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Messages - saxtromba

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Composers and Music / Re: Another search site
« on: Friday 17 July 2015, 21:55 »
Many thanks for this; I've already discovered that Rubinstein's fifth concerto was still being performed as late as 1949 (!).  Oddly enough, they seem to have done very few of his symphonic works, but many performances of PCs 1, 4, and 5.

Composers and Music / For Minneapolis members
« on: Friday 01 May 2015, 22:11 »
I found this on Facebook (while looking for something else, of course  :) ), and remembered that there are one or two posters here who are in Minneapolis, at least some of the time.  There's more recent music as well, but the first piece, being by Rubinstein,  is what caught my eye, and then a couple of others:

Composers and Music / Re: String quintets in need of (modern) recording
« on: Monday 26 January 2015, 16:27 »
Anton Rubinstein, Quintet in F Major, Op. 59. 
Although a considerable portion of Rubinstein's chamber music has been recorded, the music exclusively for strings is very weakly represented, and this lovely piece, never previously recorded, would be a major contribution to the recorded repertoire.

Well, so as not to change the actual topic too drastically (though I did think I was responding to relevant comments: "Quite, although it's probably one of the last in the tradition of Schuman/Brahms (along with, for example, Röntgen's roughly contemporary C minor Symphony).")-- I'll just say that the comments you cite strike me as being extremely subjective ("a vision of children and farm animals kneeling in a country church bathed in morning light"), while leaving out objective elements (the Brahmsian strings in the second movement and the virtual quotation from Beethoven 6 heard at least twice in the last movement, e.g.).  I hear no Ravel here at all, and only the tiniest and briefest dusting of something akin to Mahler.  The sound of it strikes me as very much in the Schumann/Brahms tradition, more so than any other.  But I won't press the point.

"Weingartner - had moved way beyond Brahms by 1910 (Symphony No.3 is hyper-Straussian)."

That may be true of the third symphony, but would you really describe #4 (from 1916) as anything but Brahmsian (or, in the last movement, perhaps Beethovenian)?

The idea of the "last Romantic" rather reminds me of Mahler's response to Brahms when Brahms described himself as the last symphonist,. or something like that.  Mahler suddenly gasped and pointed at the stream they were passing.  "What is it?" Brahms asked.  "The last wave," Mahler replied.

Composers and Music / Re: Theodor H. H. Verhey (1848-1929)
« on: Saturday 22 November 2014, 21:08 »
The flute concerto is worth hearing; it's not at all profound, but has a serenity and cheerfulness which manage to avoid triviality very nicely.  I don't know why it isn't more often heard, at least at the conservatory student level, since it's elegant, sweet, and at least as charming as any equivalent piece in the repertoire.

Composers and Music / Re: Why Unsung?
« on: Monday 13 January 2014, 00:04 »
Well, I do fail to see that I've misquoted anyone. 
But Raff's a different matter: I've come to believe that Symphonies 2, 3, 4 and 5 are masterpieces, and that his chamber music is stuffed full of them. The two Piano Quartets and the 1st String Quartet are just three examples. Why? It's that ability to write utterly memorable music, perfectly attuned to the genre involved, and characterised by a Schwung (for want of a better word) that makes, say, Brahms seem a lumbering dolt by comparison.
  Raff wrote at least four symphonies which are "masterpieces"; Brahms, by definition, could not have written more.  Raff's music is "utterly memorable," and "perfectly attuned to the genre involved"; it is difficult to see how anyone else's music could be better than "utterly memorable" or "perfectly attuned" to its context.  If this doesn't make Raff at least comparable to Brahms, what would?

And in fact the point is precisely that: either there are composers who produced a significant number of works which deserve entry into the canon who are less well regarded (unsung) than they deserve to be, or there are not.  No composer produced nothing but unalloyed masterpieces, so the fact that a prolific composer's catalog is more variable than that of a less prolific composer doesn't strike me as especially relevant.  But that's really not the focus here.  The question is why certain composers are consistently canonical and others are not, regardless of their initial popularity.  Bach was canonical very soon after his death (Mendelssohn's famous "resurrection" of Bach really refers more to his popularity among the concert-going public than anything else; all the major composers after Bach and before Mendelssohn's 1830 concerts (Mozart, Beethoven, Chopin, etc.) knew, respected, and learned from his work.  The same is not true of, say (so as to avoid this whole Raff thing, which was merely a starting point), Meyerbeer (whose mother was "the second woman in history to see her son accepted as divine," according to Heine) or Hummel, both of whom were popular and respected in their lifetimes.

So it isn't simply that people were told that Brahms is great and Hummel is not; there was a time when people were told something quite different (e.g.. Philip Hale's notorious suggestion that concert halls have signs saying "Exit in case of Brahms").  Despite this, some composers last and others do not.  If it's just a matter of personal taste, as some have suggested, then the whole idea of giving reasons for inviting non-canonical composers into, or least near to, the canon falls apart.  Since the vigor of various opinions here implies that people quite believe that certain composers are unjustly neglected, this further implies that there must be some set of criteria by which the justice of this or that composer's historical assessment can be measured.  It seems to be that memorability of tunes and appropriateness of scoring, for example, are quite plausible contenders for elements in that list.  Once we start providing these elements, we can then apply them to discussion of specific works, and on a larger scale, composers in order to make arguments for a critical and historical reassessment.

Composers and Music / Why Unsung?
« on: Sunday 12 January 2014, 17:55 »
Scrolling through various discussions, I came across the claim that Joachim Raff was not merely a better composer than Brahms, but made him look like "a lumbering dolt".  Clearly this is not a majority opinion, but forget for a moment whether or not you agree with it and think about the further question it raises if you assume that it's correct, the question which is the thread title.

There are composers who are considered to be among the greats, whose body of work provides touchstones against which to measure the work of other composers.  These composers are, by and large, the "sung" composers.  Brahms is generally accepted as belonging to this category.  So if we assume that Raff is a greater composer than Brahms, this raises the question as to why Raff is pretty much unsung and Brahms is not (for comparison: there are currently more recordings of any one of Brahms's symphonies than all of Raff's music put together).  It can't simply be that Brahms had the press on his side and Raff did not; even a quick glance at reviews from the 19th c. shows that Brahms faced much opposition and Raff was, if anything, more popular.  Nor can it be pure obstinacy on the part of conductors; many are the composers who have fallen from favor despite the best efforts of partisans on the podium.  If it's record sales, then why is Raff so much less sellable than Brahms?  What, then, are the reasons?

Then extend the question (after all, not everyone takes Raff to be better than Brahms).  Why do certain composers (whose worth you would be willing to defend) fall out of the repertoire while others go on and on?  Is it purely random?  On the face of it, this seems improbable, but maybe there's some evidence to support it.  If you met a person who knew nothing of serious Western music who asked who was worth hearing and why, and who was not and why not, how would you answer?

New Recordings & Broadcasts / Draeseke/Jadassohn RPC Volume on sale
« on: Thursday 04 July 2013, 00:17 »
Some of you may not know that Hyperion has a section of their website called "somebody, please buy me".  It's for disks which haven't sold in a while, which are offered at a huge discount with free postage to anywhere.  It changes irregularly.  As of this post, the RPC volume devoted to Draeseke and Jadassohn is available, both as an MP3 and as a disk. for six pounds (about 10.00 US) (5.60 plus a .40 handling fee).  This is the first time I've seen a volume in this series available, and I bet they take it down fairly soon.  Just thought readers here might want to know....

Composers and Music / Great Unsungs: A Question
« on: Thursday 13 June 2013, 17:36 »
A little while ago Alan Howe attempted to start a discussion regarding the elevation of unsung composers to the pantheon.  For various reasons that discussion never quiet worked.  Here's a different approach which I hope might generate some interesting discussion.

Bach: B Minor Mass; Toccata & Fugue in D Minor; Cello Suite #5
Mozart: Piano Concerto #20 in D Minor; The Magic Flute; Symphony #40 in G Minor
Beethoven: String Quartet in C# Minor, Op. 131; Piano Sonata #32 in C Minor; Symphony #9 in D Minor

I start with a brief list of indubitable masterworks of music (that is, anyone who disparages them had better have some pretty strong reasons, way beyond "I don't like that piece", if they want their opinion to be taken at all seriously) to set the stage.  These are composers and works widely known to, and influential among, the serious musicians of our specific period.  These are great works-- and we consider their composers great because, a) they produced works of equivalent quality in a wide range of musical categories (choral/vocal. symphonic. concerted, chamber, solo instrumental, etc.), and, b) they did so repeatedly.

The questions are these: 1) are there unsung works which could keep company with such works as these; if so, how so?  2) Are there unsung composers whose overall body of work sustains comparison with composers such as these; if so, how so?

Please note that this isn't a question about the particular works I've listed; I chose them more or less at random to suggest the scope of the music written by recognized great composers.  I am certainly not saying that to be a great composer you need to have written a choral symphony or an opera or a string quartet.  But I am suggesting that you need to have done more than produce pleasant music in a few genres or have composed one or two really striking works amid an overall body of competent but otherwise unimpressive music.  So I hope that people will not respond with lists of favorite composers, but with short (or maybe not so short :) ) discussions of why the pieces they mention indicate that the unsung composer is worthy to rank with the greats.

Composers and Music / Re: Admitting the Unsung to the Pantheon...
« on: Monday 03 June 2013, 22:48 »
I see a couple of problems here, ones which need to be addressed before any plausible answer can be given to the initial question.

1) What counts as enough knowledge of a composer's music for a proper assessment?  Alan Howe's first post suggests "overall oeuvre" as a fair basis.  I'd agree, but then I note that Draeseke and Rufinatscha are listed and Rubinstein is not.  Knowing Alan Howe's dislike of Rubinstein, I'm unsurprised that he would think him ineligible for admission to the pantheon, but then the question seems to drift toward purely personal taste, not actual judgment.  After all, the amount of Rubinstein's music available for listening is both numerically and proportionally greater than that of either of these composers.

I'd suggest that a basic criterion would be that we can hear at least 50% of a composer's work in at least three-quarters of the major areas of composition in which they have worked (solo instrumental, chamber, orchestral, choral, opera, etc.).  The fewer areas in which a composer has worked, the higher the proportion of music which ought to be known should be.

2) What counts toward pantheonic status?  Surely it's not simply popularity or number of recordings; if it were, Rubinstein's 'Melody in F' would rank among the great pieces for piano solo.  It does not.  Therefore popularity is not enough.  Along similar lines, Mark Thomas suggests that
the phrase "composers of the first rank" is not very meaningful, because it is such a subjective one unless one chooses to have it defined as those whose pieces are in the concert repertoire.
This, if true, is even more problematic, since it basically denies the very idea that there is good or bad music beyond personal taste, and therefore lands us back at popularity without even allowing the possibility of truth or error in judgment.  The pantheon would be purely arbitrary, and there would be no reason whatsoever for allowing anyone in or taking anyone out.  All anyone could do is insist and hope that enough others agreed.  This may be the way things often work, but it would seem to contradict the very idea that one needs to have heard anything at all by a given composer.  Why?  Because if all opinions are of equal value, then an opinion based on hearsay is, by definition, equal to one based on careful consideration of scores and recordings.

I would support something akin to what Gauk has already suggested:
the profundity with which they explore the human soul through music.
  This needs considerable fleshing out, since the nature of that profundity (instrumental and contrapuntal technique, structural complexity, melodic richness, etc.) needs to be made much clearer, but surely there is something important about the human expressivity of a composer's work.  If there isn't, why listen to music at all?  The mistake some people seem to make here is the double assumption that, a) there is only one actual criterion; and, b) that two composers could not both deserve pantheonic status if their style and content are vastly different (Mozart vs, Mahler, say).  But aesthetic appreciation is not a matter of scientific analysis, at least not purely; there will always be room for dispute.  The real question is whether or not one can adduce reasons for one's assessment, reasons grounded in the music itself.  The more one can do so, the more plausible one's argument in favor of (or against) so-and-so deserving to be in the pantheon will be.  The less one can do so, the less reason there is for anyone else to care what one's tastes are.  And this brings us back to the initial question and the reason why it's important: if we don't have enough of a sample of someone's work, we haven't got the evidence we ourselves need to make our own case.  After all, someone who knew only Wellington's Victory and the 'Rondo a Capriccioso' would hardly be in a position to reach a plausible or fair assessment of Beethoven....

Composers and Music / Re: Anton Rubinstein - operas
« on: Tuesday 12 March 2013, 15:19 »
This could be very exciting news, but--

There is a youtube video of the opening of Christus which features a small orchestra (3 violoncellos, 1 bass, and an organ replacing the brass).  Is this the same ensemble which is heard in the recording listed here? ( ).  It's clearly a student ensemble, and while not at all bad also not very compelling.

More broadly, has anyone here actually heard these recordings?  Are they any good?  Are they worth 19 Euros?

New Recordings & Broadcasts / Re: Rubinstein 4 reissue gets a drubbing...
« on: Friday 22 February 2013, 15:45 »
.... no amount of argument is going to convince me that R4 is anything other than a giant dud of a symphony....
And this is precisely why you would never write a review of a recording of Rubinstein; it could be Heaven's Own Orchestra conducted by Rubinstein himself, and you would still be unable to hear anything good about it.  Fair enough; personal taste cannot be argued.  But in the context of this discussion, this is the point: reviewers who have already decided that a piece is worthless really should not be the ones writing a review of it, especially if it's a less well-known piece.  Only someone who can knowledgably and fairly assess the relation of the performance to the character and requirements of the work being performed should be reviewing it.  Anything else is just blather.

New Recordings & Broadcasts / Re: Rubinstein 4 reissue gets a drubbing...
« on: Tuesday 19 February 2013, 16:08 »
There is an important point here which needs to be considered.  Take these two comments:
"Imagine mediocre Mendelssohn stretched out to beyond an hour, or watered down Bruckner and you'll have a  fair idea what to expect. ... It is a great irony that Rubinstein gave his Fourth the title Dramatic, because drama is precisely what it lacks. His ideas are pleasant enough, but repeated too often so that the first movement takes a sprawling 22 minutes in which very little happens until the coda. The second movement is marked Presto, but any sense of forward momentum is effortful. His Adagio is probably the most successful movement, containing lyrical string writing, while the the finale feels disjointed."

He closes by complaining the Stankovsky, on Naxos, "drags out the material even further".


....I prefer reviews that bring the limitations of the piece second. IMHO it's "how do you like the piece?" is a far more subjective question than "how do you like the performance?". I don't know why, but that's what I usually feel when I read the author's opinions on both matters.
I would completely agree that a reviewer ought to reveal her or his biases up front.  This can be done in a sentence ("I'm not a fan of so-and-so's music," for example), allowing the reader to balance the reviewer's personal taste against their actual critical statements.  And herein is the heart of the problem.  Simply dismissing a work or a composer with some snarky comments is not enough; the reviewer has an obligation to demonstrate the reason underlying their stance. 

Take the review mentioned above.  What exactly does "watered down Bruckner" mean?  Is the reviewer implying an influence here?  The mention of Mendelssohn, with whom Rubinstein is often linked, suggests as much.  We do know that there are links between Bruckner and Rubinstein; Rubinstein is reported to have praised Bruckner's Symphony#1 (the Linz version), and Bruckner categorically stated that "Since Wagner's death the greatest artist is Anton Rubinstein."  But this gets us only so far; when Rubinstein composed his fourth symphony (1874), he could have known only Bruckner's symphonies 1 and 2 (the other early symphonies were not publicly known until much later, and the disastrous premiere of #3 lay some years in the future).  Can we hear any Bruckner in Rubinstein's fourth?  I can't, and I'd like to have some idea why the critic concerned thinks he can.

Another responsibility of a critic of recordings is to get the facts about the performance straight.  The critic cited here seems to think that flipping off Stankovsky is a suitable finale to his/her 'crushing' review of Rubinstein.  So what do we find when we compare the two recordings?  Stankovsky takes 23'15" on teh first movement, compared to Golovchin's 22'08", which is hardly a significant difference.  Stankovsky's second movement comes in at 15'56", whereas Golovchin takes 14'30"-- but since Golovchin ignores many of the repeats it is not surprising that he shaves a minute and a half off Stankovsky's time.  It is true that Golovchin takes only 13'23" to get through the last movement, whereas Stankovsky takes 17'08", but since Golovchin omits the entire development section this is not a relevant comparison at all (it does indeed sound "disjointed," but not for the reasons the critic adduces, reasons which absolutely should have been part of an honest and complete review).  But then we have the third movement, selected by our critic as "probably the most successful."  Stankovsky takes 9'14"; Golovchin allows a full 15'09", which is to say that his version is two-thirds longer than Stankovsky's-- a greater difference than the other three movements combined once the omissions are taken into account.  This amounts to "dragging out" on Stankovsky's part?

It is probably too much to expect that any given critic will be able to enter into and understand every work they review.  But it is reasonable to expect that they will make absolutely clear their biases and areas of ignorance, and not too much at all to demand that, especially in a review of a substantial piece, they accurately provide relevant factual information regarding cuts or revisions to the score being performed.

Composers and Music / Re: Saxophone in Chamber Music?
« on: Tuesday 04 December 2012, 15:52 »
Anglo-American Caryl Florio (1843-1920), born William James Robjohn, left 2 chamber works written in 1879 for the Dutch saxophonist E. A. Lefebre.  Both make use of a quartet of saxophones, as Lefebre toured with such a group, which he dubbed the "Wonder Quartet" if I remember correctly.  Unfortunately, only the shorter piece survives, the Quartette, also known as the Minuet and Scherzo.  Lost is the major piece, a Quintet for saxophones and piano, which was extant until the 1960's when the late Barton Cantrell tracked down and purchased the Florio manuscripts for the NYPL.  At the time, the owner (who had only the most tenuous connection with Florio) "heard" that the quintet might be worth money and held on to it.  She, and the manuscript, subsequently disappeared.
Many thanks for this (even though it will necessitate a rather expensive purchase :) ); the Quartet sounds like a charming piece, and does indeed make me regret that greed has apparently submerged the Quintet....

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