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1036  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Harris's 13th on: March 19, 2013, 03:43:58 pm
I can't help but feel that there is a comparison here with Sibelius. It is quite possible that if Sibelius had not burnt the MS of his 8th symphony, we might well be saying the same things about that work. His compositional powers were in decline and he knew it.
1037  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: A mysterious piano concerto on: March 19, 2013, 03:19:25 pm
Aha! Thanks for that suggestion!
1038  About music in general / Theory and tradition / Re: "Five Symphonies That Changed Music" on: March 18, 2013, 11:08:47 am
This sort of thing always annoys me. I could just as well say that Brian's Gothic Symphony changed music, because before he wrote is, there was no Gothic Symphony by Brian in existence, but after he had written it, there was. Furthermore, to use that awful phrase, it changed music FOREVER! Because having been written, it can't be unwritten.
1039  About music in general / Theory and tradition / Re: Has Boulez's been a pernicious influence? on: March 18, 2013, 11:04:01 am
I am on the side of Boulez here, up to a point. The reason he is held to be a great composer is not because people are conned in some way, but because he genuinely is a great composer. But to appreciate his music, you really do have to, as Charles Ives put it, "stand up and use your ears like a man".

The problem, as I see it, is with (as per the thread title) the influence, or to be more precise, the advocacy of total serialism as the musical "way ahead". In the long run, I think strict serialism, and especially total serialism, will turn out to have been a blind alley. It is possible to write masterpieces using serial techniques, when applied by a great musical mind. Unfortunately, in the hands of anyone who is not a great musical mind, serial techniques produce pieces that have no virtue.

For instance, if you take some minor second- or third-rate Soviet composer of limited compositional powers. Their music can still be enjoyable and entertaining today; which is why there are a bunch of them represented in the archive here. But the works of a composer of equivalent ability writing in the total serialism manner just have no redeeming features; they are just dull. Thus I predict that 50 years from now, there will still be people like us chasing obscure pupils of Reger; but no-one will take any interest in obscure pupils of Boulez.

Footnote: I heard that for a pupil of Boulez, a compositional lesson consisted of being taken out to a Chinese restaurant for a meal and a chat about anything under the sun.
1040  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Harris's 13th on: March 18, 2013, 12:54:11 am
Now the question arises, how many choral/vocal works that we consider masterpieces have substandard texts that we monoglots are blissfully unaware of?

Plenty, and that is why (for instance) that one doesn't hear Schubert's operas much.

And you can add Tippett's later operas to Tippett 3 as well. It constantly irks me that so many composers think that because they know how to write music means they know how to write poetry as well. The result is as daft as a poet deciding he might as well write his own music for his poems. It's possible that a good composer might be a good poet as well (or vice versa), but it's statistically unlikely.

Kaddish, though, is just too cringe-making to be listenable to.
1041  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Your Discovery of the Year on: March 17, 2013, 10:42:39 pm
Symphony Persepolis + other work
He was born in Samarkand and in its colorful music we can recognize influx op russian and persian folklore

I have an LP of his 2nd and 3rd piano concertos. I played the 2nd to a friend of mine once, and he said "I'm familiar with ABCBA structure, and ABABA structure, and ABA structure, but this is the first time I've heard just A structure".
1042  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Harris's 13th on: March 17, 2013, 10:37:47 pm
Oh dear, the Kaddish ...

That's another piece, which, whatever you might think of the music, the text is so toe-curlingly embarrassing as to doom the entire work out of hand. Bernstein 3 may be musically better than Harris 13, but the text is even worse.
1043  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / A mysterious piano concerto on: March 17, 2013, 10:13:16 pm
Back in 1979 I found myself one afternoon in a house in Albany NY, turing on the radio, and catching the opening of a piano concerto that was completely unfamiliar. I listened through, wondering what on earth it was. At the end, the announcer came on and named it as Bartok's first piano concerto. Which it wasn't. It would not be the first time that a programme presenter accidentally put on the wrong side of an LP. Question is: what recordings of Bartok's 1st existed in 1979 that had an obscure piece on the other side? Any ideas?

I have only once heard a piece since that sounded like my recollections of that broadcast, and that was one of the Khrennikov concertos, but Google does not reveal any Bartok-Khrennikov coupling.
1044  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: The Rise of the Concerto and the Fall of the Symphony in Britain on: March 17, 2013, 07:54:43 pm
Well, with Segerstam you get both, quite often, many of his symphonies having quite bizarre subtitles; ah, well, that's Leif, I guess. As of the end of August this year, the symphonic tally was 258, many of these symphonies occupying precisely the same duration - 24 minutes - and if the subtitle of the most recent one, Enchanted by the famous pigletpettattoes of Viola Segerstam, isn't perverse, I'm not quite sure what is. That said, his conducting of other repertoire - especially that for which he's perhaps best known - seems to me to be anything but eccentric or at least achieves wholly uneccentric and often utterly thrilling and compelling results.

That actually raises another question. Is a symphony anything you call a symphony? Segerstam can turn out such large numbers because each is only six pages of MS, using a system of notation for semi-aleatoric playing. This is why they are all 24 minutes long. With graphic scores, it's even easier. A friend of mine some years ago wrote a String Quartet the score of which consisted of three small drawings, one for each movement. I can do that, gizzajob. Give me enough paper, and I'll do 300 drawings and put "Symphony No. _" at the top of each.
1045  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Harris's 13th on: March 16, 2013, 09:20:11 am
Khachaturian 3 was a great disappointment to me when I first heard it; one charitable explanation I've heard is that he was trying to emulate Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture - but his compositional powers were not up to the task. It's still not unlistenable, as note the number of recordings.

Some pieces will always be sunk because of the choice of text. Calling a piece "Ode to Stalin" is not going to promote its longevity. But aside from the crude text in Harris's 13th, the word setting is just so poor, shouting out one syllable at a time. It's almost as if he was trying to channel Philip Glass or Harry Partch.
1046  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Harris's 13th on: March 15, 2013, 03:38:35 pm
Following on from a mention by Latvian in another thread, I thought it might be worthwhile to draw attention to this discussion of the piece:

http://conductingmasterclass.wordpress.com/2009/06/07/almost-forgotten-bicentennial-symphony-will-re-debut-in-long-beach-at-juneteenth-event-roy-harris-almost-lost-piece-rescued-by-friend-and-music-lover-john-malveaux/

Personally, I tend to the opinion that the piece is unbelievably dire. I can't understand how a composer of Harris's stature could write such stuff. I have a nice poetry anthology which has sections titled "The bad poet at his best" and "The good poet at his worst" ("Across the wires th' electric message came/ He is no better; he is much the same."). If we take the "Bicentennial Symphony" as "The good composer at his worst", is there a more extreme example?
1047  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: The Dozen Most Neglected on CD Non-British 20th Century Symphonists on: March 15, 2013, 03:29:58 pm
On the subject of the fourth, the finale is choral and features a song written by Knipper in 'folk style' called Polyushke Pole. It became so popular that many Russian believed (and still do, according to Michael Palin) that it is an actual folk song, not one of Knipper's original compositions.

... and hence whistleable by French tourists! (Well, a very well educated one, anyway).
1048  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: The Dozen Most Neglected on CD Non-British 20th Century Symphonists on: March 15, 2013, 09:36:52 am
Knipper's 4th used, I think, to be quite popular - or to put it more precisely, either it used a pre-existing popular song or part of it became a popular song, because I remember once hearing a French tourist whistling it.
1049  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: Russian composer Alexander Krein (1883-1951) on: March 13, 2013, 11:11:59 pm
Oh, now I have heard some of his music, whether on CD or radio I forget. If CD, it is not the "After Scriabin" one. I need to check.

... Checked - a radio broadcast of Symphony No 1, possibly, if not probably, from CD. I also have a CD of music by his nephew Julian Krein (1913-1996), hence the confusion. The symphony, if I recall aright, was rather acceptable.
1050  Little-known music of all eras / Discussion of obscure composers / Re: The Dozen Most Neglected on CD Non-British 20th Century Symphonists on: March 13, 2013, 11:07:34 pm
CRI is what I meant! I was aware of that as an LP way back when, but for reasons now forgotten, could not get hold of a copy.

I just listened to Cowell 8 and Cowell 9 on some atrocious recordings from the other place (78s?), and I can't see anyone rushing to make modern recordings. Perfectly attractive, but essentially light music with a symphonic label.
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