Greatest Orchestrators.....

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janeeliotgardiner wrote:

janeeliotgardiner wrote:

 

pgraber wrote:

 

Yes, Richard Strauss is well worth a mention in this context. Perhaps an even better orchestrator than he was a composer (and actually I rate him pretty highly in that regard). Parla is right to nominate Ravel. Wagner wasn't bad, and come to that, nor was Puccini......

 

 

I've seen this before about Strauss......and never really understood it. Is there really any question about his greatness? The operas, the tone poems, the lieder, the later stuff (metamorphosen etc)......If he isn't great, what's the underlying criticism?

 

I'm not the best person to answer, but Strauss may have started it himself by saying "I may not be a first rate composer, but I am a first class second rate composer". I like him a lot, but is there a grain of truth in this? Or is just snobbishness to say his pictorial tone poems are a lower art form than a 'proper' symphony?

I think you might be right

I think you might be right about the supposedly "pictorial" nature of his works. The implication is that they are all surface - all glitz and glitter; no depth or profundity. I don't think it is true, but that's another argument.

I've also heard it said he was just a Wagner rip off.

In addition - I am thinking of a discussion I have read on other forums - you still get hard-line Mahlerites who have taken Alma's unflattering view on him to heart. (If you haven't read it, she repeately made him out to be a shallow, self-regarding fool.) 

Finally, there are those who feel as if they have to belittle his works because of his connection to the Nazis. (I've seen this a lot on Slippeddisc........)

janeeliotgardiner wrote:

janeeliotgardiner wrote:

I am pretty sure he orchestrated after writing a short score. (Harnoncourt, in his lecture added to his recording of the Ninth, claims Bruckner actually finished "composing" the Ninth, but didn't finish "instrumentating" it. The finished composition was then looted by various people after his death. The manuscript pages, taken to be nothing but doodles and sketches, were spread across the globe........)

 

May not be the globe, but spread nevertheless:

http://artsbeat.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/01/and-the-band-played-on-at-c...

 

The original program (Bruckner, para. 3):

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/05/arts/music/05dudamel.html?module=Searc...

Overlooked?

Jane,

Obviously Percy Grainger. I've always believed Camille Saint-Saëns to be overlooked in this area (also as a composer) and Debussy was no slouch either.

goofyfoot

Orchestration and orchestrators.

Well, first we have to see whether we may agree on what is a good orchestration. One of the most appropriate definition-advice given to me was the following: the perfect blend of the musical material with the instruments used.

The above definition leads to various ways of instrumentation where a lean and intimate use of instruments (Debussy's Pavane) can perfectly serve the musical ideas as well as a thick and grandiose can serve respective subjects of inspiration (Wagner's works).

In some more "narrow" definitions, we encounter the notion of the best possible use of the instruments of the period concerned (Baroque, Classical, Romantic etc.) by the composer for his works. In this regard, Rameau was a perfect orchestrator of his time, whether his works needed the orchestration used or not.

Going to specific composers already mentioned by Jane, I could have to say:

- Berlioz is the trademark of the effective orchestration beyond even the musical material used. Sometimes, his skills lead him to go a bit over the top (the "noise"), but always brilliantly.

- Mahler definitely was a great orchestrator, but, not rarely, resulted in  excessive results, on account of unusually (even for today's standards) large orchestral forces. His best results in orchestration perfectly fit to the musical material may be found in his 4th Symphony and most of his Songs, including "Das Lied von der Erde".

- Wagner was the true revolutionary and great orchestrator in terms of using, in the most effective way, the orchestration for serving his ideas and musical concept of his works.

- Mozart was the one of the best orchestrators of the Classical era. He really made perfect and very creative use of the instruments of his time, in every field (see his serenades for winds, for example).

- Schubert was the final chapter of the Classical orchestrator. His "Unfinished" initiated the trombones (before the "Great"), but what was amazing was the almost pefect use of the classical orchestral forces. Weber was another case of brilliant orchestrator of the same period.

- Tchaikovsky resorted to "noisy" orchestrations but his brilliance, skills and effectiveness redeemed almost everything he wrote (even this notorious 1812).

- Rimsky-Korsakov was the masterful, if not the quintessential, orchestrator of the Romantic period. Incredible balance of the voices with the utmost clarity of lines, serving also the melodic material in building expressive tension along the development of the work (see Capriccio Espagnol) and never resulted in any sort of "noise".

In general terms, I believe more of the great composers served quite well their musical concepts. Some who excell, in one or the other way: a) Dvorak: uneven at the youth, developd gradually and most brilliant at the end, b) Debussy, perfect fit of "colouring" his music, c) Prokofiev with his amazingly forceful and grandiose moments, which managed to make perfect sense to any sort of musical clamour.

With question mark: Sibelius, Shostakovich, Rachmaninov...We'll see...

Parla

Bruckner's orchestration.

Of course, Bruckner's orchestration serves extremely effectively his musical goals, but, it is so consistently "coherent". From the "study" Symphony to the Sixth, he uses the Classic forces of a pair of winds, four horns, two trumpets (from the third he added one more), three trombones and timpani. From the Fifth, he added a bass tuba and, only in the last three, he increased the horns to eight (including the Wagner tubas in some cases), with the 8th being the most charged.

On the contrary, Brahms was more eloquent (Third movement of his Third) and versatile (Second movement of his Fourth), glorious (Finale of the First) and effective when needed (Finale of the Second and the Fourth).

Parla

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I think you would have a hard time arguing that Brahms was a better orchestrator than Bruckner. True, third movement of his third, last movement of his first might be some of his best achievements in this field, and there are plenty of moments here and there but I’ve always found, for instance, the fourth movement of his fourth terrible –as far as the orchestra is concerned, I mean. Actually, I think that he is at his best as “orchestrator” or I should say as a “color-smith” in some of his late chamber music, eg his second string quintet or his clarinet quintet.

Ah, but Rameau… he is indeed the first great orchestrator, the first composer that played with the color possibilities of an ensemble as being integral part of the music. He had to be French. I’m with Jane when she mentioned Bach, even if he gets so little credit for it. The Brandenburg are –among other things- a systematic exploration of the Baroque ensemble, and the changing combinations are one of its absolute glories. But the great Rameau is in a different league.

 

Ravel, his Bolero and his orchestration.

I do not have the original quote by Ravel himself. In some English translation, he allegedly said: "I wrote only one masterpiece. That is Bolero. Unfortunately, it contains no music". Using his French humour, when he was told that a woman from the audience called him "Fou" (crazy) after the first performance of Bolero, he allegedly responded:" Ah, that lady...she understood"!

What I could say is that Bolero is orchestration that makes music (variations with no change whatsoever of harmony, rhythm, no modulation, except a critical one at the end, and with only two themes, repeated but never in the same orchestral colour!). In short, a unique specimen by any composer.

In any case, Ravel, was the greatest orchestrator of the 20th century and, perhaps, the one who could use the orchestral forces in the most versatile, effective and eloquent way ever. La  Valse is perhaps the most accomplished one movement orchestral work of the last century. As for Daphnis...it defies the words...

Parla

parla wrote: no change
parla wrote:

no change whatsoever of harmony

As the score gets thicker and pizzicatos change to arco, etc., I think I can also hear the professors....

Now on to the horizontal -

With 66 quarters per minute, that's (60 sec / 66 notes) (3 notes / measure) = 2.727 sec / measure. (Some scores indicate 72 quarters per minute).

Ravel's own version from 1928 takes 2.78 seconds to traverse measure #2. Multiply this by 339 measures, that's 942.42 seconds total. Actual total time is 934.5 seconds. 7.92 seconds faster than theoretical is pretty impressive. (The 1966 Karajan is 35.01 seconds off at the end had he held the measure #2 time constant).

(This is only sampling measure #2).

camaron wrote:Ah, but Rameau…

camaron wrote:

Ah, but Rameau… he is indeed the first great orchestrator, the first composer that played with the color possibilities of an ensemble as being integral part of the music. He had to be French. I’m with Jane when she mentioned Bach, even if he gets so little credit for it. The Brandenburg are –among other things- a systematic exploration of the Baroque ensemble, and the changing combinations are one of its absolute glories. But the great Rameau is in a different league.

Where to start with Rameau - as an example of his great orchestration? (I don't think I can manage a whole opera.........maybe something a little briefer, to begin with.)

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