Author Topic: The Boston Six  (Read 7891 times)

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Offline JoshLilly

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The Boston Six
« on: July 11, 2007, 08:38:11 AM »
Thought this was a fairly interesting grouping:

Amy Beach (1867-1944)
George Chadwick (1854-1931)
Arthur Foote (1853-1937)
Edward MacDowell (1860-1908 )
John Knowles Paine (1839-1906)
Horatio Parker (1863-1919)

I've seen these referred to as the Boston Six.

I've finally managed to hear at least one piece by all of these composers, as our local radio station had played one of the Naxos series of Foote chamber music fairly recently. I liked that fairly well. I didn't know his year of birth at the time, but I'd have guessed he was born much earlier. I might pick up the whole lot eventually, Naxos appears to be releasing all his chamber music.

I have MacDowell's Piano Concerti #1 and #2, and his Second Modern Suite. Other than that, I think that's the only stuff I own by any of these six! So what's up, any recommendations?

Horatio Parker is most famous today as teacher to Charles Ives; he himself was a student of Rheinberger. Edward MacDowell was perhaps Raff's star pupil.

Okay, I'm stretching to avoid initiating a topic with so thin an opening post, but hopefully people can say useful stuff about these 6, and their music, and stuff.

Harry

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #1 on: July 11, 2007, 08:43:18 AM »
Amy Beach doesn't do anything for me, but the rest is meat for me.
Arthur Foote and McDowell  when it was realeased, it was only released in the USA, so on a holiday trip I bought these. The piano music from McDowell is exceptional beautiful, and I found the chambermusic by Foote really very good. Chadwick Paine and Parker are amongst the composers I like very much.

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #2 on: July 11, 2007, 08:45:19 AM »
It's weird, but I'm in the exact same spot. Amy Beach, probably the most famous of the six by name, is the only one by which I've never heard a single thing I liked. But who knows? There's lots more that I haven't! I haven't even heard her Gaelic Symphony, for example.

EDIT: By the way, I think MacDowell's 2nd Piano Concerto is not bad at all. I think that or one of the Foote chamber music CDs is the best recommendation I could make for music by any of these Six... but again, I stress I'm (so far) not fond of anything by Amy Beach, so hopefully somebody can put in a good word for some of her works.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2007, 08:50:15 AM by JoshLilly »

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2007, 11:18:33 AM »
It's weird, but I'm in the exact same spot. Amy Beach, probably the most famous of the six by name, is the only one by which I've never heard a single thing I liked. But who knows? There's lots more that I haven't! I haven't even heard her Gaelic Symphony, for example.

EDIT: By the way, I think MacDowell's 2nd Piano Concerto is not bad at all. I think that or one of the Foote chamber music CDs is the best recommendation I could make for music by any of these Six... but again, I stress I'm (so far) not fond of anything by Amy Beach, so hopefully somebody can put in a good word for some of her works.

Josh - in the Old Forum, there is a fairly decent thread that I started on these composers (and many more from that era), including Amy Beach - I have 4 CDs of her music and my favorites are the chamber works w/ Ambache group -  :)

 

Offline Earthlight

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2007, 05:39:49 PM »
Amy Beach doesn't do anything for me, but the rest is meat for me.

Harry, if you haven't heard any of Amy Beach's choral music, it might upgrade your opinion of her. Canticle of the Sun, on Albany, is one I have and enjoy a lot. I don't dislike her orchestral works, but they never made a particular impression on me.


Harry

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2007, 10:47:27 PM »
Let me dive into that one, and I report back later if the vocal works are more forthcoming to me. :)

Offline Szykneij

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2007, 03:57:14 PM »


I just picked up this CD today. I wasn't previously familiar with Kevin Lawrence, the violinist who made the recordings, and was very impressed with his interpretations. His dynamic and expressive playing is well-suited to the beauty of Foote's melodies.
Men profess to be lovers of music, but for the most part they give no evidence in their opinions and lives that they have heard it.  ~ Henry David Thoreau

Don't pray when it rains if you don't pray when the sun shines. ~ Satchel Paige

Offline SonicMan46

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #7 on: July 27, 2007, 05:26:48 PM »
Josh - in the Old Forum, there is a fairly decent thread that I started on these composers (and many more from that era), including Amy Beach - I have 4 CDs of her music and my favorites are the chamber works w/ Ambache group -  :)

For those interested in exploring this music, please check out this Previous Thread in the Old Forum - there are plenty of CD recommendations, comments, & biographical information; plus, I'd enjoy reading any further updates - thanks!  :D

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #8 on: November 19, 2007, 08:34:31 AM »
I finally got hold of Volume1 in the Arthur Foote chamber music series on Naxos. The first movement of the Piano Quintet in A minor, Op.38 is awesome! So is its fourth movement, for that matter; both of these movements have memorable, terrific openings. I like everything on here. Also on this CD are Foote's very fine string quartets #2 and #3, written in 1893 and 1911, respectively. I think these three works demonstrate a terrific gift for chamber music, and I'm definitely going to get the other 2 currently-available CDs. I read one critic say that Foote's chamber music sounded like inferior Dvořák. Hmm... I'm not even sure I disagree to some extent, personally, but is that really a bad thing? Not as far as I'm concerned!


Another CD I got yesterday was an earlier compatriot of the Boston Six, a Naxos disc with four orchestral works of William Henry Fry (1813-1864). I think he died before any of the Boston Six members composed, but I hope I'll be forgiven for mentioning him here. I got this disc because some people seem favourably impressed by his Niagara Symphony and his Overture to Macbeth. I fairly enjoy this CD, the Overture to Macbeth and The Breaking Heart sounding better to me than either of the symphonies, which I also like well enough. Niagara Symphony is pretty impressive, though, but I'd have guessed it to have been written much later, possibly even in the early 20th century at times. Technically, I don't think these are symphonies so much as overtures or orchestral fantasies; but then again, it's pretty much the same with one of Sibelius' (I forget which), so who knows.

Santa Claus, Christmas Symphony dates from 1853 and actually includes saxophones, which were brand spanking new at the time. The liner notes in the CD indicate that nobody has yet found an earlier use of saxophone in an orchestral work, though some might exist. It's a fun work, containing memorable themes of Fry's own intermixed with hints and outright employment of Christmas tunes. I think this was intended in large part to appeal to children, and while it's not one of my favourite works after one listen, it's definitely not a waste of time. If you don't mind spending a little time on something deliberately lighthearted and fun, give it a shot, maybe play it at Christmas time when guests are around.

Niagara Symphony is much more evocative in an almost "visual" manner. It includes 11 timpani in the scoring, and Fry does a workmanlike, professional job of conveying musically his impressions and feelings on the Niagara Falls (a massive waterfall on the Canada/USA border). Altogether, while the melodies weren't memorable to my mind, the overall impact is, and I thought it a positive one. This work may actually not ever have been performed during Fry's lifetime, but was composed with a specific concert in mind, P.T. Barnum's "Monster Concert" of 1854. There's no evidence of it being performed there, which likely was impossible: the work was completed 5 days before the concert. In truth, this is more an overture than a symphony. Due to its comparitively short length, I think this might even find a place in some live performances, if they could round up the 11 timpani, and would probably sit well with audiences. Worth a listen or two! Other than rehearsals, this is the first performance and recording of this work.

The Breaking Heart, in my opinion, is an overall better work than the two "symphonies". It is more brief. Whereas Niagara Symphony might drag on a few minutes longer than it ought with its material, this one is more to the point and doesn't try to overly milk the themes. And the themes... they are gorgeous. There are several of them, and the first real theme is really great. It sounds like an opera overture with melodies that would appear sung during the opera itself. This one was fairly popular in Fry's lifetime, and with good reason. This one verges on the truly memorable, and I will be revisiting this one, that's for sure.

Overture to Macbeth is the champion here, as far as I'm concerned. This one has a different overall feel to it. It was written a few months before Fry's death, and sounds more mature and better (again, my opinion only!) than the other works. I think this Naxos CD is almost worth it for this piece alone, and several critics that normally pan all obscure music even say that this might be worthy to edge into the occasional repertoire of live concerts.

Naxos prices have gone up, but still aren't a killer. If you can grab this one, perhaps even a used copy, I'd say it's worth it, if you have a taste for Romantic-era orchestral music. Overture to Macbeth alone might find wide appeal. I think every work on here is good, so I was certainly happy as could be with taking this chance, and I'm very enthusiastic about Overture to Macbeth and The Breaking Heart. I give high rankings as well to the other two works, Santa Claus, a Christmas Symphony maybe least of all.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2007, 08:38:10 AM by JoshLilly »

Harry

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #9 on: November 19, 2007, 08:40:29 AM »
Totally agree JL!

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2007, 08:43:31 AM »
On which CD? Both of them? I really like both! I didn't say much about the Foote chamber music CD, but it is the better of the two discs, to my taste. Foote wrote some really, really good stuff.

karlhenning

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #11 on: November 19, 2007, 09:54:51 AM »
It's weird, but I'm in the exact same spot. Amy Beach, probably the most famous of the six by name . . . .

Which raises the interesting question of why she should be the most famous of these.

Harry

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #12 on: November 19, 2007, 10:12:39 AM »
On which CD? Both of them? I really like both! I didn't say much about the Foote chamber music CD, but it is the better of the two discs, to my taste. Foote wrote some really, really good stuff.

I bought the Foote when I was in the States, could not get them in Europe, and was sold after hearing it. What a amazing composer he is.. The Fry is good fun too, and I enjoyed that one for some time now.

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #13 on: November 19, 2007, 10:33:57 AM »
Which raises the interesting question of why she should be the most famous of these.


I've just always assumed that she was considered the best of the lot by the Establishment, so to speak. For a long time, hers was the only name of those six known to me at all. Me, I'm partial more and more to MacDowell and Foote. Some of Foote's chamber music is just spectacular. I guess I can kinda feel what learned musical folks are talking about when they negatively criticise his music, but I just really, really like it. Same thing with Ferdinand Ries being slammed as an inferior Beethoven knockoff. I'm not even sure I disagree, but it's just that I don't consider it a bad thing, in either composer's case. With Foote's chamber music, he's been called a Dvořák wannabe. Really? Then the world could do a lot worse than have more Dvořák wannabes writing pleasant chamber music, if this is what it sounds like!

Harry

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #14 on: November 19, 2007, 10:42:22 AM »

I've just always assumed that she was considered the best of the lot by the Establishment, so to speak. For a long time, hers was the only name of those six known to me at all. Me, I'm partial more and more to MacDowell and Foote. Some of Foote's chamber music is just spectacular. I guess I can kinda feel what learned musical folks are talking about when they negatively criticise his music, but I just really, really like it. Same thing with Ferdinand Ries being slammed as an inferior Beethoven knockoff. I'm not even sure I disagree, but it's just that I don't consider it a bad thing, in either composer's case. With Foote's chamber music, he's been called a Dvořák wannabe. Really? Then the world could do a lot worse than have more Dvořák wannabes writing pleasant chamber music, if this is what it sounds like!

Well I never understood this negative idea, that Ferdinand Ries is inferior to Beethoven. I have listen through they complete set of Symphonies several times, and it surprised and delighted me every time. So what when remnants of Beethoven are in his works, they are not less therefore. Amy Beach is not for me though, her works have no interest for me.
Foote chamber music is on par with Dvorak, not more no less, the comparison is of no consequence other than it has the same qualities.
MacDowell has written beautiful music, and the four Naxos discs are phenomenal, no less. when I was back on the plane going home, I have listen in that 8 hours to all these discs, twice, and the girl next to me, wrote the details down, and later she emailed me, to say that she bought them too, a totally stranger from Australia, now a good friend.
« Last Edit: November 19, 2007, 10:45:46 AM by Harry »

karlhenning

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #15 on: November 19, 2007, 10:44:44 AM »
Well I never understood this negative idea, that Ferdinand Ries is inferior to Beethoven.

No, it's actually a positive idea that Beethoven's music is greater than Ries's.

I've never understood this negative idea, that Ries is supposedly the equal to Beethoven.

Harry

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #16 on: November 19, 2007, 10:47:10 AM »
No, it's actually a positive idea that Beethoven's music is greater than Ries's.

I've never understood this negative idea, that Ries is supposedly the equal to Beethoven.

Yes thank you Karl.
I don't think we were talking about greater did we?

karlhenning

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #17 on: November 19, 2007, 10:51:46 AM »
I don't think we were talking about greater did we?

It is the flip-side to "inferior," so yes, this was in the discussion.

karlhenning

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #18 on: November 19, 2007, 10:57:32 AM »
Truly, Harry, I do not understand your need to tear Beethoven down to some namby-pampy cartoon of democratic "equality" with his lesser contemporaries.

I do not understand it, even though the topic has come up between us any number of times.

There's a reason, Harry, that Beethoven's name is engraved at the top of the Symphony Hall proscenium, and not Ries's.  And the reason is not that Bostonians just don't get that Ries is "just as great" as Beethoven.

Offline JoshLilly

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Re: The Boston Six
« Reply #19 on: November 19, 2007, 11:02:17 AM »
First off, neither Ries nor Beethoven was in the Boston Six, or really at all related to them.

Second off, can you ever really understand someone else's opinion or taste if it doesn't agree with your own?