Karl Miller wrote:
>Olivier Solanet <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> The first - which I've been asking myself my entire life - What do
>> Russians know that we don't?
>While you may not have meant this to anything more than a
>reflection on your experience...I don't find all Russian musicians
I should elucidate: I was referring to the current generation of
Russian performers. There is of course a fairly distinguishable
difference between those musicians who studied in St. Petersburg and
those who studied in Moscow, but on the whole, I find Russian musicians
- pianists especially - more thoughtful, thought provoking, and emanating
a generally greater depth of meaning in their performances than most
other musicians. In my opinion, they have a much greater understanding
of sound than - for lack of a better term - westerners (or easterners,
as I've never heard an asian musician I've actually enjoyed listening
to) I believe this has a lot to do with culture. Every asian musician
I've ever heard, for example, has seemed far more concerned with black
and white notes rather than the infinite gamut of colours those notes
can create. Anyone can bang out a chord as fortissimo; not everyone can
play that same chord equally loud while creating a sound which is round,
rich, and not harsh... There is also the problem of musicians who can
only play vertically and not horizontally. A phrase is not merely a
succession of notes in time and space, but an arc which has a beginning
and an end. Rachmaninov once said that each piece of music has a point.
The point can be the loudest or softest part of the piece, as it can be
at the beginning or end of the piece. If that point is improperly
executed, arrived to, or departed from, then the entire point of the
piece is lost, and therefor ... pointless... I feel that too few
musicians take all of these factors into consideration these days. Too
few musicians actually think these days. Too few musicians bring their
own perpective to a piece of music.
>They certainly had more than their share of great pianists, Richter,
>Rachmaninoff, Prokofiev, etc. I don't find many of the current
>generation to be particularly interesting.
... and what of Pletnev? Lugansky? Kobrin? Volodos? To name only the
As for the musicians such as the orchestra members of the RNO, I can
without a doubt assert that these musicians played with more energy,
emotion, lyric beauty, and thought than any orchestra I've ever heard
in live performance. They even made the Berlin Philharmonic sound
academic. And again, I feel that this is partly due to the age of the
musicians, young enough to remain passionately enthused by the music
they are making!
>Do you find a common thread in Russian Musicians?
Yes. However, I would make the distinction between Russian composers
and Soviet composers. We all know of the impositions made of the Soviet
era. I feel that Soviet composers such as Shostakovich were perpetually
made subversively to "fight the system", as it were, whereas the
pre-revolution composers were continuing a nacent lineage of Russian
musical identity. Of course they were to be influenced by the likes of
Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov. Who else did they have as their models?
Who else did they have to teach them? Russian musical lineage was not
established enough prior to the revolution to further explore what would
come after the nationalist movement. And yet, any Russian composer;
pre-revolution, post-exile, or Soviet, still maintained a fiercely
nationalistic approach to music making. Other than a burdensome touring
schedule, why did Rachmaninov barely write a thing after leaving Russia?
Because his muse, his homeland, was no longer present. Why did Stravinsky
write "Les Noces", or Prokofiev "Alexandre Nevsky", or Shostakovich "Babi
Yar" or "The Year 1905"?
>> ... When is the classical music world going to wake up and
>> start catering to a new and younger audience (emotionally)?
>> (Also, when are we going to stop hearing the same boring
>> Beethoven and Mozart season in,season out???)
>A question that has been asked on this list on numerous occasions is,
>"how does one attract a new and younger audience?" I believe we
>would all love to hear any new perspective.
BY GETTING RID OF THE OLD FARTS WHO PROGRAMME THE CONCERT SEASONS YEAR
IN YEAR OUT!!!! If you don't expose the audience to anything other than
what they're used to listening to year in year out, you're never going
to attract a new and younger audience!
>As to when will we stop hearing the same boring Beethoven and
>Mozart...are you referring to dull performances of Beethoven and
>Mozart or are you concerned with Beethoven and Mozart sounding dull?
In all seriousness, I've never adhered to the dogmatic view that we
should all prostrate to the mighty fathers of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms,
& Mozart. But before anyone starts sending me hate mail for the previous
statement, I should clarify... I have never questioned Bach's genius,
and I happen to love Bach, so we'll leave that one alone. As for Beethoven
and Brahms, I must admit I have very little tolerance for either of them.
I find the Germans - especially Brahms - far too academic. Let's not
forget that Brahms was above all a musicologist. (I should admit that
I was a Musicology double major) Brahms' penchant for analysis and theory
bled far too much into his music for it to sound at all sincere. "Ooh,
look, I can incorporate a Hemiola, an Augmentation, and Diminution in
the same phrase!" Who cares, if it doest come out sounding genuine?!"
As for Beethoven, my opinion is categoric and immutable. I think the
man was a b**tard, and his music inevitably comes out sounding that way.
Yes there are works of his that I do respect and enjoy very much, most
noteably his Op. 111. As for Mozart... why do I feel like every year
is some sort of Mozart celebration; Mozart had an apple pie for dessert
on such & such a date; Mozart had a slight case of the flu on such &
such a date; Mozart had a bad case of flatulence on such & such a date.
WHO CARES?! Please don't misread me. I will be the first to concede
to Mozart's genius, but it's time to move on. I'll admit that ten years
ago, when I was 18, I simply couldn't understand Mozart. My piano and
musicology professors would tell me that I was too young to appreciate
or understand Mozart. I replied that I would never fathom this obsession
with this particular Austrian. Yet, I was wrong, and my professors, of
course, were entirely correct. It's only been about a year since I've
begun to appreciate the intricate subtlties that comprise his genius.
Of course he should be recognized as such, but just not every season!
We all know he was a genius; a genius that died hundreds of years ago.
You don't see people harping on Bach the way they do about Mozart, and
was not Bach equally if not more of a genius?
If you want to attract a younger audience - and you're going to have
to if you want to keep the classical music "world" alive, then stop
programming the same music year in year out. Stop it with the Beethoven,
Brahms, Mahler, & Bruckner Symphony cycles and give us a Prokofiev,
Rautavaara, Szymanowski, or Walton cycle. Stop the Traviata's, Carmen's,
Figaro's, & Fidelio's and give us The Nose, The Dialogue des Carmelites,
Salome, or The Rake's Progress. Stop the Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, and
Barber Violin Concertos and give us the Violin Concertos of Khachaturian,
Berg, or Conus! Rather than Beethoven's 3rd & 5th, Brahms' 1st, and
Rachmaninov's 2nd & 3rd piano concertos, give us the Lutoslawski,
Rachmaninov 1st, or Prokofiev 2nd... I could go on, but I won't. My
point is, whether the music is from a household name composer or a
composer who is greatly underrated, MIX IT UP A BIT! Being exposed to
the same composers and works over and over again, it's no wonder no one
want's to attend concerts. Like me, they get bored just looking at the
season calendar and there goes a potential season subscription...
100 years ago, music was vibrant, new, exciting, daring, shocking even.
Today, we're in a rut. The needle is skipping and repeating the same few
grooves of the circular vinyl disc. Absolute statis. The outets for
emerging composers are fairly non-existent, increasing ticket prices and
boring as sin programing keep the younger audiences at bay, and ageing
passionless orchestral musicians who need to be given the boot are
superglued to their music stands. Factor in the increasingly image
driven money making hegemonic mechanism of the uber-label and the game
is lost in advance. Record company accountants and tenured programme
directors are going to be the death of the musical utopia we can only
The future is dim and rapidly approaching. A Musical revolution is long
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