Saturday, June 23, 2007

More Composers: T

This is the installment I have been dreading... There are so many composers with names beginning with T, and some of them are so easily confused! Let's just get it over with and hope that there is still time to enjoy a bit of weekend sunshine!

Takemitsu (Tōru) was a novelist, theoretician, critic, gourmand, and arguably the greatest Japanese composer of the 20th century. His works combine the idioms of eastern and western art music with jazz, pop, and modern experimentation. Besides writing many avante-garde concert pieces, Takemitsu also wrote musical scores for over 100 films, and won 4 Japanese Academy Awards for this work, including Ran.

Tallis (Thomas) was a 16th-century English composer who composed alternately Catholic and Anglican church music in the Chapel Royal under Henry VIII, Edward VI, Queen Mary, and (for some 27 years) Elizabeth I. His music ranges from high Renaissance polyphony to simple, chorale-like tunes in four-part harmony. Among his works are settings of the Lamentations of Jeremiah, the magnificent 40-part motet Spem in alium, and beloved hymn tunes such the canon popularly sung to "All praise to Thee, my God, this night," and the Third-Note Melody on which Vaughan Williams based his moving Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis.

Tan Dun is a Chinese composer who won an Oscar for his score for the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. His music often combines traditional instruments with unusual sources of sound, such as bowls of water, pieces of paper, and the bianzhong (a set of bronze bells used in traditional Chinese music). Some of his major works found great acclaim on the international stage, including operas written for Munich, Vienna, Tokyo and New York (most recently The First Emperor), and the Water Passion after St. Matthew as part of the Passion 2000 Project commemorating J. S. Bach.

Tárrega (Francisco) has been called "the father of modern guitar playing" and "the Sarasate of the guitar." His Romantic works mostly consist of guitar transcriptions of other people's piano music, but he also wrote some memorable pieces of his own, such as Lágrima, Recuerdos de la Alhambra, Capricho Árabe, and Danza Mora. The tune from his Gran Vals has become famous as the Nokia ringtone.

Tartini (Giuseppe) was an 18th-century violinist who wrote mainly sonatas and concertos for that instrument. His best-known piece is the freakishly difficult Devil's Trill Sonata, allegedly inspired by a dream in which he saw the devil playing a violin. He also wrote an important harmonic treatise that revealed how violinists could play double-stops in tune.

Tavener (John), not to be confused with John Taverner (!), is a modern British composer whose work is largely influenced by his Russian Orthodox faith. These include a choral piece The Lamb, The Akathist of Thanksgiving, a cello concerto titled The Protecting Veil, and the cantata The Whale. His Song for Athene was peformed at Princess Diana's funeral.

Taverner (John), not to be confused with John Tavener (!!), was a 16th-century English composer who, at one time, was reprimanded for associating with Lutherans, though he was let of lightly because he was "but a musician"! He wrote mainly sacred vocal music, including the motet Dum Transisset Sabbatum and a highly-regarded mass based on the secular tune "The Westron Wynde." A whole genre of chant-based instrumental music was inspired by another of Taverner's masses. Like Palestrina and Gesualdo, Taverner also served as the subject of an opera (this one by Peter Maxwell Davies).

Telemann (Georg Philipp) was a contemporary of Bach and Handel who, during their lifetime, was more highly regarded than they. How the mighty have fallen! Holder of the Guinness record as most prolific composer of all time (800 of some 3,000 works survive), his music fell into obscurity during the 19th century and has only been revived within the past hundred years. Now some of his pieces are regularly performed again, including the earliest known viola concerto, a concerto for two horns, several suites of Tafelmusik (music to accompany a meal), cantatas, and organ works. I have a book with some of his chorale preludes, and while they don't hold a candle to Bach, I like them well enough.

Thomas (Ambroise) was a French Romantic composer best-known for such operas as Mignon and Hamlet. They were among the most successful French operas of their time, though they are now heard only occasionally or in excerpts. I like the way Wiki describes them: they "enjoyed a long vogue, and...continue to have a certain following."

Thompson (Randall), spelled with a "p," was a modern American composer who wrote three symphonies, choral works such as a famous, sad-sounding Alleluia, a Nativity According to St. Luke, a Passion According to ditto, and vocal works based on texts by Thomas Jefferson and Robert Frost.

Thomson (Virgil), spelled without a "p," was a Missouri-born composer and close contemporary of Thompson. He wrote musical scores for some historical documentaries, and won a Pulitzer prize for his film music for Louisiana Story. He also wrote songs, piano pieces, operas (with librettos by Gertrude Stein), a cello concerto, and three symphonies, beginning with his celebrated Symphony on a Hymn Tune (the hymn being "How firm a foundation").

Tippett (Michael) was a leading English composer of the 20th century. He had a long career but, working slowly, left behind a modest number of works, including 4 symphonies, 5 string quartets, 4 piano sonatas, 4 concertos, and 5 operas, including King Priam and The Ice Break. He also wrote A Child of Our Time, an oratorio about the teenage assassin who allegedly provoked Kristallnacht.

Toch (Ernst) wrote 7 symphonies (of which the third won a Pulitzer prize), a piano concerto, songs, sonatas, chamber music, operas, and film scores, including Address Unknown. He is probably best known, however, for single-handedly inventing "Gesprochene Musik," or music for spoken chorus, with a humorous piece titled Geographical Fugue.

Tomkins (Thomas) was a contemporary of Thomas Tallis. He wrote sacred and secular vocal music, keyboard and instrumental pieces, in an expressive, Renaissance style that, in his lifetime, would have been regarded as very conservative. He composed more Anglican verse anthems than anyone except William Child. One reason he wrote music in a bygone style was that, for the last decade of his life, he continued composing even after church music was abolished by the roundheads.

Torelli (Giuseppe), whose brother Felice was a painter, was a Baroque composer who wrote 12 violin concertos, 24 concerti grossi, and no fewer than 30 trumpet concertos! A great violinist and teacher, he contributed to the development of precise violin playing and the composition of music that demanded it.

Tournemire (Charles) was an early twentieth-century French organist who was admired for his powers of improvisation. His L'Orgue Mystique, a collection of organ pieces for the whole church year, shows a gift for composing music that sounds improvised. He also wrote eight symphonies for orchestra, one symphony for organ, and some chamber music.

Turina (Joaquín) was a 20th-century Spanish composer who wrote operas, orchestral works, chamber music, songs, and pieces for guitar, lute quartet, and piano. Some of his better-known works are La oración del torero and the Danzas fantásticas.

Tye (Christopher) was a relatively minor English composer who flourished during the reign of Edward VI, though he continued to serve as organist at Ely Cathedral well into the reign of Elizabeth I. A few of his vocal works are now being revived and recorded by various choirs and even the Kronos Quartet, though I mainly mention him because of a priceless anecdote. When Queen Elizabeth complained that Tye played out of tune, he sent a reply saying "yt her ears were out of Tune."

No comments: