The Big Three? Or Five? Or Seven? Or Ten?

Charles
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Post by Charles » Wed Feb 08, 2006 2:31 am

MaestroDJS wrote:...Max Bruch probably fascinates me because he was not a great composer, but he composed truly great music on occasion. Some composers like those above produced numerous masterpieces almost without exception. Near the other extreme are "one-hit wonders" who by some fluke produced a single masterpiece while the rest of their music is mediocre at best. Bruch is in the middle. He produced a solid body of good honest music, punctuated by a handful of masterpieces.
Bruch fascinates me for the same reason. Good artists who reach this level of real greatness only occasionally are not common at all. I sense with Bruch that, in addition to his expressed need to support his family by writing acceptable music, there was some kind of artistic block that often prevented him from being inspired when he needed to be, or from getting in touch with his inspiration. Brahms commented that getting melodic ideas was no problem for him, but corralling and shaping them into formal structures was a struggle. I think that perhaps Bruch often had trouble getting melodic ideas, although he was a great melodist on occasion.

Unmentioned by MaestroDJS is a late work by Bruch that I have recommended before in this forum, where discussions of Bruch seem to break out in various unrelated threads regularly. This work is the Concerto for Clarinet and Viola. I was absolutely entranced by this concerto when I first heard it by chance on my cable TV provider's classical music channel. I ordered it immediately, and repeated hearings have confirmed for me that it's one of the greatest works by any composer that I've ever experienced. I think anyone who loves Bruch and has never heard this piece would be delighted and moved by it.

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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Feb 08, 2006 5:25 am

RebLem wrote:Can a composer who really only wrote in two forms--the symphony and the orchestral song--be considered great?" And my answer is always, "No." You don't run into that problem when you are talking about Brahms, who excelled at virtually all forms except opera and ballet.
No, not "all": Brahms also wrote no tone-poems or oratorios.

Yes, a composer most certainly can be "great", having written in only one or two forms. How about Wagner? He "only" wrote operas, or music-dramas. Not even a "Super-super Brahmsian" would deny Wagner at least a certain greatness here.

Dvorâk excelled in all forms.... except ballet. Yet he is not considered as great as Wagner - and rightfully so.

Truth is, only Mozart excelled in ALL forms (except oratorio).

Jack
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Post by Werner » Wed Feb 08, 2006 11:41 am

Wouldn't the Requiem fit into the Oratorio category? Or would you consider a Mass (the Requiem and the C Minor Mass) a separate category?
Werner Isler

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Feb 08, 2006 12:26 pm

Werner wrote:Wouldn't the Requiem fit into the Oratorio category? Or would you consider a Mass (the Requiem and the C Minor Mass) a separate category?
The German Requiem, as you know, is not a Mass and is definitely an oratorio.

Brahms may not have anticipated the Strauss-type tone poem, but he invented the orchestral theme and variations and wrote a couple of one-movement non-symphonic orchestral works.

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Feb 08, 2006 12:30 pm

Jack Kelso wrote:For the fans of the works of Saint-Saens I would recommend also Joseph Joachim Raff, whose equally charming, cheerful and facile style almost never fails to impress.

He also composed operas, symphonies (11), concerti, chamber music, piano works and overtures/tone poems ("Macbeth" and three others based on Shakespeare). Over 200 works totally!

When Hans von Bülow wrote to Tschaikowsky that he believed him to be in the category of "Raff, Brahms, Saint-Saens and Rheinberger", the latter took it as a great compliment - only adding "...but - why Rheinberger..?!"

Jack
Er, why Raff (who is that anyway)?

Now I know where Karl Henning got his opinion. (Just kidding, Karl, as usual.)

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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Post by MaestroDJS » Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:00 pm

jbuck919 wrote:Er, why Raff (who is that anyway)?
If any composer went out at the top, it was Joachim Raff. He is a fine example of a composer who was renowned and widely-performed during his lifetime, but whose music slipped into oblivion after his death. His music probably did not deserve the highest acclaim it enjoyed during his lifetime, but it is accessible, melodic, colorful and harmonious, and rewards investigation.

For more information about Joaquim Raff than you can shake a stick at:

Joachim Raff Society
http://www.raff.org

This is one of the best-designed web sites I have ever found about any composer. It even has a link that lets you upload the entire web site as a ZIP file, install it onto your computer and browse almost everything offline.

This link is a good way to sample his music:

MIDI files of Raff's music
http://www.raff.org/midi.htm

Dave

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Post by Corlyss_D » Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:28 pm

Wallingford wrote:Well, beings this discussion revolves partly around composers whose greatness can possibly be based on how many forms they excelled in, dare I to trot out the example of (to give the French some credit).......CAMILLE SAINT-SAENS???

And I'M no stickler for sublimity, necessarily; musically, I'm a hedonist, not a spiritualist. Saint-Saens' chief saving grace is, besides his writing acumen, that indescribably winsome quality to his most familiar melodies: Danse Macabre; Omphale's Spinning Wheel; "Lion," "Aquarium," "Fossils," "Swan" & finale from Carnival Of The Animals; the violin showpiece Introduction & Rondo Capriccioso.......that's just skimming the top.
Amen to that! His music shows a real sense of humor without being cynical or resentful.
MaestroDJS wrote: Agreed.Considering how well-loved his music is, it's surprising that Saint-Saëns doesn't have a better reputation. Maybe it's a general prejudice that a composer who is popular and tuneful can't possibly be any good,
It's not just a prejudice against Saint-Saens. There's a real concert hall prejudice against the French, whose emergence from the shadow of the Italians with Berlioz marks a real triumph for a beautiful and distinctly characterful national style of composition. Their own people didn't give a fig for their music, much preferring the Italians. They didn't come into their own until the mid to late 19th Century. They don't dominate the opera stage like the Italians. They don't dominate the concert hall like the Germans and Russians. And their concerto output is meager at best. A lot of their most beautiful music is chamber music and song. Saint-Saens left his mark on all the major genres, but concert-goers are lucky to hear the Organ Sym once in a decade, never mind the beautiful Africa fantasy you mention, or the Rapsodie d'Auvergne, or the stunningly beautiful and atmospheric Fantasie for Violin and Harp.
He traveled rather extensively in north Africa, and in 1891 he created this 10-minute musical impression. Saint-Saëns biographer James Harding wrote: "It is rather like those vivid picture postcards which holiday-makers remit to the unfortunates they have left behind. The sudden contrasts of moods which strike the traveler in Africa are suggested by rhythms alternately strident and langorous, until a wild Tunisian folksong emerges from the tussle beween piano and orchestra and is worked into a frenetic conclusion."
Both in travel habits and love for the north African music, he makes a worthy heir to the tradition established by Felicien David, a composer never heard today except on discs of show-stoppers for sopranos.
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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Feb 08, 2006 1:42 pm

MaestroDJS wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:Er, why Raff (who is that anyway)?
MIDI files of Raff's music
http://www.raff.org/midi.htm
I'm sorry, Dave. I appreciate the information and I do keep trying with such things, but this was dreadful.

Musicians of an earlier era had blind spots, just as we do, only by definition we don't see our own. I wish I knew an example of a composer who might have been admired by a musician like von Buelow (or even Brahms) who did not survive even to the next generation, who nevertheless is worthy. I just do not, nor do I hold out hopes for the guy who is waiting in the wings.

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Post by DavidRoss » Wed Feb 08, 2006 2:50 pm

This morning I listened to Hough playing the first 3 Saint-Saëns piano concertos. Like most things I've heard by him, they're lovely. Yet I definitely bear a prejudice against the man and it affects my feeling for his music. His pederastic excursions to North Africa are repugnant to me, as is the colonialist exploitation they illustrate. I suspect I'm not the only one whose appreciation for his music is likewise affected.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Feb 08, 2006 3:16 pm

DavidRoss wrote:This morning I listened to Hough playing the first 3 Saint-Saëns piano concertos. Like most things I've heard by him, they're lovely. Yet I definitely bear a prejudice against the man and it affects my feeling for his music. His pederastic excursions to North Africa are repugnant to me, as is the colonialist exploitation they illustrate. I suspect I'm not the only one whose appreciation for his music is likewise affected.
It was the "grand tour" of its time (Oscar Wilde and Andre Gide did the same thing, and even met each other there).

It would never occur to me to hold this against Saint-Saens. He has actually risen in my estimation over the years (and about how many composers do I say that?). One must always separate the art from the artist, or else we could also not deal with Wagner, or Degas, or Verlaine and Baudelaire.

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 Cyril Ignatius » Wed Feb 08, 2006 3:41 pm

What a great post from the Maestro! I read one of the classic biographies of Brahms last year. For several years I had been listening more and more to Brahms works and had come to regard him as one of my favorites and one of the true greats. He didn't write that many symphonies or concertos, but what he wrote was simply awsome. What struck me in the biography was that the "cranky old man" persona often attached to Brahms competes with repeated instances where he shows impeccable moral character. His concern and charity to family and friends, and yes, his dealings with women. In his own way, Brahms was a remarkable human being in addition to his obvious musical genius.
MaestroDJS wrote:
MaestroDJS wrote:However Bruch knew his place in musical history, and in 1907 he wrote: "Brahms will loom up as one of the supremely great composers of all time ..."
I just bought the book Max Bruch: His Life and Works by Christopher Fifield, and it contains the complete quote. In 1907 Bruch was asked how he saw his own status as a composer half a century hence, compared to Brahms:
Max Bruch wrote:Brahms has been dead ten years but he still has many detractors, even among the best musicians and critics. I predict, however, that as time goes on, he will be more and more appreciated, while most of my works will be more and more neglected. Fifty years hence, he will loom up as one of the supremely great composers of all time, while I will be remembered chiefly for having written my G minor violin concerto.

Brahms was a far greater composer than I am for various reasons. First of all he was much more original. He always went his own way. He cared not at all about the public reaction or what the critics wrote. The great fiasco of his D minor piano concerto would have discouraged most composers. Not Brahms! Furthermore, the vituperation heaped upon him after Joachim introduced his violin concerto at the Leipzig Gewandhaus in 1880 would have crushed me.

Another factor which militated against me was economic necessity. I had a wife and children to support and educate. I was compelled to earn money with my compositions. Therefore, I had to write works that were pleasing and easily understood. I never wrote down to the public; my artistic conscience would not permit me to do that. I always composed good music but it was music that sold readily.

There was never anything to quarrel about in my music as there was that in Brahms. I never outraged the critics by those wonderful, conflicting rhythms, which are so characteristic of Brahms. Nor would I have dared to leave out sequences of steps in progressing from one key to another, which often makes Brahm’s modulations so bold and startling. Neither did I venture to paint in such dark colours, à la Rembrandt, as he did.

All this, and much more, militated against Brahms in his own day, but these very attributes will contribute to his stature fifty years from now, because they proclaim him a composer of marked originality. I consider Brahms one of the greatest personalities in the entire annals of music.
Dave

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Post by MaestroDJS » Wed Feb 08, 2006 3:47 pm

jbuck919 wrote:I'm sorry, Dave. I appreciate the information and I do keep trying with such things, but this was dreadful.
No problem, John. Your tastes seemed pretty well-defined, so you might was well just stick with what you like. :)

Dave
Last edited by MaestroDJS on Wed Feb 08, 2006 3:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Post by MaestroDJS » Wed Feb 08, 2006 3:51 pm

Cyril Ignatius wrote:What a great post from the Maestro! I read one of the classic biographies of Brahms last year. For several years I had been listening more and more to Brahms works and had come to regard him as one of my favorites and one of the true greats. He didn't write that many symphonies or concertos, but what he wrote was simply awsome. What struck me in the biography was that the "cranky old man" persona often attached to Brahms competes with repeated instances where he shows impeccable moral character. His concern and charity to family and friends, and yes, his dealings with women. In his own way, Brahms was a remarkable human being in addition to his obvious musical genius.
Hence my fascination with both Johannes Brahms and Max Bruch: the great and the near-great. Their music has much in common, but many subtle differences as well. Although I've known and loved both composers' music for decades, Bruch's comments highlight some of those special qualities which makes Brahms' music so great, and which I could never really put into words. This helps me better understand those little extra magical subtleties which help constitute true musical genius.
Max Bruch wrote:There was never anything to quarrel about in my music as there was that in Brahms. I never outraged the critics by those wonderful, conflicting rhythms, which are so characteristic of Brahms. Nor would I have dared to leave out sequences of steps in progressing from one key to another, which often makes Brahm’s modulations so bold and startling. Neither did I venture to paint in such dark colours, à la Rembrandt, as he did.
Dave

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Post by Wallingford » Wed Feb 08, 2006 5:09 pm

Getting back to St-Saens:

ACTUALLY, Corlyss, it depends on what area of the country you hear the "Organ" Symphony in......Seattle's had it performed something like 3 times these last eight years (in part, to show off the organ installed in the brand-new Beneroya Hall). Also, it's always been a big item in Detroit: at least 2 guest conductors--Eije Oue & resident conductor Thomas Wilkins--did it within the same decade.

It's still a crowd-pleaser, partly because it's got the greatest symphonic "waker-upper" since Haydn: that blaring C-Major organ chord ushering in the last part of the last movement!
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Post by DavidRoss » Wed Feb 08, 2006 5:57 pm

jbuck919 wrote:One must always separate the art from the artist, or else we could also not deal with Wagner, or Degas, or Verlaine and Baudelaire.
Wagner, of course, was a rather horrid excuse for a human being, but I confess my ignorance of the similar spiritual shortcomings of the others--especially Degas, with whom I'm most familiar and about whom I've never heard anything deserving such disapproval.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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Post by jbuck919 » Wed Feb 08, 2006 6:30 pm

DavidRoss wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:One must always separate the art from the artist, or else we could also not deal with Wagner, or Degas, or Verlaine and Baudelaire.
Wagner, of course, was a rather horrid excuse for a human being, but I confess my ignorance of the similar spiritual shortcomings of the others--especially Degas, with whom I'm most familiar and about whom I've never heard anything deserving such disapproval.
Degas was a horrid misogynist who considered women slightly less than animals. Verlaine famously had an affair with the young poet Rimbaud in which he did not much care that he foresook his family. Baudelaire was a sado-masochist who allowed that aspect of his persona to invade his poetry in a way that was imitated by the under-appreciated English poet Algernon Swinburne.

If you want to go back far enough, the late Renaissance composer Gesualdo murdered his wife's lover, and the late Renaissance painter Caravaggio, who kept a young boy who was his most famous model, also committed a murder in his younger years.

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 DavidRoss » Wed Feb 08, 2006 7:08 pm

jbuck919 wrote:
DavidRoss wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:One must always separate the art from the artist, or else we could also not deal with Wagner, or Degas, or Verlaine and Baudelaire.
Wagner, of course, was a rather horrid excuse for a human being, but I confess my ignorance of the similar spiritual shortcomings of the others--especially Degas, with whom I'm most familiar and about whom I've never heard anything deserving such disapproval.
Degas was a horrid misogynist who considered women slightly less than animals. Verlaine famously had an affair with the young poet Rimbaud in which he did not much care that he foresook his family. Baudelaire was a sado-masochist who allowed that aspect of his persona to invade his poetry in a way that was imitated by the under-appreciated English poet Algernon Swinburne.

If you want to go back far enough, the late Renaissance composer Gesualdo murdered his wife's lover, and the late Renaissance painter Caravaggio, who kept a young boy who was his most famous model, also committed a murder in his younger years.
Degas a misogynist? Total bull crap, John, though it is a common misconception based on feminist ideology projected into his art rather than on the facts of his life. His friendship with and promotion of Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, and Suzanne Valadon should more than amply disprove that falsehood.

As for the others, though somewhat short of ideal virtue, I find the charges far less reprehensible than than the systematic sexual exploitation of boys by colonial tourists on holiday. Your standards obviously vary from mine, as they seem to on nearly every subject.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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Post by Charles » Wed Feb 08, 2006 8:14 pm

DavidRoss wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:One must always separate the art from the artist, or else we could also not deal with Wagner, or Degas, or Verlaine and Baudelaire.
Wagner, of course, was a rather horrid excuse for a human being, but I confess my ignorance of the similar spiritual shortcomings of the others--especially Degas, with whom I'm most familiar and about whom I've never heard anything deserving such disapproval.
Degas was a notable antisemite who was quite vocal and was widely quoted during the Dreyfuss affair. He even severed relations with a Jewish family with whom he had long been friendly. Although Wagner naturally must take the palm for the most egregious antisemite among great artists of the last third of the nineteenth century, Degas and Dostoyevsky may be considered tied for second place.

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Post by Charles » Wed Feb 08, 2006 8:18 pm

jbuck919 wrote:...Degas was a horrid misogynist who considered women slightly less than animals. Verlaine famously had an affair with the young poet Rimbaud in which he did not much care that he foresook his family. Baudelaire was a sado-masochist who allowed that aspect of his persona to invade his poetry in a way that was imitated by the under-appreciated English poet Algernon Swinburne.

If you want to go back far enough, the late Renaissance composer Gesualdo murdered his wife's lover, and the late Renaissance painter Caravaggio, who kept a young boy who was his most famous model, also committed a murder in his younger years.
And there was the 15th century French poet Francois Villon, one of France's greatest poets, who was also a professional thief, murderer and pimp.

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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Feb 09, 2006 12:31 am

jbuck919 wrote:It would never occur to me to hold this against Saint-Saens. He has actually risen in my estimation over the years (and about how many composers do I say that?). One must always separate the art from the artist, or else we could also not deal with Wagner, or Degas, or Verlaine and Baudelaire.
I agree wholeheartedly.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Feb 09, 2006 12:35 am

Wallingford wrote:Getting back to St-Saens:

ACTUALLY, Corlyss, it depends on what area of the country you hear the "Organ" Symphony in......Seattle's had it performed something like 3 times these last eight years (in part, to show off the organ installed in the brand-new Beneroya Hall). Also, it's always been a big item in Detroit: at least 2 guest conductors--Eije Oue & resident conductor Thomas Wilkins--did it within the same decade.
That's good to know. I may visit a friend in Everette soon. I'd love to happen in on a Saint-Saens concert.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Feb 09, 2006 12:36 am

DavidRoss wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:One must always separate the art from the artist, or else we could also not deal with Wagner, or Degas, or Verlaine and Baudelaire.
Wagner, of course, was a rather horrid excuse for a human being, but I confess my ignorance of the similar spiritual shortcomings of the others--especially Degas, with whom I'm most familiar and about whom I've never heard anything deserving such disapproval.
Thank goodness we don't have to approve of them, much less live with them.
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Post by Corlyss_D » Thu Feb 09, 2006 12:39 am

Charles wrote:Degas was a notable antisemite * * * He even severed relations with a Jewish family with whom he had long been friendly.
Aren't those two concepts mutually exclusive?
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Post by RebLem » Thu Feb 09, 2006 3:24 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
jbuck919 wrote:It would never occur to me to hold this against Saint-Saens. He has actually risen in my estimation over the years (and about how many composers do I say that?). One must always separate the art from the artist, or else we could also not deal with Wagner, or Degas, or Verlaine and Baudelaire.
I agree wholeheartedly.
So, its OK for Roman Polansky to come back?
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Post by DavidRoss » Thu Feb 09, 2006 8:17 am

RebLem wrote:So, its OK for Roman Polansky to come back?
Polanski is welcome to return any time he is willing to serve his sentence for the rape conviction to which he pled guilty, and to suffer the additional consequences of fleeing while out on bail.

I recall the joke at the time about his new movie titled Close Encounters with the Third Grade.
"Most men, including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives." ~Leo Tolstoy

"It is the highest form of self-respect to admit our errors and mistakes and make amends for them. To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character." ~Dale Turner

"Anyone who doesn't take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either." ~Albert Einstein
"Truth is incontrovertible; malice may attack it and ignorance may deride it; but, in the end, there it is." ~Winston Churchill

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MaestroDJS
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Post by MaestroDJS » Thu Feb 09, 2006 11:11 am

DavidRoss wrote:
RebLem wrote:So, its OK for Roman Polansky to come back?
Polanski is welcome to return any time he is willing to serve his sentence for the rape conviction to which he pled guilty, and to suffer the additional consequences of fleeing while out on bail.

I recall the joke at the time about his new movie titled Close Encounters with the Third Grade.
Agreed. Artistic creations should stand on their own merits, irrespective of the artists' personal lives. However, those artists as persons must abide by the laws of the lands in which they live. It's all part of living in human society. The fact that someone is a fugitive from justice has little to do with his gifts as an artist, except that he probably couldn't create much while in jail.

Dave

David Stybr, Engineer and Composer: It's Left Brain vs. Right Brain: best 2 falls out of 3
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Inverness_Man
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Post by Inverness_Man » Thu Feb 09, 2006 5:46 pm

My list of favorite composers is as follows in order of importance to me & amount of music by that composer that I own:

- Mozart
- Beethoven
- Dvorák
- Tchaikovsky
- Brahms
- Schubert
- Debussy
- Bach
- Ravel
- Vivaldi
- Prokofiev
- Schumann
- Stravinsky

Schumann may be moving up the list, as I'm starting to discover him & purchasing more of his music. :wink:
Cogito, Ergo Sum
"If you don't eat yer meat, you can't have any pudding. How can you
have any pudding if you don't eat yer meat?"

daycart
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Post by daycart » Fri Feb 10, 2006 12:22 am

I find a list like this hard because of the tradeoffs between quantity (e.g. lot of undistinguished Mozart against his great works), diversity (e.g. Chopin's piano music and dearth of other stuff, or Wagner's opera) and favorite pieces.

OK here goes (I suppose this tracks time spent listening and score reading):

Brahms
Chopin
Schubert
Beethoven
Scriabin
Bach
Bruckner
Franck
Mozart
Mahler
Wagner

RebLem
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Post by RebLem » Fri Feb 10, 2006 12:51 am

Just in order of inches of shelf space occupied--

J.S. Bach
Beethoven
Mozart
Mahler
Brahms
Shostakovich
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Charles
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Post by Charles » Fri Feb 10, 2006 10:24 am

Corlyss_D wrote:
Charles wrote:Degas was a notable antisemite * * * He even severed relations with a Jewish family with whom he had long been friendly.
Aren't those two concepts mutually exclusive?
Not necessarily. Most antisemites seem to make exceptions for certain 'good' Jews. Wagner's favorite conductor, Levi, who conducted the premiere of 'Parsifal,' was Jewish. Degas' antisemitism stayed within certain bounds until the Dreyfuss affair, which pushed him into open hositility and caused him to break relations with that family. And it's worth noting that while most of the Impressionist painters were antisemitic and anti-Dreyfuss, only Degas bacame famous for this stand because of his outspokenness in the press.

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Post by Charles » Fri Feb 10, 2006 10:57 am

Cyril Ignatius wrote:... the "cranky old man" persona often attached to Brahms competes with repeated instances where he shows impeccable moral character. His concern and charity to family and friends, and yes, his dealings with women. In his own way, Brahms was a remarkable human being in addition to his obvious musical genius.
This is true. But a cranky and sarcastic old man he often was. There is a famous instance where he aimed his spite at every friend in the room, then left after saying "If there is anyone here I have not insulted, I apologize.'

Brahms as a pre-adolescent and teen was forced to play piano in waterfront dives and brothels in Hamburg to support his poor family. He was cajoled and teased by the 'ladies of the night.' He sometimes said in later years that this experience scarred him for life. He was unable to express his lifelong love for the widow Clara Schumann in real terms, never married and made use of prostitutes. Very handsome as a young man, he later grew a bushy beard which hid his face. Perhaps all this had something to with his crankiness.

MaestroDJS
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Post by MaestroDJS » Fri Feb 10, 2006 12:23 pm

Charles wrote:This is true. But a cranky and sarcastic old man he often was. There is a famous instance where [Brahms] aimed his spite at every friend in the room, then left after saying "If there is anyone here I have not insulted, I apologize.'
Part of the fun of reading Christopher Fifield's biography of Max Bruch is that it illustrates just how cranky and sarcastic both composers could be. They admired each other's music (e.g. Bruch dedicated his first symphony to Brahms, who happily accepted), but as time went on, they could hardly stand to be in the same room with each other. Bruch was 5 years younger and had some big early successes in the field of orchestral and choral music. Later as Brahms' fortunes rose and Bruch's waned, their verbal sparring increased. They still enjoyed each other's music, but not each other. It's both funny and sad to read.

Another composer who could be very sarcastic -- to the point that he almost bit the hand that fed him -- was Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lôbos.

Presença de Villa-Lobos: Essays by Harold Lewis
http://www.rdpl.org/villa/presenca.html
Villa-Lobos could be fairly certain that the cultural elite who hosted him on his tours abroad - particularly in North America - understood not a word of Portuguese. He enjoyed the opportunity this gave him to speak his mind in a characteristically forthright way. In an essay entitled 'The human side of Villa-Lobos' (PVL no. 9), Edgard de Brito Chaves Junior, who acted as an interpreter for Villa-Lobos on these occasions, recalls an evening in New York when a friend accompanied the composer to a party in a fashionable club. Villa-Lobos did not find the environment to his liking. A blonde 'with a voice like a clarinet' approached the composer and said to his companion, "please tell the maestro that this club has received celebrities like Toscanini, Stravinsky, Stokowski, Rachmaninov and others." When this was translated to him, Villa-Lobos growled in Portuguese, "That's of no interest to me." "What did he say?" asked the blonde. "Ah, he said 'splendid, splendid'." The blonde smiled and went on, "Tell Mr. Villa-Lobos that the fact that he doesn't speak English isn't of the least importance. We admire him so much that we're happy just to see him here." Villa-Lobos replied, "Tell her I'm not a parrot or a circus clown." This was translated as "The maestro says he is so very happy to be here today," which drew a contented murmur from the party guests. This exchange was followed by a question and answer session, which gave the translator a lot of work, since the composer's replies were harsh, confusing and almost paradoxical. Finally, Villa-Lobos decided to play one of his compositions. Settling himself at the piano, he played a chord, grimaced, and turned to a friend, "Tell the lady that her piano is out of tune - a real honky-tonk machine."
Dave

David Stybr, Engineer and Composer: It's Left Brain vs. Right Brain: best 2 falls out of 3
http://members.SibeliusMusic.com/Stybr
Tango: Summer Night in Montevideo for Violin and Piano (3:20)
http://www.SibeliusMusic.com/cgi-bin/sh ... reid=78610

Personal Assistant and Der Webmeister to author Denise Swanson
http://www.DeniseSwanson.com
Murder of a Smart Cookie
Penguin Putnam ~ Signet, New York, NY

Wallingford
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Post by Wallingford » Fri Feb 10, 2006 6:51 pm

Well, much as I acknowledge the "greatness" and "importance" of the figures I had listed in my first post........

I think I'd go with the music of GRIEG any old day.
Good music is that which falls upon the ear with ease, and quits the memory with difficulty.
--Sir Thomas Beecham

Panzerfaust
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Post by Panzerfaust » Sat Feb 11, 2006 11:12 pm

MaestroDJS wrote:The fact that someone is a fugitive from justice has little to do with his gifts as an artist, except that he probably couldn't create much while in jail.
Hmm, my favorite rock band is a Black Metal band from Norway called Burzum. The one member of that band has been in prison for quite a while now, yet has released two albums recorded during his incarceration.

My naive list of my favorite composers in no order:

Richard Wagner
Ludwig van Beethoven
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Philip Glass
Dmitri Shostakovich
Sergei Prokofiev
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Agitate for Global Revolution and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat!

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