Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Update on the Guardian's Symphony guide

Tom Service keeps plugging away, writing articles on different symphonies about once a week. So far he has covered:

  • Beethoven No. 5
  • Shostakovich No. 15
  • Mozart No. 38, "Prague"
  • Elgar No. 2
  • Haydn No. 6, "Le matin"
Pretty good choices, though I cannot make sense of the order unless the idea is "jumping around randomly". I will have to try to get into the Elgar, but my first impression was that it was everything I disliked about late romantic style. Just tried again--nope, I seem to be allergic to it. Frankly, it sounds like a parody of bad Brahms in British style.

But the most recent guide is on one I have already covered: the Symphony No. 6, "Le matin" by Haydn. Here is the link. And here is the link to my post, if you want to compare.


Rickard Dahl said...

What do you dislike about the late romantic style? Personally I love the late romantic nationalistic music, for example Sibelius, Nielsen, Grieg, Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Ralph Vaughan Williams and so on. I don't like Brahms, R. Strauss or Mahler as much though.

Bryan Townsend said...

I don't dislike any style, era or genre as a whole, but I suppose I am a bit selective with the late romantics. I used to really enjoy Mahler symphonies, but that was twenty or thirty years ago. Now I find them very hard to listen to as they sound like one anxiety attack after another. On the other hand, I love Sibelius. Nielsen I feel fairly neutral about. Bruckner I can tolerate better than Mahler. Rimsky-Korsakov is colorful and delightful. Borodin I enjoy, and of course, Mussorgsky. Ralph Vaughan Williams I have never been attracted to. Brahms is obviously fine music, but most of it I find a bit tedious. Dvorak is enjoyable. But there is something about that Elgar symphony that rubs me the wrong way from the very first phrase! I just tried a different recording and it is not as tiresome (Colin Davis). But what I feel is that the music begins with the piled up sonorities of a climax--at the beginning! Where is there to go? I don't enjoy long-winded, tedious pomposity and everything about the opening of this symphony signals that that is what we are going to experience.

There is a funny story about Britten. Apparently he used to read through all the piano music of Brahms every year just to remind himself how bad it was!