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Thread: Composers who didn't break new ground.

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    Default Composers who didn't break new ground.

    Obviously Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner, Schoenberg, Stravinsky and many other composer broke new ground and did things previous composers had not done yet. But which composers do you think didn't break any new ground and do you think thats a bad thing?

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    Senior Member Enthusiast's Avatar
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    There are many ways to break new ground. There is merely having a distinctive voice (which is surely essential for a composer to be considered great or even good), there is that plus doing new (perhaps bigger) things with existing forms, there is being a pioneer in the vanguard of a major change of musical era (Baroque to Classical; Classical to Romantic etc.) and there is being experimental. Bach is often said to have been rather conservative for his time. He was certainly a greater composer than his son, CPE Bach, but CPE was more of a pioneer. Mozart certainly stretched what could be done with many forms - so that music was never the same again - and certainly had a very distinctive voice. Beethoven, Wagner and Stravinsky were all perhaps overtly and intentionally pioneers. As I say, having a distinctive voice is the only essential form of breaking new ground but I do think that composers who wrote very conservative music for their time stacked the odds against themselves being able to achieve this.

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    Senior Member elgars ghost's Avatar
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    Broadly speaking, composers who could still wring out anything interesting from within established parameters were no less relevant than any of the historical 'ground-breakers' - in fact, they may have had a more difficult task as they didn't have any radical new methods or systems with which to push the envelope. Max Reger never deviated from the 'old German tradition' of Bach, Beethoven and Brahms yet right up until his dying day he never stopped trying to push long-established forms to their utmost limits.
    '...a violator of his word, a libertine over head and ears in debt and disgrace, a despiser of domestic ties, the companion of gamblers and demireps, a man who has just closed half a century without a single claim on the gratitude of his country or the respect of posterity...' - Leigh Hunt on the Prince Regent (later George IV).

    ὃν οἱ θεοὶ φιλοῦσιν ἀποθνῄσκει νέος [Those whom the gods love die young] - Menander

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    So many of the forgotten, less-known composers whose music is collecting dust is for that very reason: they broke no new ground, had nothing to add. If you read Henry Pleasants he essentially believes that there is no composer after Wagner who did anything new - everyone else was just refining, picking up the pieces, and using him as a springboard.

    Some of the composers: Raff, Reinecke, Draeseke, Spohr, George Schumann, Klughardt, Volkman, Bruch, Glazunov, Fibich...and a lot more. That's not to say they didn't write music worthy of hearing and performing, they certainly did. And just because someone breaks new ground is no guarantee of fame: Bax certainly had a unique and new approach to the symphony, but his contemporary Sibelius did too, and we know who won out. The serialists and atonalists of the mid-20th c made breaking new ground their whole reason for composing and their music is quickly becoming unknown and unloved.

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    Senior Member Janspe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    The serialists and atonalists of the mid-20th c made breaking new ground their whole reason for composing and their music is quickly becoming unknown and unloved.
    Atonal and serial music - like all of classical music really - is being listened to, thanks to YouTube and the like, more than ever before in the history of music. Certainly to an extent that the serialists could never have even dreamed of when they made their daring experiments in the mid-20th century. I'm totally not convinced that the music you're talking about is becoming unknown since I see more and more curious people discovering it through internet all the time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Janspe View Post
    Atonal and serial music - like all of classical music really - is being listened to, thanks to YouTube and the like, more than ever before in the history of music. Certainly to an extent that the serialists could never have even dreamed of when they made their daring experiments in the mid-20th century. I'm totally not convinced that the music you're talking about is becoming unknown since I see more and more curious people discovering it through internet all the time.
    True. I have discovered so many new composers through youtube.

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    One of my favorites, the American, Samuel Barber (1910-1981) pretty much ignored every musical fashion of his times, and opposed to 12-tone, Neo-Classicism, Indeterminism, and the rest of it; was content to compose in a style that was tonal and basically Romantic. Apart from Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Barber didn't even try to compose anythything that was even "American". No Barber didn't add much that can be considered new, but what a great composer. Knoxville, Dover Beach, Hermit Songs, Adagio for Strings, and the: trifecta Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto, and Cello Concerto; are all great works.

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    Senior Member Strange Magic's Avatar
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    Some observers have written that Bach broke no new ground--his gift was to consolidate and execute better than his peers the existing musical structures and forms of his time.

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    And yet Bach somehow handed down The Law. His "rules" for harmony, counterpoint, voice leading and other technical concepts came from him. His music was for generations the model to follow in the basics. It was Bach who supposedly came up with two basic rules that vex many a beginning harmony student: no parallel 5th or octaves. And in the Well-Tempered Clavier he clearly broke ground to a whole new universe of music by demonstrating the ability to play in any key and modulate to any from anywhere else.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange Magic View Post
    Some observers have written that Bach broke no new ground--his gift was to consolidate and execute better than his peers the existing musical structures and forms of his time.
    Yes. Good point. Bach was not a great innovator, he took existing forms, contemporary modes and executed them most powerfully and effectively...consolidation if existing forms is a good way to put it.
    Last edited by Heck148; Jun-05-2020 at 03:09.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Coach G View Post
    One of my favorites, the American, Samuel Barber (1910-1981) pretty much ignored every musical fashion of his times, and opposed to 12-tone, Neo-Classicism, Indeterminism, and the rest of it; was content to compose in a style that was tonal and basically Romantic. Apart from Knoxville: Summer of 1915, Barber didn't even try to compose anythything that was even "American". No Barber didn't add much that can be considered new, but what a great composer. Knoxville, Dover Beach, Hermit Songs, Adagio for Strings, and the: trifecta Violin Concerto, Piano Concerto, and Cello Concerto; are all great works.
    The Symphony No. 1 and the Music for a Scene from Shelley are fabulous as well. I agree that the three concertos are grand!

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    Senior Member hammeredklavier's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    Yes. Good point. Bach was not a great innovator, he took existing forms, contemporary modes and executed them most powerfully and effectively...consolidation if existing forms is a good way to put it.
    I don't think it's meaningful to differentiate these masters into categories of "innovators", "non-innovators". They all innovated in subtle, unique ways. For example, you can't judge Bach by Beethoven's way of doing things, like writing 1-hour long symphonies.



    Professor Craig Wright views Mozart as an innovator, in his 3 lectures (which coincides with Charles Hazlewood's views):

    14.1 - Piano Concerto in D minor

    "... Just as Haydn was more or less the inventor of the modern string quartet, so Mozart was the father of the piano concerto. He set out the structural framework of the piano concerto, one that lasted into the romantic era, here it is. Mozart developed a stereotypical approach to the first movement of the concerto. It goes by several names, concerto form, double exposition form are the two most common. Double exposition form is a good name for this form because there are as you can see, two expositions. We have one exposition as we had in sonata-allegro form development, recapitulation. But now we have another exposition added at the beginning. The first exposition allows the orchestra to present most of the themes by itself. The pianist will add a couple later on, and do so all in the tonic key.
    ...
    Well I hope you'll share with me my beliefs that this is an extraordinary movement, and how different from the ethos or the feeling of a Baroque concerto of the sort that we experienced with Bach and Vivaldi. Baroque concertos usually just have one mood for a movement. Mozart is full of many different moods. And that helps make these classical movements very exciting, very dramatic. And with its D minor sound, it's almost demonic. ..."


    14.2 - Don Giovanni

    "... Now we're going to go on to a trio, a very short one, that's an excellent example of a vocal ensemble by Mozart. What's a vocal ensemble? Well, obviously, it's a group of singers. But in the case of Mozart, it's a very special kind of ensemble, three, four, five, even six soloists, each of whom has a different point of view. They don't speak their emotions in succession as they would in an older Baroque opera seria, but all together vocal counterpoint here. Using a vocal ensemble, Mozart can move the drama along faster. Mozart's kind of opera is more fluid, faster paced, and more realistic. Here's how this little vocal ensemble plays out. Don Giovanni is over top of him. Mozart wrote this exquisite little trio here. It goes by very quickly. No body ever noticed it, but it's some of the most beautiful music that he ever wrote. ..."

    14.3 - The Requiem
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Jun-05-2020 at 03:39.

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