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The Core Classical Music Repertoire


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Showing 26-50 of 379 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2012 9:02:12 PM PDT
K. Beazley says:
werranth413 says: "I have this argument with relativists often....who say [composers are] all of equal value or function depending upon what the receiver wants at that moment...."

What werranth sets up is a false dichotomy. Who are these "relativists" who rank all composers equally? Does just one person with such an attitude even exist? Then to propose that, as a remedy against these relativists, "kids should be 'preached' at" & told point blank that "Beethoven was the greatest composer". So who are these "absolutist" preachers? By what criteria do they judge Beethoven to be the "greatest"?

Neither of these actually exist, thank goodness, & if there ARE occasionally people like that (just like werranth) they are sufficiently noticeable that something can be done before they have a negative influence on the unsuspecting & untrained.

So I think I know who here is REALLY "short-changing the youngsters (and the inexperienced) with their high-minded irrelevancies".

Posted on Oct 30, 2012 11:32:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 30, 2012 11:33:37 PM PDT
Anonymouse says:
Soucient, early to mid nineteenth century, which was when "classical music" was being developed as an idea.

"Classical music" as a phrase dates from 1810.

As I recall (it was a very confusing and tumultuous time, musically and politically--I don't feel I really have a handle on it, yet), operas given complete were associated with nobility and exclusivity, but opera arias belonged to everyone.

That's a gross over-simplification (in case there are any real historians in the room).

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2012 11:50:27 PM PDT
KenOC says:
Oddly, ETA Hoffman writing in 1810 referred to Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven as "romantic" composers! Also, I think Anon's comment about opera arias that "belonged to everyone" is right on. Everybody and all their cousins were peddling variations on the best arias, including Ludwig whatshisname. This wasn't limited to Mozart's operas.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 1:09:25 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2012 2:51:38 AM PDT
Skaynan says:
@ Anonymouse:
I was talking about 140 years ago: in the late 19th century there certainly HAS been a canonized repertoire. Very different then it is now, even when you consider artists like Mozart or Bach who's reputation was already secured by that time.
My second reference point, the mid 20th century, had seen the record industry operating in full steam, so judging by what was recorded then (and what was not) we can get a really good impression of what the "standard cannon" has been back then.

I find Bruckner's "revival" in recent years even more striking then Mahler's in the 1960's. In Michael Steinberg's 1994's (very good) introductory book
The Symphony: A Listener's Guide
He only writes about Bruckner's 4-9. Where are the first 5? I dare guess that should the book was published now he would have included them all (perhaps not 00 and 0).

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 2:49:43 AM PDT
Joe Anthony says:
I have a theory that the "cannon" came about by way of the "GoldenAge" of classical recordings which flourished through the late 1940s, 1950s and early 1960s when the LP and modern sound technology made it possible to enjoy classical music recordings without having top deal with the clumsy and scratchy 78 rpm recordings.

The artist of the era, such as Leopold Stokowski, Bruno Walter, Arturo Toscanini, Eugene Ormandy, Leonard Bernstein, Herbert Von Karajan, Jascha Heifetz, Isaac Stern, and others weren't so far removed from late Romanticism. Indeed, some were born while Brahms and Verdi were still alive. The early modern composers such as Shostakovich and Copland were peers.

Moreover, what composers who were "contemporary" at the time of the "Golden Age", were those who were composed in a more traditional language. Once in a while, Ormandy, Bernstein, or Karajan would program or record something by Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Ligeti or Dallapiccola; just to show that they were aware that such music existed; but generally, anyone that was too "far out" was by-and-large avoided. Bartok and the more popular Stravinsky ballets such as "Firebird" and "Rite of Spring" were about as far as they would go.

This is why, I believe the "standard repertoire" seems to concentrate upon the Romantic and early Modern period. Unless your greatness falls along the lines of Bach, Vivaldi, Handel, Haydn, Mozart or Rossini; anyone born before Beethoven came along a bit too early. Those who came along after the "Golden Age" of classical recordings which seemed to end around the mid-1970s, came about too late.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 2:57:26 AM PDT
Skaynan says:
Joe: you have a point, but I beg to differ still: for example, Mahler the conductor kept getting into constant arguments over his inclination to include music that wasn't "standard" in his concert programs (and I don't mean his own music). That implys that indeed there was a canonized standard back then.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 3:13:01 AM PDT
Standard repertoire also of course means different things to different peoples. I made the point on another thread that even Dvorak's 3rd is a bog standard work to see on a concert programme or on CD out in Prague, but maybe not elsewhere, and the last twenty years have seen other, non-Czech composers like Hindemith and Zemlinsky become much more commonplace out there, thanks to some heavy-duty championing by various conductors. All this is understandable, "music in the blood" and all that, and of course some music doesn't travel well, if you get my drift.

It took the Germans, who seem to still be the judges of the core international repertoire, a long time to get to hear the likes of Sibelius or Nielsen (Karajan did his bit there), and we here in Britain do tend to put an emphasis on our own, although I think our national tastes are more outgoing than others, and we have an under-rated thing called The Proms, where the tendency to play new or unfamiliar stuff alongside the core, is well-established. Sadly, it has gone a bit "popular" in recent years, and the "Songs from Broadway" type concerts are the ones that tend to get onto TV, but a couple of years back BBC2 did have the guts to put on Birtwistle's Mask of Orpheus. Brave programming!

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 3:22:36 AM PDT
Skaynan says:
Bartok: "here in Britain": what's your take on the sudden interest (and recordings) of Delius emerging in recent years? That's, for me, another mystery. I love Delius, but I don't understand why it took so long for his music to catch on internationally (I assume that in Britain he probably always had been performed, but please correct me on that because I don't really know, only assume).

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 3:29:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2012 3:36:50 AM PDT
Beecham was doing Delius way back before my parents had even met! And I think in terms of recording history, old Tommy still holds sway, but I also think he killed off anyone else getting to record Delius, as his recordings are just so close to perfection! People like Vernon Handley did some very good discs too, but I suspect the gentle expansion is mainly down to people liking his music but wanting more modern recordings?

I'll probably get shouted down for this, but I'd categorise Delius as a "niche" composer this side of the Atlantic, not neglected, but sort of appended to the core, which will, for our own music, concentrate on a handful of works by Elgar, Britten, VW, and of course the Planets and errr that's it.

And then of course, we do have a tendency to claim Handel as our own, and there's a good case for considering Mendelssohn as English too, seeing as he was good mates with Victoria and Albert!

Delius is, of course, a bit less "English" than the others I mention, and I too would have expected his music to travel well; he was often heard in Germany in the inter-war period, so I'm told, but his style isn't exactly in-your-face, and he does require some patience to get to grips with, for only subtle reward, and I will admit to not being the most patient with him, and I do need to be in the right mood.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 4:10:35 AM PDT
Skaynan says:
"I'll probably get shouted down for this, but I'd categorise Delius as a "niche" composer"- You won't get shouted because you are right. But still there is an apparent trend (for lack of a better word) of interest in his music in recent years, not that it makes him any more "mainstream" or "standard". far from it.

BTW, you forgot to mention my favorite English composer: Purcell.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 5:45:26 AM PDT
Oops! Rather a major figure to exclude!

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 6:03:36 AM PDT
"But it would be nice if musicians would stray from it every so often beyond playing the latest 10 minute contemporary work that is all but forgotten almost immediately after the performance."

Too frequently that 10 minute piece is forgotten because it is forgettable, or more to the point, not memorable!! If the piece had great merit it would probably become a part of the "core repertoire". I once attended a concert in Atlanta where a new work was premiered by contemporary composer. It was on a program with a Saint Saens Violin Concerto and a Haydn Symphony. It don't remember who the composer was, or the title of the piece. I do remember that it was forgettable except for the fact it was dreadful.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 6:45:55 AM PDT
HB says:
"Could you explain this a little more fully? When was it that opera wasn't considered to be classical music?"

IMO, opera attracts a much different audience than symphony or chamber music concerts. Opera lovers are more attracted to the costumes, the story and of course great voices. Some opera lovers might have a tough time sitting through a 45 minute symphony or even a 30 minute string quartet. They tend to place more emphasis on the visual rather than the musical.

That said, there are operas that should be considered "core" repertoire like Carmen, La Traviata, Marriage of Figaro, etc.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 7:11:52 AM PDT
Dichterliebe says:
Lots of good answers. Thanks everyone for responding.

Not an easy definition, is it? There are several categories that I think merit consideration:

1. Works that are well-known, much-respected, and frequently performed.

2. Works that are respected and loved by historians and connoisseurs but not in the 'ad nauseum' repertoire.

3. Works that represent a significant change in music's trajectory or say something in a rather new way (even outliers of sorts) -- and do it very successfully.

4. Works that are part of a larger body of work that shed light on their more famous brethren (development of a particular style, etc.) but are themselves worthy pieces of music.

5. Works that express what has (for good or ill -- mostly good) the essence of a genre; an archetypal work re. style, form, substance, etc.

These categories could be endlessly argued, subcategories added, changed, and new categories could be added. (I'm sure I'm forgetting some -- I've only had one cup of coffee this morning.) There are obvious overlaps and some omissions.

More importantly, is any of this necessary? Whether this is so doesn't matter, I suppose, as the need to categorize and collate is a human trait and completely natural. But I think it is very helpful at the very least, especially to those not yet familiar with much of the classical repertoire or portions of it. I also think that how we categorize our music says much about what we value. To be honest, I rather like that I enjoy some music that isn't part of The Core -- discovery and advocacy are powerful urges!

Personally, I've found it's easier to use broad strokes. For example, rather than argue over the inclusion of Mendelssohn's Symphony no. 5, I would simply include all his numbered symphonies. They're much easier to collect that way, he was a major symphonist of his time, one gains a wider appreciation of his orchestral writing overall, his religious affiliation, his personal biography, his travels and how they influenced his writing, and best of all, I avoid the angst of disqualification.

Gotta go. More later and I hope we'll see some lists of The Core works in this thread, especially 20th century music. Varese, anyone?

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 8:46:07 AM PDT
barbW says:
How would you encourage kids today to give CM a chance in their lives?

You're saying relativists don't make assertions in terms of relativism? What do you think they're saying?

Kids are not grownups with philosophies, and inexperienced new listeners, in general, are not well informed.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 9:01:09 AM PDT
barbW says:
"What werranth sets up is a false dichotomy. Who are these "relativists" who rank all composers equally? Does just one person with such an attitude even exist?"

The pop music threads are actually full to the brim with them. Rarely does someone agree with me over there. ;)

"Then to propose that, as a remedy against these relativists, "kids should be 'preached' at" & told point blank that "Beethoven was the greatest composer"."

It's a good approach. Through the years the kids will develop a more sophisticated appreciation of what's available.

"By what criteria do they judge Beethoven to be the "greatest"?"

In a child's mind while addressing a new topic there's the black and white of the best and less good. Gray areas come later, if you can sustain the required level of interest and challenges. This also applies to adult beginners in a topic that entails new ways of thinking.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 9:10:38 AM PDT
barbW says:
"... and best of all, I avoid the angst of disqualification."

heh angst.. Please give us examples of what you would bar from the Core.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 9:29:02 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2012 9:30:42 AM PDT
barbW says:
Beethoven would have railed against the 'uneducated' audiences of his time. He was well-informed in music, while many of his 'admirers' who admired him for the wrong reason, were well-informed in other subjects.

The anti-science crowd doesn't 'like' what science has discovered and the theories it's developed. There are parallels everywhere. Music and science have left many people behind.

Nothing seems to change very much from century to century, ...people still start out as infants.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 9:50:52 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2012 10:16:05 AM PDT
Where does that black and white, best and not best, come from? It comes from "environmental pressure", aka "the preacher", the one who demonstrates that kind of thinking. That kind of thinking (e.g. "greatest") may be universal, but not because it is critical or philosophical, but because it comes from the nature of competition. When used for critical evaluation it serves more for building myths than building intelligence. After 200 years we might as well be telling children "Don't bother to learn music - you'll never be better than Beethoven."

Preaching is not teaching, and critical thinking is not the same as competitive thinking. We should be teaching children to know the difference. Sometimes being the "greatest" ain't so great and doesn't last long. Ranking composers is idle business for people willing to waste extra time on their hands.

As they say in sports, that's why they play the game. At least Beethoven wasn't using performance-enhancing drugs, as far as we know :)

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 9:57:09 AM PDT
"Could you explain this a little more fully? When was it that opera wasn't considered to be classical music?"

This might also explain why opera tends to fare so badly in the games run here. Notable exceptions have been non-core items such as Messiaen's Saint François d'Assise & Poulenc's Dialogues of the Carmelites whose m.o. of avoiding serial aria-ism perhaps makes them more like CM than opera.

The standard operatic core, that more resembles "musical," is prone to early targetting and more likely than not doesn't make past the half way point.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 12:19:04 PM PDT
Flavius says:
Perhaps those better informed than I could give us a definition of 'opera', as opposed to music drama and 'musical', and--establishing the genre as such--also suggest those composers, like Verdi, who initiated or culminated, or radically extended the scope of 'opera', as opposed, again, to music drama or vocal tone poem. Perhaps 'opera' has been superseded by other forms of musical theater, and the term only be applied to works by certain composers and not to others. (Is a sense of melodrama essential?)

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 12:53:27 PM PDT
K. Beazley says:
werranth,

"Kids are not grownups with philosophies, and inexperienced new listeners, in general, are not well informed."

So what? First the kids & those "inexperienced new listeners" need to show a basic interest in *wanting* to hear CM. For this they can only be exposed to it in an innocent fashion, not by "preaching" to them. If they show an interest, they will ask questions. At that point all you need to do is point them & let them find their own way, not into a dogmatic, black-and-white appreciation of who may or may not be the "best" composers, but a living appreciation of the strange, ineffable power of great music to shake them to the core of their being.

If they take to it, there is simply no need to "preach". The music will do all the work. If they don't take to it, all the "preaching" in the world will not make a difference, & in fact is more likely to turn someone against an appreciation because of the dogmatism of the "preacher".

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 1:09:19 PM PDT
K. Beazley says:
I said, "Who are these "relativists" who rank all composers equally? Does just one person with such an attitude even exist?"

werranth said, "The pop music threads are actually full to the brim with them. Rarely does someone agree with me over there".

Does the fact that people rarely agree with you, there or here, not give you reason to pause & examine your own opinion? Do you stop to consider what others say in response to your argument, & think that they may have a point, & that maybe, just maybe, you could have it all wrong?

I said, "Then to propose that, as a remedy against these relativists, "kids should be 'preached' at" & told point blank that "Beethoven was the greatest composer"."

werranth said, "It's a good approach. Through the years the kids will develop a more sophisticated appreciation of what's available."

I wonder how well you understand children. I've yet to see the child who didn't react against being told to simply accept unquestioning when being "preached at". In my experience, children, from the time they learn to say "No!" also learn to say "Why?", & do so incessantly. It is part of their learning to understand & cope with the world they're growing into, & they hate being told that things are the way they are because they're the way they are.

So to state that "kids should be 'preached' at" & told point blank that "Beethoven was the greatest composer"" is a "good approach" to me shows a complete lack of understanding of human nature.

Posted on Oct 31, 2012 1:11:46 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2012 1:38:08 PM PDT
Kim
Do you realize that you & I are agreeing on something? Or.. it looks that way.
Must be the end of the world as we know it.
:)

Seriously, why should anybody be in a hurry to spoil the unbiased innocence of a child's consciousness by encumbering it with unnecessary judgements, only to be "unlearned" later as an adult, often against the pressure of popular opinion?

If we were not talking about Beethoven, of which "greatness" is rarely disputed, the idea of preaching in black and white terms would sound even more antiquated as old-school pedagogy, and inappropriate for intellectual stimulation at any age.

For example, we get into more confusion and miseducation when we apply "greatest" labels to Einstein, reducing the actual history of physics down to one celebrated individual. I am so disappointed when women who look for a model for female achievement ignore someone like Emmy Noether, reinforcing the "women can't be physicists" bias while pumping up someone like Meg Whitman. This has degenerated into an American educational culture that now tells us that Americans, male or female, can't be physicists. Just ask the CEO of Intel.

And who are these "relativists" anyway? Those with a broader perspective on the universe? Sounds like another inappropriate use of categories to hold up a weak and lazy arguement.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2012 1:14:51 PM PDT
K. Beazley says:
"Beethoven would have railed against the 'uneducated' audiences of his time."

Would he? If they were attending his concerts, then they were in the act of being educated.

"Beethoven....was well-informed in music...."

Well, I'm relieved to learn that!
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