Discussion:
More Musical Blind Spots
(too old to reply)
John Gavin
2003-12-11 17:05:46 UTC
Permalink
Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
among my favorite composers.

The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.

The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better -
perhaps because some great pianists have recorded it. #5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.

Other SS that I know is the famous Organ Symphony, it's OK and the
Violin Sonata #1 which Heifetz makes tolerable.

So, what if any Saint Saens works might make me believe that he was
more than a prolific but rather empty composer? Are his operas any
better?
Dan Koren
2003-12-11 17:42:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Gavin
Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
among my favorite composers.
The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.
The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better -
perhaps because some great pianists have recorded it. #5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.
Other SS that I know is the famous Organ Symphony, it's OK and the
Violin Sonata #1 which Heifetz makes tolerable.
So, what if any Saint Saens works might make me believe that he was
more than a prolific but rather empty composer? Are his operas any
better?
You need to hear some really good performances.

Say, the PC#5 by Richter, or the PC#2 by Gilels.

But maybe SS is simply not your cup of tea.



dk
Van Eyes
2003-12-11 17:52:47 UTC
Permalink
....the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure schlock....The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better....#5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.
Other SS that I know is the famous Organ Symphony, it's OK and the
Violin Sonata #1 which Heifetz makes tolerable.
So, what if any Saint Saens works might make me believe that he was
more than a prolific but rather empty composer? Are his operas any
better?
Symphonies (Complete) w. Martinon (EMI Rouge et Noir)
Symphony 3 w. Dutoit (Eloquence)
Works for Cello w. Lidstrom & Forsberg (Hyperion)

I share much of your PC displeasure.


Regards
--
Posted via Mailgate.ORG Server - http://www.Mailgate.ORG
Andrew T. Kay
2003-12-11 18:27:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Gavin
The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.
I don't know what to say to that, except that I love that concerto and don't
share your reaction. I think it's clever, engaging, colorful, technically
well-worked-out music, which is what I always hear from him at his best. I'd
also include in that list the first violin sonata, the "Organ" symphony, and
the wonderful septet, as well as some miniatures like his lovely "Prayer" for
organ and cello that I discovered via one of the Isserlis discs.
Post by John Gavin
So, what if any Saint Saens works might make me believe that he was
more than a prolific but rather empty composer?
He might just not be your thing -- in fact, I strongly suspect such -- but you
could try the septet (for strings, trumpet, and piano). You didn't comment on
it but you probably have heard and made up your mind already about the B-minor
violin concerto, which is the best and most widely known of the three.
Post by John Gavin
Are his operas any
better?
Oh God, no. Well, not _Samson et Dalila_ anyway -- it has all his vices and
none of the virtues. Now *that* I detest. "Israël! Romps ta châine!" is just
about the most ghastly tenor solo I know -- the first time I heard it, it made
me think of a pig rolling and kicking around in slop. Then, to my horror, the
chorus took up the tune and I had to hear it a second time, louder. There are
good dramatic opportunities for the leads, I suppose, but overall I find it a
pretentious and leaden bore, and its persistence in the repertory is a mystery
to me.

I would not be surprised if, as some of his biographers have suggested, he
wrote several musically superior operas (in fact, I'd be surprised if he
hadn't) that are obscure, but this is the only one I know complete. It doesn't
make hearing the others a top priority.

--Todd K
Raymond Hall
2003-12-11 20:30:41 UTC
Permalink
"John Gavin" <***@comcast.net> wrote in message news:***@posting.google.com...
| Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
| for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
| composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
| among my favorite composers.
|
| The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
| included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I

Maybe you need to hear the piano concertos played by others. I first knew
them played by Ciccolini, on LP, but Collard/Previn on an EMI Forte covers
them all for me. Included is the Wedding Cake valse and the Africa
Fantaisie.

They are really late Romantic pieces of the typical Romantic schlock, but
then that is half the reason they are such fun, and more updated fun at
that. Collard is an excellent pianist for this repertoire. The 3rd symphony
is a blast, if played with the right amount of momentum, and the sound is
good.

Regards,

# http://www.users.bigpond.com/hallraylily/index.html
See You Tamara (Ozzy Osbourne)

Ray, Taree, NSW
Raymond Hall
2003-12-11 21:09:38 UTC
Permalink
"John Gavin" <***@comcast.net> wrote in message news:***@posting.google.com...
| Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
| for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
| composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
| among my favorite composers.

Another point I forgot to make. For some weird reason Nos.2 and 4 are the
most popular in terms of pianists recording them, but the 4th does have its
tacky side. No.1 is a far better concerto imo. Fact is, I'd take Nos.1, 3
and 5, over the even numbered concertos anyday of the week.

Saint-Saens is an ODD composer for his pcs, just as Beethoven is an EVEN one
for his symphonies.
<g>

Regards,

# http://www.users.bigpond.com/hallraylily/index.html
See You Tamara (Ozzy Osbourne)

Ray, Taree, NSW
Mazzolata
2003-12-11 21:40:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Raymond Hall
Another point I forgot to make. For some weird reason Nos.2 and 4 are the
most popular in terms of pianists recording them, but the 4th does have its
tacky side. No.1 is a far better concerto imo. Fact is, I'd take Nos.1, 3
and 5, over the even numbered concertos anyday of the week.
Saint-Saens is an ODD composer for his pcs, just as Beethoven is an EVEN one
for his symphonies.
Wow, you have an unusual view of Beethoven (but then, I think I already
knew that).
--
------------------------------------------------------------------

Got to get behind the mule
in the morning and plow
Raymond Hall
2003-12-11 21:42:54 UTC
Permalink
"Mazzolata" <***@hotmail.com> wrote in message news:***@hotmail.com...
| Raymond Hall wrote:
|
| > Another point I forgot to make. For some weird reason Nos.2 and 4 are
the
| > most popular in terms of pianists recording them, but the 4th does have
its
| > tacky side. No.1 is a far better concerto imo. Fact is, I'd take Nos.1,
3
| > and 5, over the even numbered concertos anyday of the week.
| >
| > Saint-Saens is an ODD composer for his pcs, just as Beethoven is an EVEN
one
| > for his symphonies.
|
| Wow, you have an unusual view of Beethoven (but then, I think I already
| knew that).

I've got to rationalise the inclusion of the 3rd (Eroica) in my evens. Maybe
the 2nd prime number?

Regards,

# http://www.users.bigpond.com/hallraylily/index.html
See You Tamara (Ozzy Osbourne)

Ray, Taree, NSW
Mazzolata
2003-12-12 00:13:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Raymond Hall
| >
| > Saint-Saens is an ODD composer for his pcs, just as Beethoven is an EVEN
one
| > for his symphonies.
|
| Wow, you have an unusual view of Beethoven (but then, I think I already
| knew that).
I've got to rationalise the inclusion of the 3rd (Eroica) in my evens. Maybe
the 2nd prime number?
Personally I prefer the odds, with the 8th being the first choice among
the evens ...
--
------------------------------------------------------------------

Got to get behind the mule
in the morning and plow
David7Gable
2003-12-12 03:29:39 UTC
Permalink
Personally I prefer the odds [among the Beethoven symphonies], with the 8th
being the first choice among
the evens ...
I prefer 3, 4, and 8.

-david gable
Rick Cavalla
2003-12-12 04:16:15 UTC
Permalink
Post by David7Gable
Personally I prefer the odds [among the Beethoven symphonies], with
the 8th being the first choice among the evens ...
I prefer 3, 4, and 8.
-david gable
I am close, with 3, 4, and 5 being my top three. That being said, and this
may be sacrilege, but Beethoven's symphonies have never really been
favorites of mine. I prefer the string quartets and the piano music. For
symphonies, give me Haydn over Beethoven...

--
Rick Cavalla
***@NO.erols.SPAM.com
==========================
Ward Hardman
2003-12-11 21:41:19 UTC
Permalink
John Gavin <***@comcast.net> wrote:
: The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
: included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
: wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
: as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
: but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
: inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
: a grating, syrupy way.

Try Alfred Cortot (GPO20C, vol. 21) or Jeanne-Marie Darre (set of all 5
concerti on French EMI). The 4th concerto can be viewed as either
"grandiloquent" or "grand, eloquent." A lot depends on the attitude you
bring to the experience. Put yourself back in "la Belle Epoque" and try
to react accordingly. ;-)

--Ward Hardman

"The older I get, the more I admire and crave competence, just simple
competence, in any field from adultery to zoology."
- H.L. Mencken
Dontaitchicago
2003-12-11 23:46:08 UTC
Permalink
Subject: Re: More Musical Blind Spots
Date: 12/11/2003 3:41 PM Central Standard Time
: The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
: included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
: wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
: as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
: but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
: inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
: a grating, syrupy way.
Try Alfred Cortot (GPO20C, vol. 21) or Jeanne-Marie Darre (set of all 5
concerti on French EMI). The 4th concerto can be viewed as either
"grandiloquent" or "grand, eloquent." A lot depends on the attitude you
bring to the experience. Put yourself back in "la Belle Epoque" and try
to react accordingly. ;-)
--Ward Hardman
Yes, do try Darre's recordings of the concerti. Also the b minor violin
concerto. Coppola, Toscanini, and Munch (the last especially live) made the 3d
Symphony stunning. However, perhaps this music just isn't your thing. There's
nothing wrong with that. Nothing at all. Maybe another composer's work would be
more rewarding upon exploration.

Don Tait
deeb
2003-12-11 21:54:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Gavin
Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
among my favorite composers.
The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.
The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better -
perhaps because some great pianists have recorded it. #5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.
Other SS that I know is the famous Organ Symphony, it's OK and the
Violin Sonata #1 which Heifetz makes tolerable.
So, what if any Saint Saens works might make me believe that he was
more than a prolific but rather empty composer? Are his operas any
better?
Try his tone poems ( Phaeton etc.)

also preludes and fugues for organ.

db
Ian Pace
2003-12-11 23:49:28 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Gavin
Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
among my favorite composers.
The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.
If you think that's bad, try the 3rd!
Post by John Gavin
The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better -
perhaps because some great pianists have recorded it. #5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.
Do you think that there are many people who would realistically make great
claims for Saint-Saens music, though? The "Egyptian" concerto would have
been the most patronizing view of a non-European culture had Saint-Saens not
topped it with the "Africa" Fantasy, a piece whose very existence I worry is
hardly conducive to good race relations :)

Best,
Ian
EG
2003-12-12 02:56:55 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
Post by John Gavin
Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
among my favorite composers.
The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.
If you think that's bad, try the 3rd!
Post by John Gavin
The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better -
perhaps because some great pianists have recorded it. #5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.
Do you think that there are many people who would realistically make great
claims for Saint-Saens music, though? The "Egyptian" concerto would have
been the most patronizing view of a non-European culture had Saint-Saens not
topped it with the "Africa" Fantasy, a piece whose very existence I worry is
hardly conducive to good race relations :)
Best,
Ian
Wow! Saint-Saens is politically incorrect?! I may have been missing something.
May be there is merit in his music after all! I guess it's time to relisten.
David7Gable
2003-12-12 03:33:46 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
The "Egyptian" concerto would have
been the most patronizing view of a non-European culture
Yeah, right. If you say so. But now that you've banished him to the outer
darkness of political incorrectness, I will have to become his champion.

-david gable
Ian Pace
2003-12-12 09:50:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by David7Gable
Post by Ian Pace
The "Egyptian" concerto would have
been the most patronizing view of a non-European culture
Yeah, right. If you say so. But now that you've banished him to the outer
darkness of political incorrectness, I will have to become his champion.
I think a touch of faint irony might have been lost on you! :)

Ian
LaVirtuosa
2003-12-12 03:47:25 UTC
Permalink
It's not comfortable to play.

*****Val
Post by Ian Pace
Post by John Gavin
Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
among my favorite composers.
The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.
If you think that's bad, try the 3rd!
Post by John Gavin
The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better -
perhaps because some great pianists have recorded it. #5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.
Do you think that there are many people who would realistically make great
claims for Saint-Saens music, though? The "Egyptian" concerto would have
been the most patronizing view of a non-European culture had Saint-Saens not
topped it with the "Africa" Fantasy, a piece whose very existence I worry is
hardly conducive to good race relations :)
Best,
Ian
Ian Pace
2003-12-12 09:52:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by LaVirtuosa
It's not comfortable to play.
*****Val
You're referring to the 'Africa' fantasy? It's not comfortable in the sense
I was speaking of, but pianistically it's very comfortable. There is a
totally kitschy theme in Eb whose charm it's hard to resist, but then which
never comes back once in the rest of the piece, a bit of a shame.

Best,
Ian
Post by LaVirtuosa
Post by Ian Pace
Post by John Gavin
Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
among my favorite composers.
The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.
If you think that's bad, try the 3rd!
Post by John Gavin
The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better -
perhaps because some great pianists have recorded it. #5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.
Do you think that there are many people who would realistically make great
claims for Saint-Saens music, though? The "Egyptian" concerto would have
been the most patronizing view of a non-European culture had Saint-Saens not
topped it with the "Africa" Fantasy, a piece whose very existence I worry is
hardly conducive to good race relations :)
Best,
Ian
LaVirtuosa
2003-12-13 05:35:11 UTC
Permalink
Sorry. I was thinking of concerti and shorter works which contain
certain stretches which feel in the hand like a deflated aorta.
Nothing technically difficult, just not gratifying.

***********Val
Post by Ian Pace
Post by LaVirtuosa
It's not comfortable to play.
*****Val
You're referring to the 'Africa' fantasy? It's not comfortable in the sense
I was speaking of, but pianistically it's very comfortable. There is a
totally kitschy theme in Eb whose charm it's hard to resist, but then which
never comes back once in the rest of the piece, a bit of a shame.
Best,
Ian
Post by LaVirtuosa
Post by Ian Pace
Post by John Gavin
Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
among my favorite composers.
The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.
If you think that's bad, try the 3rd!
Post by John Gavin
The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better -
perhaps because some great pianists have recorded it. #5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.
Do you think that there are many people who would realistically make
great
Post by LaVirtuosa
Post by Ian Pace
claims for Saint-Saens music, though? The "Egyptian" concerto would
have
Post by LaVirtuosa
Post by Ian Pace
been the most patronizing view of a non-European culture had Saint-Saens
not
Post by LaVirtuosa
Post by Ian Pace
topped it with the "Africa" Fantasy, a piece whose very existence I
worry is
Post by LaVirtuosa
Post by Ian Pace
hardly conducive to good race relations :)
Best,
Ian
Gerrie Collins
2003-12-12 02:34:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by John Gavin
Continuing on the theme of an old thread - another musical blind spot
for me - the music of Saint Saens. Now, I am deeply fond of French
composers -- Faure, Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc, Messiaen - they all rank
among my favorite composers.
The other day, a bunch of friends gathered to watch a DVD which
included Entremont playing the finale of the Saint Saens 4th PC. I
wasn't simply indifferent to this music - I detest it - it strikes me
as pure scholck - it's faily rare that music puts me in a foul mood,
but this did it for me. This IMO is French music at it's worst, an
inspid, corny main theme that seems to scream out "Vive La France" in
a grating, syrupy way.
The more frequently performed PC #2 strikes me as marginally better -
perhaps because some great pianists have recorded it. #5 the
"Egyptian" sounds to me like barely charming, inconsequential fluff
and the 1st sounds like empty note spinning.
Other SS that I know is the famous Organ Symphony, it's OK and the
Violin Sonata #1 which Heifetz makes tolerable.
So, what if any Saint Saens works might make me believe that he was
more than a prolific but rather empty composer?
Try his Allegro Appassionata and Etude en forme de valse, both piano
solos (but get the latter *only played by Cortot*). Sparkling,
dynamic, idiomatic.

Gerrie C
Ward Hardman
2003-12-13 04:59:59 UTC
Permalink
John Gavin <***@comcast.net> wrote:

: So, what if any Saint Saens works might make me believe that he was
: more than a prolific but rather empty composer? Are his operas any
: better?

You might check out that Mae West movie in which she sings the duet
from "Samson and Delilah." You will never feel the same about
Saint-Saens again. ;-)

--Ward Hardman

"The older I get, the more I admire and crave competence, just simple
competence, in any field from adultery to zoology."
- H.L. Mencken
Norman Schwartz
2003-12-13 14:23:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ward Hardman
: So, what if any Saint Saens works might make me believe that he was
: more than a prolific but rather empty composer?
Piano quartet op. 41
Wayne Reimer <wrdsl@pacbell.net>
2003-12-15 07:12:01 UTC
Permalink
<...>
Post by John Gavin
So, what if any Saint Saens works might make me believe that he was
more than a prolific but rather empty composer? Are his operas any
better?
I think he took pride in being "empty", or at least defended it on aesthetic
grounds. If that's the problem you've got with his music, don't expect to find
any of it substantially different than what you've already mentioned. I love
it for the very reason you don't like it.

wr
Wayne Reimer <wrdsl@pacbell.net>
2003-12-16 08:24:57 UTC
Permalink
I've discovered another blind spot, which is the music of Michael Finnissy.
I've had his English Country Tunes for a long time, and recently went digging
around on the net, listening to samples of his stuff, and it all just sounds
like sludge. Grey, depressive, horrid sludge - although complicated, as if the
complication per se was expected to be its saving grace. Yeecch. No, it just
doesn't work for me. It sounds like a bastard son of Sorabji withdrawing from
heroin while also on a dose of bad LSD, locked in a cell with A. Petterson for
company.

I guess I just don't get what is supposed to be the redeeming value in his
stuff. I find it painful, and not in an enlightening way. Maybe it's just a
Brit thing...

wr
Ian Pace
2003-12-16 13:17:27 UTC
Permalink
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
I've discovered another blind spot, which is the music of Michael Finnissy.
I've had his English Country Tunes for a long time, and recently went digging
around on the net, listening to samples of his stuff, and it all just sounds
like sludge. Grey, depressive, horrid sludge - although complicated, as if the
complication per se was expected to be its saving grace. Yeecch. No, it just
doesn't work for me. It sounds like a bastard son of Sorabji withdrawing from
heroin while also on a dose of bad LSD, locked in a cell with A. Petterson for
company.
I guess I just don't get what is supposed to be the redeeming value in his
stuff. I find it painful, and not in an enlightening way. Maybe it's just a
Brit thing...
Finnissy is enormously prolific (well over 200 works) and also very varied.
English Country-Tunes is a relatively early work, written at the age of 31,
which almost continually inhabits extremes of expression. For all the raw
power that I certainly perceive in that music, Finnissy himself would be the
first to admit that this and other works from that period of his output are
very didactic and somewhat binary in comparison to subsequent periods of his
musical development. He has engaged with a type of moderately complex modal
polyphony in a series of works from the early 1990s (e.g. his Seven Sacred
Motets which are recorded by Voces Sacrae on Metier). Most of his work from
1980 onwards makes allusions to other musics, 'classical' or otherwise, but
in a manner that is generally oblique and 'critical'; rather than bringing
in an allusion or quasi-quotation as a type of relief, comfort from
recognition, he tends on the other hand to estrange and defamiliarize his
'objects trouve', hollowing out some of their original harmonic content and
replacing it by his own, or combining multiple materials in an Ivesian
manner. Very rarely is allusion a form of simple nostalgia, on the contrary
he is trying in musical terms to deal with what this music means in the
light of today.

If you can find a copy (not so easy nowadays), I'd look for the disc on
ETCETERA which contains his Catana, String Trio and Contretanze, especially
for the middle work.

I suppose his music is painful in a certain way, and so often deals with
quite intense and sometimes harrowing emotional states, at least to my ears.
He's hardly very typical of British composers in that sense, though. Do you
know any of the music of James Dillon or Richard Barrett? Both were at one
point associated with some type of 'school' along with Finnissy and some
others (though the similarities between any such composers has always been
overestimated); anyhow, both are 'complex' but utterly unique composers.

Best,
Ian
Wayne Reimer <wrdsl@pacbell.net>
2003-12-17 08:20:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
I've discovered another blind spot, which is the music of Michael
Finnissy.
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
I've had his English Country Tunes for a long time, and recently went
digging
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
around on the net, listening to samples of his stuff, and it all just
sounds
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
like sludge. Grey, depressive, horrid sludge - although complicated, as
if the
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
complication per se was expected to be its saving grace. Yeecch. No, it
just
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
doesn't work for me. It sounds like a bastard son of Sorabji withdrawing
from
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
heroin while also on a dose of bad LSD, locked in a cell with A. Petterson
for
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
company.
I guess I just don't get what is supposed to be the redeeming value in his
stuff. I find it painful, and not in an enlightening way. Maybe it's
just a
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
Brit thing...
Finnissy is enormously prolific (well over 200 works) and also very varied.
English Country-Tunes is a relatively early work, written at the age of 31,
which almost continually inhabits extremes of expression. For all the raw
power that I certainly perceive in that music, Finnissy himself would be the
first to admit that this and other works from that period of his output are
very didactic and somewhat binary in comparison to subsequent periods of his
musical development. He has engaged with a type of moderately complex modal
polyphony in a series of works from the early 1990s (e.g. his Seven Sacred
Motets which are recorded by Voces Sacrae on Metier). Most of his work from
1980 onwards makes allusions to other musics, 'classical' or otherwise, but
in a manner that is generally oblique and 'critical'; rather than bringing
in an allusion or quasi-quotation as a type of relief, comfort from
recognition, he tends on the other hand to estrange and defamiliarize his
'objects trouve', hollowing out some of their original harmonic content and
replacing it by his own, or combining multiple materials in an Ivesian
manner. Very rarely is allusion a form of simple nostalgia, on the contrary
he is trying in musical terms to deal with what this music means in the
light of today.
If you can find a copy (not so easy nowadays), I'd look for the disc on
ETCETERA which contains his Catana, String Trio and Contretanze, especially
for the middle work.
I suppose his music is painful in a certain way, and so often deals with
quite intense and sometimes harrowing emotional states, at least to my ears.
He's hardly very typical of British composers in that sense, though. Do you
know any of the music of James Dillon or Richard Barrett? Both were at one
point associated with some type of 'school' along with Finnissy and some
others (though the similarities between any such composers has always been
overestimated); anyhow, both are 'complex' but utterly unique composers.
Best,
Ian
Much of the Finnissy I was sampling was from the Metier website, so I was
getting stuff from different periods, some of it a bit less dreary than others,
but all of it felt oppressive to me and that's why I posted about it in the
"blind spot" thread. It is, of course, fine if that is Finnissy's expressive
mode, but it just makes me feel bad and if there's no discernable value to me,
which there isn't at this point, I'd just as soon avoid it. It's a blind spot
of mine, I think. I'm sure others must be getting something else out of it I
simply don't hear.

The other thing you probably won't understand completely, since you seem to be
a relatively young person, is that I'm really too old to be able to have
infinite patience with something that doesn't offer me an immediate sense that
there is going to be something worthwhile in exchange for my time and
attention. Life is simply too short to gamble on long shots such as the
expectation that Finnissy could ever repay my attention and time in a way I
found worthwhile. It might indeed do that eventually, but I am not going to
risk it, I don't think.

I do have your recording of Barrett's Tract - I need to listen to it more
before saying much about it, I think, but my initial impression was a positive
one. I didn't run screaming to stop the CD or find my jaw clenched with
tension or get a sudden sick headache or anything like that - it is interesting
music, I think, as is most of the rest of the music on that disc.

wr
Ian Pace
2003-12-18 01:24:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
I've discovered another blind spot, which is the music of Michael
Finnissy.
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
I've had his English Country Tunes for a long time, and recently went
digging
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
around on the net, listening to samples of his stuff, and it all just
sounds
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
like sludge. Grey, depressive, horrid sludge - although complicated, as
if the
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
complication per se was expected to be its saving grace. Yeecch. No, it
just
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
doesn't work for me. It sounds like a bastard son of Sorabji withdrawing
from
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
heroin while also on a dose of bad LSD, locked in a cell with A. Petterson
for
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
company.
I guess I just don't get what is supposed to be the redeeming value in his
stuff. I find it painful, and not in an enlightening way. Maybe it's
just a
Post by Wayne Reimer <***@pacbell.net>
Brit thing...
Finnissy is enormously prolific (well over 200 works) and also very varied.
English Country-Tunes is a relatively early work, written at the age of 31,
which almost continually inhabits extremes of expression. For all the raw
power that I certainly perceive in that music, Finnissy himself would be the
first to admit that this and other works from that period of his output are
very didactic and somewhat binary in comparison to subsequent periods of his
musical development. He has engaged with a type of moderately complex modal
polyphony in a series of works from the early 1990s (e.g. his Seven Sacred
Motets which are recorded by Voces Sacrae on Metier). Most of his work from
1980 onwards makes allusions to other musics, 'classical' or otherwise, but
in a manner that is generally oblique and 'critical'; rather than bringing
in an allusion or quasi-quotation as a type of relief, comfort from
recognition, he tends on the other hand to estrange and defamiliarize his
'objects trouve', hollowing out some of their original harmonic content and
replacing it by his own, or combining multiple materials in an Ivesian
manner. Very rarely is allusion a form of simple nostalgia, on the contrary
he is trying in musical terms to deal with what this music means in the
light of today.
If you can find a copy (not so easy nowadays), I'd look for the disc on
ETCETERA which contains his Catana, String Trio and Contretanze, especially
for the middle work.
I suppose his music is painful in a certain way, and so often deals with
quite intense and sometimes harrowing emotional states, at least to my ears.
He's hardly very typical of British composers in that sense, though. Do you
know any of the music of James Dillon or Richard Barrett? Both were at one
point associated with some type of 'school' along with Finnissy and some
others (though the similarities between any such composers has always been
overestimated); anyhow, both are 'complex' but utterly unique composers.
Best,
Ian
Much of the Finnissy I was sampling was from the Metier website, so I was
getting stuff from different periods, some of it a bit less dreary than others,
but all of it felt oppressive to me and that's why I posted about it in the
"blind spot" thread. It is, of course, fine if that is Finnissy's expressive
mode, but it just makes me feel bad and if there's no discernable value to me,
which there isn't at this point, I'd just as soon avoid it. It's a blind spot
of mine, I think. I'm sure others must be getting something else out of it I
simply don't hear.
The other thing you probably won't understand completely, since you seem to be
a relatively young person, is that I'm really too old to be able to have
infinite patience with something that doesn't offer me an immediate sense that
there is going to be something worthwhile in exchange for my time and
attention. Life is simply too short to gamble on long shots such as the
expectation that Finnissy could ever repay my attention and time in a way I
found worthwhile. It might indeed do that eventually, but I am not going to
risk it, I don't think.
Fair enough. Do give Dillon's music a try though, if you don't already know
it - in particular the disc of ignis noster and helle nacht on
Naive/Montaigne (the disc with Traumwerk, Vernal Showers, and other works on
the same label is also wonderful). In some ways he's at the opposite end of
the expressive spectrum to Barrett; where Barrett is hard-edged, inclined
towards crystalline textures and clarity of structural process, Dillon
prefers something more sumptuous, introspective, even conventionally
'beautiful' in a certain type of way, and where the musical processes are
presented more beneath than upon the surface.

Best,
Ian

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