Whither Classical Music?

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majerjack

Whither Classical Music?

Post by majerjack » 23 Nov 2017 18:12

As I post this from my home in the central US on Thanksgiving Day 2017 I am feeling comfortably nostalgic and sentimental, thinking of the things in my life for which I am grateful while I listen to the music of Aaron Copland being broadcast on FM radio from one of our universities.

Indeed, it was radio that gave me my first major and ongoing exposure to classical music in the form of radio station WOI-AM out of Ames, Iowa back in the mid-1970s. I look back on that time with both gratitude and longing: gratitude for the exposure to wonderful new ideas and experiences; longing to go back and do it all over again. I suppose these feelings are more and more common as we age---the good old days are always better than the bad new days. Normally there is no way for us to return to an earlier, happier time, but an upcoming major life change at the beginning of the new year may allow me to make real a 40-year dream first conceived in that time which encompasses the best years of my life. Perhaps my final chapters will equal that time in emotional resonance and fulfillment, perhaps not, but I can honestly report that I am looking to the future with more confidence and enthusiasm than I have experienced in years.

It is the memories of my early exposure to the world of classical music that have prompted this thread. Seven years ago I started another thread on what I saw as the dilemma of classical music: in the face of shrinking audiences and declining sales of recordings, what can those who love and wish to preserve this music do in order to ensure its existence for future generations? At that time the outlook was bleak, but I wonder now whether the ready access to classical music in the form of websites such as YouTube and others may Help to expose it to new listeners and to broaden its appeal.

Please share your opinions on classical music and its future. Tell us which composers you favor, what forms you find most appealing, the soloists/ensembles/orchestras you enjoy, individual pieces of music that inspired or consoled you, your most memorable first hearing of a piece, those compositions that you come back to hear time and time again. What do you like about classical music, what do you think is in its future, and what can we do to conserve and preserve it for those who come after us?

billshurv
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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by billshurv » 23 Nov 2017 22:45

I can't comment for USA other than having seen some articles about problems for some of the large orchestras running out of money, but here in the UK for the latest figures http://www.abo.org.uk/media/105071/ABO- ... _email.pdf the audiences are up, but revenue down, mainly due to cuts in funding from govt.

What is interesting is that a number of orchestras are now issuing recordings on their own labels. This cuts out the middle man and certainly all the ones I have heard have been superb quality on both sides of the atlantic.

As for who I favour I have some fairly electic tastes although I usually drift back to late Baroque early classical on a regular basis. Right now a lot of Arvo Part is being played. His type of minimalism can be an aquired taste but I like it.

majerjack

Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by majerjack » 24 Nov 2017 14:07

I find it encouraging that the audiences in the UK are increasing and that orchestras are starting their own labels. It would seem that an orchestra having its own label would simplify the process of finding their recordings, especially for the uninitiated. As to the technical quality of the recording, not only are the techniques of audio recording known to more and more people, the equipment used in recording has gotten better and in some cases cheaper, so the technical aspects of the recording process do not have to be a large drain on revenues.

I don't possess any recordings of Part's music, but I am considering buying some. If you have any recommendations, please share them. I know that Part is Estonian, and it seems to me that some very interesting music has been coming out of the region of the Baltic Sea for the last 30 years or so. I have recordings of the music of Henryk Gorecki (Poland), Erkki-Sven Tuur (Estonia), and Peteris Vasks (Latvia), and they all feature arresting music with emotional impact. I believe there is something happening in that part of the world that is very encouraging for the classical music tradition.

billshurv
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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by billshurv » 24 Nov 2017 18:55

I'll dig out a list of 'starters' tonight. I don't have any vinyl recommendations as all my Part is on CD. To keep you going here are a couple that I have for you to have a dip and see if you like

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCNRioytyAI
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U4RmJaP683A

billshurv
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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by billshurv » 24 Nov 2017 23:29

https://www.amazon.com/Fratres-Arvo-P%C ... B00000J84K is worth picking up as a starter as the performances are superb. Between those 3 choices you get a very good mix. You do get multiple copies of 'Fur Alina', but this is not bad as they are all different and vary in length. A little challenging at first but I find them very relaxing.

This did however send me down a path of minimalist piano composition collecting and I now have rather a lot :)

cats squirrel
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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by cats squirrel » 25 Nov 2017 00:04

I can recommend 'Spiegel im Spiegel' by Arvo Pärt, (reflections in a mirror)
https://youtu.be/hV4LlCtvgwE

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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by billshurv » 25 Nov 2017 01:17

I think that increases the choices for that piece to 5 in 3 posts :).

majerjack

Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by majerjack » 25 Nov 2017 12:55

Thanks to billshurv and cats squirrel for the links. I like what I hear in the music of Part. It may be minimalist and repetitive, but it is not the busy repetitive minimalism of a composer such as Phillip Glass. Part leaves much space between the notes, with long melodic lines buoyed by tranquil arpeggios, and the ear is allowed to savor each note. It is interesting to me that a number of comments I have read by a variety of musicians have laid stress upon the space between the notes, and it seems that Part focuses his attention there as well. For me, it seems that he is concerned with texture more so than structure (I hope that sounds coherent to others). "Spiegel im Spiegel" to my ears is reminiscent of Beethoven's "Heiliger Dankgesang" from his Quartet #15 in A minor (Opus 132).

I welcome recommendations for CD recordings of classical art music. I actually prefer a well-recorded CD to vinyl for this kind of music.

billshurv
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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by billshurv » 25 Nov 2017 22:05

Glad you like them. I know what you mean about the 'arpeggio hell' of some of Glass' compositions.

If you want more ideas have a look here http://www.jeroenvanveen.com/cd/index.html I have way too much of his disography, mainly because the brilliant classics box sets are so affordable :)

readargos
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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by readargos » 27 Nov 2017 18:20

I revisited "Bram Stoker's Dracula" a few years ago on a special edition Blu-ray release. I was captivated by the score. I can't remember if it was on the director's commentary or one of the features, but Coppola talked about being led to Poland in his search for a composer, where the composition of classical music is still taken quite seriously. Wojciech Kila wrote the score.

Around the same time, I also watched Kubrick's "The Shining" after reading the King novel. I was again captivated by the score, and was not too surprised to learn that much of it had been selected from the works of another Polish composure, Krzysztof Penderecki (with some scoring by Wendy Carlos). Kubrick could be praised for his allegiance to classical music in his movies. How many listeners have been exposed to "Thus Spake Zarathustra" thanks to "2001" or Beethoven via "Clockwork Orange"?

A few years before that, I had picked up the recording of Górecki's Symphony 3 (David Zinman and the London Sinfonietta) after reading the Krell Evolution 505 SACD player review in Stereophile.

So, yes, I think a lot of good music is coming out of Eastern Europe. I have yet to explore Part's work.

Also off the beaten path is Asian composer Tan Dun. He is perhaps best known for scoring "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." The whole CD is demonstration quality, except maybe the obligatory pop song at the end. (It was issued on vinyl in the past year or two, but I have not bought the LP.) His "Symphony 1999" is a nice, eclectic work that holds together well, and the CD is also of demonstration quality. Both feature some staggering hits on Kodo drums for show-stopping demos, as well as plenty of subtle moments that will resolve how much touch, texture, and force a system can convey.

readargos
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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by readargos » 27 Nov 2017 18:23

As for the plight of classical of music? I attend both the opera and symphony in Chicago. I am always pleased to see so many young faces at the symphony, despite the seats being generally more expensive than the opera. Unfortunately, the opera population seems largely geriatric. Upper balcony opera seats can be had much cheaper that the symphony, but the chairs are small, and it is hard to sit comfortably for the performances. I also find the temperature tends to be too warm, such that if one likes to dress nicely (or even merely appropriate to the weather in Chicago winters), layers often need to be removed so as not to sweat through the performance. The Lyric has spent a fortune in recent years on fancy computer-controlled light projectors that cast images of flames, water, etc. on the the stage, as well as giant turntables that allow the entire stage to pivot, or parts of the stage to elevate. The productions are usually a feast for the eyes, and yet none of these tools (I hesitate to call them "gimmicks") has attracted younger audiences. I also attend the opera on a weeknight, and it is challenging to sit through 3 hours of opera after working all day. Especially with a longer production, like the recent "Die Walkure", a certain portion of the audience leaves at the first intermission, and another at the second intermission. Often this has to do with catching certain trains to the suburbs, but it seems the opera is often as much a test of audience stamina as it is the singers'.

I remember hearing Mahler's 1st at the CSO a few years ago. This is a longer work, though not as long as other Mahler (or Bruckner) compositions. It was performed after an short intermission. It was the Orchestra's last performance for the season. The playing was so tight, and the tension and attentiveness among the audience palpable. Everyone was spellbound. I seem not to experience those moments of complete audience captivation at the opera as much as at the symphony.

I typically attend the opera on weeknights, and the symphony on weekends, so maybe the populations would differ if I reversed the nights?

majerjack

Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by majerjack » 28 Nov 2017 00:05

Excellent posts from readargos. It is interesting to me that you mention Stanley Kubrick and his use of music in his films. I remember as a young man sitting up close in a Cinemascope wide-screen theater watching the scene in "2001: A Space Odyssey" where Keir Dullea's space pod is caught in the grip of the mysterious force of the monolith and the viewer is taken on a psychedelic sleigh ride (no---I have never used drukqs) while Ligeti's "Lux Aeterna" blasts out at maximum volume. I bought recordings of Ligeti's music based upon that exposure. If more film makers used selections from the classics, perhaps knowledge of this music would grow.

Also interesting to me is your mention of opera. I personally do not care for the operatic voice. This is my take: opera evolved in a time when theater and audience sizes were increasing and the need to project the voice to more and more listeners arose. Since there were no microphones or PA systems, certain vocal techniques were devised to make the voice stand out from the accompaniment. This results in odd formants and vowel sounds and a fearsome, sometimes terrifying vibrato. I have never heard a musically satisfying performance of the vocal quartet in the finale of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony because of the un-reined caterwauling of the operatic soprano that is generally used. For me there are other obstacles to enjoying opera, one of which, the length of some of them, you have already mentioned, but I will not go into them at this time.

Funny that you mention Mahler's First Symphony. I heard it on the radio earlier today while driving in my car. It is one of my favorites, and I have it on CD performed by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra led by Georg Solti. All in all, I think Solti is my favorite conductor, especially in Mahler and Beethoven. I would have loved to hear him conduct Mahler with the CSO in Orchestra Hall.

Of course, the CSO is a pretty good band, even without Solti.

billshurv
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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by billshurv » 28 Nov 2017 00:17

I only managed to visit CSO once when I lived in Chicago, but it was a very nice experience. Chicago is a good city for music. Or was in the 90s.

majerjack

Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by majerjack » 28 Nov 2017 01:40

In the interest of accuracy, I believe I have mistaken the piece by Ligeti used in the "2001" sequence I mentioned above. I think the piece that I heard is a portion of his "Requiem". It was many years ago that I saw that film.

readargos
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Re: Whither Classical Music?

Post by readargos » 28 Nov 2017 18:40

Chicago still is a good city for music. Jazz fest is free every year on Labor Day Weekend, though the music is amplified. Some of the CSO performances are free or low-cost at outdoor venues, though again, the music is amplified. It can sound very good, but it's not quite like hearing it in the hall. There are still a number of live jazz and blues venues, as well.

The Lyric and CSO have gotten more expensive. Buying a season pass at the Lyric is still affordable for 8 operas (it used to be just over $100 for all 8, but has risen to about $184 this year - still, "only" $23 per opera), but the CSO, I think, is closer to $40-$50 even for the cheapest seat options.

Opera is more of an acquired taste, even for lovers of classical music. Speaking of the use of classical music in movies, I have tired of hearing Nessun Dorma, which seems to appear in any movie or TV show these days where they are trying to show class or sophistication. It might be more sophisticated if the most overplayed selection were not chosen again and again.

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