Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

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RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Camaron, not to meet your own standards does not mean you are wrong. It simply means that you cannot be perfect. At least, always. Nothing wrong with that!

Shostakovich's 14, apart from the two Lorca songs, has incorporated songs by other three great (or at least well-established) poets : 6 by Appolinaire, 1 by Kuchelbecker and 2 by Rilke. The original first version was indeed in Russian language, but the work can be performed in the original languages of the poems.

When you finish your first listening of some recordings from your sources, let me know, so that I can launch my introductory remarks and have a possible debate.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

The pivotal recording of Haitink of Shostakovich's 14th is the only well-known and well-estblished recording in the original language of the poems, on Decca. There is another one, which, for reasons I cannot be aware of, went almost into oblivion, while it is in the original language, it was recorded with very well established performers and by a great recording company (defunct by now). It is the one of Rattle with BPO and with Karita Mattila and Thomas Quasthoff, on EMI.

Anyway, it is true that Shostakovich sounds more genuine, vocal, penetrating in his original language, while his music in this unique Symphony is so Russian too.

Whenever you feel ready, Chris and Camaron, we may start our discussion on this one of kind work of imposing poetry and amazingly expressive music from a great composer. I hope the discussion may go beyond the three of us.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

That will be good news, if you join an imminent debate on Shostakovich's 14th, Tjh.

- The non-Russian version(s), apparently, have been edited and released after the composer's death. So, there is no issue for these versions of being "sanctioned" or not by Shostakovich. By the way, there should be other versions in German only and, possibly, in English (all translated from the Russian texts!), but very rarely performed.

- Yes, I believe that, in some few great works of the late 19th and, mostly, in 20th century Classical Music, there is a perfect marriage of "texts" and the actual respective score. One of them is Shostakovich's 14th. Of course, the "significant role" of the text is still of extra-musical value (its literary value is well-established and acknowledged). More details will follow when we may be ready to launch a discussion on this very important work of such a creative composer.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I'll take it, Chris, as a whole first, with an introduction to the work, since, I believe, the unity and the structure of the work are its most important features. Then, based on your interest(s), we may move accordingly.

I also plan to start the whole thing by the end of the weekend.

So, let's have a wonderful weekend. Autumn in far east is the best season of all. So, we have to profit from this rather short period of unusual beauty, calm and very friendly weather.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I listened to Rattle's 14th today too, for, more or less, the same reasons and I found out he, also, opted for the Russian texts. I also found his performance very polished, almost not Russian and the recording very...smooth.

Much better performances and brighter recordings by Kremer (on ECM), Wigglesworth (on BIS), Caetani (on Arts), N. Jarvi (on DG) and Kitajenko (in a brilliant SACD recording by Capriccio).

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

Music and words are two entirely different things. You can use music to accompany words (with the words at the centre), but in the end I completely agree that pure music is beyond words.

Waqas Khan

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

So, as I promised, I start with a general introduction of Shastakovich's 14th, with more emphasis on the relation of its texts and music.

This unique, in various ways, work (a Symphony designated by its composer) is an opus of eleven movements, resorting to well-established poetry settings as the basis of inspiration and building up the structure of the whole composition. While there were previous cases of setting poetry to a Symphonic structure (Mahler's Das Lied von der Erde, Zemlinsky's Lyric Symphony or Britten's Spring Symphony), it is (or at least it seems to me so) the first time that the music is so directly linked with the text while the poems are so well integrated to the quite descriptive (sonically and emotionally) score. There are no major musical interludes, not a fancy and rich orchestration, not lengthy movements. Everything measured and to the very point of the matter: the all-powerful death!

It is amazing how relentlessly Shostakovich uses its forces (a Soprano, a Bass, 19 strings and three percussion players utilizing an extensive array of unusual instruments, used, however, sparingly and only to paint the several aspects of the texts) in order to portray the omnipotent death and its inevitable power over the mortals. To that end, he starts with two poems by Lorca as an introduction to the subject, followed by six significant ones for the development of the various aspects of death by Apollinaire.

Then, some sort of Romanticism appears in the ninth movement with a poem by Kuchelbecker, where the composer poses the question what else but death can be expected for the poet living in a state of tyranny and injustice. In the same vein, Shostakovich uses two poems by Rilke , the first of which (the death of the poet) is the culminating and most intense point of the whole work. The short epilogue, reaching a short but relentless instrumental crescendo, finishes the work like a life cut short, but, at the same time, allowing the listener to leave the questions of place, time and death staying open.

Shostakovich struggled till he decided to call this vocal work a Symphony. It could be a Cantata (his initial idea), an Oratorio (without chorus) or simply an orchestral "Song cycle". However, he opted for the term Symphony to underscore the unity of the musical structure and the coherent integration of the literary and notional consistency of the poems into the actual score, which, in turn, serves the text in the most descriptive way, illuminating a multitude of aspects of such a subject.

No wonder that the composer had a very high idea of this Symphony, calling whatever he had written all these years had been "a preparation for this work".

Parla

 

 

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

<a href="mailto:tjh212@yahoo.com">tjh212@yahoo.com</a> wrote:

In the Mussorgsky case there are also theoretical issues -

Orchestra or piano? If the former, is it Mussorgsky, Glazunov, Rimsky, or all 3?
Bass, baritone, or?

Indeed!  And the most famous orchestration is probably that of Shostakovich, intended for soprano (in fact for Vishnevskaya).

Chris

Chris A.Gnostic

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I see Chris you did a "difficult" and always thorough homework. Indeed, this music is not for repeated listening. Anyway, some replies to Tjh, predominantly:

- When I say "this Symphony is so Russian too", it implies, of course, that the potential listener has prior knowledge of how a German, French or Spanish Symphony sounds. He/she has a certain knowledge of the features of the character of the Symphonies from various...sources. Extra-musical knowledge (any additional information) can help, apparently. You see how Chris put it aptly: "the Russian feeling is diluted somehow".

- In the same vein, a potential listener, normally has to have an "a priori" knowledge not only of the "libretto" (in the case of Shostakovich' 14th the poetry used. Even in the original language, it works...) but also of the various aspects of the work to be listened to. Extra-musical knowledge might take place, often.

- Karajan's recording of Shostakovich's 10th has nothing to do with the anaimic and very "soft"-served performance (and recording) from a very different BPO and a much less than idiomatic Rattle. Karajan serves a very symphonic work of the composer, with heavy, sometimes harsh, and quite demanding orchestration with his usual refinement but keeping the intensity of the passion and the power of the overall sense of such a monumental work as the 10th. The DG recording has been, even in the CD format, quite convincing and reliable.

- There is no question of the order of the songs, since this is not a mere "song cycle". It is a Symphony! A Symphony with very strict order of the structure of the work, i.e. the sequence of the songs which are performed -almost all of them- attaca. However, I'm sure both Chris and me will be more than glad to go song by song to provide some insights to each movement of the Symphony and the necessary sequence of the songs.

- Das Lied von der Erde exists in a Chinese version. It has been recorded on BIS by interesting forces, two Chinese born international singers, an Asian orchestra (Singapore S.O.) and an Asian/International conductor, namely Lan Shui. I have it and it is quite intriguing. Sometimes, it sounds as Asian, even Chinese Mahler!..

Finally, Chris, I agree with almost everything you wrote in your post. I guess the only difference in our views is that the "overall meaning" of the text and "the way it can fit the musical idiom" are extra-musical elements as such (the text per se). The singing parts (the way the text is sung) are part of the score and, by all means, constitute a great segment of it.

Parla

RE: Words and Music: one art redeemed by the other!

I guess, Tjh, you cannot "reconcile" my statements because you do not properly get them. Of course, English is not my mother tongue...

- The "vocabulary" and  "grammar" had been introduced (in the respective thread) by another poster and I added the more appropriate word "glossary" to refer to the very technical aspects of a work of Classical Music, like what a portamento, an appoggiatura or a glissando is, for example, or where exactly the development starts and finishes in a complex Sonata form and so on. Much more these technical matters might help to understand the form and structure of the work of Music but they contribute much less to comprehending the elusive message of it.

- An "a priori" knowledge of the various aspects of the work to be listened means a certain preparation of the listener, which is expected by the composer (who normally provides enough prior information for his work), the performer (who usually explains beforehand his approach to the work he/she is about to perform), the producer (who provides enough printed material either in the concert hall or in the disc we buy) and so on.

- The whatever prior information of the listener does not mean he/she can get the "message" of a work itself. It can sometimes easily get the subject of the work but not the message, much more in an elaborated and articulated form. It is interesting to read the variety of reactions from eminent men of letters or of the Arts, at the premiere of Shostakovich's 14th (a very pessimistic, almost nihilistic work etc.) to the explanation of the composer (a work about unjust and untimely death to show, on one hand, the relentless power of death over men, and, on the other, that life is wonderful...).

- There is no "accuracy" in translation. Only beauty, if the translator is capable enough (as a professor of mine used to tell me, when I struggled to be "accurate" in my endeavours to translate: a translation is like the lover. She is not supposed to be faithful, but she has to be...beautiful!).

Parla

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