Karl Miller enquires:
>Would Philip Glass be a Romantic? Louis Glass, yes, but Philip?
>Was Samuel Barber a romantic composer? Is John Adams (the famous one)
>a romantic composer? Were Bax, VaughanWilliams, Walton, Britten,
>Hindemith, BragaSantos, Einem, Harris, the Nielsens (Carl and Ludvig...but
>probably not Svend and Tage), Hanson, Englund, Creston, Poulenc and the
>rest of the six, Aubert, Lili Boulanger, Castelnuovo Tedesco, Still,
>Hovhaness...(I am really just a name dropper at heart) romantic composers?
>If we take the first part of the definition in Groves..."A term generally
>used, in music, to designate the apparent domination of feeling over
For me a tough question, is X a Romantic. More delving in Grove got me
into a mess of aesthetic theory on "expression" in general and finally
to R.A. Sharpe's book, "Music and Humanism."
The term Romantic has too many historical allusions in itself, but if
we concentrate on the "feelings" part of it, then there are the feelings
the composer had or intended to convey in the work, the work itself (for
some theorists) and the feelings evoked in the listener. I found I
tended to side with the latter myself, which, I discovered, put me in
the Arousalist camp.
So, to take Karl's question from the standpoint: do the composers he
mentions and others of the last 100 years arouse strong musical feelings
that I value in me when I hear them, as opposed to simply interest in
craft or structure, I say yes. And I add that for myself, these are the
composers I most seek out. Also, I know and respect that others have
different reactions and opinions, and that some are even suspicious of
arousalism, likening it to "wallowing," where somehow the emotions
overwhelm the to them far more important cognitive aspects of listening.
(And it seems to me these folks are more likely to condemn the arousalists
than the arousalists do the reverse.)
Be that as it may, I would say that Glass, Thomson and Stravinsky
are definitely not romantics, that Adams is a closet romantic, Barber
out-and-out romantic along with many of my favorites like V-W, Hoiby,
Shostakovich (though often heavily tinged with irony), Berg, Walton,
Harris, Korngold, Rozsa, etc. And then there are the texts and narratives
that double the feelings if the music is halfway there, as with Britten
and many opera and song composers. For me Hindemith is a special case,
of a non-romantic composer with romantic climaxes, or even just one
blissful romantic moment at the ends of his pieces when pure triads
perform their benediction. Much as I've enjoyed and admired Carter's
music, I've never got an ounce of romance out of the duffer.
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