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Thread: Recent symphonies in standard repertoire?

  1. #16
    Senior Member KenOC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by starthrower View Post
    True, Jess. Two different worlds, really. I'm not sure how much Lutoslawki has been performed by major US orchestras? I love the live video of No.3 conducted by Lintu. A very exciting performance.
    Lutoslawski was programmed 13 times for 28 concerts by major American orchestras in the latest year I have records for. Most were his Concerto for Orchestra, no symphonies. Regardless, a respectable showing.


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  3. #17
    Senior Member SONNET CLV's Avatar
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    I've heard a few contemporary symphonies at PSO concerts over the years, among them a symphony by Leonardo Balada who deserves to be more widely heard. But Balada works in Pittsburgh and is part of the musical scene there, so I don't suppose it is so surprising that his music turns up on PSO concerts. Other recent symphonies were part of Visiting Artist programs. But at least the orchestra management is trying to get the sounds out.

    One of the problems is, there is so much music and so few concerts. Can we really afford to not include the grand old masters and their well established, well proven symphonies in those few concerts in favor of pieces which may prove more curious than important since time has not yet had its opportunity to put a permanent stamp on the work? I'm sure that in Beethoven's day concert goers heard contemporary music that we today have never heard at all. Many are called, but few are chosen.

    Perhaps in a few decades we will have a better sense of who and what is worthy of greater preservation and performance, and who and what is better left to drift into oblivion. Our arts world is certainly undergoing a renaissance, but the changes may not be all positive for us "classical" music listeners.

    I agree that the Gorecki Third is a worthy symphony for the standard repertoire. I've heard the other three Gorecki symphonies and I have my doubts about them, especially the Fourth, one of the most abominable works I ever recall hearing.

    I remain a believer in the symphonies of Rautavaara. His Nos. 3 and 5 rank among my favorite contemporary works. I do hope they continue to be performed.

    There is actually so much very good modern/contemporary music in symphonic form (which form is quite fluid by modernistic standards) that I'm sure folks would come to admire many of these pieces if only they had an opportunity to hear them. Ned Rorem's Third Symphony, Howard Hanson's Second, David Diamond's Fourth, Holmboe's Sixth or Seventh ….

    Of course, let us not forget that though the concert hall performance is diminishing, there remain other venues where music becomes established, such as on television commercials and in movie soundtracks, and often we hear the same pieces utilized as incidental music (such as music from Hanson's Second Symphony, mentioned above) in places where we weren't expecting to hear it. Not quite like hearing the work in a concert setting, but it may provoke a few aware souls to seek out the remainder of the work. (Remember that second movement from Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 In C Major, how it led to the No. 21 becoming such a hit amongst Mozart's oeuvre of great Piano Concertos?)

    Good music will always have its hearers. Let's not discourage too much. After all, we are still out there and we are all, it seems from what I read on this Forum, championing the cause. I understand that even Beethoven's music had its critics, so despair not, fans of contemporary "noise". There is still hope. The future is a vast era.

  4. #18
    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    The symphonies of David Maslanka appear to have become part of the standard repertoire for concert bands. He recently passed away in 2017. One can find many recent performances on You Tube.
    Last edited by arpeggio; Dec-18-2019 at 04:20.
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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    Another composers whose works have appeared to have become part of the standard repertoire for concert band in James Barnes.

    I have performed his Third Symphony and there are many performances of his symphonies on You Tube including many European Bands.
    Last edited by arpeggio; Dec-18-2019 at 04:35.
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    Senior Member arpeggio's Avatar
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    I just thought of a third composers whose works, including his symphonies, have become part of the standard repertoire for concert band: Alfred Reed. He passed away in 2005 and most of his symphonies for band were composed after 1970.
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  7. #21
    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    Concerts by major orchestras do often seem to ignore works that are not quite central to the repertoire - and that includes works that are not modern at all - but at the same time this is a time when there is more variety among recorded works than ever before. Often a work you could wait decades to hear in the concert hall is available in several accounts. I guess you need to take both facts into account when determining how established modern symphonies are. Looking at typical programmes of major orchestras makes me wonder who goes to some of the concerts, filled as they are with works we have all heard very often already. Perhaps they are aimed at the corporate hospitality season ticket market?

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  9. #22
    Senior Member CnC Bartok's Avatar
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    Sonnet @ #17:

    There is actually so much very good modern/contemporary music in symphonic form (which form is quite fluid by modernistic standards) that I'm sure folks would come to admire many of these pieces if only they had an opportunity to hear them. Ned Rorem's Third Symphony, Howard Hanson's Second, David Diamond's Fourth, Holmboe's Sixth or Seventh ….


    All excellent works, I totally agree with them as examples of fine symphonies, but.......

    The latest of those works is Rorem's 3rd, from 1958!! The Holmboes are immediately post WWII (No.6 is an out and out masterpiece imho!), Hanson is 1930!

    Not exactly the vanguard of modernity

    I'd love to see Aulis Sallinen's Symphonies get a bit more exposure myself.... 3 and 4 are fantastic works, and 6 is pretty decent too.
    Last edited by CnC Bartok; Dec-24-2019 at 15:57.

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  11. #23
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    I don't know about the standard repertory in the UK, or Scandinavia, or France, or Germany, or the rest of Europe (where I'd imagine it's different, or at least it varies), but in America I'd say very few, if any. Off the top of my head, I can't think of a single modern or contemporary symphony that has become standard repertory in our concert halls. One of our most frequently performed composers today, John Adams doesn't write 'symphonies' per se, except for his "Doctor Atomic Symphony" (2007), which is based on his opera (of the same name). The next most frequently performed American composer is Philip Glass, so maybe one of his symphonies? (which seems unlikely), or a symphony by Christopher Rouse, Vincent Persichetti, William Schuman, Roger Sessions, John Harbison, Howard Hanson, Ned Rorem, George Rochberg, Samuel Barber, or Walter Piston...? I don't know. I suppose Charles Ives' symphonies are too early for what you're asking. Although Ives' music was largely ignored during his lifetime (except for Three Places in New England, the Concord Sonata, & his Symphony no. 3). His 4th Symphony, for example, wasn't performed in it entirety until 1965.

    (Here's Adams' "Doctor Atomic Symphony": https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTc2L7Am6RY.)

    In my view, it's the orchestras and their programmers that are mostly to blame, not the composers, or even the audiences. There are plenty of modern and contemporary composers that have written symphonies that deserve to be heard and become standard repertory, and particularly those symphonies that have received recordings, and in some cases multiple recordings, which people presumably buy, and therefore want to listen to at home, if no where else. (I am reminded of Robert Simpson's comment that he composed his Symphony no. 8 for a man sitting alone at home.) That, to my mind, is a much better indicator about what the musical public is willing and eager to listen to, and what should arguably be promoted to standard concert repertory. However, when the programmers at major orchestras (& classical radio stations) still view a Mahler symphony as 'offbeat' programming (or only to be played late at night on the radio), it's not hard to understand why orchestra programs in America tend to be so unadventurous.

    Here is a 1997 interview with the late American composer, Alan Stout (AS), in conversation with Chicago radio host Bruce Duffie (BD), which I think helps to explain the problem from a contemporary composer's viewpoint.

    "BD: I assume that when you write, you’ve been asked to write a certain piece?

    AS: Sometimes. Right now I just write pieces that I want to write. I don’t care whether anybody asks for them or not.

    BD: Then why do you write them?

    AS: Because I want to write them. They’re exploring things which I’m interested in.

    BD: Is that what you are, a musical explorer?

    AS: In a certain way, I guess I am.

    BD: Then are the compositions the discoveries, or are the performances the discoveries?

    AS: The composition is.

    BD: Then you share the discovery through the performance?

    AS: Yes.

    BD: You never have the audience in mind at all?

    AS: Well, the audience is a strange thing. It will respond if the music is strong. No matter what idiom the piece is in, the audience will respond if the piece itself is a strong piece. That’s why I’m dissatisfied with the excessive tendency to praise ‘comfortable music’, as I would call it.

    BD: You don’t want your music to be comfortable at all?

    AS: No. Not comfortable, no.

    BD: Do you want it to be uncomfortable?

    AS: No, but I want it to be something that you don’t listen to passively. I don’t know if you’ve noticed the programs of most orchestras these days — say, within the last twenty years — but unless you are a very established composer the contemporary work is the light piece on the program. It serves the same function that the obligatory overture did in the earlier days. Instead of Oberon or Meistersinger Overture, you’ve got the contemporary work, and it’s generally an upbeat, easy to listen to piece.

    BD: But not all composers are writing like that, are they?

    AS: Of course not, but that’s what gets played.

    BD: I see. If you could be manager of an orchestra for a while...

    AS: ...I would look at something like the Cleveland Orchestra, which I think has probably the best programming in the country.

    BD: What is it they do that is so significant?

    AS: They’ll perform difficult works, and they have an extraordinary work ethic there. They get four rehearsals for every concert, and the orchestra has the ethic to want to get things right. I also think that Esa-Pekka Salonen is doing a marvelous job of programming in Los Angeles, and Michael Tilson Thomas is exploring some very unusual repertory in San Francisco. Even though it’s not contemporary music, Sawallisch has dug up some interesting things in Philadelphia. He knows every note Richard Strauss ever wrote and he’s been doing pieces that ordinarily wouldn’t be heard in this country.

    BD: So if you could give one bit of advice to managers, it would be to expand the repertoire no matter what?

    AS: Yes! How many orchestras play the symphonies of Franz Berwald? That’s just one that comes to mind.

    BD: [With optimism] Any orchestra that has Herbert Blomstedt involved with it, probably.

    AS: I think he’s much too fast, but he actually edited the Sinphonie Singulière for the Berwald collected edition. So he’s somebody who would be very good with Berwald, but that’s one name that comes to mind.

    BD: What about Stenhammar? The Chicago Symphony did his Second Piano Concerto with Cristina Ortiz a few years ago.

    AS: Stenhammar, yes, but not the First Symphony. There are only really two orchestra pieces by Stenhammar — one is the Second Symphony and the other is the Serenade.

    BD: Where did you get this real intense interest in things Scandinavian?

    AS: I don’t know. I’ve had it for a long, long time. I got a Danish government grant in 1954, and lived there and studied with Vagn Holmboe. He’s another composer that, as far as I know, has never been performed by a major orchestra in this country. Oh wait, yes, he has... Sixten Ehrling, when he was conductor of the Detroit Symphony, did the Tenth Symphony, I believe.

    BD: He’s getting some recordings now, so that’s a help.

    AS: Yes. They finished all the symphonies and now they’re on the string quartets and the chamber concertos. He wrote a lot."

    I find it incredible that at the time of this interview in 1997, Stout's teacher, Vagn Holmboe had only ever had one performance--of his tenth symphony, programed by a major American orchestra. That's shameful. (IMO, Holmboe's 8th Symphony, entitled "Sinfonia Borealis" should unquestionably be standard repertory in concert halls, if I were pressed to name just one of his 13 Symphonies.) Yet, the situation is probably even worse for the Finnish composer Joonas Kokkonen, whose symphonies I also admire. I wonder if any of Kokkoen's Four Symphonies have ever been performed in the US? Granted, conductor Sergui Comissiona did premiere a number of Alan Pettersson's symphonies here in the states. I wonder if Pettersson's Symphony no. 7 can be considered standard repertory anywhere?

    Maybe the best way to indirectly advance the cause of modern & contemporary symphonies is via concertos that are commissioned and played & later recorded by high profile musicians that the audience wants to hear. That is what has been happening to some extent with contemporary violin concertos, and when I see a new concerto becoming more popular with top violinists and various recordings coming out, I find myself thinking that it has a good chance of eventually becoming standard violin repertory in our concert halls.

    One that comes to mind is Einojuhani Rautavaara's Violin Concerto, which has now seen three recordings!--from violinists Elmar Oliviera (who gave the concerto its premiere), Jaakko Kuusisto, and most recently, Tobias Feldmann, and no less than Hilary Hahn is playing the concerto in concert, so she'll likely record it at some point, as well. That's a good sign. Another is Philip Glass's Violin Concerto no. 1, which is a very imaginative work that has been recorded by Gidon Kremer (who premiered it), Robert McDuffie, and Adele Anthony. There's also been interest in playing Magnus Lindberg's 2006 Violin Concerto no. 1, considering that both Lisa Batiashvili and Pekka Kuusisto have already recorded it successfully; as well as Anders Hillborg's recent 2016 Violin Concerto no. 2, which Batiashvili and James Ehnes have been playing in concert (& presumably will record). The Latvian composer Peteris Vasks' Violin Concerto "Distant Light" is another concerto that appears to be popular with violinists, as it has likewise received three recordings to date--from Gidon Kremer, John Storgårds, and Katarina Andreasson. While Arvo Pärt's popular violin work, Tabula Rasa, has been recorded seven times!, by Gidon Kremer, Gil Shaham, Viktoria Mullova, Rebecca Hirsch, Jean-Jacques Kantorow, Natalya Turovsky, and Tasmin Little. Therefore, does it really matter that Tabula Rasa & other works like it, may not be getting a ton of performances in our concert halls, if people are avidly listening to this music in the privacy of their homes?

    Indeed playing contemporary violin concertos has helped to advance the careers of a substantial number of fine violinists today, who have, in return, enriched our lives by playing and recording these new works.

    & I'm primarily thinking of female violinists, who have mostly been the ones leading the charge: such as Leila Josefowicz (for Knussen, Salonen, Adams, Adés, Francesconi, Mackey, Colin Matthews, etc.), Lisa Batiashvili (for Lindberg, Kancheli, & Hillborg), Anne-Sophie Mutter (for Lutoslawski, Penderecki, & Rihm), Rebecca Hirsch (for Nørgård, Ruders, Sørrensen, Pärt, Volan, Rawsthorne, & Børresen), Christina Astrand (for Nørgård, Holmboe, Gudmundsen-Holmgreen, Madsen, & Ligeti), Kaija Saarikettu (for Englund, Heininen, Nordgren, Koskinen, Hämeenniemi, & Linjama), Anne Akiko Meyers (for Satoh, Barber, Schwantner, Bates, Corigliano, Jones, Rautavaara, & Adam Schoenberg), Elina Välhälä (for Sallinen, Curtis-Smith, Corigliano, & Jaakko Kuusisto), Hilary Hahn (for Meyer, Higdon, Abril, Auerbach, & Rautavaara), and Patricia Kopatchinskaja (for Eötvös, Doderer, Zykan, Kühr, Wyttenbach, Say, Mansurian, Turnage, Hersch, Aa, Hollinger, etc.), but also some male violinists, too: Gidon Kremer (for Schnittke, Gubaidulina, Nono, Kancheli, Kissine, Auerbach, Vasks, Glass, Pärt, Sylvestrov, etc.), Pekka Kuusisto (for Lindberg, Fagerlund, & Rautavaara), Frank Peter Zimmermann (for Lindberg, Pintscher, & Ligeti), Elmar Oliveira (for Rautavaara, & Barber), Renaud Capuçon (for Dusapin, Mantovani, Bacri, & Rihm), and recently, James Ehnes (for Hillborg, Kernis, Howard, & Tovey).

    Without these violinists avidly championing new works--by commissioning, playing, and recording them, these concertos wouldn't stand a chance of becoming 'standard repertory'. So, unless high profile conductors do the same, and admittedly some are tirelessly recording new (& neglected) music--such as Sakari Oramo, for instance, whose commitment to new music is unwavering!--I'm not very hopeful that the best modern & contemporary symphonies will become standard repertory any time soon. But maybe some the most excellent contemporary violin concertos will help to pave the way for a greater acceptance of contemporary symphonies in our concert halls (along with contemporary concertos for cello, clarinet, flute, piano, and various chamber works).

    (Edit: Allan Pettersson's Violin Concerto no. 2, which I forgot to mention & would consider a modern masterpiece, is one more contemporary violin concerto that has received advocacy from top violinists. Ida Haendel gave the work its premiere recording, while Isabelle van Keulen, & most recently, Ulf Wallin have recorded the concerto since.)

    I also think it comes down to funding. If an orchestra is struggling financially, they're not likely going to be adventurous in their programming. On the other hand, if they are securely funded, they'll probably feel a greater sense of freedom to take risks, by playing music that their audiences may find more challenging, or at least won't listen to "passively".

    I also think that people usually need to hear this music more than just one time, to begin to see its value & importance.

    (Here's the rest of the Stout/Duffie interview, which I think is worth reading in its entirety because Stout makes a number of other excellent points about what it means to be a contemporary composer today (or rather in 1997): http://www.bruceduffie.com/stout.html. Stout, by the way, had four symphonies and a Passion premiered by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under Sir Georg Solti, and the CSO's choral conductor, Margaret Hillis. & I've been told that no less than Dmitri Shostakovich, who Stout knew and corresponded with, admired his 4th Symphony. Yet today, Stout's symphonies don't get performed, nor have any commercial recordings been made to date. While, in contrast, other Holmboe students, such as Ib Nørholm and Per Nørgård, have had their symphonies commercially recorded. In Nørgård's case, no less than three prominent conductors today have already performed & recorded his symphonies (which Nørgård continues to write)--Leif Segerstam, Thomas Dausgaard, and John Storgårds. So, perhaps the situation is different for composers of symphonies in Scandinavia than it was for Stout in the United States?)
    Last edited by Josquin13; Dec-26-2019 at 20:00.

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