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Ten Forgotten American Masterpieces (Leonard Slatkin)


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Neil McGowan
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« on: August 07, 2015, 02:50:53 pm »

Leonard Slatkin has compiled a list of ten (why must there always be ten?) "Forgotten American Musical Masterpieces"

What do members think of his list? 

Are these works truly forgotten?  Were there no female composers in America?

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tapiola
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« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2015, 03:12:59 pm »

Any list that does not include Harold Shapero's Symphony for Classical Orchestra is worthless! See August Gramophone.  Wink
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2015, 02:32:18 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
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ahinton
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« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2015, 05:24:29 am »

"so, which is Shostakovich's greatest symphony?"
4.

Simples.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #4 on: August 08, 2015, 02:22:16 pm »

Weinberg and Shostakovich were the two Russian symphonists of the 20th century who could truly described as "great"

Whilst Weinberg can probably be described as "great" (a term more usually associated with football commentaries or Sunday lunch), the idea of calling him "Russian" seems more than a little wrongheaded.  I have no idea which of my erstwhile colleagues at MusicWeb made this unwise assertion - I hope that in retrospect, they might rephrase their assessment of a Polish Jewish composer who worked largely in the USSR (not in Russia). Otherwise we will have Krasa listed as a Bohemian composer, or Piston assigned to the British Crown Colonies of New England.  Shocked

And where it leaves Prokofiev, of course, we remain uncertain?  Probably he'll be posthumously assigned to Ukraine, or even to the Donetsk People's Republic.
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Gauk
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« Reply #5 on: August 08, 2015, 03:51:45 pm »

I think it's questionable how forgotten some of these are - one just has to mention Ruggles and the one work that comes to mind is Sun Treader. I think all of these works have been recorded, some more than once. I'm sure one could do a list of more obscure works that are worthy of a first recording. But then, there is that awful "M word" again ...
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #6 on: August 08, 2015, 07:08:48 pm »

there is that awful "M word" again ...

Minimalism?   Wink
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Gauk
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« Reply #7 on: August 10, 2015, 05:05:36 pm »

"Masterpiece"
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #8 on: August 11, 2015, 01:24:51 am »

Given that Leonard Slatkin is Musical Director of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestre de Lyon perhaps he would like to programme some of these "masterpieces" in concert or to record them Huh Huh
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oldfezzi
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« Reply #9 on: August 11, 2015, 01:04:59 pm »

I'd say in general, our 19th century composers are far more "forgotten" than Leonard's list.   But then, he's the expert, not me.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #10 on: August 11, 2015, 03:47:01 pm »

I'd say in general, our 19th century composers are far more "forgotten" than Leonard's list.   But then, he's the expert, not me.

In what way are conductors greater "experts" than listeners?  The listener is the final arbiter. Performances without audiences are only rehearsals.  This 'cult of a musical priesthood' is one of the most damaging aspects of modern music. Everything is supposedly intended for the end-users - the audience.  But instead, everything is arranged for the comfort, convenience and glory of those delivering the music...  neither the composer nor the audience is served. Sad(

Now!  Does anyone have anything at all to say about the music in this list?  Or have suggestions of works which ought to have made the List Of Ten?   Smiley
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Gauk
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« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2015, 11:02:32 am »

Firstly, I'm surprised at the inclusion of Donald Erb, who I have never seen as a very interesting composer.

Secondly, in the case of symphonists like Schuman and Piston, it seems difficult to pick one work at the expense of the others. Schuman's 8th is very fine, but does it really stand out so far from the other symphonies, for instance, the 6th? In the case of Piston, I can understand choosing the 6th (I have a copy of a rare LP of Munch conducting it), but one should not belittle the others. And I don't see "Mysterious Mountain" as particularly special amongst Hovhaness's huge output.

It might have been better to compile a list of ten unjustly neglected composers, rather than trying to fix on individual pieces.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #12 on: August 14, 2015, 01:52:38 pm »

Firstly, I'm surprised at the inclusion of Donald Erb, who I have never seen as a very interesting composer.

Secondly, in the case of symphonists like Schuman and Piston, it seems difficult to pick one work at the expense of the others. Schuman's 8th is very fine, but does it really stand out so far from the other symphonies, for instance, the 6th? In the case of Piston, I can understand choosing the 6th (I have a copy of a rare LP of Munch conducting it), but one should not belittle the others. And I don't see "Mysterious Mountain" as particularly special amongst Hovhaness's huge output.

It might have been better to compile a list of ten unjustly neglected composers, rather than trying to fix on individual pieces.

Well said Smiley I totally agree with everything you have written.
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Alex Bozman
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« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2015, 12:27:25 am »

I'd agree that it's hard to pick out the best symphony from the output of Piston and Schuman. Personally would struggle to choose between Piston's 2nd and 6th.

My view is that George Crumb is better represented by a chamber work/song-cycle like Vox Balaenae than Echoes of Time and the River.

Still at least the list made me realise I'd never heard any Donald Erb and so listened to a youtube recording of The Seventh Trumpet. 
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Gauk
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« Reply #14 on: August 20, 2015, 09:28:09 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.
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