On Forgotten Masters

On Forgotten Masters
June 8, 2020 leonard slatkin

I am old enough to have been in personal contact with so many great composers of their day. Copland, Stravinsky, Harris, and others were part of my childhood musical experience. What happened to the other writers of that time? I would bet that each of you can think of someone who made an impression on you but has been overlooked today.

For this chapter, I consider how we might resurrect the works of these composers and place them back into the repertoire. This is not to be dismissive of the new, but to broaden the spectrum of what is presented to the performers and the audience. We tend to be comfortable with the familiar and even accept more easily the new. But how do we preserve what came before but is little known?

What do you think?

Questions and suggestions (6)

  1. anonymous 4 weeks ago

    Require assistant and associate conductors to research and study these composers and their works as part of their duties with the ultimate purpose of preparing these for a concert, even if it’s a civic/youth ensemble. Longer term, these could be a focus of a season-long series, with the assistant or associate serving as the curator. In an individual concert they could be grouped with known compositions of the same era, or with a similar history (e.g. also commissioned by Koussevitzky or the Louisville Orchestra) or composition teachers (e.g. Boulanger and her pupils), or underlying program (e.g. Mississippi River-themed works) or style (e.g. concertos for orchestra), etc. Honestly, if that’s the only thing they conduct that week, while the MD directs the rest of the program that’s great. It would give them more stage time. And devote a sizable chunk of the pre-concert lecture to this as well. If the composer has a library of chamber works, encourage musicians (or civic/youth ensemble members) to perform those at a pre- or post-concert mixer. This could also be extended to research the works of minority and female composers or American composers as well. Or other new works besides premieres and co-commissions.

  2. Ian G. Sadler 3 weeks ago

    A suggestion re: EJ Moeran would be to contact the local Irish Embassy or Consulate to see if they might be interested to collaborate somehow in a promotional way.

  3. Jason lowe 3 weeks ago

    YouTube had to take down a channel that I loved: Unsung Masterworks. There I discovered the unique voice of Arnold Bax, Wilhelm Stenhammar, Nikolai Myaskovskt and others. I wish this channel still existed but I enjoy finding these wonderful unheard, unprogrammed composers as much as I enjoy Sibelius, Nielsen, Vaughan Williams and Holst.

  4. Rich Cain 3 weeks ago

    Holst choral works, definitely Bax, and may I suggest Deems Taylor.

  5. John R. Hunt Jr. 3 weeks ago

    This is a real toss up between two composers…Igor Stravinsky is not played enough – the Kyrie from his Mass is outstanding – and Charles Ives is overlooked too much. Anyone who wants to hear the sweetest Christmas carol would do well to listen to Ives’s “A Christmas Carol.”

  6. Gerard Bauer 3 weeks ago

    As a long time collector of recorded music in almost every format imaginable, I have come across many worthwhile musical works by little known composers, as well as little known works by well known composers. (Could this be another chapter?) I’ll limit myself in this forum to three composers whose works I’d love to hear in live performance. I discovered all three in the 1970’s via LP recordings on loan from the Chicago Public Library. Despite the fragility of vinyl, the recordings of these composers were often in good shape, probably because of the relative obscurity of the composers. All three composers have unique and almost instantly identifiable sound worlds.
    1. Andrzej Panufnik. I first came to know this late 20th century composer via pioneering recordings on the Unicorn label. I am particularly fond of a couple of his early symphonies: Sinfonia Sacra and Sinfonia Rustica.
    2. Arnold Bax. Although I have very little formal music education, I think it’s Bax’s harmonic language that makes his music unique. Some of his work is overlong and blowsy, but there are treasures as well: Symphonies Nos. 1 & 6, as well as some of the tone poems such as Tintagel, The Tale the Pine Trees Knew, November Woods, and the Garden of Fand.
    3. Allan Pettersson. A 20th Century Swedish composer with an incredibly difficult life, who’s personal suffering is embedded in much of his work. His music can be grim, which makes it difficult to program in concert, but there are also moments of calm, relief and, finally, redemption. I have always particularly loved his Symphony No. 7, which I first heard in a recording by Antal Dorati conducting the Stockholm Philharmonic.

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