Author Topic: The Classical Chat Thread  (Read 356657 times)

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Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2341 on: October 30, 2018, 09:02:52 AM »
I will say it, John Williams is a very talented classical composer.

I agree that he is very talented.  And, more than that, he is said to be a very nice chap.

You will say the score to Star Wars is all "derivative." I will grant you that. Find me some music that is not derivative of something.

This is not really the meat of my quarrel.  But, I'll call it a low bar.

It is brilliantly executed orchestral music that has a sound all it's own.

It often earns its own sound.  The Mars scarfing, yes, let us allow that he comes close to making the adaptation his own.  The Le sacre pilfering, less so.

But, overall, certainly I agree that the Star Wars soundtrack is a signal success, and what is more, contributed greatly to the success of the movie (and therefore, to a franchise).  It is an admirable accomplishment, and makes the movie worth revisiting in a way which we cannot say is true of Lucas's screenplay.

My point really is that the two pieces of John Williams's "concert music" which I have heard performed live by the Boston Symphony suffered from both poor execution (sloppy, amateurish scoring—which ought not to be, right? Since we all know how well he uses the orchestra for Star Wars) and vapid content.  They were music which did not earn its place at the table.

They were not the work of a very talented classical composer.
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2342 on: October 30, 2018, 09:06:34 AM »
It's not supposed to be original.

That remark does Williams less of a favor than you may suppose.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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Ghost of Baron Scarpia

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2343 on: October 30, 2018, 09:16:49 AM »
My point really is that the two pieces of John Williams's "concert music" which I have heard performed live by the Boston Symphony suffered from both poor execution (sloppy, amateurish scoring—which ought not to be, right? Since we all know how well he uses the orchestra for Star Wars) and vapid content.  They were music which did not earn its place at the table.

They were not the work of a very talented classical composer.

Eh, I assume he was trying to be deep, and it's not his métier. You snobs shamed him into it. :)

I don't see why the fact that his music plays during a movie precludes it from being classical. They played Finlandia during a Bruce Willis movie I saw. Does that strike it from the repertoire? Does the fact that some idiots were dancing preclude Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe from being classical music? Or Sibelius' incidental music?
« Last Edit: October 30, 2018, 09:36:24 AM by Ghost of Baron Scarpia »

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2344 on: October 30, 2018, 10:38:55 AM »
Eh, I assume he was trying to be deep, and it's not his métier. You snobs shamed him into it. :)

I don't see why the fact that his music plays during a movie precludes it from being classical. They played Finlandia during a Bruce Willis movie I saw. Does that strike it from the repertoire? Does the fact that some idiots were dancing preclude Ravel's Daphnis et Chloe from being classical music? Or Sibelius' incidental music?

I think I speak for most of those who insinuate a qualitative difference between the two when I say that the cutoff is arbitrary and according to our whim. We all know whom we consider "film composers" and whom we consider "proper composers" (double quotation marks for that one) and only because they cross over into the other's territory -- actively or passively (as in Sibelius' case) -- doesn't mean we don't know how to still make the distinction for ourselves.

When there are real borderliner cases, we either make exceptions (Rosza, Herrmann) or categorize them according to our preference (Korngold) or ignore their film output altogether (Prokofiev, DSCH).

Offline relm1

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2345 on: October 30, 2018, 04:17:11 PM »
I agree that he is very talented.  And, more than that, he is said to be a very nice chap.

This is not really the meat of my quarrel.  But, I'll call it a low bar.

It often earns its own sound.  The Mars scarfing, yes, let us allow that he comes close to making the adaptation his own.  The Le sacre pilfering, less so.

But, overall, certainly I agree that the Star Wars soundtrack is a signal success, and what is more, contributed greatly to the success of the movie (and therefore, to a franchise).  It is an admirable accomplishment, and makes the movie worth revisiting in a way which we cannot say is true of Lucas's screenplay.

My point really is that the two pieces of John Williams's "concert music" which I have heard performed live by the Boston Symphony suffered from both poor execution (sloppy, amateurish scoring—which ought not to be, right? Since we all know how well he uses the orchestra for Star Wars) and vapid content.  They were music which did not earn its place at the table.

They were not the work of a very talented classical composer.

I would be happy to debate you on this topic.  Pick the thread for it to happen.  So far i've heard nothing substantial from you on your premise other than gross simplification.   

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2346 on: October 31, 2018, 01:28:53 AM »
I don't see why the fact that his music plays during a movie precludes it from being classical.

Of course that is a point.  I did not specifically acknowledge that I can have no objection to calling him a classical composer.  My observation was mostly that the work I have heard in the concert hall shows the limitations of his craft.

So far i've heard nothing substantial from you on your premise other than gross simplification.   

You were inattentive, possibly selectively so.  The two pieces I have heard at Symphony were perfectly specific.  If Shostakovich or Hindemith had scored pieces so poorly, your opinion of them would diminish.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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Offline relm1

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2347 on: October 31, 2018, 06:10:00 AM »
You were inattentive, possibly selectively so.  The two pieces I have heard at Symphony were perfectly specific.  If Shostakovich or Hindemith had scored pieces so poorly, your opinion of them would diminish.

Yawn.  This topic has already grown old.  But I'll take the bite.  What pieces are you referring to?

Offline Pat B

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2348 on: October 31, 2018, 07:31:14 AM »
Yawn.  This topic has already grown old.

So much for being happy to discuss it.

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2349 on: October 31, 2018, 09:19:01 PM »
Of course that is a point.  I did not specifically acknowledge that I can have no objection to calling him a classical composer.  My observation was mostly that the work I have heard in the concert hall shows the limitations of his craft.

And what piece was it? I would think it makes sense to evaluate a composers skill by the best work they produce, not the worst. With the latter criteria almost every composer I can think of would fair poorly. I would be inclined to evaluate Williams based on his Star Wars Suite, and find him quite effective in his way. By no means a visionary artist, of course.

Offline relm1

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2350 on: November 01, 2018, 06:29:50 AM »
So much for being happy to discuss it.

I was happy to discuss it briefly.  That feeling was fleeting.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2351 on: November 01, 2018, 07:19:53 AM »
And what piece was it? I would think it makes sense to evaluate a composers skill by the best work they produce, not the worst. With the latter criteria almost every composer I can think of would fair poorly. I would be inclined to evaluate Williams based on his Star Wars Suite, and find him quite effective in his way. By no means a visionary artist, of course.

It’s certainly not merely reasonable but only fair to discount the worst work.  I agree with your entire post.  Consider this a footnote rather than a rebuttal . . .

Jens raised the point that many have (in a word) pretended that Prokofiev and Shostakovich did not write film soundtracks, because that activity does not fit their image of A Serious Classical Composer.  Myself, and probably because the Kizhe and Nevsky suites have always been favorites, in Shostakovich’s case, I simply sought out and explored other genres first.  I sort of ‘backed into’ some of the film scores . . . difficult for me to report accurately at this remove, but perhaps I started with the music for the great Kozintsev Shakespeare films;  and (while there are many of his soundtracks still unknown to me, and – as Time is not an inexhaustible resource – I rather doubt that I should ever manage to hear all of them) I have listened to Hamlet, King Lear, New Babylon, Alone, The Fall of Berlin, and others.  Much of it is brilliant, all of it is at least good, and none of it is a discredit to the composer.

Does Shostakovich fare poorly if we judge him by his worst work?  Well, what is his worst work?  Not any of the film soundtracks that I have heard.  If pressed, probably the worst Shostakovich piece I know is the Twelfth Symphony.  Yet even this piece is technically flawless, it is competently constructed (and better than competently).

The Song of the Forests is not his worst work, though the first I learnt of it was, people writing and poo-poo-ing it, some of them without having listened to it.

There is the problem I find, with settling on Shostakovich’s “worst work” (in a way comparable to these concert turkeys by JW):  it would, for example, be unfair or even ridiculous to castigate the Polka from The Golden Age as Bad Music, when in fact it is light music, serves its purpose brilliantly in context, and is in any event well made – and well made to its purpose.

I have got to applaud John Williams, because he is able to have world-class musical organizations commission him substantial sums of money, to write slipshod concert music.  Nice work, if you can get it.
Karl Henning, Ph.D.
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[Matisse] was interested neither in fending off opposition,
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2352 on: November 01, 2018, 07:45:53 AM »
It’s certainly not merely reasonable but only fair to discount the worst work.  I agree with your entire post.  Consider this a footnote rather than a rebuttal . . .

Jens raised the point that many have (in a word) pretended that Prokofiev and Shostakovich did not write film soundtracks, because that activity does not fit their image of A Serious Classical Composer.  Myself, and probably because the Kizhe and Nevsky suites have always been favorites, in Shostakovich’s case, I simply sought out and explored other genres first.  I sort of ‘backed into’ some of the film scores . . . difficult for me to report accurately at this remove, but perhaps I started with the music for the great Kozintsev Shakespeare films;  and (while there are many of his soundtracks still unknown to me, and – as Time is not an inexhaustible resource – I rather doubt that I should ever manage to hear all of them) I have listened to Hamlet, King Lear, New Babylon, Alone, The Fall of Berlin, and others.  Much of it is brilliant, all of it is at least good, and none of it is a discredit to the composer.

Does Shostakovich fare poorly if we judge him by his worst work?  Well, what is his worst work?  Not any of the film soundtracks that I have heard.  If pressed, probably the worst Shostakovich piece I know is the Twelfth Symphony.  Yet even this piece is technically flawless, it is competently constructed (and better than competently).

The Song of the Forests is not his worst work, though the first I learnt of it was, people writing and poo-poo-ing it, some of them without having listened to it.

There is the problem I find, with settling on Shostakovich’s “worst work” (in a way comparable to these concert turkeys by JW):  it would, for example, be unfair or even ridiculous to castigate the Polka from The Golden Age as Bad Music, when in fact it is light music, serves its purpose brilliantly in context, and is in any event well made – and well made to its purpose.

I have got to applaud John Williams, because he is able to have world-class musical organizations commission him substantial sums of money, to write slipshod concert music.  Nice work, if you can get it.

Now you're getting into the subjective. I love Shostakovich Symphonies 4, 5, 9, 10, 15. Maybe 6.  And maybe the one that starts with the militaristic Bolero, is that 7? The others I think of as dreck. Just my personal preference, of course. (The chamber music and concertos are generally superb.) If you asked me to rank Shostakovich based on any of the other symphonies, I'd put him at von Dittersdorf level.

You still haven't named the Williams piece that was so bad.

I'm detecting animus for Williams. I'm willing to wager that the ticket sales for those slipshod Williams commissions financed many a Shostakovich concert.

Offline Brian

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2353 on: November 01, 2018, 07:46:57 AM »
And maybe the one that starts with the militaristic Bolero, is that 7?
It is.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2354 on: November 01, 2018, 08:38:15 AM »
You still haven't named the Williams piece that was so bad.

Correct.

I'm detecting animus for Williams.

Incorrect.

I'm willing to wager that the ticket sales for those slipshod Williams commissions financed many a Shostakovich concert.

I take that at 12:7 depending on our agreeing what many means here.
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2355 on: November 12, 2018, 03:53:56 PM »

Jens raised the point that many have (in a word) pretended that Prokofiev and Shostakovich did not write film soundtracks, because that activity does not fit their image of A Serious Classical Composer.  Myself, and probably because the Kizhe and Nevsky suites have always been favorites... Much of it is brilliant, all of it is at least good, and none of it is a discredit to the composer.

Does Shostakovich fare poorly if we judge him by his worst work?  Well, what is his worst work?  Not any of the film soundtracks that I have heard.  If pressed, probably the worst Shostakovich piece I know is the Twelfth Symphony.  Yet even this piece is technically flawless, it is competently constructed (and better than competently).


I agree with you... but would double down on my argument that these films are, to a western audience, either unknown or known as art-films or in any case as something quite different from "MOVIES". And that the disconnect still works, all the same. His less music for lesser films and series and such has by now been recorded, to some extent, is good (good enough, so it is said, to have saved his life because Stalin was majorly digging it)... but hardly known at all, except by a few enthusiasts.

What's his worst (serious) work, you ask? I'd posit Symphony No.2 and, above all, the Festive Overture in all its bloated pomposity*. And there must be a few other sheer propaganda works that are trash, partly because he was churning them out less than half-hearted.

Quote
Music as Propaganda in Washington and New York
by jfl | Tuesday, March 27, 2007,

...A trite, pompous, never-altering 8-minute all-out fake orgasm that might impress at first, but is, at best, a musical Potemkin’s Village...

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2356 on: November 13, 2018, 05:58:43 AM »
What's his worst (serious) work, you ask? I'd posit Symphony No.2 and, above all, the Festive Overture in all its bloated pomposity*. And there must be a few other sheer propaganda works that are trash, partly because he was churning them out less than half-hearted.

I see your point.  Personally, I find the Second of great interest—which may not be quite the same thing as disagreeing with you.

I doubt I could respond absolutely cool-headedly viz. the Festive Overture.  In its band version, it is the first Shostakovich piece I ever played in, back when I was a sprout in high school;  and in that context, the piece can hold its head high.  Cannot say that the fake orgasm simile would have occurred to me, back in that era of my life.
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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2357 on: November 30, 2018, 04:16:08 PM »
Somebody gets it.

The music industry sells classical as soothing background music — robbing a great art of its power.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/posteverything/wp/2018/11/30/feature/classical-music-is-sold-as-soothing-background-music-thats-a-problem/?utm_term=.db8e10ccd572


Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2358 on: December 18, 2018, 11:47:29 AM »

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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Re: The Classical Chat Thread
« Reply #2359 on: December 30, 2018, 05:36:25 PM »
It is done!

The Schubert Symphony Cycle Survey stands. (Few more additions to come.)

A Survey of Schubert Symphony Cycles



http://ionarts.blogspot.com/2018/12/a-survey-of-schubert-symphony-cycles.html