Composers who lost something as they got older

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Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by ChrisBrewster » Sat Nov 13, 2010 2:48 am

I think I get this from my mother-- thinking of some odd category and then making a list. Among composers, I usually expect the later work to be the strongest, and it usually is. The three standard greatest-- Bach, Beethoven, Mozart-- managed to hit even greater heights than previously with their last works. But following are some exceptions (by my taste or generally conceded).

Hindemith -- His youthful, rebellious phase is strong and engaging, much like the pattern of pop performers-- but he gradually grew more academic. (Compare the first and second versions of Das Marienleben.) But his possibly greatest work, the symphony from Mathis der Maler, has the good qualities of both early and late Hindemith, and not surprisingly it's near the middle of his career.

Mendelssohn -- someone's comment was that he started as a genius and ended as a talent. To my ear his greatest work is the string octet, which he composed at (I think) 18.

Milhaud-- somewhat followed Hindemith's pattern. His later work is an acquired taste and I don't mean to dismiss it, but his symphonies, for example, don't have the sunny, sprightly quality of his early work.

Shostakovich -- His later work always sounds dark, *really* dark and not in an interesting way. Dreary. Please mention any exceptions because I've never become really familiar with his oeuvre.

I'd like to see anyone's addition to my list. Some people would add Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern, since their early works were in creative and communicative late-romantic idioms (VERY late!) and are much more widely accepted than the 12-tone works, but I don't feel that way. Some would add Stravinsky because the three big ballets were early, but I love his long neo-classical period. There are the curious cases of composers who simply stopped-- Sibelius and Rossini. Their late works are, uh, nonexistent. And the three great lost prodigies whose truly late work we'll never hear-- Mozart, Schubert, and Mendelssohn (after all, he may have become a genius again!). Comments?

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by val » Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:13 am

I disagree regarding Shostakovitch: his Symphony 14, the Quartets 12 & 14, the viola Sonata, are among his most inspired masterpieces.

Regarding Hindemith, yes, his best period (Cardillac, Mathis der Maler, Nobilissima Visione, 5th Quartet) was between 1930/1945.
The Symphony inspired by his opera "Die Harmonie der Welt" (1957) and the Requiem have not, in my opinion, the same quality of inspiration.

We could also say that Schumann lost a lot of the fire of pure genius of his first period, in special in his piano music and Lieder (among his late piano works only Waldszenen and Gesänge der Frühe are at the level of the earlier supreme masterpieces, opus 6 to 23).

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Sat Nov 13, 2010 5:26 am

Handel is another one of those "greatest" whose work became more subtle and harmonically spiritual as he aged (e.g., "Theodora", "Jephtha", etc.). Bruckner also got more mature and didn't lose any power of expression.

Richard Strauss and Sibelius seem to have tried a lot harder to achieve their earlier ease in producing original melodic and rhythmic lines. Compare Strauss' "Don Juan" with "Ein Heldenleben", or Sibelius' "En Saga" or first two symphonies with his late works.

Much of Brahms' late music seems to lack passion and direction, the first movement of the "Double Concerto" contains some pretty arid passages.

It used to be the fashion to criticize Schumann's Third (last) Period as not containing the highest quality masterpieces of the first two. Deeper analysis has shown this premise to be false, as it is now recognized that his harmonic, rhythmic and melodic style underwent a change toward more economy.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by val » Sat Nov 13, 2010 8:40 am

Jack Kelso

It used to be the fashion to criticize Schumann's Third (last) Period as not containing the highest quality masterpieces of the first two. Deeper analysis has shown this premise to be false, as it is now recognized that his harmonic, rhythmic and melodic style underwent a change toward more economy.

I was talking about his late piano works and Lieder, with exceptions. I am the first to admit that a large part of Schumann's chamber music was composed in his last phase (2nd and 3rd Trio, the Violin Sonatas, Märchenbilder), and the same regarding his Choral works. Not forgetting the extraordinary music composed for Byron's Manfred.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by maestrob » Sat Nov 13, 2010 10:21 am

I disagree about Shostakovich's later symphonies as well: X-XIV are inspired masterpieces and reward further study. XV is another matter: I like it, for its sardonic wit and takes on Rossini and Wagner quotes, but it received a mixed reception in 1975 and still has not gained widespread recognition.

Shostakovich was arguably the greatest symphony composer of the XXth Century who, like Mahler, maintained a high quality level throughout his oeuvre.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Nov 13, 2010 10:29 am

Let's get real, folks. The great composers--and for once I will give that an inclusive rather than exclusive interpretation--seem to have been immune to senility. I don't think that any of the examples cited here amount to anything approaching evidence of decline in powers due to age. Composers like Schumann and Sibelius whose life extended beyond their productivity because of disability do not count.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Donaldopato » Sat Nov 13, 2010 10:49 am

Aaron Copland seemed to lose his way in the '60s. His later works, while not awful, do not approach the quality of his earlier ones.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Lance » Sat Nov 13, 2010 2:14 pm

Thank you, Donald. I totally concur. By 1960, Copland was in a totally different track. It seems to me that he even said he no longer had much capacity to be inspired to write music. For me, his best music, always identifiable as Copland's, was pre-1960.
Donaldopato wrote:Aaron Copland seemed to lose his way in the '60s. His later works, while not awful, do not approach the quality of his earlier ones.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by John F » Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:02 pm

Everybody changes as they get older. If you want to put it that they lose their younger selves, instead of that they grow into new selves, nobody can stop you, but it's a jaundiced way to look at it. Bernard Shaw observed that the elderly Verdi couldn't (or at least he didn't) compose hit tunes like "La Donna e Mobile), but that he became in the process a far more resourceful and sophisticated composer, the composer of "Otello" and "Falstaff." Who could complain about that?

Frankly, I don't much care about Hindemith's or Milhaud's music, so I couldn't tell if their later works are of lower quality than the earlier ones. Shostakovich I do care about, profoundly, and I'd say that his later works became more difficult (as indeed did Beethoven's), more challenging to the listener, but that they are deeply rewarding when you "get it." Even the viola sonata, probably the toughest nut of them all. But you'll have to take my word for it, there's no talking people into appreciating music they really don't like.

Mendelssohn was an uneven composer. Not all of his teenage works are up to the level of the string octet (which has its busy and garrulous passages) and the "Midsummer Night's Dream" overture, but the rest of the "Dream" music, composed in his last years, is just as fine, and so are the Scottish Symphony and the violin concerto, which is just about perfect.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by jbuck919 » Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:28 pm

John F wrote:Mendelssohn was an uneven composer. Not all of his teenage works are up to the level of the string octet (which has its busy and garrulous passages) and the "Midsummer Night's Dream" overture, but the rest of the "Dream" music, composed in his last years, is just as fine, and so are the Scottish Symphony and the violin concerto, which is just about perfect.
Excellent observation. A rare case for whom it is pointless to use a rough chronological cutoff as a convenience to divide the more from the less exalted. Also thank you for making the point that the Octet is not a perfect work, though personally I have only ever found one passage that seems not to belong.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Guitarist » Sat Nov 13, 2010 3:59 pm

I think Schnittke's last view pieces are his weakest--textures are thinner, as are the ideas! Still, he's one of my favorites.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by THEHORN » Sat Nov 13, 2010 4:44 pm

For me at least,Stravisnky is the most notable example of a composer who "lost something as he got older".
The three early ballet scores,Firebird,Petrushka and the Rite, are dazzlingly brilliant works, and some of his other works are quite brilliant,but there seems to be a curious lack of spontaneity in much of his post Sacre music,a certain aridity. These works are often more interesting than good.
I do like Oedipus Rex,the symphony in 3 movements,
Les Noces,The Rake's Progress, Le Rossignol, Jeu des Cartes and several other works,though. The late 12 tone works are also interesting but somewhat arid. You have to admire the
brilliant craftsmanship behind all of Stravinsky's music, but it is not music that is as spontaneous , moving and satisfying to hear as the music of many other great composers. But there's no denying his importance as a composer.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by John F » Sat Nov 13, 2010 6:53 pm

Stravinsky is probably the 20th century's most striking example of a composer who changed directions radically and repeatedly all through his long career, but I think it's a mistake to suppose that he "lost" anything along the way - he just turned away from it. Your own list of later works that you like - much like my own list, actually - suggests that you might agree. And I would agree that he produced quite a few works throughout his career (not just in the last years) that seem very inexpressive and dry, music he composed to fill commissions and earn his living, and these are rarely performed or recorded any longer.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Donaldopato » Sat Nov 13, 2010 7:23 pm

I would certainly agree with Stravinsky. After Agon in 1957 his music was devoted to the mostly short, strictly serial, very dry and unemotional little works that John described. I have tried to like Requiem Canticles, but every time I listen I am reminded how utterly dull it is.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Wallingford » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:01 pm

Me four.

Stravinsky was one who let me down with many of his latter-day works: there just seems to be an emotional brick wall between these works and me.

In early adulthood I made it my goal to collect anything & everything the man wrote; when I moved out of state a year ago, it was all those LPs I amassed of Terpsichore, Persiphone, Canticum Sacrum, Agon, Mass, plus so many of those smaller things he wrote--and with the early E-flat Symphony in tow--that were banished to the dumpster room.

(There were tons of other vinyl items I was wayyyy sorrier to get rid of.)
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by some guy » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:50 pm

Yet again we illustrate that we do not talk about music so much as about ourselves.

For me, Copland lost his way in the thirties, regaining it in the late fifties.

For me, Stravinsky's last reinvention was his best, and Requiem Canticles a supreme example of that.

As for emotional content, I'm a human being, therefore am emotional. The music doesn't have to hit me over the head over and over again with its "emotional content" for it to stir me emotionally. Quite the contrary, in fact. The less it tries to affect me, the greater effect it can have.

The later works of the second Viennese three are anything but dry and sterile, for sure. Easier, for me, to listen to repeatedly than the earlier works. More satisfying in every way.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by diegobueno » Sat Nov 13, 2010 9:58 pm

Stravinsky lost some things as he got older, but he also gained things. There remains, though, an essential personality that remained unchanged, and that keeps me listening to all of his music, early middle and late.

Sibelius, contrary to what Jack says, kept getting better and better in his major works. His 6th and 7th symphonies and Tapiola are pinnacles of his output, and stand pretty tall in the history of music in general. His trouble was simply that he let his critical faculties overtake his creative ones and he got to the point where he couldn't compose any more. I wish some soldier, instead of Webern, had shot Sibelius during World War II. That way, he (Sibelius) wouldn't have had time to burn his 8th.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by MaestroDJS » Sat Nov 13, 2010 10:23 pm

John F wrote:Everybody changes as they get older. If you want to put it that they lose their younger selves, instead of that they grow into new selves, nobody can stop you, but it's a jaundiced way to look at it. Bernard Shaw observed that the elderly Verdi couldn't (or at least he didn't) compose hit tunes like "La Donna e Mobile), but that he became in the process a far more resourceful and sophisticated composer, the composer of "Otello" and "Falstaff." Who could complain about that?
Exactly. While some composers might lose or gain something with age, but usually they are merely different. Often their music becomes more refined, but in the process it may lose its surface appeal. Some composers don't change, and are criticized as old-fashioned late in life. Other composers do change, and are criticized because their music is not what listeners expect of them. Is this a case of damned if they change, damned if they don't? Many listeners don't like composers they can no longer neatly compartmentalize. Or to paraphrase my author wife's editor, "your next work needs to be the same, only different."

Here's an interesting and surprising commentary from one composer about another. Considering that Louis Spohr was one of the most respected and progressive composers during the 19th Century, who actively embraced new paths in music, it's astonishing to read he felt that no less than Ludwig van Beethoven had lost his way!
In his autobiography, Louis Spohr wrote:Bis zu diesem Zeitpunkte war eine Abnahme der Beethovenschen Schöpfungskraft nicht zu bemerken. Da er aber von nun an bei immer zunehmender Taubheit gar keine Musik mehr hören konnte, so mußte dies notwendig lähmend auf seine Phantasie einwirken. Sein stetes Streben, originell zu sein und neue Bahnen zu brechen, konnte nun nicht mehr wie früher durch das Ohr vor Irrwegen bewahrt werden. War es daher zu verwundern, daß seine Arbeiten immer barocker, unzusammenhängender und unverständlicher wurden? Zwar gibt es Leute, die sich einbilden, sie zu verstehen und in ihrer Freude darüber sie weit über seine frühern Meisterwerke erheben. Ich gehöre aber nicht zu ihnen und gestehe frei, daß ich den letzten Arbeiten Beethovens nie habe Geschmack abgewinnen können. Ja, bei mir beginnt das schon bei der viel bewunderten neunten Symphonie, deren drei erste Sätze mir, trotz einzelner Genieblitze, schlechter vorkommen als sämtliche der acht frühern Symphonien, deren vierter Satz mir aber so monströs und geschmacklos und in seiner Auffassung der Schillerschen Ode so trivial erscheint, daß ich immer noch nicht begreifen kann, wie ihn ein Genius wie der Beethovensche so niederschreiben konnte. Ich finde darin einen neuen Beleg zu dem, was ich schon in Wien bemerkte, daß es Beethoven an ästhetischer Bildung und an Schönheitssinn fehlte.

[Up to this point in time was no decrease of Beethoven's creative strength to be noticed. Since however from now on with ever-increasing deafness he could hear no more music, then this necessarily had to affect his inspiration. His constant striving to be original and break new courses could not now as in former times be protected from wrong paths by the ear. Was it to be surprised from there that his works became ever more baroque, disconnected and incomprehensible? Certainly there are people, who imagine themselves to understand him and in their joy raise them far over his earlier masterpieces. I belong however not to them and confess freely that I could never have a taste for Beethoven's last works. Yes, with me it begins already with the much-admired Ninth Symphony whose three first movements seem to me, despite individual lightnings of genius, worse than the eight earlier symphonies collectively, and whose fourth movement appears however so monstrous and tasteless and in its view of the Schiller Ode so trivial to me that I cannot yet understand how a genius like Beethoven could write it down in such a way. I find therein a new proof to what I already noticed in Vienna, that Beethoven was missing an aesthetic constitution and sense of beauty.]
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Heck148 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 12:53 am

diegobueno wrote:Stravinsky lost some things as he got older, but he also gained things. There remains, though, an essential personality that remained unchanged, and that keeps me listening to all of his music, early middle and late.
I agree, Stravinsky's genius did not diminish at all as ahe aged. he simply explored different highways and byways...his middle and late works are fascinating and brilliant, even if not as immediately flashy or appealing as the earlier ballets...

I love Sibelius' early works - they show a unique, powerful voice....but his late works are excellent also, very different, but I enjoy them all.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:02 am

jbuck919 wrote:Let's get real, folks. The great composers--and for once I will give that an inclusive rather than exclusive interpretation--seem to have been immune to senility. I don't think that any of the examples cited here amount to anything approaching evidence of decline in powers due to age. Composers like Schumann and Sibelius whose life extended beyond their productivity because of disability do not count.
As scholars study the late Schumann works they become more and more impressed with the depth of content in works such as the Violin Concerto, Märchenerzählungen für Klavier, Viola und Klarinette, the Maria Stuart Lieber, "Die Braut von Messina" Overture, the "Faust" music and many, many more.

John, if you wish to accept the widespread fable that these and other late works are less inspired or of a technically lower level than his more popular masterpieces, then you will only be cheating yourself of some truly remarkable listening experiences.

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Sun Nov 14, 2010 3:13 am

diegobueno wrote:Stravinsky lost some things as he got older, but he also gained things. There remains, though, an essential personality that remained unchanged, and that keeps me listening to all of his music, early middle and late.

Sibelius, contrary to what Jack says, kept getting better and better in his major works. His 6th and 7th symphonies and Tapiola are pinnacles of his output, and stand pretty tall in the history of music in general. His trouble was simply that he let his critical faculties overtake his creative ones and he got to the point where he couldn't compose any more. I wish some soldier, instead of Webern, had shot Sibelius during World War II. That way, he (Sibelius) wouldn't have had time to burn his 8th.
As the music critic for our daily newspaper ("Mannheimer Morgen") wrote, Sibelius lacked the structure of Bruckner and the logic of Brahms, which might be a reason why Sibelius has never really "made it" big onto the concert programs in German-speaking countries (as he has in Anglo-Saxon ones).

Sibelius paints some fine landscapes and could really think (like Tschaikowsky) in slick orchestral terms. But where is the PROOF that he ever burned a symphony which he never put to paper? Who ever saw the manuscript? Johan Svendsen's Third Symphony really WAS burned in the fireplace by his American wife....and he was too heartbroken to re-compose it. Now THAT was a loss!

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by John F » Sun Nov 14, 2010 4:40 am

Jack Kelso wrote:As the music critic for our daily newspaper ("Mannheimer Morgen") wrote, Sibelius lacked the structure of Bruckner and the logic of Brahms, which might be a reason why Sibelius has never really "made it" big onto the concert programs in German-speaking countries (as he has in Anglo-Saxon ones).

Sibelius paints some fine landscapes and could really think (like Tschaikowsky) in slick orchestral terms. But where is the PROOF that he ever burned a symphony which he never put to paper? Who ever saw the manuscript?
Two weirdnesses in one post! Or maybe three. The idea that Bruckner was a greater master of symphonic structure than Sibelius goes radically against the critical assessment of both composers, and from my own listening I say it's flat wrong. To reduce the most celebrated symphonist of the last century to a composer of "landscapes" needs defending. And what does it matter how much of an unfinished 8th symphony Sibelius wrote down, when we have seven complete symphonies, half of which are core orchestral repertory?

But Sibelius is indeed Exhibit A of a "composer who lost something when [he] got older" - the will and possibly the ability to compose at all. That people still remark about this is a sign of how rare it is.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by jbuck919 » Sun Nov 14, 2010 7:10 am

Jack Kelso wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:Let's get real, folks. The great composers--and for once I will give that an inclusive rather than exclusive interpretation--seem to have been immune to senility. I don't think that any of the examples cited here amount to anything approaching evidence of decline in powers due to age. Composers like Schumann and Sibelius whose life extended beyond their productivity because of disability do not count.
As scholars study the late Schumann works they become more and more impressed with the depth of content in works such as the Violin Concerto, Märchenerzählungen für Klavier, Viola und Klarinette, the Maria Stuart Lieber, "Die Braut von Messina" Overture, the "Faust" music and many, many more.

John, if you wish to accept the widespread fable that these and other late works are less inspired or of a technically lower level than his more popular masterpieces, then you will only be cheating yourself of some truly remarkable listening experiences.

Tschüß,
Jack
I was not speaking about his later works. I meant the period after his breakdown, when he could not compose at all.

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.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Wallingford » Sun Nov 14, 2010 2:34 pm

To my mind Sibelius' virtual swansong Tapiola is as tight a piece as you can get: absolutely everything is derived from those opening few bars.

I have yet to encounter anything by Bruckner (including his Ninth) that adheres to its main materials with that degree of thoroughness and rigidity.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Nov 15, 2010 7:41 am

jbuck919 wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:Let's get real, folks. The great composers--and for once I will give that an inclusive rather than exclusive interpretation--seem to have been immune to senility. I don't think that any of the examples cited here amount to anything approaching evidence of decline in powers due to age. Composers like Schumann and Sibelius whose life extended beyond their productivity because of disability do not count.
As scholars study the late Schumann works they become more and more impressed with the depth of content in works such as the Violin Concerto, Märchenerzählungen für Klavier, Viola und Klarinette, the Maria Stuart Lieber, "Die Braut von Messina" Overture, the "Faust" music and many, many more.

John, if you wish to accept the widespread fable that these and other late works are less inspired or of a technically lower level than his more popular masterpieces, then you will only be cheating yourself of some truly remarkable listening experiences.

Tschüß,
Jack
I was not speaking about his later works. I meant the period after his breakdown, when he could not compose at all.
Sorry, John. I guess I misread your post! :oops:

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:03 am

John F wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:As the music critic for our daily newspaper ("Mannheimer Morgen") wrote, Sibelius lacked the structure of Bruckner and the logic of Brahms, which might be a reason why Sibelius has never really "made it" big onto the concert programs in German-speaking countries (as he has in Anglo-Saxon ones).

Sibelius paints some fine landscapes and could really think (like Tschaikowsky) in slick orchestral terms. But where is the PROOF that he ever burned a symphony which he never put to paper? Who ever saw the manuscript?
Two weirdnesses in one post! Or maybe three. The idea that Bruckner was a greater master of symphonic structure than Sibelius goes radically against the critical assessment of both composers, and from my own listening I say it's flat wrong. To reduce the most celebrated symphonist of the last century to a composer of "landscapes" needs defending. And what does it matter how much of an unfinished 8th symphony Sibelius wrote down, when we have seven complete symphonies, half of which are core orchestral repertory?

But Sibelius is indeed Exhibit A of a "composer who lost something when [he] got older" - the will and possibly the ability to compose at all. That people still remark about this is a sign of how rare it is.
John, I realize there are lots of Sibelians here on CMG. But I know of no German musician or music-lover who would call the Finnish Master "the most celebrated symphonist of the last century", no matter how badly his/her need to defend him. Sym. nos. 1, 2, 5 and 7 are only occasionally heard here in radio broadcasts.

For me, his later symphonies and tone poems just don't possess the passion, forward drive, vigor and melodic invention of a Raff, Smetana, Dvorak, Tschaikowsky, Nielsen, Mahler or Richard Strauss. The first two symphonies owe a huge debt to Tschaikowsky, and Sibelius tried hard to "Finnish" that tendency. While it's true that Sibelius' later style becomes more thoughtful and perhaps subtle, the Sixth and Seventh symphonies and "Tapiola" just do not completely hold my interest in the time he takes to unfold his material. But then again, not all of Dvorak's late tone poems are tightly woven either.

It boils down to this: no one person likes everything, and some composers just will not command the interest of all friends of music. But I keep trying with "Tapiola"...... :D

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by karlhenning » Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:21 am

Jack Kelso wrote:As scholars study the late Schumann works they become more and more impressed with the depth of content in works such as the Violin Concerto, Märchenerzählungen für Klavier, Viola und Klarinette, the Maria Stuart Lieber, "Die Braut von Messina" Overture, the "Faust" music and many, many more.
Why do I have a feeling I've read this before? And . . . more than once before? ; )

Maybe it's the easy weaselly phrasing . . . As scholars study the late Schumann works they become more and more impressed . . . .

And maybe it's the broad brush strokes. Depth of content in . . . a set of four miniatures (the Opus 132 Märchenerzählungen)? Depth of content in, what, a 15-minute suite of four pieces? On the order of one of the Bach partitas for violin solo, no doubt.

Of the pieces you mentioned, Jack, before this morning I had only listened to the Violin Concerto and the Overture. It's an all right Concerto . . . I couldn't say I was powerfully impressed by the depth of its content (perhaps I am impeded in this quest by the fact that I am not a scholar), nor do I think that any question of depth of its content makes it any better a concerto than it is.

As for the Overture, frankly I found it tiresome.

But . . . my musical and intellectual curiosity piqued by your trotting these titles out, I sought out instances of the Opus 132 on YouTube. Very pleasant little pieces, no argument. And if you wish to think these four pleasantries greater than they are because of the the "depth of their content" (I didn't, particularly), go to town.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by karlhenning » Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:37 am

Jack Kelso wrote:
John F wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:As the music critic for our daily newspaper ("Mannheimer Morgen") wrote, Sibelius lacked the structure of Bruckner and the logic of Brahms, which might be a reason why Sibelius has never really "made it" big onto the concert programs in German-speaking countries (as he has in Anglo-Saxon ones).

Sibelius paints some fine landscapes and could really think (like Tschaikowsky) in slick orchestral terms. But where is the PROOF that he ever burned a symphony which he never put to paper? Who ever saw the manuscript?
Two weirdnesses in one post! Or maybe three. The idea that Bruckner was a greater master of symphonic structure than Sibelius goes radically against the critical assessment of both composers, and from my own listening I say it's flat wrong. To reduce the most celebrated symphonist of the last century to a composer of "landscapes" needs defending. And what does it matter how much of an unfinished 8th symphony Sibelius wrote down, when we have seven complete symphonies, half of which are core orchestral repertory?

But Sibelius is indeed Exhibit A of a "composer who lost something when [he] got older" - the will and possibly the ability to compose at all. That people still remark about this is a sign of how rare it is.
John, I realize there are lots of Sibelians here on CMG. But I know of no German musician or music-lover who would call the Finnish Master "the most celebrated symphonist of the last century", no matter how badly his/her need to defend him. Sym. nos. 1, 2, 5 and 7 are only occasionally heard here in radio broadcasts.
Well, I guess the musical world is broader than those whom you know. Jack, I am sure there are German music-lovers who consider Sibelius in the first rank of symphonists, in the first place. In the second place, Sibelius did some of his studying in Berlin and Vienna . . . and pray, why should HvK have conducted Sibelius's symphonies, if he did not think highly of Sibelius as a living composer?

BTW, this is choice: Sibelius paints some fine landscapes and could really think (like Tschaikowsky) in slick orchestral terms. Insubstantial scorn, slung like mud at two composers at once! What a signally empty phrase you invent here, Jack: "in slick orchestral terms." How envious, in light of how comparatively dull and colorless Schumann's use of the orchestral palette is, of the color, brillance, definition & sweep in the orchestral writing of both Sibelius and Tchaikovsky (different as the two individual composers are). In comparison, you are trumpeting the non-existent virtues of the pallid Overture to Die Braut der Messina.

But no, go ahead: tell us what, exactly, in musical terms, "slick orchestral" means.

But you won't, I know. You've been asked before to put musical meat on your pronouncements.

Prepare ye for weasel words . . . .

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by karlhenning » Mon Nov 15, 2010 8:46 am

Oh, and one more little thing . . . .
Jack Kelso wrote:As the music critic for our daily newspaper ("Mannheimer Morgen") wrote, Sibelius lacked the structure of Bruckner and the logic of Brahms, which might be a reason why Sibelius has never really "made it" big onto the concert programs in German-speaking countries (as he has in Anglo-Saxon ones).
No, Sibelius is such a flop in German-speaking countries!

Why, what is this? The Wiener Philharmoniker are playing Sibelius at the Musikverein for their second subscription concert this season (11 & 12 December)?

And what this? The Berliner Philharmoniker played Sibelius in early October of this year?

Even a cursitory glance informs me that this supposed neglect of Sibelius in German-Speaking countries is . . . tendentiously exaggerated.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by diegobueno » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:00 am

Jack Kelso wrote: As the music critic for our daily newspaper ("Mannheimer Morgen") wrote, Sibelius lacked the structure of Bruckner and the logic of Brahms, which might be a reason why Sibelius has never really "made it" big onto the concert programs in German-speaking countries (as he has in Anglo-Saxon ones).

Sibelius paints some fine landscapes and could really think (like Tschaikowsky) in slick orchestral terms. But where is the PROOF that he ever burned a symphony which he never put to paper? Who ever saw the manuscript?
The copyist to whom he sent the 1st movement around 1932 saw the manuscript. As the copyist then returned the copy and original to the composer, none of this material survives, but the correspondence between Sibelius and the copyist survives. Sibelius tells the copyist that the packet represents the 1st movement of his new symphony, and that it would go without pause into the next movment. He says that he has 3 similarly-sized packets and promises to send them at a later date. A receipt for this transaction also survives.

His wife saw the manuscript too. As reported in Erik Tawaststjerna's biography, she said that she saw her husband carry up a laundry basket full of manuscripts some time around 1945, and throw the contents, packet by packet, into the fire in the fireplace.

Scholars are pretty unanimous in their appreciation of the remarkable structural logic of Sibelius' symphonies, and are appreciative of their depth of content.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by THEHORN » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:30 am

"To my mind, Tapiola,Sibelius' virtual swansong,
is as tight a piece as you can get.Absolutely everything is
derived from those opening few bars.
I have yet to encounter anything by Bruckner,(including his ninth) that adheres to its main materials with that degree of thoroughness and rigidity".
Talk about comparing apples and oranges ! That's not how Bruckner composed; his works consist of a wide variety of thematic material developed over exceptionally long spans,unlike Sibelius. This is like faulting a long novel like War and Peace or Moby Dick for not being a short story.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by karlhenning » Mon Nov 15, 2010 9:34 am

THEHORN wrote:Talk about comparing apples and oranges ! That's not how Bruckner composed; his works consist of a wide variety of thematic material developed over exceptionally long spans,unlike Sibelius. This is like faulting a long novel like War and Peace or Moby Dick for not being a short story.
It doesn't materially alter your point, but Tapiola is not quite a "short story" compared to a Bruckner symphony.

Overall, though, I certainly agree that any artist needs to be addressed on his own terms, and it would be no good faulting Sibelius simply for, essentially, being a different artist to Bruckner.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by stenka razin » Mon Nov 15, 2010 11:47 am

Rossini lost his 'appetite' for opera or is it the opposite, after "William Tell'(good food and wine!)?.... Photos of Rossini show a composer who definitely was not missing any meals.....:wink: :mrgreen:


Those late Rossini piano pieces and some choral works are lovely, but, his desire not to compose operas after the age of 35 is astonishing...........He lived till he was in his mid 70's and that was old for the mid 19th century.

Did Rossini have something in common with Sibelius, my fellow CMGers? 8)
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by jbuck919 » Mon Nov 15, 2010 2:14 pm

stenka razin wrote:Rossini lost his 'appetite' for opera or is it the opposite, after "William Tell'(good food and wine!)?.... Photos of Rossini show a composer who definitely was not missing any meals.....:wink: :mrgreen:


Those late Rossini piano pieces and some choral works are lovely, but, his desire not to compose operas after the age of 35 is astonishing...........He lived till he was in his mid 70's and that was old for the mid 19th century.

Did Rossini have something in common with Sibelius, my fellow CMGers? 8)
Clearly, as you yourself imply, living to an old age in spite of what is commonly considered unhealthy indulgence.

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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by John F » Tue Nov 16, 2010 2:57 am

Jack Kelso wrote:John, I realize there are lots of Sibelians here on CMG. But I know of no German musician or music-lover who would call the Finnish Master "the most celebrated symphonist of the last century", no matter how badly his/her need to defend him. Sym. nos. 1, 2, 5 and 7 are only occasionally heard here in radio broadcasts.
I posted a reply to this, or thought I did (I certainly wrote it), but it seems to have gone bye-bye.

Karl has pointed out that Sibelius's symphonies figure in this season's programs of the two most celebrated orchestras in the German-speaking countries. Sibelius's symphonies may not be big in Mannheim, but in Berlin and Vienna it's a different story. Indeed, Herbert von Karajan recorded all the symphonies except #3 - usually twice, in London and Berlin, but four times for the Symphony #5 - and the Vienna Philharmonic recorded them all for Decca/London under Lorin Maazel.

By the way, some musicologists have found the influence of Bruckner in Sibelius's early orchestral music, notably "Kullervo." I don't hear it myself, but it may be so.
Last edited by John F on Tue Nov 16, 2010 6:02 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:14 am

John F wrote:By the way, some musicologists have found the influence of Bruckner in Sibelius's early orchestral music, notably "Kullervo." I don't hear it myself, but it may be so.
Jack likes Musicologists...they back up all his theories about Schumann being half decent, now he has to change his opinion on Kullervo, I work I enjoy a great deal... :wink:
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:16 am

Jack Kelso wrote:As the music critic for our daily newspaper ("Mannheimer Morgen") wrote, Sibelius lacked the structure of Bruckner and the logic of Brahms, which might be a reason why Sibelius has never really "made it" big onto the concert programs in German-speaking countries (as he has in Anglo-Saxon ones).
I guess that's your version of the New York Times, we had better all take notice... :mrgreen:
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by karlhenning » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:19 am

John F wrote:. . . Karl has pointed out that Sibelius's symphonies figure in this season's programs of the two most celebrated orchestras in the German-speaking countries. Sibelius's symphonies may not be big in Mannheim . . . .
His work is probably too breathtakingly modern for a provincial town like Mannheim ; )

Cheers,
~Karl
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by John F » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:38 pm

Oh, I'm not putting down Mannheim, which has been the center of a number of important music and theatre developments for more than two centuries. But it's mainly an opera and theatre town, with only a few "academy concerts" by the National Theater's resident orchestra plus some concerts by orchestras on tour (as I remember), and so is perhaps not where you'd look for representative German opinion about the 20th century orchestral repertoire.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:43 pm

John F wrote:Oh, I'm not putting down Mannheim, which has been the center of a number of important music and theatre developments for more than two centuries. But it's mainly an opera and theatre town, with only a few "academy concerts" by the National Theater's resident orchestra plus some concerts by orchestras on tour (as I remember), and so is perhaps not where you'd look for representative German opinion about the 20th century orchestral repertoire.
We may not, but Jack would... :wink:
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by karlhenning » Tue Nov 16, 2010 12:54 pm

John F wrote:Oh, I'm not putting down Mannheim, which has been the center of a number of important music and theatre developments for more than two centuries. But it's mainly an opera and theatre town, with only a few "academy concerts" by the National Theater's resident orchestra plus some concerts by orchestras on tour (as I remember), and so is perhaps not where you'd look for representative German opinion about the 20th century orchestral repertoire.
Nor in particular for representative German opinion about Sibelius, who did not elect to write any opera.

Cheers,
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by John F » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:07 pm

Except for the early one-acter "Jungfrun i tornet," which predates all his symphonies, and is hardly ever performed anyway.
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by karlhenning » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:08 pm

Thanks! I knew nothing of that . . . .

Cheers,
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:13 pm

karlhenning wrote:
John F wrote:. . . Karl has pointed out that Sibelius's symphonies figure in this season's programs of the two most celebrated orchestras in the German-speaking countries. Sibelius's symphonies may not be big in Mannheim . . . .
His work is probably too breathtakingly modern for a provincial town like Mannheim ; )

Cheers,
~Karl
Okay, guys. I just finished listening again to the Sibelius Sixth and Seventh Symphonies (Sanderling, Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester) and must retract much of what I said in regard to their material. There is a good deal of natural expression in these very attractive works. It occurred to me that he often adopted the Raff technique of stating a short phrase and letting it develop itself to wherever it wishes to go! Perhaps it is this quality which many hear as "lacking in structure and logic".

I still have my problems with the "Tempo molto moderato, quasi adagio" of the Symphony No. 4 in A Minor, op. 63! But I keep an open mind...... 8)

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Nov 17, 2010 12:26 am

karlhenning wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:As scholars study the late Schumann works they become more and more impressed with the depth of content in works such as the Violin Concerto, Märchenerzählungen für Klavier, Viola und Klarinette, the Maria Stuart Lieber, "Die Braut von Messina" Overture, the "Faust" music and many, many more.
Why do I have a feeling I've read this before? And . . . more than once before? ; )

Maybe it's the easy weaselly phrasing . . . As scholars study the late Schumann works they become more and more impressed . . . .

And maybe it's the broad brush strokes. Depth of content in . . . a set of four miniatures (the Opus 132 Märchenerzählungen)? Depth of content in, what, a 15-minute suite of four pieces? On the order of one of the Bach partitas for violin solo, no doubt.

Of the pieces you mentioned, Jack, before this morning I had only listened to the Violin Concerto and the Overture. It's an all right Concerto . . . I couldn't say I was powerfully impressed by the depth of its content (perhaps I am impeded in this quest by the fact that I am not a scholar), nor do I think that any question of depth of its content makes it any better a concerto than it is.

As for the Overture, frankly I found it tiresome.

But . . . my musical and intellectual curiosity piqued by your trotting these titles out, I sought out instances of the Opus 132 on YouTube. Very pleasant little pieces, no argument. And if you wish to think these four pleasantries greater than they are because of the the "depth of their content" (I didn't, particularly), go to town.

Cheers,
~Karl
Well, Karl....maybe you should listen to these works more often. Schumann isn't exactly Saint-Saens or Tschaikowsky, you know.... :D

I never made false claims for the "Märchenerzählungen"----they are beautifully poetic and carry a slight shadow of the tragic. But naturally you noticed that, too.

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Nov 17, 2010 12:31 am

Chalkperson wrote:
John F wrote:Oh, I'm not putting down Mannheim, which has been the center of a number of important music and theatre developments for more than two centuries. But it's mainly an opera and theatre town, with only a few "academy concerts" by the National Theater's resident orchestra plus some concerts by orchestras on tour (as I remember), and so is perhaps not where you'd look for representative German opinion about the 20th century orchestral repertoire.
We may not, but Jack would... :wink:
German radio pretty much echoes what Heidelberg, Mannheim and Schwetzingen also offer. Just because Germany isn't on the Sibelius band-wagon doesn't mean other important masters are ignored. Elgar works could also stand more performances here!

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by dulcinea » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:45 pm

'tis true serendipity to have found this thread, since I'm very curious about why Ives lost his inspiration.
From 1969 to 1983 I suffered a dry spell which robbed me of my ability to draw. I still had ideas, but could not bring myself to put them down on paper. Only when I started my antidepressant regime did I recover the self-confidence to start drawing again; could Ives have suffered a type of depression?
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Nov 17, 2010 10:22 pm

Jack Kelso wrote: Schumann isn't exactly Saint-Saens or Tschaikowsky, you know.... :D
Very true, Jack, he certainly isn't a Tchaikovsky or a Saint-Saens, he only has about a quarter of their talent... :lol:
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:56 pm

dulcinea wrote:'tis true serendipity to have found this thread, since I'm very curious about why Ives lost his inspiration.
From 1969 to 1983 I suffered a dry spell which robbed me of my ability to draw. I still had ideas, but could not bring myself to put them down on paper. Only when I started my antidepressant regime did I recover the self-confidence to start drawing again; could Ives have suffered a type of depression?
What you describe sounds similar to "writer's cramp", which I suffered from several years back. I just couldn't bring myself to finish my thirty-third short story. The same happened with my plays, but not (oddly!) with my poems!

I'm not sure about Ives' problem, but Liszt admitted late in life that he felt his inspiration "had abandoned him".

Hopefully, you won't suffer that dry spell again. I know what it's like.....

Tschüß,
Jack
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Re: Composers who lost something as they got older

Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:58 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote: Schumann isn't exactly Saint-Saens or Tschaikowsky, you know.... :D
Very true, Jack, he certainly isn't a Tchaikovsky or a Saint-Saens, he only has about a quarter of their talent... :lol:
Guess you're right, Chalkie. They had the talent----and Mozart, Beethoven and Schumann had the genius.

Tschüß,
Jack
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