Author Topic: The British Composers Thread  (Read 161069 times)

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Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1000 on: October 12, 2021, 06:22:35 AM »
I agree with that.  I don't know why everyone is so upset by that, it doesn't seem controversial to me.  That is not to say there is not a lot of excellent British symphonies, there are.  But you're looking at one nation, over only one era, over only one genre.  If you set aside your nationalism for a second (and this is directed at everyone on the thread), you'll see that is not meant to be an attack.  British neoromanticism just doesn't have the appeal outside of the UK as it does within it.  And I really like Arnold, Bax, Britten, Simpson etc.  I'm not saying this because I personally don't see the appeal, I do.

I don't see the point of a canon if any listener would have their feelings hurt if their favorite composer was not included.

I'm not sure anyone's feelings are hurt at all!  Saying any work of Art is "great" for me is a fairly pointless descriptor as being told something is great is unlikely to change my own personal interaction with it.  I can understand the value to analysts or academics who can trace the influence of work "A" on other artists or indeed schools of Art.  The more significant/numerous the traceable influences then probably the "greater" the seminal art work but for me listening to a symphony in my own home the concept is wholly irrelevant.

Offline krummholz

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1001 on: October 12, 2021, 06:37:05 AM »
I'm not sure anyone's feelings are hurt at all!  Saying any work of Art is "great" for me is a fairly pointless descriptor as being told something is great is unlikely to change my own personal interaction with it.  I can understand the value to analysts or academics who can trace the influence of work "A" on other artists or indeed schools of Art.  The more significant/numerous the traceable influences then probably the "greater" the seminal art work but for me listening to a symphony in my own home the concept is wholly irrelevant.

Agree. Moreover, as has been said, all this depends on one's definition of "greatness". For some, that will have mostly to do with popularity, or influence on the world of music, or perhaps evidence of compositional mastery. For me, it simply means "overwhelmingly impressive" as an aural experience.

And just as an aside, nationalism is not a factor in my case - I'm not British! - I simply find certain works by both Brian and Simpson great (by my criterion above), and their country of origin doesn't enter into the picture for me at all.

Offline foxandpeng

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1002 on: October 12, 2021, 07:54:40 AM »
Agree. Moreover, as has been said, all this depends on one's definition of "greatness". For some, that will have mostly to do with popularity, or influence on the world of music, or perhaps evidence of compositional mastery. For me, it simply means "overwhelmingly impressive" as an aural experience.

And just as an aside, nationalism is not a factor in my case - I'm not British! - I simply find certain works by both Brian and Simpson great (by my criterion above), and their country of origin doesn't enter into the picture for me at all.

Yup. No hurt feelings here either. Nor any feelings of nationalism. I don't think, although I've not read the original article, that there was any attack intended either.

I would have the same take if we were speaking of any nationality, particular musical era, or narrow subgenre. I simply think that the concept of greatness means little unless one defines terms of reference. Even then, there's room for robust and friendly debate in most cases  :)

Offline vandermolen

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1003 on: October 12, 2021, 01:14:02 PM »
For me, I think that a truly great symphony would have a structural coherence, accompanied by a convincing emotional narrative. I know that you'll all agree  8)
No hurt feelings here either - I just find the discussion interesting.
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Offline Scion7

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1004 on: October 12, 2021, 01:18:10 PM »
For me, I think that a truly great symphony would have a structural coherence, accompanied by a convincing emotional narrative.

Ah!
And how many sets of Brahms' complete symphonies do you own, then?  8)

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Offline vandermolen

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1005 on: October 12, 2021, 01:53:07 PM »
Ah!
And how many sets of Brahms' complete symphonies do you own, then?  8)

. . .  once more, into the arena, mates!
I do have a boxed set of the Brahms symphonies, believe it or not. I don't often play them though.  ;D
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

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Offline calyptorhynchus

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1006 on: October 12, 2021, 02:26:22 PM »
Ah, don't start me on lists....

Ok you started me on lists.

I have a list of what I consider are the greatest symphonies written from c1760 to the present and I have 319 works on this list.

I keep a list of nationalities of composers on this list and British composers are the most numerous nationality with 24 contributing at least one work to the total.

Many of the composers mentioned here and elsewhere on GMG are not on this list eg Elgar. In fact here is the list (chronologically):

John Marsh (late C18)
Alice Smith (mix C19)
Vaughan Williams
Brian
Bax
Gibbs
Clifford
Moeran
Rubbra
Walton
Chagrin
Grace Williams
Miriam Keal
Truscott
Stevens
Simpson
Gipps
Arthur Butterworth
Whettam
Leighton
Mathias
Martelli
Geddes
Matthews
Pickard

The next most numerous nationalities on the list are Austrian (9), German (6), Finnish (6), French (5). Of course there may be more actual symphonies by, say, Austrians than Brits on my list as for example Haydn has over 40 symphonies on my list.

Why the bias, although I have lived in Australia since 1991 and consider myself Australian there aren't too many Australian symphonies (!) so I guess I'm still British in my symphonic sympathies. Would my list change if I was German or French or Russian? can someone who is one of those nationalities comment on whether they can find 20+ great symphonists in their own tradition?

(And no, Brahms is not on this list).

Offline calyptorhynchus

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1007 on: October 12, 2021, 02:31:14 PM »
I'm glad you asked... yes I do keep other lists.

My great string quartets list has 317 works on it, and 17 Brits have contributed (largest nationality quota).

My great concertos list has 149 works on it, and 16 Brits have contributed (largest nationality quota).

Offline Symphonic Addict

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1008 on: October 12, 2021, 06:34:37 PM »
I was reading a review yesterday which suggested that there are only 6 Great British symphonies, which are:

Both Elgar symphonies (1 and 2). The middle three (4,5,6) by Vaughan Williams and Walton's First symphony.

Any views on this?

Oh no, I don't want to agree with that list. I would be something like this, more variegated and deepest:

Alwyn 2 or 3rd
Brian 1st
Elgar 2nd
Simpson 9
Vaughan Williams 9th
Walton 1st

I wish I could include these ones too: Moeran in G minor, Bax 3rd, Tippett 4th, Arnold 5th or 9th, Rubbra 7th, Arnell 3rd, Bate 3rd and/or 4th, Bliss, etc. Elgar's 1st could be considered as the very first truly great English symphony? I don't know, but I have a fondness for the 2nd. I mean, who could resist the charms a la Strauss in the 1st movement? Or the heartfelt and almost atmosphere like an English Parsifal? The "violence" of the 3rd, the turbulence, war premonitions? Conflicts, death, cities destroyed.

As to Vaughan Williams, he's undobtedly the best English symphonist bar none. Yes, I know the use of the word "best" should be used with more prudence when referring composers' artistic qualities, but here it's rather clear to me. I would rescue the 5th for its sovereign sense of pastoral nostalgic. The quientessence. Ahhh, I love it to the bone!
« Last Edit: October 12, 2021, 08:30:54 PM by Symphonic Addict »
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Offline vandermolen

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1009 on: October 12, 2021, 10:16:06 PM »
Oh no, I don't want to agree with that list. I would be something like this, more variegated and deepest:

Alwyn 2 or 3rd
Brian 1st
Elgar 2nd
Simpson 9
Vaughan Williams 9th
Walton 1st

I wish I could include these ones too: Moeran in G minor, Bax 3rd, Tippett 4th, Arnold 5th or 9th, Rubbra 7th, Arnell 3rd, Bate 3rd and/or 4th, Bliss, etc. Elgar's 1st could be considered as the very first truly great English symphony? I don't know, but I have a fondness for the 2nd. I mean, who could resist the charms a la Strauss in the 1st movement? Or the heartfelt and almost atmosphere like an English Parsifal? The "violence" of the 3rd, the turbulence, war premonitions? Conflicts, death, cities destroyed.

As to Vaughan Williams, he's undobtedly the best English symphonist bar none. Yes, I know the use of the word "best" should be used with more prudence when referring composers' artistic qualities, but here it's rather clear to me. I would rescue the 5th for its sovereign sense of pastoral nostalgic. The quientessence. Ahhh, I love it to the bone!
I agree with those choices too Cesar. I like both Elgar symphonies (all 3 actually) but think that No.2 is arguably the greatest of all.
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Offline 71 dB

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1010 on: October 13, 2021, 01:16:04 AM »
I like both Elgar symphonies (all 3 actually) but think that No.2 is arguably the greatest of all.

Yes, the 2nd is the best, then the first and then the (elaborated) third. All awesome imho.  $:)
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Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1011 on: October 14, 2021, 12:33:59 AM »
Its already been mentioned on the Havergal Brian page - the release on Dutton of the complete recording of his operatic version of Faust.  But also worth mentioning - after a good year of dormancy - are the other Dutton new releases;

https://www.duttonvocalion.co.uk/

there is a raft of unrecorded British chamber music including some real gems that's I've had the sheet music of for years and wondered if/when music of this quality will be recorded;

Arthur Hinton's Piano Quintet
 J D Davis' Summer's Eve at Cookham Lock
Bantock - In a Chinese Mirror

Also very welcome is the first studio/modern recording of Bliass' ballet The lady of Shalott.  To be honest NOT the equal of Checkmate or Adam Zero but still a very welcome addition to the Bliss discography

Offline vandermolen

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1012 on: October 14, 2021, 03:15:59 AM »
Its already been mentioned on the Havergal Brian page - the release on Dutton of the complete recording of his operatic version of Faust.  But also worth mentioning - after a good year of dormancy - are the other Dutton new releases;

https://www.duttonvocalion.co.uk/

there is a raft of unrecorded British chamber music including some real gems that's I've had the sheet music of for years and wondered if/when music of this quality will be recorded;

Arthur Hinton's Piano Quintet
 J D Davis' Summer's Eve at Cookham Lock
Bantock - In a Chinese Mirror

Also very welcome is the first studio/modern recording of Bliass' ballet The lady of Shalott.  To be honest NOT the equal of Checkmate or Adam Zero but still a very welcome addition to the Bliss discography
I have the BBC Radio Classics recording of The Lady of Shalott, which I found rather disappointing. Maybe the studio recording will be better.
PS
I'm delighted to see that the Bliss CD includes the 'March of Homage' (written for Churchill's funeral). I've always found it rather moving despite its brief duration. I think that the only other recording was on Unicorn coupled with Bliss's Piano Concerto.
« Last Edit: October 14, 2021, 03:21:33 AM by vandermolen »
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Offline kyjo

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1013 on: October 15, 2021, 06:06:27 AM »
I was reading a review yesterday which suggested that there are only 6 Great British symphonies, which are:

Both Elgar symphonies (1 and 2). The middle three (4,5,6) by Vaughan Williams and Walton's First symphony.

Any views on this?

I would say that these are absolutely among the greatest British symphonies, but they’re of course not the only great British symphonies!
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Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1014 on: Today at 05:49:12 AM »
I have the BBC Radio Classics recording of The Lady of Shalott, which I found rather disappointing. Maybe the studio recording will be better.
PS
I'm delighted to see that the Bliss CD includes the 'March of Homage' (written for Churchill's funeral). I've always found it rather moving despite its brief duration. I think that the only other recording was on Unicorn coupled with Bliss's Piano Concerto.

My copy of the Bliss has just arrived.  Interesting that Lady of Shalott is marked as World Premiere of "complete" ballet.  By timings this seems around 7 minutes longer than the BBC Classics/Bliss recording so I wonder what is 'new'!?

Offline vandermolen

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Re: The British Composers Thread
« Reply #1015 on: Today at 05:59:49 AM »
My copy of the Bliss has just arrived.  Interesting that Lady of Shalott is marked as World Premiere of "complete" ballet.  By timings this seems around 7 minutes longer than the BBC Classics/Bliss recording so I wonder what is 'new'!?
I haven't received mine yet - hopefully soon!
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).