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Would you dare admit it?

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Posted on May 25, 2012 9:05:03 AM PDT
J-C Gooden says:
The Classical Era is my least favorite era. I'm generalizing, but the diatonicism is banal to me. Generally if I can hum along to a melody the first time I hear it, it's not very interesting. I like chromaticism more as part of the harmony, as opposed to simple ornamentation. I think this era may have the biggest lack of depth as far as relevant composers go, i.e., after the greats the drop-off is pretty big.

Domenico Scarlatti is a giant of music who was ahead of his time. This probably wouldn't qualify as unpopular if his works received more attention. I've heard people say that Bach is the only Baroque composer worth noting.

Rachmaninoff's orchestral music far surpasses his piano work, including the concertos (though obviously there's overlap there). After Alkan and Liszt I don't have much use for that style of virtuoso piano music. Those symphonies, though, are exquisite.

Beethoven is long-winded. Still one of my favorites, but it's pretty tough to slog through a lot of those slow movements. I mean, we get it already. Move on. And then the repeats!

"Serious music" and "art music" are terrible alternatives to the collective "classical music."

Posted on May 25, 2012 9:12:17 AM PDT
Beautiful entrance, J-C. But who have you been listening to concerning Baroque ? They obviously made short shrift of Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcell, Zelenka, Hasse, Alessandro and Domenico Scarlatti, Tartini, Locatelli, Pergolesi, Caldara...

Posted on May 25, 2012 9:48:22 AM PDT
<<Domenico Scarlatti>>
we all know that music died with domenico scarlatti.

Posted on May 25, 2012 2:08:56 PM PDT
your old pal Jacky says:
( <<Domenico Scarlatti>> we all know that music died with domenico scarlatti. )
That's what the song "American Pie" is REALLY about.

In reply to an earlier post on May 25, 2012 2:46:12 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 3, 2012 11:55:09 AM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
J-C Gooden -- I your Host and usually Gracious Host welcome to the the land of Philistines of Music.

Regards and be with us for a long time-John

Posted on Jun 2, 2012 11:48:57 PM PDT
mojoworking says:
Beethoven's Eroica is vastly overrated. Beethoven's 5th is vastly underrated; it is not helped by its familiarity.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2012 11:59:20 AM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
mojoworking says:

Beethoven's Eroica is vastly overrated. Beethoven's 5th is vastly underrated; it is not helped by its familiarity.

I am okay with the Glory given to LvB's 3rd and 5th Symphonies but weep for the relative Prodigal
Child status of the 6th {Pastoral}. I think the Odd Numbered Societies of Vienna and Bonn are to


In reply to an earlier post on Jun 3, 2012 12:22:12 PM PDT
KenOC says:
Pastoral at ... #24???

Posted on Jun 3, 2012 4:53:04 PM PDT
TGT says:
Zadok_the_Priest says:

I admit I am one of those who have no problem with alterations to composers' works, as long as it sounds good and is done with style and taste.

I guess we're just opposites this way. I have heard so many tasteless changes to music that I cringe when I hear words like "version" or "transcription". Occasionally, I hear altered versions or transcriptions that I like (such as Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition), but that is very rare for me. My usual response is to "brace for impact" if I am about to listen to an altered version of something.

The worst for me is literal repeats. Many on this forum have expressed disdain for literal repeats of sections of music, but I admit to being slavish to a composer's score and am generally repulsed by omission of this device when I know the composer wrote it into the score. I "brace for impact" at these moments also. When the musicians repeat a section as written, my visceral response is "Ahhh"; when they fail to repeat in accordance with the score, my response is "AAAUUGH!!"

I don't have that many literally repeated passages in the music I write. But when I do, I rewrite the passage note-for-note to prevent the possibility of it being skipped. Yes, I know that is very obsessive-compulsive of me to do that. I admit it and take no shame in it.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012 9:11:32 AM PDT
Fortunately, my OCD doesn't overcome my musical habits. TGT, you gotta learn to relax. Repeats are not a question of life and death... Don't worry, be happy...

Posted on Jun 4, 2012 9:15:45 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 4, 2012 9:46:17 AM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
Zadok is right, TGT. Repeats are only important to Philip Glass and Stephen Hough (Schubert B-flat sonata exposition). Remember the pre-War Bruckner symphony with a special label on the scherzo: "Listeners wishing to observe the composer's repeat, play this side twice." I think it was Karl Boehm's 1930s Bruckner Fourth with the Saxon State Orchestra, Dresden.

Posted on Jun 4, 2012 9:24:13 AM PDT
However, I know that OCD can make you cringe for the weirdest things. For instance, I can't stand hearing people chewing gum. Drives me up the wall.

Posted on Jun 5, 2012 6:43:57 PM PDT
K. G. says:
Because I can't help it, here is one of my more newly-formed undiluted opinions, this time inspired by the Shostakovich thread that's going on at the moment. I considered adding my two cents there but decided that rather than spoiling everyone's fun I should post in a thread where everyone can just accept it as half-baked and move on.

I seriously cannot understand the hype surrounding the conducting of Evgeny Mravinsky. Why is it that he always seems to be accepted as the greatest-ever Shostakovich conductor, and probably the best Soviet conductor in general - or at least the one that everyone always has to pay respects to? Perhaps it had something to do with his early international success - the Leningrad Philharmonic gained a wide reputation as a fantastic orchestra under him. Maybe it's simply his early promotion of Shostakovich that leads to a positive listener bias towards him. What I don't get is why, upon examination not of witness testimony of how well he directed his rehearsals or how many people p*ssed themselves with joy at his concerts but instead of the actual musical merit of the recordings that remain, he still retains that same reputation.

I'm going to be honest with you, I think he was mediocre at best, excepting a few admittedly pretty brilliant but far from flawless performances (e.g., 1960 Tchaikovsky symphonies, maybe live 1968 Glazunov 5th Symphony, 1957 DSCH Violin Concerto with Oistrakh - well, OK, that one is perfect). What I would name as his finest qualities are the bracingly fast tempos that he is willing to adopt and the wonderfully piercing sounds he can get out of the brass (really all the winds) especially when short articulation is required in loud passages - though to an extent the latter seems to be a trait of just about every Soviet orchestra I've ever heard, so I'm not so sure about it. Unfortunately, there are more than enough weaknesses in his conducting to make up for these strengths. His bland, minimal phrasing is revealed particularly when the music gets slow: he displays over and over again that he doesn't know how a phrase should end up and seems to just kind of let the orchestra play through it rather than doing much of any shaping. Listen to basically any Shostakovich slow movement conducted by him and then by Kondrashin - the difference is usually pretty noticeable (it is for fast movements too IMO), with Mravinsky seeming pretty much flat next to someone who actually seems to have spent a good amount of time working on phrasing. Even adjusting for the crumminess of the technical quality of many of his (Soviet) recordings, the orchestra nearly always seems to be very poorly balanced - usually top-heavy, with whatever the main melodic line is the loudest by far and other voices ignored and left muddily lost in texture. Oh, they're there, sure, and sometimes you even get a bit of counterpoint (this makes for arguably the strongest moment in the 1957 premiere of Shostakovich's 11th, in the first movement), but honestly it's pretty poorly done in general. I would go so far as to suggest that the main reason those 1960 Tchaikovsky recordings work so well is because Tchaikovsky's writing tends to be pretty low on counterpoint. Well, that and I'm guessing they had enough time in the studio to record and splice multiple takes, because in *most* recordings I've heard of EM/LPO he shows that he's done virtually nothing to shape them into a tight ensemble, a trait which is decidedly not shown in the Tchaikovsky. Look, I know individual mistakes don't matter when it's all in the service of an overarching musical goal, but not only does Mravinsky not seem to have one (see phrasing comments above), the mistakes in quite a few of his recordings are endemic enough - multiple instances of string sections not entering in their entirety or losing the ends of their lines because they didn't get there quite in time, woodwinds not articulating together, etc. - that to me they display a sloppy and careless conductor, not one who is willing to overlook these things in the service of musicality, and certainly not the one who slaved over detail that is so often portrayed in biographical blurbs and the like. Although I'm willing to admit that this may be *partly* explained by the seeming tendency of the orchestra itself to vary wildly in quality over short periods of time. For example, in the 1957 premiere of DSCH 11, the trumpets have trouble finding their notes and exercise fairly minimal tonal control; in the live 1960 DSCH 8, the middle section of the third movement becomes a brilliant tour de force in their hands; and by the live 1964 Petrushka, they've reverted to their previous state, spoiling every 'fanfare' passage with their inability to articulate well in the middle-to-higher register or to keep consistent intonation between them (the solo trumpet passage with side drum is particularly cringeworthy, and most of that isn't even very high). Even if one can forgive Mravinsky for this sort of technical problem (maybe turnover was an issue), he doesn't seem to have done very much about it in terms of how the section interacted with the rest of the orchestra, or indeed how pretty much any member of the orchestra played in conjunction with the rest of it. I think that *overall* it was a pretty top-quality orchestra in terms of its individual players - this is especially showcased by some later recordings, like the 1976 DSCH 10 and above all the famous 1982 DSCH 8 (well, out of their live recordings, at any rate) - and because of this the musicians were probably able to ride by a lot of the time on their already-hard-earned competence. Unfortunately, this isn't enough to overcome the deficiencies of their director, and it shows not only in the abovementioned failings but also in the huge difference between the sonorous, tightly concentrated tone that Kondrashin manages to pretty consistently evoke from the Moscow Philharmonic (and any other orchestra that he touched - a mark of a truly excellent conductor) and the much less stable sound of Leningrad, ranging from just as good as Kondrashin to loose and uncoordinated (usually somewhere halfway in between). In fact, save that 1957 Shostakovich Violin Concerto I don't think I've found a single recording by Mravinsky that was superior to Kondrashin's version of the same piece in any way. Yes, that's right: according to me, Kondrashin made the best recordings of the Fifth and Eighth, and probably all the other symphonies with the possible exception of the Fourteenth (losing to Barshai's premiere, at least partially because of the soprano).

So, have at me if you will. And if you have the patience I would be happy to look into other recordings by Mravinsky in case I have missed some goldmine that turns out to include most of the really fabulous ones.

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 6:08:35 AM PDT
mojoworking says:
Risking the wrath of Baroque purists: I have trouble listening to any works with the harpsichord either as sole instrument or as a major component (it's ok if it's in the background). I find listening to a harpsichord on it's own quite boring and sleep-inducing. Whenever I have the option of choosing between the harpsichord and piano equivalent, I will always opt for the piano - the piano really does show up the harpsichord's limitations. Eeek.

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 6:11:53 AM PDT
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:10:49 AM PST]

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 6:40:47 AM PDT
mojoworking says:
march, I have problems even with Bach's harpsichord concertos - I do however enjoy them in the Schiff piano recording I have.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 6:52:26 AM PDT
DMP says:
Mojo ~

Sir Thomas Beecham said it best: "The sound of a harpsichord--two skeletons copulating on a tin roof in a thunderstorm."

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 7:09:17 AM PDT
""Serious music" and "art music" are terrible alternatives to the collective "classical music.""

Classical implies only one period and the aesthetic of Ancient Greece (clarity, emotional restraint). There's nothing of Ionic columns in The Ring or Richard Strauss. The other two terms are much more inclusive.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 8:46:27 AM PDT
Fischman says:
Yeah, so inclusive, that they imply music from almost any possible genre. While nobody would call Britney Spears or Justin Beiber "Art Music," many would say that about the Beatles or BB King. And there's plenty of "serious" jazz out there.

"Classical" may "imply" one thing, but it has become pretty much accepted (with regard to music) as something far broader than just Aincient Greece or even the "classical period" of classical music.

"Serious" and quite possible "Art" are also bad terms as they may scare away folks who might otherwise enjoy this music.

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 9:45:21 AM PDT
I can take solo harpsichord for about an hour, though I much prefer the piano. As continuo, I don't mind the harpsichord at all. As soloist in a concerto, I find it a bit thin.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 9:54:33 AM PDT
mojo, March, and Zadok,

I don't think anyone likes the harpsichord upon first hearing it. I sure didn't. Now, I have a huge number of harpsichord recordings. What's worse - I enjoy them. My gateway was the recordings of Elizabeth Farr on Naxos. In particular, her recordings of Elisabeth Jacquet de la Guerre (I may have butchered that name). You may want to give it a listen on the Naxos Music Library. Now, I can listen to harpsichord for about 3 hours. My wife still hates it, though. When she walks in and I am playing harpsichord music, she says, "Who's contracted the plague?".

Trabaci's music played by Sergio Vartolo on Naxos is another great gateway in my opinion.

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 9:56:41 AM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
I lliked the harpsichord at first hearing and still do, but I started at the top with Landowska's "Italian Concerto", and then Fernando Valenti's Scarlatti. Landowska is one of the greats, even if she had played the saxophone ...

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 10:24:26 AM PDT
Fischman says:
I'm with the Wet Floor--always enjoyed the harpsichord. But the, it was my introduction to Bach, so I also started at the top.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 10:34:19 AM PDT
Landowska's 1945 Goldbergs was my introduction to the harpsichord. I liked the work (!), the instrument, and the artist. Landowska is anything but HIP, but I agree with Piso: "Landowska is one of the greats, even if she had played the saxophone ...".

So in my case it was Bach/Landowska first, harpsichord second. My solution to the aural fatigue I experience with the instrument is to listen to harpsichord recordings for relatively short periods: Half an hour, say, or an hour. I don't know why I experience aural fatigue with harpsichord recordings; it doesn't happen with piano recordings.

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 10:37:59 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 7, 2012 3:21:08 PM PDT
Fischman says:
"I don't know why I experience aural fatigue with harpsichord recordings"

Probably the lack of dynamic range. Even though I love the instrument, I don't listen to it for long periods in a single sitting either. I love how the clearly deliniated notes allow one to behold the magnificent precision of some music, but the piano is certainly more expressive and can carry one more easily over the long haul.
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