Music from the 1960s

Music from the 1960s
KIrchner String Quartet No. 3
© Kirchner Quartet No 3.
Copyright 1971 by AMP.
All rights reserved.
Used by permission.
The sixties – nostalgically seen by some as the height of counterculture and revolution in social norms about clothing, music, drugs, dress, sexuality, formalities, and schooling; alternatively seen by others as a decade of irresponsible excess, flamboyance, and decay of social order. Whatever camp you fall in, here’s a playlist we can all enjoy of great pieces composed during that tumultuous time. And remember, make music, not war.

Complete recordings are available in our Music from the 1960s playlist on Spotify. No Spotify account? Click the audio icons below to hear excerpts on the Music Sales Classical clip-player.Elliott Carter
"The general character of my Concerto for Orchestra…was suggested by the Nobel prize-winning poem Vents (Winds) by the French poet who calls himself St. John Perse. The poem had attracted me by its expansive, almost Whitmanesque, descriptions of a United States constantly swept by forces like winds, forces that are always transforming, remolding, or obliterating the past and introducing the fresh and the new."
— Elliott Carter
Carter won the 1960 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his String Quartet No. buttonConcerto for Orchestra
Henry Cowell
"The form is unusual: five tiny movements; a choral-like introduction, an impassioned melody, a scherzo, a longer quiet melody, an irregular-rhythm dance which leads into a recapitulation of these elements in one movement, and at the end a sonata-form movement based on an extension of the primary motiv (a descending whole followed by a half step), which is the mainstay of all movements. As the last movement is in sonata form, I decided to call it my 15th Symphony."
— Henry Cowellplay buttonSymphony No. 15, Thesis
Henri Dutilleux
"In Métaboles, a succession of five movements highlighting different sections of the orchestra, the influence of Stravinsky and, at times, American jazz, is obvious…Dutilleux knows that music is fundamentally a form of communication, of spiritual and sonic empathy between composer, performers, and audience."
— Russell Platt, The New Yorkerplay buttonMétaboles
Roy Harris
"The Ninth Symphony (1962) is based on two quintessentially American sources: the Constitution and parts of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman‚ a poet who meant a lot to Harris…The second movement‚ ‘to form a more perfect Union,’ is suitably pensive since Whitman had experience of the Civil War‚ and it recalls the sound of Ives at a time when he was little known. The final movement‚ also based on Whitman‚ is a nationalistic celebration."
Gramophoneplay buttonSymphony No. 9
Karel Husa
"Filled with the tension of a Hitchcock film, Husa's 1969 work captures strife and heartbreak [with] ominous timpani, warlike snare drums, toxic trumpets and a chilling, robotic, cacophonous climax — all combined to weave a disturbing but mesmerizing and riveting spell."
Jacksonville News-Journal
Husa won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his String Quartet No. buttonMusic for Prague 1968
Leon Kirchner
"Music for Orchestra is a hauntingly beautiful 14-minute piece Kirchner finished in 1969 at the request of the New York Philharmonic, which commissioned a number of works from leading composers to celebrate its 125th anniversary... In some ways [it] is a miniature concerto for orchestra, in that the spotlight illuminates solo instruments, sections of the orchestra, and unusual combinations of instruments until everyone has made his contribution."
— Richard Dyer
Kirchner won the 1967 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his String Quartet No. 3. play buttonMusic for Orchestra
John Corigliano
"…the ingenious musical fabric of Corigliano's 1967 concerto has stood the test of time. While clearly a modern work, engaging harmonies are interwoven throughout this ambitious exploration of compositional techniques, including 12-tone rows and arresting tone clusters, plus hints of minimalism and counterpoint."
The Denver Postplay buttonConcerto for Piano and Orchestra
Witold Lutoslawski
"The real ground-breaker,…is the Second Symphony, a seething, structured mass in two parts: the first, nervous and diffuse (with strikingly original passagework for piano and percussion), the second — which arrives without a break — initially dense, but ultimately ethereal."
GRAMOPHONE play buttonSymphony No. 2
Olivier Messiaen
"…Chronochromie hit like a thunderbolt: sudden, deafening, mind-disorienting. It…offers something for everyone. It has intellectual thrills in its construction, an esoteric building plan having to do with durations of time and their continuous permutations. For the unthinking, it has explosions of sound-color separated by blocks of lesser density and by layered silence. It gives no rest to the attentive."
LA Timesplay buttonChronochromie
Thea Musgrave
"The work is…a continuous movement for chamber orchestra with specially prominent parts for two horns — a continuation…of her series of works using and extending the traditional concerto principle. It is a strong shapely piece…(it) avowedly has no programme, but her vivid graphic writing invites description in emotive adjectives. Music, in fact, underlaid by strong feeling, and also lucidly laid out; not a big work, but another notable token of her originality and distinction of thought.
The Times (London)play buttonNight Music
Krzysztof Penderecki
"Let the Threnody express my firm belief that the sacrifice of Hiroshima will never be forgotten and lost."
— Krzysztof Pendereckiplay buttonThrenody (To the Victims of Hiroshima)
Walter Piston
"I must say I've always composed music from the point of view of the performers. I love instruments, and I value the cooperation of the performers. I believe in the contribution of the player to the music as written."
— Walter Pistonplay buttonSymphony No. 7 1961 Pulitzer Prize in Music
Morton Gould
"They have been born of work and play, of suffering and joy, of oppression and liberation. Listening to spirituals is not passive; it is rather an act of participation — a sense of communal expression. The words are invariably basic, and the music mirrors their inflection. Perhaps it is due to this inflection, which is so characteristic, that when one hears the musical phrases alone the matching words are immediately evoked."
— Morton Gouldplay buttonSpirituals
Malcolm Arnold
"The 'Overture' is optimistic, magnificently orchestrated and serenading in its manner. The central 'Ballad' is at first a far more haunted affair…Not that it does not soon find a lyric touch in best commercial manner but it is hesitant and there is some dark occlusion. The 'Vivace' has the dance vigour of counterpart movements by Creston or Harris and the use of bongos and pattering and clicking percussion emphasises an element which we also hear in the Commonwealth Christmas Overture and five years later in the Fourth Symphony".
— Rob Barnett, MusicWeb-International.complay buttonLittle Suite No. 2
Xavier Montsalvatge
"It is not meant to be another set of variations, or even less a simple re-orchestration of the original for violin solo, but rather an in-depth look into the living and ever-present mystery that seems to be at the heart of all of Bach's music governed by classical coordinates. The piece opens with the first chords of the Ciaccona with its original harmony; but from this point on there is a gradual move away from all of that until we finally reach a complete disintegration. Then, in the last few bars, it returns to the genuine reality of the score."
— Xavier Montsalvatgeplay buttonDesintegración Morfológica de la Chacona de J.S. Bach
Samuel Barber
"It made a decided hit with the audience, and it may be that Mr. Barber has supplied a repertory piece…This is a real virtuoso concerto, with some staggeringly difficult writing. It also has a strong melodic profile, a lyric slow movement and a sense of confidence — the confidence that comes only from an experienced composer engaged in a work that interests him."
— Harold C. Schonberg, The New York Times, Sep 25 1962play buttonConcerto for Piano 1962 Pulitzer Prize in Music
George Crumb
"I wanted to express in musical terms the various qualities of metaphysical and psychological time…
— George Crumbplay buttonEchoes of Time and the River 1968 Pulitzer Prize in Music

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