Pollini playing Stravinsky, Prokofiev, Webern, Boulez. The Stravinsky I enjoy but the Boulez is baffling. I'd really like to get into 20th century music but it's a struggle. Does anyone have any tips please? (I have basic books about the 12 note system).
p.s. It strikes me that rhythm has been abandoned by Boulez.
'After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music'.
Aldous Huxley brainyquote.com
Hi Kev. Sorry, I wish that I did! I'd love to hear some suggestions too!
I've mostly been finding some works here and there--probably half "trial by error" and half trying out some recs from posters either here or on other forums. Sometimes I've stumbled across used or inexpensive CDs that I've come across in stores and found music that way (helps if one can sample them first before purchasing). I try and start with works which folks say are the composer's more/most "accessible" or "better" works. Sometimes, also, I find that if I give a piece of music a "breather" for awhile (in one case about 6 months) and then come back to it, something "clicks" [maybe I wasn't in the right mood the first time around?].
And I still have to check out Boulez's music so good for you! :-)
Kev, I have found one of the most approachable of Boulez's works to be the 'Rituel in Memoriam Bruno Maderna.' It certainly does not lack rhythmic interest. I've heard a lot of his music and still find the piano sonatas intractable. I once saw Pollini play the second sonata - all from memory. Quite a feat.
Kev and Petra, if you really wish to "get into" 20th century msusic, you don't have to go to the extremes (Webern) or the marginal (Boulez). There is plenty of the great and more mainstream from the beginning of the century and onwards.
Try Ravel, Faure or Poulenc from the French or R. Strauss, Hindemith and Krenek from the German side or Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Weinberg from the Russians, to start with. From your own composers, Britten, Vaugn Williams and Tippett, for example. These composers have plenty to offer in innovative or traditional music. In any case, they have contributed some memorable masterworks to the Classical realm.
Hi Parla. Perhaps I should clarify what I was referring to here and as to what I believe Kev meant (forgive me I am off here Kev!); I was thinking here of more modern music...say like from the Second Viennese School on? I do already enjoy (I'm happy to report) composers like Ravel, Faure, Poulenc, R. Strauss, Vaughan Williams (Love!), etc. I don't know Krenek (yet anyway) and think that I have one recording of Hindemith (which I have yet to listen to, sigh!). Let's see, Weinberg--don't know...um...Shostakovich and Prokofiev I am both happily exploring (so far haven't played any works which, off the top of my head, that I can say that I am totally in love with as far as Prokofiev goes, but still much, much to explore there). I enjoy a couple of works of Tippett's, but don't know much of his music. And lastly, but not leastly, I'm slowly working my way through EMI's big box of Britten's music (the "Collector's Edition one).
Kev, how are you doing with your explorations of these composers though?
But, I do thank you for your suggestions Parla and will certainly be happy to pick your brain further about these composers and their pieces! :-) Which pieces to you like by Weinberg and Krenek and how would you describe their styles?
Well personally I wouldn't choose to listen to Pollini playing anything as I consider his playing cold, soulless and emotionless but then perhaps that doesn't matter too much in the composers you mentioned. If you are looking at 20th century piano composers try some British: Ireland, Bax, Bowen and the promising William Baines (who died at 23).
If you are willing to take the time I would recommend Ligeti's Etudes as a starting point, looking at piano music of the last century. Simple wonderful music.
I would also suggest Aimard's Liszt Project disc (a two CD set) which was released late last year.Each disc presents Liszt in the context of other composers (including the very rare Wagner Piano Sonata) and there are two wondeful videos that Aimard did to accompany the set - these you can ifnd on YouTube. One caveat (to quote Sid Lowe) - the pefromance of the Liszt piano sonata is strong, but not awesome and could never be considered a first choice.
At this point I will risk the snorts of derision from the luminaries on this site but I would also make the case of John Cage, in particular the Music for Piano. I know there is the popular view that Cage was some kind of charlatan but personally I find Cage's music fascinating. Morton Feldman I find harder than Cage, to be honest, as Feldman's music takes place over huge span of time. It is experienced more than listened to...
Another fascinating work form the twnetieth century for piano is the 'Concord' Sonata by Charles Ives. You could also check out Hindemith's Ludus Tonalis or most of Bartok's output, which neatly leads back to Ligeti.
Hi Kev and Petra:
I'd go with Shotakovitch's 24 PreludesTippett's Second SonataAnd as Naupilus says , Ligeti's Etudes - always an innovative composer in my book, but approachable
Those are solo piano works, of course. Other than that, I have to say that I'm in near total agreement with Parla's list who had something to say but who weren't in-your-face radical.
Try:Shostakovitch - Symphonies 5, 8, 10 and 15Britten - Serenade for tenor, horn and strings or any of his settings of poetry (Winter Words to poems by Thomas Hardy another good one)Boulez - well, I'd give Le Marteau Sans Maitre a listen, but generally he can be difficult yes Ligeti - Atmospheres and Apparitions - and the Requiem is a classicStravinsky - The Soldier's Tale, Symphony of Psalms, Rite of Spring of course
It's difficult because the 20th C was so varied in styles.
Hi, Petra. If you consider the "Second Vienna School" as "more modern", you have to take into account that this movement took place at the beginning of the century. The only very modern, if not audacious, feature of it is the introduction of atonal and the twelve note music.
As for Krenek, he is a short of maverick of the broad German-Austrian tradition, in the last century. He tried practically most of the styles of the century, starting from the late-Romantic style, passing from atonality to neo-classical, a bit of Jazz reaching even the serial music idiom. I believe his Symphonies, most of his String Quartets and some of his Piano Music and, if you can stand some of his Lieder, are worthwhile (most of the quite reliable recordings of Krenek's works come from the German CPO). Avoid the Operas.
Weinberg is a major but, unfortunately, neglected and underrated composer of the Russian tradition. For me (and not only), he should be along the great Shostakovich and the unique Prokofiev. He was a quite prolific composer (about twenty Symphonies and String Quartets), quite a few Chamber works and a good deal of Piano Works. There is an increased discography of his works. You may try some of his Symphonies (the latest recordings on Chandos are superb), definitely his Piano Quintet and some of the Violin and Cello Sonatas (there are some brilliant recordings on Praga Digitals) and, of course a selective works of his Piano Music (very recently, the Grand Piano label issued two volumes of his Piano works).
[Sometimes, also, I find that if I give a piece of music a "breather" for awhile (in one case about 6 months) and then come back to it, something "clicks" [maybe I wasn't in the right mood the first time around?].
Hi Petra - thanks for joining us - your perspective is already giving me food for thought. Mood is a key issue for me as I can wake up euphoric on the morning and be depressed/anxious later in the day and of course, I use music to try and change my mood. I've noticed that my tolerance for 'challenging' music is best early in the day but by the evening, I usually want to bathe in something cosy.
I decided last year that my listening habits were in a rut and needed an overhall. I wish I could say that I devised a worthy plan but often, I would end up listening something written about here or in Gramophone or BBC Radio 3. More to follow.
c chris, parla, 33lp, naupilus, partsong, many thanks. I'm going to need a listening plan. Should I listen to your suggestions in alphabetical order, chronologically or chaotically? I'm in your hands.
Pollini - I know that I prefer Murray Perahia to Glenn Gould (based on the Goldberg Variations) but have yet to form an opinion about Pollini and the other pianists in the Hall of Fame...work in progress.
Pollini certainly divides opinion (there was correspondence in International Piano Magazine some years ago with diametrically opposing views). I wouldn't put him anywhere near the Hall of Fame let alone in it, but I think Bryce Morrison likes him and will be responsible for his inclusion along with Argerich who for some reason Morrison thinks is the greatest living pianist despite a very limited repertoire and no Beethoven. I would not deny they both have dazzling technique, and if that's all one wants from a pianist, fine: I happen to want some understanding of the music too. Compare with Murray Perahia and it's no contest let alone the great interpreters of the past such as Schnabel, still the greatest interpreter of Beethoven.
Sorry, I should have said "more modern-sounding" and explained myself further...had a feeling that one would come back to bite me but was too lazy and busy doing chores to want to edit that further! Also, I had hoped that you would read between the lines a bit better as to what I had meant and not had taken it quite so literally! LOL Oh, well! What I had been "hinting at" was that there is quite a bit of contemporary music that I either have a) still to explore and/or b) what I've heard has been so "different" [it could be atonal or 12-tone, etc., etc.] that it has either left me scratching my head in bewilderment, dismay, feeling unsatisfied, ....and so on...
Anyway, thank you so much for your further musical suggestions and your taking the time to tell me more about those composers. I appreciate it!
Off now to listen to a newly acquired CD of a few of Holmboe's symphonies.
Hi Mark! Thank you for your further suggestions. I have and enjoy "the Rite" but don't believe that I've heard his other works that you had listed...will have to do some digging (once I can get my chores done today! Ugh! LOL).
Still lots of Britten to work my way through in that EMI set. I'll look into that Tippett work...thanks!