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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)
dyn
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« on: January 05, 2013, 02:52:25 pm »

You will not be surprised to learn that I fundamentally disagree with you Smiley  I am happy to defend your absolute right however to express your opinion Wink
i am indeed unsurprised, seeing as you are (a) a specialist in orchestral music and (b) from, i suppose, a significantly older generation than myself >.>

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It may well be that a substantial number of younger composers are wondering whether there is any point in writing symphonies. Their reasons for that may differ between the fear that putting so much effort into composing in such a "weighty form" may not be rewarded with a performance at all and a more fundamental doubt that the symphony as a musical form has any real future per se.

You go on to elaborate a number of reasons why the symphony may be regarded as an anachronism in the 21st century and posit the theory that those symphonies which are being written by living composers are in the main "pastiche", mere replication of a tradition which is, or should be, regarded as now outmoded.

And, of course, to an extent-if I am being brutally honest-I can recognise the argument. There is no disguising the fact that my own personal preference is for symphonic music which does build on past tradition. Is that unhealthy or undesirable Huh Huh You, clearly, think so. I do not.

i do not think your preference is unhealthy (although i would argue that all music "builds on past tradition"). i am speaking mainly from the point of view of composers rather than listeners. obviously, every listener has their own taste.

so many composers i've heard nowadays cannot seemingly write without reference to the past. they are "stuck in the museum" (i do not mean simply that they are writing "tonal" music—there is plenty left to be said with keys, notes and rhythms, and my own compositions fall within this realm in fact...—but that their music references specific works or idioms of the past, with the intention either of reviving these idioms or producing commentaries on them). and for reasons that to me seem obvious, these make up most of the people writing symphonies these days. part of it is undoubtedly through attempts to appeal specifically to listeners such as you, whose interest in classical music has led to a lifelong study of the great (and lesser) works of previous eras with little-to-no interest in present idioms or trends.

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Are audiences really stuck in a musical museum dedicated to the regurgitation of past glories and pale imitations of such Huh Well, to an extent they are. But I still like to believe that audiences could be educated to an appreciation of both the music of the great composers of the past and of more modern music and that there IS also a middle-ground-not of pastiche but of composers who, just as their great predecessors did, can use tradition, can build upon it, to compose music which both looks backwards and forwards.
certainly i would be interested in hearing a symphony by a composer who still believes that music is a living art—as opposed to someone like Robin Holloway i guess, who in one of his lectures during my first year at uni described his own work as "musical scholarship" with the whole implication that basically there is nothing original left to be said in music, only re-arrangements of others' works—a view that seems sadly common and i suppose starts with George Rochberg who must be one of my least favourite thinkers of the twentieth century >.>

i use the term "pastiche" rather broadly. i would describe almost the complete works of Thomas Adès as pastiche for instance, and most of the early and epoch-making works of Pierre Boulez, which i find rather inferior to the Webern originals he was so strongly influenced by. the kind of modern symphonists i am thinking of are people like David Matthews and James MacMillan (although Matthews i have actually heard some quite fine music by, albeit none of it in works called "Symphony").

i should note that i also stop considering a work a "pastiche" if it is superior to its antecedents to the point of no longer even inspiring comparison with them. the finale of Schubert's sonata D959 is not a "pastiche" of the finale of Beethoven's sonata Op. 31/1, but it could have been if it was much more poorly written. >.>

(and there are works i consider pastiche that i enjoy listening to as well, both from the "modern" end of the spectrum such as Unsuk Chin's Violin Concerto, which incidentally possesses a surface beauty & love of colour that i think would make it not completely inaccessible to the membership of this forum, and from the "traditional" end such as Vaughan Williams 5 and Dutilleux 1 which are two of the best symphonies to come out of the 20th century)
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