The Symphony Since Rachmaninov and Prokofiev

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dulcinea
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The Symphony Since Rachmaninov and Prokofiev

Post by dulcinea » Sun Dec 17, 2006 2:01 am

:?: How has the symphony progressed since the passing of Rachmaninov and Prokofiev? Have other writers continued the style of Shostakovich, or have they moved on to something else?
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Heck148
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Re: The Symphony Since Rachmaninov and Prokofiev

Post by Heck148 » Sun Dec 17, 2006 8:25 am

dulcinea wrote::?: How has the symphony progressed since the passing of Rachmaninov......?
fortunately, it has improved greatly from this level...

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Post by diegobueno » Sun Dec 17, 2006 9:58 am

But seriously,

A lot of symphonies have been written in the last 50 years, and they reflect the wide diversity of styles practiced by contemporary composers. If you're looking for Shostakovichian symphonies, there's a strong Shostakovich influence in the symphonies of Penderecki, starting with no. 2.

If you're looking for symphonies that sound more or less traditional, there are numerous British composers who carried on that tradition, including George Lloyd (at least 11 symphonies) and Malcolm Arnold (9 symphonies). Havergal Brian wrote 32 symphonies before his death in 1972, but they're extremely dense and hard to listen to, despite their deceptively conservative stylistic language. My favorite among post-war British symponists is Michael Tippett, and would especially recommend his 2nd (1958) and 4th (1977).

This is just the tip of the iceberg.

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Post by diegobueno » Sun Dec 17, 2006 10:02 am

I have just recently been delighted by a really smashing work:

The Symphony no. 1 (1950) by Henri Dutilleux. Absolutely brillian writing, especially the scherzo.

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Post by johnQpublic » Sun Dec 17, 2006 11:28 am

Glad you like Dutilleux' 1st, Mark. His second, while less tonal is even better.

For other symphonists:

TUBIN
MYASKOVSKY (aka Miaskovsky)
SALLINEN
GERHARD
LUTOSLASKI
MARTINU
NORGARD
HOLMBOE
AHO
VAINBERG (aka Weinberg)
HARTMANN
HENZE
SCHUMAN
MENNIN
ZWILLICH
ROUSE
PETTERSON (although it pains me to list him)

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Post by diegobueno » Sun Dec 17, 2006 2:47 pm

johnQpublic wrote:PETTERSON (although it pains me to list him)
We can't hold the composer responsible for the actions of his advocates.

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Post by jserraglio » Sun Dec 17, 2006 5:49 pm

The British composer Robert Simpson wrote 11 symphonies, all worth a listen.

There's a slew of excellent symphonists from mid 20th century America (Bernstein and Ormandy pushed a lot of these)--Harold Shapero, Morton Gould, Richard Yardumian, Alan Hovhaness, Don Gillis, Randall Thompson, David Diamond, Vincent Persichetti, Paul Creston, Meredith Willson, Ned Rorem, Walter Piston, Howard Hansen, George Rochberg, Virgil Thomson, Roy Harris, Leo Sowerby, Bernstein himself, and dare I list a certain Aaron Copland.

My current favorite is Morton Gould. Next in line to explore is Don Gillis.

Then there's a gaggle of conductor-composers who wrote symphonies to reckon with: Furtwangler, Markevitch, Martinon, etc.

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Post by BWV 1080 » Sun Dec 17, 2006 8:41 pm

The most obvious candidate in the Mahler - Shostakovitch line is Schnittke - the 5th Symphony / Concerto Grosso #4 would be the place to start.

The designation "symphony" becomes less relevant in the 20th century. Speaking of symphonies as something apart from other large orchestral works in post war music is a rather arbitrary distinction. Dutilleux's first and second symphonies are great works, but his real masterpiece is Metaboles, which is as close formally to a 4 movement symphony as you will find.

Other significant late 20th large orchestral pieces include:

Messiaen - Les Canyons aux Etoiles, Eclair sur l'Au-Dela
Lutoslawski - Symphonies 3 and 4, Chain 3
Dutilleux - Metaboles
Carter - Symphony of Three Orchestras, Symphonia
Takemitsu - A Flock Descends Into the Pentagonal Garden

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Post by DavidRoss » Sun Dec 17, 2006 10:14 pm

And yet no one has mentioned my favorite contemporary symphonist, Einojuhani Rautavaara, writer of 8 symphonies so far and I'd be surprised if we don't see one more.
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Post by Jack Kelso » Wed Dec 20, 2006 4:40 am

The symphonies of Sir Humphrey Searle are important works, if only to show how the form can withstand serial music.

He's the rare bird among British composers in this regard....

Jack
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Post by piston » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:01 am

Sorry for this very late reply! Moshei Weinberg was a very prolific symphony composer whose work I would associate even more closely to Shostakovich's than Schnittke's symphonic work. More than half of his twenty symphonies and all five chamber symphonies have been recorded on CDs, although most of them are not readily available as a result of the sudden collapse of the Olympia label. For additional information about these and other Weinberg discs I heartily recommend Claude Torres website devoted to a number of Jewish European composers:
http://claudet.club.fr/index3.html
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Post by Lance » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:19 am

So - it is generally felt the symphony since Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev have PROGRESSED (not regressed) since the passing of those two composers? What are we looking for, specifically, in speaking of "progression?" Harmony, melody, brilliant compositional ideas ... do we roll all those together and expand even further? Just asking ... not necessarily adding any comments at this point.
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Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:46 am

Lance wrote:So - it is generally felt the symphony since Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev have PROGRESSED (not regressed) since the passing of those two composers? What are we looking for, specifically, in speaking of "progression?" Harmony, melody, brilliant compositional ideas ... do we roll all those together and expand even further? Just asking ... not necessarily adding any comments at this point.
First you have to define your terms. What does the term mean now, if anything? Is it a four or five movement orchestral work that meets certain formal criteria, or is only a piece with the word "symphony" incorporated in the title? Is the five movement Metaboles by Dutilleux less of a symphony than his three movement work from ten years previous entitled 2nd Symphony?

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Re: The Symphony Since Rachmaninov and Prokofiev

Post by karlhenning » Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:47 am

dulcinea wrote::?: How has the symphony progressed since the passing of Rachmaninov and Prokofiev? Have other writers continued the style of Shostakovich, or have they moved on to something else?
One ambiguity is the word symphony, which means both a compositional genre and the orchestra for which the composition is written. I think the latter is what Heck had in view with his reply, and to be sure, overall professionalism, versatility and excellence in playing has increased over the past 100 years.

The other ambiguity (specific to the compositional sort of symphony) is in the idea of progress. Yes, there has been progress in the sense that any art which remains static, which marches in place, is dead art -- with apologies to all the people who feel that music should somehow have frozen still at roughly the Respighi/Vaughan Williams point, but artists who just give audiences the art of a hundred years ago, warmed over, are abysmal artists . . . and we would not have any admiration for Respighi or Vaughan Williams, if that is all they had done, in their day.

But in the sense that art on 19 January 2007 is necessarily "superior" to art on 19 January 1907, in the way that plumbing on 19 January 2007 is actually superior to plumbing on 19 January 1907, no, culture does not experience "progress" in quite that way.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by piston » Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:53 am

Progression and regression are evolutionary concepts. Should they apply to classical music, indeed, to all artistic expression? I wonder for example how people view one of those urban landscapes where a sequence of modern skyscrapers is suddenly interrupted by a historical monument such as an early nineteenth-century church building. Do you immediately view the former as an artistic progression over the latter or is it the other way around or does your brain simply reject such a parallel as being historically illogical? Everybody, it seems, prefers to visit Old Quebec City to its surrounding urban landscapes. Yet, this cultural preference does not imply that the city's architects have been engaged in some kind of artistic regression since the eighteenth century :) . What needs to be explained, rather, is the sociological phenomenon of cultural consumers everywhere who are disinterested in, even rebellious to, much twentieth-century artistic expression not only in music but also in painting, sculpture, architecture, etc. Perhaps the quest for symmetry, harmony, melody, thematic clarity, etc., among listeners is incompatible not only with modern "schools" of music but also with the twentieth-century realities, contexts, environments and values which the period's composers could not so easily transcend, occult, and escape from. It is rather impossible for me to imagine a Moshei Weinberg, a young Jewish musician/composer from Poland in 1940 whose world was completely shattered by Hitler simply dissociate himself from what happened to his family and his people and compose beautiful romantic melodies and perfectly symmetrical, non-dissonant music. Even if he had had the foresight to anticipate what today's classical music lovers consider the "best" composers, I sincerely doubt that he would have merely sought to emulate them for our listening pleasure.
But I do appreciate the question, Lance. It's very good food for thought. Why do I listen to Weinberg's "war symphonies", to Shostakovich's "Babi Yar" symphony, to Reich's "Different Trains", etc., if, from an evolutionary perspective, these works cannot be considered a significant "progression" from Mahler's or Bruckner's symphonic monuments? I would reply that is for the same reason that I do not limit my walking tour of a major city to its most salient tourist attractions.
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Post by karlhenning » Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:00 am

Great post, piston.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by Jack Kelso » Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:14 am

Isn't it becoming increasingly difficult for new, young composers to develop a meaningful style that is at once original and listenable/memorable?

Most of the newer German composers which I've heard over the last few years all seem to be doing the same thing: writing "works" as dissonant, rhythmless, broken and unmelodic as cacophony can humanly be created. They probably think if they DIDN'T compose like that they'd be considered backward reactionaries or film-music hacks.

I still remember when Schoenberg, Webern and Berg (and later Stockhausen and Henze and others) were regarded as composers after whom nothing more advanced could possibly be conceived.

Jack
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Post by piston » Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:31 am

Jack Kelso wrote:Isn't it becoming increasingly difficult for new, young composers to develop a meaningful style that is at once original and listenable/memorable?

Most of the newer German composers which I've heard over the last few years all seem to be doing the same thing: writing "works" as dissonant, rhythmless, broken and unmelodic as cacophony can humanly be created. They probably think if they DIDN'T compose like that they'd be considered backward reactionaries or film-music hacks.

I still remember when Schoenberg, Webern and Berg (and later Stockhausen and Henze and others) were regarded as composers after whom nothing more advanced could possibly be conceived.

Jack

Words such as "advanced" and especially "avant-garde" contribute(d) to further disseminate the idea of some kind of linear evolution in classical music. Bartok less "advanced" than Schoenberg? Shostakovich's operas more regressive than Berg's? I don't see the usefulness of such measures of artistic creativity and achievement. It is probably true, though, that some of these "advanced" composers exerted more influence among young composers than those who were not characterized as such.
In the eyes of those lovers of perfection, a work is never finished—a word that for them has no sense—but abandoned....(Paul Valéry)

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Post by karlhenning » Fri Jan 19, 2007 9:56 am

Jack Kelso wrote:Isn't it becoming increasingly difficult for new, young composers to develop a meaningful style that is at once original and listenable/memorable?
I don't think it was ever easy, Jack, for new, young composers to develop a meaningful original style. In fact, the occasional facility of a young prodigy (Mozart, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev) does not argue for ease, there; each of these composers earned musical meaning in their style over years after the initial display of musical facility.

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Jan 19, 2007 10:22 am

karlhenning wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:Isn't it becoming increasingly difficult for new, young composers to develop a meaningful style that is at once original and listenable/memorable?
I don't think it was ever easy, Jack, for new, young composers to develop a meaningful original style. In fact, the occasional facility of a young prodigy (Mozart, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev) does not argue for ease, there; each of these composers earned musical meaning in their style over years after the initial display of musical facility.

Cheers,
~Karl
But the game does become harder with each generation because:

The basic combinatorial possibilities of 12 notes have been played out in terms of harmonies, tonalities etc. Not to say that the language is exhausted, but it is nearly impossible to gain attention with something as novel as, say, Debussy's harmonic innovations.

Each generation has to compete for shelf space with all the previous generations. The number of symphonic works has grown exponentially since Mendelssohn's day.

There seems to me a general level of skepticism that an orchestral work can speak to anything meaningful about our time. I don't agree with this view, but it is out there. Pastiche has become a rather cheap way to address this, but now that that technique has been done to death. The people imagine a mythologized Beethoven spoke to his constitutes an impossible burden of expectation.

However the one advantage a contemporary composer has is that they can offer something not heard before, something that taps a perhaps unconscious dissatisfaction with the existing repertoire. A composer can address the listener, saying in effect "we have both listened to Beethoven, Brahms, Bartok, Carter etc., I am not going to insult your intelligence by rehashing what is familiar to you, instead here is my perspective on where things stand today"

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Post by piston » Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:11 am

Would you mind elaborating on what you mean by pastiche, BWV 1080?
<Pastiche has become a rather cheap way to address this, but now that that technique has been done to death.> What are some good examples of that particular technique? :?:
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Post by DavidW » Fri Jan 19, 2007 11:29 am

karlhenning wrote:
Jack Kelso wrote:Isn't it becoming increasingly difficult for new, young composers to develop a meaningful style that is at once original and listenable/memorable?
I don't think it was ever easy, Jack, for new, young composers to develop a meaningful original style. In fact, the occasional facility of a young prodigy (Mozart, Mendelssohn, Prokofiev) does not argue for ease, there; each of these composers earned musical meaning in their style over years after the initial display of musical facility.

Cheers,
~Karl
I can't speak for Mendelssohn or Prokofiev, but even Mozart struggled hard for originality and unique expression. It took years and years of arduous work for him to reach the level of Haydn. In the beginning he struggled with counterpoint just like anyone else would. He even had failures and setbacks, such as an important musical exam that he failed. Certainly he learned rapidly and evolved as a composer and as a musician at an amazing rate, but it was still hard and slow work.

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Post by BWV 1080 » Fri Jan 19, 2007 12:26 pm

piston wrote:Would you mind elaborating on what you mean by pastiche, BWV 1080?
<Pastiche has become a rather cheap way to address this, but now that that technique has been done to death.> What are some good examples of that particular technique? :?:
Schnittke, Rochberg, John Zorn. Where different styles of music are juxtaposed, sometimes without any sort of transition. I like all the composers I mentioned, but the novelty of hearing baroque tonality juxtaposed with post-serialist tonality is well gone

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Post by dulcinea » Tue Jan 23, 2007 7:52 pm

:D :D :D Thank you all for your very informative replies and comments. One of the subscribers of my newspaper route was Amaury Veray Torregrosa, a composer from Yauco who is remembered as the Puerto Rican version of Aaron Copland. He told me at length about his work, and I wished I were Cardinal Archduke Rudolph so I could sponsor him just as His Eminence sponsored Beethoven. The art building of USF where I go to art classes is right next door to the music building. I try to make friends with every composition student there, in the fond hope that at least some of them will become as eminent in symphonic writing as Beethoven, Brahms and Bruckner. This should give you an idea of why the question of contemporary symphonic writing is of such vital interest to me.
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