The Bland Leading the Bland

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dulcinea
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The Bland Leading the Bland

Post by dulcinea » Fri Sep 28, 2007 3:58 am

People here often complain about music that is excessively dry and thorny. How about music that is so bland, it brings to mind a very harsh description of some of Rimskii-Korsakov's less effective music: silken sound totally devoid of content? I was so boiling mad after having wasted an entire hour of my life listening to a collection of Stenhammar--mush-ic so thin and watery that it evaporated from my memory the instant the disc ended--that, if I had had a hammer at hand, I would have smashed that offending disc to bits. As for Nielsen's INEXTINGUISHABLE SYMPHONY, I have a better name for it: the ALZHEIMER'S SYMPHONY, because it makes me feel as if I'm losing my memory. I have listened to it very carefully no less than three times, and yet I can never remember anything of it: no tunes, no striking moments of drama, excitement, charm or sweetness--NOTHING AT ALL. If Nielsen wanted to be the Danish answer to Chaikovskii, he fell very VERY short.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

absinthe
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Post by absinthe » Fri Sep 28, 2007 4:19 am

Hah!

Ok, I'll add Cesar Franck's Symphony in D something or other and Vaughan Williams Symphonies 1, 2 and 9. Unfortunately I approached Vaughan Williams in my pre-teen years via the 6th 7th and 8th so the earliest (heard when I bought the symphonies as a set) came over a bit drizzly. I did try other recordings but the drizzle stayed the same.

A few more will no doubt come to mind no doubt.

pizza
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Post by pizza » Fri Sep 28, 2007 4:24 am

Nielsen 4 (The Inextinguishable) is one of my all time favorites. Just heard a dynamite live performance by the Jerusalem SO and the timpani duel in the last movement was one of the most impressive I've ever seen or heard. There's a great recording by Blomstedt/San Francisco but the ultimate laurel goes to Martinon/CSO.

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Post by david johnson » Fri Sep 28, 2007 4:49 am

...but I enjoy the Franck, sorry you do not.

dj

Sapphire
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Post by Sapphire » Fri Sep 28, 2007 8:06 am

absinthe wrote:Hah!

Ok, I'll add Cesar Franck's Symphony in D something or other and Vaughan Williams Symphonies 1, 2 and 9. Unfortunately I approached Vaughan Williams in my pre-teen years via the 6th 7th and 8th so the earliest (heard when I bought the symphonies as a set) came over a bit drizzly. I did try other recordings but the drizzle stayed the same.

A few more will no doubt come to mind no doubt.
I'm not sure I'd agree with you about Franck's Symphony In D. I've always liked that a great deal, and dare I say it but I think that Franck is generally under-rated.

As for RVW's Ninth, I heard a good version on radio recently by Vernon Handley conducting the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic. According to the BBC presenter, he was the only conductor who ever got his mind around it properly. I taped it and will try it again later.

Unfortunately, there's far more bland stuff around than good, and a preponderance of it is 20th century rather than 19th century, in my book. Some people, of course, may like "bland" music and don't consider it bland. They might instead regard what the rest of us consider good to be trashy and vulgar.


Sapphire

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Post by Donaldopato » Fri Sep 28, 2007 9:18 am

I have tried and tried and tried to get to know and appreciate Nielsen. But to no avail, it just doesn't do it for me, whatever "it" is. I call the 4th the "Indistinguishable" 8)
Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds. - Albert Einstein

GK
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Re: The Bland Leading the Bland

Post by GK » Fri Sep 28, 2007 9:24 am

dulcinea wrote:People here often complain about music that is excessively dry and thorny. How about music that is so bland, it brings to mind a very harsh description of some of Rimskii-Korsakov's less effective music: silken sound totally devoid of content? I was so boiling mad after having wasted an entire hour of my life listening to a collection of Stenhammar--mush-ic so thin and watery that it evaporated from my memory the instant the disc ended--that, if I had had a hammer at hand, I would have smashed that offending disc to bits. As for Nielsen's INEXTINGUISHABLE SYMPHONY, I have a better name for it: the ALZHEIMER'S SYMPHONY, because it makes me feel as if I'm losing my memory. I have listened to it very carefully no less than three times, and yet I can never remember anything of it: no tunes, no striking moments of drama, excitement, charm or sweetness--NOTHING AT ALL. If Nielsen wanted to be the Danish answer to Chaikovskii, he fell very VERY short.
What Rimsky-Korsakov music was that critic referring to? I recently listened to a R-K two CD set excluding Scherezade which I found very enjoyable. Maybe "silken sound totally devoid of context" isn't all bad.

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Post by Joe Barron » Fri Sep 28, 2007 10:06 am

Donaldopato wrote:I have tried and tried and tried to get to know and appreciate Nielsen. But to no avail, it just doesn't do it for me, whatever "it" is. I call the 4th the "Indistinguishable" 8)
That should be the title of a PDQ Bach piece. Interesting comments, though, since since I find nothing but melody in the Inextinguishable, just one memorable motif after another. There are beautiful, unforgettable passages in this piece, like the soaring strings that open the third movement, or the point in the fourth movement where the horns drop out, leaving the strings to finish the phrase alone. Just thinking about it is giving me chills.

And, you know, some perceptive listeners have found a similiarity between the opening clarinet motif and the main theme of Sousa's Stars and Stripes Forever. I saw it, too, once it was pointed out to me.

De gustibus non est disputandum, I guess. As for your initial complaint about bland music, yes, I agree. There is some music I would rather not listen to because it's so middle of the road, or bombastic, or formulaic, or Russian, that it does nothing for me. Much contemporary, so called neoromantic music falls into one of these categories, as far as I am concerned. And Tchaikovsky, whom I don't find compable to Nielsen at all.

I'm reminded of a comment by the sorely missed (though still living) Andrew Porter, who, comparing the atonalism of Carter and Babbitt to the minimalism of Reich and Glass, explained his preference for the former by saying he would rather have his understanding challenged than his patience.

Music for me is like coffee. The more I drink, the stronger it has to be to have any effect.

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basking in blandness

Post by SONNET CLV » Fri Sep 28, 2007 11:37 am

If anyone is signing up members for the Appreciation of Carl Nielsen's Music Fan Club, put down my name.

There is nothing bland about the Fourth Symphony, from its very name "Inextinguishable" (which is even better in Danish: Det Uudslukkelige) to its final bars of sound. The Fourth was the first of Nielsen's symphonies that I had the pleasure to hear. It was unforgettable -- I still recall vividly that initial listening experience. The work has remained a critical part of my symphonic listening life for some half century now, and I never tire of it. It remains the Fourth which inspired me to seek out the remainder of Nielsen's symphonies and other music, and with one or two exceptions I have found it all enjoyable -- though nothing in his oeuvre, including the great Fifth, ranks with the Fourth for sheer power, energy, excitement, and pure musical chutzpah. It is truly inextinguishable!

--SONNET CLV--

Justin
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Post by Justin » Fri Sep 28, 2007 1:23 pm

I was happy to see other posters come to the defence of Nielsen's Inextinguishable. My orchestra performed this a few years ago and it quickly became one of my favourite symphonies. And I would suggest that nothing - not listening to the recording with headphones nor sitting in the front row of the audience - can compare to the experience of actually sitting on stage between the two timpanists duelling in the last movement! Truly thrilling. As my conductor put it, and I completely agree, this is a work which has so much heart.

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Post by jbuck919 » Fri Sep 28, 2007 3:13 pm

I often listen to XM radio when I get home from work and Fridays they do a NY Philhamonic broadcast. Today it was all devoted to Sibelius, to what end I cannot fathom. IMO, one of the reasons we do not consider more symphonic composers simply a snooze is wishful thinking. Making the situation more complicated is that some such as Sibelius will occasionally write something interesting (the violin concerto), while others (Franck, who I know has been deprecated here but unfairly) will write only a few great works and one of them happens to be his symphony.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

Heck148
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Re: basking in blandness

Post by Heck148 » Fri Sep 28, 2007 3:30 pm

SONNET CLV wrote:There is nothing bland about the Fourth Symphony, from its very name "Inextinguishable" (which is even better in Danish: Det Uudslukkelige) to its final bars of sound.
Agreed, when it comes to bland music, I wouldn't consider Nielsen's music, esp Symphony #4, anywhere near the category...

it's a wonderful piece, skillfully orchestrated and very exciting...

bland for me?? Delius, Rachmaninoff, Taneyev, maybe, but never Nielsen.

Wallingford
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Post by Wallingford » Fri Sep 28, 2007 3:32 pm

REALLY, the composers I can do without are those who fancy themselves as Bearers Of The Word: a bit more often than not, they have little to say that even approaches, say, the 3 B's & Mozart & Haydn. That's why I ofttimes prefer the so-called "bland" ones....they usually don't make any pretense at being anything other than they are.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

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Re: The Bland Leading the Bland

Post by diegobueno » Fri Sep 28, 2007 3:55 pm

dulcinea wrote:People here often complain about music that is excessively dry and thorny. How about music that is so bland, it brings to mind a very harsh description of some of Rimskii-Korsakov's less effective music: silken sound totally devoid of content? I was so boiling mad after having wasted an entire hour of my life listening to a collection of Stenhammar--mush-ic so thin and watery that it evaporated from my memory the instant the disc ended--that, if I had had a hammer at hand, I would have smashed that offending disc to bits. As for Nielsen's INEXTINGUISHABLE SYMPHONY, I have a better name for it: the ALZHEIMER'S SYMPHONY, because it makes me feel as if I'm losing my memory. I have listened to it very carefully no less than three times, and yet I can never remember anything of it: no tunes, no striking moments of drama, excitement, charm or sweetness--NOTHING AT ALL. If Nielsen wanted to be the Danish answer to Chaikovskii, he fell very VERY short.
Keep listening to the Nielsen. It is one of the glories of music.

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Post by Sapphire » Fri Sep 28, 2007 4:37 pm

I am pretty sure that if it were somehow possible to place an aggregate monetary value on the works of the top 10 classical composers (whovever they may be in different time periods), it would greatly dwarf the value of the next 10, and so on down the chain. This "decay curve" is probably highly inverse-exponential. By "value" I mean the sum of money that the classical music public at large would be prepared to pay to have access to the works rather than forgo them. In other words, the big fish share the "pond" with a load of minnows, and not much in between.


Sapphire

piston
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Post by piston » Fri Sep 28, 2007 5:36 pm

Sapphire wrote:I am pretty sure that if it were somehow possible to place an aggregate monetary value on the works of the top 10 classical composers (whovever they may be in different time periods), it would greatly dwarf the value of the next 10, and so on down the chain. This "decay curve" is probably highly inverse-exponential. By "value" I mean the sum of money that the classical music public at large would be prepared to pay to have access to the works rather than forgo them. In other words, the big fish share the "pond" with a load of minnows, and not much in between.


Sapphire
Typical hierarchical approach to classical music, Sapphire. All linear, indeed, nearly all from the same national lineage. Frankly, I don't see the point in the celebration of greatness if it implies the rejection of hundreds of artists as minnows. It reminds me of how British authors viewed the rest of the world: on an evolutionary line from barbarians to... Brits! Your discourse is nothing but a myth -- the myth of cultural evolution. There's no linearity in spiritual achievement and there exists no single measure of creative achievement. As a matter of fact, the folks here who view Russian composers as minnows are merely showing their own cultural bias. I am certain that people in eastern Europe view a lot of British and American composers as minnows, too, from their own cultural standards. It's all rather parochial.

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Post by Opus132 » Fri Sep 28, 2007 5:52 pm

piston wrote:Frankly, I don't see the point in the celebration of greatness if it implies the rejection of hundreds of artists as minnows.
There is no other way to celebrate greatness, unless you plan on living forever.
piston wrote:Your discourse is nothing but a myth -- the myth of cultural evolution.
Proof?
piston wrote: As a matter of fact, the folks here who view Russian composers as minnows are merely showing their own cultural bias.
There's people here who views composers like Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev or Shostakovitch as minnows? Where as that ever happened?

The only myth here is that of cultural bias. A bigger load of crap couldn't have possibly ever been conceived.

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Post by Ken » Fri Sep 28, 2007 6:47 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Making the situation more complicated is that some such as Sibelius will occasionally write something interesting (the violin concerto), while others (Franck, who I know has been deprecated here but unfairly) will write only a few great works and one of them happens to be his symphony.
I tend to agree with you here, John. I'm not sure if it is because of my musical youth, but I don't understand Sibelius' symphonies. Even his earlier pieces tend to lose me, yet I am more effective at tuning in to the works of his contemporaries. I tend in particular to 'zone out' during his Symphony No. 2, which is, of course, universally praised.

I suppose my senses have been numbed by too much Germanic orchestral music. ;)
Du sollst schlechte Compositionen weder spielen, noch, wenn du nicht dazu gezwungen bist, sie anhören.

piston
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Post by piston » Fri Sep 28, 2007 6:58 pm

Opus132 wrote:
piston wrote:Frankly, I don't see the point in the celebration of greatness if it implies the rejection of hundreds of artists as minnows.
There is no other way to celebrate greatness, unless you plan on living forever.
piston wrote:Your discourse is nothing but a myth -- the myth of cultural evolution.
Proof?
piston wrote: As a matter of fact, the folks here who view Russian composers as minnows are merely showing their own cultural bias.
As usual, opus whatever, you're obnoxious (How many times have you sent insults my way, I ask you?). More diplomatically, I will reply that the "greatness" theme has never yielded anything positive on classical music forums. It's a lousy angle for narrow minded people to state, implicitly, "I know good music and you don't!" or "I am aware of what culture means and you're an idiot who doesn't have a clue." Such a spoon barf, all of that petty close-mindedness, and you're among the first to jump in the ring to start a verbal abuse fight. Why don't you simply eliminate me from your little mental orbit and I promise to do the same.
There's people here who views composers like Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev or Shostakovitch as minnows? Where as that ever happened?

The only myth here is that of cultural bias. A bigger load of crap couldn't have possibly ever been conceived.

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Post by Wallingford » Fri Sep 28, 2007 8:42 pm

Opus132 wrote: There's people here who views composers like Tchaikovsky, Stravinsky, Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev or Shostakovitch as minnows? Where as that ever happened?
Ahem, Opus. Regarding Rachmaninov....... :twisted:
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

dulcinea
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Post by dulcinea » Fri Sep 28, 2007 8:48 pm

I don't think I made myself clear in my original post. What I want to discuss is the puzzling phenomenon of how contemporaries of universally recognised Great Masters who write in the same style somehow manage to create only music that comes across as a cake that was not properly baked and which therefore crumbles to pieces. One of the volumes of THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO is dedicated to Saint-Saens; another is dedicated to his compatriot and contemporary Gabriel Pierne. The pieces of S-S are totally solid; the notes stick together and work together successfully. The pieces of Pierne, on the other hand, just fall apart and the notes don't function in harmony at all. How can this happen? Pierne was quite successful in his time, and produced a lot of works; am I to conclude that the genre of concert pieces for piano and orchestra just happens to be the one type of music that does not show GP at his best?
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

Wallingford
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Post by Wallingford » Fri Sep 28, 2007 9:17 pm

dulcinea wrote:I don't think I made myself clear in my original post. What I want to discuss is the puzzling phenomenon of how contemporaries of universally recognised Great Masters who write in the same style somehow manage to create only music that comes across as a cake that was not properly baked and which therefore crumbles to pieces. One of the volumes of THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO is dedicated to Saint-Saens; another is dedicated to his compatriot and contemporary Gabriel Pierne. The pieces of S-S are totally solid; the notes stick together and work together successfully. The pieces of Pierne, on the other hand, just fall apart and the notes don't function in harmony at all. How can this happen? Pierne was quite successful in his time, and produced a lot of works; am I to conclude that the genre of concert pieces for piano and orchestra just happens to be the one type of music that does not show GP at his best?
Sorry we got so far off base, Dulcinea.

Can't account too much for Pierne's lack of regard nowadays as a composer....I've always thought his stuff rather flavorful when it's at its best (like the ballet from Cydalise, even though to modern ears it's twice-warmed-over Debussy); but it still shouldn't take away from his overall accomplishment as a musician: he was a fine conductor & pedagogue. Chamber musicians--particularly of the woodwind & string persuasion--still have plenty of regard for his works.

But returning to your original point: I have the same trouble with lots of well-regarded composers: to me, Mahler & Bruckner are still flatulent bores (actually, I've moved Mahler up a rank or two from before). Others derive deep spirituality from them--which is fine for those listeners. To me the two men speak about as much as Jim Jones or Sun Myung Moon. Both sides are right. And even though I don't agree with your assessment of Nielsen's Fourth, I never manipulated it as an attack on the work, as others here have. Setting it aside is probably the thing to do. Because you're very likely right in your own assessments: don't let anyone call them "ignorance." And never take at face value anyone's glorifaction of a musician or work as Purest Salvation; be open, but don't give up your right to question.
If I could tell my mom and dad
That the things we never had
Never mattered we were always ok
Getting ready for Christmas day
--Paul Simon

Joe Barron
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Post by Joe Barron » Fri Sep 28, 2007 9:30 pm

Wallingford wrote: And even though I don't agree with your assessment of Nielsen's Fourth, I never manipulated it as an attack on the work, as others here have.
I don't think it takes much manipulation to interpret
"Azheimer's Symphony" as an attack. :wink:

Opus132
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Post by Opus132 » Fri Sep 28, 2007 9:40 pm

Wallingford wrote:
Ahem, Opus. Regarding Rachmaninov....... :twisted:
I'm not to keen on him myself, but he is held in high esteem nonetheless by most people i've talked to. Somehow, it seems the 'myth' of German national superiority isn't doing a whole lot to undermine Russian composers.

Heck148
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Post by Heck148 » Fri Sep 28, 2007 10:00 pm

Sapphire wrote:In other words, the big fish share the "pond" with a load of minnows, and not much in between.
that may well be true, and it is a situation that conductors, managers, marketing people, orchestras must battle intensely if the genre is to survive...

there is so much great music, so many great works - to just constantly run thru the same old Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, etc, etc warhorses interminably is musical death...both for orchestra and audience...

Opus132
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Post by Opus132 » Fri Sep 28, 2007 10:08 pm

piston wrote: As usual, opus whatever, you're obnoxious (How many times have you sent insults my way, I ask you?).
As often as you keep this inane argument going. The idea that somehow we've all been brainwashed (except for you, the enlightened one) to buy into the idea of 'greatness' and German supremacy is nothing but empty posturing.
piston wrote: More diplomatically, I will reply that the "greatness" theme has never yielded anything positive on classical music forums.
There is no greatness "theme". That's what makes your argument so obnoxious. If the name of Bach or Beethoven keep rising at the top of everybody's personal list is because their music is worthy of such a high level of consideration, not because of some ongoing German conspiracy, and it's never, ever going to change. Get the notion out of your head.
piston wrote: It's a lousy angle for narrow minded people to state, implicitly, "I know good music and you don't!"
Please. If stating my own personal opinion and assessment is a form bigotry then by all means, shut the forum down and get it over with. What difference would it make?

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Re: The Bland Leading the Bland

Post by sfbugala » Fri Sep 28, 2007 10:40 pm

dulcinea wrote:If Nielsen wanted to be the Danish answer to Chaikovskii, he fell very VERY short.
But he didn't. I'm reminded of a Humanities instructor I knew years ago talking about Mahler and his alleged flaws. He said in a self-produced book, that

"Only occasionally has a critic possessed the insight and the audacity to suggest that these 'flaws' might not be flaws at all, that they were wrong only if one started out from the assumption that Mahler was trying to write Romantic music, that if one could set aside such preconceptions and listen to the music itself, one might find not flawed Romanticism, but something radically new and totally successful on its own terms."

I think the same would apply to Nielsen, if you're trying to make him into Tchaikovsky or like most others, another Sibelius. You're certainly entitled to dislike him, but perhaps it's better to see him as his own man, rather than a Danish Tchaikovsky.

absinthe
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Post by absinthe » Sat Sep 29, 2007 2:49 am

dulcinea wrote:I don't think I made myself clear in my original post. What I want to discuss is the puzzling phenomenon of how contemporaries of universally recognised Great Masters who write in the same style somehow manage to create only music that comes across as a cake that was not properly baked and which therefore crumbles to pieces. One of the volumes of THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO is dedicated to Saint-Saens; another is dedicated to his compatriot and contemporary Gabriel Pierne. The pieces of S-S are totally solid; the notes stick together and work together successfully. The pieces of Pierne, on the other hand, just fall apart and the notes don't function in harmony at all. How can this happen? Pierne was quite successful in his time, and produced a lot of works; am I to conclude that the genre of concert pieces for piano and orchestra just happens to be the one type of music that does not show GP at his best?
I think it's because the various periods of music have been marked by great composers. Beethoven, for instance. Then along come the groupies who write in the style of these people. It isn't that they deliberately try to imitate although you bet they'd love to be on the same bandwagon - and they can't. The music comes more from academia than their soul because the academies rest on what the big names have already done. The intuitive musical sense understood by the greats becomes a set of precepts that tend to force students in the same direction. You find young composers today who still believe that original composition comes from studying CPP Harmony, traditional counterpoint etc. Perhaps one or two burst from those chains but many will fester in their attempts to rehash Palestrina, Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin etc, usually badly.

I have the same trouble with contemporary music. People call it new music and pretty drizzly it is too. Composers like to think of themselves as avant garde and original.
Well, it isn't avant garde. That was a movement extending from about Webern to around the mid 1960s and included Schaeffer in France, the Darmstadt crowd and notoriously Cage and others in America. Thereafter, composers built their work on these 'traditions'. But all they're producing is more of the same without the impact or purity of these earlier voices. Because "composition classes" can only successfully teach rules, the colleges still teach Schoenbergian 12-tone serial techniques, indeterminacy a la Cage & Xenakis; musique concrète, students are processed on this conveyor belt. If these classes are to be purveyed at all they have to teach something - obviously they can't teach originality, creativity or good musical sense, whatever that is.

Trouble is, with the best will in the world, much music ought to be left to rest once it's time is up. We're so hidebound to the musical past (probably because Beethoven, Mozart and the like, good or bad, are eternal. Their music is listenable in any age). So enthusiasts, their efforts often misplaced, insist on exhuming other works from the same eras and publishing them. The results appeal to some people while others think they're bland, unoriginal, toothless, Cèsar Franck, Neilsen, Pierne...

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Post by Sapphire » Sat Sep 29, 2007 4:20 am

piston wrote:
Sapphire wrote:I am pretty sure that if it were somehow possible to place an aggregate monetary value on the works of the top 10 classical composers (whovever they may be in different time periods), it would greatly dwarf the value of the next 10, and so on down the chain. This "decay curve" is probably highly inverse-exponential. By "value" I mean the sum of money that the classical music public at large would be prepared to pay to have access to the works rather than forgo them. In other words, the big fish share the "pond" with a load of minnows, and not much in between.


Sapphire
Typical hierarchical approach to classical music, Sapphire. All linear, indeed, nearly all from the same national lineage. Frankly, I don't see the point in the celebration of greatness if it implies the rejection of hundreds of artists as minnows. It reminds me of how British authors viewed the rest of the world: on an evolutionary line from barbarians to... Brits! Your discourse is nothing but a myth -- the myth of cultural evolution. There's no linearity in spiritual achievement and there exists no single measure of creative achievement. As a matter of fact, the folks here who view Russian composers as minnows are merely showing their own cultural bias. I am certain that people in eastern Europe view a lot of British and American composers as minnows, too, from their own cultural standards. It's all rather parochial.
It has long been my view that the top composers are not just a cut above the lesser ones, but they tower above them. This is not to say that lesser composers haven't produced any worthwhile material at all which can't match that of the greats, or that they should be totally discounted. On the contrary, we need them all, if only for variety, as most of us would surely get bored if we listened only to music of the "greats". My point was that, whether we like it not, if we try to estimate the market worth of the top composers as a group we are likely to come up with a much higher than the value of the next tranche taken as a group, and so on down the hierachy. Whether or not this is a justfiable view by the market is another matter. I think it is justifiable because, where high talent is very scarce, markets always place high premiums on the best. It's usually "lefties", "libs" and many pure-artsy types that don't understand this, and try to argue that all "art" is worth recognising. Your response is typical of the clap-trap they come out with. I'm responding to this point because I can't understand what the original question is all about, nor its (seemingly heavily revised) subsequent reformulation.


Sapphire

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Post by absinthe » Sat Sep 29, 2007 5:59 am

I suppose that's true. Inter alia, we need a few mediocre works to elevate the great.

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Post by jserraglio » Sat Sep 29, 2007 6:06 am

Donaldopato wrote:I have tried and tried and tried to get to know and appreciate Nielsen. But to no avail, it just doesn't do it for me, whatever "it" is. I call the 4th the "Indistinguishable" )
Except for the 5th (the snare drum snagged me in that one) I never really liked Nielsen either till I heard a live perf of the 4th with Louis Lane conducting a student orchestra (of the Cleveland Institute of Music). That old man and those kids just about blew down the hall. I was stunned. This had to be great music.

And yes, Martinon's CSO recording is the one I turn to when I want to recapture the experience of that concert. I agree that it is THE recording of this piece.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 29, 2007 6:30 am

absinthe wrote: Inter alia, we need a few mediocre works to elevate the great.
I get routinely dumped on here for having basically the same opinion, which is why I have not posted extensively on this thread. But of course (I hope) you are being slightly sarcastic as in the senator who commented that there must be room for some mediocrity on the Supreme Court. Another aspect of this is respect for other posters of taste, which is why I have not until now commented on the Nielsen because of Mark's opinion. "Inextinguishable" has to be the most ironic nickname for a musical work of all time.

When I had my lunch with Karl Henning, I mentioned that I do find unexpected but worthwhile things, but unlike the dreck that has been mentioned here, they are never performed. One example would be the Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra by Chausson, as weird as that sounds. One can imagine any major orchestra performing the dreadful Fifth Symphony of Sibelius but never even considering such a superior work.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by absinthe » Sat Sep 29, 2007 10:19 am

jbuck919 wrote:
absinthe wrote: Inter alia, we need a few mediocre works to elevate the great.
I get routinely dumped on here for having basically the same opinion, which is why I have not posted extensively on this thread. But of course (I hope) you are being slightly sarcastic as in the senator who commented that there must be room for some mediocrity on the Supreme Court.
Um, yes, just ever so slightly....well...to the dump, I spose!
When I had my lunch with Karl Henning, I mentioned that I do find unexpected but worthwhile things, but unlike the dreck that has been mentioned here, they are never performed.
Understand. The UK is just recovering from the "serial" craze of the 60s that apparently swamped radio and many concerts except the pops ones, that obliterated many composers worthy of audition. Fashion has probably done similar injustices all the way along though.
One example would be the Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra by Chausson, as weird as that sounds. One can imagine any major orchestra performing the dreadful Fifth Symphony of Sibelius but never even considering such a superior work.
Hah! Sibelius' fifth....One wonders how he got away with that. Was it commissioned by the Boston Pops? I thought he wrote it to become popular in his lifetime while his Fourth and Sixth would be neglected, then when the historians write him up they can dismiss the Fifth claiming that his deeper qualities appear in the surrounding symphonies.

I'll look up the Chausson...sounds interesting. There's a recording apparently available in France but the details are too skimpy, needs further investigation.

Edit: Seems that what I saw was the Concerto Op 21. for Violin, Piano and String Quartet. Do you happen to know of any recordings?
Thanks.

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Post by Heck148 » Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:45 am

absinthe wrote:
Hah! Sibelius' fifth....One wonders how he got away with that. Was it commissioned by the Boston Pops? I thought he wrote it to become popular in his lifetime while his Fourth and Sixth would be neglected, then when the historians write him up they can dismiss the Fifth claiming that his deeper qualities appear in the surrounding symphonies.
Hardly an accurate appraisal of sibelius Sym#5, in the opinion of many, his finest symphony...when done right, which is not so common, it is tremendously powerful and expressive...
for me, it far outdistances the 6th, a work I've never warmed up to.
#4 is excellent, very austere, almost severe in its expression...

for me, my favorite Sibelius Symphonies are 5, 1, then 2, 3, 4, 7 all good....at least for today. :lol:

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 29, 2007 1:57 pm

Heck148 wrote:
absinthe wrote:

Hardly an accurate appraisal of sibelius Sym#5, in the opinion of many, his finest symphony...
I have no doubt of it, and I heard it performed live under Jussi Jallas. :roll:

I can't make a recording reference to the Chausson as I have only heard it over classical radio and did not pick up the recording reference. But I don't think I'm making up "neglected masterpiece," a phrase which many here realize I do not use very often.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
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Post by slofstra » Sat Sep 29, 2007 2:15 pm

Sapphire wrote:I am pretty sure that if it were somehow possible to place an aggregate monetary value on the works of the top 10 classical composers (whovever they may be in different time periods), it would greatly dwarf the value of the next 10, and so on down the chain. This "decay curve" is probably highly inverse-exponential. By "value" I mean the sum of money that the classical music public at large would be prepared to pay to have access to the works rather than forgo them. In other words, the big fish share the "pond" with a load of minnows, and not much in between.


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Post by slofstra » Sat Sep 29, 2007 2:23 pm

dulcinea wrote:I don't think I made myself clear in my original post. What I want to discuss is the puzzling phenomenon of how contemporaries of universally recognised Great Masters who write in the same style somehow manage to create only music that comes across as a cake that was not properly baked and which therefore crumbles to pieces. One of the volumes of THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO is dedicated to Saint-Saens; another is dedicated to his compatriot and contemporary Gabriel Pierne. The pieces of S-S are totally solid; the notes stick together and work together successfully. The pieces of Pierne, on the other hand, just fall apart and the notes don't function in harmony at all. How can this happen? Pierne was quite successful in his time, and produced a lot of works; am I to conclude that the genre of concert pieces for piano and orchestra just happens to be the one type of music that does not show GP at his best?
So who represents the fully baked Nielsen? Surely not Tchaikovsky. (I'm told that Danish wrestlers often hum the half-Nielsen; perhaps you are referring to this.)

For what it's worth, and I have gotten into these perhaps too often. The objections to piston's POV are largely based on misunderstanding it. I like to say (or to hear, since these are not my own words) that musical preferences are culturally 'conditioned'. This does not mean they are culturally dependent or completely relative.
Last edited by slofstra on Sat Sep 29, 2007 2:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 29, 2007 2:30 pm

slofstra wrote:
dulcinea wrote:I don't think I made myself clear in my original post. What I want to discuss is the puzzling phenomenon of how contemporaries of universally recognised Great Masters who write in the same style somehow manage to create only music that comes across as a cake that was not properly baked and which therefore crumbles to pieces. One of the volumes of THE ROMANTIC PIANO CONCERTO is dedicated to Saint-Saens; another is dedicated to his compatriot and contemporary Gabriel Pierne. The pieces of S-S are totally solid; the notes stick together and work together successfully. The pieces of Pierne, on the other hand, just fall apart and the notes don't function in harmony at all. How can this happen? Pierne was quite successful in his time, and produced a lot of works; am I to conclude that the genre of concert pieces for piano and orchestra just happens to be the one type of music that does not show GP at his best?
So who represents the fully baked Nielsen? Surely not Tchaikovsky. (I'm told that Danish wrestlers often hum the half-Nielsen; perhaps you are referring to this.)
For those who are not aware of it (I hate explaining these sports references but someone needs to do the dirty work), a half-Nelson (sic) is a pinning hold in legit wrestling. A full Nelson is illegal in the sport. Does rather make the point, doesn't it?

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by DavidRoss » Sat Sep 29, 2007 2:41 pm

jbuck919 wrote: I get routinely dumped on here for having basically the same opinion....

One can imagine any major orchestra performing the dreadful Fifth Symphony of Sibelius....
It is not for expressing the opinion that Bach & Beethoven are supremely great composers that you get chastised from time to time; rather, you are chastised for your boorish habit of routinely going out of your way to dump on composers outside of your personal pantheon.

It's a pity that you're incapable of appreciating a work of art as sublime as Sibelius's 5th; it's lunacy to regard such deficiencies as virtuous; but it's idiocy to imagine your boorish smugness is anything but contemptible.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

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Post by jbuck919 » Sat Sep 29, 2007 2:48 pm

DavidRoss wrote:
jbuck919 wrote: I get routinely dumped on here for having basically the same opinion....

One can imagine any major orchestra performing the dreadful Fifth Symphony of Sibelius....
It is not for expressing the opinion that Bach & Beethoven are supremely great composers that you get chastised from time to time; rather, you are chastised for your boorish habit of routinely going out of your way to dump on composers outside of your personal pantheon.

It's a pity that you're incapable of appreciating a work of art as sublime as Sibelius's 5th; it's lunacy to regard such deficiencies as virtuous; but it's idiocy to imagine your boorish smugness is anything but contemptible.
Cochon a son gout.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by slofstra » Sat Sep 29, 2007 7:57 pm

This afternoon, in my free time, I played Sibelius' 5th, then Nielsen's 4th, then somewhat later, Beethoven's 7th, then his 8th (I didn't intend the last, but it was on the same CD and I couldn't stop).

They're all masterpieces of the first order.

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Post by Yi-Peng » Sat Sep 29, 2007 11:51 pm

Might there be a mention of Satie's Vexations? I understand that there are some CDs that are filled with repetitions of this work and are perhaps much worse than Gorecki's Sorrowful Songs symphony. Though I disagree with many of Norman Lebrecht's ideas in his Maestros, Masterpieces and Madness, I found myself laughing when he talked about the Reinbert de Leeuw CD of Vexations which he considers one of the worst classical recordings of all time. To think that that CD consists of nothing but repetitions of that 2-minute piece, when Satie instructed that it should go on and on like nobody's business.

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Post by Opus132 » Sun Sep 30, 2007 12:03 am

DavidRoss wrote: It is not for expressing the opinion that Bach & Beethoven are supremely great composers that you get chastised from time to time; rather, you are chastised for your boorish habit of routinely going out of your way to dump on composers outside of your personal pantheon.
I rarely found jbuck919 to be wrong in his assessment. I'd rather that a person be honest about his personal views then simply play the diplomat at every given turn. I'm not here to exchange pleasantries, i want to learn from others and perhaps contribute with something of my own from time to time, else, why bother?

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Sep 30, 2007 2:42 am

Opus132 wrote:
DavidRoss wrote: rather, you are chastised for your boorish habit of routinely going out of your way to dump on composers outside of your personal pantheon.
I keep trying to nudge him to stop discouraging people from looking into the interesting greats and near-greats and the not-so-greats that John summarily dismisses. I have met with mixed success. He's much better than he used to be, but sometimes he can't resist showing off.
I rarely found jbuck919 to be wrong in his assessment.


That's too bad. You cut yourself out of so much enjoyable and appealing music if you listen only to the composers that John doesn't dump on. He's got two degrees in music, which makes him one of our most treasured members here because he's willing to spend a lot of time here (and take a more-or-less constant pounding from yours truly in the Pub), he's very articulate, as well as clever. But, geezlouise, if I had met him when I didn't know much, i.e., in my sponge phase, and respected him as much as I do (honestly), I would be stuck with composers I detest in large doses, except for Mozart. Please don't limit yourself to his list.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Sun Sep 30, 2007 2:43 am

DavidRoss wrote: rather, you are chastised for your boorish habit of routinely going out of your way to dump on composers outside of your personal pantheon.
I keep trying to nudge him to stop discouraging people from looking into the interesting greats and near-greats and the not-so-greats that he summarily dismisses. I have met with mixed success. He's much better than he used to be, but sometimes he can't resist showing off.
Opus132 wrote:I rarely found jbuck919 to be wrong in his assessment.


That's too bad. You cut yourself out of so much enjoyable and appealing music if you listen only to the composers that John doesn't dump on. He's got two degrees in music, which makes him one of our most treasured members here because he's willing to spend a lot of time here (and take a more-or-less constant pounding from yours truly in the Pub), he's very articulate, as well as clever. But, geezlouise, if I had met him when I didn't know much, i.e., in my sponge phase, and respected him as much as I do (honestly), I would be stuck with composers I detest in large doses, except for Mozart. Please don't limit yourself to his list.
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Post by jserraglio » Sun Sep 30, 2007 12:14 pm

Opus132 wrote:I rarely found jbuck919 to be wrong in his assessment . . . .
Without going that far, and w/o restricting the musical canon as much as he does, I find jbuck's persona counters my own tendency to like everything I hear. I kinda like the fact that he expresses a maverick POV.

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Post by DavidRoss » Sun Sep 30, 2007 3:04 pm

Maverick? A maverick is a calf that strays from the herd, now referring to those who insist on thinking for themselves…not one who in place of original thought robotically repeats the tired platitudes he imbibed as a goggle-eyed adolescent sitting at the feet of his masters.

Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms are treasures, of course. But note that if one weren’t maverick enough to stray from Jon’s Austro-Germanic herd of the 18th to the mid-19th Centuries, one would miss Debussy, Mahler, Vivaldi, Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Sibelius, Tchaikovsky, Puccini, Verdi, Rossini, Barber, Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Copland, Gershwin, Ravel, Poulenc, Bizet, Berg, Schoenberg, Ives, Palestrina, Monteverdi, Adams, Pärt, Piazzola, Poulenc, Bartόk, Villa-Lobos, Rodrigo, Albéniz, Grieg, Berlioz, Bruckner, Dvořák, Korngold, Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky, Nielsen, Rimsky-Korsakov, Saint-Saëns, Shostakovich, and so on.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

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Post by Opus132 » Sun Sep 30, 2007 3:20 pm

DavidRoss wrote:Maverick? A maverick is a calf that strays from the herd
The herd in this case being people like you. Posturing relativism is the norm nowadays.
DavidRoss wrote: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, and Brahms are treasures, of course.
And now, for a nice strawman. By all means, feel free to point out one single instance in which any of us here ever narrowed the field to that degree. Last time i heard jabuck had nothing but the highest praise for figures such as Palestrina, Monteverdi or Debussy (not to mention his great love for Gregorian Chant). Austro-German centrism my arse.
Last edited by Opus132 on Sun Sep 30, 2007 3:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by PJME » Sun Sep 30, 2007 3:22 pm

One example would be the Concerto for String Quartet and Orchestra by Chausson, as weird as that sounds. One can imagine any major orchestra performing the dreadful Fifth Symphony of Sibelius but never even considering such a superior work

That's an amazing discovery John! Of course you couldn't find a recording ,for Chausson never wrote such a piece! (You're ready for some extra omega-3 and vitamins...!)

Here's an almost complete list of Chausson oeuvre- he wrote little and most of it is of high quality.

Chamber music :
Concert, pour piano, violon et quatuor à cordes, op. 21 (1890-1891)
Paysage, pour piano (1895)
Quelques danses (1896)
Quatuor avec piano (1897)
Quatuor à cordes op. 35, (1898, inachevé, complété par Vincent d'Indy)

Orchestral :
Viviane, poème symphonique (1882-1887)
Symphonie en si bémol majeur (1890)
Poème, pour violon et orchestre, op.25 (1896)

vocal :
Poème de l'amour et de la mer, op. 19 (1882-1887, révisé en 1893)
Hymne védique (1886)
Serres chaudes (1896)
Chanson perpétuelle (1898)

Opéra :
Les Caprices de Marianne (1882-1884, inachevé)
Le Roi Arthus (1892-1896)

Musique de scène :
La Tempête (1888)
La Légende de Sainte Cécile (1891)

I suppose you heard the Concert (not concerto...) for piano, violin & string quartet ( several very good recordings - Jascha Heifetz, Jorge Bolet, Lorin Maazel, Yehudi Menuhin, J.Y.Thibaudet, Christian Ferras...etc)

Bohuslav Martinu, Julian Orbon (beautiful & moving work on Naxos), Schoenberg's most "happy work" (after Hândel's concerto grosso), Gunther Schuller, James Yanatos....all wrote concerti for string quartet and orchestra.( there are many more).

Peter
Last edited by PJME on Sun Sep 30, 2007 4:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Post by Chalkperson » Sun Sep 30, 2007 3:24 pm

DavidRoss wrote:…not one who in place of original thought robotically repeats the tired platitudes he imbibed as a goggle-eyed adolescent sitting at the feet of his masters.
Amen... :lol:

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