bad Ideas in an Obsolete Idiom; Verismo)
Puccini, Giaccamo         (Plagiarism; Verismo)

Charlatans – “Pied Piper” Figures
Adams, John                  (Militantly Illiterate – Actively Dislikes Modern Music)
Cage, John                  (Doesn’t really write music)
Glass                           (Illiterate)
Gorecki, Henri                   (Illiterate; Eccentric)
Harrison         (Almost always illiterate, though occasional brilliant  exceptions)
Part, Arvo         (Obsolete idiom verging on illiterate)
Parch, Harry                  (Ultra Eccentric and Ultra Homosexual Agenda)
Pettersson, A.                  (Amateur)
Reich, S.                           (Illiterate)
Riley, T.                           (Illiterate)
Satie, E.                           (Eccentric; Illiterate)
Schnebel, D.                  (Illiterate; Eccentric)
Thomson, R.                  (Eccentric; Homosexual Agenda; Anti-Catholic Agenda)

Composers also worthy of interest (A nowhere near complete list: a few are tagged “important” for disparate reasons. Other information is in the nature of 'added as facts arise and I have time to input them'):

Aird, Donald (American)
Bax, Arnold
Bergsma, William
Bliss, Arthur
Blitzstein, Marc
Boretz, Benjamin (American)
Brunswick, Mark
Charpentier, Gustav
Chasins, Abram
Citkowitz, Israel
Cortes, Ramiro
Dessau, Paul
Dukelsky, Vladimir
Fanelli, Ernst
Farwell, Arthur
Fiorillo, Dante
Forst, Rudolph
Fortner, Wolfgang
Fuleihan, Anis
Fulkerson, Christopher (American)
Fulkerson, James (American)
Fuller, Donald
Gielen, Michael
Gilbert, Henry
Gruenberg, Louis (American) - Important
Hadley, Henry
Huber, Klaus
Jacobi, Frederick
Johnson, Hunter
Wojciech, Kilar
Klouzner, Boris
Kotonski, Wlodzimierz
Luening, Otto (American) - Important
McBride, Robert
McDonald, Harl
Maganini, Quinto
Mason, Daniel
Mossolov, Alexander
Nilsson, Bo -- Important
Nordoff, Paul
Palmer, Robert
Perlea, Jonel
Phillips, Burrill
Pisk, Paul A.
Pizzetti, Ildebrando (Italian) - Important
Rathaus, Karol
Read, Gardner (American)
Rogers, Bernard (American)
Saminsky, Lazare
Sanders, Robert L.
Serocki, Kazimierz
Sirola, Bozidar
Steuermann, Edward - Important
Tailleferre, Germaine
Tansman, Alexandre
Toch, Ernst -- Important
Ussachevsky, Vladimir -- Important
Van Vactor, David
Vogel, Wladimir
Weinberger, Jaromir
Wessel, Mark
Wiecjowicz, Stanislaw
Willan, Healy (Canadian)
Zeljenka, Ilja (Slovak 1932-2007)


Copyright 2011 by Christopher Fulkerson

Posted 1/6/2011