NPR

What's Composer Max Richter Listening To? Pretty Much Everything

The genre-busting composer, who believes in classical music's "multi-dimensional space," brings a strikingly diverse playlist with him for a relaxed session of spinning tunes and talking music.

Max Richter is a restless musician, composer and something of an alchemist in sound who doesn't seem to fit into any tidy genres. He studied at the Royal Academy of Music in the U.K., but he's worked with electronic music bands like Future Sound of London. He writes exquisite electro-acoustic miniatures, but also full-length ballets and even an eight-hour piece called Sleep. He's scored movies (Waltz With Bashir, The Sense of an Ending) and even re-scored Vivaldi's classic Four Seasons.

We asked Richter to stop by our New York studio with a playlist of some of his favorite music. The result was a relaxed session of spinning tunes and talking music. Hear the complete conversation via the listening link above and read an edited version of it below.

Tom Huizenga: What should we start with?

Max Richter: Why don't we start with Kurtág?

So this is György — and his wife, Marta Kurtág — at the piano, right?

This is Kurtág's arrangement of the Actus tragicus of Bach, an early funeral cantata — rendering it for piano duet, which he plays with his wife. And for me the idea of them sitting down playing through this beautiful material is a kind of ideal domestic kind of music-making which obviously used to be very commonplace, when everyone played instruments. And there's something just incredibly emotionally engaging about this playing.

I don't know if it was Slonimsky or Baker — one of the folks that wrote music encyclopedias — who said that Bach was the "supreme arbiter and law-giver of music."

I wouldn't argue with that. I always feel like Bach is in a special case, really. If somebody says, "Well, what are your favorite composers?" really what they are saying is, "What are your favorite composers apart from Bach?" Because obviously Bach is your favorite composer if you are involved in music at all. It

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