Since I reviewed Alex Ross' new book it happens that I have come
across a couple of things that reinforce one of the main themes I
emphasized. In Sunday's New York Times this week there was a story
about Barber's Vanessa, which has been revived by the New York City
Opera after becoming a decades-long victim of the kind of critical
attacks stemming from a larger agenda that Ross' book describes.
Go to: http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/06/arts/music/06vane.html?
And in response to a gnawing feeling of disappointment in the face
of the fact that Ross ignores many of the composers I most care about--
ones who express feelings, for instance--I have begun to read a book by
Walter Simmons that Steve Schwartz reviewed here when it came out three
years ago, Voices in the Wilderness: Six American Neo-Romantic Composers:
http://www.classical.net/music/books/reviews/0810848848a.html In his
introduction Simmons describes the usual approach to the history of
American 20th century music, and guess what? That is much the sort
of approach that Ross does in fact take.
Also, I have been reflecting on my own personal history of musical
aesthetics and realizing just how naive or uninformed I was when young,
in assuming that the clash of styles in the 1950's and 1960's between
the serialists and the traditional composers, neoclassical and neoromantic,
would prove to be as ephemeral as the clash between the Brahmsians and
Wagnerites in the late 19th Century. Actually, as a reading of Ross'
book suggests, it was more a fight to the death--a tragic one, because
the serialists' scorn for the traditionalists, on the one hand, and the
concert-going public's scorn for the serialists, on the other hand, meant
that very little of either kind of music was heard in the concert hall--to
this day, and too many of the concert going public are in consequence
suspicious of anything composed in the 20th century except for certain
standard repertoire-- Ravel, say.
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