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The Rise of the Concerto and the Fall of the Symphony in Britain

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Author Topic: The Rise of the Concerto and the Fall of the Symphony in Britain  (Read 1241 times)
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« on: November 19, 2012, 07:56:10 am »

Could I just say that I chose to label this thread in the way I did in order to be provocative and, hopefully, to gain it some attention Grin I did not intend to put the two musical forms into competition with each other but simply to draw attention to what appeared to me from my cataloguing exercise to be a considerable diminution in the number of symphonies being written by contemporary composers in contrast to the increasing diversity of concertos for an ever-widening number of different musical instruments. As composers over the last 50 years or so have become-it appeared to me-more adventurous in writing concertos for wind, brass, percussion etc instruments they seem to be at least "shy" with regard to the use of the word "symphony" Smiley

But-ultimately-if a composer (like Robin Holloway) choses to write substantial Concertos for Orchestra which he decides to label "concertos" rather than "symphonies" I have no great issue with that. What I do have a problem with however is that of his five Concertos for Orchestra only two have made it to disc (and that courtesy of the specialist modern label NMC) and that his two most recent such works-critically acclaimed though they are-are completely inaccessible to an "old fogey" like myself. I may prefer the music of Edmund Rubbra or Robert Simpson to that of Robin Holloway or Colin Matthews but I WOULD like the opportunity to be able to say that based on actual familiarity with the music of all four.
Hear, hear!

That said, I think it fair to say that Holloway has written a considerably greater number of works that might have been given the title "symphony" than has Colin Matthews (not that this is intended as any kind of value judgement of either composer one way of the other). Incidentally, when I once asked Anthony Payne when he might write his first symphony, he promptly retorted "never!" but then, on reflection, added "well, probably later than that!" (this, incidentally, after Elgar 3 had been completed and performed); I didn't like to ask him to "elaborate" on why this might be, as I rather felt that I could see the film of dustiness on the answer before I'd even put the question...
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