composers we don't get...

SSM

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When learning to appreciate a particular classical work, does the average music lover need to do a bookish investigation into the historical, social and inter-personal conditions surrounding the composer during the creation of the work?

Can this effort yield a deepened understanding of the psyche of the composer and his works, or is it simply impossible because we can never know these celebrities on a first-person basis? Especially if the composer(s) in question are renowned for their reticient/secretive/impregnable personalities? (See Elgar and Brahms)
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RE: Composers of a reticient nature whose musical works reflect their guarded personalities and which thus do not yield their inner message readily. Are these works flawed then? Surely the greatness in a classical work is measured by the immediacy with which the composer can communicate his intentions to the listener (see Beethoven and Tchaikovsky)
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So who amongst the starry firmament of classical greats do you, not get?
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SS

[line]Me? I don't really get Schubert, Berlioz, Charpentier, Meyerbeer, Wolf, Elgar, lots of Bach, and Debussy (his opera Pelleas et Melisande)

and I totally don't get Chopin:td:
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musicbox

Wammer
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Alan
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Scriabin. What was he on? I wouldn't like to try it.

Mendelssohn - I get the music, no problem. But its just too nicey-nicey. Far too much picture postcard chocolate box shortbread romanticism.

Martinu - we've had 20 odd years of music critics, musicians and record labels trying to tell us that Martinu is one of the great C.20th composers, up there with Prokofiev and Shostakovich etc... but the public still ain't buying it and I agree with them.

Chopin - all that effete frilliness and morbid self-pity in his music puts me right off. But it can be transcended by great performance so actually he's not on this list.

The British postwar crap composers club - an awful lot of pointless symphonies from the 1950s and 60s that no-one ever listens to nowadays and were so much re-treading of tired old tyres. Boxer's going to hate me for this but Rawsthorne, Alwyn, Wordsworth, etc should have stuck to film music. Fortunately Tippet, Malcolm Arnold and one or two others did a few decent symphonies.

 

JANDL100

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Jerry
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What do I not get? ....

Bliss

Bax (symphonic - chamber can be darn good - ooh, those string quartets :note:) - his symphonies sound to me a bit like RVW without the tunes.

Elgar - symphonies 1 & 2, violin concerto, most of chamber music (piano quintet is OK)

Martinu, except the symphonies, which are fab (how can you not like no. 1?)

Scriabin - yes, I've tried too ....

Many mittel-European 20C note spinners

Ives (very much an American phenomenon, I think)

David Diamond - the epitome of too-pleasant"blah" music

Wagner (sorry :minikiev:)

 

epca

Wammer
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Berlioz. I can'thear what the fuss is all about. Actually someone on Radio 3 admitted the same thing; I think the phone line to R3 central must have been ringing nonstop after that to try to show him the error of his ways. Probably one of those you either 'get'or you don't. I don't.

Late Scriabin I haven't quite figured out. The earlier stuff Iam fond of and of course made immensely better by good performances.

Cheating here since I like a lot of his music, but Handel's Messiah is incomprehensible to me. I don't understand why this is so popular, Handel wrote much better stuff.
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Ed

 

Boxer

Wammer
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musicbox wrote:

Scriabin. What was he on? I wouldn't like to try it.Mendelssohn - I get the music, no problem. But its just too nicey-nicey. Far too much picture postcard chocolate box shortbread romanticism.

The British postwar crap composers club - an awful lot of pointless symphonies from the 1950s and 60s that no-one ever listens to nowadays and were so much re-treading of tired old tyres. Boxer's going to hate me for this but Rawsthorne, Alwyn, Wordsworth, etc should have stuck to film music. Fortunately Tippet, Malcolm Arnold and one or two others did a few decent symphonies.
Actually, I mostly agree with you, Alan: `s only really Alwyn of that lot I have any time for.

Scriabin& Mendelsohn:?
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:?.

Tchaikovsky never did it for me: too overblown for my tastes.

And (you knew it was coming, Solid!) pretty much any opera (all that warbling!), but especially Wagner...

 

SSM

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JANDL100 wrote:

Ooooo ooooo SSM sir oooo oooo sir .........mb isbeing blunt, sir

..... well, I got told off for being blunt
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huh??? I didn't see anything from MB that might even be remotely construed as "blunt".
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Perhaps, along with your own penchant for being blunt, you should also work on your over-sensitive nature.
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Preliminary tabulations: the list of composers who have picked up double raspberries

Obscurities

Rawsthorne (MB/Boxer)

Wordsworth (MB/Boxer)

Bigwigs

Berlioz (SS/Ed)

Chopin (SS/MB)

Elgar (SS/Jerry)

Mendelssohn (MB/Boxer)

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Wagner (Jerry/Boxer)
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Runner-up : Martinu (MB/Jerry/SS)

and the current frontrunner for the Overbaked Turkey title in the Classical Cabin is:

Scriabin (MB/Jerry/Ed/SS/Boxer) unanimous - 5 out of
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:td:
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:td:
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Boxer

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I should also add 12 tone music of almost any stripe & much post-war European "avant garde", errrr, music...

And if Wagner is yer definition of "culture", count me out.

 

musicbox

Wammer
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Bax get points from me too.... I missed him off my list. But I have no idea what his symphonies are on about - the orchestration is fantastic but needs some music to make it worthwhile! Lots of lovely big gestures but doesn't seem to actually say anything, so it might as well be wind.

Verdi - oom-pah-pah oom-pah-pah. Apart from the Requiem and Otello I could happily forget everything else in his output.

 

JANDL100

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SSM wrote:

huh??? I didn't see anything from MB that might even be remotely construed as "blunt".
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..... Chopin - all that effete frilliness and morbid self-pity

......The British postwar crap composers club - an awful lot of pointless symphonies

____

Now if I had said that I'd get yet another bawling out and wrists slapped - it's not fair !

Waaaaahhhhh !!
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:cs:

 

epca

Wammer
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Jul 20, 2006
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And Radio 3's composer of the week is.... Scriabin! Maybe a chance forredemption in the critical eyes of the cabin's connoisseurs?

Early stuff is much less mystical or weird, depending on your point of view. The piano concerto is Chopinesque but, however given the results of this tell-allmight not be the best recommendation. But you can hear it for free on Radio 3's listen again facility for composer of the week. Jablonski with Ashkenazy conducting, although I think I prefer Demidenko.

A lot of the other music I like are on rather hard to find performances by deceased russian pianists in very variable sound quality, but I'll list a few here. Oh and my limit of 'comprehension' is around opus 53, which is the 5th piano sonata. Generally, Richter, Sofronitzky, Gilels and Horowitz are good bets in this repertoire.

Fantasy opus 28(which he later disowned, so maybe a good reason to hear it); Richter's version was on the big Philips tribute box released in the 90s, some of the volumes come up seperately occasionally. This box also comes with some remarkable performances of DSCH's preludes and fugues: Here.

The etudes and preludes cover early to late opus numbers and could serve as an incremental introduction to his growing mysticism. Richter recorded quite a few of these, but only those he liked. You should be able to find at least one of the semi-pirate labels issuing these performances. Horowitz recorded a few of the etudes, and Op. 8 no. 12 was something of a calling card.

Piano sonatas 2 to 4 are (to my ears at least) very accessible. I'm partial to Richter for no. 2, Gilels for 3 and 4,and Richter for 5.

And actually the symphonies are quite relatively romantic andaccessible too.

I don't get the late sonatas 8-10 and the late piano pieces are a bit to weird for me.

Ed

 

griffo104

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Can I add Schoenberg to that list. I've tried so hard to get into this composer but it's just become painful now.

I quite like postwar British music - got in to it quite a lot thanks to loads of nice cheap 2nd hand vinyl.

Also, and this one might bit slightly controversial, but Richard Strauss. Just don't get what all the fuss is about him. Again I've tried, used to work with someone who played for the LSO and made flutes for a living who thought he was the the best but for some reason I just don't get it.

and for all those who said Berlioz - you are very mistaken - one of my favourites.

 

JANDL100

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griffo104 wrote:

Can I add Schoenberg to that list. I've tried so hard to get into this composer but it's just become painful now.
I know what you mean .... but try Transfigured Night and the string quartets - quite special in a richly romantic way.

 

griffo104

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JANDL100 wrote:

griffo104 wrote:
Can I add Schoenberg to that list. I've tried so hard to get into this composer but it's just become painful now.
I know what you mean .... but try Transfigured Night and the string quartets - quite special in a richly romantic way.
Got one of the string quartets and it is the 'easiest' thing I've listened to by him.

Would still rather have a sharp spike rammed into my ear though
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also Drumming by Steve Reich - gave my copy away to someone on this site. What the hell is that all about - Hello music, where are you ?

 

Boxer

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JANDL100 wrote:

griffo104 wrote:
Can I add Schoenberg to that list. I've tried so hard to get into this composer but it's just become painful now.
I know what you mean .... but try Transfigured Night and the string quartets - quite special in a richly romantic way.
Yeah, I like that: nice version by Norwegian Chamber Orch & Iona Brown, c/w the Mahler orchestration of Death & the Maiden...

 

Pianoman

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If you like Transfigured Night it's not much of a leap to the First Chamber Symphony (in fact they're often coupled). It's really inventive music, not too dense or thorny. You could also try his massive Pelleas et Melisande from this period, or even Gurrelieder if you feel adventurous. It's pure Wagner but filtered through Viennese fin-de-siecle sensibilities. This might lead you on to the 2nd String Quartet and the break with tonality and from there, who knows...

 

musicbox

Wammer
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Jul 23, 2005
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Alan
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Re: Scriabin. I listened to L'Poeme d'Ecstasy (or soemthing like that) off my iPod on the way to work this morning.... no too bad actually. I got it on CD about 15 years ago - Ashkenazy/Berlin RSO on Decca with the 4th symphony. Not listened to since.... but might give it another chance.

BTW I'm finding the ipod is a great way to listen to music you've forgotten was in your collection whilst travelling or doing other things.

 

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