Musical anniversaries in 2016

January 12, 2016

I usually like to start the year by reviewing which composers will have significant anniversaries over the next 12 months. Here are notable birthdays and memorials coming up in 2016:


450 years

  • Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613) [30 March]

150 years

  • Erik Satie (1866-1925) [17 May]
  • Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) [1 April]

100 years

  • Henri Dutilleux (1916-2013) [22 January]


100 years

  • George Butterworth (1885-1916) [5 August]
  • Max Reger (1873-1916) [11 May]

10 years

  • György Ligeti (1923-2006) [12 June]

It’s a rather weak year, all things considered, with no ‘A-list’ composers. As such, we have a nice opportunity to explore the music of some lesser-known figures. Speaking for myself, I am planning ‘listening projects’ around the music of Satie, Gesualdo, Butterworth, and Dutilleux.


  • Read David Bentley Hart’s appreciation of George Butterworth, who died in the trenches at the Battle of the Somme.
  • Learn a little about Henri Dutilleux at The Music Salon (here and here).
  • Whatever you do, don’t waste your time with Werner Herzog’s film Gesualdo. Instead, buy this and listen over and over and over…
  • Let your soundtrack of 2016 include Satie’s Vexations, all 9+ hours of which can be heard right here: 


Of course, there are many other, even less well-known composers marking anniversaries this year, including Giovanni Paisello, Malcolm Arnold, Manuel Cardoso, and — if we stretch the definition of “composer” to the breaking point — Milton Babbitt. A full list can be found here (Thanks, Osbert.).

Happy listening!

4 Responses to “Musical anniversaries in 2016”

  1. Osbert Parsley Says:

    Hope that you have a great time with Dutilleux’s music; he’s a terrific composer, and overdue for a revival now that he has been dead for a few years. Of the other lesser figures with 2016 anniversaries, I think Andrzej Panufnik would be well worth spending time with: an escapee from Communist Poland who spent most of his career in Britain. (It’s unlikely that the twenty-fifth anniversary of his death will be much observed, since his centenary was only two years ago). It’s also nice to see the 150th birth anniversary of Charles Wood, an influential pedagogue and prolific composer of church music:

    Unfortunately, I don’t think a 250th anniversary will do much for the reputation of Jacques-Marie Beauvarlet-Charpentier (an obscure Parisian organist who made a very brief appearance in my doctoral lecture recital).

    Happy New Year, and hope that all is well!

  2. cburrell Says:

    I like that Charles Wood piece quite a bit; thanks.

    In my music collection I have several recordings of Dutilleux’s Trois strophes sur le nom de Sacher (for solo cello), but nothing else! I’m planning to listen to some of his orchestral music and perhaps piano music. Anything in particular that you would suggest?

    Thank you for your well wishes. I wish the same to you.

  3. Osbert Parsley Says:

    Dutilleux was an extremely slow worker and a perfectionist, so even though he kept composing into his 90s his life’s work consists of something like two dozen pieces. The collected edition of his recorded output is only a seven-CD set, even when you include pieces of juvenilia that he later disowned. So this is a composer that you can get to know relatively quickly, although of course the music repays multiple listenings.

    I’m a big fan of the two symphonies, the cello concerto (“Tout le monde lontain”), the string quartet (“Ainsi la nuit”) and the piano sonata, but almost anything you try will be worthwhile.

  4. cburrell Says:

    Thanks for those recommendations. I’ll make a point of tracking them down.

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