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What are the most profound works by your favorite composers?

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Showing 101-109 of 109 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Jan 15, 2013 10:46:32 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 15, 2013 10:52:28 PM PST
Mandryka says:
These ideas about theology and performance come out real clear when you listen to different performances of baroque organ choral preludes. Compare Rubsam's style with the Leipzig Chorales with someone like Claudio Astronio. I guess you hear it most clearly there because the music has an associated religious text, and baroque organ music offers so much freedom to the musician to make his own contribution.

It's not so much that one performance is Christian, another Muslim. It's more that one expresses God as a comforting figure, the other as a figure offering mystical enlightenment, another as a harsh judge etc.

At some point I'd like to investigate Messaien records in these terms. And the Brahms chorales.

Posted on Jan 16, 2013 8:50:09 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 16, 2013 8:51:37 AM PST
WH says:

Concerning the unique role of Christian faith in Messiaen, I recommend:
Andrew Shenton, ed. Messiaen the Theologian (Ashgate, 2010).
It's very pricey. So you might try getting it from an academic library or via interlibrary loan.

Similar issues are critical to understanding Arvo Part. For a sensitive musicological analysis, that brings in these theological issues, see a book, now somewhat dated, by one of Part's finest performance interpreters, Paul Hillier, a longtime specialist in medieval and Renaissance music, one-time director of the Hilliard Ensemble, now director the Theatre of Voices & Ars Nova Copenhagen.
Paul Hillier, Arvo Pärt (Oxford Studies of Composers) (Oxford University Press, 1997)

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2013 9:44:46 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 16, 2013 10:18:24 AM PST
Mahlerian says:
As conductors, Messiaen had complete faith in Boulez and Ozawa, neither of whom are Christian. Although he wrote specifically theological content into his works (particularly the organ works, but many of the others as well), he didn't ever give any indication that he thought it was necessary to agree with this content to understand them on a musical level.

I was actually a little surprised to discover that Messiaen's parents were not very religious, although they did baptize him in the Catholic church as a young child. He came to his faith on his own.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2013 10:15:14 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 16, 2013 11:07:36 AM PST
Mandryka says:
When you play a choral prelude by Bach or Buxtehude, then you're confronted by a score which radically underdetermines the performance. You have to make decisions yourself about articulation, agogics, registration, tempo, counterpoint. Now you could make these decisions randomly -- I guess a romantic approach to baroque performance would do just that: it would rely on the random whim of the performer. (I guess that's the way someone like E Powers Biggs or Virgil Fox plays. Karl Richter maybe -- these are all musicians I've hardly explored)

An alternative to randomness is to give an informed performance, and there you have the text of the sung chorale to guide you as to the emotional content that your performance should have.

But even there, you still have an enormous amount of discretion. If the text says "I now appear before your (God's) throne" (BWV 668) then I guess you have to say to yourself: am I (was Bach) afraid of the severity of this God as I approach his throne after death? am I proud of my life, and do I approach with my head held high? am I deeply sad to have died? And your answers to those questions, which will depend greatly on how you see God, life and death, will help define the emotional content of your performance.

With later composers the score may be more detailed. But still . . .

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2013 10:19:24 AM PST
Mandryka says:
Thanks Appreciated. Messaien's moving slowly back onto the radar so sometime soon I may well follow your suggestions.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2013 10:22:46 AM PST
Mahlerian says:
But one can understand these things, take on the perspective of a believer, even if one does not believe. I challenge anyone to be able to tell the difference between the two.

Stravinsky wrote his Symphony of Psalms as a reflection of the texts themselves, at times exultant, at others penitent, and sometimes fearful (that is, in awe). These moods are in the music, and a sensitive performance will bring them out, whether by Stravinsky himself as an Orthodox or Boulez as an agnostic (I think).

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 16, 2013 10:25:08 AM PST
Mandryka says:
Agreed totally. This comes back to my original point about Mengelberg being insincere when he played the Matthew Passion as he did, that the performance was a lie, a fraud.

Posted on Dec 18, 2014 4:36:04 PM PST
Erlen Haus says:
Surprising that no-one has mentioned the adagio from the Mozart Divertimento K.563. When played slowly (eg Leopold Trio), and you become aware of the instruments having a conversation, it certainly has the ability to reduce to tears.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 18, 2014 4:46:14 PM PST
Gregory G. says:
The wonderful conversation between the Violin and the Viola in the andante of Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante K364 sure takes some beating..

As does the andante in Brahms' Double Concerto.

Maybe I am just an old softy...
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  34
Total posts:  109
Initial post:  Jan 5, 2013
Latest post:  Dec 18, 2014

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