© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Classical 101

Ten 20th-Century Composers to Check Out - Max Richter

Erik Weiss
Composer Max Richter, (center), discusses his "reimagined" Four Seasons with violinist Daniel Hope and conductor Andre Ridder before the World Premiere

One of the coolest composers you've probably never heard of is Max Richter. His music lives at the intersection of contemporary classical and alternative popular music. He has been characterized a a post-minimalist

His compositions reach beyond the, at times, somewhat impersonal and clockwork-like music of Philip Glass into a realm where it merges with Arvo Pärt. It is tough to categorize Richter, however. Last year he wrote a piece he called Sleep, which he designed specifically to - yes - rock you to sleep. 

He called it a “personal lullaby for a frenetic world. A manifesto for a slower pace of existence.” It is not boring, or bland. Rather, it is mesmerizing, peaceful, and uplifting. I am listening to it as I write some of this. It seems to encourage your mind to be both relaxed and focused. 

Max will be performing the full 8 hours of Sleep live in Berlin, fittingly for three overnight concerts, March 15, 16, 17. Be sure to take your jammies.


Three years before 2015's Sleep was premiered, Richter did something which many composers shy away from...he "re-imagined" a masterpiece. Anytime you take music familiar to nearly everyone and begin changing it, you're walking where angels fear to tread.

Richter went further than arranging or re-orchestrating Vivaldi's Four Seasons...chunks of it are gone and Vivaldi's melodies are melded with Richter's writing. However, Richter sys it was composed to pay homage to the original while forcing us to actively listen and hear Vivaldi with different ears.

I find it compelling music which pulls me in. It is music designed, not to replace the original, nor is it touted as better than the original, but designed to enhance what we hear in the original.


https://vimeo.com/103253106">You can watch the entire performance here.

Another side of Max Richter is heard in the HBO series, The Leftovers, which IMDb described as "revolving around mysterious disappearances, world-wide, and specifically follows a group of people who are left behind in the suburban community of Mapleton. They must begin to rebuild their lives after the loss of more than 100 million people."

Here's some of the music from season one.


...and the trailer for the first season.


I believe Max Richter is just hitting his stride. He defies categorization, preferring to follow his own drummer. I look forward to hearing what comes next.