Max Richter may well be the most important composer of our time. His work has been heard in the concert hall, in major Hollywood films and television series, and occupies a place in the streaming playlists of millions worldwide.
We take a look back at five essential albums from throughout Max’s career.
1. Max Richter – Sleep / from Sleep (2015)
Max Richter has described his magnum opus Sleep as “lullaby for a frenetic world”. Composed in consultation with renowned American neuroscientist David Eagleman, Sleep is an 8-hour composition designed to accompany the sleeping patterns of an entire night.
The landmark piece premiered in London in 2015 and has since been performed in a variety of stunning venues around the world – including the Sydney Opera House, Grand Park in Los Angeles, Kraftwerk Berlin, the Philharmonie de Paris and at the Great Wall of China.
2. Max Richter – Voices (2020)
A reaction to the political and social upheaval that has rippled through many societies over the past decade. Richter’s ninth studio album Voices establishes a unique musical space in which to examine, question, absorb and meditate on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
The work involves a radically re-imagined orchestral setup. The traditional orchestra is inverted in favour of bass instruments, and is accompanied by a wordless 12-part choir, solo violin, soprano, and piano, and narrator.
Into this sonic landscape Richter has woven vocal readings of the Declaration. This includes a featured spoken word performance by American actress Kiki Layne (If Beale Street Could Talk), Eleanor Roosevelt’s original reading of the finished document, and a hundred other readings in multiple languages crowd-sourced via social media.
3. Max Richter – Recomposed By Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons (2014)
Like many modern artists Max Richter was fascinated by baroque composer Antonio Vivaldi’s groundbreaking Eighteenth Century work The Four Seasons. The revolutionary set of violin concertos are among the most popular pieces of classical music ever composed, and broke new ground with their technical innovation and musical depiction of the changing seasons.
Recomposed By Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons is a radical reinterpretation of Vivaldi’s original work. The idea of recomposing and reprocessing musical works was common practice in Vivaldi’s time, and Richter wanted to use his “recomposition” as a way to reconnect with the piece, and to restart the conversation on Vivaldi’s work.
Max Richter has said that his starting point “was the realisation that Vivaldi’s music was modular, it’s made out of little patterns, in the way a lot of post-minimal and contemporary music is … So it was quite easy to find a common musical thread.”
The 2012 album – featuring violinist Daniel Hope – would go on to top the classical chart in 22 countries. It was later re-released in a deluxe format in 2014.
4. Max Richter – The Blue Notebooks (2004)
The Blue Notebooks was named by The Guardian as one of the “25 best classical music works of the 21st Century”, and contains some of Max Richter’s most popular pieces – ‘On The Nature Of Daylight’ and ‘Vladimir’s Blues’.
Max Richter has described his critically-acclaimed second album as “a protest album about Iraq, a meditation on violence – both the violence that I had personally experienced around me as a child and the violence of war”.
Max composed The Blue Notebooks in the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq and initially released the album for specialist indie label 130701. It was later rereleased with additional material by Deutsche Grammophon in 2018.
5. Max Richter – 24 Postcards In Full Colour (2014)
24 Postcards In Full Colour is a collection of 24 ‘miniatures’ composed to function as mobile phone ringtones.
At a point when smartphones were just becoming ubiquitous – and with millions of people carrying loudspeakers around in their pockets – Max saw the opportunity to fill the space generated by mobile communication with creative musical objects. Like postcards traveling the world.
While the practice of customising your phone’s ringtone has largely fallen by the wayside, 24 Postcards In Full Colour remains a touching and intimate collection of musical moments that can be enjoyed on speakers of all sizes.
Follow Max Richter at maxrichtermusic.com