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Astonishing Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto


Stephen  Fine
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8 hours ago, Stephen Fine said:

Seriously, Bill?  Apeshit?  Yeesh.  Her body language really doesn't stand out much to me.

But, your point about listening with your eyes closed does bring up one of my favorite studies from a couple years ago.  I think I've mentioned it before.  

Two audiences, experts and laypeople were given the finals of a piano competition to view... and now I need to go reread it because I can't quite remember the exact data... but it was something like, both the experts and the laypeople were better able to predict the winner of the competition by viewing video rather than listening to the sound.  Obviously, if it's the finals of an international competition, the level is already very high and the "winner" is subjective, but I think this data shows us not that competitions are "even more subjective than we thought" but that the visual element of live performance is extremely important in live music, to a much higher degree than is ever emphasized in music school.

 

I wanted to address whomever was asking about why there wasn't opera in Germany...

Parallel to the Miracle Play-->Opera/Oratorio evolution in Italy, there were similar musical evolutions occurring in other European nations.

The first operas come out of Florence right around 1600... Dafne (1597) and L'Orfeo (1607), for example.

By 1627, Dafne was redone in German with music by Schütz, and Staden's Seelewig survives from 1644.

I guess the question might better be posed as why German language composers chose to compose Opera instead of Singspiel.  Why was opera more popular throughout Europe than the native language versions of the same material.  Sure, Mozart eventually gives us Die Entführung aus dem Serail in 1782 (I guess we can ignore Bastien und Bastienne from 1768?) but why was he composing on Italian librettos for German audiences?  Well, for one thing, he spoke Italian and so did the German nobility commissioning his works. Just as now, there are fads.  The difference is that now they move with the speed of the internet.  It could take years or decades for new fashions to rise and fall in the 17th and 18th centuries.

I guess we might also ask why the French Court Dances were the rage throughout all of Europe?  Why is Bach composing on these French forms?  Same answer.  They were trendy.  Of course, by the time Bach was composing the Suites in 1720, the French Court Dances were already old fashioned and no longer the rage (although everyone still would've been familiar with the rhythms and steps), but they were an essential part of European culture for over a century.  (Wow!)

People who think that the music is "there on the page" and that "the composer would have written that if they wanted that" completely misunderstand what music on the page is.  It's a symbol for the live performance.  For some composers (like Bach) it could be considered a very rough outline.  Some composers (like Beethoven late in his life) will often write detailed instructions for phrasing and articulation.  But it is a symbol for a live performance, not a symbol for an ideal version in the head of a composer.

An important fact of my musical life so far is that composers enjoy interpretation.  Composers enjoy when the music comes out differently from how they hear it in their head.  I have worked with dozens of composers at this point, some students, some very very famous, I have yet to come across a nitpicker, oftentimes, when you ask composers a specific question about articulation or phrasing, they'll say, "I don't know" or "Play it how you like."  I'm sure the nitpickers are out there, but I completely reject the notion of composers rolling in their graves about this or that.  Especially the 18th and 17th Century composers who took a completely practical, utilitarian view of their music.

Excellent point and completely correct. I love the Peters edition of the Gamba sonatas and I’m constantly pointing out, to my students, all the markings in the part that would have befuddled Bach himself. 
Mozart and Haydn et al composed to order. “Write me a quartet” And they’d dutifully sit down and write a quartet. I don’t think it would’ve occurred to them to insist that it be played a certain way, because most of the time the person commissioning the piece was higher up the social ranking, and one did not interfere with the pecking order.

I read a completely absorbing article about Haydn’s D major cello concerto, Which, by the way, settled once and for all the question of who wrote it, and I mention it because the concerto was written for a person who had specific wishes in mind, and the result wasn’t necessarily what Haydn himself would’ve wanted to do. He certainly didn’t insist on a particular approach.

it is the job of the artist To make artistic judgments, and it is the job of the audience to accept or reject them.

And that activity leads to chats like we have been having for the last week or so.

:-)

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10 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Mozart and Haydn et al composed to order. “Write me a quartet” And they’d dutifully sit down and write a quartet. I don’t think it would’ve occurred to them to insist that it be played a certain way, because most of the time the person commissioning the piece was higher up the social ranking, and one did not interfere with the pecking order.

They might not've insisted but that don't mean they would not've had preferred. It surely occurred to them to insist.  Question is if they did it.  Basically, there is nothing we can make out of that and we should not try to. 

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Not only did they have preferences, but they passed them down.  Hummel and Czerny each arranged or edited many of their works, and while doing so, they listed metronome marks that were largely identical to each other.   So there was, at least a few decades after their deaths, at least one "right" way that was agreed upon by pupils and people in their circle.

 

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A perhaps extreme example of attention to conveying the composer's intentions is found in Andre Previn's memoir, No Minor Chords:

Shortly afterwards I formed a trio, together with violinist Israel Baler and cellist Edgar Lustgarten. We called ourselves the Pacific Art Trio and played concerts up and down the West Coast, for anybody who wanted us. We were all involved in film studio work, and this endeavour was a sort of life raft for the three of us. It was far from unusual for us to work throughout the day on a Tom and Jerry cartoon and then meet after supper to prepare the Ravel Trio.

One time we were planning a performance of the Shostakovich Trio, fairly new at the time. We had the typical chamber music discussion (otherwise know as a screaming argument) about the tempo of the first movement. The printed metronome markings in the score seemed arbitrary to us, and none of us believed them. I had an idea. "Let's call Shostakovich," I offered. My two colleagues laughed. "Where?" asked Eddie. "Do you happen to have his phone number?"

A few more scathing remarks back and forth, and I got on the phone in Eddie's split-level Van Nuys living room and asked for Moscow Information. It took endless time and some surreal dialogue, but I was finally put through to an English-speaking member of the League of Composers in Russia. I explained who we were and what our problem was, and by God, we were given an appointed time twenty-four hours later to put through the call, at which time an interpreter would be on an extension. So there I was the next day, with a flushed face, inquiring about metronome markings and being answered by Shostakovich, by way of an interpreter.

My conversation to Moscow went something like this: "At seventeen after A, does a quarter equal 132?"
Answer: "No no, that's wrong, read eighth not quarter, and eleven later, just before B, it should change to half equals 60."


My two trio companions were listening to all this and excitedly taking notes, when suddenly Iz Baker began to laugh uncontrollably. I waved at him in a fury, but he finally had to leave the room. When my monumental phone call came to an end, I asked him, in icy tones, just what he found so amusing.

"Think about it," he gasped. "The whole town is seething with the activities of the House Un-American Activities Committee , everybody's afraid to give any kind of opinion, obviously a phone call to Moscow is monitored by the FBI or somebody, and they will almost certainly think you were talking some kind of code."

I had happy visions of Senator McCarthy being given the new metronome markings of the Shostakovich Trio and trying to manufacture a sinister plot to overthrow Van Nuys out of it, but at the time nothing official ensued.

:)

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9 minutes ago, Violadamore said:

A perhaps extreme example of attention to conveying the composer's intentions is found in Andre Previn's memoir, No Minor Chords:

Shortly afterwards I formed a trio, together with violinist Israel Baler and cellist Edgar Lustgarten. We called ourselves the Pacific Art Trio and played concerts up and down the West Coast, for anybody who wanted us. We were all involved in film studio work, and this endeavour was a sort of life raft for the three of us. It was far from unusual for us to work throughout the day on a Tom and Jerry cartoon and then meet after supper to prepare the Ravel Trio..................

Wonderful story ! 

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On 12/1/2020 at 4:32 PM, Stephen Fine said:

1. People who think that the music is "there on the page" and that "the composer would have written that if they wanted that" completely misunderstand what music on the page is. 

2. For some composers (like Bach) it could be considered a very rough outline.  Some composers (like Beethoven late in his life) will often write detailed instructions for phrasing and articulation.  But it is a symbol for a live performance, not a symbol for an ideal version in the head of a composer.

3. An important fact of my musical life so far is that composers enjoy interpretation.  

4. Composers enjoy when the music comes out differently from how they hear it in their head.  

5. I have worked with dozens of composers at this point, some students, some very very famous, I have yet to come across a nitpicker, oftentimes, when you ask composers a specific question about articulation or phrasing, they'll say, "I don't know" or "Play it how you like."

6.  I'm sure the nitpickers are out there, but I completely reject the notion of composers rolling in their graves about this or that

7.Especially the 18th and 17th Century composers who took a completely practical, utilitarian view of their music.

1. Who's "people" ? 

2. Bach scribbled very rough outlines ? How rough ?  Must we play the actual notes or we could basically do our own thing ?

3. Which "composers" are you talking about ? A LOT of people call themselves composer. Some are institutionalized but it's difficult to catch all of them. 

4. ... and now the concept of composer has just lost any meaning. Your composers do not enjoy their composition, they enjoy hearing something else. Why bother, then ?

5. You'll have to ( eventually.... ) agree that your personal experience with the "Play it how you like" composers says nothing about Ravel. Or any other composer people are actually in the habit of systematically paying money to listen to his music. Like say, Beethoven. Or Verdi. Or Berlioz. Or many others. Tons of them. 

6. That settles it then. Thank you.  Myself, being a complete imbecile I was being influenced by the people who could conduct ALL Mahler's, Bruckner's, Beethoven's, Wagner's works by heart - people who actually knew something. Instead of taking advice from the smart asses who can't figure out which way to hold the orchestral score. 

7. Would those be Bach, Handel, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven ? Then, I believe you. It is well known ( reported on CNN ! ) that Bach used to scribble a rough outline :) of some cantata but allow ( nay, demand ! ) the musicians sing/play whatever they feel like, however they feel like. At the end they kept the scores - the paper was soft and adsorbent. As you well put it : "a completely practical, utilitarian view". And low Carbon footprint.

Thank you for your valuable insights. 

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7 hours ago, Carl Stross said:

They might not've insisted but that don't mean they would not've had preferred. It surely occurred to them to insist.  Question is if they did it.  Basically, there is nothing we can make out of that and we should not try to. 

And one of Haydn’s quartets, There is a famous margin note about a particular half step, where he insists that he played, I think as a D# rather than an E flat, Which was used as a reference and a discussion about the various tuning systems of the day. I haven’t had a chance to Study copies of Original scores, But Shaw pointed out that Mozart, for instance, put very few markings in his scores. “Mozart never used anything louder than an F, where Meyerbeer would have written, ‘con explosione.”’

Gotta love Shaw.

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3 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

And one of Haydn’s quartets, There is a famous margin note about a particular half step, where he insists that he played, I think as a D# rather than an E flat, Which was used as a reference and a discussion about the various tuning systems of the day. I haven’t had a chance to Study copies of Original scores, But Shaw pointed out that Mozart, for instance, put very few markings in his scores. “Mozart never used anything louder than an F, where Meyerbeer would have written, ‘con explosione.”’

Gotta love Shaw.

Mozart was indeed expeditious and often downright incomplete with detours into sloppy. It's interesting that in private, a lot of musicians expressed let's say "dissatisfaction with his work ethics".

Same time, Haydn was not quite a servant... But that's not something to discuss here. And now. 

 

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5 minutes ago, PhilipKT said:

That was my comment, and it was a reference to Bach’s era.

I see. Sorry, I haven't noticed it. I think there is an article on this on Wikipedia. 

Here :   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opera_in_German 

Otherwise, "Germany" is pretty recent. Or a town in China manufacturing mainly "Germany bearings".

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18 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

This is one of the longest threads I’ve ever encountered here.

I am pleased with how things have developed.

18 hours ago, PhilipKT said:

Excellent point and completely correct. I love the Peters edition of the Gamba sonatas and I’m constantly pointing out, to my students, all the markings in the part that would have befuddled Bach himself. 
Mozart and Haydn et al composed to order. “Write me a quartet” And they’d dutifully sit down and write a quartet. I don’t think it would’ve occurred to them to insist that it be played a certain way, because most of the time the person commissioning the piece was higher up the social ranking, and one did not interfere with the pecking order.

I read a completely absorbing article about Haydn’s D major cello concerto, Which, by the way, settled once and for all the question of who wrote it, and I mention it because the concerto was written for a person who had specific wishes in mind, and the result wasn’t necessarily what Haydn himself would’ve wanted to do. He certainly didn’t insist on a particular approach.

it is the job of the artist To make artistic judgments, and it is the job of the audience to accept or reject them.

And that activity leads to chats like we have been having for the last week or so.

:-)

Exactly. Thanks.

8 hours ago, Carl Stross said:

Basically, there is nothing we can make out of that and we should not try to. 

Such an unproductive and uncurious point of view, but it explains everything else you've written.

3 hours ago, Ernee said:

Not only did they have preferences, but they passed them down.  Hummel and Czerny each arranged or edited many of their works, and while doing so, they listed metronome marks that were largely identical to each other.   So there was, at least a few decades after their deaths, at least one "right" way that was agreed upon by pupils and people in their circle.

I am certain that, just as today, tempo in performance must depend on the players present and the space you're performing in.

Historical Metronome markings are useful just like hearing from a living composer is useful, which is to say, very. But metronome markings are just the very beginning of interpretation.  And any piece performed metronomically is performed poorly (unless it's Glass or whatever).

I strongly believe in the idea of an aural tradition.  But... some difficult works can take decades of performances before the work is fully understood enough to give great performances.

2 hours ago, Violadamore said:

A perhaps extreme example of attention to conveying the composer's intentions is found in Andre Previn's memoir, No Minor Chords:

 

Such a good story!  I'm curious what music you're playing.  I'm sure you're aware that most fingerings, bowings, and dynamics in your editions of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Handel, Haydn are not original to the composer.  In fact, the existence of multiple editions is a large part of what I mean by "rough outline."  The composer gives us the notes and a general sense of the character, and then we have to execute it as best we can with fingerings and bowings and dynamics and phrasing and rubato and vibrato, etc. . . 

 

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1 hour ago, Carl Stross said:

Mozart was indeed expeditious and often downright incomplete with detours into sloppy. It's interesting that in private, a lot of musicians expressed let's say "dissatisfaction with his work ethics".

Same time, Haydn was not quite a servant... But that's not something to discuss here. And now. 

 

Oh, what’s another hundred comments or so? I’m not sure how you mean your comment that “Haydn was not quite a servant” He certainly was independent when it came to music, but in his attitude and his upbringing in his mindset, he was very much in tune(No pun intended) with his time. he specifically said once That although he was entertained by royalty he preferred to keep with people of his own station, and that is certainly something that Beethoven would have never said.

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1 hour ago, Carl Stross said:

I see. Sorry, I haven't noticed it. I think there is an article on this on Wikipedia. 

Here :   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opera_in_German 

Otherwise, "Germany" is pretty recent. Or a town in China manufacturing mainly "Germany bearings".

Well, it goes without saying that before 1871 there wasn’t a Germany, but of course all of us folks in the United States kind of lump everybody together, so although the Austrians are perpetually annoyed when we refer to Haydn, for instance, as German, The habit does remain.

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Just now, PhilipKT said:

Well, it goes without saying that before 1871 there wasn’t a Germany, but of course all of us folks in the United States kind of lump everybody together, so although the Austrians are perpetually annoyed when we refer to Haydn, for instance, as German, The habit does remain.

1871 is a bit much. 1815 ( or whereabouts ) would do. Laurin Maazel had a very interesting theory on the musical confluence between Hungary, Italy and Austria. I'll try write it down one day if I remember some details. 

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3 minutes ago, Carl Stross said:

 

You think Karajan .... speculates ?  Are you ill ?  

Carl the point is that no one living can know exactly what Beethoven wants because Beethoven hasn’t been around to explain since 1827. So of COURSE we have to speculate.

we have some rough guides, metronome markings, historical guidance and the like, but ultimately we have to do what we THINK and not what we KNOW. And that’s ok.

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