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Composers You Should Know: Contemporary Classical

Lists, facts, dates, links, and more, organized by time period

Notable Contemporary Classical Composers (1975 - present)

If you wish to be generally familiar with classical music, here is a short list of composers you should know from this period.

Name

Birth

Death

Nationality

Representative Pieces

MMC

Adams, John

1947

 

American

Nixon in China (opera)
Short Ride in a Fast Machine (orchestra)
Phyrgian Gates (piano solo)
CDs
Scores

Berio, Luciano
 ML410 .B4968

1925

2003

Italian

Sinfonia (orchestra & 8 singers)
Visage (tape)
Sequenza I (solo flute)
Sequenza V (trombone)
CDs
Scores

Corigliano, John

1938

American

Ghosts of Versaille (opera)
The Red Violin (film score)
Symphony No. 2
CDs
Scores

Crumb, George

1929

 

American

Makrokosmos Book I (amplified piano)
Ancient Voices of Children (soprano & chamber)
A Haunted Landscape (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Glass, Philip
 ML410 .G398

1937

 

American

Einstein on the Beach (opera)
Satygraha (opera)
Glassworks (chamber ensemble)
Photographer (theatre piece)
Koyaanisqatsi (film score)
CDs

Higdon, Jennifer

1962

American

Violin Concerto (violin & orchestra)
Piano Trio (violin, cello, & piano)

Larsen, Libby

1950

American

Dancing Solo (clarinet)
Chanting to Paradise (soprano & piano)
Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus (opera)
CDs
Scores

Ligeti, Gyorgy
 ML410 .L645

1923

2006

Hungarian-Austrian

Piano Etudes (piano solo)
Lux Aeterna (choral)
Atmospheres (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Pärt, Arvo
 ML410 .P1755

1935

 

Estonian

Fratres (chamber ensemble)
Magnificat (a capella choir)
Für Alina (piano)
CDs
Penderecki, Krzysztof

1933

 

Polish

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (string orchestra)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (violin & orchestra)
De Natura Sonoris No. 1 & 2 (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Reich, Steve

1936

 

American

Come Out (tape piece)
Music for 18 Musicians (mixed chamber ensemble)
Pendulum Music (4 performers)
Clapping Music (2 performers)
CDs
Scores

Riley, Terry

1935

 

American

In C (any number of performers)
A Rainbow in Curved Air (keyboards & percussion)
CDs

Schickele, Peter

1935

American

PDQ Bach compositions
Symphony No. 1 "Songlines"
String Quartet No. 5
A Year in the Catskills (woodwind quintet)
CDs
Scores

Schwantner, Joseph

1943

 

American

And the Mountains Rising Nowhere (wind ensemble)
Sparrows (soprano & chamber ensemble)
Chasing Light (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Stockhausen, Karlheinz
 ML410 .S858

1928

2007

German

Gesang der Jünglinge (electronic & concrete music)
Klavierstücke IX (piano solo)
Kontakte (electronic sounds, piano, & percussion)
Gruppen (3 orchestras)
CDs
Scores

Tavener, John

1944

British

Mahashakti (violin and orchestra)
Ikon of Light (two choirs and chamber ensemble)
CDs

Whitacre, Eric

1970

American

Lux Aurumque (virtual choir)
Ghost Train Triptych (wind symphony)
Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings (musical theatre)
CDs

Xenakis, Iannis

1922

2001

Greek

Metastasis (orchestra)
Pleiades (percussion)
CDs
Scores

Contemporary Classical Composers (1975 - present)

If you are a student of Music History or Composition, here is a more detailed list of composers you should know from this period.

Name

Birth

Death

Nationality

Representative Pieces

MMC

Adams, John

1947

 

American

Nixon in China (opera)
Short Ride in a Fast Machine (orchestra)
Phyrgian Gates (piano solo)
CDs
Scores

Argento, Dominick

1927

 

American

From the Diary of Virginia Woolf (voice & piano)
Evensong (soprano, choir, & orchestra)
Postcard from Morocco (opera)
Scores

Berio, Luciano
 ML410 .B4968

1925

2003

Italian

Sinfonia (orchestra & 8 singers)
Visage (tape)
Sequenza I (solo flute)
Sequenza V (trombone)
CDs
Scores

Birtwistle, Harrison
 ML410 .B605

1934

British

The Mask of Orpheus (opera)
Gawain's Journey (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Bolcom, William

1938

American

Songs of Innocence and Experience (choirs & orchestra) CDs
Scores

Colgrass, Michael

1932

 

American / Canadian

Winds of Nagual (wind ensemble)
Urban Requiem (4 saxophones & wind ensemble)
CDs

Corigliano, John

1938

American

Ghosts of Versaille (opera)
The Red Violin (film score)
Symphony No. 2
CDs
Scores

Crumb, George

1929

 

American

Makrokosmos Book I (amplified piano)
Ancient Voices of Children (soprano & chamber)
A Haunted Landscape (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Danielpour, Richard

1956

American

First Light (chamber ensemble)
An American Requiem (opera)
CDs

Daugherty, Michael

1954

American

Metropolis Symphony (orchestra)
Deus ex Machina (piano & orchestra)
CDs

Del Tredici, David

1937

American

Child Alice (soprano & orchestra)
Ballad in Lavender (piano)
CDs
Scores

Dun, Tan

1957

Chinese

Paper Concerto (paper & orchestra)
Out of Beijing Opera (violin & orchestra)
CDs

Glass, Philip
 ML410 .G398

1937

 

American

Einstein on the Beach (opera)
Satygraha (opera)
Glassworks (chamber ensemble)
Photographer (theatre piece)
Koyaanisqatsi (film score)
CDs

Górecki, Henryk
 ML410 .G6448

1933

2010

Polish

Symphony No. 3 "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs"
Kleines Requiem für eine Polka (piano & chamber ensemble)
CDs
Scores

Higdon, Jennifer

1962

American

Violin Concerto (violin & orchestra)
Piano Trio (violin, cello, & piano)

Iannaccone, Anthony

1943

American

Apparitions (Band)
Two-Piano Inventions
 
Scores

Kernis, Aaron Jay

1960

American

String Quartet No. 2 "Musica Intrumentalis"
Symphony in Waves (orchestra)

Larsen, Libby

1950

American

Dancing Solo (clarinet)
Chanting to Paradise (soprano & piano)
Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus (opera)
CDs
Scores

Ligeti, Gyorgy
 ML410 .L645

1923

2006

Hungarian-Austrian

Piano Etudes (piano solo)
Lux Aeterna (choral)
Atmospheres (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Lucier, Alvin

1931

American

Fragments (string quartet)
I Am Sitting in a Room (tape)
Music on a Long Thin Wire (electronic)
CDs

Machover, Tod

1953

American

Towards the Center (6 instruments and live computer electronics)
Death and the Powers (opera)
Hyperstring Trilogy (hyperviolin, hyperviola, hypercello, & chamber orchestra)

MacMillan, James

1959

 

Scottish

Veni, Veni Emmanuel (percussion & orchestra)
Seven Last Words from the Cross (chorus & chamber orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Maxwell Davies, Peter
 ML410 .D254

1934

 

English

Eight Songs for a Mad King (vocalist & chamber group)
An Orkney Wedding with Sunrise (orchestra & bagpipes)
CDs
Scores

Monk, Meredith

1942

American

Songs of Ascension (vocalist & string quartet)
Atlas (opera)

Oliveros, Pauline
 ML410 .O5834

1932

American

Sound Patterns (choir)
The Ready Made Boomerang (chamber ensemble)
CDs

Pärt, Arvo
 ML410 .P1755

1935

 

Estonian

Fratres (chamber ensemble)
Magnificat (a capella choir)
Für Alina (piano)
CDs
Penderecki, Krzysztof

1933

 

Polish

Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima (string orchestra)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (violin & orchestra)
De Natura Sonoris No. 1 & 2 (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Reich, Steve

1936

 

American

Come Out (tape piece)
Music for 18 Musicians (mixed chamber ensemble)
Pendulum Music (4 performers)
Clapping Music (2 performers)
CDs
Scores

Riley, Terry

1935

 

American

In C (any number of performers)
A Rainbow in Curved Air (keyboards & percussion)
CDs

Rorem, Ned
 ML410 .R693

1923

 

American

Symphony No. 3 (orchestra)
Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (voice & piano)
CDs
Scores

Saariaho, Kaija

1952

Finnish

Jardin Secret No. 1 (electronic music)

Schelle, Michael

1950

American

The End of the World (symphonic band)
Wright Flight (piano and orchestra)

Schickele, Peter

1935

American

PDQ Bach compositions
Symphony No. 1 "Songlines"
String Quartet No. 5
A Year in the Catskills (woodwind quintet)
CDs
Scores

Schuller, Gunther

1925

 

American

Grand Concerto (100 percussionists and keyboards)
Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Schwantner, Joseph

1943

 

American

And the Mountains Rising Nowhere (wind ensemble)
Sparrows (soprano & chamber ensemble)
Chasing Light (orchestra)
CDs
Scores

Stockhausen, Karlheinz
 ML410 .S858

1928

2007

German

Gesang der Jünglinge (electronic & concrete music)
Klavierstücke IX (piano solo)
Kontakte (electronic sounds, piano, & percussion)
Gruppen (3 orchestras)
CDs
Scores

Subotnick, Morton

1933

American

Silver Apples of the Moon (electronic music)
All My Hummingbirds Have Alibis (interactive orchestra and electronic)
CDs

Tavener, John

1944

British

Mahashakti (violin and orchestra)
Ikon of Light (two choirs and chamber ensemble)
CDs

Whitacre, Eric

1970

American

Lux Aurumque (virtual choir)
Ghost Train Triptych (wind symphony)
Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings (musical theatre)
CDs

Wolff, Christian

1934

American

Exercises (chamber)
Keyboard Miscellany (piano)
 
Scores

Wuorinen, Charles

1938

American

Archaeopteryx (bass trombone & chamber ensemble)
Mass for the Restoration of St. Luke in the Fields (chorus & orchestra)
Orchestral and Electronic Exchanges (orchestra & tape)
CDs
Scores

Xenakis, Iannis

1922

2001

Greek

Metastasis (orchestra)
Pleiades (percussion)
CDs
Scores

Young, La Monte
 ML410 .Y74

1935

American

Five Small Pieces (string quartet)
The Well-Tuned Piano (solo)
CDs

Zwilich, Ellen Taaffe

1939

American

Symphony No. 2 "Cello"
Rituals (5 percussionists & orchestra)
 
Scores