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.
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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?
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.
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....
.... 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.
"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.
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....