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.

2 comments:

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!