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Discussion Starter · #121 · (Edited)
Born in the same year as Arensky was Georgy Catoire (1861-1926), whose Symphony in C Minor, Op. 7 (1889) deserves recognition. Its opening movement varies in mood from lyrical to dramatic to pastoral. The following Scherzo is yet another excellent Russian piece in this genre, though not as spectacular as some others. It is in the irregular meter 7/4 (2+2+3). The attractive Trio strikes me as conveying sentiment without being sentimental. The slow movement is also distinguished, opening with wind solos answered by sighs in the strings. It begins in an intimate and expressive vein but builds to an unexpected level of passion likely influenced by Wagnerian style. The Finale has a band-like brass opening, but from there it reaches into magical territory with flutes and tuned percussion. Then there is a festive section evoking bells in passages for many different instruments. Only at the very end is there a perfunctory rousing close. I will include Catoire as Valuable Listening.

The Catoire symphony appears in the catalogue in a recording by the Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Martin Yates on the Dutton label (2012). The CD also includes the Symphony in C Minor "To the Beloved Dead" (1905-6) by Felix Blumenfeld (1863-1931). Previously I had been familiar with Blumenfeld as Vladimir Horowitz's piano teacher in their home city, Kiev. His symphony is an outstanding work but I'm not going to discuss it here. I've seen him referred to sometimes as a Ukrainian composer. I don't know the details of his nationality but have decided to leave him off this thread on Russian orchestral composers, as a salute to Ukraine and in the hope that there will be a thread on Ukrainian composers including Blumenfeld in the future. On this thread another composer who could be described as Russian or Ukrainian (or German) is Reinhold Glière.
 

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Discussion Starter · #122 · (Edited)
LAST CHANCE: The most recent list for Russian Nineteenth-Century Orchestral Composers: Lists of Favorites is Post #110. The deadline for your comments for the final list is March 14, 2022.

The above post is my last personal evaluation for the list. It remains for me to make some promised replies, to re-check everything concerned with the list, and to complete the final versions. So far:

1. Arensky and Sergei Tanayev are added or re-added to Favored Composers.
2. Catoire and Liadov are added to Valuable Listening.
3. A. Rubinstein and C. Cui will be in Composers Worth Consideration, meaning that I haven't spent enough time with them to decide. Same with Alexander Taneyev (moved on second thought from Valuable Listening) and the concerto-only composers Davidov, Conus, Medtner, and Dobrowen.
 

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Discussion Starter · #123 ·
The FINAL LIST POSTING DATE for Russian Nineteenth-Century Orchestral Composers: Lists of Favorites will be Monday, March 21. In the meantime may I say how much your comments, questions, and suggestions are appreciated. This thread wouldn't have been possible without the active participation of TC members, some of whom I've named previously. I still plan to reply to some unanswered posts. But after initiating and carrying through long threads on late romantic orchestral German/Austrian and French composers this is definitely the last one.

As well as posts on the specific content of this thread I also welcome constructive remarks on the general approach taken -- for example what worked or didn't for you. As usual, anything except politics and religion. The idea has been to keep the light shining for classical music and it's been wonderful to experience the response.
 

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I love this thread, and all of the knowledge I am gaining from reviewing these posts. I've always loved 19th Century Russian Orchestral, but I have had a limited exposure to this genre in my life.

I spent a lot of time in another online forum, but I wish I'd spent that time here instead. I am thankful for this website. Thank you all for sharing.
 

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Discussion Starter · #125 · (Edited)
I don't find your remarks smarmy. Partly because some participants know Russian orchestral music better than me, I've put a lot of work into this thread and appreciate your support.

or

I feel a slight pulling sensation in my leg. Er, yes. perhaps a Zappa-like prank is in the works. Or, to quote my countryman the great Bieber at his most profound, "What do you mean?"
 

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Discussion Starter · #126 · (Edited)
Follow-up: Judgment or Preference?

In the light of a number of lively discussions on TC, for this thread I decided to replace the language of judgment (best, greatest, most important) with that of preference (favorite, like). The idea was to avoid intellectual or artistic elitism, giving an undue sense of authority for judgments that are actually matters of personal preference.

I was able to stick with preference language. As for elitism, that's a different story. At times I used academic style and music theory terminology. In addition, I used the PhD. dissertation by Kirill Zikanov concerning Glinka, Dargomyzhsky, Balakirev, and Anton Rubinstein. There were no responses. The dissertation in particular was an experiment that I won't do again. But I certainly won't stop reading dissertations because they are one place where new information is to be found. And also I'd like to say that nowadays there are good, relevant studies being done in musicology and theory and that graduate programs in those areas deserve respect.
 

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I enjoy reading through this thread and it is clear to me that most on here do not claim to have the whole truth on their side along with the "right and proven" opinion.
While most threads on the orchestral music seem to be about two composers that I don't perticularly like that much... this thread is refreshing and has given me the chance to get to know some works ! I'm interested in the Russian culture (which is a dangerous thing to say these days) and I want to thank the contributors on this thread :tiphat: .
 

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Discussion Starter · #128 ·
... this thread is refreshing and has given me the chance to get to know some works ! I'm interested in the Russian culture (which is a dangerous thing to say these days) and I want to thank the contributors on this thread :tiphat: .
Thanks ... you mentioned Lyapunov 2 in particular. His big romantic symphonies were new to me too, along with excellent ones of Glazunov and of other composers born after 1850 -- S. Taneyev, Gretchaninov, Kalinnikov, Gliere, Miaskovsky, Steinberg. And all the orchestral music apart from symphonies. I don't agree with a boycott of Russian music, but I've lost interest in going further with it for now.
 

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Discussion Starter · #129 · (Edited)
Russian Nineteenth-Century* Orchestral Composers: Lists of Favorites

FINAL LIST

Most Favored Composers (5): Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff

Favored Composers (10): Glinka, Borodin, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Taneyev, Ippolitov-Ivanov, Arensky, Kalinnikov, Glière, Miaskovsky

Valuable Listening (6): Dargomyzhsky, Liadov, Lyapunov, Catoire, Gretchaninov, Steinberg

Composers Worth Considering (7): A. Rubinstein, Cui, A. Taneyev;
(wrote concertos only): Davidov, Conus, Medtner, Dobrowen

TOTAL = 28

*romantic/late romantic composers born 1800-1899
 

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Discussion Starter · #130 ·
FINAL LIST

Most Favored Composers (5): Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Glazunov, Scriabin, Rachmaninoff

Favored Composers (10): Glinka, Borodin, Balakirev, Mussorgsky, Taneyev, Ippolitov-Ivanov, Arensky, Kalinnikov, Glière, Miaskovsky

Valuable Listening (6): Dargomyzhsky, Liadov, Lyapunov, Catoire, Gretchaninov, Steinberg

Composers Worth Considering (7): A. Rubinstein, Cui, A. Taneyev;
(wrote concertos only): Davidov, Conus, Medtner, Dobrowen
The Final List can't be very surprising since totals were posted periodically throughout the thread. I will be giving additional attention in the future to composers on the Favored Composers and Valuable Listening lists. Of the Composers Worth Considering I'm already busy with Anton Rubinstein.

I don't think the use of less "elitist" language (e.g. "Most Favored" instead of "Greatest") made that much difference really. Comments by participants were more effective, for example mchaub's championship of Ippolitov-Ivanov.
 

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Discussion Starter · #131 ·
The Final List can't be very surprising since totals were posted periodically throughout the thread. I will be giving additional attention in the future to composers on the Favored Composers and Valuable Listening lists. Of the Composers Worth Considering I'm already busy with Anton Rubinstein.

I don't think the use of less "elitist" language (e.g. "Most Favored" instead of "Greatest") made that much difference really. Comments by participants were more effective, for example mchaub's championship of Ippolitov-Ivanov.
Back to this thread, without intending any suggestion that I am not devastated by the current actions of Russia.

One thing I want to do is comment on the composers of concertos who did not write much other orchestral music. Nicolay Medtner (1880-1951) is the most prominent one. Much as I have tried to like his three piano concertos, it seems that they don't speak to me. I will put this in general terms only. There is a convincing book by Ernst Toch called The Shaping Forces in Music. Rather than focus on musical form the author focusses on processes that generate the inner life of music. In my view the shaping forces are what Medtner lacks. A tremendous pianist and improviser, innovative in creating wonderful new figurations for the instrument and coming up with original concepts for his concertos, he seems not to have the discipline necessary to deploy his jewels to maximum effect. I sense wandering and busyness and don't feel any momentum. In addition Medtner was known to dislike orchestrating his music, an attitude which put into jeopardy the basic concerto principle of bringing opposites into play for both contrast and unity. In his solo concerts, he insisted on playing only his own compositions, thus greatly reducing his bookings and leaving him in poverty. He claimed to adhere to the highest artistic values while neglecting the value of bringing his pianistic gift to the music of other distinguished composers. He will remain in the category Composers Worth Considering till we have considered the other composers so designated.
 

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Discussion Starter · #132 ·
Back to this thread, without intending any suggestion that I am not devastated by the current actions of Russia. One thing I want to do is comment on the composers of concertos who did not write much other orchestral music.
Cello Concerto No. 4 by Karl Davidoff (1838-1889) is not to be missed! During my politics-induced absence from this thread I've had time to listen to more Russian nineteenth-century century concertos including all four by Karl Davidoff, a top virtuoso and excellent composer. His cello concertos are well-regarded by cellists but I shall go out on a limb and claim No. 4 to be the best -- other sources I've seen so far cite all of them without making distinctions. Please listen to Davidoff's No. 4 and let us know what you think!
 

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Discussion Starter · #133 ·
While awaiting comments on Davidoff I'll discuss the other "concertos-only" Russian composer -- Julius Conus (Yuly Konyus; 1869-1942). He came from a family of French musicians whose ancestors had moved to Russia because of the Napoleonic Wars. Above are both the western and Russian spellings of his name. He studied violin and composition at the Moscow Conservatory and was a violinist in Russia until leaving for France after the revolution; unlike many other emigré musicians he moved back to Russia in 1939. The Violin Concerto in E Minor (1896) became well-known after Jascha Heifetz took it up and recorded it; many other violinists have also played it. In my late teens, a violinist friend of mine who played me recordings of his favorite works took out the Conus and Korngold concertos somewhat sheepishly. He really liked them but thought I'd find them too "Hollywood" (actually I didn't, but probably I like them better now than then). Since then the Korngold has really taken off, the Conus less so.

The concerto is concise (c. 18 minutes) and in sonata form, but with a slow movement interpolated in place of a development section. The opening theme is very affecting, continuing its melodic shape in the high notes of virtuosic runs. After a variety of both bowings and violinistic pitch formations it reaches a glorious climax in the relative key, G major. Then begins the slow movement, followed by an effective recapitulation and magnificent cadenza. This soloist's concerto seems tailor-made for Heifetz's technique and style. Its faults are typical of such concertos -- too many sequences and a tendency toward sentimentality. A great soloist can introduce variants in technique and expressive turns in such passages that make us buy into the work all the same. Jascha Heifetz, RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra/Izler Solomon; Naxos: Great Violinists Series, 2010.
 

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Discussion Starter · #135 ·
Why I think Karl Davidoff's Cello Concerto No. 4 is his best:
  • all three movements are of high quality. In comparison No. 3 opens beautifully and has a fine first movement; but the slow movement's themes are too conventional; the finale's second theme I find too short-breathed and repetitive
  • in No. 4's Allegro opening there is a tough, surprising motif that turns out to be a source of rhythmic energy; the cadenza has unusual double stops
  • in the opening of the second movement, a descending octave horn call could have been merely decorative and introductory but it becomes significant at various points; the extended cello melody is what I'm delighted to hear from Davidoff -- long-breathed, introspective, profound
  • the finale is truly jolly with a motif whose clear shape breaks up what could have been just another moto perpetuo; movement has the feel of superior light music
 

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Discussion Starter · #136 ·
Although I wanted to highlight No. 4, I shouldn't leave a negative impression of Karl Davidoff's first three cello concertos. Each one has positive qualities and I hope some listeners will post about them here. Davidoff also left two concertante works for cello and orchestra:
  • Fantasia on a Russian Folk Song in E Major op. 7 (1860)
  • Ballade in G Minor, op. 25 (1875)
For the latter, so far I've only located a recording for cello and piano.
 

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Discussion Starter · #137 ·
For the Final List given in Post #129, Karl Davidoff will added in the category Valued Listening. The greatest pleasure in doing these threads on lesser-known composers is to find unfamiliar works that are of high quality.
 

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Discussion Starter · #138 ·
Occasionally I've felt the need to put in an extra plug for a particular composer. Such is the case with Sergei Lyapunov and his concertante works: two piano concertos, one violin concerto and the Rhapsody on Ukrainian Themes for Piano and Orchestra; they add support for his Valuable Listening designation. In particular the Piano Concerto No. 1 (1890) and the Violin Concerto (1915, rev. 1921) I would recommend to anyone. Lyapunov's piano style is full of contrasts; whether decorative or bravura, it is consistently attractive. I hadn't heard the Violin Concerto previously. Certainly the way he builds from the beginning of the slow section up to a heavenly high-register paradise is engrossing. The opening of the Rhapsody creates a melancholy atmosphere, while the dance section of the work reaches becomes a spectacular whirl leading to a hair-raising close. I wish there were a "calling card" work by Lyapunov that everyone knew, but any of the preceding works or the Second Symphony would be a good introduction to this distinguished composer.
 

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Discussion Starter · #140 ·
Some may be surprised at this mention of the Double Bass Concerto (1902) by Serge Koussevitsky (1874-1951), but I think it’s worth acknowledging the composer’s early career as a double bassist before becoming a great conductor. As I studied the instrument for two years I have a certain partiality to it. The opening Allegro begins with a marcato orchestral theme that is answered by the double bass with a lyrical version of it, very Russian and sad. The passage exemplifies the character of the instrument as soloist, romantic and passionate. At this point I hear an objection: the cello could do this much better. My answer: yes the cello has wider scope and a high reputation as a romantic instrument but the solo bass has a different tone, a sort of despairing wail that can convey a feeling of being pushed to the extreme. So the bass is a singing instrument and many other things also. The Andante movement is expressive and convincing while in the final Allegro the opening dialogue returns in different guise. And played well, the virtuosic passage-work provides a unique sense of triumph. There are three recordings in the current catalogue, including: Gary Karr; Oslo Philharmonic/ Alfredo Antonini; New World-CRI, 2010.
 
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