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Vienna


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Gauk
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« on: July 14, 2019, 10:40:58 pm »

A thought that has been with me recently:

Think about how dominant Vienna was in the history of music from the late 18th century to the early 20th. Now, imagine you asked a modern concert-goer to name a post WW2 Austrian composer (excepting those who emigrated). Whatever happened to Austrian music? Admittedly they lost Hungary, but even so!
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2019, 01:48:21 am »

Vienna in 1914 was the culturally vibrant capital of a vast multi-national empire. Many of the composers prominent in Vienna in the first two decades of the 20th century were born in parts of that empire lost in 1919. Mahler himself, though from a German-speaking family, was born in Bohemia. Franz Schmidt was born in what is now known as Bratislava in Slovakia. Reznicek was of of mixed Czech-Romanian ancestry.

In 1919 most of that empire was "lost": not just Hungary, but Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Galicia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia. What was left was the tiny German rump which became the Austrian Republic. And of course Vienna did remain a cultural, musical centre but many of the composers who remained were Jewish and many of these found employment across the political border in Weimar Germany. By 1939 most of them had fled from Nazi persecution: Hans Gal, Erich Korngold, Ernst Krenek, Arnold Schoenberg, Ernst Toch, Karl Weigl, Egon Wellesz, Alexander von Zemlinsky and others. Alban Berg died in 1935, Franz Schmidt in 1939, Anton von Webern in 1945.

The Vienna of 1945 was a very different city than in 1914. And you are of course quite correct in saying that very few Austrian composers who survived the tumultuous decades between and who continued to work after 1945 are "household names" to the average concert-goer. This is not however surprising however striking it may be.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2019, 04:11:22 am »

.

In 1919 most of that empire was "lost": not just Hungary, but Bohemia, Moravia, Slovakia, Galicia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia. What was left was the tiny German rump which became the Austrian Republic. And of course Vienna did remain a cultural, musical centre but many of the composers who remained were Jewish and many of these found employment across the political border in Weimar Germany.

Very well put, and thank you for this highly apposite viewpoint.

A thought that has been with me recently:Whatever happened to Austrian music?

If asked this question, my immediate reply would include HK Gruber, of course Smiley 
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Gauk
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« Reply #3 on: July 16, 2019, 11:00:30 am »

Actually, it's partly a reflection of how ignorant most concert-goers are of contemporary or post-war composers of any nationality other than their own. You and I could rattle off a long list of post-war Swedish composers, but if you stopped someone in the foyer of the Wigmore Hall, they might be stumped.
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #4 on: July 17, 2019, 06:40:54 am »

I fear you're not wrong there!   Cool   I haven't been to the Wigmore Hall for donkey's years, so I don't know how things zre there these days?

But let's hope their musical acument stretches a little further than our expectations?  In all fairness, I think the situation is very much the same wherever we go.  I found myself having an unexpected interval chat in Moscow last month, trying to explain who Harrison Birttwistle is   Cry
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christopher
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« Reply #5 on: July 17, 2019, 11:53:34 am »

But should Moscow audiences be expected to have heard of Birtwistle? (I ask objectively, not sarcastically or critically)
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #6 on: July 17, 2019, 01:41:50 pm »

But should Moscow audiences be expected to have heard of Birtwistle? (I ask objectively, not sarcastically or critically)

Yes, that was exactly my point.  Should any audience be 'expected' to have heard of any other works than the ones they've come to hear? 

I feel that Gauk believes (as I do) that it would be healthy for audiences to have listened widely to a variety of music from different nations and periods. But (again, objectively!) in reality it's not realistic to expect any significant or comprehensive knowledge of the output of composers of other countries in all listeners - people simply haven't the time, let alone the resources. Even getting hold of works by Birtwistle (or PMD, or James McMillan, or any other British cmpoosers of present or recent years) is a hard job that requires a lot of effort.  There aren't CDs available of major works, nor can they always be found online.  All you can find of The Mask of Orpheus is dribs and drabs, in disjointed chunks.  Try finding Yan-Tan-Tethera (which I rate as a masterpiece)?  Or The Second Mrs Kong?  There's not a scrap of it to be heard. Frankly, composers (and their pubishers) have themselves to blame - while they sit tight on their output, passed-around on privately-made CDS in hardwritten paper sleeves, the world can rightly say...  'oh, and what have you written?'

I wish Sir Harry a happy 85th birthday,  Perhaps his publishers would make him the birthday present of making available the recordings they're sitting on?  Because if they are waiting to cash in financially on these works, they (and we0 will die waiting. Please don't tell me no-one bothered to record The Second Mrs Kong or Gawain, when they were performed? 
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Dundonnell
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« Reply #7 on: July 18, 2019, 12:36:02 am »

But should Moscow audiences be expected to have heard of Birtwistle? (I ask objectively, not sarcastically or critically)

I wish I hadn't heard of him Wink (That is a joke of course Smiley)

In response to Neil's post, first of all Sir James MacMillan has done very well in terms of cd releases of his music; most of his works can be obtained commercially. More importantly however, Neil is quite correct in referring to the impossibility of having a comprehensive knowledge of the entire repertoire. I know the names of a very considerable number of composers and have catalogued the orchestral music of hundreds of them. But my knowledge of opera, chamber music, instrumental music is almost non-existent. It has also become clear that there are indeed vast numbers of composers (particularly from Eastern Europe, Russia, Asia) of whom I have never heard. And my "knowledge" of the 20th century composers of orchestral music-which is my particular area of interest-is at best "shallow". I know the names of composers. I have listened to as much of their music as I have had time to do. But "comprehensive knowledge" is not something I could ever claim.

And how much more is this true for executants. They are required to have real, in-depth knowledge of the music they perform. It is impossible for them to know much, if anything, of the music of composers they do not perform. I was shocked when I learned that the conductor of two British symphonies recently released on cd had, previous to being contracted to make the recordings, never heard a single note of that composer's music. Shocked because I had the notion that he had some obligation to have listened to the off-air recordings of the composer's music available here or on You Tube. Was this fair? Of course not! There are only so many hours in a day and only so much of an individual's life which can be devoted to listening to music. If executants have to study the music they are playing-as they obviously do-then a wide knowledge of the repertoire is extremely difficult.

It is for this reason that I so admire those conductors who were continually broadening their repertoire to include the neglected and the obscure.
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