Author Topic: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton  (Read 1226 times)

Alan Howe

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Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« on: Wednesday 17 May 2017, 16:51 »
I decided that it might best to concentrate discussion of this issue in a single new thread, so here goes...

I'm afraid I didn't think much of any of the music on this CD. Most of it seems rather empty to me - plenty of incident, but not much of real interest. I'm beginning to wonder whether the early Steinberg was a much more stimulating composer than he subsequently became. Of course, I may be just be having a bad afternoon, but I soon began to long for, say, some Miaskovsky (almost Steinberg's exact contemporary).

Alan Howe

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #1 on: Wednesday 17 May 2017, 17:15 »
I wonder just who thought Steinberg's 4th was worth resurrecting. It's some of the emptiest stuff I've heard in a long time. An awful lot of noise signifying very little. Unless you're a Steinberg completist, I'd avoid this one...

Mark Thomas

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #2 on: Wednesday 17 May 2017, 17:17 »
Thanks for the warning, Alan. Obviously caveat emptor.

Alan Howe

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #3 on: Wednesday 17 May 2017, 19:00 »
Just to make sure, I went back to Steinberg's magnificent 2nd Symphony of 1909 (Järvi/DG) and found a composer with something to say, without all the empty bombast of his 4th. What on earth happened in the intervening decades? A railway line, maybe...

Revilod

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #4 on: Wednesday 17 May 2017, 23:35 »
I wouldn't say the symphony is entirely empty. After a few hearings I could follow the argument in the first movement but I agree that the melodic material in not distinctive and of little interest. There are some attractively lyrical phrases for the strings in the first two movements but, as you say, Alan, the overall impression is a lot of fuss over very little.  If anything, the violin concerto is even less distinguished. Again the melodic material is difficult to assimilate (except for the main theme of the finale) ...and the first movement is poorly developed, padded out and far too long. I'm not giving up on either piece yet but  there's no need to rush to the shops. Btw, neither work sounds remotely like Rimsky-Korsakov. The music's modality and the orchestration reminded me of Vaughan-Williams but there is very little of his substance. Thanks for the recommendation for the Second Symphony which I don't know.

giles.enders

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #5 on: Thursday 18 May 2017, 10:35 »
In answer to Allan's query 'what happened in the intervening decades'. His mentor and father-in-law Rimsky Korsakov died (1908) He clearly had a great influence.


eschiss1

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #6 on: Thursday 18 May 2017, 12:44 »
OOC, is this definitely the same piece as the torso of Steinberg's 4th symphony that was uploaded here somewhile back (to great applause and approbation and "where's the first movement-ness" , perhaps mostly from members who have since left)?

Very few people keep writing in the same "style" (or better put maybe, keep approaching the same musical problems with the same musical tools) for 3 decades straight, for better - or worse. I'm not really sure what it says when they exhibit no change at all; that the change may be in the wrong, shabby direction is a risk of change (and considering the folkloristic bent of e.g. his next symphony ("Symphonic Rhapsody on Uzbek Themes") and some other works, I think that maybe he -was- feeling the pinch a bit, though I try to resist this sort of over-political interpretation (even in the USSR) of a composer's career (especially with Steinberg and Shostakovich who were heads of Conservatories and Composer's Unions. ... However.)
"A cat, as I keep on saying, is also a cat for a' that..." - from Natsume Sōseki's Wagahai wa Neko de Aru (I Am a Cat, part 2 chapter 1)

Alan Howe

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #7 on: Thursday 18 May 2017, 13:44 »
My ears tell me that, symphonically speaking, he moved from a most interesting and personal, often dark idiom to one permeated by soviet-style realism and bombast. To me it's downhill all the way.

FBerwald

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #8 on: Thursday 18 May 2017, 15:39 »
I haven't heard the music so I can't judge but couldn't we take into consideration that this was written to commemorate the Turkestan-Siberia Railway ans so was "required to sound a bit bombastic. There's still Symphony No. 3 & 5 to be heard before making judgement on the composition-path Steinberg took.

Alan Howe

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #9 on: Thursday 18 May 2017, 15:56 »
True, but the late VC isn't exactly promising either. It's written in a rather unattractive, highly chromatic, convoluted style, although things do improve (somewhat) in the slow movement. Compare Miaskovsky's VC and you have a much more appealing composition.

musiclover

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #10 on: Friday 19 May 2017, 09:17 »
Of course it's horses for courses with all music, not just neglected music, but I totally take onboard what was said about the symphony being a commission to celebrate the railway and to that end there is a degree of Soviet bombast in it. I totally disagree about it being an empty work and I disagree even more about the comments regarding the Violin Concerto. Personally I find both works a fantastic insight into a composer who probably had some difficulty coming to terms with the changing times and both the Symphony 4 and the concerto in particular sound to me like his response to this. I find both works way more interesting than almost anything I've heard by Kabalevsky (the exception being the cello concertos and the 3rd charming Piano Concerto) and I think Dutton should be congratulated for having had the courage to put these works out there. Simply writing them off is not good enough for a site as amazing as this one.

Mark Thomas

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #11 on: Friday 19 May 2017, 10:47 »
It's perfectly fair for anyone here to "write off" a piece of music they don't rate, just as it's perfectly fair for someone to disagree with that view. Music is a matter of personal taste and enjoyment, emotional and intellectual response and, no matter what the composer's intentions or background circumstances were, if that response is lacking in the listener then he's not going to enjoy or appreciate the work. And, just to make things clear, there is no "official" UC line on any composer, we are all here as individuals and that applies just as much to the moderators: I don't expect others to share my enthusiasms, there are plenty of pieces of music which I'm quite happy to dismiss, and in both cases I'm happy to defend my views and have them disagreed with. By the way, I haven't heard these two works yet, so I have no opinion on either of them.  :)

Alan Howe

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #12 on: Friday 19 May 2017, 14:16 »
Quote
Simply writing them off is not good enough for a site as amazing as this one

Well, I simply expressed my view, to which I am surely entitled. Note that I didn't write off the composer - I simply questioned the quality of these two works, an opinion which I stand firmly by.

My experience of many years of listening tells me that some music actually deserves its obscurity. As Mark says, musical appreciation is very subjective, but I can't help feeling in this case that a group of listeners gathered with the purpose of auditioning Steinberg's 4th wouldn't terribly impressed by the piece. And a favourable comparison with the music of Kabalevsky rather makes my point for me...


MartinH

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #13 on: Friday 19 May 2017, 17:28 »
I haven't heard this yet, either, but if the assessment of the symphony and VC is correct, well, so what? You can learn a lot about a composer from hearing their good, bad, and ugly music. If the 4th is as dreadful as reported then Steinberg won't be alone. There are many composers who got worse as they got older. I love the first symphony of Grechaninov, but as he continued things got less and less "Russian" and interesting. Same thing with Carl Nielsen, at least for me. Hugo Alfven hit a peak with the third symphony...downhill from there. Even Stravinsky to be honest - his early work was so great and promising. And I long ago realized that not everything written is great music - and that doesn't bother me in the least. Some music deserves its obscurity, but thank God for recordings so that I can make that determination for myself.

Alan Howe

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Re: Steinberg Symphony 4 & VC from Dutton
« Reply #14 on: Friday 19 May 2017, 20:01 »
Quite right. And I bought the Dutton release to do precisely the same thing: determine for myself whether this composer's later music is as good as his earlier work.

Amazing how a negative assessment incurs so much ire. For me robust criticism expressed clearly and with reasons is an essential part of any sort of writing on unfamiliar music. As I said before, some of it's not all that good...