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I don’t really understand how anyone can have a problem with song. There’s absolutely no difference in kind, in genre, I between a song or song cycle by Schubert and a song or song cycle by Bob Dylan. A song is just a poem and music combined.
 

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The way to know an opera “at the most basic level” is to listen to it once following the libretto. Operas tend to have pretty straight forward linear narratives, it’s very straightforward to get to know the plot by listening and following. With most operas - Verdi, Puccini, Wagner, Strauss - follow the libretto once and you’ve pretty well got the hang of what’s going on. There may be bits you miss, but you can easily discover them later if you feel so inclined.
I'm a big opera fan. It was my gateway to all other classical and remains my favorite art form. I'm absolutely hooked on them.

Still, I have a VERY hard time getting into operas with just the music and the libretto. This is a debatable opinion, but I think opera is first and foremost a narrative theatrical art. The words and the music are key, but it's the physical embodiment of the drama that carries the art form. So I'd suggest looking up some opera on VOD. There seem to be some high quality ones out there for free on youtube! OR get cheap tix to a local opera house!
 

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I don’t really understand how anyone can have a problem with song. There’s absolutely no difference in kind, in genre, I between a song or song cycle by Schubert and a song or song cycle by Bob Dylan. A song is just a poem and music combined.
But it is obviously the case that many people have problems with the genre who like popular or folk songs (I personally never did but I was never really immersed in modern popular music). So it hardly helps to just reiterate that there should no be problem because there really is no difference. There seems to be a considerable difference in the perception of many listeners, otherwise lieder should be the most popular genre of classical music, not one of the more niche genres...
 

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Maybe.


I’ve seen a lot of opera with star singers and star directors in top opera houses in Europe and America - sometimes it’s a good experience and sometimes it isn’t.

Just as a matter of personal experience I got to know operas through libretto and sound recording. And if I’m going to see an opera I don’t know in the theatre, even if it has surtitles, I much prefer to listen to a recording with the libretto beforehand.
 

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I don’t really understand how anyone can have a problem with song. There’s absolutely no difference in kind, in genre, I between a song or song cycle by Schubert and a song or song cycle by Bob Dylan. A song is just a poem and music combined.
In an absolute sense I agree. But with foreign language songs it can be difficult to appreciate the poetry. Poetry doesn't always translate well. There's always something reserved for native speakers of that language. I noticed this when I finally got around to reading Paradise Lost. Even though I love earlier epic poems by Homer or Dante, reading Milton was special. And lots had to do with the fact that it was in English -- the rhythm and meaning are more alive and precise in the native language than for Ancient Greek or Italian in translation.

I think with Lieder vs Bob Dylan its much the same -- but with the added bonus of contemporary relevancy. I can directly appreciate Dylan lyrics for their slang and their delivery AND feel deeply the cultural relevancy of the music in a way that's difficult with German, which I don't understand.

What sets opera apart is that the poetry or songs or words are matched to dramatic action. And that serves as a major hook that helps give meaning to the words and music I'm hearing. It's why I was drawn in by opera in the first place. I didn't have to do as much work to imagine or interpret musical drama or tone when it was so very clearly matched to narrative action on the stage. Whereas with a symphony, the listener has to do a lot of that imaginative work for themselves. For those who are practiced in doing so, it is very rewarding. But it can be difficult to learn. But with opera, as becomes true later on with cinema, much of that work is done for the audience.

Maybe a reasonable comparison in English would be between Shakespeare and poetry: even though Shakespeare used poetic forms in his dialogue and soliloquies, his words are made more memorable than most other types of poetry because they are so clearly tied to narrative. The number of average people who can quote or misquote Macbeth or Hamlet etc etc far outnumbers the people who can quote poetry by other great English language poets. And I think it largely has to do with the natural "stickiness" of stories.
 

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But it is obviously the case that many people have problems with the genre who like popular or folk songs (I personally never did but I was never really immersed in modern popular music). So it hardly helps to just reiterate that there should no be problem because there really is no difference. There seems to be a considerable difference in the perception of many listeners, otherwise lieder should be the most popular genre of classical music, not one of the more niche genres...
That’s because of the singing style. The unnatural and mannered singing style (think FiDi’s influence on lieder singing, still an influence now.) And it’s because the venues they are performed at are snobby, unfriendly, old fashioned. And of course there’s the language barrier.
 

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In an absolute sense I agree. But with foreign language songs it can be difficult to appreciate the poetry. Poetry doesn't always translate well. There's always something reserved for native speakers of that language. I noticed this when I finally got around to reading Paradise Lost. Even though I love earlier epic poems by Homer or Dante, reading Milton was special. And lots had to do with the fact that it was in English -- the rhythm and meaning are more alive and precise in the native language than in translation.

I think with Lieder vs Bob Dylan its much the same -- but with the added bonus of contemporary relevancy. I can directly appreciate Dylan lyrics for their slang and their delivery AND feel deeply the cultural relevancy of the music in a way that's difficult with German, which I don't understand.

What sets opera apart is that the poetry or songs or words are matched to dramatic action. And that serves as a major hook that help gives meaning to the words and music I'm hearing. It's why I was drawn in by opera in the first place. I didn't have to do as much work to imagine or interpret musical drama or tone when it was so very clearly matched to narrative action on the stage. Maybe a reasonable comparison in English would be between Shakespeare and poetry: even though Shakespeare used poetic forms in his dialogue and soliloquies, his words are made more memorable than most other types of poetry because they are so clearly tied to narrative. The number of average people who can quote or misquote Macbeth or Hamlet etc etc far outnumbers the people who can quote other random poetry. And I think it largely has to do with the natural "stickiness" of stories.
I think there was a video of a performance of Winterreise which made it dramatic - with Pears and Britten. Pears in his winter raincoat. And I’ve seen it danced to twice - once with Keenlyside singing and his wife dancing, and once with the Pina Bausch company - both pretty mediocre.
 

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It’s also worth mentioning that poetry is very much a niche activity, and has been at least since the time of Baudelaire. No one reads poems except other poets and students of literature. Songs are just poems, with a bit of music.
 

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I think there was a video of a performance of Winterreise which made it dramatic - with Pears and Britten. Pears in his winter raincoat. And I’ve seen it danced to twice - once with Keenlyside singing and his wife dancing, and once with the Pina Bausch company - both pretty mediocre.
Might it be because the art wasn't meant to be enacted or danced to? It can be difficult to adapt art.

It’s also worth mentioning that poetry is very much a niche activity, and has been since the time of Baudelaire. No one reads poems except other poets and students of literature. Songs are just poems, with a bit of music.
Certainly true. I think each layer you add onto it helps create something more concrete for an audience member to latch onto. Music on its own can be very abstract and hard to describe. As my musician friends like to say: speaking about music is like dancing about architecture. A funny saying that rings true for me. But when you add lyrics to the music, it helps solidify an interpretation. Similarly, for poetry: when it's just read in your head it can be quite vague. When recited it can add more meaning. When set to music it can become even clearer.

To all those, when you add dramatic action or narrative, it becomes really sticky for audiences. Even loosely-narrative or non-narrative visuals can help -- hence the wild success of music videos and MTV.

It's why I think film and television have become the most accessible of all the arts. And that leads me to believe that, in their heyday, opera and theater were incredibly accessible for those same reasons. Adding on all these different types of art forms and setting them to a singular purpose helps deliver a very "sticky" and accessible experience for an audience.
 

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There seems to be a considerable difference in the perception of many listeners, otherwise lieder should be the most popular genre of classical music, not one of the more niche genres...
By such a reasoning Chopin's b flat minor would be a better sonata than the b minor because it has been played/recorded far more frequently, the best Mozart sonata would probably be K 331 and so on.
Sorry about quoting your posts from other threads, but sometimes you seem to suggest popularity is an objective measure of greatness, other times it's not. Can you explain to us your "stance" regarding this clearly so that we can view your way of thinking as having some consistency?
 

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Discussion Starter · #652 ·
Sorry about quoting your posts from other threads, but sometimes you seem to suggest popularity is an objective measure of greatness, other times it's not. Can you explain to us your "stance" regarding this clearly so that we can view your way of thinking as having some consistency?
Let's not. Take it to the other thread if it's important to you.
 

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Sorry about quoting your posts from other threads, but sometimes you seem to suggest popularity is an objective measure of greatness, other times it's not. Can you explain to us your "stance" regarding this clearly so that we can view your way of thinking as having some consistency?
I didn't say anything positive about the relation between popularity and greatness in the case of lieder. And I never said popularity was a measure of greatness. I think it is one indicator among several others, like a hat might point to the perpertrator in a crime mystery. [In the case of K 331 it seems easy to explain the high popularity because of the picturesque alla turca and the melodic accessibility of the first movement, in the case of D 960 and op.111 a think it is some myth of the "last work".]

The shared opinion of a commmunity of scholars or musicians is a better indicator etc. but of course one could still be off in its judgement. (In a way it is a strong indicator of objectivity, that you could be wrong. You often can't be wrong in subjective assessments because you are just reporting a personal reaction, there is no external object as measure for revision. (Of course there is some maths and logics where you can be objectively correct with no revision possible but this is a rather special case and it is an open question if there are "external objects"/measures) for maths)

But I don't think for a second that mass popularity among a late 20th century audience that has had their ears and tastes corrupted by several generations of commercial pop music that has a singing style only made possible by artificial amplification is such a good indicator.
It's rather predictable that both opera and lied are special tastes partly because the singing style is different from what people have heard in popular music (whereas instrumental classical music is often so different that a comparison with pop is not provoked).

However, because of the intimacy of lieder many of which were intended for smallish audience (either private of semi-private like a large Salon), I think recordings are a pretty good thing because listening alone to a recording might be more adaequate than a large hall (obviously totally different for opera).
And I also cannot shake the advantage that most lieder are in my native language which makes the perception very different (but it could also work in the opposite direction because old-fashioned staid poetry is also more easy to spot). This might account for a rather different stance towards the genre.
 

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It's very understandable that people struggle with Lieder. They are both intimate and artificial (and therefore it is usually a fallacy that they should be accessible because of brevity and superficial similarity to popular songs).
But I'd almost go so far to say that Lieder are essential to get a real grasp on Austro-German romanticism from Schubert to early modernity (Mahler, Strauss, 2nd viennese school). In one way or another lieder seem to inform almost everything (besides there being a few composers like Loewe and Wolf who wrote almost nothing else). Sure, you can look at instrumental music in the abstract. But there are "songs without words", quotations, allusions, cycles of piano pieces in analogy to song cycles, later lieder included in symphonies or string quartets etc.
Rosen titles one of the first chapters in his book on the Romantics "Mountains and Songcycles". Schuberts two big cycles (and some other single songs) evoke the wanderer through a romantic landscape; so the song and the romantic nature is basically the foundation of the romantic worldview
I'm interested in Schubert's intentions in the piano accompaniment in his songs. He wanted something relevant, but not more 'interesting' than what the singer does. He composed so many that the answer is probably different for each, time after time. Was he writing for pianists he knew, perhaps, or maybe nobody else. It's very difficult to be a world-class accompanist.
Anyway, kudos to man!, and 'much fairer hopes'.. I think that's the phrase, too lazy right now to google it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #655 ·
I've enjoyed Schumann this week. Twenty-one works listened to and all of a very consistent enjoyment level. Nothing outstanding or worthy of singling-out, yet nothing that grates or falls short for me. Remarkable really. The only work I didn't enjoy was Myrthen, but sense that was the soprano rather than the work itself as I enjoyed Gerhaher's Myrthen pieces.

Chopin on the other hand has disappointed me again. After the first few works, my enjoyment level fell off a cliff. His Cello Sonata and Piano Sonata No. 3 threatened to raise the bar, but not enough to prevent him becoming the lowest-rated composer of any of the fifteen from whom I've listened to more than ten works this year.

Liszt and the rest of the, "Early-Romantics", coming tomorrow, clearing the way for our second opera week starting on 25th.
 

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I've enjoyed Schumann this week. Twenty-one works listened to and all of a very consistent enjoyment level. Nothing outstanding or worthy of singling-out, yet nothing that grates or falls short for me. Remarkable really. The only work I didn't enjoy was Myrthen, but sense that was the soprano rather than the work itself as I enjoyed Gerhaher's Myrthen pieces.

Chopin on the other hand has disappointed me again. After the first few works, my enjoyment level fell off a cliff. His Cello Sonata and Piano Sonata No. 3 threatened to raise the bar, but not enough to prevent him becoming the lowest-rated composer of any of the fifteen from whom I've listened to more than ten works this year.

Liszt and the rest of the, "Early-Romantics", coming tomorrow, clearing the way for our second opera week starting on 25th.
I think Chopin was the great (thinking) link between the attractiveness of Mozart and Schubert, then on past himself to Brahms, Scriabin, Debussy.
I understand why many will underrate him. There must be 5 reasons people cite. In the past, to me, it's seemed to be an unfortunate outcome due to special factors coming together with him.

Then I heard Glenn Gould complain, why would anyone want to sit through an hour long piano recital. So, it brought that home to me. Can a musician relate to a non-musician's view of such questions? Music is good for learning, performing and listening, and this was probably the world that Chopin expected.

Any personally-unique complaints about Chopin? I find it interesting.
 

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Discussion Starter · #657 · (Edited)
It's me, not Chopin, that's for sure. I don't warm so easily to solo piano works as I do orchestral, chamber or opera, but whilst I enjoyed or at least appreciated all of the Schumann works listed (I listened down to Chopin's Berceuse), I simply didn't enjoy Chopin's Impromtus, Polonaises, Études, Scherzo No. 2, Fantasie in F Minor, Barcarolle or Piano Concerto No. 1.

Maybe they'll grow on me.
 

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It's me, not Chopin, that's for sure. I don't warm so easily to solo piano works as I do symphonic, chamber or opera, but whilst I enjoyed or at least appreciated all of the Schumann works listed (I listened down to Chopin's Berceuse), I simply didn't enjoy Chopin's Impromtus, Polonaises, Études, Scherzo No. 2, Fantasie in F Minor, Barcarolle or Piano Concerto No. 1.

Maybe they'll grow on me.
Maybe they will. When I was a kid I avoided his larger works, preferring to get to know his famous, small melodic works.

So, he wasn't composing for me at that age, nor for music enthusiasts who had been already impressed by orchestral narratives or quartets with their separated interweaving parts. As we know, he was a promoter of what the piano could seriously do beyond song-like Schubert, and the less "vulgar" and easier for the public than LvB (and with melodies more central to his works than Schumann). He had his niche, but it's probably long gone.

People listen to him as flowery background, or as pianists they study his innovations (for the NEW more powerful and more playable pianos).
I expect that when people (accidentally) like his larger works, the masterful pieces will actually become some memorable go/to pieces for them, when they're in that mood. The old cliché is that you have to be in the mood for Chopin (if you're just listening). But that's probably the same for many composers (like JsB or Scriabin or Liszt, for me).
 

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I appreciate these perspectives. Particularly that tidbit about Glenn Gould. Makes sense!

I haven't gotten beyond half of the level 3 works. But overall I find I resonate with Chillam's assessment of Schubert and Chopin. Very pleasant works but maybe stuff that won't stick in my brain in the way that JsB or LVB or WAM do (since we're sticking to initials here, haha).

I did love Chopin's Ballade's and Nocturne. But the Waltzes I couldn't get through -- pleasant but not terribly interesting if you aren't ballroom dancing, I guess. Similarly, I couldn't get into Schumann's Kinderszenen and Kreisliriana as much his very good piano concerto.

I'm curious, are we going to be covering the works of Clara S. and Fanny M.? I've been listening to my fair share of classical music/history podcasts and they've had remarkable stories. I wonder if their musical legacy has garnered Chillam-Metacritic/Chill-Tomatoes levels of noteworthiness.
 

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I appreciate these perspectives. Particularly that tidbit about Glenn Gould. Makes sense!

I haven't gotten beyond half of the level 3 works. But overall I find I resonate with Chillam's assessment of Schubert and Chopin. Very pleasant works but maybe stuff that won't stick in my brain in the way that JsB or LVB or WAM do (since we're sticking to initials here, haha).

I did love Chopin's Ballade's and Nocturne. But the Waltzes I couldn't get through -- pleasant but not terribly interesting if you aren't ballroom dancing, I guess. Similarly, I couldn't get into Schumann's Kinderszenen and Kreisliriana as much his very good piano concerto.

I'm curious, are we going to be covering the works of Clara S. and Fanny M.? I've been listening to my fair share of classical music/history podcasts and they've had remarkable stories. I wonder if their musical legacy has garnered Chillam-Metacritic/Chill-Tomatoes levels of noteworthiness.
As for Clara and Fanny, I would say that their ideas were less impressive, but their pieces are of course very well-crafted (they had plenty of exposure). So, what I would suspect is that people would have a more difficult time with them and are more apt to get tired of the process of listening to them.
Anyway the more you listen, weeks apart, and and in very different moods, the more you will hear in them …and then you could be impressed by how much less quality time they probably had for composing (less than Robert or Felix).

On another note, relevant to this thread, we were exploring in my classes yesterday how and why people seem to immediately appreciate works like Moonlight Sonata and Liebestraum and Pachelbel Canon in D, Air on a G String, Ravel’s Death of a Princess, Mozart’s k545. We came to a preliminary conclusion that humans already know these famous chord progressions AND the notes in these pieces grow right out of the chord progressions ..that they already know. Of course I'm speaking of preteens with little experience in listening, but it might be helpful to know as the new CM fan.

It's fairly obvious, but so much about music appreciation is quite obvious (it actually has to be for non-musicians, and composers needed to know that all too well).:)

Added
As you listen for decades, you rely less and less upon your favorite progressions which had brought you so much pleasure early on.
 
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