September 25, 2016

One of those absurdly overcomposed monstrosities


i)  ... eccentric without being amusing; and laborious without effect.

ii)  ... a crass monstrosity.

iii)  ... oh, the pages of stupid and hopelessly vulgar music!

iv)  ... eccentric, unconnected, and incomprehensible ... wanting in aesthetical feeling and in a sense of the beautiful ... monstrous and tasteless.

Stretching to the very last year of the 19th century, these dismissive criticisms of Beethoven's symphonies[1] show that even the long-term reception of a musical work is a very poor indicator of the work's artistic significance.  Where is today the once so successful and praised music of Hasse, Hummel, or Dittersdorf?  By contrast, there isn't a major orchestra these days whose season programs do not include Mahler's symphonies - the symphonies which half a century after their premieres were still dismissed by major music critics as "cheap", "banal", "interminable platitudes".[2]

September 20, 2016

On the side of angels...


If angels indeed favor the harp among all musical instruments, they must have given a warm welcome to Elliott Carter - the composer of Trilogy for Harp and Oboe (1992) and Mosaic for Harp and Ensemble (2004) - when he arrived at the Pearly Gates of Heaven on November 5, 2012.
      Trilogy was written for Ursula and Heinz Holliger, and their affection for Carter's music can be heard in this live recording from their all-Carter concert given in Frankfurt on February 4, 2009.  The couple also performed Mosaic at the same concert, with Heinz Holliger conducting Ensemble Modern.
      For the sake of contrast, here is a live recording of Mosaic from a 2008 concert given by Nieuw Ensemble in Amsterdam.  And then there is this very recent American performance of Trilogy by Bridget Kibbey (harp) and James Austin Smith (oboe) recorded at the 2016 Look & Listen Festival.