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Famous for a single piece

Just for fun, can you suggest any composers that are loved for a single item in the repertoire? Or can you suggest any other pieces that you enjoy performing by these same composers?

Here are three to start off:
  • Henry Balfour Gardiner, whose Evening Hymn perfectly fits the mood of Choral Evensong.
  • Richard Ayleward, whom I know and love only for his Responses for morning and evening prayer.
  • Rev L Flintoft, whose psalm chant in G minor (14 bars only) is the setting of choice for the most penitential or mournful of psalms.
Any others?

Replies (43): Threaded | Chronological
on October 4, 2010 3:00pm
on October 9, 2010 5:43am
Do I dare mention Eric Whitacre's Cloudburst?  Yes, I know that most choral directors will be at least familiar with a few more of his works, but Cloudburst is such a super-hit that I'll bet that most choral singers are only familiar with that one piece.
on October 4, 2010 3:29pm
Biebl: Ave Maria
on October 4, 2010 4:08pm
Actually, I know John Ireland for a set of eleven wonderful art songs for solo voice and piano (ok, so they're not for chorus, sorry).
on October 4, 2010 4:39pm
Wilhousky Battle Hymn
on October 7, 2010 7:36pm
Wilhousky did Carol of the Bells too didn't he?
on October 8, 2010 5:17am
Leontovich might have something to say about that
on October 4, 2010 4:43pm
Arnold Bax: This Worlde's Joie.
on October 4, 2010 6:54pm
Hildigunnur Runarsdottir wrote:
Arnold Bax: This Worlde's Joie.
I might have said instead, "Arnold Bax: Tintagel."
Please, choral people, don't forget that there is music beyond the choral world!  And a corollary: Remember that it's the music first, the singing second.
on October 5, 2010 12:33am
Absolutely - I also love the Nonet and the string quartets but the focus here is on choral music.
on October 5, 2010 6:45am
We can't forget Bax's "Mater Ora Filium".  I am afraid he is now out of the discussion.
on October 5, 2010 6:57am
IMO the Mater Ora is nowhere close to the Joie, and neither is the I sing of a Maiden, so afaik my point stands... :þ
on October 4, 2010 7:26pm
Aguiar - Salmo 150
Machaut - Messe de Nostre Dame
on October 4, 2010 7:39pm
Nigel et al.
A similar question was discussed on the OrchestraList a few months ago, and the result was that every name brought up was associated with additional music that someone else was familiar with.  The upshort was that the question measured not the reputation of the composers, but the ignorance of those who did not know more of their works, and there really WERE no one-shot wonders.
I suspect that we'll see the same thing here.
All the best,
on October 4, 2010 9:41pm
Amen, Sir John
on October 5, 2010 12:34am
Yes - isn't this really a means to get to know other great music? We as a whole are an amazing source of information, aren't we? ;)
on October 5, 2010 5:48am
   May I address this from the composer's perspective?
   Having sold something close to a half million copies over the past twenty years there is no hubris in noting that my own "Sing Me to Heaven" is familiar to, and well liked by, a substantial number of choral conductors. Sadly (from my perspective at least), for many of those conductors it is almost certainly the only work of mine with which they are familiar. Proof? If you know Sing Me to Heaven, how many other titles from my published catalog of over a hundred pieces can you say you have ever even heard?
   This is the sort of thing which keeps me up at night! ;-)
   I know as surely as the sun rises in the east that I have written better music to even stronger texts and that these works are in print and readily available. And yet, time after time, I encounter conductors who, upon learning my identity, thank me for SMTH and cheerfully admit that they know nothing else of mine. 
   Don't get me wrong--I'm grateful to have been able to touch many hearts through my music for that deeply meaningful text over the years, but I am horrified at the thought that, in the minds of most conductors, that is not only the best of my output (it certainly is not) but the totality of my output.
   I cannot help but think that lots of the composers named above would feel similarly.
   Bottom line: when you encounter a piece which seems to have achieved a popularity which has been denied to the rest of this composer's work, you can make one of two assumptions: 1) This must have been a fluke, or 2) There must be some other nuggets in this mine because nuggets rarely appear singly. The reasons why the other nuggets aren't as well known typically have a great deal to do with the luck of circumstances which are completely unrelated to the inherent value of the scores.
   All I'm saying is, give piece(s) a chance!
Dan Gawthrop
on October 5, 2010 5:13pm
Hi, Dan, and thanks so much for the composer's perspective on this question.  But I have to wonder just a bit about your points in your last paragraph.  You write--quite understandably and just as you promised--from the composer's perspective.  But your assumption that "There must be some other nuggets in this mine because nuggets rarely appear singly" makes an a priori assumption that those searching for music to program are more concerned with the composers than with the music they produce.  (Or perhaps you are complaining that this is not the case, and should be.)
I can only compare this with my own reading habits.  There are a few--a VERY few--authors whose work I will seek out because I know I will get a good read from them.  A good story teller is a good story teller.  But in general I don't CARE who the author is; I just want to discover a good read, and I'm more than happy to find someone unknown to me who has what it takes.  Same thing for movies or TV shows.  I don't follow particular actors because I don't really care about THEM, I care about what they produce, and I care about finding a good movie that speaks to me.  And I feel the same about music.
Just two different approaches, I know, and neither necessarily better or worse than the other, but it's an interesting contrast nevertheless.
All the best,
on October 6, 2010 12:41am
I agree with Dan more than John here - I think that so many of us are content with the known and proved and are afraid of seeking out other things that might (or might not, of course) be equally good or better, and well, if a composer has written a true jewel there just might be more in his or her coffers.
My own music isn't all equally good, I don't think any composer can truly say every song or piece is a masterwork but there IS more than one that I'd like to get known (easier around here in our tiny country where everybody knows all the other conductors, though).
on October 8, 2010 9:17am
"But your assumption that "There must be some other nuggets in this mine because nuggets rarely appear singly" makes an a priori assumption that those searching for music to program are more concerned with the composers than with the music they produce."
No, sorry, but it makes no such assumption. 
It seems rather self-evident that a source which has previously yielded something of value may yet yield additional valuable items, and that your chances for success will be greater there than in an otherwise random search. That's all. And that thesis will be found either accurate or not. It won't matter in the slightest what concerns an individual conductor may bring to the search. 
on October 5, 2010 5:57am
Quirino Gasparini [c.1749-1770] Adoramus te,Christe-satb. Ed. E .Bieler,Koln, 1957. A gem.
on October 5, 2010 7:08am
John Howell and Daniel Gawthorpe bring up good points regarding our limited knowledge bases.  That being said three composers immediately came to mind for being very well known for one piece, despite having a vast compositional output.
1. Victor Paranjoti "Dravidian Dithyramb"
2. Williametta Spencer "At the round Earth's Imagined Corners"
3. Paul Manz "E'en so Lord Jesus, Quickly Come"
Now, I am as guilty as anyone for having programmed the three pieces listed above, but I have failed to attempt other pieces from their compositional outputs.  I think we all need to take the challenge to look at the names on this list, broaden our knowledge, and program other pieces from these composers.  Nigel you have started a great discussion thread.
on October 5, 2010 7:09am
Are you planning a concert of One Hit Choral Wonders?
on October 5, 2010 7:40am
To Gawthrop,
FYI - We will be singing Guardian Angel at ACDA-MI Fall Conference. The group loves it - thank you for writing it!
on October 5, 2010 8:20am
M. Thomas Cousins: Glorious Everlasting
And for the record, I researched him for program notes when I used this last year, and not only did I not find other music by him, but there is very little in the research record beyond his being a church choir director and writing this one anthem. At least I looked!! Though to be fair, I may not have looked in the right places!
David Headings
on October 5, 2010 4:54pm
In This Very Room - Ron Harris
on October 6, 2010 4:26am
Thank you for all the suggestions so far. I suggested the idea mainly for fun. Clearly many contributors are thinking deeply about their art so some more serious questions have emerged.

I like the idea that a single work can be enough to secure a composer's place for posterity. Allegri's Miserere exemplifies that, even with the subsequent alterations.

There are a lot of intermediaries between composer and listener. Whether a piece makes it depends on a lot besides its quality. I'm told that Beethoven lamented how seldom Missa Solemnis was performed. My inclination is to look for more works from a composer that has impressed me, just as I enjoy discovering new composers. So many factors tend to reduce the repertoire to what is easiest to perform or safest to schedule. There is more to Bruckner than Locus Iste and more to Mozart than Ave Verum. Even the best pieces may pall after too many repetitions. But rehearsal time and audience attention are precious commodities and not to be wasted, so recommendations count a great deal. This forum excels at broadening the repertoire. Stuart Scott's suggestion was just what I was hoping to prompt. I can second the suggestions that Darke and Ireland are composers worth pursuing. I had Darke in F as the communion setting at my wedding, and Ireland's service settings are enduringly popular in the UK.
I was hoping to learn a bit more about Ayleward or Flintoft, but I've certainly enjoyed receiving the other suggestions.

on October 6, 2010 8:42am
Hi again, Nigel.  I would be curious to know where you read that Beethoven "lamented how seldom Missa Solemnis was performed," because that sounds very un-Beethoven.  It's true that he's said to have considered it his greatest work, and I certainly tend to agree on that.  But while he started it intending it to be used in an actual service--a very specific service, in fact, although he did not complete it until years after that service took place--surely he must have realized that it was too long and too expansive to "work" in any but the most formal and special service, and such services are few and far between.  And in his lifetime there was really no traidtion of the concert presentation of Masses, was there?  So if there was a problem, it was one of Beethven's own making (nothing new for Beethoven, of course), and he certainly would have known that.
In a way the much later Verdi Requiem Mass reflects the same problem.  Originally conceived by Verdi as a collaborative work to honor the life and death of a friend, the other composers he asked to contribute failed to do so, and he ended up completing it himself much later--thank goodness!  And it is also too large a work to be used for any but the most massive celebration, but perhaps by that time the idea of a concert performance had caught on.
All the best,
on October 6, 2010 10:32am

Although I am always happy to flaunt my ignorance in public, even I must stop short of claiming to instruct musical specialists about Beethoven. My comment was based on a half-remembered remark from a radio feature, and you are quite right to draw attention to that as an imperfect reference. I half-remembered it because it chimed with my feeling of a distinction between what composers write for the sake of their art and what they write for the sake of their public. I believe they are happiest when the two coincide. How much Beethoven minded that he never witnessed a complete performance of what he saw as his greatest work, I am not qualified to say.
Would you mind elaborating on your comment in August, "Ayleward is noted for writing "highly original" compositions, which in the 1660s could easily mean more adventurous in their harmonies."? Are there any extant that you would recommend?
Thanks again for your interest,
on October 7, 2010 12:40pm
John, the collaborative work you mention, which was a project to honor Rossini, was indeed produced, and then put away, it was not a failure on the part of the other composers besides Verdi, as you suggest. Helmuth Rilling and the Internationale Bachakademie Stuttgart made a rediscovery of the Requiem, produced a recording and several concerts, along with a scholarly symposium some time ago. You can read about it here:
on October 7, 2010 1:35pm
I hate to disagree with John, but the fact is that the Requiem in honor of Rossini, which Verdi suggested should be composed by 13 Italian composers (each composing a different section), was, in fact, completed in 1869, but it was not performed.  Verdi later used his section, the "Libera me", as the basis for his own "Manzoni" Requiem.   But the original "Messa per Rossini" was finally performed for the first time in 1988, 119 years after it was composed, after which it was recorded by Rilling on the Hänssler label (CD 98.402).
on October 7, 2010 3:12pm
My thanks to both Richards for updating my out-of-date history regarding the Rossini Requiem.  I'm afraid I was otherwise occupied in 1988, and missed the whole story of its rediscovery (and pesumably its authentication).  So now my next question HAS to be, how good is the work?
on October 6, 2010 12:58pm
what a great thread...just to get fires lit under people's arses, if nothing else!
my 2 cents' worth:
Boris Ord-Adam Lay Ybounden
Martin Shaw-With a Voice of Singing
Hugh Roberton-All in the April Evening
Carl Orff-Carmina Burana (not that music educators don't know about his contribution to quality classroom instruments and teaching methodology!!)
Dittos with all the other commentary about great composers and their greater range of works... but it's an interesting topic to one like me who's been doing it for a little while but still needs the wakeup to get outside of my wheelhouse at times!
-Mike Popplewell
on October 7, 2010 7:58am
Carl Orff - Catulli Carmina
Hugh Roberton - Nightfall in Skye.
on October 7, 2010 10:24am
Interestingly, Boris Ord ('Adam' was indeed his only published work...) was at King's, Cambridge - I believe he started the traditional Nine Lessons and Carols. David Willcocks was one of his students. When Ord left King's to serve as a pilot in the 2nd World War (which he survived) Harold Darke, mentioned in this thread, took over from him.
on October 7, 2010 5:42pm
As long as instrumental music is not off limits I could suggest the obvious - Pachelbel for his Canon and Samuel Barber for his Adagio for Strings, both of which have been amply adapted to choral voices. Thanks for this, Nigel - it is fun and informative.
Tongue in cheek remark: every time, and I mean EVERY time I am at a choral music symposium and meet choral conductors it appears I am known for a single arrangement: - not even a composition! - "J'entends le moulin". I know how you must feel, Mr. Biebl and others in your singular company. May ye be known by your work. I often wonder had Picasso painted just one picture if it would be worth anything more than the value of its canvas and frame.
on October 8, 2010 9:19am
Hey, Donald, some of us only HAVE one published arrangement, so don't knock it!  And it's usually because we've spent a great deal of time and effort writing arrangements for our own ensembles and for immediate performance, not for publication with all its conservative requirements by choral editors who don't want to see anything that would scare conductors away, even when our own groups are singing them with ease.
All the best, John
on October 8, 2010 8:21am
Gentlepersons, all,
With this stumulating treasure of information,
shall we become better choral musicians?
Thank You,
on October 8, 2010 7:53pm
Hopefully we will know more amazing music!
on October 9, 2010 1:47am
Cantique de Noel (O HOly Night)  by Adam.
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