One hundred entries is actually a paltry list to represent the achievements of this or any other musical century. Even so, let’s boil it down even further to an indispensable 10-plus-10, which you will accept only with the promise to move further afield on your own.
List No. 1: The Absolutes
1. MAHLER: Symphony No. 9. Carlo Maria Giulini conducting the Chicago Symphony (Deutsche Grammophon)
2. STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring. Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting the Philharmonia Orchestra (Sony)
3. BERG: Violin Concerto. Anne-Sophie Mutter, violin, with James Levine conducting the Chicago Symphony (Deutsche Grammophon)
4. BARTÓK: Concerto for Orchestra. Fritz Reiner conducting the Chicago Symphony (RCA)
5. COPLAND: Appalachian Spring, complete ballet. Aaron Copland conducting the Boston Symphony (RCA). Original version for chamber orchestra. Hugh Wolff conducting the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra (Teldec)
6. SHOSTAKOVICH: String Quartet No. 8, Kronos Quartet (Elektra/Nonesuch). Version for string orchestra (“Chamber Symphony”). Mariss Jansons conducting the Vienna Philharmonic (EMI Classics)
7. LIGETI: Requiem. Michael Gielen conducting the Hessian Radio Symphony and Chorus (Teldec). N.B.: Salonen has also recorded this work for Sony; when it’s to be released is anyone’s guess.
8. BERIO: Sinfonia. Riccardo Chailly conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (London)
9. REICH: Music for 18 Musicians. Steve Reich and Musicians (Elektra/Nonesuch). An earlier version, also by Reich and Musicians, is available on ECM New Series, but the newer one is better.
10. GLASS/WILSON: Einstein on the Beach. Greg Fulkerson (violin) and the Philip Glass Ensemble (Elektra/Nonesuch; an earlier version by the Glass Ensemble, on Sony, is severely cut.)
List No. 2: The Almost-Absolutes
11. IVES: Piano Sonata No. 2 (“Concord”). Gilbert Kalish (Elektra/Nonesuch)
12. BERG: Wozzeck. Claudio Abbado conducting the Vienna Philharmonic, with Franz Grundheber and Hildegarde Behrens (Deutsche Grammophon; also available on video)
13. CRAWFORD SEEGER: String Quartet. Arditti Quartet (Grama vision)
14. SCHOENBERG: Quartet No. 4. Arditti Quartet (Disques Montaigne)
15. CARTER: Quartet No. 2. Juilliard Quartet (Sony)
16. CRUMB: Ancient Voices of Children. Arthur Weisberg conducting an ensemble, with Jan de Gaetani, soprano (Elektra/ Nonesuch)
17. SONDHEIM: Sweeney Todd. Angela Lansbury and Len Cariou (RCA, also available on video with Lansbury and George Hearn)
18. FELDMAN: For Philip Guston. California EAR Unit (Bridge)
19. SCHNITTKE: Viola Concerto. Kim Kashkashian, with Dennis Russell Davies conducting the Saarbrücken Radio Symphony (ECM New Series)
20. CAGE: Fourteen. Stephen Drury, pianist, with the Calli thumpian Ensemble (Mode)