Archive for music critic

The influence of Mahler on Lennon & McCartney

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2011 by Robin Gosnall

Seen in a recent review of a Mahler complete edition on EMI:

Mahler’s influences on subsequent generations have been extensive and wide – Zemlinsky, Schönberg, Berg and Webern in Austria, Shostakovich in Russia, Britten in Britain and Copland in America are just a few to acknowledge their debt. He also spread beyond the limits of classical music with Paul McCartney writing, “I have always adored Mahler, and Mahler was a major influence on the music of the Beatles. John and me used to sit and do the Kindertotenlieder and Wunderhorn for hours, we’d take turns singing and playing the piano. We thought Mahler was great.”

Mahler’s songs often have a folk-like simplicity which is actually very moving with hints of nostalgia, lost love, absence and grief. Some of the Beatles’ songs, especially the slow numbers, explore these emotional effects musically. They are less inclined to use folk song: rather paraphrases of the popular ballads of the interwar years, although sometimes a very Russian-sounding folk song will pop up. Their songs wander in and out of keys and often have more than three chords. They were on a higher level than most of their contemporaries, except the Beach Boys.

What we can never be sure of is the level of influence that Sir George Martin had in his arrangements and the musicians that he recommended they studied. After all, he was working with them one week and Barbirolli or Boult the next.

There is also the infamous article that William Mann wrote pointing out similarities between the pandiatonic discords that end Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde and begin A Hard Day’s Night. Perhaps this encouraged the two to play (or attempt to play) Mahler’s songs.

Lennon never mentioned this, but then he didn’t mention Martin’s attempts to get him to listen to Ravel. (I forget the exact words, but Lennon is reported to have said something along the lines of “Nice tunes, but they go on too long”).

Alex Ross: Time to show our appreciation for classical music

Posted in Music with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 13, 2010 by Robin Gosnall

It’s one of the great ironies of the classical concert experience – the most explosive, exhilarating music is often greeted by total silence. Let our applause be heard, says Alex Ross, who gave the Royal Philharmic Society lecture at the Wigmore Hall, London.

I have a lot of time for Alex Ross, and I say that as someone not massively keen on music journalism. He is a tireless champion of cutting through all the tiresome “traditions” that permeate the environment of “classical” music performance, and which seems so beloved of dullards everywhere. When to clap? What should I wear? And so on.

In “The Rest is Noise” I like the connections Ross makes with jazz and so-called “difficult” modern music. He’s not on virgin territory here: Wilfrid Mellers’ “Music in a New Found Land” pioneered this approach, albeit to American music only. That book however was a drier read; I finished Ross’s book even before it had been published in the UK, and found it to be one of the most readable music histories I’d encountered for a long time.

However, I find myself at odds with his point about how ubiquitous some elements of modernism has become. Whilst he’s not wrong to suggest many modernist touches have become a staple of horror film soundtracks, I think it’s a dangerous route to go down. It gives the impression that much 20th century music is designed simply to be eerie and unsettling. Some of it surely is, but we only need to hear the use of Bartók in Kubrick’s “The Shining” to see how great music can be damned by excursions into popular culture.


Last night’s Royal Philharmonic Society lecture was a tour de force – although a lot of the innovations the critic advocated are already being carried out in the UK

Classical Blogs - Blog Catalog Blog Directory

%d bloggers like this: