Author Topic: How do we get composers out of obscurity?  (Read 4227 times)

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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #80 on: January 03, 2018, 04:53:36 AM »
My local orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, has a Ukrainian conductor Kirill Karabits and in recent years has featured a lot of the Russian repertoire in its programmes. In the current season it has works by Kalinnikov and Lyatoshinsky, both unknown to me, but they are embedded in lashings of Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. There is also the usual fare - Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart etc as well as Mahler 4, Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony and Ives The Unanswered Question. For various personal reasons I don't get to live concerts very often any more but I haven't heard any alarming reports of financial crisis or falling attendances recently.

A fine local band!  Offhand that sounds like a fine balance between the tried-&-true and the classics-in-waiting.  I mean: the Messiaen and Ives are stone-cold classics.  Yet, they wait . . . .
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Baron Scarpia

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #81 on: January 03, 2018, 02:30:37 PM »
Who go to so many concerts that they are tired of mainstream music, I know none.  But, who have already heard enough live performances of all the Brahms symphonies, yes, I know a few.  And between their now being on fixed incomes, and the price of top-tier orchestra tickets (per your "bad economics," above), several years ago they let their season subscription languish unrenewed.  You can love Brahms (I do, they do) and yet not feel that another live Brahms symphony is worth the outlay.

Now is my turn:  I cannot think there are many musicians who can say that!  0:)

But how do we get data on whether those subscriptions would have been renewed if the programs were loaded with Dutileux and Salonen?

I should probably recuse myself because I have no skin in the game. My circumstances do not allow me to attend classical concerts, no matter the programming. But if, hypothetically, I were to find myself making programming decisions for an orchestra I would be inclined to sneak in rarely performed works that would likely be appreciated by admirers of warhorses (pairing Atterberg with Brahms, Weinberg with Shostakovich, etc). But I wouldn't necessarily expect to get away with it. That's what Alan Gilbert did in New York and got run out of town for his efforts. The managers of the orchestras and opera companies have the numbers in front of them and they know better than we what works in their market.

About a decade ago I was able to attend a performance at the Opera House at Covent Garden. I could get tickets because it wasn't La Boheme or Traviata. It was Janacek, Jenufa, Charles Mackerras conducting. The hall was half empty. That can't be good for the bottom line.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2018, 02:37:46 PM by Baron Scarpia »

Baron Scarpia

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #82 on: January 03, 2018, 02:34:14 PM »
I mean: the Messiaen and Ives are stone-cold classics.  Yet, they wait . . . .

Once I attended a concert to hear MTT conduct Mahler 10 (just the one completed movement). I had to sit through something by Ives. I don't remember what piece it was or what it sounded like. My only memory is that MTT seemed to be having a ball conducting it. I was thinking the whole time, 'I'm paying for this? When it going to end?"

Just a data point.

Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #83 on: January 03, 2018, 02:48:05 PM »
A problem I have as a listener is programs that make no dramatic or structural sense. Once I heard Simon Rattle conduct the Philly in Lutoslawski Cello Cto. + Rachmaninoff Sym. #2. These pieces simply do not belong on the same program, unless you're trying to make a point about how stylistically opposed 20th century composers could be. People who like the Luto are likely to despise the Rach, and vice versa.
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Offline Ken B

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #84 on: January 03, 2018, 02:55:48 PM »
A problem I have as a listener is programs that make no dramatic or structural sense. Once I heard Simon Rattle conduct the Philly in Lutoslawski Cello Cto. + Rachmaninoff Sym. #2. These pieces simply do not belong on the same program, unless you're trying to make a point about how stylistically opposed 20th century composers could be. People who like the Luto are likely to despise the Rach, and vice versa.

This sounds like the “held hostage” idea some have complained about. I bet the Luto came in the first half ...

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Offline Brian

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #85 on: January 03, 2018, 02:58:17 PM »
A problem I have as a listener is programs that make no dramatic or structural sense. Once I heard Simon Rattle conduct the Philly in Lutoslawski Cello Cto. + Rachmaninoff Sym. #2. These pieces simply do not belong on the same program, unless you're trying to make a point about how stylistically opposed 20th century composers could be. People who like the Luto are likely to despise the Rach, and vice versa.
Absolutely yes. Many orchestras are approaching a healthy balance of new and old, obscure and popular, and many of them pair the two on a single program, which I agree with Scarpia is a good idea. But the logic of the pairing must make some kind of sense. I've been thrilled by CD programs that make inspired juxtapositions between centuries (next time you make a piano playlist, slip Mozart's Gigue K. 574 in between some 1960s avant garde stuff) but also confused and annoyed by pairings that just don't make a lick of sense. Splashy new piece for 100 musicians followed by Schumann concerto? Uhh...okay...

Offline Mahlerian

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #86 on: January 03, 2018, 03:23:05 PM »
Absolutely yes. Many orchestras are approaching a healthy balance of new and old, obscure and popular, and many of them pair the two on a single program, which I agree with Scarpia is a good idea. But the logic of the pairing must make some kind of sense. I've been thrilled by CD programs that make inspired juxtapositions between centuries (next time you make a piano playlist, slip Mozart's Gigue K. 574 in between some 1960s avant garde stuff) but also confused and annoyed by pairings that just don't make a lick of sense. Splashy new piece for 100 musicians followed by Schumann concerto? Uhh...okay...

Often this sort of thing seems to come about when the composer is commissioned in advance to provide some kind of work, but without any real restrictions on its character.  This can be done more or less intelligently, of course.

(That Mozart Gigue is a fascinating little thing, isn't it?  Of course, even his more familiar pieces are wilder than some people realize.)
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Offline Biffo

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #87 on: January 04, 2018, 01:49:04 AM »

About a decade ago I was able to attend a performance at the Opera House at Covent Garden. I could get tickets because it wasn't La Boheme or Traviata. It was Janacek, Jenufa, Charles Mackerras conducting. The hall was half empty. That can't be good for the bottom line.

I am a bit surprised by that. I heard Mackerras conduct Jenufa at Covent Garden (more than 10 years ago though) and it was a pretty much full house. The musical side was excellent but, sadly, it was a rubbish production. Checking the ROH database, you must have seen a different production from me. The one I saw was first staged in 1986 and revived in 1988 and 1993. The later one was first staged in 2001. Jenufa doesn't seem to have been given more recently but three productions over the years (1956, 1986 and 2001) indicates some level of demand.

English National Opera stage Janacek on a regular basis (or did) and Katya Kabanova conducted by Mackerras was the first opera I saw when I moved to London in 1973. Over the years I saw numerous performances of various Janacek operas at ENO and I don't recall any poor houses.

Glyndebourne (admittedly a special case) also stage Janacek regularly. I saw The Makropoulos Case  and Katya Kabanova there and have a DVD of their production of Jenufa.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #88 on: January 04, 2018, 05:33:44 AM »
Once I attended a concert to hear MTT conduct Mahler 10 (just the one completed movement). I had to sit through something by Ives. I don't remember what piece it was or what it sounded like. My only memory is that MTT seemed to be having a ball conducting it. I was thinking the whole time, 'I'm paying for this? When it going to end?"

Just a data point.


An imperfect data point, though, as we don't know just which Ives work  8)

My first experience of an Ives symphony (I forget, too, but I think the Second) was playing the Clarinet II part in the university orchestra.  I found it an unrelievedly tiresome affair.  (However, decades later I have revisited all the Ives symphonies, and enjoy them all.)
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #89 on: January 04, 2018, 05:35:59 AM »
A problem I have as a listener is programs that make no dramatic or structural sense. Once I heard Simon Rattle conduct the Philly in Lutoslawski Cello Cto. + Rachmaninoff Sym. #2. These pieces simply do not belong on the same program, unless you're trying to make a point about how stylistically opposed 20th century composers could be. People who like the Luto are likely to despise the Rach, and vice versa.

I meant to add earlier—and here you remind me—that the BSO concert on which they premiered both the Harbison Darkbloom Overture and the Wuorinen Fourth Concerto, the second half of the program was the Brahms D Major Symphony.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #90 on: January 04, 2018, 05:38:28 AM »
This sounds like the “held hostage” idea some have complained about. I bet the Luto came in the first half ...

No one held a gun to their heads and said You're going to go hear the Brahms, or the kitten gets it.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #91 on: January 04, 2018, 05:40:31 AM »
[...] That's what Alan Gilbert did in New York and got run out of town for his efforts.

I guess the NY Phil ain't what it used to be.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #92 on: January 04, 2018, 09:20:05 AM »
I am a bit surprised by that. I heard Mackerras conduct Jenufa at Covent Garden (more than 10 years ago though) and it was a pretty much full house. The musical side was excellent but, sadly, it was a rubbish production. Checking the ROH database, you must have seen a different production from me. The one I saw was first staged in 1986 and revived in 1988 and 1993. The later one was first staged in 2001. Jenufa doesn't seem to have been given more recently but three productions over the years (1956, 1986 and 2001) indicates some level of demand.

English National Opera stage Janacek on a regular basis (or did) and Katya Kabanova conducted by Mackerras was the first opera I saw when I moved to London in 1973. Over the years I saw numerous performances of various Janacek operas at ENO and I don't recall any poor houses.

Glyndebourne (admittedly a special case) also stage Janacek regularly. I saw The Makropoulos Case  and Katya Kabanova there and have a DVD of their production of Jenufa.

I had another brain fart. It wasn't Jenufa, it was Katya Kabanova. The year was 2008, I think. The performance was splendid. The production was modest but skillfully done, I thought.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #93 on: January 04, 2018, 09:23:20 AM »
My first experience of an Ives symphony (I forget, too, but I think the Second) was playing the Clarinet II part in the university orchestra.  I found it an unrelievedly tiresome affair.  (However, decades later I have revisited all the Ives symphonies, and enjoy them all.)

You da man, Karl! As you know, Ives has been a long-standing favorite of mine. I know of no difficulties of actually performing his music (thankfully), but I certainly enjoy listening to it. 8)
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #94 on: January 04, 2018, 10:16:29 AM »
Well, that's the thing (and chalk it up to My Trip at the time) . . . the part was not difficult, and I always felt that I was simply buried in the texture.  I wanted more flash in my second clarinet part  8) But, separated from that (as I saw it) annoyance, just listening to the piece, I like it fine.
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #95 on: January 04, 2018, 10:50:46 AM »
Well, that's the thing (and chalk it up to My Trip at the time) . . . the part was not difficult, and I always felt that I was simply buried in the texture.  I wanted more flash in my second clarinet part  8) But, separated from that (as I saw it) annoyance, just listening to the piece, I like it fine.

Perhaps Ives felt about clarinets the same way Richard Strauss felt about trombones: “Never look at the trombones. You’ll only encourage them.” ;D
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Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #96 on: January 05, 2018, 03:17:17 PM »
Is this problem perhaps a little simpler with solo piano music, where promotion depends on the choices of individual artists rather than those of organisations. i.e. full orchestras. When I was young, Satie was obscure, Medtner was obscure and when I played Scriabin as a teenager, my family thought I was nuts (perhaps I was). There are certainly other still composers for the piano who deserve a place in the sun, Backer-Grøndahl for one - Norway seem to regard her as a closely guarded secret.
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Offline Ken B

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #97 on: January 05, 2018, 03:23:26 PM »
Is this problem perhaps a little simpler with solo piano music, where promotion depends on the choices of individual artists rather than those of organisations. i.e. full orchestras. When I was young, Satie was obscure, Medtner was obscure and when I played Scriabin as a teenager, my family thought I was nuts (perhaps I was). There are certainly other still composers for the piano who deserve a place in the sun, Backer-Grøndahl for one - Norway seem to regard her as a closely guarded secret.

Indeed. Pick less expensive composers. This is why the roster of choral and organ pieces in the repertoire is much broader than in the orchestral one.
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Offline Jo498

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #98 on: January 06, 2018, 12:21:30 AM »
This is not only because they are "cheap", namely that the choristers are often unpaid laymen and the organist or chorus master is paid "anyway" in countries with a tradition of well-established church music, but also because both choral and organ music are niches mostly independent from opera and symphony that also has fewer warhorses (except maybe Bach) that tend to eclipse everything else.

One would expect chamber music also to be "cheap" but because chamber music is nowadays usually done by professionals giving concerts in reasonably large halls to paying audiences, the chamber rep is more dominated by "big" composers than e.g. choral.
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Offline Abuelo Igor

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Re: How do we get composers out of obscurity?
« Reply #99 on: January 14, 2018, 02:54:06 AM »
Idea for another thread: How do we get composers into obscurity?
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