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Ten Forgotten American Masterpieces (Leonard Slatkin)


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Author Topic: Ten Forgotten American Masterpieces (Leonard Slatkin)  (Read 1616 times)
SerAmantiodiNicolao
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« Reply #15 on: August 23, 2015, 08:47:38 pm »

Actually, I think Crumb is over-rated. I would replace him with Peter Mennin, and if I had to single out one work, the piano concerto.

For "unknown", "American", and "piano concerto", my own choice would be the Giannini that was recorded on Naxos a few years back.  That's a stunner of a work if ever I knew one.

As for this list...well, I'll just say that most of the composers listed aren't to my taste, really, and leave it at that.  I think my own list of ten would be vastly different than Mr. Slatkin's.
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Gauk
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« Reply #16 on: August 24, 2015, 07:14:20 am »

As for this list...well, I'll just say that most of the composers listed aren't to my taste, really, and leave it at that.  I think my own list of ten would be vastly different than Mr. Slatkin's.

Who would be on it?
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Latvian
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« Reply #17 on: January 25, 2016, 10:37:09 pm »

An interesting and sometimes surprising list, which seems to me more revealing of Slatkin's tastes than any objective standard. I agree with Dundonnell that lists of the "best" music are fairly useless. We all have differing tastes and criteria, and it's extremely difficult to assign an objective standard to this proces. What criteria did Slatkin use to select these works? Probably they are works he's heard or studied (and possibly performed) that "speak" to him on a very personal level, and which he feels are underrated or underperformed. I do respect Slatkin as a conductor and musician, and he seems to have more familiarity with less-popular works than certain conductors who rarely stray outside the standard repertoire, so I'll treat his choices with appropriate consideration. Being in a ruminative mood today, I'll offer some thoughts:

1. Donald Erb -- The Seventh Trumpet. An odd choice, indeed. Erb's music doesn't do much for me and I rarely encounter his name on lists of supposedly "important" American composers. He's always struck me as peripheral, at best. I recall performing one of his works back in the 1970s, for wind ensemble and electronic sounds.  I don't even remember which one -- that's how much of an impression it made on me. Anyway, I've never heard The Seventh Trumpet, so I have no basis for judgment on this one.

2. Jacob Druckman -- Lamia. I've never had much interest in Druckman's music. Maybe it's time to listen to some works again and see if they make more of an impact. He's certainly a respected name in American music, though, as with Erb, those listeners not inclined to more "difficult" music may be reluctant to invest much time in evaluating him.

3. William Schuman -- Symphony No. 8. In this case, I agree with Slatkin. This is my favorite Schuman symphony by a mile. Bernstein made a terrific case for it in his classic recording. I haven't listened to Schwarz's version, but I can report that I heard a Zubin Mehta performance back in the 1980s with the NY Philharmonic that betrayed utter cluelessness. Perhaps not every conductor can deal with Schuman's sound world, and given the increasingly dumbed-down audiences of today, a revival of Schuman's knottier works is not likely in the offing.

4. Walter Piston -- Symphony No. 6. Again, I agree. One of my very favorite Piston works ever since I first heard Munch's pioneering LP. And apart from Piston's 2nd Symphony, it's the only symphony of his I listen to with any regularity. A brilliant work!

5. Carl Ruggles -- Sun Treader. Again, agreed. A blazing work! True, it's not unknown to many listeners, nor is Ruggles' name, but how often does it show up in concert anymore? Not a recording staple, either.

6. George Crumb -- Echoes of Time and the River. Agreed, with some qualification. I used to be much more passionate about this work in its earlier years, but recent listenings of the Louisville recording haven't hit me with the same force as in the past. I did experience a live performance with Ozawa and the BSO back in the 1970s that made a tremendous impact on me, and as time recedes from that event, perhaps the impact of the work has lessened. Again, not exactly a recording or concert staple.

7. Roger Sessions -- Symphony No. 2. Possibly. This is a work I've never spent much time with, so I'm not really in a position to judge. Sessions's 3rd & 7th Symphonies have always appealed more to me. Another composer who I suspect will become rapidly less familiar to all but the most serious listeners.

8. Alan Hovhaness -- Mysterious Mountain. Well, it is a lovely work, and an effective summation of Hovhaness' then-ubiquitous style. I do suspect there are other works that are more noteworthy or interesting. Valuable more as a milestone than a pinnacle.

9. George Rochberg -- String Quartet No. 3. An excellent piece, though again one I haven't spent much time with. I respect its historic significance in Rochberg's return to tonality but am not sure of its lasting value in the grand scheme of things. I'll have to dig out my recording again...

10. Morton Gould -- Suite from Fall River Legend. Well, certainly very fine music and prime Americana. However, its relative neglect has only been fairly recent. Several commercial recordings in the past as well as many concert performances in the past.

Sadly, we're probably nearing the point where much American classical music is sinking into neglect. Popular culture has trivialized classical music to the point where much of the American public only recognizes tunes that show up in TV commercials. Anyway, I think we've already beaten this dead horse sufficiently in other threads on this forum.

In conclusion, I refer back to my open comments about the subjectivity of lists such as these. To illustrate my point, I'll compile a list of my own and see how forum members react. While my criteria will be more avowedly based on personal taste, lasting affection, and respect for the quality of the compositions, I believe I have enough of a background in the repertoire both as a listener and practicing musician to produce a respectable compilation. We'll see...
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« Reply #18 on: April 25, 2016, 07:40:29 am »

I am a compulsive list-maker  Grin but my lists are of a different sort (all the orchestral/choral compositions of hundreds upon hundreds of late 19th and 20th century composers).

I always recoil from lists of "the best...." and Slatkin's list rather falls into that category. It may be interesting and it may encourage others to produce their own lists or to query omissions but they are by definition personal opinions based on a combination of knowledge of the works included and of individual taste. If one feels that the symphonies of, say, Walter Piston or William Schuman or Peter Mennin, deserve to be heard more often (or indeed at all) then one is obliged by the constraints of "the ten......" to select "the best", "the most worthy" and I have never really seen the point of such an exercise.

I read a review on Musicweb the other day which asserted that Weinberg and Shostakovich were the two Russian symphonists of the 20th century who could truly described as "great". So...where does that leave, say, Prokofiev Huh And if one is asked "so, which is Shostakovich's greatest symphony?" it is possible, I suppose to narrow the choice down to three or four of the symphonies but what does it profit to go further than that Huh Nos. 8 and 10 are both masterpieces but I could not and would not wish to pick one ahead of the other.

Sorry....I ramble but you may get the gist Grin

And to omit Miaskovsky is a travesty..
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Amphissa
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« Reply #19 on: January 02, 2017, 01:27:47 am »

Sorry to dredge up an old topic, but I'm trying to find my way around here and ran across this topic.

I found Slatkin's list pretty bizarre. Many of these pieces are not really "forgotten" because they were never really "known." In other words, they never received much notice to begin with and never really penetrated the concert hall repertoire to a noticeable extent, so how can they be "forgotten"?

One item I would seriously question on this list is the Hovhaness. This particular work has been recorded quite a lot, the recordings are still available and still sell, and it remains one of the best known pieces by an American composer. So, I would not consider it "forgotten" at all.

And I certainly agree, Myaskovsky shoukd have been on that list.  Grin

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« Reply #20 on: January 07, 2017, 07:16:59 pm »

I think it's not unreasonable to describe as "forgotten" a work that was never much in the public eye to start off with. "The Land That Time Forgot" doesn't imply somewhere that everyone had previously heard of. It would be much harder to produce a list of works that were once well-loved, but now forgotten. Not impossible, but I think one would struggle to find ten American "masterpieces" in that category. If a work is that good, it doesn't so often fade away after becoming established in the repertoire; much more likely it never makes it to the repertoire in the first place.
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