The Second ABC Classic Hundred – Not Quite as Conservative

Yesterday, Classic FM produced a list of the works that received enough votes for a second Hottest 100 Classical of the 20th Century.  On it features some of the works I put in my Salon Des Refuses post but it is still dominated by composers who made appearances in the big list. I am placing the composers in the same categories I used in the analysis of the big list – The Screamers, The Challengers, Throwbacks, Impressionists and Nationalists; Late Romantics; The Americans; The Minimalists; Modern Australians (I made this distinction because of Grainger and James, whose sound is very different to that struck by the Australian compositions from the 1960s to today); Soundtracks – with new categories – Genteel Modernity (new sounds that don’t offend very much at all) and Pastoral.


121, CAGE, J – 4’33” (Screaming silence)

172, STOCKHAUSEN, K – Helicopter String Quartet

191, CRUMB, G – Black Angels

That’s it.



101, BERG, A – Violin Concerto (could be said to be Brahms meets serial)

102, BARTOK, B – Music for Strings, Percussion & Celeste

109, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – Piano Trio No.2 in e minor Op.67

120, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – Cello Concerto No.1 In E-flat Op.107

125, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – String Quartet No. 8 in C minor, Op. 110

126, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – Symphony No.11 in g minor Op.103, ‘The Year 1905’ (even if it’s second tier, propaganda Shostakovich)

142, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – Violin Concerto No.1 In a minor Op.77

165, RAVEL, M – La Valse

170, PENDERECKI, K – Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima

173, BRITTEN, B – A Midsummer Night’s Dream (though some might argue this is very “pastoral”)

180, PROKOFIEV, S – Violin Concerto No. 1 in D, Op. 19

181, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – Piano Quintet in g minor Op.57

189, PROKOFIEV, S. – Piano Concerto No. 2

194, RAVEL, M – Gaspard de la Nuit: Trois poemes pour piano d’apres Aloysius Bertrand

A few more than the first list.


THROWBACKS (with the occasional nod to modernity)

103, GRAINGER, P – Handel in the Strand (Clog Dance), after Handel’s ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’

104, WALTON, W – Belshazzar’s Feast (though it does have modern aspects)

105, BRUCH, M – Konzertstk for violin and orchestra in F sharp minor, Op. 84

108, RUTTER, J – A Gaelic Blessing, ‘Deep Peace’

110, RODRIGO, J – Fantasia para un Gentilhombre

111, DVORAK, A – Rusalka

123, FALLA, M de – Nights in the Gardens of Spain

124, RUTTER, J – Requiem

130, RUTTER, J – For the Beauty of the Earth

133, RACHMANINOFF, S – vocalise

134, RAVEL, M – Le Tombeau de Couperin (to an extent)

137, GRAINGER, P – Country Gardens

145, PARRY, H – I Was Glad

156, JAMES, W – Australian Christmas Carols

162, RACHMANINOFF, S – Symphonic Dances, Op. 45

164, ELGAR, E – Introduction and Allegro for strings

168, DURUFLE, M – Requiem Op 9

171, TAVENER, J – The Protecting Veil

184, RUTTER, J – The Lord Bless You and Keep You

185, BRITTEN, B – Simple Symphony

197, BRUCH, M – Serenade Op.75 for Violin and Orchestra

Quite a lot there.



110, RODRIGO, J – Fantasia para un Gentilhombre

118, DEBUSSY, C – Nocturnes

123, FALLA, M de – Nights in the Gardens of Spain

131, ALBENIZ, I – Iberia

143, DEBUSSY, C – Children’s Corner (incl. Golliwogg’s Cakewalk)

154, RAVEL, M – Piano Trio in a minor

157, DEBUSSY, C – Images

161, RAVEL, M – Piano Concerto for the Left Hand

176, RODRIGO, J – Concierto Andaluz

182, SIBELIUS, J – Valse Triste

195, RAVEL, M – Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet



148, MAHLER, G – Symphony No.7 in e minor

159, STRAUSS, R – Salome [Includes ‘Ich habe deinen Mund gekusst, Jokanaan’]

186, KORNGOLD, E – Die Tote Stadt

187, STRAUSS, R – Metamorphosen

Not as many as we saw in the main list – mind you, there was more Strauss and Mahler that made it there.



119, JARRETT, K – The Koln Concert

144, COPLAND, A – Rodeo

147, JOPLIN, S – The Entertainer

158, GROFE – Grand Canyon Suite

Each of the Americans like to combine features of what is around them and represented a distinctive voice which I don’t think composers from other nations can quite capture.



113, GLASS, P – Glassworks

169, GLASS, P – Einstein on the Beach (I prefer PDQ Bach’s version – Einstein on the Fritz)

175, REICH, S – Different Trains

178, GLASS, P – Mad Rush

179, GLASS, P – Metamorphosis

192, GLASS, P – Symphony No.4, ‘Heroes’

STILL no Short Ride in a Fast Machine. Very surprising.



112, EDWARDS, R – Symphony No.1 Da pacem Domine

114, SCULTHORPE, P – Earth Cry

129, SCULTHORPE, P – Left Bank Waltz

132, KOEHNE, G – To His Servant Bach

155, SCULTHORPE, P – Sun Music III

163, EDWARDS, R – Oboe Concerto

177, VINE, C – Piano Concerto

183, KOEHNE, G – Inflight Entertainment

199, WESTLAKE, N – Missa Solis

200, KATS-CHERNIN, E – Russian Rag

The Australian composers in the list are generally quite gentle and unchallenging in the context of the range of music of the century. Note no Richard Mills, Larry Sitsky, Nigel Butterley, Alan John and any number of composers you could name.



116, WILLIAMS, J – Star Wars

135, COATES, E – The Dambusters March

136, NYMAN, M – The Heart Asks Pleasure First from ‘The Piano’

166, MORRICONE, E – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly



106, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – Piano Concerto No.2 in F Op.102

107, PART, A – Tabula Rasa

117, PROKOFIEV, S – Piano Concerto No.3 In C Op.26 (this very romantic moments)

127, PART, A. – Fratres

128, JANACEK, L – Sinfonietta

138, ENESCU, G – Romanian Rhapsody No. 1 in A major, Op. 11

139, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – Suite for Jazz Orchestra No.2

140, PIAZZOLLA, A. – Le Grand Tango

141, PIAZZOLLA, A. – Libertango

146, BARTOK, B. – Romanian Folk Dances

149, POULENC, F – Organ Concerto in G minor

150, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – 24 Preludes and Fugues Op.87

151, SHOSTAKOVICH, D – Piano Concerto No.1 In c minor Op.35 (for Piano, Trumpet, and Strings)

152, STRAVINSKY, I – Symphony of Psalms (also Neo Classical)

160, KHACHATURIAN, A – Masquerade

167, FANSHAWE, D – African Sanctus

174, KHACHATURIAN, A – Gayane

183, KOEHNE, G – Inflight Entertainment

190, SPARKE, P. – Dance Movements

193, KHACHATURIAN, A – Violin Concerto in D minor

196, WALTON, W – Facade

199, WESTLAKE, N – Missa Solis

200, KATS-CHERNIN, E – Russian Rag

Quite easy works to listen to – but aren’t substantive throwbacks, more they sit happily in contemporary concert halls and on the radio as a gentle transition to a new era that is mostly tonally and structurally consistent with the music that has gone before. I like the works on this list as a soundtrack for the car or while writing blogs.



115, VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, R – Symphony No.5 in D

122, DELIUS, F – On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring

153, VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, R – Symphony No.1, ‘A Sea Symphony’

188, VAUGHAN WILLIAMS, R – Symphony No.3, ‘A Pastoral Symphony’

198, SIBELIUS, J – Symphony No. 3 in C major, Op. 52

This category could have been used before – but more for Sibelius than Vaughan Williams or Elgar. This category tells us that the focus being matching the landscape with music, rather than following a structure that happens to depict nature in some way.  I also think there was a distinctiveness about the sound of Vaughan Williams, Delius and Sibelius that is not necessarily 19th Century – though some might argue that they are all throwbacks as well.

That’s it. The list still finds itself dominated by fairly conservative music choices. That’s not a bad thing, on the whole, in terms of my own tastes. I like tonal music and the Vine Piano Concerto is a fantastic work, to name a work that I really enjoy from this list. Time was that I played the Shostakovich 2nd Concerto and had a blast. In terms of musical history and tastes, it does reveal a liking for music that tugs the heart and moves us – and that’s no bad thing.

I in many ways prefer this list to the Top 100 – it features a lot more Shostakovich, Vaughan Williams and Glass than the top 100 – indicating their general level of popularity amongst the listening audience. However, there are quite stark gaps in the list. No Scriabin or Medtner, for example. No Martinu or Nielsen. No Bartok Third Piano Concerto.   No Busoni Piano Concerto.  There is, however, some absolute crackers in the list.  The Shostakovich Preludes and Fugues, for example. And plenty of others I’m sure people could mention.


7 thoughts on “The Second ABC Classic Hundred – Not Quite as Conservative

  1. Tim Mortimer (@bloodymortimer) says:

    To me, this “analysis” doesn’t really reveal anything we don’t already know.

    There seems to be some implication that the people who voted are “conservative”, because they don’t embrace highly academic music with strong amounts of dissonance or extended performance practice in it.

    Whilst this projects an image of “authority” on the subject for the author, it doesn’t really lend any weight, substance, or clarity to whatever it is that you are attempting to illuminate through your observations.

    Are you asserting that the listeners are “ignorant” in some way because they choose to want to listen to music that functions in a way that is in befitting with the various levels of attention (or not) the radio may receive from them during the course of the day?

    I think most people would acknowledge that radio is effectively a form of “wallpaper” / “light entertainment” that contributes a sense of “bearability” to their environment during their workday or downtime, & in that respect, i think the choices of the listeners show a great deal of common sense & astuteness – music that, on the whole, functions as both “friendly accompaniment” & rewards more focussed attention should the opportunity present itself, or the particular recording or piece strike the listener in a way that demands it.

    To me, votes excessively weighted in favour of “screamers & challengers” would denote an even greater level of conservatism – one that failed to acknowledge the potential for recorded music to function effectively at various levels of audience attention, or the validity of anyone’s taste or opinion formed independently of the doctrines of institutionalised music practice or criticism.

    It would be more illuminating perhaps to address what may motivate people to play favourites in the first place?

    1. prestontowers says:

      I’m not saying that conservatism is a bad thing. Indeed, my own voting was leaning more towards the conservative and even the throwbacks. It’s got some good qualities, this list. I am speaking more broadly about our tastes – that we seem to like the tonal works – and that’s not a bad thing.

      1. Tim Mortimer (@bloodymortimer) says:

        To which i am simply suggesting that perhaps it is no longer entirely clear who occupies the “conservative” side of this “tonal / avant” polarity …

        I voted for Ligeti & Cascarino, at both extremes of the spectrum. & happily acknowledge they were both, as much as anything, “protest votes” to try & encourage Classic FM to simply “widen the net” a little…. (although I genuinely enjoy them both…)

        I think only 1 piece i voted for made it into the top 200… & it was top 5…

      2. prestontowers says:

        I don’t think all tonal music is conservative – I’ve been taken to task for calling Shostakovich a “screamer”, for example. I think, though, that much of the genteel modernity is fairly conservative in outlook and construction – again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  2. Barrie says:

    Such a pity composers like ligeti and xenakis weren’t present, key composers both of them, great innovators. I still listen to Stockhausen’s Kontakte that I bought in 1962, its actually starting to sound conventional. Yes I’d like to see a more adventurous top 100 too.
    I wonder what the ABC’s top presenters think about the more adventurous composers of the 20th and 21st century.

  3. Louise says:

    I don’t have anything hi-brow to say…. sorry. I must say the music felt quite ‘samey’ to me in parts, maybe I just kept hearing Mahler when I turned on the radio, or maybe because there were several Mahler pieces. Actually Mahler was featured heavily on ABC FM throughout 2011 as it was the anniversary of his death – maybe people heard more Mahler and he has become a recent favourite.
    I voted for some later composers and couldn’t believe they didn’t feature!
    Finally John Williams came in at #116 with Star Wars – what an outstanding piece. Stirring, evocative, majestic and modern. What about more Williams?
    Where was Ravi Shankar and his AWESOME sitar? with Ry Cooder on slide? Anne Carr-Boyd on mandolin? Whoa, we missed out on some treats there.
    I really enjoyed the countdown (and the discussion and format) but I was disappointed that there wasn’t more support and votes for contemporary classical music in the Top 200 and they probably didn’t make it into the Top 500.

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