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Gentleman's Philosophy

5 Underrated Composers Every Gentleman Should Listen To

Afternoon gents, it’s Max from the Young Gentleman’s Guide here! To start, I would like to apologize for not posting anything for so long. I’ve been so incredibly busy since I just started a teaching credential program that has been eating up almost all of my time. While I will continue to be even more busy with it in the coming months, I’ll try to continue to keep posting as often as I can. Moving on from that, in today’s article, I’m going to list five (5) composers that every gentleman should listen to at least once, as well as some of my favorite pieces that they have written. I’m going to avoid listing those select composers that everyone has heard of or whose peices are more popular in the mainstream, such as Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, or Sousa. I’m going to try to list certain composers that not as many people have heard of. On top of that, I’m going to try to list composers from various eras of music instead of having all of them come from one era. So without any further delay, let’s get started!

1. Giovanni Gabrieli (1557-1612)

This Venetian Renaissance composer and organist was one of the most revolutionary composers of his time, and he brought about a number of musical innovations during his tenure as principal composer at St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. Not only was he one of the first composers to introduce written dynamics into music with his piece Sonata Pian’e Forte, but he also effectively laid the groundwork for modern brass playing by writing most of his non-choral music for the cornetto and sackbut, which later evolved into what we know as the trumpet and the trombone. He was also a master of the musical concept of antiphony, the idea that two or more musical phrases could be responsive and conversational with each other. Since he worked in a cathedral with many different areas for musicians to play and sing throughout the church, this allowed him to write antiphonal music that took advantage of this unique space. Gabrieli is definitely a must-listen for anyone who has a desire to listen to some deeply spiritual pieces, especially anyone who is Catholic.

Favorite pieces by Gabrieli

Sonata Pian’e Forte

Beata es, virgo Maria

Hic est filius Dei

Canzon à 12

Canzona per Sonare No. 2

Canzona per Sonare No. 1 “La Spiritata”

2. Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)

Known as the father of the modern symphony, Haydn was not the first composer to write the symphony, but he was the one to standardize the symphony’s form into how we know it today. He also standardized the form of the string quartet as we know. On top of that, he was one of the first composers to ever write a concerto for trumpet. He was also a very competent businessman, being able to make quite a bit of money for his music. Haydn would definitely be a good composer to listen to to get an idea of how the modern symphony began to take shape.

Favorite pieces by Haydn

Trumpet Concerto in E-Flat Major

Symphony No. 94 “Surprise”

Symphony No. 104 in D Major (“London” Symphony No. 7)

String Quartet No. 62 in C Major

3. Gustav Mahler (1860-1911)

I’ve talked about Mahler before in this article, but it still stands to reason that Mahler is an incredibly underrated composer whose music is nothing short of astounding. Many people described Mahler as a composer who was possessed by his music, and it’s hard to dispute that after listening to his symphonies. His symphonies are some of the most grandiose pieces I’ve ever heard, which makes sense since he based all of his symphonies around the mystery of human existence itself, including all the joy, sorrow, ironies, trauma, and introspection that comes with it. While Mahler was never very popular in his day, most likely because of the widespread prejudice against Jewish people during his lifetime, his music has grown in popularity immensely since World War II. If there’s anyone who wants to be fully immersed into a composer’s music as well as the composer’s mindset while writing said music, I would highly recommend giving Mahler’s symphonies a listen.

Favorite pieces by Mahler

Symphony No. 1 in D Major “Titan”

Symphony No. 2 in C Minor “Resurrection”

Symphony No. 5 in C-Sharp Minor

Symphony No. 8 in E-Flat Major “Symphony of a Thousand”

4. Richard Strauss (1864-1949)

This late Romantic era composer was a master of programmatic music, that being music that told stories. His music told epic, dramatic stories and took its listeners on journeys, and his works also covered a wide array of subjects and genres. Pieces like Don Juan were inspired by classic literature, Also Sprach Zarathustra was inspired by modern philosophies spreading quickly throughout Europe at the time, and Ein Heldenleben was said to be inspired by one’s own internal struggles. Anyone who enjoys having stories told to them through music should definitely give his music a listen.

Favorite pieces by Strauss

Also Sprach Zarathustra

Don Juan

Ein Heldenleben

5. Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)

This Modernist Russian composer was certainly revolutionary for his time. He employed a lot of modernist practices in his music at a time where Joseph Stalin and his Communist Party leaders were tightening their grip on Russia. As a result of this tightening grip, many Modernists were either being pushed to the side or had their lives threatened in favor of music that was more conservative and more palatable to the Russian public. While there were a few times where Shostakovich quelled his more modernist tendencies in order to please the general public, Shostakovich still pushed many boundaries in the realms of tonality, musical structure, and timbre. Anyone looking to have their musical boundaries challenged should absolutely give Shostakovich’s music a listen.

Favorite pieces by Shostakovich

Jazz Suite II

24 Preludes: No. 14

Piano Concerto No.2 in F Major

Symphony No. 5 in D Minor

So there it is! There are five (5) classical music composers who I believe are very underrated and deserve to be recognized more than they are in mainstream society. I’m sure there are some pieces listed here that at least some of you have heard at some point, but these are just general lists of composers and pieces I think deserve a bit more love. If any of you have any suggestions of any composers or pieces that you think are underrated or underappreciated, be sure to let me know in the comments! In any case, I hope you enjoyed reading today’s article. Please be sure to share the article, follow the blog, and follow The Young Gentleman’s Guide on Facebook and Instagram. And on that note, this is Max from The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you next time!

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