When it comes to classical music, it's very easy to have tunnel vision. The Consonant Classical Challenge addresses part of it by focusing on living composers. But even looking at current composers, it's easy to think only in terms of Europe and the United States. Canada, like most countries, has a rich classical music tradition -- just one that her neighbor to the south seldom hears about.
Canadian composer and pianist Larysa Kuzmenko is widely respected in her country. Her solo piano works are often programmed in recitals. Although she hasn't written a symphony, she does have a number of outstanding works for orchestra that deserve a wider audience.
Behold the Night, based on passages from Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, is a good example. Kuzmenko's music is tonal in nature, although it often ranges far beyond simple major or minor key relationships. Listen for the effective use of modal harmonic progression in this work.
Kuzmenko is a pianist, so its not surprising that her piano concerto would have a solo part that was technically challenging. But she's also a talented composer, so the fireworks serve a purpose -- and that purpose is coherent musical expression.
The Prayer for Strings is a shorter work that really shows off Kuzmenko's melodic gifts. It's a heartfelt work that would be an excellent addition to any orchestral program, I think.
Larysa Kuzmenko's music should appeal to both adventurous and more traditionalist listeners. Her works might be framed in the common language of classical music, but there's a fresh perspective that draws the listening in. It's unfortunate that there's not more of her music available. Everything I've heard by her has been of the same quality as the examples in this post.
I'd really like to hear her Concerto for Accordion...