Wednesday, March 20, 2013

De gustibus non est disputandum

One of my most important commentors, composer and pianist Nathan Shirley, took me to task the other day for failing to sufficiently appreciate Sergei Prokofiev. I said that a lot of his music "left me cold" and that he was a "pretty good composer" but not a very great one. Nathan said, among other things, that
Prokofiev was not only one of the greatest composers ever, but also THE greatest of the 20th century. Stravinsky is a close 2nd, but his output was much less consistent (especially after moving to the United States). Shostakovich and Bartok I would jointly award 3rd place.
None of the 20th century composers could touch Prokofiev's melodies. He is truly the Tchaikovsky of the 20th century.
I was originally just thinking of doing a fresh evaluation of Prokofiev based on Nathan's points, but since this is The Music Salon, I think we can do better. Let's look, not only at Prokofiev, but also at the whole problem of aesthetic disagreement. The old Latin phrase goes "de gustibus non est disputandum" and there is some truth there, but I think that both Nathan and I think that there is also some objective truth in aesthetics as well. So let's try to find some!

Unfortunately, this will take some time to work out, so I'm afraid I won't be able to get to it today! Most sorry. But tune in next time. In the meantime, some Prokofiev that Nathan was kind enough to send:

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