alan little’s weblog

more music musings

29th March 2004 permanent link

Hmm. Somewhat lacking in writing motivation at the moment. Or rather, motivation for writing anything short and slight enough to make for regular weblog entries. So I’ll just round off what has turned out to be a music-themed month with a couple more music links.

Following on from Brian Micklethwait’s piece on Shostakovich: I noticed last week classical music critic Normal Lebrecht has an interesting piece on The Fight for Shostakovich. Apparently some ex-Soviet musicologists now working in the States are out to besmirch Shostakovich’s reputation by claiming he was actually a loyalist Stalinist soviet citizen all along, and deny that his music was full of echoes of dissidence and protest. Lebrecht finds their postion, er, unconvincing:

Evidence of his moral courage and political disgust is so overwhelming that it is hard to imagine how even an ivory-towered musicologist could pretend otherwise. … What motivates these flat-earthers? It’s hard to say without putting them on the couch

Further discussion of Lebrecht’s piece here.

Also on the subject of Shostakovich: I was looking up the dates of some of my favourite pieces of classical music the other day, to put them in some kind of historical perspective. I noticed that the latest of them was Shostakovich’s 8th string quartet, written in 1960 – the year before I was born. (The recording to get is the Borodin Quartet live at the Edinburgh Festival 1962, on BBC Legends).

Compare and contrast another period (not chosen completely at random) of just over forty years in musical history. A very high proportion of what I would call truly great music – and I think a lot of people would agree – was written between the late 1780s and the late 1820s. This covers Mozart’s later work, the entire second half of Haydn’s published output, most of Beethoven and all of Schubert. It has to be 41 years, in order to start with Mozart’s great string quintet in C Major (1787) and finish with Schubert’s (1828).

Expecting any other period to come close to that probably never-to-be-repeated Golden Age would be a lot to ask – but is there really nothing in the last forty years? (I suppose later Shostakovich might be a good place for me to start listening)

Update: just as I had finished writing this, but before I had posted it, a perfectly timed email from Ligeti fan Michael Brooke arrived, responding to my not-wholly-positive reaction to Ligeti’s string quartets and recommending some other pieces I might like. Thanks very much Michael.

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