Any Modern Classical?

Following criticism, on another thread in this forum, of my preference for 60’s/70’s rock artists over their modern day counterparts, I thought I had better make the effort to ‘get down with the kids’ & pull myself out of the musical dark ages.

Following my retirement one of the things I have done is to make the effort to listen to more classical music. The only artists I had previously enjoyed & actually owned some of their output were Vaughan Williams & Elgar. The only other classics I previously liked are best described as ‘TV classics’, from dramas & adverts etc.

Since trying to widen my horizons I have purchased a couple of multi boxed sets, The British Line, VW’s Nine Symphonies, to expand my collection to about 50 albums/discs in total. When it comes to Beethoven, Mozart etc. I have no idea where to start with their vast catalogues. I have heard some pieces I quite liked but much I have found tuneless & boring. I really need pointing in the right direction here.

Much listening of other classical music has been done via streaming but I have again found little that really appeals to me. So much sounds like my attempts at guitar playing, as if the instrumentalists are simply playing up & down scales, with little or no musical structure.

What it comes down to is my preference for music is that which contains a ‘tune’ (melody) & is not over ‘bombastic’.

To address the title of this subject, my question is therefore, are there any modern, current day or close, classical composers that may fit what I am looking for, tuneful, melodic pieces much like the well known Williams/Elgar pieces?.

Failing this, any other older classics that may fit my listening requirements?

You may find some inspiration in this thread:


Thanks, will check it out. Got to start somewhere.

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I can’t say I’m a lover of large symphonic works, and vastly prefer solo, quartets etc, and concertos. Bach is doubtless my favourite composer, with a massive body of compositions. I find this album totally wonderful and it’s very accessible too.

I’d also recommend this. It’s very joyful and again, not hard going.

Then there is this, a recent release of Bach Suites arranged for guitar. Composed around 300 years ago and yet it still sounds modern.

For something ‘modern’ this is quite brilliant, and a wonderfully recorded full, rich piano sound.

These are just four of my favourites that I think would appeal to most people. All different, with different instruments but all by players at the top for their game and which really bring something to the music.

Radio 3 on Saturday and Sunday mornings is a great source of inspiration. They play all sorts of stuff.


Also really nice are the 11-string guitar interpretations by Moran Wasser:

Saturday mornings on Radio 3 are good. Informative and varied. A good place to find new classical music.

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Criticsim from some people. But not from othes! There have been quite a few on the forum who similarly have expressed a strong preference for music of that same era over much that has followed since, while no-one has any right to criticise another’s taste in music! I can’t stand jazz, nor soul, nor most pop, nor hip-hop, etc etc - to me I struggle to recognise some as deserving the description “music”, so cacophonous it can be. However whilst I don’t understand it, and might criticise the music, I wouldn’t dream of criticising people who like it. Similarly I think it is wrong to criticise anyone’s choice of what era of music to focus on, however much it may be different from one’s own preferences or habits.

As for modern classical, as a generalisation (and I accept there are and will be exceptions) I have found less and less to enjoy with classical through the past century, much being either, to me, tuneless and boring, or strident and jarring, , so I haven’t bothered exploring - and there’s so much earlier classical music that I have yet to hear, so that when I fancy looking for something classical new to me I’ll simply dip in and try one of the countless things I haven’t heard from about 100 years ago and backwards. Recordings or arrangements of course might be very new.

When did modern classical begin? As an arbitrary date, for me, after 1900.
From what has been posted so far, I enjoy anything by Arvo Part. In particular, Spiegel im Spiegel is the most calming piece in know.
Many composers cross that century divide, but I would include Debussy, Ravel, Satie.
Stravinsky uses tune, but you have to listen for them, his dynamics might be a bit bombastic, so next along Aaron Copland? Plenty of American folk tunes there.
How about Heitor Villa Lobos and his Bachianas Brasileiras?
Ignoring 1900, Smetana and Ma Vlast?
Bang on date, Sibelius and Finlandia.
This could turn into rather a long list and dates get blurred, so the last composer for now, Saint Saens.


Just to throw a cat amongst the pigeons, the definition of classical might also be a problem. Scott Joplin and George Gershwin are considered by many as writers of jazz, but are included in lists of classical composers. Definitely melodies there?

For Symphonic work, I would go for this one :

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Mozart, Beethoven and other old folks:

Mozart Symphony No. 35, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, Clarinet Concerto, Gran Partita (K. 361), many more.

Beethoven - overall, a more dramatic, less melodic composer, but still:
Moonlight Sonata, Pathetique Sonata, Symphony No. 6, Symphony No. 7 (especially the second movement - my gateway to classical), Piano Concerto No. 5 . . .

Also check out Schubert - for my money, the most gifted creator of melody in the history of music (excluding McCartney :grin:): Trout Quintet, Octet, Symphony No. 8 (“Unfinished Symphony” - and try 9 as well), Piano Trio No. 1, and when you’re prepped the String Quintet, the most beautiful music I know.

Dvorak - New World Symphony.

Modern (20-21st century) - overall not as much known for melodic music: Debussy Suite Bergamasque (1890s), Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2, Gershwin Rhapsody in Blue, Copland Appalachian Spring, Bernstein Overture to Candide, Stravinsky Firebird Suite, Ravel Bolero, Prokofiev Romeo and Juliet Suite, Gorecki Symphony No. 3, Barber Adagio, try Arvo Part Spiegel im Spiegel. Something like Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra may not sound melodic on first listen (not for me anyway) but now I can hum parts of it.

The moment I post, I’ll think of a dozen more.


Leaning more towards the modern end of the modern classical spectrum, I can highly recommend these…

I really enjoy everything this band have done….

Then there is the dearly missed Jóhann Johannson, so much wonderful work in there - many of his soundtracks may be familiar - but I found him via his ode to an IBM computer!

This is far more wonderful than it sounds!

Then there is the Hauntingly beautiful Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten by Arvo Pärt…

Once heard, never forgotten…. A few performances out there, but this is my favourite one….

…some to be going on with there!


For a lovely tuneful and easy to follow piece of classical music, I recommend:

The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra. This recording on Decca with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by the composer, Benjamin Britten, is wonderful.

And if you want to hear another lovely piece by Britten, The Serenade for Tenor, Horn and String Orchestra is also hauntingly beautiful. I have many recordings but I still prefer the version, again on Decca with Britten conducting the LSO with Peter Pears and Barry Tuckwell. I see from looking at the sleeve notes that it was recorded when I was 10 years old….


Thumbs up for Britten and part, but we’ll worth looking g further into bbc radio 3 on bbc sounds - this classical life shares favourite tracks (mostly classical) with a different guest each week - and a refreshingly bombast-free zone. In search of contemporary classical try more left-field shows like late junction or unclassified which mix a range of mostly contemporary classical with electronica, world music etc etc some you will hate but it’s a great intro to music which is otherwise inaccessible in all senses of the word

I find it really useful to create playlists for a diverse group of recommended albums and then play them on shuffle - that way you get digestible small chunks of music in different contexts - it may be on the 3rd or 4th listen that something clicks then you can listen to the whole album to put the music in its “properl” context

One of my favourites in the ‘is it classical or is it ambient’ arena is Seven Days Walking by Ludovico Einaudi. Various themes revisited and reinvented over seven CDs, it’s really rather wonderful.

A Winged Victory’s albums, as mentioned my Matt above, are excellent. Their label, Erased Tapes, has some great stuff.


When it comes to classical music I tend to fall in to the Frank Skinner mode i.e wow this the most amazing thing I’ve heard then oh no I’m bored, I’m bored…

But I do have a soft spot for John Tavener - started off on the Beatles Apple label.

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I can totally relate to your difficulties in finding classical music that communicates with my.
Every now and then I try to discover classical music, but most of the time it’s just meaningless to me and I get bored.

This album by the String Orchestra of Brooklyn contains two modern compositions (21st century) as well as two from the 18th century and interestingly this works very well for me, I really enjoy this album:

In February 2020, right before the first lockdown, I was fortunate enough to attend this concert in the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg:

One of the very best concerts I’ve every attended, I was really moved and just speechless after this concert.

The sound quality is very good although it’s just YouTube-Quality, the trick seems to be the good quality of the recording on location.

Arvo Pärt and Manfred Eicher (ECM Records) both attended the concert, a very special moment.


Händel is worth a listen as well:

If ‘tunes’ are the goal, then it’s hard to improve on Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Dvorak, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn etc., but the fact that you like Vaughn Williams maybe suggests a broader target range. I love his music too, but the attractions of the Symphonies, in particular, are not obviously ‘tune’ oriented IMO. If 20th Century is the target I’d say Ravel, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Korngold, Barber, Copland, Britten, John Adams. Janacek, Martinu, Szymanovsky, Holst, Delius too. If we include borderline 19th/20th Century then add Mahler, Bruckner, Debussy, Sibelius, Grieg, Saint-Saens. Lots more out there too!

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