Author Topic: A continuum, not a cliff edge...  (Read 901 times)

Mark Thomas

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A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« on: Sunday 11 February 2018, 19:16 »
Martin Anderson, in a recent Facebook post, sums up my own attitude to the question of "unsung composers" better than I could ever hope to:
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Alex Ross makes some excellent points in this New Yorker article, which go to the very basis of what Toccata Classics is trying to do. It's not as if there is great music and then everything else. Instead, there is a continuum of quality: next to the Brahms and the Beethovens and the Bruckners, there is excellent music which richly deserves a hearing, and next to that good music which deserves to be known (etc.) -- and even music which shows only moderate attainment provides a context in which the achievement of the great composers can be better understood. The more we know of the entire spectrum, the richer our musical lives.
The New Yorker article about Florence Price which prompted his post is also an interesting read, and I'd certainly recommend listening to Price's enjoyable, if rather naïve, Symphony No.1, available on YouTube.

sdtom

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #1 on: Monday 12 February 2018, 16:00 »
It was well said and I will have a listen to the symphony. Thanks Mark
Contempt prior to investigation keeps you in everlasting ignorance

Alan Howe

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #2 on: Monday 12 February 2018, 16:17 »
Yes, agreed, Mark. It's the raison d'être of UC.

Gareth Vaughan

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #3 on: Monday 12 February 2018, 18:26 »
Couldn't agree more.

der79sebas

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #4 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 08:28 »
As nearly everything coming from Alex Ross, this statement is rather commonplace and unnecessary (and true, after all). No need to discuss such trivial rubbish here!

Alan Howe

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #5 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 12:05 »
I hardly think that what Ross is saying is trivial or unnecessary. In fact it needs saying time and time again that what is known as the 'standard repertoire' is rigid and stale. It excludes some major masterpieces, a huge amount of very fine music and an even larger body of entertaining stuff that would have a Proms audience tapping their feet and whistling the tunes on their way home. I mean, consider the current over-production of sets of complete Schumann symphonies - most of them in contentious HIP performances that bear no comparison with the great sets of the past, even of the recent past (e.g. the magnificent Gardiner). Who exactly wants all this stuff? No: Ross is spot-on. Florence Price may not be the greatest unsung, but faced with the choice of yet another recording of, say, the Mendelssohn VC & Bruch's VC1 and Price's two VCs, I know which I'd choose. Unfortunately, most of the public will not even encounter the name 'Florence Price'. And, if they do, they'll probably think, 'who's she?' And that will be the fault of all those who think that nothing needs to be said and that nothing needs to change. Shame on them!

MartinH

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #6 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 14:30 »
Rigid and stale to say the least. It's become boring. I've spent some time recently looking at the program offerings for summer festivals in the US: dull, dull, dull. In the regular season these orchestras play mainly the overdone European classics - and then they just recycle them in the summer. I'm not going to Vail, Aspen, Grand Tetons, Hollywood Bowl or elsewhere to hear Brahms, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn...it's just depressing! But the management must know that if they play Bax, Raff, Draeseke, Alfven, or even Vaughan Williams that they'll drive the average listeners away. The upcoming 2018/19 seasons are no more encouraging. Quite sad. There is just so much fine music that people would enjoy if performers and audiences would give it a chance. But then, we all know this already. I recently conducted a couple of Christmas Concerts and one work I chose was the Delius Sleigh Ride. Not one player in the 70-piece orchestra had ever played it. Only a couple had ever heard it! They all loved it, the audience loved it. After the concerts, one trumpet player thanked me for bringing out this beautiful work and she was astonished that it had never crossed her path, then asked that I should program more Delius. And Delius is one of the more familiar unknown composers! Wait 'til I bring them some Raff!

sdtom

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #7 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 15:52 »
One of my favorite works is the seventh symphony of Vaughan Williams. I can't believe people wouldn't like this superb work. Oh well. I'm doing a review of the music for the silent film "Metropolis."
Contempt prior to investigation keeps you in everlasting ignorance

Ilja

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #8 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 16:34 »
The crucial line here is
Quote
"It's not as if there is great music and then everything else.".

Because that is often the suggestion: that everything that isn't a masterwork is unworthy of being performed at all. Few would ever tolerate the same approach to literature or painting (or theater, if we want to stick to the performance arts). One is reminded of an anecdote from Shostakovich's (or more probably Volkov's, but that's another discussion) Testimony, where Stalin only wants masterpieces produced and therefore forbids the composition of any music except those seven or eight yearly masterpieces.

It's the stupidity of the thing.
- By comparing and scaling these great musicians you are diminishing art itself. Every artist has its own mind, sensibility and technique which gives us varieties and choices. Please do not make art into a competition: it is insulting to wonderful composers and artists - Anonymous YT commenter

Gareth Vaughan

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #9 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 18:43 »
Quite. Nobody suggests that only the best plays should be performed or the best pictures exhibited.

matesic

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #10 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 19:08 »
A deplorable situation, I agree. On another forum I visited today one of the main sources of dissatisfaction is the paucity of opportunities for young instrumentalists hoping to enter the classical music profession. On yet another site violin makers grouse about the difficulty they have selling their products in a saturated market. The common cause of all these complaints isn't an evil dictator who should be deposed, but market forces. You might as well rail against the dying of the light, or the weather in Wales. Instead we should promote and support innovative ventures (except new music) and be thankful for the CD catalogue.

Gareth Vaughan

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #11 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 20:05 »
I agree. Except about new music. There is a lot of new music I like.

eschiss1

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #12 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 21:01 »
Even the innovative kind. It makes one sound like Hanslick, it does (though I do not regard innovation as a value or demerit merely on its own.)
"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: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #13 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 21:11 »
I like some new music too. But not much.

eschiss1

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Re: A continuum, not a cliff edge...
« Reply #14 on: Tuesday 13 February 2018, 21:19 »
Fair enough -- I was replying to the philosophical attitude, not the tastes (certainly a fair amount of the -newest- stuff I've caught in the occasional concerts has failed to grab me, but there are more, not fewer, "threads" , ways of thinking about music each century than the one before it, it seems... ... and I hold out hope that there are always composers under the radar who I won't hear about until quite awhile later. (And 20th-century composers who wrote in less modern styles are not being ignored. The Seattle Philharmonic is giving the US premiere of a symphony* by Ruth Gipps sometime this year (March 31 2018), for example. (Just mentioning in passing.) Good on them.)

*#2; it's been recorded, but still!
"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)