Monday, August 17, 2015

Hot New Release in Classical

I just got an email from Amazon announcing "Hot New Releases in Classical" and, apart from the usual suspects, Andrea Bocelli and so forth, there was one odd one:


Ho-hum, I mumbled to myself, $22, not such a great deal. But wait a minute! 10CDs? Here's what you get:
Well, that's a horse of a different colour, isn't it? I think I owned a couple of these on vinyl way back. This is an excellent cross-section of the high modernist phase of 20th century music. I suspect these discs mostly came out in the 60s and 70s and because of that, there is a dated look to the repertoire: Takemitsu but no Reich, Crumb but no Pärt, Boulez but no Glass. But for $22, how could you lose? And besides, this is the perfect repertoire to terrify your neighbours with.

Anyway, I ordered it. But here is a question for my learnéd commentariat: how many of these pieces will be considered masterworks 50 years from now? Ives? Maybe. Stravinsky, certainly, but probably not Agon. Haubenstock-Ramati, Nono, Maderna, Ussachevsky, Ichiyanagi? Likely not. I even have some serious doubts that people like Cage, Babbitt and Xenakis will be listened to very much, except as curiosities.

Here, as an example, is Fontana Mix by John Cage:


4 comments:

Rickard Dahl said...

Personally I wouldn't buy a CD with post WWII modernist music since it's for the most part uninteresting aesthetically speaking. Of course the advantage in this case is that it's only 22 USD. However it's a bit misleading title. Lets for a moment assume that these actually are masterpieces of the 20th century: It is a list of masterpieces that is very skewed in favor of late modernism. There's no Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Gershwin or even Schoenberg on that list for instance.

Rickard Dahl said...

Also, since you've mentioned it: I approach composers as Cage, Stockhausen, Boulez etc. more as a curiosity rather than serious listening. I think a good example of this is the video of John Cage performing Water Walk at a TV show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SSulycqZH-U

Bryan Townsend said...

The composers you mention are from the generation before the Second World War. The ones in this collection are from after the war. And yes, I am not of their tribe in terms of either ideology or method. But I want to have this quite interesting collection on my shelf for a number of reasons: for reference, for curiosity (as there are a number of works I am not familiar with), for completeness (as I have little from these composers at present) and because among these unpromising and uncompromising pieces there may be one of real value. Or not, but I won't know until I listen.

Bryan Townsend said...

The weird thing about Fontana Mix is how closely it resembles Revolution No. 9 from The White Album by the Beatles...