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Why the Baltic and Slavic countries not promoting their music? A Wonder.


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Author Topic: Why the Baltic and Slavic countries not promoting their music? A Wonder.  (Read 695 times)
dholling
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« on: November 24, 2013, 04:57:30 am »

Hello Everyone:

Being keenly aware and appreciative of the immense musical talents from the Baltic and Slavic countries (for instances, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Estonia, Belarus, even Finland and Sweden), there is that nagging, lingering thought that continues to bother me, which is, why are these countries not doing enough, if at all, in promoting and bringing to the fore, the works of their composers, past and present? What's great about forums like this is that we know and share knowledge and opinions about these composers and their works, many of which are masterful. If we look at Latvia, for instance, we do know the talents of say, Skulte, a symphonist par excellence, Ivanovs, Medins, Barrisons. One, therefore, would think that the country would establish a record company or collaborate with record labels to put these works out there, and yet that has not happen much. Estonia, although it likewise started late in establishing an at least viable classical music tradition, had brought up a plethora of huge talents (Eller, Artur, Eugene, and Villem Kapp, Auster, Tubin, Raats, Lemba, et al.) and yet it has done little in promoting their music. Sweden is to an extent an exception, even though one wishes it would have done more. Finland, though, lags behind (Melartin comes to mind).

I know there's a history behind this unfortunate phenomenon, with many of these countries that were formerly part of the USSR (including Eastern countries like Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, which have these problems also). And we know that Melodiya and its labels (like Mezhdunarodnaya Kniga for instance) had distribution problems, which I surmise, have lingering effects today (there's more to the story than I know I'm sure). And of course, there's the matter of economic feasibility. A friend of mine told me that it costs upwards to $4-5,000 to put together an album (whether that's true I can't tell). But in the music market with cooler CD sales as compared with the sales during the 1990s, I might see why there's the hesitation to put works truly in the fringes of the repertoire out there. But independent labels like CPO is disproving that, at least in some ways. Could it also be that these countries do not want these works known for copyright reasons (even Tchaikovsky's music was "borrowed" in various genres in the past, quite blatantly in fact).

So is there more to this that meets the eye? Am I off somewhere? Please, what say you?
 Undecided
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #1 on: November 24, 2013, 08:16:32 am »

Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, and, errr, Russia, are also Slavic countries Wink

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Bobyor
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« Reply #2 on: November 24, 2013, 10:29:01 am »

My experience tells me that the Baltic countries actually do quite a bit to promote their music, but one has to get in touch with their music information centres. For example, during a recent trip to Riga I was met by a representative, given CDs of Skulte, Ivanovs etc, and taken to the national library where I could photocopy -- gratis -- the entire piano oeuvre of Kalnins. Such a service just does not exist in the UK, for example. These countries have very small financial resources. Finland, which has deeper pockets, does an awful lot more. Think of all those CDs of Aarre Merikanto, etc.
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dholling
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« Reply #3 on: November 24, 2013, 08:14:32 pm »

Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, and, errr, Russia, are also Slavic countries Wink



Yes, I know: just keeping in mind syntax.
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dholling
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« Reply #4 on: November 24, 2013, 08:42:55 pm »

My experience tells me that the Baltic countries actually do quite a bit to promote their music, but one has to get in touch with their music information centres. For example, during a recent trip to Riga I was met by a representative, given CDs of Skulte, Ivanovs etc, and taken to the national library where I could photocopy -- gratis -- the entire piano oeuvre of Kalnins. Such a service just does not exist in the UK, for example. These countries have very small financial resources. Finland, which has deeper pockets, does an awful lot more. Think of all those CDs of Aarre Merikanto, etc.

That's quite true re. Finland. But then again, many of those recordings are out of print.
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christopher
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« Reply #5 on: November 24, 2013, 09:35:23 pm »

This is a source of immense frustration to me, esp in the case where there are existing recordings.  These are not going to mae money commercially, but they can be play a significant part in nation building (domestically) and building international cultural awareness of your (new) country internationally.  So why doesn't Estonia (for example) make available online its opera by Ewald Aav The Vikings (or even fragments)? WHy doesn't Belarus post up the complete symphonies of Vasil Zolotarev, which (apparently) were recorded by Melodia (according to a regular poster on here)? Such a small step around which they could create valuable cultural PR for their countries, make an event out of it, etc.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #6 on: November 24, 2013, 10:34:02 pm »

play a significant part in nation building (domestically) and building international cultural awareness of your (new) country internationally. 

Sadly it takes a particularly advanced kind of mind to think outside the box in this way. Far from every nation sees the 'value' of being valued for something other than tangible exports - such as oil, electronics, or cheeses.

Even countries you'd think were quite advanced in their approach sometimes surprise us Wink

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« Reply #7 on: November 24, 2013, 10:47:20 pm »

I believe the major issue here, from the point of view of Latvia and the other Baltic countries, is money. There is simply a reluctance to fund projects that will not generate as much profit as more mainstream repertoire will. Also, keep in mind that the worldwide economic crisis hit these countries much harder than Western Europe or the USA. While the situation wasn't quite as dire as Greece and the other countries that have been suffering under severe austerity measures, it wasn't a whole lot better, either. Arts and cultural organizations that were accustomed to government funding lost a substantial amount of their budgets.

However... as I've stated here before, another factor in the lack of releases of non-mainstream repertoire by national composers is simply a sense of embarrassment, or a feeling of inferiority. There is such a strong culture of looking to established masterpieces and "major" composers as a benchmark of musical quality, that they just can't quite believe that their own homegrown talent is quite up to that exalted standard, with the possible exception of Vasks and other composers who have been enthusiastically embraced by the West. I know from having talked to students at the national conservatory that they don't even study very much music by Latvian composers. Looking at Latvian Radio playlists in their archive, you'll note that Latvian composers are not as great a part of their programming as they were seven or eight years ago, and don't appear quite as often on concert broadcasts.

And.. the public in Latvia is not as interested in the classics as one might think. Certainly, a greater proportion of the population has more awareness and knowledge of "serious" music than in the USA, but there still seems to be an increasing tendency toward more popular fare.

Copyright issues, as mentioned by one poster in this thread, are likely not a major factor, though the issue of royalties gets back to the financial aspect. Also, I don't know if this is the case in every former Soviet republic, but I do know that in Latvia, the rights to recordings made in Latvia by Melodiya during the Soviet period have reverted to Latvian ownership. Certainly, some audio restoration and editing would be necessary in many instances, but it couldn't be that expensive to reissue some of these recordings on CD or MP3 downloads. But, no one seems to have the money or the inclination to take on such a project.

I'm sure the reasons are more varied and complex than the basic issues I've discussed here, but my experience tells me they are major factors, nonetheless.
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Jolly Roger
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« Reply #8 on: November 24, 2013, 11:24:56 pm »

I believe the major issue here, from the point of view of Latvia and the other Baltic countries, is money. There is simply a reluctance to fund projects that will not generate as much profit as more mainstream repertoire will. Also, keep in mind that the worldwide economic crisis hit these countries much harder than Western Europe or the USA. While the situation wasn't quite as dire as Greece and the other countries that have been suffering under severe austerity measures, it wasn't a whole lot better, either. Arts and cultural organizations that were accustomed to government funding lost a substantial amount of their budgets.

However... as I've stated here before, another factor in the lack of releases of non-mainstream repertoire by national composers is simply a sense of embarrassment, or a feeling of inferiority. There is such a strong culture of looking to established masterpieces and "major" composers as a benchmark of musical quality, that they just can't quite believe that their own homegrown talent is quite up to that exalted standard, with the possible exception of Vasks and other composers who have been enthusiastically embraced by the West. I know from having talked to students at the national conservatory that they don't even study very much music by Latvian composers. Looking at Latvian Radio playlists in their archive, you'll note that Latvian composers are not as great a part of their programming as they were seven or eight years ago, and don't appear quite as often on concert broadcasts.

And.. the public in Latvia is not as interested in the classics as one might think. Certainly, a greater proportion of the population has more awareness and knowledge of "serious" music than in the USA, but there still seems to be an increasing tendency toward more popular fare.

Copyright issues, as mentioned by one poster in this thread, are likely not a major factor, though the issue of royalties gets back to the financial aspect. Also, I don't know if this is the case in every former Soviet republic, but I do know that in Latvia, the rights to recordings made in Latvia by Melodiya during the Soviet period have reverted to Latvian ownership. Certainly, some audio restoration and editing would be necessary in many instances, but it couldn't be that expensive to reissue some of these recordings on CD or MP3 downloads. But, no one seems to have the money or the inclination to take on such a project.

I'm sure the reasons are more varied and complex than the basic issues I've discussed here, but my experience tells me they are major factors, nonetheless.
Another issue is that Latvian classical music is not often featured in Western concerts and most concert attendees are fed the same old warhorses mixed with the latest
aspiring and well-connected composers. The Proms are a perfect example of this practice. Perhaps the Latvian orchestras need to go on more tours financed by some enterprising corporate sponsors..
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #9 on: November 24, 2013, 11:44:59 pm »

I don't think that the Finns have done too badly actually: through the agencies of Ondine and Alba in Finland and Bis in Sweden.

For example, the symphonies of Aho(Bis + Ondine: No.6 still missing), Englund(Ondine: complete), Kokkonen(Bis and Ondine: both complete), Merikanto(Alba: complete), Melartin(Ondine: complete), Rautavaara(Ondine: complete and Naxos), Sallinen(Bis and CPO), Klami(Ondine), Madetoja(Chandos and Alba: complete, Ondine) are all available.
We could still do with a set of the three Pingoud symphonies but, for a relatively small country, that is not at all bad compared with Norway and Sweden-both infinitely richer countries-where a number of distinguished composers have not yet enjoyed such good fortune(I am thinking of Rosenberg, Eklund, von Koch, Fernstrom, Soderlind, Haug etc.).

Maris refers to the public attitude to serious music. It is a source of real pain to me to read over the last few days the choice of Desert Island Discs chosen by the Leader of the Opposition, Ed Milliband, in Great Britain(the Prime Minister's choice was no better): 7 "pop/rock" bands and one so-called "classical" piece(Milliband chose "Jerusalem" and Cameron "O, For the Wings of a Dove" Roll Eyes). When the next but one in line to the British throne, Prince William, chooses to host a rock concert at Buckingham Palace what hope is left Sad
For far too large a proportion of the population and increasingly for the younger generation "serious music" is not "cool". But then it would not do David Cameron's "elist image" any favours if he was filmed attending the opera now would it Huh
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« Reply #10 on: November 25, 2013, 03:43:17 am »

This may be off topic, but relevant to why classical music is generally on the decline.
We are in the midst of a dramatic decline in the quality of Western Civilization and music is not exempt. The majority our youth now follow false musical gods like lemmings. Politicians and others of influence (both left and right) want to be "cool" as well, so they endorse junk music and music of value suffers. Maybe it has always been this way, but I think a degenerate mass media is the primary villain. The fact that classical music still survives is a tribute to those who have not succumbed to the coarseness and incivility of these times.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #11 on: November 25, 2013, 05:37:50 am »

But then it would not do David Cameron's "elist image" any favours if he was filmed attending the opera now would it Huh

I wouldn't lose sleep over the chances of that happening in any case Wink
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Gerard
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« Reply #12 on: November 25, 2013, 06:28:46 am »

. . . We are in the midst of a dramatic decline in the quality of Western Civilization and music is not exempt. The majority our youth now follow false musical gods like lemmings. Politicians and others of influence (both left and right) want to be "cool" as well, so they endorse junk music and music of value suffers. Maybe it has always been this way, but I think a degenerate mass media is the primary villain. The fact that classical music still survives is a tribute to those who have not succumbed to the coarseness and incivility of these times.

I agree with every word!
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Appreciative, or investigatory, that is the question . . .
Latvian
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« Reply #13 on: November 25, 2013, 12:59:37 pm »

Quote
We are in the midst of a dramatic decline in the quality of Western Civilization and music is not exempt. The majority our youth now follow false musical gods like lemmings. Politicians and others of influence (both left and right) want to be "cool" as well, so they endorse junk music and music of value suffers.

Precisely!
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SerAmantiodiNicolao
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« Reply #14 on: November 25, 2013, 04:15:21 pm »

I don't think that the Finns have done too badly actually: through the agencies of Ondine and Alba in Finland and Bis in Sweden.

For example, the symphonies of Aho(Bis + Ondine: No.6 still missing), Englund(Ondine: complete), Kokkonen(Bis and Ondine: both complete), Merikanto(Alba: complete), Melartin(Ondine: complete), Rautavaara(Ondine: complete and Naxos), Sallinen(Bis and CPO), Klami(Ondine), Madetoja(Chandos and Alba: complete, Ondine) are all available.
We could still do with a set of the three Pingoud symphonies but, for a relatively small country, that is not at all bad compared with Norway and Sweden-both infinitely richer countries-where a number of distinguished composers have not yet enjoyed such good fortune(I am thinking of Rosenberg, Eklund, von Koch, Fernstrom, Soderlind, Haug etc.).

Don't forget opera: I think most, if not all, of the major Finnish operas have been recorded.  Madetoja's two, The Last Temptations, most if not all of Sallinen's, Merikanto's Juha, several of Rautavaara's, even the one effort by Sibelius.  The pickings for us lovers of Finnish opera are quite strong.

The majority our youth now follow false musical gods like lemmings.


Hey, now Angry  Some of us young'uns have taste.  Grin

Taste which, at least in my case, was developed primarily from the listening environment at home.  That's a huge part of the problem; classical music has no foothold to speak of in popular culture any more.  It's the sphere of the rarified and the elite...and that stereotype is being perpetuated by countless television programs and other avenues which mold children's cultural consciousness.  Therein lies the problem.
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