Archive for dodecaphony

Let’s all listen to Schoenberg …

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

I enjoy a lot of Schoenberg’s music, in the broadest sense of “enjoy”. It’s not really music to relax or wind down to, it can be so intensely personal and subjective, especially the works of the free atonal period, exhibiting a plethora of intense emotions which tend towards the dark side. I don’t expect any more than a minority of classical music listeners will ever want to listen to it on a regular basis, but I think it is unique and meaningful music (if very much a product of a particular time and place) and does have an importance for that reason.

Certainly all art is very much a product of its time and place – the question is whether it still has anything to say to people here and now? That sort of sensibility that comes through in Schoenberg – rootlessness, alienation, inhabiting a certain precipice within “high culture” and the social world it inhabits, etc., certainly speaks to me, but I don’t find it wholly surprising if many others don’t find it relevant to them.

Schoenberg’s life beyond the concert-hall – his listing by the Third Reich as “degenerate”, his escape to the United States, his life as an émigré, his teaching there, his prominent position as a Jewish refugee – brought his name to a greater prominence than many of his contemporaries. His name became a byword for a kind of purposed complexity and intellectual rigour in music … to a wider public who’d never heard a note of it, but had heard of Arnold Schoenberg.

And they fervently believed that this Schoenberg man represented the very summation of everything they wouldn’t like in music, and should be avoided like the plague.

Humphrey Searle

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

Last night, I had a bit of a listen to Searle’s Symphony No. 1. I’ve heard it described as grim and dour, but I found it rather engaging – what does that say about me, I wonder?

Anyway, Searle seems to have occupied a very difficult position in UK musical life, in the beginning too “advanced” for the conservative elements and eventually too “traditional” for the avant-garde ones.

But is there a case for reconsidering Searle’s music in the 21st century, I wonder?

I have to admit I don’t find Searle’s music has lasted as well as I thought it would when I was about 20. I used to admire the First Symphony, especially in Boult’s fine Decca recording, but I don’t often listen to his music today.

An interesting feature of the First Symphony is that he deliberately used the same series that Webern used in his Op. 28 Quartet, to show that music of very different character could be composed using the same 12-note row. At the time there were ill-informed criticisms that 12-tone music was limited in scope.

I should like to hear again his opera Hamlet which I thought better than some which have been less neglected.

Searle stated that his First Symphony bears the marks of having been written during (what we can now regard as) the early years of the cold war, hence the atmosphere of foreboding. It’s not what you’d call awash with colour, that’s true, but neither is Sibelius. I think he was just afraid that everyone would get blown to bits in a nuclear war between East and West, as many people were at that time.

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