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Showing 51-62 of 62 posts in this discussion
In reply to an earlier post on Nov 9, 2012 10:30:11 AM PST
KenOC says:
"I never compose in the abstract; that is to say, the musical thought never appears otherwise than in a suitable external form. In this way I invent the musical idea and the instrumentation simultaneously."

Just what Shostakovich said! Those Russians, they have it so easy. ;-)

Posted on Nov 9, 2012 11:28:49 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 9, 2012 11:32:51 AM PST]

Posted on Nov 9, 2012 3:26:07 PM PST
[Deleted by the author on Nov 9, 2012 3:42:30 PM PST]

Posted on Nov 10, 2012 12:28:13 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 10, 2012 4:07:20 AM PST
Skaynan says:
A"I never compose in the abstract; that is to say, the musical thought never appears otherwise than in a suitable external form. In this way I invent the musical idea and the instrumentation simultaneously."

-- Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Radames, this is a great quote, and it actually strikes at the heart of the very definition of great masters of orchestral writing. It seems to me that that is exactly the way Mahler approached his symphonies: The orchestral sound is paramount, just as important, and in many cases more important, than other aspects of the music. Hence you sometimes get bizarre groupings of instruments (all throughout his work), or a Double Bass playing a solo that should be written for Cello/Viola (the 1st 3rd movement), or the eerie, surreal sound world of "Der Abschied" (THAT is WIERD orchestration, and highly effective); none of this body of work can be translated successfully to a piano four hands reduction.
Similar things can be said about Sibelius Symphonies: The orchestral language is so important (although Sibelius never uses anything as big as a Mahler orchestra), the writing for the different sections is usually only suitable for the articulation of the particular instruments that play it (there is absolutely no way to emulate, for example, Sibelius's Brass writing on any other instrument, and if you attempt his Strings writing on a piano your fingers would eventually break! Not to mention the intricate polyrhythms that are impossible to perform with two or four hands), so much so that the artistic value of the whole thing is highly dependent on the orchestral expression in it's own right, regardless of other aspects of the music. Compare Sibelius's quite large and generally ignored body of work in Chamber music or solo piano works to see how dependent indeed the composer has been on the orchestral medium. Mahler hardly ever attempted other genres besides symphonies and orchestral songs, and I suspect it was for similar reasons. He knew his strength is in composing for orchestra (Sibelius apparently knew that too, but had no choice: He had to make a living, and he didn't have a conducting "day job" like Mahler had).
It seems that both composers thought from the start in "orchestral" terms (Mozart, Berlioz, and Wagner appear to have done the same, but never in such a radical fashion). This is opposite from "orchestrating" music that was conceived first or at least thought of first in terms of piano or organ (Bach, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Bruckner, etc.).
In this respect, I'm not sure weather Tchaikovsky himself qualifies: I can definitely see his symphonies and ballet music reduced successfully to a 4 hands (or even 2 hands) piano transcriptions, without losing much of its musical or artistic value.

What do you think?

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 1:42:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2012 1:42:45 AM PST
Skaynan says:
Well, there is at least one person who appears to disagree with me. Perhaps you say why?

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 2:35:54 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2012 3:25:59 AM PST
Larkenfield says:
I wasn't the one to give a no vote, but I see no reason to doubt Tchaikovsky at his word, or say that Mahler's orchestrations are more important than his "music" rather than having equal value, or that the instruments Mahler "should" have used to orchestrate certain passages should have been different, or that a certain combination of instruments are "weird" rather than unique. Such statements to single out Mahler along these lines are I believe value judgements that only the composer can make rather than another person second guessing him... Tchaikovsky's statement about the composing of his own music is also almost identical with what Brahms said about the writing of his: the music and orchestration happened simultaneously, and I believe it can be said about virtually all great orchestral works that the piano reductions are limited in reflecting what only the completed orchestrations can convey and it's perhaps better not to read too much into them. I think this is true with just about any composer one could name, including what might appear to be the exceptions to the rule. ♬

Posted on Nov 11, 2012 2:37:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 11, 2012 3:27:28 AM PST
Skaynan says:
Thanks Lark, appreciate it.

Seems a clarification is in order:

I have no intention to say Mahler was not a great orchestral composer, and I don't understand how it came across this way.Quite the contrary, I think Mahler is one of the best orchestral composers ever, and the examples I provided were intended to strengthen this assertion, and not counter it... The Double Base example from the 1st symphony is not second guessing: It's obvious that the range the solo is written in is more natural for Cello, and Mahler, of course, did it on purpose, producing a strange, never before heard "sound". hence, the orchestral writing is paramount, and has meaning on it's own, regardless of other aspects. Its typical of Mahler's instrumentation: Writing for the extremes of an instrument's range for effect or for special sound. other examples: the violin solo in the 4th 2nd movement, which require special tuning, or all throughout the 7th symphony, particularly the 1st movement. Mahler obviously knows the instruments range, and he does that to produce "special" sound. Same goes for "Das Lied": I think it's nothing short of brilliant, and I don't see how this didn't come across... hope it's clearer.

Can you provide the Brahms quote? Brahms was many things, but NOT an orchestral innovator. His orchestration is extremely functional, and one almost feels that when it comes to orchestral writing Brahms had NEVER taken any risks. There are many great things that can be said about Brahms's music, but I don't think "great orchestral composer" is really one of them.

As for Tchaikovsky: I didn't say anything definitive, I asked for opinions, because I think his case is borderline, and I don't really know where to place him.

Posted on Nov 21, 2012 12:44:05 AM PST
Pernickity says:
I've come to the conclusion that Pettersson surpasses them all at orchestration.

Posted on Jul 13, 2013 3:44:39 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 13, 2013 3:44:55 AM PDT
Pernickity says:
You can add Franz Schreker to the list.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 23, 2013 1:12:52 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 23, 2013 1:17:26 PM PST
Leonard Bernstein said that Beethoven assigned the opening measures of the Fifth Symphony to those instruments that play in the range of the normal male singing voice.

Posted on Nov 24, 2013 12:19:00 PM PST
Dmitri says:
Jorge Mester mentioned that both Ravel and Shostakovich were master orchestrators in a talk that he had before performing a suite from Ravel's ballet Ma Oye....something or other (I forget translation right now, but you get the idea) Oh, yeah... Mother Goose... and Shostakovich's 6th symphony. He said while Shostakovich's 6th had almost no musical innovations the orchestration of the piece uses instruments in an unexpected way.

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 25, 2013 7:03:50 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Nov 25, 2013 7:15:29 AM PST
scarecrow says:
Orchestration is not an isolated realm; it expresses the conceptual power of the composer, So if a composer is conservative in vision(s )of the globe well so will be the timbres he or she deploys, engages for humanity.

Mahler yes, and Bruckner and Strauss,all fascinated by timbre, the orchestral possibilities;Sadly once they found something, they never changed, as Mahler,(read Adorno's book) really as Schoenberg said, all of Mahler is in the First Symphony, and his concept of timbre only slightly changed, as Bruckner, and Strauss deteriorated into Neo-Classic regimes of expressions. . .

Shostakovich as well, his orchestration really never changed, He didn't need it for the quality, the substance of the music he was writing. . . Again Dmitri simply reflected the "stasis", the "frozen-ness of the culture" that surrounded him,This was his genius, changing anything would have been disastrous, and He had no choice. Same with say Arvo Paart, or Schnittke, freedoms are allowed only within the language they utilize in their music,(the four corners of the score) an internal spirituality, and for Paart a "stasis" also exists;even his "Fourth Symphony" dedicated to a Russian oil oligark is "static" a few chords. . .And since there is no "spirituality" even secular" encouraged external. . . .although what kind of "spirituality" exudes from a Russian oil Baron, framed . . .????

Same with Allan Pettersson, once he found something a timbre, Sets of timbres, he stuck with it, this was his universe,his reality. . .He didn't need to change; He had severe arthritis that crippled him, He needed an assistant in the last years to write anything.

Stravinsky as well, the 3 Great Ballets, Rite, Petrouska, and Firebird are all cut from the same scan of cloth,ream. ., He developed into the Neo-Classic realm as well, always trying something new really to keep busy, and the Webern-esque last period was interesting. .Prokofiev was very influenced by Igor.his "Schythian Suite"

We have truckloads of great orchestrators if you dare look past Mahler;

Magnus Lindberg,Luigi Nono, Peter Eotvos,Enno Poppe,Olga Neuwirth, Per Norgaard, Gyorgy Kurtag, Nicolaus A.Huber, Peteris Vasks, Wolfgang Rihm, Beat Furrer, Luciano Berio, Franco Donatoni, Helmut Lachenmann, Fausto Romitelli, Rodion Schedrin. . .
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This discussion

Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
Participants:  21
Total posts:  62
Initial post:  Oct 24, 2012
Latest post:  Nov 25, 2013

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