I think it would be fairer to say Gounod operas have had their ups and downs over the decades. Seems they're making a bit of a comeback, lately. Now (as I've said before) I yield to very few [there are two or three here] in Wagner opera appreciation, but a breezy dismissal of Faust as "not great music" says more about its author than the music.
I've cited elsewhere that the famous author and opera commentator Fr. Owen Lee applied an 'acid-test' of looking at a writer's commentary on Gounod's Faust to determine if he felt the author merited additional effort. In his formulation, one's breezy dismissal of Faust led to Fr. Lee's breezy dismissal of its author as unworthy of any further attention.
The hardest knife ill us'd doth lose his edge. Shakespeare- Sonnet 95
Sorry, but to me , Faust and Romeo&Juliette just don't come remotely close to the greatness of so many other operas . I respect Father Owen Lee, but I've just never been a fan of Gounod. Other works of his, such as the St. Cecelia mass, the Petite symphonie for winds etc, are pretty but bland in the extreme .
There are other French operas such as Chausson's Le Roi Arthus (King Arthur), Ariane & Barbe Bleue by Dukas, Chabrier's Gwendoline, Massenet's Esclarmonde , Roussel's Padmavati, Magnard's Guercoeur, etc which are far,far greater, and yet they are hardly ever performed .
My guess is that for these people, there's a cutoff point where they stop enjoying Schoenberg's music, but before that it sounds fine to them. Also, I'd wager that for most who dislike Schoenberg, that point is before the first atonal pieces.
Nothing I posted above is atonal. They go in order from top to bottom, so at least check out the first.
It seems almost everyone acknowledges that there are works of music which are "good" or bad".... but no one is able... or willing to define just what makes a work of music "great"... or not so great. So how then can we take the position that enduring popularity is no measure of "greatness" when we can't even define what "greatness" is. It seems to me that for most "greatness" is little more than a synonym for "the stuff I really like". And thus "bad" is just another way of defining "the stuff I don't like". Grieg's piano concerto is "bad" because PeterB doesn't like it... and the opinions of all those who do is irrelevant to PeterB. Gounod's Faust and Romeo & Juliette are "bad" because superhorn doesn't like them... regardless to all the opera aficionados who do. Of course I can play too. Schoenberg, Xenakis, and Stockhausen are all "really, really bad" because I really, really don't like them.
So can "greatness" be defined? If not... how can we be certain that popularity... or enduring popularity have nothing to do with it. Perhaps if we employed the term "canonical" as opposed to "great" we could agree that enduring popularity... especially among those who have invested a serious degree of effort, time... even income into the study, appreciation, preservation, and promotion of a given musical style... has a certain definite bearing upon the survival of a given work.
I don't think "populism" or popularity... especially enduring popularity... can be easily dismissed with an air of superiority. In the field of literature The Lord of the Rings, Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, and the novels of Alexander Dumas are rarely put forth as examples of "great" literature by most critics or academics. But they have retained a certain popularity among readers that leads one to acknowledge that they just may be canonical... and they just might not be half-bad. By the same token, a critic such as Harold Bloom was willing to admit (sadly) that as "great" as he and other literary critics feel Joyce' Finnegan Wake is... it may just be that one needs more than the admiration of a few hundred critics and academics to assure the survival of a work of art.
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Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with
those not sufficiently prepared. Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.
Schoenberg has the kind of urgency of a Beethoven, with sudden shifts of dynamics and jutting rhythms. People understand Beethoven, so these things don't bother them there, but they seem unpleasant in Schoenberg because they don't understand why they're there.
"My guess is that for these people, there's a cutoff point where they stop enjoying Schoenberg's music, but before that it sounds fine to them. Also, I'd wager that for most who dislike Schoenberg, that point is before the first atonal pieces.
Nothing I posted above is atonal. They go in order from top to bottom, so at least check out the first."
The 1st Quartet starts off sounding a lot like Beethoven's Grosse Fugue. However, the Beethoven provides references to material from the earlier movements of Op. 130. Those 'handles' aren't there in the Schönberg. Still, some folks persist in listening to the Fugue by itself... so where does that leave me? Out in left field somewhere I guess.
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The theme is in the violins at the beginning. Then it moves to the cellos in the next iteration. It's actually the theme for the entire piece, in all of its "movements". All of the parts at the beginning, though, are thematically significant, even the inner viola line.
Doesn't sound too much like the Grosse Fuge to me, except that they're both very densely contrapuntal. (And to my ears, the Fugue sounds more dissonant for the most part, even though the harmony in the Schoenberg is more "advanced")
Set each. Tie-breaker?
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