Duty or pleasure?

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Duty or pleasure?

Post by some guy » Sat Dec 24, 2011 9:27 pm

I probably shouldn't make a new thread just for this, but there does seem to be a quite common, prevalent sense that listening to music is laborious. Not just listening to new music (in both senses of new) but that listening to any music takes a great deal of effort.

I just find the prevailing sense of effort an odd thing.

When I was first discovering "classical" music, I devoured everything I could find voraciously. When I first discovered twentieth century classical music, I devoured everything I could find voraciously.

I suppose that all that gluttony took some effort, but effort was not what I was feeling at the time, not what I feel.

Sheer delight, only.
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Jared » Sun Dec 25, 2011 4:14 am

well it's never a duty, always a pleasure... that said, some pieces can require a great deal of effort, if the soundworld is new to you perhaps, and you're someone who has had no musical training whatsoever, like me.

a recent case in point for me would be Monteverdi's Book of Madrigals VIII which would be meat & drink to most Renaissance followers, but I struggled with them when I first listened to them near the very start of my journey. They consequently went back on the shelf and 3 or so years later, have been given more airtime and the rewards have been greater. :)

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Ricordanza » Sun Dec 25, 2011 7:50 am

I doubt that you will find any CMGers who find listening to music a duty, rather than a pleasure. We're here because we love music.

However, it's not a complete dichotomy. Many of us take issue with friends, family and colleagues who consider classical music "relaxing." To them, it's just pleasant background sound. But for "active" listeners, there is more awareness of musical structure, the nuances of interpretation, and other details. Yes, there's some effort involved, but it's a very pleasant effort, not a "duty."

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by absinthe » Sun Dec 25, 2011 10:53 am

That's it. There isn't much point in having to work to enjoy any art.

But then, there are people who love taking cold showers in February.... not me....

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by lennygoran » Sun Dec 25, 2011 11:03 am

>But then, there are people who love taking cold showers in February.... not me....<

I am one who has to work at certain classical music and opera pieces--however the work proves worth the effort because of the consequent joy I have from the piece when I do come to appreciate it. Take Beethoven's Missa Solemnis. OTOH a cold shower in February never gets better and might even kill you if you endured it for too long! Regards, Len :)

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by rogch » Sun Dec 25, 2011 11:18 am

It is usually a pleasure and hardly ever a duty. But i can't expect to like everything after a few minutes of listening so sometimes i have to put some effort into the listening. It took me more that 5 minutes to appreciate Brucker's symphonies, but now i enjoy them without much effort. That is the case for much music i suppose, but not the same music for all people.
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by maestrob » Sun Dec 25, 2011 11:27 am

Work? As if working at something couldn't be also a great joy and pleasure!

Of course listening requires attention, and working the mind, which brings all sorts of emotions to the fore: what musician or serious listener could live without such work?

It's not a silly question, but I'm always happy to clarify the issue.

Great music satisfies the heart as well as the intellect, and rewards repeated close attention.

"Devour" is a good word to use in this context, someguy!

It strikes me that, by definition, a serious listener could be (have been?) a musician, given different circumstances in his/her life.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by John F » Mon Dec 26, 2011 10:50 am

I suppose if all you want is to let the music wash over you, or through you, and be completely passive about it, that's about as effort-free as any human activity (or lack of it) can be. But for me that hardly counts as listening. I want to engage my mind with the music, both intellectually and emotionally, and that requires the effort of attention and the further effort of "processing" (analytically, introspectively, whatever) what I'm attending to. How much effort depends on the style and form of the piece of music, my familiarity with it, and other factors as well. If for some reason I feel that the effort isn't being rewarded, I not only stop "processing," I usually stop listening.

some guy speaks of "devouring" music. I don't know what physiological or mental process he means, but I'd observe that devouring food does require physical effort, and beyond a certain point mental effort to continue stuffing yourself when you're no longer hungry, while the body expends a good deal of energy "processing" what it has devoured and, sometimes, expelling it.

Duty? If I were being paid, as a composer or musician or critic or other music professional, then I'd have an ethical responsibility (i.e. duty) for what I do and how well I do it. But few of us here listen to music in a professional capacity, and for us duty simply isn't an issue.
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by IcedNote » Mon Dec 26, 2011 1:24 pm

John F wrote:Duty? If I were being paid, as a composer or musician or critic or other music professional, then I'd have an ethical responsibility (i.e. duty) for what I do and how well I do it. But few of us here listen to music in a professional capacity, and for us duty simply isn't an issue.
I'm glad you pointed this out because it was going to be part of my response.

As a professional composer, I suppose I will always have the "duty" to listen to my peers and be aware of the state of my field. As a student composer, for many years I've had the "duty" to listen to my predecessors to understand how we got to where we are. As a teacher-composer, I have the "duty" to know the repertoire inside and out (which I'm still--and will always be--working on) so I can point my students in the right direction for examples of how to solve compositional problems. I guess I could sum all of that up with the conventional "Knowledge is Power" statement.

Of course, I don't mind any of that because I love the "duty" far too much and feel very fortunate to have been able to turn my love into a career.

THAT BEING SAID...there are times when I wish I could just NOT finish listening to a piece that I absolutely can't stand but must push on because of my "duty" to know it. Small price to pay, because even dreadful pieces teach me something, even if it's what not to do. ;)

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Mon Dec 26, 2011 2:46 pm

It's quite easy for me to explain why listening isn't always a pleasure, although "duty" is probably not the best choice of word in that case. The paradox in listening to music is that the enjoyment of a serious piece of music requires both familiarity and surprise. If enjoyment required only familiarity, we could all just listen to Louie, Louie or Beethoven's symphonies over and over, and that would be it. But one wants to discover something new, but not just new, in the sense of new aural terrain, but to receive a new revelation or insight while listening. That aha moment, or the occasional goose bump when it all comes together. And that doesn't come on first hearing, usually. So I find I'm constantly traversing the terrain of the familiar, which at some point turns into the tired, and the new, which often disappoints or which requires some repeated effort in order to get to the state at which I'm delighted by the music. Like almost anything in life, one has to invest some effort to obtain a reward, it's not just there for the taking.

I'll provide a case in point. I recently acquired a much lauded BluRay performance of Cosi Fan Tutti (with Fischer and Glyndebourne). I just didn't get it the first time. For one thing, it's very long, and the plot develops very slowly in the first half. Of course, you have Mozart's great music to make up for the tedious narrative, but my ear wasn't fully tuned to the music the first time, and 3 to 4 hours is a lot of music, not all of it great either. In the course of a month I watched the disc two more times, and the third time was the most enjoyable of all. Now, I'm really looking forward to my fourth viewing. Perhaps this illustrates why proportionately so few people like opera, as 3-4 hours is a long time to invest in something one is not crazy about.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by absinthe » Mon Dec 26, 2011 4:51 pm

It's also quite a problem getting 3 to 4 contiguous hours here!

I don't know if it was still fashionable at the time of Cosi, but the earlier baroque operas were very long, as in L'incoronazione di Poppea. An audience wasn't expected to sit through the whole thing: they wandered in to hear their favourite bits then wandered off for a pizza and beer; came back; went off for another pizza, etc., and if the soloist wasn't up to the mark, out would come the rotten fruit.

Of course we aren't allowed to throw rotten fruit in our English opera houses for some peculiar reason. A great shame because I got into trouble throwing rotten tomatoes at the telly during an appalling performance of Tristan. Much better in real life.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Mon Dec 26, 2011 7:04 pm

absinthe wrote:It's also quite a problem getting 3 to 4 contiguous hours here!

I don't know if it was still fashionable at the time of Cosi, but the earlier baroque operas were very long, as in L'incoronazione di Poppea. An audience wasn't expected to sit through the whole thing: they wandered in to hear their favourite bits then wandered off for a pizza and beer; came back; went off for another pizza, etc., and if the soloist wasn't up to the mark, out would come the rotten fruit.

Of course we aren't allowed to throw rotten fruit in our English opera houses for some peculiar reason. A great shame because I got into trouble throwing rotten tomatoes at the telly during an appalling performance of Tristan. Much better in real life.
I suppose that's what they had to do before the 'track advance' button was invented. :) Pizza and beer and Mozart .. this could be a new trend. Enough of the wine and cheese and Mozart already!

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Dec 27, 2011 1:26 am

slofstra wrote:It's quite easy for me to explain why listening isn't always a pleasure,
Me too...Sir Simon Rattle... :mrgreen:
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by lennygoran » Tue Dec 27, 2011 8:00 am

>Me too...Sir Simon Rattle...<

Yeah but is ain't that simple--did you forget Meyerbeer, Caballe, Schumann, Sutherland, etc! Regards, Len :) :) :)

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Bro » Tue Dec 27, 2011 11:14 am

Poor Sir Simon... Hasn't he suffered enough ?? :wink:

I wonder if this idea of "duty" is a kind of puritanical reaction against our suspicion that anything "pleasurable" is bad for you.

Br

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Tue Dec 27, 2011 1:01 pm

Bro wrote:Poor Sir Simon... Hasn't he suffered enough ?? :wink:

I wonder if this idea of "duty" is a kind of puritanical reaction against our suspicion that anything "pleasurable" is bad for you.

Br
What do you mean, "suspicion"? I would say, "knowledge".

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Bro » Tue Dec 27, 2011 3:34 pm

slofstra wrote:
Bro wrote:Poor Sir Simon... Hasn't he suffered enough ?? :wink:

I wonder if this idea of "duty" is a kind of puritanical reaction against our suspicion that anything "pleasurable" is bad for you.

Br
What do you mean, "suspicion"? I would say, "knowledge".
Good point. :)

Bro

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Dec 28, 2011 1:21 am

lennygoran wrote:>Me too...Sir Simon Rattle...<

Yeah but is ain't that simple--did you forget Meyerbeer, Caballe, Schumann, Sutherland, etc! Regards, Len :) :) :)
You are missing the point, I do listen to all the above, (except the Grand Bore where one playing of each dull, laborious, tedious and tiring Opera was enough) I just don't enjoy the others that much, but, I still give them my time, Rattling, however, is just something that I no longer do... :wink:
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by lennygoran » Wed Dec 28, 2011 6:37 am

>Rattling, however, is just something that I no longer do... <

Boy you really have it in for that guy. I'm not sure I could even tell if he or someone else was conducting a symphony but my experience in classical music doesn't come close to yours--still for me it's the work itself that means the most--I can't imagine Rattle conducting such a bad work that I would be as repelled as you are. Then again I can enjoy a Sutherland or Caballe singing opera but you said you needed Callas. I took a look in Wiki for Rattle:

"Criticism of Rattle's tenure with the Berlin Philharmonic began to appear after their first season together,[21] and continued in their second season.[22] The German critic Klaus Geitel was reported in 2004 to have described Rattle as "the weakest musical director of the Berlin Philharmonic he's ever seen".[23] Rattle himself stated in 2005 that his relationship with the BPO musicians could sometimes be "turbulent", but also "never destructively so".[24]

In 2006, a new controversy began in the German press as to the quality of Rattle's concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic, with criticism from the German critic Manuel Brug in Die Welt.[25] One musician who wrote to the press to defend Rattle was the pianist Alfred Brendel.[26] In 2007, the BPO/Rattle recording of Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem received the Classic FM Gramophone best choral disc award.[27]

Rattle was originally contracted to lead the BPO through 2012, but in April 2008 the BPO musicians voted to extend his contract as chief conductor for an additional ten years past the next season, to 2018.[28]" Regards, Len

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by maestrob » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:35 am

lennygoran wrote:>Rattling, however, is just something that I no longer do... <

Boy you really have it in for that guy. I'm not sure I could even tell if he or someone else was conducting a symphony but my experience in classical music doesn't come close to yours--still for me it's the work itself that means the most--I can't imagine Rattle conducting such a bad work that I would be as repelled as you are. Then again I can enjoy a Sutherland or Caballe singing opera but you said you needed Callas. I took a look in Wiki for Rattle:

"Criticism of Rattle's tenure with the Berlin Philharmonic began to appear after their first season together,[21] and continued in their second season.[22] The German critic Klaus Geitel was reported in 2004 to have described Rattle as "the weakest musical director of the Berlin Philharmonic he's ever seen".[23] Rattle himself stated in 2005 that his relationship with the BPO musicians could sometimes be "turbulent", but also "never destructively so".[24]

In 2006, a new controversy began in the German press as to the quality of Rattle's concerts with the Berlin Philharmonic, with criticism from the German critic Manuel Brug in Die Welt.[25] One musician who wrote to the press to defend Rattle was the pianist Alfred Brendel.[26] In 2007, the BPO/Rattle recording of Brahms's Ein deutsches Requiem received the Classic FM Gramophone best choral disc award.[27]

Rattle was originally contracted to lead the BPO through 2012, but in April 2008 the BPO musicians voted to extend his contract as chief conductor for an additional ten years past the next season, to 2018.[28]" Regards, Len
Ozawa lasted 30+ years in Boston, but that still didn't make him a great conductor. The real question here regarding Rattle is: who is available to replace him? Controversy sells, notice: even though Chalkie & I can't stand his take on Romantic repertoire, we're still talking about him...... :mrgreen:

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by karlhenning » Wed Dec 28, 2011 11:38 am

(* chortle *)
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by John F » Wed Dec 28, 2011 2:45 pm

If the Berlin Philharmonic wants to return to its roots, after its post-Karajan excursions south of the Alps and across the English Channel, I should think the clear choice would be Christian Thielemann. But he's too prone to walk away from orchestras and opera companies, and so probably too risky for an orchestra that is used to long-term commitments from those it chooses as its leader.
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:42 pm

John F wrote:If the Berlin Philharmonic wants to return to its roots, after its post-Karajan excursions south of the Alps and across the English Channel, I should think the clear choice would be Christian Thielemann. But he's too prone to walk away from orchestras and opera companies, and so probably too risky for an orchestra that is used to long-term commitments from those it chooses as its leader.
Without Rattle the Berlin Philharmonic loses its highly lucrative EMI Contract, that is the only reason that Rattle is still there...
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Dec 28, 2011 5:45 pm

lennygoran wrote:>Rattling, however, is just something that I no longer do... <

Boy you really have it in for that guy. I'm not sure I could even tell if he or someone else was conducting a symphony but my experience in classical music doesn't come close to yours--still for me it's the work itself that means the most--I can't imagine Rattle conducting such a bad work that I would be as repelled as you are.
Three/four additional points, his work with the CBSO was very good, the BPO Deutsches Requiem is very good but that's the only decent recording they have made together...his hair looks ridiculous and they insist on putting him on the CD Sleeves...
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by lennygoran » Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:43 am

>his hair looks ridiculous and they insist on putting him on the CD Sleeves...<

Come on, that's neither HAIR nor there! :) Seriously looked at some of the photos c/o google--didn't look so bad to me.

https://www.google.com/search?q=simon+r ... 0QHBqMWBAg

Anyway if I were at home listening to him the CD sleeve would be unimportant to me--same if I was at a concert with him conducting--with the seats I have to get because of money constraints I probably wouldn't even see the guy. Regards, Len

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by John F » Thu Dec 29, 2011 6:47 am

Simon Rattle and James Levine both wear their hair like fright wigs. Otherwise they're pretty nice guys. :)
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Chalkperson » Fri Dec 30, 2011 1:04 am

John F wrote:Simon Rattle and James Levine both wear their hair like fright wigs. Otherwise they're pretty nice guys. :)
LeRat's ex-wife would disagree with you...why do you think he's called LeRat... :wink:
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by John F » Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:01 am

Nobody's perfect. But I believe his players would agree with me.
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Lance » Fri Dec 30, 2011 2:29 am

I have never — in all these years — found it a chore (or duty) to have to listen to music, especially the kind of music that appeals to my ears and brain, such as it is. (You already know what type of music to which I refer!) I recall buying LPs in the early days and could hardly wait to get back from Sam Goody's in NYC to start playing my new acquisitions. Today, with CDs, that feeling has never left me. It is a distinct pleasure to to listen to music.
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by ChrisX » Mon Jan 02, 2012 4:04 pm

Well, listening to music and the real appreciation of it can be considered as something you need to work at. My listening habits are quite itinerant so to speak. Right now my ears fancy classical music a lot and thus I can listen to it without any real effort and I get a huge amount of enjoyment out of it. But that might change just like the weather and then if I force it on myself it just grates on me and it feels like hard labour almost. I can have spells of months that I enjoy listening to electronic ambient music but for the past few months I haven't bothered with it at all.

This just how I am my peculiar self. I tried to force myself on a more balanced musical diet incorporating all of the styles I like in healthy dosages but my ears and the musical part of my brain aren't 'obeying'. :?
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:07 pm

Regarding Rattle and the BPO, I have had the pleasure of watching quite a number of concerts now on the on-line channel, both under Rattle and under Abbado. First of all, it's a dang incredible orchestra so they are going to sound great even if Bugs Bunny is conducting. They seemed a little looser under Abbado but that might also be the choice of repertoire. If you wanted to do a face off between the two conductors, both conducted the BPO performing Das Lied von der Erde within a few month period last year. I'm not sure how or why that happened. I know that both performances were immensely enjoyable, and I wasn't trying to compare. I just watched one of those concerts last week, and thought, I could swear I've seen another performance of this recently, but can't remember where. That's when I discovered that the orchestra had performed it under Abbado only a few months before. For $13 you could watch both yourself, and, in addition, as many other Rattle or Abbado or Fischer or Harnoncourt concerts as you could fit into a 24 hour period.
I am awed by the range of repertoire the BPO chew through week after week, much of it under guest conductors.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Mon Jan 02, 2012 7:09 pm

ChrisX wrote:Well, listening to music and the real appreciation of it can be considered as something you need to work at. My listening habits are quite itinerant so to speak. Right now my ears fancy classical music a lot and thus I can listen to it without any real effort and I get a huge amount of enjoyment out of it. But that might change just like the weather and then if I force it on myself it just grates on me and it feels like hard labour almost. I can have spells of months that I enjoy listening to electronic ambient music but for the past few months I haven't bothered with it at all.

This just how I am my peculiar self. I tried to force myself on a more balanced musical diet incorporating all of the styles I like in healthy dosages but my ears and the musical part of my brain aren't 'obeying'. :?
Actually I've found that a "fast" now and then perks up the ears and brain, and makes the music seem fresh again when you go back to it.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Chalkperson » Mon Jan 02, 2012 9:39 pm

slofstra wrote:I am awed by the range of repertoire the BPO chew through week after week, much of it under guest conductors.
I think it would be awesome if the relied solely on Guest Conductors... :wink:

I could even accept LeRat in that capacity... :lol:
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Mon Jan 02, 2012 11:47 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote:I am awed by the range of repertoire the BPO chew through week after week, much of it under guest conductors.
I think it would be awesome if the relied solely on Guest Conductors... :wink:

I could even accept LeRat in that capacity... :lol:
You have me wondering. Out of the next 10 concerts, 6 are guest conductors: Barenboim, Sokhiev, Nelsons, Thielemann (2), Mehta. The other four are conducted by Rattle. You might enjoy him conducting Berio in April; one of your favourites, I know.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Chalkperson » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:22 am

slofstra wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote:I am awed by the range of repertoire the BPO chew through week after week, much of it under guest conductors.
I think it would be awesome if the relied solely on Guest Conductors... :wink:

I could even accept LeRat in that capacity... :lol:
You have me wondering. Out of the next 10 concerts, 6 are guest conductors: Barenboim, Sokhiev, Nelsons, Thielemann (2), Mehta. The other four are conducted by Rattle. You might enjoy him conducting Berio in April; one of your favourites, I know.
He's much better in Modern Music, but, if you don't mind i'll still pass... :mrgreen:
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Tue Jan 03, 2012 9:29 am

Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote:I am awed by the range of repertoire the BPO chew through week after week, much of it under guest conductors.
I think it would be awesome if the relied solely on Guest Conductors... :wink:

I could even accept LeRat in that capacity... :lol:
You have me wondering. Out of the next 10 concerts, 6 are guest conductors: Barenboim, Sokhiev, Nelsons, Thielemann (2), Mehta. The other four are conducted by Rattle. You might enjoy him conducting Berio in April; one of your favourites, I know.
He's much better in Modern Music, but, if you don't mind i'll still pass... :mrgreen:
I would agree with that. I think he exhibits very tight control over the playing which works well for modern, not so well for Romantic. Abbado seemed to allow more expression from the players, which is what I would call a looser style. By looser I don't mean that anything is haphazard in the sound, certainly not in the tempo. This is only a surface impression and I invite anyone to disagree or to amend this viewpoint.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by some guy » Tue Jan 03, 2012 12:56 pm

Judging from what you say about haphazard, I'd guess that you don't mean looser for Abbado's approach. In fact, I'd say that from your description, Abbado is probably more in control than Rattle. That Rattle is just simply inflexible.

Flexibility--the ability to stretch things a little, to speed up slightly (or slow down) inside a phrase, to lean on a note, crescendo or decrescendo effectively when there are no explicit directions to do so--that takes incredible control. And not a little moxie.

Less flexible is of course much safer. And flexible very easily can turn into haphazard if you're not in perfect control. You really have to understand the music thoroughly. That's one complaint I have about conductors like Rattle and Järvi and Harnoncourt, they can so often be simply capricious. I have often had the impression that Järvi, especially, will suddenly alter tempo in a particular passage simply because he's noticed that no other conductor has ever altered tempo at that point.

As for the less flexible approach working better for modern music, I wonder. Could it be our own relative unfamiliarity with the music that makes an inflexible approach seem better? I'm pretty comfortable with modern music (having never gone through any sort of "gosh this stuff is ugly/inaccessible/experimental for experiment's sake" phase :D ), and I don't like Rattle's conducting there any more than his conducting anywhere else.

Gielen, Tamayo, Kotik, Rundel, Zagrosek, Chailly, Stern, Sinopoli, Boulez, even Abbado are much better with modern repertoire (especially that central European mid-century stuff that capitalizes the "m" in Modern!) than Rattle is.
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by maestrob » Wed Jan 04, 2012 12:55 pm

Not to put too fine a point on it, since this is turning into a thread about Sir Simon, I agree that he does well in most XXth Century music, but I've been disappointed in his understanding of Romantics, including Mahler. This is centered around two qualities: a) tempo management (too fast/too slow) and b) how to shift gears from one musical idea to the next, sometimes resulting in muddy textures and lost notes.

Faster is really not equivalent to more exciting, and too slow is not equivalent to deep emotion. There is a fine median, or balance, and sometimes Sir Simon loses his balance, at least for my taste (Sometimes SR reminds me of late Bernstein.).

I'll stop now, because every conductor (including me :wink: ) can be criticised in one way or another: I prefer to focus on one's strengths, rather than weaknesses. Taste is taste, and Chalkie's right: classical music needs to change somehow.

Where's Victor Borge when we need him so.....?

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:43 am

some guy wrote:Judging from what you say about haphazard, I'd guess that you don't mean looser for Abbado's approach. In fact, I'd say that from your description, Abbado is probably more in control than Rattle. That Rattle is just simply inflexible.

Flexibility--the ability to stretch things a little, to speed up slightly (or slow down) inside a phrase, to lean on a note, crescendo or decrescendo effectively when there are no explicit directions to do so--that takes incredible control. And not a little moxie.

Less flexible is of course much safer. And flexible very easily can turn into haphazard if you're not in perfect control. You really have to understand the music thoroughly. That's one complaint I have about conductors like Rattle and Järvi and Harnoncourt, they can so often be simply capricious. I have often had the impression that Järvi, especially, will suddenly alter tempo in a particular passage simply because he's noticed that no other conductor has ever altered tempo at that point.

As for the less flexible approach working better for modern music, I wonder. Could it be our own relative unfamiliarity with the music that makes an inflexible approach seem better? I'm pretty comfortable with modern music (having never gone through any sort of "gosh this stuff is ugly/inaccessible/experimental for experiment's sake" phase :D ), and I don't like Rattle's conducting there any more than his conducting anywhere else.

Gielen, Tamayo, Kotik, Rundel, Zagrosek, Chailly, Stern, Sinopoli, Boulez, even Abbado are much better with modern repertoire (especially that central European mid-century stuff that capitalizes the "m" in Modern!) than Rattle is.
The question this raises for me is how much expression can the conductor just "allow". Does he create space within which some of the players just work, or does he define and shape what they play to a "T"? Does the amount of space allowed vary from one conductor to another? And then how does this change from conducting a concerto where the soloist requires a lot of space, to something like a Mahler symphony where there is a great deal of solo phrasing (it would seem) to a Haydn symphony where there is more unison dance rhythm playing.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Wed Jan 11, 2012 9:50 am

maestrob wrote:Not to put too fine a point on it, since this is turning into a thread about Sir Simon, I agree that he does well in most XXth Century music, but I've been disappointed in his understanding of Romantics, including Mahler. This is centered around two qualities: a) tempo management (too fast/too slow) and b) how to shift gears from one musical idea to the next, sometimes resulting in muddy textures and lost notes.

Faster is really not equivalent to more exciting, and too slow is not equivalent to deep emotion. There is a fine median, or balance, and sometimes Sir Simon loses his balance, at least for my taste (Sometimes SR reminds me of late Bernstein.).

I'll stop now, because every conductor (including me :wink: ) can be criticised in one way or another: I prefer to focus on one's strengths, rather than weaknesses. Taste is taste, and Chalkie's right: classical music needs to change somehow.

Where's Victor Borge when we need him so.....?
I've recently listened through the Bernstein Haydn box, and there is a great variation in quality from one performance to the next. At least he is an extremely interesting conductor, and when it works (like the Military Symphony in that box) the results are exemplary. Is there a question of risk that enters into conducting? That is, to get an exciting or definitive performance do you need to step out of the box? And is Rattle a "safe" conductor or an expressive one. Rattle's VSO/ Beethoven symphony set is quite interesting and pretty exciting at times. His performances with the BPO seem safer but perhaps that's what you have to do in Berlin.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Chalkperson » Wed Jan 11, 2012 6:09 pm

slofstra wrote:And is Rattle a "safe" conductor or an expressive one. Rattle's VSO/ Beethoven symphony set is quite interesting and pretty exciting at times. His performances with the BPO seem safer but perhaps that's what you have to do in Berlin.
With the BPO he is just plain DULL and the BPO deserves better than that...
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by slofstra » Wed Jan 11, 2012 11:36 pm

Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote:And is Rattle a "safe" conductor or an expressive one. Rattle's VSO/ Beethoven symphony set is quite interesting and pretty exciting at times. His performances with the BPO seem safer but perhaps that's what you have to do in Berlin.
With the BPO he is just plain DULL and the BPO deserves better than that...
Just recently, Ivan Fischer conducted the BPO. There's excitement! Do you have any Ernő Dohnányi recordings? It turns out I have a couple of piano pieces and that's it; the Ernő Dohnányi orchestral piece that Fischer conducted sounded great.

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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by Chalkperson » Thu Jan 12, 2012 12:52 am

slofstra wrote:
Chalkperson wrote:
slofstra wrote:And is Rattle a "safe" conductor or an expressive one. Rattle's VSO/ Beethoven symphony set is quite interesting and pretty exciting at times. His performances with the BPO seem safer but perhaps that's what you have to do in Berlin.
With the BPO he is just plain DULL and the BPO deserves better than that...
Just recently, Ivan Fischer conducted the BPO. There's excitement! Do you have any Ernő Dohnányi recordings? It turns out I have a couple of piano pieces and that's it; the Ernő Dohnányi orchestral piece that Fischer conducted sounded great.
I have a lot of his Music, all worthy of a listen...
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Re: Duty or pleasure?

Post by John F » Thu Jan 12, 2012 2:22 am

slofstra wrote:Do you have any Ernő Dohnányi recordings? It turns out I have a couple of piano pieces and that's it; the Ernő Dohnányi orchestral piece that Fischer conducted sounded great.
One Dohnanyi piece that's achieved some deserved popularity, and has delighted me for many years, is his Variations on a Nursery Tune for piano and orchestra. Here it is, played by Dohnanyi himself with the Royal Philharmonic under Adrian Boult in an EMI recording.

John Francis

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