Charles Petzold

Twentieth-Century Music and Music Students

January 11, 2011
New York, N.Y.

I love New York City. Yesterday I took a stroll up to the Juilliard School of Music on West 65th Street and attended the opening concert of a totally free "come in and sit down" week-long series called ChamberFest 2011. Juilliard students involved in ChamberFest return back to school a week before spring semester for intensive study and rehearsal, culminating in these concerts.

In 8 concerts, 20 different works will be performed, and the program notes indicate that the students perform "repertoire they have selected themselves." This is an interesting tidbit, for it suggests that by examining the programs, we can determine what type of music intrigues the contemporary Juilliard student. I have arranged the following table chronologically by the birth date of the composers:

ComposerNumber of Works
Schubert (1797 – 1828)2
Brahms (1833 – 1897)6
Saint-Saëns (1835 – 1921)1
Tchaikovsky (1840 – 1893)1
Dvořák (1841 – 1904)1

Schoenberg (1874 – 1951)2
Ravel (1875 – 1937)1
Bartók (1881 – 1945)1
Villa-Lobos (1887 – 1959)1
Poulenc (1899 – 1963)1
Shostakovich (1906 – 1975)1
Messiaen (1908 – 1992)1
Ligeti (1923 – 2006)1

I have also drawn a line between those composers traditionally classified as "19th century" and "20th century" — 11 works above the line, and 9 below.

Considering that in some circles, Schoenberg is considered to have destroyed music, this list is very encouraging. The two Schoenberg works are the Op. 26 Woodwind Quintet and (in a concert Saturday evening that I hope to attend) Pierrot Lunaire. Shostakovich isn't a surprise — I get the sense that music students love playing Shostakovich — but the last two are also interesting — Messiaen's famous Quartet for the End of Time and Ligeti's first String Quartet.

As these students graduate and head out into the "real world," I hope this means that we'll be hearing much more 20th century music (and perhaps even more 21st century!) in our concert halls.