Brahms - not as appreciated as Beethoven, Mozart... (?)

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Sapphire
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Post by Sapphire » Sat Feb 03, 2007 12:10 pm

Stonebraker wrote:
Brahms wrote: It would be astonishing if any composer (including Brahms) could approach the "popularity" of the Holy Trinity. No composer, no matter how great, will ever pierce that barrier.
I disagree. I think with a better educated public, the popularity would seem to reverse. To me, the most accesible music is that of the romantic era. Moreso than the composers of the Baroque and Classical eras, these people spoke through their music about whta it is like to be a human being; the frustrations, the incredible joy, the fears we all hold. So if we're talking about the public popularity of the "holy trinity", I think it could easily be destroyed if the public cared to know the music of Brahms or Gustav Mahler.

If we're talking about innovators, well then I don't see how anyone can pierce the "holy trinity". But innovation doesn't equal greatness, at least to me. There's whole sections of music from each of those composers that aren't orchestrated well. Each of those composers had lots of very boring music (to me).

As usual I disgress, but I think the music of Brahms and Mahler and Tchikovsky is more relevant today than at any point in history, and if only the public cared to know, their music would eclipse the popularity of the "holy trinity".
I think Stonebraker may be correct in a longer term context, as I too perceive a slow drift towards the Romantic Movement. Someone earlier suggested that Baroque and Classical are becoming more important, but I'm not sure that's right. I think there is little doubt that Romantic Movement music is already the most important genre (in terms of overall popularity) and I think it's getting stronger. For this purpose I include Beethoven and Schubert in the Romantic school.

I get a feeling that the popularity of Mozart and Haydn especially have already peaked. I'm not too sure about Baroque but I wouldn't be surprised if that too is past its prime.

The Romantic school undoubtedly offers lusher and richer pastures compared with the music of earlier periods, and I sense that younger people prefer this "romantic" more emotional feel, whether it is programme or absolute in form. I can see the day when the top trilogy could well be Beethoven, Schubert and Brahms. Personally, I'd be quite happy with that outcome, provided Schumann wasn't left too far out of it, although I suspect on a world ranking he is a few notches down (I accept in Germany this is not the case).

I'm doubtful about the 20th C. I think there could be a long time gap before people in general make up their mind about much of this. Somehow I feel that the 19th C will endure as the Golden Age of classical music for a long long while. Again, I stress that I am talking about the general thrust of public opinion, and I'm not seeking to debate the greatness of any individual 18th or 20th century favourites of other people.

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Post by Sapphire » Sat Feb 03, 2007 5:21 pm

Further to my references to Franz Schubert above, I have picked up a few quotes from various places:

Beethoven:

"Truly, the spark of Divine genius resides in this Schubert".

Schumann:

“Schubert, whose name, I thought, should only be whispered at night to the trees and stars … will always remain the favourite of youth … Time, though producing much that is beautiful, will not soon produce another Schubert”.

“Only the excellence of a work like Schubert's D minor quartet - and of many other things - can in any way console us for the early death of this eldest son of Beethoven; in a short time he accomplished and perfected more than anyone before him. ...he would have gradually set the whole German literature to music”.

Franz Liszt:

"...the most poetic musician that ever lived".

“Our pianists scarcely realise what a glorious treasure they can find in Schubert's piano compositions ... As a bird lives in the air, so he lived in music, and in doing so sang melodies fit for angels”.

Anton Rubinstein:

“Once more, and a thousand times more, Bach, Beethoven, and Schubert are the highest summits in music”.

Johannes Brahms:

“The true successor to Beethoven is not Mendelssohn, whose artistic cultivation was quite incomparable, also not Schumann, but Schubert. It is unbelievable, the music he put in his songs”.

Dvorak:

“In his gift of orchestral colouring, Schubert has had no superior”.

“I do not hesitate to say that, greatly as I esteem Schubert's songs, I value his instrumental works even more highly. Were all of his compositions to be destroyed but two, I should say, save the last two symphonies”.

Richard Strauss: “Lucky Schubert, who could compose what he wanted, whatever his genius made him do”.

Artur Schnabel: “ .. the composer nearest to God”.

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Post by bricon » Sat Feb 03, 2007 6:26 pm

Saphire wrote:To get this discussion back on track, can anyone who thinks that Brahms is as widely appreciated as Beethoven, Mozart and Bach please state their evidence. Specifically, which measures of popularity are they basing these assertions upon?
My local symphony orchestra is presenting 9 Brahms concerts over 3 weeks - that's 25,000 tickets. They have presented a similar cycle of Beethoven and Mahler in recent years.

There is positively NO WAY that they could sell that number of tickets to a Bach or Mozart cycle.

FWIW
http://www.sydneysymphony.com/page.asp?p=731

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Post by Brahms » Sun Feb 04, 2007 2:53 pm

Stonebraker wrote:
I disagree. I think with a better educated public, the popularity would seem to reverse. To me, the most accesible music is that of the romantic era. Moreso than the composers of the Baroque and Classical eras, these people spoke through their music about whta it is like to be a human being; the frustrations, the incredible joy, the fears we all hold. So if we're talking about the public popularity of the "holy trinity", I think it could easily be destroyed if the public cared to know the music of Brahms or Gustav Mahler.

If we're talking about innovators, well then I don't see how anyone can pierce the "holy trinity". But innovation doesn't equal greatness, at least to me. There's whole sections of music from each of those composers that aren't orchestrated well. Each of those composers had lots of very boring music (to me).

As usual I disgress, but I think the music of Brahms and Mahler and Tchikovsky is more relevant today than at any point in history, and if only the public cared to know, their music would eclipse the popularity of the "holy trinity".
1. Mozart wrote some of the most "accessible" music ever composed . . . . . and much of Mozart's so-called "classical-era" music is overflowing with "romanticism", such as his 40th Symphony, 20th Piano Concerto, Requiem, etc. . . . . . And the same can be said for Beethoven's middle and late period music (largely accessible and largely proto-Romantic).

2. How do you propose to educate the public? (a public that barely has the patience and capacity to listen to a five-minute pop song?)

3. I'm not sure that I'd criticize Mozart's, Haydn's or Beethoven's orchestration skills. Sure, they have some clunkers, but apart from some of the obvious examples (e.g., LvB's Wellington's Victory), I challenge you to identify weaknesses in their orchestration.

4. Bach's music is as "relevant" today as anything Tchaikovsky wrote (consider Bach's Goldberg Variations; WTC; Piano Concerto no. 1; St. Matthew Passion; Mass in B Minor; and even much of his organ music); Beethoven's music is as "relevant" today as anything Shostakovich wrote. Their (the Holy Trinity's) music is timeless and eternally relevant . . . . . . .


What's truly amazing is that, despite being anchored in a pre-Romantic era, Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart remain as vibrant and satisfying (intellectually / emotionally / spiritually) today as they were 200 years ago. And Brahms, of course, capitalized upon the framework erected by this Holy Trinity to compose music equally great (and equally timeless).

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Post by dulcinea » Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:00 am

:D FJH to JB: It took you TEN YEARS to write your First Symphony???!!! Writing at that sluggish rate, the Haus Esterhazy would have never employed me!
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Post by karlhenning » Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:14 am

bricon wrote:
Saphire wrote:To get this discussion back on track, can anyone who thinks that Brahms is as widely appreciated as Beethoven, Mozart and Bach please state their evidence. Specifically, which measures of popularity are they basing these assertions upon?
My local symphony orchestra is presenting 9 Brahms concerts over 3 weeks - that's 25,000 tickets. They have presented a similar cycle of Beethoven and Mahler in recent years.

There is positively NO WAY that they could sell that number of tickets to a Bach or Mozart cycle.
Well, neither Bach nor Mozart would be an effective use of a modern symphony orchestra (what do you do with the trombones, for but one instance?).

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 2:10 pm

dulcinea wrote::D FJH to JB: It took you TEN YEARS to write your First Symphony???!!! Writing at that sluggish rate, the Haus Esterhazy would have never employed me!
Haydn wrote dozens of symphonies before starting regularly to turn out masterpieces. Brahms managed to condense the process into his two orchestral serenades. Of course, as you imply, the pressures were not the same.

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by karlhenning » Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:02 pm

The river wasn't the same by the time Brahms stepped into it.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by jbuck919 » Mon Feb 05, 2007 3:10 pm

karlhenning wrote:The river wasn't the same by the time Brahms stepped into it.

Cheers,
~Karl
That's the first time I've ever seen you concede that. :)

There's nothing remarkable about it. All one has to do is hit the right keys at the right time and the instrument plays itself.
-- Johann Sebastian Bach

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Post by Sapphire » Mon Feb 05, 2007 7:14 pm

Haydn symphonies: About 95 of the 104 were the same weren't they? I have about 5, I think, but I can't remember the last time I played any of them. There's something about Haydn that's so forgettable. I can't quite put my finger on it.

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:47 pm

Thank you for reminding me of my only "completist" task on my books: the complete symphonies and quartets of Haydn. Some may not care for him, but at least his Paris and London symphonies deserve a modicum of respect and appreciation in my book, if not #45 and perhaps a few others. 104 is a lot to digest.

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Post by Stonebraker » Mon Feb 05, 2007 10:50 pm

(responding to Brahms)

1. Mozart wrote some of the most "accessible" music ever composed . . . . . and much of Mozart's so-called "classical-era" music is overflowing with "romanticism", such as his 40th Symphony, 20th Piano Concerto, Requiem, etc. . . . . . And the same can be said for Beethoven's middle and late period music (largely accessible and largely proto-Romantic).

I cannot disagree with that. However, I said the most accesible music is that of the romantic era, and I stand by that statement, and would add that most of the accesible music is from the romantic era.

2. How do you propose to educate the public? (a public that barely has the patience and capacity to listen to a five-minute pop song?)

How do we achieve world peace? Well it doesn't seem possible now, that doesn't mean we should give up. Do you propose we just let long hair music die slowly with each passing generation? of course I'm being facetious, but I'm just trying to make a point.

3. I'm not sure that I'd criticize Mozart's, Haydn's or Beethoven's orchestration skills. Sure, they have some clunkers, but apart from some of the obvious examples (e.g., LvB's Wellington's Victory), I challenge you to identify weaknesses in their orchestration.

I overstepped my bounds when I said there are whole sections of music that aren't orchestrated well, because hell, I couldn't orchestrate at this point in my life if my life depended on it. That said, the orchestration is not crafted as well, in my opinion, as that of the late romantic composers, some of which I metioned. How could Mozart craft his 41 symphonies as well as Brahms four? While I don't think Brahms is the greatest of all time, even though his music did change my life, I think he's the greatest craftsman in all of music.

4. Bach's music is as "relevant" today as anything Tchaikovsky wrote (consider Bach's Goldberg Variations; WTC; Piano Concerto no. 1; St. Matthew Passion; Mass in B Minor; and even much of his organ music); Beethoven's music is as "relevant" today as anything Shostakovich wrote. Their (the Holy Trinity's) music is timeless and eternally relevant . . . . . . .

This is the one part where I truly disagree. Music has to evolve to fit the times. Mahler composed music that wasn't understood until 50 years after his death. I think this is because Mahler understood what it meant to be a human being, the emotional high's and low's. People 100 years ago, when Mahler was composing, weren't as "human" as they are today. I'm not sure if that makes sense to anyone reading it, but I can try to elaborate if needed. I always state that I'm not very articulate, whether speaking or writing.

5. What's truly amazing is that, despite being anchored in a pre-Romantic era, Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart remain as vibrant and satisfying (intellectually / emotionally / spiritually) today as they were 200 years ago. And Brahms, of course, capitalized upon the framework erected by this Holy Trinity to compose music equally great (and equally timeless)

While the music of the "holy trinity" does remain as vibrant and satisfying (to many people) as it was 200 years ago, I think the more music of the romantic is vibrant and satisfying then anything the holy trinity created. Nothing against them; like I said, I cannot say anything about their innovation and originality. Who did it first? We can easily answer that the "holy trinity" did it first. Who did it best? Well that's much more subjective. I think composers in the romantic era did it best, and that makes them the best composers.

Again, I'm speaking in general terms. I'm not saying everything in the romantic era is more accesible than anything Bach ever created. I'm not saying their music isn't relevant at all today, or that their music isn't accesible at all today. And I'd like to add, were talking about opinions here; I could just as easily say I'm the greatest composer of all time, and I could justify it countless ways to myself.
Paul Stonebraker - Promoting orchestral music since '06

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Post by dulcinea » Wed Feb 07, 2007 10:32 am

Saphire wrote:Haydn symphonies: About 95 of the 104 were the same weren't they? I have about 5, I think, but I can't remember the last time I played any of them. There's something about Haydn that's so forgettable. I can't quite put my finger on it.
Listen to his choral music--and pay attention; paying attention to FJH is very rewarding.
Let every thing that has breath praise the Lord! Alleluya!

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Post by anton_jerez » Sat Feb 10, 2007 2:25 pm

Wallingford wrote:Brahms? He's one of THE giants. He wrote pure musician's music, and he penned a much higher percentage of "absolute" (i.e., non-programmatic) music than others of his generation. As durable as they come.
Sorry for joining in so late on this thread, but I must say amen to Wallingfords words. Personally I only find that my admiration for Brahm´s music grows with the years. I thought our site administrator Corlyss was joking when he called Brahm´s symphonies "ordinary romantic fare". I really cannot see what is ordinary about them. What makes the symphonies stand out from the "ordinary fare" is their mastery of form and their wealth of memorable melody. I might also add that special warmth and "glow" that often permeates the music of masters like Bach and Brahms (wonderful examples being all the slow movements of the symphonies and the piano concertos). Add also passion in abundance ( last movement of 3rd symphony and first movement of the 4th) and you have music that can easily stand comparison with the very, very best of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.
While I am at it I might also recommend a live recording of the first piano concerto with the russian pianist Grigory Sokolov. I have never heard the adagio played more beautifully. And the tempo the conductor chooses is just about perfect (slowly flowing and not dragging like Jochum in his famous recording with Gilels). But I still haven´t found out who conducts and which orchestra plays ( I found the recording as an mp3 file here on the internet). Does anybody on this list know more?

Best wishes
Antonio Jerez

Brendan

Post by Brendan » Sun Feb 11, 2007 4:52 pm

Stonebraker wrote:This is the one part where I truly disagree. Music has to evolve to fit the times. Mahler composed music that wasn't understood until 50 years after his death. I think this is because Mahler understood what it meant to be a human being, the emotional high's and low's. People 100 years ago, when Mahler was composing, weren't as "human" as they are today. I'm not sure if that makes sense to anyone reading it, but I can try to elaborate if needed. I always state that I'm not very articulate, whether speaking or writing.
Many composers write music that is not entirely acceptable to current fashions. Bach was not considerd the great genius in his own time, but worked in a provincial church kranking out music for weekly services. To think such a thing means people were less "human" because they didn't appreciate Mahler immediately is an extraordinary leap to make, IMHO! We read less, listen less, learn less, our art and architecture are less distinguished, our poetry is mere Rap - yet somehow the culture that produced Mahler (and Brahms and Bruckner etc) somehow produced less "human" people than our modernity.

Forgive me if I disagree totally. I don't think it a matter of articulation, but plain historical and cultural error. The loss of culture, and any will to defend it, in the West is one of the great tragedies of our times, IMHO.

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Post by Werner » Mon Feb 12, 2007 12:19 am

I think I get your drift, Brendan - but it's been true and will remain true that at most, what we consider cultural values and creativity at the levels of a Mahler, Bruckner, Brahms or Beethoven - pick your own names - is a select and relatively rare thing as compared to elements of popular appeal. Thus is if it does not find an audience reflecting broad popularity that does not necessarily mean a loss of stature.
Werner Isler

Intergamer

Post by Intergamer » Mon Feb 12, 2007 6:53 am

Brahms's music is enjoyable but, to be honest, not too unique. About as original as a toothpick in a box of toothpicks.

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Post by anton_jerez » Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:04 am

Intergamer wrote:Brahms's music is enjoyable but, to be honest, not too unique. About as original as a toothpick in a box of toothpicks.
What do you mean by not being "too unique"? I guess that your way of measuring a piece of music´s greatness mostly has to do with a composer being revolutionary in things like form, harmony and instrumentation as compared to his predecessors. In that sense one could rank Berlioz as a far greater composer than Beethoven (as for originality the symphonie Fantastique is lightyears ahead of any Beethoven symphony). But I still rank Beethoven as the greater composer. There is more to great music than originality.

Best wishes

Antonio Jerez

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Post by karlhenning » Mon Feb 12, 2007 9:07 am

Intergamer wrote:Brahms's music is enjoyable but, to be honest, not too unique. About as original as a toothpick in a box of toothpicks.
That says everything for the state of your faculty of sonic discrimination, and nothing about the music of Brahms, which indeed is unlike that of any other composer.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by bricon » Wed Feb 14, 2007 1:27 am

Some here may be interested to read the thoughts of someone about to conduct performances of Brahms’ 4 symphonies and Ein Deutsches Requiem - Gianluigi Gelmetti.
Like few other composers, Brahms fuses new romantic ideas with a completely classical form. The classical equilibriums and the constructions of Brahms's symphonies are absolutely perfect. Nothing is casual, even the greatest lyric expansions have a meaning and a precise thematic origin.
The completer article is here.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Feb 14, 2007 5:01 am

Intergamer wrote:Brahms's music is enjoyable but, to be honest, not too unique. About as original as a toothpick in a box of toothpicks.
Brahms definitely has a unique and identifiable voice, so I'm curious as to what you mean when you use the term "unique." Were you looking for atypical instrumental arrangements? Invention of new forms of composition? What?
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Post by Jack Kelso » Thu Feb 15, 2007 2:04 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Intergamer wrote:Brahms's music is enjoyable but, to be honest, not too unique. About as original as a toothpick in a box of toothpicks.
Brahms definitely has a unique and identifiable voice, so I'm curious as to what you mean when you use the term "unique." Were you looking for atypical instrumental arrangements? Invention of new forms of composition? What?
Corlyss poses a good question. The comparison with a toothpick is amusing, but not fitting to Brahms----nor, for that matter, Haydn, Mendelssohn, Elgar, etc. All great composers have their own style; otherwise they wouldn't be rated where they are.

Yet this brings up a thought: every time there's a discussion of Brahms around here there enters in this unnecessary "hype" (the "Holy Trinity", the "3 B's", Schumann's article, and more) instead of analysis and discussion of particular works.

The latter would bring us much closer to a TRUE appreciation of this composer and his relationship not only to Bach, Beethoven and Schubert but to Schumann, who exerted a more powerful influence on Brahms' chamber music than anyone else.

Someone wrote in this thread that Brahms was, of all the masters, the one who was technically most skilled(!). While that's as hard to prove as it is to believe, Brahms WAS very astute academically, and never ceased improving his compositional technique.

More than one musicologist has referred to Brahms as being "the first scientific composer". Was that Brahms' ambition? Or is it a false analysis (benefit of the doubt) to explain the "labored" and "arid" passages of many of Brahms' piano and chamber works?

I believe it was Weingartner who once said, "Schumann ist künsterisch, Brahms ist gekünstelt" (Schumann is artistic, Brahms is artificial). This comparison was not intended to insult Brahms. It does, however, show a difference in their basic inspiration and work ethic---similarly like Haydn (the "artificial") and Mozart (the "artistic"), without casting aspersions on either Haydn or Brahms.

For those who do not agree with all of the above, I must say---there can be a grain of truth even in a toothpick....

Tschüß!!
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by Brahms » Thu Feb 15, 2007 6:23 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:
I believe it was Weingartner who once said, "Schumann ist künsterisch, Brahms ist gekünstelt" (Schumann is artistic, Brahms is artificial). This comparison was not intended to insult Brahms. It does, however, show a difference in their basic inspiration and work ethic---similarly like Haydn (the "artificial") and Mozart (the "artistic"), without casting aspersions on either Haydn or Brahms.
You must be one hell of a Schumann fan to suggest that Schumann was more naturally "artistic" (and inspired?) than Brahms.

I suspect that most professional musicians would answer the following questions -- if the choice were limited to Schumann or Brahms -- as indicated below:

Who composed greater symphonies? Brahms.
Who composed greater piano concerti? Brahms.
Who composed the greater violin concerto? Brahms.
Who composed consistently greater chamber music? Brahms
Who composed consistently greater solo instrumental? Tie
Who composed greater lieder? Schumann
Who composed greater choral? Brahms (compare their requiems, e.g.)

So how can you seriously suggest that Schumann was more naturally artistic than Brahms and keep a straight face?

Whatever their respective differences in "basic inspirations," Brahms is at least as naturally artistic/inspired/gifted as Schumann. Just because Brahms worked hard to craft meticulous gems doesn't mean he's more "artificial" (or less an artist) than Schumann.

One aspect in which I admire Schumann more than Brahms: while Brahms tossed away the vast majority of musical ideas flowing from his fonts of inspiration, Schumann was not nearly as self-critical and was therefore able to produce a larger output (albeit of varying quality).

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Post by Werner » Thu Feb 15, 2007 7:19 pm

I'll stick with something I've said before: comparisons don't mean much in this area. Listening to each on their own merits has its own rewards, This is not a sompetitive thing.
Werner Isler

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Post by Intergamer » Thu Feb 15, 2007 8:30 pm

:lol: I said that I enjoyed Brahms's music but it's far from innovative. Richard Wagner was light years ahead of Brahms in regards to originality . Brahms's chamber music is a good example. Now it's so similar sounding to Beethoven's, which isn't a bad thing necessarily. But his string quartets are no better or even equal to Beethoven's early quartets, so I'll stick to Beethoven. The original post was on why Brahms's music is not considered as great as Mozart or Beethoven? Well that's the reason; his music is too similar to Beethoven's to be called unique. More importantly his consistency is not a great as Beethoven's. For example while Brahms's Violin Concerto starts out great, possibly better than Beethoven's, the last two movements are no way as good as the first. It seems that with most of Brahms's compositions, there's one good idea and rest is just patch-up. Funny thing is Beethoven's symphonies from numbers 5 to 9 are all more advanced than any of Brahms's. :wink:

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Post by Barry » Thu Feb 15, 2007 8:53 pm

Intergamer wrote: ...More importantly his consistency is not a great as Beethoven's. ...
As I said in an earlier post, I disagree with that. I think Beethoven was the greater composer because his best was better than Brahms' best. But he also had a few duds mixed in. I don't think Brahms was ever worse than good and usually better. He wouldn't allow any composition he felt wasn't up to his standards to be published.
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Post by Intergamer » Thu Feb 15, 2007 9:01 pm

Barry Z wrote:I think Beethoven was the greater composer because his best was better than Brahms' best.
I agree totally. :wink:

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Post by Stonebraker » Thu Feb 15, 2007 10:53 pm

Werner wrote:I'll stick with something I've said before: comparisons don't mean much in this area. Listening to each on their own merits has its own rewards, This is not a sompetitive thing.
Paul Stonebraker - Promoting orchestral music since '06

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Post by Jack Kelso » Fri Feb 16, 2007 2:15 am

Brahms wrote:You must be one hell of a Schumann fan to suggest that Schumann was more naturally "artistic" (and inspired?) than Brahms.

I suspect that most professional musicians would answer the following questions -- if the choice were limited to Schumann or Brahms -- as indicated below:

Who composed greater symphonies? Brahms.
Who composed greater piano concerti? Brahms.
Who composed the greater violin concerto? Brahms.
Who composed consistently greater chamber music? Brahms
Who composed consistently greater solo instrumental? Tie
Who composed greater lieder? Schumann
Who composed greater choral? Brahms (compare their requiems, e.g.)

So how can you seriously suggest that Schumann was more naturally artistic than Brahms and keep a straight face?
Now that's funny! You call me "one hell of a Schumann fan" and look at what you're writing. But you're not reading my post properly. I was quoting Felix Weingartner. And he loved Brahms and didn't mean it as an insult, but I stated that.

First off, you're comparing Brahms' finest choral work with one of Schumann's less important choral works (Requiem, op. 148), which is nice but not one of my favorites either.

You want to hear sublime choral music with brilliant orchestration? Listen to "Das Paradies und die Peri"! You can even savour the oriental flavor in the way Schumann chose his instrumentation. Or the Scenes from Goethe's "Faust", admittedly one of the century's towering masterworks.

While Brahms' concerti and chamber works are enjoyable and have definite qualities of their own, they don't possess that burning passion and intensity of the Schumann concerti (especially the Piano Concerto!) or chamber music. To be fair, I admit both composers created masterpieces in these areas.

I LOVE the Brahms symphonies---and have known them note-for-note for over forty years. Yes, I enjoy them as much as those by Beethoven and Schumann and rate them about the same---except that, unlike Beethoven, Schumann and Bruckner, Brahms' symphonies lack true scherzi (except the Fourth), but that could be seen as a good thing in its own way. Like many things in the Schumann symphonies, it's an original idea.

Now, SERIOUS musicians would NOT reply to those genre questions as you assume----unless they were (gasp!) all "Super-Brahmsians". According to your logic, unless one dismisses Schumann as somehow inferior to Brahms, one either isn't listening properly or doesn't have good taste. I love works by both masters---it's just that I prefer Schumann in general because his brand of intensity, integrity, inspiration, imagination and individuality appeals to me more.

The problem seems to me to be that you're judging Schumann on qualities you award to Brahms.

That would be the same if I were a "Super-Beethovenian" and dismissed Mozart for not expanding the classical forms or adding the trombone to the symphony....and saying "most musicians prefer" Beethoven---and have done with it.

I'm afraid you're treating the subject matter like a baseball game: Brahms should get more "points" than Schumann because he's somehow "better".....hmmm.....

You'd best talk with folks like Andras Schiff, Stephen Isserlis, Daniel Müller-Schott, Wolfgang Sawallisch, John Eliot Gardiner, Philippe Herreweghe, Heinz Holliger, etc. and straighten them out. George Szell considered Schumann "the greatest 'purely' Romantic composer" (the others being Schubert, Mendelssohn and Brahms).

Hans Keller, psychoanalyst and musicologist, called Schumann's music "spotless works of musical genius". He was also the favorite composer of Sviatoslav Richter---and Emil Gilels loved Bach, Schumann and Beethoven.

Check out John Devario's masterpiece of musicology, "Schumann - Herald of A New Poetic Age" to get a better grasp of what qualities make Schumann one of the immortals.

Tschüß!
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by burnitdown » Fri Feb 16, 2007 2:24 am

Dissing Schumann is silly. Europe produced plenty of great composers, and Brahms needs his place up there, as does Schumann. But Beethoven is probably the all-around best :)

Intergamer

Post by Intergamer » Fri Feb 16, 2007 3:38 am

In every genre I prefer Schumann to Brahms.

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Post by burnitdown » Sun Feb 18, 2007 3:31 am

Intergamer wrote:In every genre I prefer Schumann to Brahms.
Racist.

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Post by Sapphire » Sun Feb 18, 2007 6:02 am

“Best” Composers

The view was expressed in an earlier post that Beethoven is better than Brahms because Beethoven's best is better than Brahms' best. This issue raises a general query about how one might calibrate the greatness of composers both at the purely personal level, and at the wider level.

At the personal level, composers are presumably ranked according to one's perception of the value they provide in listening enjoyment. It’s as simple as that. Their novelty, influence, number of works etc are purely incidental features. To illustrate, suppose one's favourite Beethoven work provides $A of pleasure, the next $B etc. These amounts are what you would be prepared to pay to have a lifetime’s access to this work rather than be denied it. The logical procedure is to work down this ordered list of preferences until you get to the point where the value of the last work just matches its acquisition cost. The "net benefit" from that composer is the excess of the listening pleasure over the total acquisition cost. The same calculation can be done for other composers. One’s ranking of composers would then be based on this list of "net benefits" (actually referred to as "consumer surplus" by economists).

This is rather more complicated procedure than the idea set out in the first paragraph above, but I trust is rather more persuasive. If not please read it again. It's not rocket science, just a bit of elementary economics which should be straightforward.

If this procedure is scaled up for the entire classical music consuming public - from the complete novice to the most sophisticated of classical audiophiles - what do we get? What we get is a ranking of the overall “best” composers based on criteria that probably matter most, namely the pleasure their works give to present day audiences. No one is saying the above procedures involve easy calculations, either at the personal level and more especially at the general level, but that’s the best overall calibration procedure.

The conclusion is that, in principle, it is possible to derive a set of "best" composers using objective criteria, despite all the counter-claims one is so used to seeing on Boards like this.


Saphire

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Post by burnitdown » Mon Feb 19, 2007 12:40 am

Saphire wrote:The conclusion is that, in principle, it is possible to derive a set of "best" composers using objective criteria, despite all the counter-claims one is so used to seeing on Boards like this.
I agree, but saying that offends morons.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Feb 20, 2007 1:22 am

burnitdown wrote:
Saphire wrote:The conclusion is that, in principle, it is possible to derive a set of "best" composers using objective criteria, despite all the counter-claims one is so used to seeing on Boards like this.
I agree, but saying that offends morons.
Performing musicians and professional writers on musical subjects generally don't quibble about who is "better" or "best". They discuss composers' individual qualities, emotional expressiveness, comparisons of style and techniques, etc.

The more accessible composers like Tschaikowsky, Grieg and Rachmaninoff are perhaps "better" for a beginning listener....

Tschüß!
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by anasazi » Tue Feb 20, 2007 2:43 am

It doesn't seem to me that Brahms laked for an opportunity. Wasn't he dubbed one of the three "B"s by von Bulow? In performance, there were many. I'm not sure why anyone would think Brahms not appreciated? If indeed, the classical listener is choosing a different "B" or whatever, I just don't think it is because of the lack of performance of Brahms music.

For the record, I quite like his work myself.
"Take only pictures, leave only footprints" - John Muir.

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Re: Brahms - not as appreciated as Beethoven, Mozart... (?)

Post by Gary » Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:18 am

anasazi wrote: I'm not sure why anyone would think Brahms not appreciated?
Notice the part in the quotation below that is in bold.
danglam wrote: Maybe I'm wrong about it - but it seems to me (this is what I got to thinking after hearing a lot of talks) that Brahms is not considered at the same "level" as our (justifiably) beloved Mozart, Beethoven etc. s!!!
Not to offend our newcomer, but I'm afraid his assessment of his own inquiry was correct--he is wrong. Brahms' divine status--musically speaking--has never been in doubt. So, end of discussion.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:26 am

anasazi wrote:It doesn't seem to me that Brahms laked for an opportunity. Wasn't he dubbed one of the three "B"s by von Bulow? In performance, there were many. I'm not sure why anyone would think Brahms not appreciated? If indeed, the classical listener is choosing a different "B" or whatever, I just don't think it is because of the lack of performance of Brahms music.

For the record, I quite like his work myself.
Again, for the record, Bülow's reasons for inventing "the 3-B's" were anything but objectively musical. His hatred of Wagner and Liszt were famously personal, so he also put Brahms into the (for him!) preferred group of contemporary masters such as Raff, Tschaikowsky, Rheinberger and Saint-Saens---as those living composers "who will be most remembered after their passing".

This might seem silly to many of us today, but back then it seemed to be a perfectly normal grouping in showing opposition to the Wagner circle---except for the unaccountable absence of Dvorâk.

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Brahms - not as appreciated as Beethoven, Mozart... (?)

Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:42 am

Gary wrote:
anasazi wrote: I'm not sure why anyone would think Brahms not appreciated?
Notice the part in the quotation below that is in bold.
danglam wrote: Maybe I'm wrong about it - but it seems to me (this is what I got to thinking after hearing a lot of talks) that Brahms is not considered at the same "level" as our (justifiably) beloved Mozart, Beethoven etc. s!!!
Not to offend our newcomer, but I'm afraid his assessment of his own inquiry was correct--he is wrong. Brahms' divine status--musically speaking--has never been in doubt. So, end of discussion.
A so-called "divine status" is created by human beings who admire an artist and this condition does not necessarily reflect on the overall quality of that saint's work. Style and score analyses are more rewarding than hype.

I am, as you might have noticed, not a "groupie" and not one given to "hype". Some of Brahms' works are more valuable than some of Mozart's, some of Schumann's are more expressive than some of Beethoven's, some of Wagner's are finer than some of Schubert's, etc.

Tschüß!
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by Sapphire » Tue Feb 20, 2007 3:53 am

Jack Kelso wrote: Performing musicians and professional writers on musical subjects generally don't quibble about who is "better" or "best". They discuss composers' individual qualities, emotional expressiveness, comparisons of style and techniques, etc.
That's possibly correct in some cases, but if so they are "too close to the wood to see the trees". Most other stakeholders in classical music - the listening/buying public, and the commercial side of the industry - either have views about who's best, or if they don't yet have firm views they are looking to form them. A major theme on most music Boards, including this one, is consideration of who's best, e.g. who was the best symphonist, which are the best chamber works, which are the orchestras are best, who are the greatest conductors, pianists etc.


Saphire

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Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:06 am

Saphire wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote: Performing musicians and professional writers on musical subjects generally don't quibble about who is "better" or "best". They discuss composers' individual qualities, emotional expressiveness, comparisons of style and techniques, etc.
That's possibly correct in some cases, but if so they are "too close to the wood to see the trees". Most other stakeholders in classical music - the listening/buying public, and the commercial side of the industry - either have views about who's best, or if they don't yet have firm views they are looking to form them. A major theme on most music Boards, including this one, is consideration of who's best, e.g. who was the best symphonist, which are the best chamber works, which are the orchestras are best, who are the greatest conductors, pianists etc.


Saphire
Well, Saphire---that might work from a purely commercial basis ("1812" Overture with Tschaikowsky's name on it will sell more than Bach's "Easter Oratorio"), but I still enjoy a more subtle approach to musical discussions. The "why's", "how's" and "what's" are infinitely more interesting than popularity contests.

Hmm....was Humphrey Bogart a "greater" star than Clark Gable?

Good listening!
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Re: Brahms - not as appreciated as Beethoven, Mozart... (?)

Post by Gary » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:20 am

Jack Kelso wrote:
Gary wrote:
anasazi wrote: I'm not sure why anyone would think Brahms not appreciated?
Notice the part in the quotation below that is in bold.
danglam wrote: Maybe I'm wrong about it - but it seems to me (this is what I got to thinking after hearing a lot of talks) that Brahms is not considered at the same "level" as our (justifiably) beloved Mozart, Beethoven etc. s!!!
Not to offend our newcomer, but I'm afraid his assessment of his own inquiry was correct--he is wrong. Brahms' divine status--musically speaking--has never been in doubt. So, end of discussion.
A so-called "divine status" is created by human beings who admire an artist and this condition does not necessarily reflect on the overall quality of that saint's work. Style and score analyses are more rewarding than hype.

I am, as you might have noticed, not a "groupie" and not one given to "hype". Some of Brahms' works are more valuable than some of Mozart's, some of Schumann's are more expressive than some of Beethoven's, some of Wagner's are finer than some of Schubert's, etc.

Tschüß!
Jack
Okay, so the whole 'divine status' thing sounded too subjective. I was merely carping that Danglam's assertion about Brahms being far less appreciated than Beethoven or Mozart was incorrect. Just look at the number of recordings there are of his music.

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Re: Brahms - not as appreciated as Beethoven, Mozart... (?)

Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:29 am

Gary wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:
Gary wrote:
anasazi wrote: I'm not sure why anyone would think Brahms not appreciated?
Notice the part in the quotation below that is in bold.
danglam wrote: Maybe I'm wrong about it - but it seems to me (this is what I got to thinking after hearing a lot of talks) that Brahms is not considered at the same "level" as our (justifiably) beloved Mozart, Beethoven etc. s!!!
Not to offend our newcomer, but I'm afraid his assessment of his own inquiry was correct--he is wrong. Brahms' divine status--musically speaking--has never been in doubt. So, end of discussion.
A so-called "divine status" is created by human beings who admire an artist and this condition does not necessarily reflect on the overall quality of that saint's work. Style and score analyses are more rewarding than hype.

I am, as you might have noticed, not a "groupie" and not one given to "hype". Some of Brahms' works are more valuable than some of Mozart's, some of Schumann's are more expressive than some of Beethoven's, some of Wagner's are finer than some of Schubert's, etc.

Tschüß!
Jack
Okay, so the whole 'divine status' thing sounded too subjective. I was merely carping that Danglam's assertion about Brahms being far less appreciated than Beethoven or Mozart was incorrect. Just look at the number of recordings there are of his music.
Ah! I read you wrong on that, Gary. You're correct: Brahms is by no means "under-recorded" or under-appreciated. In this forum alone he's extremely popular---more so than on radio or in concert halls here in Germany.

Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by Gary » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:37 am

Well, I'm glad we got that cleared up, Jack. Now, I can go to sleep. :)

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Re: Brahms - not as appreciated as Beethoven, Mozart... (?)

Post by Sapphire » Tue Feb 20, 2007 7:29 am

Gary wrote:
Okay, so the whole 'divine status' thing sounded too subjective. I was merely carping that Danglam's assertion about Brahms being far less appreciated than Beethoven or Mozart was incorrect. Just look at the number of recordings there are of his music.

What "number of recordings" figures are you looking at? The one I know of (ArkivMusic) shows Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach well ahead of Brahms. I accept that such figures are all a bit suspect, but I just wondered which set of data you had in mind.



Saphire

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Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Feb 20, 2007 8:09 am

Almost all of Brahms' important (and some not-so-important) works are more than well-represented in available recordings.

This isn't a tennis-match. We're not keeping score. He composed about the same amount as Mendelssohn, less than Beethoven and Schumann----about one-fifth of Mozart's output, not to mention the hundreds by Handel, Bach, Haydn, Schubert and Liszt.

The question is: which works deserve more recordings?

Or do you want forty recordings of the "Schicksalslied"...?!

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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Post by Brahms » Tue Feb 20, 2007 4:41 pm

burnitdown wrote:Dissing Schumann is silly. Europe produced plenty of great composers, and Brahms needs his place up there, as does Schumann.
Ordinarily, it would never dawn on me to compare Brahms to Schumann; however, when a previous post endorses the position that "Schumann is artistic, Brahms is artificial," such a statement invites and demands a realignment and reality check.

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Re: Brahms - not as appreciated as Beethoven, Mozart... (?)

Post by Gary » Tue Feb 20, 2007 6:46 pm

Saphire wrote:
Gary wrote:
Okay, so the whole 'divine status' thing sounded too subjective. I was merely carping that Danglam's assertion about Brahms being far less appreciated than Beethoven or Mozart was incorrect. Just look at the number of recordings there are of his music.

What "number of recordings" figures are you looking at? The one I know of (ArkivMusic) shows Beethoven, Mozart, and Bach well ahead of Brahms. I accept that such figures are all a bit suspect, but I just wondered which set of data you had in mind.



Saphire
No, I don't have such data. Exact number is not the point here. As Jack points out, this is not a tennis match. However, oft-heard remarks such as "Not another Brahms symphony recording!" is testament to my argument. You never hear a similar thing being said about the music of Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf or Cesare Pugni.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Feb 21, 2007 1:17 am

Brahms wrote:
burnitdown wrote:Dissing Schumann is silly. Europe produced plenty of great composers, and Brahms needs his place up there, as does Schumann.
Ordinarily, it would never dawn on me to compare Brahms to Schumann; however, when a previous post endorses the position that "Schumann is artistic, Brahms is artificial," such a statement invites and demands a realignment and reality check.
Weingartner's "comparison" takes on a different note in German; it was not meant to degrade Brahms, only to point out his rather more technical approach to composing compared with his predecessors.

And comparisons between Schumann and Brahms are certainly worthwhile (musicologists do it all the time), as a discussion of Brahms' style is incomplete without references to Schumann somewhere along the way.

But each master should be judged on his own merits---and not the supposed merits of the other.

Tschüß,
Jack
"Schumann's our music-maker now." ---Robert Browning

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