Music Appreciation

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  1. Petrarch's Love
    Petrarch's Love
    St. Luke's--Had a chance to look at the article you posted earlier about the evolution of the modern classical concert. Very interesting. I had never realized that the upper crust were just chatting away through the concerts all the time, though it makes sense, since for the rich it would be a carry over from a time when all concerts were background music in palaces and rich home...more like having the stereo on than concentrating on a special live performance. It also makes me think of all the socializing going on at concerts in 18th and early 19th century novels in a new light. Sometimes I'm reading something that makes it sound like they're talking during the music and I think I just must not be following well and they're at an intermission or something. Must be that they're actually just blithely chatting through the piece being heard.

    Thanks for posting the Hovhaness links too. I don't own any of his stuff, but they play it sometimes on the classical station in LA and I enjoy some of his pieces, especially his rather Vaughan-Williams-ish sound like that of the first couple links you posted. The last link, the Saint Vartan's symphony you posted, is quite unlike other things I've heard by him. I'm not sure if I'm as fond of all that drumming (it doesn't build in quite the way I want that sort of sound to) but it isn't bad, and the sudden stop is interesting.
  2. Petrarch's Love
    Petrarch's Love
    Brian--Thanks for that Cliburn clip! I'm with you that youtube is an astoundingly great invention. It never stales in its infinite variety. The Cliburn performance of the Tchai.PCon.1 is almost as good as my beloved scratchy old Horowitz recording of the same. It's also fun to have the video and get to see his technique and the Russian reaction! Fantastic.
  3. Emil Miller
    Emil Miller
    Apropos recent posts re Richard Strauss, a promenade concert given in London by the Dresden Staatskapelle witn the main work being Ein Alpensinfonie that the orchestra premiered in 1915. I quote from my evening newspaper's review a very fitting description of the performance:

    This was a musical travelogue in glorious technicolour, with all the kitsch which that implies, but also with breathtaking magnificence. Brass emitted sheets of blazing light, the organ gave out mighty subterranean groans, while basoon and oboe keened heavenwards. Not many performances make the Albert Hall seem small;this one managed it.
  4. stlukesguild
    Currently I'm listening to Granville Bantock... another less-well-known English late Romantic. The CD in particular is this:

    The music is quite marvelous. Beautiful... lush... sensuous... with clear nods to Wagner and Strauss... but unique and more than competent. He was a talented conductor and performed works by leading contemporary British and continental composers. He became principal of the Birmingham and Midland Institute school of music in 1900 and succeeded Elgar as Peyton Professor of Music at Birmingham University. He was later instrumental in founding the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (whose conductors included Adrian Boult and Simon Rattle).

    His music was often rooted in the exotic... (the composer set texts of Arabic poetry, the whole of Omar Khayyam's Rubiyat, etc...) In this instance the song cycle is based upon the poetry of Sappho translated/transcribed by Bantock's poet wife, Helen who wrote many of his librettos and texts. Sappho is a collection of 8 orchestral songs for mezzo-soprano and orchestra with a purely orchestral Prelude. The music just washes over you in true romantic style swinging from joy to sensuality to oriental splendor to sadness... the whole is a celebration of Eros. One cannot imagine a better performance: the conducting of Vernon Handley (a marvelous interpreter of Modern British music he can certainly be placed along side Boult and Barbirolli in revealing all that is ravishing in the work of a great many composers who were sadly ignored) and the velvet vocals of Susan Bickley who has been compared with Janet Baker. The brief Sapphic Poem for Orchestra and Cello is nice enough... but filler in comparison with the song cycle. I would highly recommend. This piece so grabbed me that I am currently listening to it a second time immediately after a first listen through. Few pieces have immediately so seduced me.
  5. Emil Miller
    Emil Miller
    I don't know any of Bantock's works although he was a big noise ( no pun intended) in his day before falling into relative obscurity during the latter half of the last century. I imagine the young lady on the cover of the disc is supposed to be Sappho. She certainly is a stunner, do you know who painted the picture? Assuming, that is, that it is a painting.
  6. stlukesguild
    The cover painting was by the Victorian artist/illustrator, John Reinhard Weguelin:

    The painting is entitled, Lesbia... and was a typical Victorian-era sexual fantasy... painted in watercolor.

    By the way... I've noticed your somewhat conspicuous absence from the Mozart Conspiracy thread. I've no use for such nonsense, myself... but neither do I have the education or knowledge of musical history to refute the absurdities thrown out as facts. I am almost certain that the poster in the same as the one who was repeatedly banned from various musical forums I have frequented when he would not desist from promoting his thesis. There he was easily refuted by those who did know their musical history... but he still found it far easier to believe that a consortium of composers engaged in a conspiracy to compose virtually the whole of Mozart's and Haydn's (as well as the early Beethoven's oeuvre) as part of some vast conspiracy involving Rosicrucians, the Jesuits, the Masons, and the Catholic Church in order to create the illusion of these genius composers to undermine the Catholic/Italian musical dominance. Of course it ignores the fact that this consortium of composers had the ability to compose the most marvelous music while retaining a 3 unique unified styles (one each for Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven). One also wonders how they decided to give Mozart the better work? And we won't even note that the Italian dominance of music had ended by the time of Bach and son, Handel, Telemann, and Gluck. Next we will discover that Michelangelo was but an untalented cobbler and the paintings, drawings, sculpture, architecture, and poetry attributed to him were actually the product of a group of homosexual Catholic clergy designed to undermine the Church's stricture against sodomy. After all... it surely much easier to believe that some dozen artists conspired with hundreds of others to create the myth of Michelangelo rather than to believe that a single artist might just have been as brilliant as he was.
  7. Emil Miller
    Emil Miller
    I deliberately refrained from the Mozart controversy although I did read the disputatious posts on the issue. There was a lot of interesting background information regarding the history of the period but the central tenet i.e. that Mozart's music was an amalgam of various other composers is untenable given that the thematic development of his work could not have been sustained by any such group: the same goes for Haydn and Beethoven. Also, the fact that he gave no authoritative names in support of the theory suggests that it is an idee fixe of his own devising. I am never automatically dismissive of counter claims where there is
    some reasonable margin of doubt that has the support of accredited sources, but that is not the case in this particular instance.

    P.S. Thanks for the information on the painting. It is now the wallpaper on my computer screen.
  8. stlukesguild
    There is one far-out Italian musicologist that makes similar claims... or at least so it has been suggested in several on-line entries... including one repeatedly removed from the Mozart entry on Wikipedia... so it may be that these are actually inventions of our "musicologist". As an artist I agree that it is impossible to imagine a consortium of composers not only maintaining the level of quality to be found in Mozart's work (to say nothing of Haydn, Gluck, Beethoven, etc...) but also to achieve the perception of a real development and increasing maturity and depth. This notion is further challenged by the realization that the members of this "consortium" never achieved anything on the level of Mozart's work (which they supposedly composed) in the products under their own name. Personally, I find that the theory asks us to suspend belief in the simple facts as backed up by history and professional musicologists in favor of the most labyrinthine conspiracy involving the aristocracy, the Illuminati, the Free Masons, the Knights Templar, dozens of Italian and German composers, and thousands of musicians, acquaintances, etc...

    I'm certainly open to possibilities that challenge the accepted notions of history if and when there is a reasonable level of doubt that can be backed up by facts. I have no problem with the recognition that the Bible was the result of numerous hands, with the possibility that Homer was also the result of several different poets all building upon legends passed down for generations orally. Harold Bloom suggests an attractive possibility that the so-called "J-Writer" of the Old Testament was actually a woman writing after the eventual decline of the nation of Israel. He suggests this might explain the repeated tale of leaders with a fatal flaw and the repetition of strong female figures. Allen Mandelbaum similarly suggests that Homer... or perhaps the Homer that wrote the Odyssey as opposed to the Iliad was also a woman. Then, of course, there are all the Shakespeare theories. I will admit that these ideas are all intriguing. The J-Author and Homer as a woman are especially intriguing in that they would establish two of the central texts of Western literature as the product of women. The Shakespeare theories are intriguing... but I bristle somewhat with the recognition that there is a certain class snobbery inherent in the repeated suggestions that Shakespeare must have be an educated noble as opposed to a mere actor/performer. Of course... how does one explain Picasso, Michelangelo, J.S. Bach, William Blake, and any number of other towering figures of art who achieved spectacular ends in spite of lacking the advantages of a major university education and an aristocratic pedigree. Still... it would seem that the burden of proof is upon those making unconventional assertions... and that it is the experts and specialist in the field that must be convinced.
  9. Emil Miller
    Emil Miller
    Without wishing to launch into a protracted series of posts on the subject, I suppose you read my contribution to the recent Shakespeare controversy.
    Some of the replies were less than one would expect in a reasoned debate. I stated my belief that in all probability Shakespeare was the author of the plays although, given that so little was known about him and in the light of little documentary evidence, the Oxfordians might have a point. This was met with the same incredulity that might have been expressed if one had suggested that Obama wasn't president of the USA. One post accused me of being confrontational. I have to repeat that there is no absolute certainty beyond any shadow of a doubt that Shakespeare was the author of the plays even though what we do know about him indicates that he was. The point about his being from relatively humble origins doesn't prove anything one way or the other, neither does it mean that those who are among the doubters are acting from snobbish motivation. After all, among the many prominent naysayers are names such as Mark Twain, Orson Welles and several other prominent US citizens who one would expect to be free of the kind of class bias that one might detect in the UK; a bias that works both ways of course.
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