Although I occasionally rail against the dissonant music of post WWII, there are a number of pieces which do work, very well. Ethan Iverson on his blog Do the Math put out a challenge for a list of good post 1950 music. Terry Teachout responded on his blog About Last Night. Before I list the music on my list I thought I'd comment on their lists.
First Terry's list: The only piece I don't know is Moravec's The Time Gallery. Everything else on this list might have made it on to mine - and when you see my list, many of the composers are the same, so we must share a similar taste in music.
Next Ethan's list: Here I had more difficulty. I don't know Gould's StringMusic and, I have only heard one of Adès' pieces (and didn't like it) so I am not sure I could comment. As for the rest of the pieces, sorry Terry, but I don't like them. However, Terry starts his article with "The classical music written since 1950 that I listen to is frequently fiercely dissonant and somewhat tuneless." And thus the difference between his taste and mine. I like "tunes."
Ok, so here's my list:
Dmitri Shostakovich - Symphony
No. 10 in E minor (1953) Op. 93
Aaron Copland - The Tender Land (1954)
Benjamin Britten - Cello Sonata (1961) Op. 65
Leonard Bernstein - everything, but West Side Story is probably my favourite
Henryk Górecki - Symphony No. 3 (1976) Op. 36
David Del Tredici - Final Alice (1976)
John Williams - Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
Libby Larson - Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus (1990)
John Corigliano - Symphony No. 2 (1991)
While many of these composers could have several works listed, these are highlights for me. I almost included pieces by Brian Ferneyhough, Christopher Fox or some of the other "New Complexity" school of composers as I really enjoy the music - but yet to find a complete piece that really thrills me. There are also a number of film composers who might have made it on to this list (Howard Shore and Klaus Badelt to name but two) but I consider they follow in the footsteps of Williams - although they might not agree. There are also a number of other composer friends whose music I enjoy... and probably ought to have put them on the list (to include my own) - maybe in the next iteration I give a list of pieces that ought to be performed more by composers who are not so well known.
If you're reading this list, TAG, what's your favourite post 1950 music? Drop me an email when you've posted your list.