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CLASSICAL  April 2008

CLASSICAL April 2008

Subject:

Re: Atonal Music

From:

Christopher Webber <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Moderated Classical Music List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 3 Apr 2008 17:03:43 -0700

Content-Type:

text/plain

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Denis Fodor writes:

> As for Beethoven's Second, a large-house audience I think would be 
>pleased to hear it.  Tastes do, repeat do, change...over the span of 
>200 years.

Tastes don't take 200 years to change, if mine are anything to go by.
And I guess there are very few people whose musical cravings, if you
like, don't develop as they go along.

As a matter of fact, here in London the concerts doing best (or rather,
least badly) tend to be either (a) the glamorous orchestra/conductor
combinations (generally doing Mahler yet again); or (b) 20th century
"classic"-based concerts, featuring Bartok, Vaughan Williams, Barber,
Sibelius et.  al.  These, not Beethoven 2nd, would be the modern large-house
fillers over here.  And you'd have to programme the 9th to get into the
"Rite of Spring" league.

For myself, I kind of feel that I've "done" Beethoven's 2nd, though
doubtless I could still be bowled over by it if it caught me unawares.
There are plenty of people who are still quarrying it, and always will,
because it is a cogent, beautiful and stimulating piece- though not
endlessly so.  But there are lots of people, too, who won't get off their
scented couches unless there is something more in it for them than a
penny-in-the-slot programme of 19th century Warhorses can promise.

The real problem is that most orchestral managements and boards are (a)
conservative in their personal tastes, (b) apt to pander to the natural
disinclination of rank-and-file orchestral players to stray too far from
familiar territory, and (c) bizarrely blind to what a *potentially larger*
audience actually might wants to hear.

It's well known, for example, that Naxos's Bax Symphony series under
David Lloyd Jones is a top best seller for them, on both sides of
the Atlantic (and it does pretty well in Germany too.) Yet there is
a "received wisdom" - completely unsupported by any evidence base or
research as far as I've been able to discover - that live Bax is box
office death.  Nicholas Kenyon, for example, resolutely refused to
programme one single Bax symphony during his tenure of the Proms,
on precisely that prejudiced ground.  Evidence he had none.

Anecdotally, at Vernon Handley's recording sessions for his complete
set, the woodwind and brass players were in love with it (as were the
leader and the 1st cello), but the rank-and-file string players would
on the whole rather have been doing Beethoven.

Yet unless the orchestral managements programme Bax's 2nd instead of
Beethoven's 2nd, I for one am not going to pay to enter.  And - completely
anecdotally again - most of my friends are of the same cast of mind.  If
the managements persist in placing their penny in the predictable slot,
I will instead sit at home, smiling at my wonderful new Chandos CD of
Bax Tone Poems (Handley, Volume 2!)
 
Christopher Webber, Blackheath, London, UK
http://www.zarzuela.net
"ZARZUELA!" The Spanish Music Site

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