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ACE2304 Classical Music in the Modern Era: From Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to Reich’s Different Trains COURSE CLOSED (on UCC Campus delivery only) is a Course

ACE2304 Classical Music in the Modern Era: From Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to Reich’s Different Trains COURSE CLOSED (on UCC Campus delivery only)

Started Sep 27, 2022

Sorry! The enrolment period is currently closed. Please check back soon.

Full course description

Course Overview

This course begins with Stravinsky’s revolutionary Rite of Spring which heralded new directions in modern music. These directions take us to widely different musical landscapes – from Schoenberg’s atonal music to the folk influenced works of Bartok, and from the late romanticism of Rachmaninoff to Arvo Pärt’s unique blend of the modern and the medieval. The music of the USA, England, Spain, Russia and Finland will feature prominently as the course delves into works by composers such as Gershwin, Elgar, de Falla, Shostakovich and Sibelius. The course examines the role of the conductor and the varied styles of great conductors such as Toscanini, Klemperer, Karajan, Solti, Walter, etc. The course will also consider the art, literature, history and science of modern times as a backdrop to the music – Picasso, Chagall, Hopper, Lowry, Einstein, Eliot, Woolf, Beckett, Orwell, Heaney, Banville are among those artists and writers included while events such as the World Wars, the Cold War, the Spanish Civil War and Stalin’s Great Terror also feature.

The course is an ideal way of becoming better acquainted with classical music. Each lecture comes with a reading list as well as a recommended discography of outstanding recordings. 

(This course is also part of an ongoing cycle of four courses on the overall history of classical music:  1.   An Introduction to Classical Music:  From the Medieval Period to the Baroque,  2.  Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven,  3 A Musical Journey: an Introduction to Classical Music from Schubert to Mahler). These courses will be offered in forthcoming semester programmes. However, previous participation in any of these courses is not a requirement for this course). 


Course Schedule 

The course will consist of eight lectures from 27 September to 15 November on Tuesdays 7-9pm.

Location- Western Gateway Building Room G16 UCC 

Closing date for applications: Friday 16 September 2022

The student will gain an overview of the music of the modern period in its cultural context. He/she will come to appreciate (and be entertained by) key works by great composers of the modern era such as Stravinsky, Sibelius, Bartok, Rachmaninoff, Elgar, Copland, de Falla, Shostakovich, etc. Classes will be delivered on-campus for eight weeks from 27th September to 15th November.


1.      From Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring to Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra: the birth of Modernism.

Stravinsky’s explosive Rite of Spring heralds a new revolution in twentieth century music that subsequently took many different paths, from the atonality of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern to the neoclassicism of Hindemith, and the folk influenced music of Bartok and Kodály.

2. Arvo Part and Sergei Rachmaninoff: A Contrast in Romanticism.

Both Pärt and Rachmaninoff are composers who went against the musical trends of their times, producing different kinds of music that is equally romantic if completely different. Rachmaninoff, an incorrigible romantic, continued throughout his career to operate in his own distinctive creative orbit, an orbit defined by plush lyricism that rides the waves of luxurious, enriched harmonies, and, in the piano works, expansive, richly detailed virtuosity in the grand 19th-century bravura tradition. Pärt is the most performed living composer in the world as his unique style of music has proven immensely popular and continues to enchant modern audiences.

  3.      The Great Conductors:  From Toscanini to Rattle.

The role of the conductor since the time of J S Bach will be explored as well as the more recent development of period instrument orchestras and its exponents. In this context some conductors stand above the rest for their unique ability to take an orchestra and get it to express the very soul of a piece of music. The fiery Toscanini, the courtly Walter, the easy going, witty Beecham, the ungainly Furtwangler, the jet setting von Karajan, the emotionally charged Bernstein, the elusive Kleiber are just some of the great conductors that will be considered in this lecture. 


4.      From Rhapsody in Blue to Different Trains: Music in the USA from Gershwin to Reich.

The razzmatazz and vibrancy of American life is reflected in its music. Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue and Bernstein’s On the Town embody the up-tempo world of urban America while Copland’s Appalachian Spring does likewise for the American wilderness. More recently the minimalist works of Glass and Reich put music’s course on new, yet highly accessible paths.

5.      English music from Elgar to Adès.

The great symphonies of Elgar and Vaughan Williams, Holst’s The Planets, Britten’s War Requiem and opera Peter Grimes, Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra and Adès’ Asyla reveal a rich and varied heritage of English music of the modern era.

6.      Nights in the Gardens of Spain.

From the early twentieth century, Spain produced a series of colourful composers, from De Falla’s Nights in the Gardens of Spain to Rodrigo’s famous Guitar Concerto. These, together with the works of other composers like Turina, Albeniz, Granados and Tarrega embody the very essence of Spain’s colour and spirit. 

7.      From the Lakes and Forests of Finland: the music of Sibelius.

From the outset Sibelius was an artist in full possession of his own language and style. The majestic series of his seven symphonies are his crowning achievement and these, together with his tone poems, evoke the sometime bleak, Nordic landscapes of Finland.

8.      Shostakovich and the Great Terror.  

Shostakovich lived a lot of his life under the deadly shadow of Stalin. His music is stunningly original, dramatic and above all heroic in the face of endless terrors. His fifteen symphonies, six concertos, operas and chamber music reveal a truly diverse and highly accessible world of music which demands our attention.

Course Lecturer

Anthony Hartnett holds a master’s degree in English literature and has taught English in many parts of the world including the UK, Ireland, the USA, Spain, Luxembourg, Belgium, Bahrain, China and Mexico. He has also taught Geography and History and has a special interest in teaching across the disciplines - linking such subjects as art, music, literature, history and science.

Entry Requirements

Applicants must be at least 18 years old at course commencement.


Short courses are not assessed. Students will receive a UCC Certificate of Attendance upon completion.

Contact Details for Further Information