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Thread: Composers and the "Great Leap Forward"

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Lightbulb Composers and the "Great Leap Forward"

    Not long ago, I attended a Wagner Society of New York seminar on The Flying Dutchman. As part of the presentation, one of the speakers played an unrecognizeable (to me) selection from Rienzi and followed it up with a famous passage from Dutchman. Then, he opined that the leap in development from Rienzi to Dutchman was as significant a leap as could be found in Classical Music.

    My first reaction is that one could juxtapose a prosaic passage from Rienzi with a more stirring one from the same opera, and present a similar contrast. My second reaction is that there's a certain amount of 'choir-preaching' involved in the assertion. Essentially all of the assembled are Wagner fans, and doubtless we'd like to believe that "meteoric development" is one superlative that we'll happily add to all of the other superlatives surrounding Wagner.

    But surely there are other examples of amazing artistic development, opus-over-opus. There are a couple that immediately sprung to my mind, but I'll keep 'em to myself, for now. (Want to leave some latitude for discussion...)

    So- I invite you- contibute your own examples of the "Great Leap Forward!"
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    Senior Member Argus's Avatar
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    Stravinsky is the obvious answer for me. The Firebird and Petrushka are both excellent ballets and very forward thinking but the Rite of Spring was just a seismic leap forward, not just for Stravinsky but for all classical music. It's a pity he never produced anything that could measue up to that colossus later in his life.

    Others that stand out are Beethoven's Grosse Fuge and John Cage's 4'33''.

    I stuck to classical for the purposes of this thread but if other genres are to be taken into consideration then I can think of plenty more.

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    Senior Member World Violist's Avatar
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    Sibelius' Kullervo. First orchestral work, first work on this scale, and arguably the first of his masterpieces.
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    Brahms's Deutsches Requiem. It may not display a leaping-forward musicality, but it breaks the typical boundaries of the Latin Mass in preference for a personal text with great humanism at its centre.

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    Senior Member Lukecash12's Avatar
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    Griffes - The Fountains of the Acqua Paola was a modern, and charming look back at simple Impressionistic compositions, so it was a leap forward for Impressionism, and a throwback in the modern era:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD0-b...rom=PL&index=0
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    Senior Member Sid James's Avatar
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    One I can think of was the String Quartet (No. 2 or 3?) by Schoenberg which was the first "atonal" piece.

    I tend to think similarly with regards to Shostakovich's quite gargantuan Symphony No. 4, a great leap forward not only in terms of scale, but for it's ambigious tonality & novel approach to thematic development which had not been seen in Russia/USSR since the days of Scriabin & Roslavets (no wonder that Shostakovich withdrew the work & it wasn't performed for about 30 years - of course political accusations of his music being "formalist" were at the heart of this also).

    I read a similar thing about Schubert's Great C major Symphony (No. 9). In terms of scale & form, nothing had been seen like this before. The orchestra declared it unplayable, and it needed Schumann to find it decades later in some archive for it to be premiered, long after the composer's death.

    Well, one can go on (eg. Berlioz' Symphonie Fantastique - certainly not the first "programmatic" symphony, but the first to make any real impact, and certainly it's orchestration still sounds quite modern). & what of Berg's Piano Sonata Op. 1, one can't compare it to any earlier works of the composer that were not published, but this is an important piece for the development of C20th piano repertoire. Not only in terms of it using the 12-tone method, but also for it's compactness & sense of instrumental colour, which were very new as well.
    Contrasts and Connections in Music

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    'Leap forward' suggests some kind of evolution over previous archaic music, so I'm not sure it's the best term, it doesn't sound that objective (maybe biased to a particular style). All music tends to owe something to the past and it's always easy in retrospect to say something fortells something happening in the future but there is no way the composer could have thought they were doing that at the time. Sometimes maybe a composer may have tried to be revolutionary and thought up something of a dead end. This thread could easily be 'who is the most influential', an area that is hard to judge.

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    I believe it was Beethoven's 1st Symphony that has one of the most unconventional beginnings in classical music: the Dominant chord resolving to a tonic of a different key. Although it doesn't seem so special now, back then it was extraordinary for a composer to begin a symphony with anything other than the Tonic chord.
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    Daphne by Jacopo Peri

    Orfeo by Monteverdi

    Heee?

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    Mozart Symphonies 39,40,41st
    Mozart Piano Concertos 21-25
    Beethoven's 5,7,9
    Bruckner's 8th & 9th Symphonies.
    Brahms 1st Piano Concerto.

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    Assistant Administrator Chi_townPhilly's Avatar
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    Perhaps I was unclear concerning my point...

    What I was looking for were examples of a composer establishing a
    clear qualitative jump from one work to the next.

    In order to make the comparison, we need the before and after work.

    Argus comes close to capturing the spirit of the thing with his first example of Firebird/Petrushka followed by Rite of Spring. (Though I'm not sure that Sacre represents an obviously better work than Firebird in the same manner that Dutchman is obviously a better work than Rienzi- but there's some latitude for dissent there, for sure.)

    Hopefully, the gist of my query is in better focus, now...
    The hardest knife ill us'd doth lose his edge. Shakespeare- Sonnet 95

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_townPhilly View Post
    Perhaps I was unclear concerning my point...

    What I was looking for were examples of a composer establishing a
    clear qualitative jump from one work to the next.

    In order to make the comparison, we need the before and after work.

    Argus comes close to capturing the spirit of the thing with his first example of Firebird/Petrushka followed by Rite of Spring. (Though I'm not sure that Sacre represents an obviously better work than Firebird in the same manner that Dutchman is obviously a better work than Rienzi- but there's some latitude for dissent there, for sure.)

    Hopefully, the gist of my query is in better focus, now...
    OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Now that makes more sense! Let me think...

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    Well, sticking with the whole Brahms thing, it just so happens that the Detusches Requiem still stands up to this new challenge!

    It certainly seems to be a work that comes out of the blue. Opp. 41-44 comprised 24 songs, and before that were just chamber pieces, but then this massive Op. 45 - the Requiem - comes out of nowhere, being crowned (along with the Fourth Symphony) as Brahms's Magnum Opus, only to be followed by a load more songs. Of course, this kind of mastery of form and leaps forward is perhaps even better presented by Op. 68, when Brahms finally penned his first symphony.

    Is that better?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Chi_townPhilly View Post
    Perhaps I was unclear concerning my point...
    (...)
    Sorry, I didn't read your post HO HO HO HO

    So. Okay.

    Richard Strauss.

    Don Juan?

    As we know he had very conservative education and started to compose with fellows like Mendelssohn in his head. Don Juan (symphonic poem) is one of most spectacular transpormations of composers, like he would stand in flames shouting ARGHORGAPRHATAHAO.... TRANSFORMATION <cool music> and then he would become new Strauss that would eventually make me say "it is disgrace to him that he wears same surname as those poor historical-pop composers".

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    Mozart
    String quartets dedicated to Haydn
    Opera - Marriage of Figaro


    But perhaps there can be several developmental shifts in a composer's output even in a particular genre.

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