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Harris's 13th

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Author Topic: Harris's 13th  (Read 2041 times)
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« Reply #30 on: March 28, 2013, 04:54:07 pm »

Sibelius wrote an enormous amount of incidental music of all sorts-orchestral and choral-to commission. Some of it is impressive, some a lot less so.
But-as has been said-his greatness can never be in any doubt and lies in the major works with which we are all probably very familiar.

Other composers too have found inspiration(or indeed motivation) hard to summon up when the music is not derived initially from their own imperative to compose. RVW's muse sometimes flags and Shostakovich wrote some pretty sub-standard music to order. Consider the last 10-15 years of Elgar's musical career. Or Arnold Bax. Both composers were running out of ideas/inspiration. The sketches for the Elgar 3rd may-or may not-have been a return; we shall never know for sure.

When a composer is turned into a national icon as Sibelius most certainly was in Finland then the pressures of expectation can become unbearable.

Harris had run out of ideas and inspiration. He could not recapture the freshness of the earlier music. He-probably-realised that the sort of nationalistic, patriotic, romantic music he had composed through the earlier symphonies had run its course but he appears to have had nothing with which to replace it. The somewhat pathetic attempts to "modernise" his idiom, to use unusual combinations of instruments and tack this onto a 1960s/70s updated American nationalism was a disaster.

Copland changed direction and most definitely modernised his idiom (without recapturing the popularity of the earlier music). Samuel Barber did not.....and his later music demonstrates a diminution of inspiration and popularity.

It is obviously difficult for composers in the 20th century-who mostly lived longer lives than their 19th century counterparts to continue to develop their individual musical identity/idiom.

That is why I have always thought that the RVW 9th is a remarkable and unjustly under-appreciated score.
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