I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Clearing the "first time" barrier

This (above) could be yours

Satisfy me with a substitute for the ghastly word “classical” (as in music) and I’ll send Cosi Fan Tutte (Colin Davis, Janet Baker, Caballé, Gedda) to your home address. Warning: this is far harder than it looks.

Length often makes new “classical” (Ugh!) music hard to react to, hard to absorb. Yesterday I faced two firsts. But what is new? I’d never heard Handel’s opera Rodelinda but I have seen his Xerxes and Theodora and Messiah amply demonstrates his orchestral techniques and vocal sympathies.

Rodelinda, one of 40 GFH operas, is too long (arrive: 5.30 pm, depart 9.50 pm) and isn’t as well paced – or as universal – as lengthier Wagner. Arias repeat themselves several times. The one hit Dove sei was sung by Andreas Scholl the counter-tenor (ie, a vocal range usually taken by women), there’s one duet and a brief ensemble. Otherwise all solos. NY Met cast irreproachable. Two long-line solos by Renée Fleming almost tickled my tear-ducts. An absolute novice could have embraced it but might have been bored.

What about the other new piece? - Janacek’s concertino for two violins, viola, piano, horn and clarinet? Reflect on that curious combination. What does it sound like? Very spare, percussive piano, assertive horn, but recognisably a melody, not aggressively dissonant. Best of all it hangs together unlike some more fragmented modern stuff. But then Janacek (1854 – 1928) is not exactly modern. Second time around I reckon I could hum the first movement theme; hey, just picked it out on the keyboard.

Stuck with Gesualdo and the liturgical stuff? Try http://youtu.be/G8LZbM0Px38 and move forward four hundred years. Thanks Julia


  1. "Formal" or "formal-composition"?

  2. Sir Hugh: Formal has some unfortunate side meanings: rigidly ceremonious, prim, solemn, official, learned. And even the primary meaning (Following established form, custom, rule or convention) suggests an unhealthy form of restriction. Given that such music has the ability to thrill, transform, charm, etc, etc, the new word will probably be the result of a more lateral act of imagination.

  3. Transformative. Or, to parrot Sir Hugh, transformative compositions.

    Hardly original, I know.

  4. How about breaking them down into century or period and type, eg. "18th Century opera" as a way of avoiding this to-you hateful word? I'd say it woud be hard to replace the all-encompassing 'classical'. Then there are the non-classical forms like folk music. Is liturgical music only classical? What about Negro spirituals? The mind boggles....

  5. All: How about snob?

    The Crow: All music aspires to be transformative, so this is insufficient distinction.

    M-L: The mind is supposed to boggle. The post warned about the difficulties. I'm looking for a single word.

    The Crow: You must remember, I am now the ancient of days. My mind works slowly. You're a jump ahead.

  6. I have been thinking a lot about "classical". It seems to me that we have unfortunately got used to the term which is rather loose and vague. A lot, meanwhile, has accrued to it. Hence the difficulty of replacing it. First what is usually meant by it? In some senses classical means old and established and suggests that certain structural and technical rules should be followed. In another sense it suggests qualities of complexity and depth which are perhaps excluded from categories like jazz, pop, rock or punk etc. So that it doesn't have to be old, just established. Or does it? What of Stockhausen? Harrison Birtwhistle? Whether you like them or not, are they allowed in the canon which includes "classical" or its replacment? Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, fine. But what of Gershwin? Schubert, yes. But what of Lennon and McCartney?
    It strikes me therefore that you need perhaps something which suggests a scale, index or spectrum. Instead of classical, then, perhaps "high" or "deep spectrum" music. You have of course to avoid musical terms because of possible confusion of meaning. "Deep" seems to me to be a good place to begin but it needs a qualifying word. Say, to take up Sir Hugh's suggestion, "deep form" or deep composition. Just to keep the pot boiling!

  7. Plutarch: I'm against anything that attempts to suggest that "classical" (and I fear I'm stuck with the quotes) is superior to any other form of music. That's why I like Sir Hugh's more recent suggestion of Posh - a deliberate inversion of the superiority idea. Given that you've urged me into a wider, more lateral approach to the novel's title, how about Mozart music? Yes, "deep" has potential but needs something adding - deep pan, perhaps?

  8. How about pantheonic music, the music of the heroes, of all the gods?

  9. Janacek! Now there's a name I haven't heard in ages. I quite liked his "In the Mists" when I was in high school. What a cascade of piano! Found it on you tube ... thank you for bringing it back for me.

  10. I thought about this when you asked about classical trumpet music and I answered with Copland. That was an easy question to answer, this one is tougher. To answer, perhaps it would be useful to identify what we think is not classical. After whittling the list down quite a lot, I'd say music that's improvised and not written down. Anything else you can think of?

  11. Of course the music in musical comedies is written down. Sigh. I'd guess the answer is unsatisfying for a cataloger - there's no set pattern, but you know it when you hear it.