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Old 11-11-2020, 04:31 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Default Classical Music Criticism

Earlier this year executive editor and founder of classicstoday.com, David Hurwitz, had an extensive conversation about classical music criticism with pianist, IlyaTakser. Good one. And a lot more fun than than I expected. It's posted, in part, in hopes that we'll see more classical album reviews on the board in the future.



Any thoughts on classical music criticism, in general? Share them!

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Old 11-11-2020, 09:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I don't really like the focus on theory that classical provides, most of the music has little repetition so it's quite boring to me.

In fact, my thing has always really been a rejection of music theory. I never learned any of it and say what you will abt my music but I think that if it sounds good it sounds good you know? Classical is usually heralded as, as one member put on here once, a "golden standard" of music and that it's supposedly the best of art music? When in fact, there are plenty of art music compositions that I'd rather hear than classical.

That being said, I love a few classical composers, I'm not a fan of much of it but in general I like romanticism, minimalism, modern classical, polyphonic chant, stuff like that. And ofc non-western classical music. Especially hindustani
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Old 11-13-2020, 03:00 PM   #3 (permalink)
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I don't really like the focus on theory that classical provides, most of the music has little repetition so it's quite boring to me.

In fact, my thing has always really been a rejection of music theory. I never learned any of it and say what you will abt my music but I think that if it sounds good it sounds good you know? Classical is usually heralded as, as one member put on here once, a "golden standard" of music and that it's supposedly the best of art music? When in fact, there are plenty of art music compositions that I'd rather hear than classical.

That being said, I love a few classical composers, I'm not a fan of much of it but in general I like romanticism, minimalism, modern classical, polyphonic chant, stuff like that. And ofc non-western classical music. Especially hindustani
I can understand preferring other musical forms but I don't think criticism in this field is necessarily relegated to discussion of theory. Perhaps when you're considering composition reference to theory is apropos but for simple appreciation no talk of theory is necessary or even taken up by most reviewers of new classical releases (thank goodness). As Hurwitz says in the above YouTube interview - classical music, like any music, is about entertainment. So, by default, criticism is about entertainment. Theory has traditionally been reserved for academics, imo. And academics don't keep classical music alive. People who love listening to it do!

But, like Hurwitz stated, a good critic is indispensable - especially today, when there are a myriad recordings of the same repertoire and so much new material yet to be discovered. I relish a good write-up of just about any classical new release.
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Old 11-13-2020, 04:26 PM   #4 (permalink)
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It’s definitely a challenge

I try to go into it occasionally on freak fighter

If you wanted to choose two recordings of the same composition and then we could discuss them

The Cleveland Symphony is releasing a lot of new recordings

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cle...outputType=amp

We could compare these recordings to older ones or something like that
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Old 11-14-2020, 05:36 PM   #5 (permalink)
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It’s definitely a challenge

The Cleveland Symphony is releasing a lot of new recordings

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cle...outputType=amp

We could compare these recordings to older ones or something like that
Like that, especially with easy access to the Complete George Szell led Cleveland Symphony Orchestra recordings on Spotify - widely regarded as some of the finest recorded orchestral work on disc.
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Old 11-14-2020, 06:19 PM   #6 (permalink)
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I was thinking of mentioning George Szell since those recordings represent a kind of gold standard.

I’ve mentioned a few times that my favorite composer is Elliott Carter. I was recently reading an interview with him where he was describing attending performances of his work and a compositional strategy he would employ would be for the musician playing the most difficult passages to play louder and the others softer. Not exactly a revolutionary idea, I know, it’s the backbone of the concerto, but he was talking about symphonies and chamber works without a clear specified soloist so the conductor and the musicians had to be a little more cognizant of what was expected of them. The complexity of his compositions can require in his words “virtuoso” level of skill of any member of the ensemble- so these musicians have to work hard af to play this music. Anyway, he said that he would see them ****ing up his music and then members of the orchestra would talk to him afterward pissed off. But he was also saying that he understood that some musicians simply weren’t capable of doing much more than getting through the notes.

He died in 2012 - it’s hard to believe 8 years have passed it seems so recent. But I’d probably have to live to be a 1000 to be a keen enough of a listener to be able to pick that stuff out without having it spoon fed to me. I love his music but I just accept the recordings as they are. If there’s anywhere I have an honest preference it’s only the sonatas. Even with the quartets that kind of astute ear is way way beyond me. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that I’ve only heard the Juilliard versions anyway.

It could be a personal challenge to be able to compare to the Pacifica Quartet (for example) but it would be at the expense of a lot of other listening.

On the other hand I do remember noticing differences in the Beethoven String Quartets. Obviously there’s ****loads of versions to choose from.

The Beethoven String Quartets could be a good place to start the discussion or whatever - the Cleveland symphony thing too. I’m up for giving it a go.

Being on Spotify is almost mandatory for me these days.
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Old 11-14-2020, 08:23 PM   #7 (permalink)
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I was thinking of mentioning George Szell since those recordings represent a kind of gold standard.

I’ve mentioned a few times that my favorite composer is Elliott Carter. I was recently reading an interview with him where he was describing attending performances of his work and a compositional strategy he would employ would be for the musician playing the most difficult passages to play louder and the others softer. Not exactly a revolutionary idea, I know, it’s the backbone of the concerto, but he was talking about symphonies and chamber works without a clear specified soloist so the conductor and the musicians had to be a little more cognizant of what was expected of them. The complexity of his compositions can require in his words “virtuoso” level of skill of any member of the ensemble- so these musicians have to work hard af to play this music. Anyway, he said that he would see them ****ing up his music and then members of the orchestra would talk to him afterward pissed off. But he was also saying that he understood that some musicians simply weren’t capable of doing much more than getting through the notes.

The Beethoven String Quartets could be a good place to start the discussion or whatever - the Cleveland symphony thing too. I’m up for giving it a go.
That sounds good. What you described Carter of doing Beethoven certainly did with his piano works. He knew most pianists of his day would struggle with the early pieces he wrote which, because of their popularity, gave him an edge in performing them.

The string quartets: Yes, there are a lot of them. I've got the Budapest and Juilliard (early quartet) string box sets. Most of the Budapest versions and the Complete Juilliard are on Spotify. What's in your collection? I like the idea of dividing the quartets in to an early, middle and late period. David Hurwitz was on to something when he said that there is probably no one perfect complete recorded cycle as even the best quartets are better in one or two of the quartet periods than others. I'm stuck on the austere but vital sound of the Juilliard String Quartet but completely open to hear and evaluate other versions. Course, it should have a dedicated thread. If we keep this thread as a general springboard for ideas it may turn out some interesting spinoffs.
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Old 11-14-2020, 08:54 PM   #8 (permalink)
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On hard copy store bought CD I have the Alban Berg Quartet

This box set :

I also have a couple other versions of No. 15 which is my favorite but I’m not sure what versions they are

I tried googling images and looking on Amazon but nothing rings a bell.

I know I bought my first copy of that over 30 years ago. I think I had it on cassette before that. I actually think I recorded it off the radio originally.
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Old 11-14-2020, 09:02 PM   #9 (permalink)
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But anyway why don’t you pick a Beethoven string quartet and two versions that are on Spotify- really it could be any two versions - it need not be the best versions just for discussing the differences -compare and contrast - honestly it would probably be better to start with just the first movement of any string quartet - weigh in - and then to the second movement- imo - just to keep it bite size - not that each movement would need a new thread but just to pace the discussion
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Old 11-14-2020, 09:07 PM   #10 (permalink)
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I'm stuck on the austere but vital sound of the Juilliard String Quartet but completely open to hear and evaluate other versions.
Sorry to triple post but I hear you on this opinion. I got to see them perform in Japan once.
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