Christopher Webber replies:
>[on Kundera, who] is at his least convincing in that section
>on Bach as the "pivotal point" of Western Music...
>In particular his focus on Bach as a lone summit distorts the focus of
>his argument. Kundera ignores the parallel peak of Handel, an equally
>great and more influential composer whose example loomed much larger for
>Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven than did Bach's, and whose music never went
>out of fashion ...only with Mendelssohn's rediscovery of Bach that the
>power balance shifted towards Bach's architectural cathedrals, and away
>from Handel's dramatic humanism.
I'm not sure if you're saying that Bach doesn't stand as the key figure
Kundera makes him out to be, or that he is historically pivotal but
Handel stands alongside him in that awakening of music from times past.
>>[me:] Anyone care to speculate about what may have prompted this loss
>>of faith or confidence in the work of our contemporary composers?
>Because the argument is so flawed, I couldn't wholeheartedly share
>It seems to me to be based on a twelve-tone standard which no longer
>applies to contemporary composers such as Nyman, Glass, and Andriessen,
>who show absolutely no loss of faith or confidence, and who enjoy large
>and enthusiastic younger audiences. Their comparative popularity should
>not blind us (or the great Kundera) to their merits.
My (not Kundera's, btw) mentioned "loss of faith or confidence in
our contemporary composers" referred to the infrequent championing of
contemporary composers by artists, conductors, and I suppose labels, and
the resulting ignorance by the public of their works. I wouldn't deny
that Stravinsky, Korngold, Bernstein, etc., thought very highly of
Those are popular living composers -- whose work, indeed, is not lessened
by that -- yet you speak of rather recent popularity (which Andriessen,
btw?). As far as recordings go, my feeling is that circumstances have
been in flux over the past decade with the waning of the larger and
rising of the smaller labels (including Naxos), and changing favourably
for the contemporary composers. For instance, just this morning I heard
about a new (Australian Eloquence) release of the Surinach piano concerto;
I'd seriously thought I'd have to wait for Sra Alicia's demise before
I'd see that on a (Decca) CD. New fare keeps coming from dozens of small
labels: Urtext, Cameo, and La Ma de Guido, to name 3 right beside me.
Regarding live performances, as suggested below in connection with
Zukerman, maybe there's some progress afoot: lesser, but encouraging
all the same.
>I believe the "loss of faith" may be justified in so far as it relates
>to the classic, contrapuntal forms, and to huge symphony orchestras, but
Take Yo-Yo Ma, if only because he's arguably the shining star in a very
crowded field of excellent cellists, and so well taken care of as to do
pretty much as he likes. As far as I've seen, he last played living
art-music composers several years ago: a CD of concerti by Rouse,
Danielpour and Kirchner. He's since either released CDs focusing on
warhorses, or crossover (Appalachian, Brazilian and Silk Road; orchestrations
of Morricone scores; etc.) or easy listenin' (tango music, Tan Dun movie
Don't get me wrong: I like Ma's playing. I just think he could afford
to be about 100 times more adventurous, and do much more in his art.
Perlman, Zukerman, or any number of other luminaries could as easily
serve as examples, both in the studio and on the stage. At least Zukerman
here in Ottawa has been egged on to support more current composers.
In sum, this is the loss of faith in current cm output that I was referring
to: by performers, conductors, etc., who generally rush to insist that
only the olden sells. Well, one shouldn't wonder why. Even those in
the know about classical music look mostly to and seem quite content to
hear that music alone. Nothing wrong with that, of course.
Except that there's a lot more to be had.
Bert Bailey ...wondering how Guido got his mother to provide the backing