With the turning of the year, I like to plan a few focused listening projects that I’ll undertake during the coming year, and often I structure these projects around significant anniversaries.
After looking through a comprehensive list (Thanks, Osbert.) of such anniversaries, I’ve settled on the following as worthy of personal observance:
- Claudio Monteverdi
- Thomas Campion
- John Cage
- Olivier Messiaen
- Zoltán Kodály
- Georg Philipp Telemann
- Heinrich Isaac
The heavyweights for me are Messiaen’s 25th and Monteverdi’s 450th; I’ll be spending a lot of time with each of those wonderful composers. For Messiaen, I’ll be listening to the piano music, the organ music, the Quatuor, his symphony, and the large-scale orchestral works. For Monteverdi it will be his madrigals (all nine books), at least three of his operas, and his sacred music, especially the Vespers of 1610.
My collection of music by the others is more modest in scale, but I’ll make an effort to get to know it better. I have the feeling that Cage, in particular, wrote a lot of music that I don’t know at all; I also have the feeling it may not be worth my time. I have similar thoughts about Telemann. Kodály, I think, will reward attention.
Apart from these, I’m also planning to focus this year on the music of Bruckner and Elgar. Why Elgar? It’s odd, but for several months I’ve been feeling that I’d really like to immerse myself in his music. I can’t explain it. Perhaps an hour or two in his company will cure me.