James Tobin <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>As it happens, the announced schedule includes (the now old but still
>good) Roy Harris' Third Symphony, William Schuman's Fifth Symphony,
>Barber's First Symphony, Shostakovich's Fifth Symphony (his 1st, 11th
>symphonies and 1st Violin Concerto having been played this past year),
>Antheil's Jazz Symphony; and newer works: Jennifer Higdon's Percussion
>Concerto, Dominick Argento's In Praise of Music, Seven Songs for Orchestra,
>and Adams's Schoenbergian Chamber Concerto (not sure what you have against
>Adams, Karl). Also Bach's Mass in B Minor. ...
It is indeed encouraging to read of the performances of the works you
mention, but, as I am forever the curmudgeon at heart...we aren't exactly
pushing the envelope with the above mentioned works...and while I am
somewhat unimpressed with Higdon's work, I would be interested in hearing
her Percussion concerto.
As for John Adams...I was very impressed with some of his early works
like Harmonium...but then...for me, his music seemed to lose that sparkle
of inspiration. I try to listen to his recent works...and with just
about everything he writes being recorded one can have the luxury of
repeated listening. I keep looking for substance and find little past
the time of his Chamber Symphony. "On the Transmigration of Souls,"
was, for me, painfully empty. It is as though each work has some sort
of "trick" to it but I get bored, just as I would after a few times of
saying "roll over rover." I get no sense that there is a great intellect
at work. No, I don't believe all great music is intellectual, but when
I find a lack of intellect, I look for a depth of soul and spirit...and
that not be doom and gloom.. yet I find little depth to the emotion in
his music. I am not one to dismiss a composer like Poulenc because his
music was generally optimistic...same for a composers like Rieti...even
a work like Honegger's 4th.
When I think about it, I am reminded of a composer like Dutilleux. Here
is, for me, a great intellect, who also has a depth of expression...great
emotion. For me, there is more content in say, the first movement of
his Second Symphony, than I can find in all of the orchestral works of
Adams written since 1990. I think about the voyage Dutilleux takes us
in his Cello Concerto. It seems to me that there is a reason for the
placement of every note and that there is meaning in every phrase.
I would then compare that to a work of Adams, say his Piano Concerto
"Century Rolls." It is a cute, diverting romp in the park by comparison.
Each movement has at least one good idea, but that is about all I can
find....maybe good for one or two listenings, but then...well I learn
the tricks and get bored.
As for the above mentioned repertoire...how about the Symphony 1933
of Harris; the Schuman 6th; and the Barber Second or the Shostakovich
4th. For me, all of these would have far more substance...ok, not every
orchestra is up to the fugue in the Shostakovich and the playing demands
of the Schuman 6th and Barber Second, but I believe they have more
When I think about it, it is the lack of depth to the expression that I
find lacking in so many composers today. I am remined of Tippett who
remarked that there were many composers today with such great technique,
but with so little to say. Maybe it has to do with the fact that most
of our mature composers come from a time of relative stability in the
world...at least in this country, we had the 1950s and Leave it to Beaver.
I can't think of my generation, a baby boomer, writing an Erwartung.
And again, it need not be doom and gloom, I guess I just don't find the
depth of expression in what is being written.
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