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Whatever happened to Fritz Brun?


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Author Topic: Whatever happened to Fritz Brun?  (Read 957 times)
adriano
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« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2019, 07:18:06 am »

Since about 15 years, for example, I am trying to find some money to record Oboussier's wonderful Symphony and the Symphonies of Charles Chaix: no chance!

Incidentally: The complete Fritz Brun Box from Brilliant Classics is out now:
https://www.brilliantclassics.com/articles/f/fritz-brun-complete-orchestral-works/

(It's a reprint of all Guild and the Sterling CDs, plus a historical bonus album). Have a look at what I have done of the (downloadable) booklet...
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Gauk
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« Reply #16 on: May 13, 2019, 09:41:00 pm »

Coming back to my opinion on some reviwers: I forgot to mention those who, because just they don't like a piece, they just find it bad. This is also unfair.

This is a pet hate of mine. Just because you like something doesn't make it good, and just because you dislike something doesn't make it bad. I think most critics are not actually capable of judging the quality of a work, and just go by personal taste. Plus, of course, the assumption that a composer outside the standard canon must be bad, or he wouldn't be neglected. Whereas anyone famous must be good. It's the same in the visual arts, and its refreshing when you see an art critic lay into, say, Damien Hirst. I have a theory that Picasso, in his late years, actually tried to produce bad drawings to dare art critics to call him out - which none would dare do, of course.
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adriano
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« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2019, 07:45:09 am »

Indeed, Gauk :-)
Funny enough, most typically "hate" reviews of my Brun CDs were always coming from the USA; particularly from such high-nosed magazines like Fanfare and American Music Guide.
One (US) reviewer even wrote that, listening to Brun's music, one feels that we Swiss do not have enough sex. This was a review of just a particular CD, after only two CDs had been issued. Amateurish and unfair overall judgements like this prove that even so-called "serious" music magazines need boulevard-like practices in order to reach its/more readers.
Last week, incidentally, my Brilliant Classics Brun Box was on first place of jpc's Germany classic charts.

Here again the link to the online booklet:
https://www.brilliantclassics.com/media/1621710/95784-brun-booklet-download-file.pdf

Brun's music is always a challenge; one must be ready to make one's brains working - and re-listen again and again, in order to find access to an often unpredictable, rather wild and very personal world. But there is also a lot of lyricismy in it!
Already the fact that Brun had advocate-conductors like Hermann Scherchen, Felix Weingartner, Carl Schuricht, Volkmar Andreae, Robert F. Denzler and Othmar Schoeck proves that there must be something good about it.
After Weingartner had performed Brun's Third Symphony at the Vienna Musikverein in 1925, he was himself astonished to realise that it was well-received by such a conservative audience. And this, Brun's perhaps most bulky, awkward (and longest) Symphony! The program booklet of this concert had an elaborate work's introdution and many note examples - which is quite a sensation. The concert management had even agreed to more rehearsals, considering its extremely difficult string writing.
As far as this Symphony is concerned too, one US reviewer wrote about my recording that we had a sloppy playing and that it was a result of poor preparation. That we were not always "together". Would he have been able to read music and to consult the score, he would have reacted differently. Obviously he did not like the piece. The string parts of the first movement are really crazy and rapidly vary from tonal to strangely dissonant - and are often polyrhytmic: triplets against duplets (not to speak about higher uneven tuplet values) and pointed notes. The composer (who was a passionate mountain-climber) intended to describe menacingly sliding moraines and gneiss...
Last but not least, I am not writing in this forum because my love for Brun's music is totally blind-folded. I am still in a position to approach it critically. I admit, for example, that some of his last movements are not totally satisfactory, as, for example, just the one of his Third. But also in the Finale of his Ninth I I feel that the composer did not really knew where to go - and this is such a pity, since the opening theme of this Finale is superb! He had lost his chance.
Only Symphonies 2-4 had been published. Seeing what happens in the Finale of the Fourth, the publisher did not want to take further risks. In other words, practically all of Bruns' work are still in manuscript form. With the help of a good editor, Brun should have perhaps given the chance to revise some movements/passages. But once a Symphony was finished, he was already thinking of the next one - and nobody complained anyway. Swiss reviews were always positive. In Berne there was just one particular writer, who attacked him - but he was well-known for that, so everybody knew in advance what was coming. Brun also used to get infamous anonymous postings in his letterbox. I also discovered a few personal notes by the players of his orchestra (on the backsides of instrumental parts) - they were humorous, but also very insulting. Well, Brun's string players really had to prepare at home and to concentrate; their parts were very demanding!
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #18 on: May 15, 2019, 05:57:54 pm »

I agree with the general thrust of the points made by both Gauk and Adriano.

It has often puzzled me that certain music magazines seem to make it a regular practice to have particular types of music reviewed by those critics who have never made much of a secret that their tastes lie elsewhere. "Gramophone" used to (and may still-I gave up buying the magazine years ago) entrust reviews of new cds of the music of Penderecki to Arnold Whittall. Mr. Whittall never concealed his firm conviction that Penderecki had betrayed his musical destiny after about 1974 and that everything he wrote after that time was post-romantic, mediocre music. This opinion about Penderecki's music is a valid point of view but it has so coloured Whittall's writing that one could anticipate almost to the very language used his reception of each new cd. It became-at least for me-tediously predictable. I would far rather read a review by someone in general sympathetic to the idiom of the music being reviewed. If then the reviewer identifies weakness in the music then such a judgment carries more weight.

I don't find Fritz Brun's music easy to grasp on first hearing, or, necessarily, on second or third......but that does not mean that it is without merit. Similar concentration and study is required to fully appreciate the music of composers like Edmund Rubbra or Vagn Holmboe. But, as the secrets are unlocked, much of distinction is revealed and the effort is rewarded.

I also do not think that Adriano could complain of the fair-minded, indeed generous, reviews of his Brun recordings on, for example, Musicweb- albeit that most were written by Ian Lace, a fellow Brun enthusiast. He complains about hostile reviews from the USA. I have not read these reviews but take him on trust. There MAY be a cultural issue here. My experience would suggest that the British (and, perhaps, Northern Europeans in general) tend to express strong adverse opinions in a less blunt form than do some Americans, with at least some pretence of civility. This is a vast generalisation-of course-but I know that some Americans find British attitudes, at times, bordering on the arrogantly superior and respond by acerbic and abrasive rejoinder. This (usually) friendly exchange of has traditionally characterised the relationship between the British and American armed forces. I have no doubt that British music critics can be as savage and destructive as their American counterparts but it is unlikely that any reputable critic would make such a ridiculous assertion about the sex life of the Swiss. From whichever country however such an assertion stemmed it can only be treated with the contempt it deserves!

....and, before I am accused of being anti-American Grin, I have almost always found the Americans I have encountered unfailingly polite and courteous- indeed far more so than many Brits (who can be dour, unfriendly and downright rude!). I have many American friends and would not wish to give any of them any offence!!
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adriano
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« Reply #19 on: May 15, 2019, 09:22:00 pm »

@ Dundonnell
I do not really "complain" of reviews, I just realize and compare.

For your information, besides Ian Lace, following other authors reviewed Brun CDs on MusicWeb International:

Rob Barnett
Rob Maynard
E. Marshall-Luck
Gary Higginson
Philip R. Buttall
Jonathan Woolf

That thing about Swiss sex life was in an article of "Fanfare" by Martin Anderson:
A conductor friend of mine, looking through the scores of several Brun symphonies, reported that they were “typically Swiss – all sex and no orgasm,” and I have yet to find the Brun work to prove him wrong.
I quote this in order to correct my previous assertion. I just wonder what he meant by "several" - since only Symphonies 2-4 have been published. All other are in manuscript form.

David Hurwitz in two of his "Classic Today" reviews:
1: Adriano clearly believes in the work, but then people believe in all kinds of strange things, never mind Fritz Brun’s Third Symphony. The sonics are fine, but it’s really a lost cause.
2: Brun’s spasmodic syntax must be as frustrating to the musician as to the listener. For penitential souls only (on Symphony No.9).


I read all kind of reviews with great interest and amusement and I actually never feel offended - unless they contain personal attacks. And I collect them just for the Fritz Brun archive - and my own :-)

This is a special case, a typical example of Swiss provincialism:
A couple of years ago a (male/female) host duo made a presentation of my recording of Brun's Fourth Symphony on Swiss Radio's Channel Two. The gentleman started mentioning the orchestra and the conductor, then suddenly the lady interrupted, asking him: "Adriano?? Is he still around??" After having been informed with "yes", she chuckled and said "oh well...". And that was not her only chuckling. This encouraged me to complain at the Ombudsman's bureau - so the duo got a dressing-down by their superior. But in an e-mail, the head of department wrote to me: "One must accept the host's self-irony and, in order to keep our listeners with us, we need to use an entertaining tone. The important thing now is that you are satisfied, Mr. Adriano". Besides this, I also had complained that the arrogant duo had not even bothered to consult my booklet and had quoted from an erroneous Wikipedia article on Brun. My reply to the manager was a document quoting over a dozen scandalised mails I had received from friends and fans who had witnessed that broadcast.
I think one just has to react sometimes to such kind of trash...


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Dundonnell
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« Reply #20 on: May 17, 2019, 01:28:41 pm »

I suppose that it rather depends on what one means by the word "complain". In drawing our attention to puerile statements such as those you instance I would naturally conclude both that you were complaining about the absence of genuine musical criticism in favour of bald, blunt and crude assertion. I would also argue that you have every right to feel aggrieved by such puerility and, by drawing our attention to it, share your reaction.

It is not surprising to read the name of David Hurwitz in this connection. What is surprising and disappointing (and rather makes a nonsense of my "defence" of British music critics!) is to learn that the comment about the Swiss and sex came from Martin Anderson. Anderson's record lable, Toccata, has issued a very great deal of music by neglected composers. This, inevitably, varies in quality but gratitude for the efforts and products of Toccata do not excuse such a facetious approach to music criticism.
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adriano
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« Reply #21 on: May 17, 2019, 05:24:11 pm »

Mr. Anderson's (and his "conductor friend's") generalizing, rather xenophobic statement must therefore also apply to two other "typically Swiss" composers like Jaques-Dalcroze and Sutermeister, who are now being released on his label.
And, in case his "conductor friend" had really consulted Brun's manuscripts, he did not do this seriously enough. One can find quite a few terrific climaxes in Brun's Symphonies and in his Symphonic Prologue - which could be interpreted as "orgasms"...
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Gauk
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« Reply #22 on: May 18, 2019, 11:48:27 am »

Accusing Brun of "spasmodic syntax" reminds me rather of all the negative remarks about Havergal Brian, another composer whose style does not yield up easily to casual listening, but whose music is highly rewarding for those who make an effort to understand Brian's way of thinking. To go from an antipathy to Brun to damning the Swiss en bloc is frankly bizarre.

Incidentally, on the subject of rescuing neglected Swiss composers, it seems to me that a lot of French composers have been very poorly treated. André Gedalge is one case in point. Then there is a fantastic symphony by Louis Thirion which is completely unknown.
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adriano
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« Reply #23 on: May 19, 2019, 08:19:10 am »

Yes indeed, Gauk :-)

Not to speak about quite a few Swiss French composers for which I am struggling since years.
One interesting CD - which I had wanted to do, but had been refused by Marco Polo is:
https://vdegallo.com/de/produit/swiss-symphonic-composers-vol-1-denereaz-volgograd-symphony-orchestra-3/

It was produced in 2008, 20 years after I had had proposed it.

This could be a "pendant" to my own crazy CD with Ernset Fanelli's "Tableaux from Le Roman de la Momie".
https://www.naxos.com/catalogue/item.asp?item_code=8.225234

I also intended to continue with Jacques Ibert and Sylvio Lazzari on Marco Polo, but that is another - and rather unpleasant story...
I am a great fan of Havergal Brian!
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Gauk
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« Reply #24 on: May 19, 2019, 10:13:00 am »

I have the Fanelli CD!

Alexandre Dénéréaz I have added to my listening list.
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Greg K
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« Reply #25 on: May 31, 2019, 07:12:24 pm »

For myself, Anderson's "sex and the Swiss" remark seems just a flippant and throwaway witticism he became unduly infatuated with and thus irresistibly inserted into the review rather than some grave offense of style and judgment you're all berating him over.

I'll admit to finding it a bit humorous, however critically worthless.
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #26 on: May 31, 2019, 09:24:31 pm »

For myself, Anderson's "sex and the Swiss" remark seems just a flippant and throwaway witticism he became unduly infatuated with and thus irresistibly inserted into the review rather than some grave offense of style and judgment you're all berating him over.

I'll admit to finding it a bit humorous, however critically worthless.


From my own-very brief-meeting with Martin Anderson I would describe his humour as "robust" Grin

I would also wish to emphasise that the contribution that his label Toccata is making to the cause of rescuing neglected music is quite outstanding and deserves our huge admiration and gratitude!
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adriano
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« Reply #27 on: May 31, 2019, 09:29:55 pm »

Ha-ha.
So, because Mr. Anderson is running an excellent CD label (and he knows that), he is allowed to use this kind of "robust" humour? To decide what is humour is not alone a thing of the author, but also of the addressee.

My humour is more than robust, but I use it elsewhere.
Would I then be allowed to write about the English people something like that they are "typically impotent" - because I have conducted 49 CDs? I would count with terrible reactions. After all, my work is equally respectful as running an excellent CD label.

To me, Mr. Anderson's phrase is more problematic since I consider it not only an offense against Swiss composers in general, but an offense against Swiss population. And he means it seriously, otherwise he would not continue with "... and I have yet to find the Brun work to prove him wrong."
This kind of humour does not fit a professional CD review - but, as far as "Fanfare" is concerned, they have quite a few other similarly arrogant authors.

In 1995 one could read:
"Adriano is not a good enough conductor to get away with the affectation of one name".
What has this to do with a CD review? This too belongs to the lower boulevard journalism. Or is it another outgrowht of "robust" humour"?

Suppose that, after reading my postings in here, "Fanfare" will revenge itself even more so, by organizing a destructive review of my Brilliant Classics' Fritz Brun box. Some arrogant authors really believe to be untouchable Gods, in right to decide on artistic values and personalities according to their caprices, personal preferences and arrogance (or flippant sense of humour).

Besides all this, "Fanfare" is also well-known for offering good reviews for cash. Years ago, I even received such an offer myself.

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Dundonnell
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« Reply #28 on: May 31, 2019, 09:59:52 pm »

I think that if you re-read my post of May 17th you will find that I was (and still am) in full support of your reaction to the comments in the review.  I would not, could not and am not "defend/ing" what was written.
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adriano
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« Reply #29 on: May 31, 2019, 10:36:01 pm »

@Dundonnell
Thanks! My answer is, in this case, to Greg K's posting - but I also take the opportunity to complain that we artists too, we still have rights to defend ourselves :-)
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