There’s a new kid on the block. Post-classical music is a growing phenomenon that brings the sounds of classical music together with digital and studio effects normally found in the pop world.
Many of these albums feature personal music performed by solo pianists, while others explore a larger canvas, harnessing full orchestra, synthesizers and clever production techniques. This new contemporary music is being embraced by millions – no wonder that the likes of conductor Kristjan Järvi are dipping their toes in this exciting experimental genre.
This list will change as new releases appear, so check back from time to time to see what we’ve selected.
Richter (lead image) has been leading the pack for some time, since his album The Blue Notebooks changes the rules back in 2004 with its innovative use of ambient sounds, voices and slow moving, hypnotic strings. Voices is a sonic journey through the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with passages narrated over ambient music for strings, piano and voices. Richter’s ‘upside-down orchestra’ places an emphasis on the lower members of the string section, for a more resonating bass sound.
The Sand that Ate the Sea
Australian composer Luke Howard reflects on his homeland’s delicate eco-system and the damage that climate change has wrought upon the landscape. It’s a mournful album, as you might expect – but listen out for his debts of Arvo Pärt and his inventive uses of musical textures to create a sense of claustrophobia and dizziness.
Sebastian Mullaert and the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich
Zurich’s Tonhalle concert hall is known for its nightclub evenings that follow on from its traditional concerts. So – why not bring the two together? This album, which reflects on the fragility and beauty of nature, brings members of the Tonhalle Orchestra together with DJ and producer Sebastian Mullaert for an atmospheric treat.
You Finally Knew
The American pianist the composer looks to Chopin for this album of original works. This is Lawson in reflective mode, much of it charming in its innocence and simplicity. A beautiful album for the darker, more wintry days ahead. ‘Rain’ is typical of Lawson’s gift for expressing deep emotion with the slenderest of means.
The Stolen Cello
The ‘stolen cello’ refers to an instrument Redi Hasa took with him when he fled his native war-torn Albania in 1990. Hasa, a long-term collaborator with Ludovico Einaudi, is a gifted player and uses multi-tracking to achieve rich tapestries of sound. ‘Little Street Football Made of Socks’ is brilliant, poignant look back to his childhood.
Kristjan Järvi, Nordic Pulse Ensemble & London Symphony Orchestra
Lockdown has been hard for most musicians – and many have sought to reflect their pain and uncertainty in music. Nordic Escapes represents a home-coming and a refuge for conductor Kristjan Järvi – this is his first album of self-composed music and it contains vast washes of sound and atmospheric, icy sounds. Listen to the folky ‘Nebula’ for a beautiful sonic image of the frozen Baltic landscapes.
Tales of Solace
Stephan Moccio is a pop songwriter extraordinaire, having written for the likes of Celine Dion and Avril Lavigne. The Canadian musician’s training, however, was classically-grounded, and this album, while not specifically intended for lockdown, was released at the height of the COVID crisis. It’s a collection of reflective piano miniatures, performed on a dampened Yamaha piano. Many of them are intensely beautiful.
Arash Safaian, Sebastian Knauer, ZürcherKammerorchester
This Is (Not) Beethoven
Here’s something different for the Beethoven year. Much of this inspired album, which features reworked and recomposed Beethoven works, is rooted in the composer’s Symphony No. 7, although the opening track is a rather stunning version of the ‘Moonlight’ Sonata while the fugue from the ‘Hammerklavier’ gets a majestic make-over.
Pianist and composer Meredi’s debut album is a collection of atmospheric piano pieces, intimately performed and recorded. There’s an improvisatory feel to the music, and much of it feels heartfelt. ‘Circles in the Sky’ is the undoubted highlight.
Bruce Brubaker & Max Cooper
This is among the most inventive of the albums in this list – while pianist Bruce Brubaker plays works by Glass, Max Cooper takes the ‘data’ from his playing and adds mesmerising digital effects. It works, because of the timelessness and futuristic feel of Glass’s music. Challenging at times, but always beautifully conceived and endlessly imaginative.
Header image by Getty Images