Contemporary classical music on YouTube

Garry Fung makes an excellent suggestion in a comment on my Stravinsky/Rite of Spring/YouTube post – why doesn’t someone collect together all the classical music stuff on YouTube. Well, most of that falls outside the boundaries of this blog; there is also a lot of it, and not all of it terribly worth watching. But I am going to start listing here those video gems of contemporary classical music that I come across. Similarly to my classical music mp3 blog post this should be regarded as a post in constant process, and hardly definitive. I’m also not going to just start posting all the results of searches that I find, but only links to those videos that are most interesting or unusual. Things that won’t get posted: incomplete works (on the whole); stuff that’s poor quality in some way; videos in which the music accompanies another film (except in exceptional circumstances).

So, here you go: the Rambler’s ongoing guide to the best of contemporary classical music on YouTube.

Ablingerweiss/weisslich, played by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien. I think this is weiss/weisslich 4, but that’s supposed to be for piano and a minimum of 5 other instruments and there are only four here.

AblingerOhne Titel for flute and piano, payed by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien.

Barrettknospend-gespaltener. Played by Richard Haynes.

BarrettAurora. Played by Tristram Williams and Benjamin Marks.

BarrettEARTH. Played by Chris McIntyre and David Shively of Either/Or ensemble.

Berberian – 1972 Italian documentary on Cathy Berberian, also featuring plenty of Berio. In five parts, the first of which includes Cathy singing Berio’s arrangement of ‘Ticket to Ride’. Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

BerberianStripsody, performed by Diana Gamet.

BerioSequenzas. Several of these on YouTube: III (Johanne Saunier); V (Dave Day); VIIb (Yang Tong); XI – part 1, part 2 (Paul Bowman)

BirtwistleGawain. No music here, but the footage of people arguing in the street about the values of modernism vs romanticism is priceless.

BoulezLe marteau sans maître – movements 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6, 7 and 8, 9, played by Ensemble X1234 (?)

BoulezLe soleil des eaux. PB conducts Elizabeth Atherton, the BBC Singers, the BBC Symphony Chorus and the BBC SO.

Boulez – Piano Sonata no.1. Played by Pierre-Laurent Aimard.

Cage4’33”. This is the performance for full orchestra by the BBC SO that caused a stir at the John Cage: Uncaged festival in 2004. Also, here’s an extract from the video I have nothing to say and I am saying it of preparations for a 1982 performance of Speech for 5 radios. And if that’s not enough, how about David Tudor playing 4’33”? But the winner is this performance of Water Walk given on the 1960s gameshow ‘I have a secret’. Internet, I love you.

More Cage – James Tenney plays Sonata I and Sonata VII for prepared piano.

CassidyI, purples, spat blood, laugh of beautiful lips. Performed by Carl Rosman.

CassidyWhat then renders these forces visible is a strange smile (or, First Study for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion). Performed by Tristram Williams.

CassidyBecause they mark the zone where the force is in the process of striking (or, Second Study for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion). Performed by Benjamin Marks.

CassidyBeing itself a catastrophe the diagram must not create a catastrophe (or, Third Study for Figures at the Base of a Crucifixion). Played by Richard Haynes and Peter Veale. Part I, II.

CzernowinSeed 1 and Seed 2, performed by Either/Or ensemble.

CzernowinDie Kreuzung, performed by Either/Or ensemble.

CzernowinDam sheon hachol, performed by Either/Or ensemble. Part 1, part 2.

CorbettValentine no.11, played by Gustavo Balanesco.

CurranSchtyx. Courtesy of Monday Evening Concerts. In four parts: 1, 2, 3, 4.

DenchSum over histories. Played by Richard Haynes and Carl Rosman. Part 1, part 2.

Dusapin – Etudes. Number 1, played by Ian Pace: part 1, part 2. Number 4, Pace again. Number 6, played by Angela Tosheva.

Eötvös – Sonata per sei, Israel Contemporary Players, cond. Zsolt Nagy: part 1, part 2.

Eötvös Triangel, Peter Prommel, soloist.: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5.

FerneyhoughBone Alphabet. Played by Ross Karre: part 1, part 2.

Ferneyhough Carceri d’Invenzione IIb, played by Julian Elvira.

GlassRubric. The Philip Glass Ensemble. Get this one quick as copies are being pulled off YouTube at Universal’s behest.

Glass – Train/Spaceship (Einstein on the Beach). Part 1; part 2.

GlobokarTouché, played by Laurent Clement.

GriseyVortex Temporum I, part 1, part 2, played by the Quasars Ensemble (performance preceded by what I take to be an arrangement of Bach’s Prelude in E minor from Book I of Das Wohltemperierte Klavier).

GriseyTalea, performed by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien. Part 1, part 2.

HaradaBone #. Courtesy of Monday Evening Concerts. In two parts: 1, 2.

Hespos Casoleia, played by Elena Casoli.

HesposSantur, played by Eniko Ginzery.

HolligerElis (Drei Nachtstücke für Klavier), played by Jürg Henneberger.

IRCAM – not a composer, of course, but a great video from the 1984 ICMC (International Computer Music Conference) at IRCAM in Paris, showing MIT’s Barry Vercoe and flautist Larry Beauregard of Boulez’ Ensemble Intercomtemporain demonstrating the use of the computer as a synthetic performer.

KagelAcustica. Played by Apartment House at The Wire‘s Cut and Splice event in 2005.

KagelDer Eid des Hippokrates. Played by András Hamary, Markus Bellheim and Armin Fuchs.

KagelDressur. Played by Oberlin Percussion. Part 1, 2, 3, 4. And by the Yale Percussion Group, in three parts: 1, 2, 3.

KagelLes idées fixes I. RSO Saarbrucken conducted by the composer. No video, just the music.

Kagelsiegfriedp. Played by its dedicatee. No video, just the music.


Kurtág – ‘Perpetuum Mobile’, from the Játékok piano pieces. Played by the composer, this is pretty essential.

Kurtág – ‘Quarrel’, also from Játékok. Played by the composer and his wife Martá.

KurtágHommage à Mihály András No visuals, just the Keller Quartet’s recording.

LachenmannGrido. Played by the Arditti Quartet, uploaded in three parts: 1, 2, 3.

LachenmannGuero. Played by Nick Tolle of the Ludovico Ensemble.

LachenmannIntérieur I, played by Pitzu Yang, part 1, part 2.

LachenmannMouvement, part 1, part 2, part 3.

Lang, BernhardMonadologie IV, performed by Timetable Percussion. Part 1, part 2, part 3.

Lang, BernhardDifferenz/Wiederholung 14. Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8.

Lang, BernhardDer Alte vom Berge. Part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7.

Lang, KlausZwillingsgipfel. Played by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien. And here’s another performance by the Either/Or ensemble.

LigetiPoème symphonique. The first televised ‘performance’ of Ligeti’s infamous prank for 100 metronomes that has since taken on a credible life of its own.

LigetiArtikulation. Rainer Wehinger’s pioneering visual score to Ligeti’s electronic piece, synchronised together.

Ligeti – Piano Etude no.13 ‘L’Escalier du Diable’. Played in concert by Francesco Libetta.

More Ligeti Etudes – Volker Banfield plays pieces from Books 1 and 2: no.1 ‘Désordre’, no.2 ‘Cordes vides’ and no.3 ‘Touches bloquées’; no.4 ‘Fanfares’ and no.5 ‘Arc-en-ciel’; no. 7 ‘Galamb Borong’ and no.8 ‘Fém’. Number 6, the famous ‘Automne à Varsovie’ appears to have been skipped over, disappointingly, but the captions on YouTube suggest that there’s a fourth part to this recital yet to be posted, so fingers crossed. Here it is: no.6 ‘Autumne à Varsovie’.

LimInvisibility. Played by Séverine Ballon. In two parts: 1, 2.

LucierMusic for Solo Performer. Alvin Lucier’s famous work for human brainwaves. Andrew Brouse is the man with the electrodes taped to his head in this 1999 performance.

LutosławskiChain I. The composer himself conducts the London Sinfonietta, for whom the work was written, at the Albert Hall (is this première? I’ll check). A Lutosławski curio – a performance of the Pagannini Variations he wrote for his wartime piano duet with Andrzej Panufnik; not the best quality recording, but an all-out performance.

Maierhof: Sugar 1. Courtesy of Monday Evening Concerts. In two parts: 1, 2.

McCormackDisfix, played by ELISION at Huddersfield, 2009. There’s a second, studio recording, of this piece here.

Messiaen. No music in this clip, but it’s interesting nonetheless – a clip of Messiaen at the organ of La Trinité, Paris, preparing his registration before beginning an improvisation. Taken from the DVD Olivier Messiaen: Quartet for the End of Time/Improvisations. And here is the actual improvisation that follows.

MessiaenEclairs sur l’Au delà. Simon Rattle conducts the Berlin Phil in Messiaen’s last major work. Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 [removed by the copyright police], 8.

More Messiaen: from the same DVD, JanPB has uploaded two movements from Le quatour pour la fin du temps – ‘Liturgie de cristal‘, and ‘Louange à l’éternité de Jésus‘. He’s also uploaded a performance of Marie-Claire Alain playing ‘Les bergers‘, from one of my all-time favourite works, La nativité. Oh, and here’s Roger Muraro performing ‘Par lui tout a été fait‘, number six of the Vingt Régards.

Still more Messiaen – very tasty footage of Boulez, Aimard and the Ensemble Intercontemporain playing Oiseaux éxotiques. Thanks to Deceptively Simple for spotting this gem. Part 1, part 2. (User jre58591 has posted a bunch more piano-based Messiaen for the interested.)

MittererIdée Fixe. Played by the Pierrot Lunaire Ensemble Wien. Part 1, part 2. (There are two other performance of this piece by PLEW online, but this is the best sound quality I think.)

MurailTellur. Performed by Rafael Andia.

Nono… sofferte onde serene … Performed by Markus Hinterhäuser. Part 2 here.

Nono – Hölderlin, from Prometeo No visuals as such, just sound (as it should be in this case).

Oliveros – jamming with the Timeless Pulse Trio: part 1, part 2, part 3.

PendereckiCapriccio per oboe e orchestra. Performance of this classic showpiece – looks like it was recorded for TV, rather than a concert performance.

PendereckiThrenody No visuals, just the recording.

More Penderecki: Second Violin Concerto, played by Anne-Sophie Mutter, part 1, 2, 3, 4

RadulescuDas Andere, courtesy of Monday Evening Concerts. In three parts: 1, 2, 3, played by Vincent Royer.

ReichEight Lines. Unfortunately not the whole piece, but a good chunk; recording of the Dutch premiere, from 2005, by the London Steve Reich Ensemble.

ReynoldsThe Behaviour of Mirrors. Performed by guitarist P. Bowman.

RzewskiWinsboro Cotton Mill Blues. Performed by Roger Wright as part of the Cliburn piano competition.

More Rzewski – Bobby Mitchell performs The People United Will Never Be Defeated. In 8 parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.

Satie/Cale – John Cale – on that show ‘I’ve Got a Secret’ again – playing and talking about Erik Satie’s Vexations.

SatohIncarnation II. Performed by the composer Michail Goleminov.

Schat – Symposion. Opera on the death of Tchaikowsky. In many parts; begin here.

SchatTo You. Lucia Meeuwsen and Festival Ensemble. 1987 recording in three parts: 1, 2, 3.

Schnittke – Piano Sonatas. No.1: 1st movt, 2nd movt, 3rd movt, 4th movt; No.2: 1st movt, 2nd movt, 3rd movt; No.3: 1st movt, 2nd movt, 3rd movt, 4th movt.

SpeakEvent Horizon, played by Forum Music, Taiwan.

StockhausenSetz die Segel zur Sonne. The care and concentration before a note is played in the Messiaen clip reminds me in passing of Stockhausen’s instructions for his Aus den Seiben Tagen, of which this is the most well-known piece.

StockhausenKlavierstücke IX, played by Michail Goleminov.

StockhausenMichaels Reise um die Welt. Performed by musikFabrik and Marco Blaauw. In five parts: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.

StockhausenZyklus, played by Nick Tolle: part 1, part 2.

Subotnick Sidewinder.

TenneyWake for Charles Ives. Performed by the William Winant Percussion Group.

Varèse, Le Corbusier, XenakisPoème electronique. It’s not immediately clear, but these may be the original visuals for the famous Philips Pavilion performance of the work at Expo 58.

VarèseOffrandes. More Varèse, with a performance by Pierre Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporain.

VarèseIonisation. Boulez and the Ensemble Intercontemporain again.

XenakisEonta, courtesy of Monday Evening Concerts. In three parts: 1, 2, 3.

XenakisMetastaesis, with accompanying structural breakdown. Awesome.

XenakisMycenae Alpha. Another scrolling score video, this time with Xenakis’s original drawings from which the piece is generated.

Five part documentary (in Japanese) on Xenakis: part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Includes some great concert footage, and Xenakis gives his interviews in French, which might be of use.

XenakisPleïades: Melanges; Claviers parts 1 and 2; Metaux parts 1 and 2; Peaux parts 1 and 2. Played by the Yale Percussion Group.

XenakisRebonds, courtesy of Monday Evening Concerts and played by the incomparable Stephen Schick. In two parts: 1, 2.

XenakisSynaphaï, performed in Kyoto, piano solo played by Hiroaki Ooi. Part 2 here.

XenakisTetras, performed by the Arditti Quartet. Part 1, part 2.

Zimmerman, Bernd AloisRequiem für einen jungen Dichter No visuals, just the recording.

Zimmermann, Bernd AloisStille und Umkehr Again, few visuals to this one, just the recording.


32 thoughts on “Contemporary classical music on YouTube

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  2. Wow! I’ve just watched the video of Cage’s 4’33”. Having heard so many references to this piece, and even having written a research paper on Cage years ago, it was fascinating for me to see it actually staged. I have such mixed reactions to it. From the standpoint of a music administrator, it seems a bit like the Emperor’s New Clothes, a bit of a ridiculous notion that somehow picked up enough momentum that the majority was/is willing to pay it undue respect. But still, one cannot deny the work’s significance – whether that comes from Cage’s ingenuity or, again, from the importance that has since been ascribed to the piece through subsequent performances staged for the sheer spectacle of the work. One feels silly even referring to this as a “performance” as, traditionally speaking anyway, it defies the basic notions of presenting a musical composition. If little else, though, 4’33” is a good catalyst for leading one to consider the philosophical underpinnings in the notions of music and music-making, ideas that otherwise would almost always be simply assumed. To me, there is a certain extent to which it seems (or perhaps feels?) that a piece like 4’33” would have inevitably been written at some point in the history of the development and exploration of music. Perhaps it was the cultural and artistic atmosphere of experimentation at the time, combined with Cage’s outspoken philosophical ideals, that allowed this particular framing of silence to achieve such notoriety.

    1. I know this is a VERY late response but hopefully it is still valid! I picked up on your Emperor’s New Clothes comment as this is the background for the title of my new blog. (“The Emperor’s New Music?”) Much contemporary classical music is like children: better seen than heard. (I don’t really mean that about children, but sometimes old expressions still fit!) So the 4’33” concert was really popular but how often do you hear this on the radio? I have heard OF it but I do not recall HEARING it. How many CDs has it sold? How often is it repeated in live performance compared to say any number of symphonies from Haydn through to Sibelius? My friends are all very committed supporters of classical music, attending numerous concerts and providing substantial extra donations. Yet we ask, why are these awful cacophonous noises that comprise most contemporary classical music, inflicted on us? Contemporary composers should pay more heed to the people who financially support them and pay to go to their concerts, not the academics and critics. We would be thrilled to support composers who could provide us with pleasant harmonies and melodies. Currently we all dread premiere performances, and any that are even slightly harmonic are greeted with acclaim and relief!

    2. I’d buy a CD with 4’33” on it and I’d love to hear it on the radio. BTW, I don’t think it’s actually a framing of silence. I think it’s a framing of sound.

  3. The “Poème electronique” visuals are indeed the original sequence of images (selected by Le Corbusier) that were projected on the interior of the pavillion as the music played.

  4. Never mind (my mention of YouTube today). Obviously I still have a lot of your blog to read. Enjoying every bit of it as I go. What a great resource. Thanks.

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