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Schoenberg & Stravinsky

Okay, I just listened to Arnold Schoenberg's Five Orchestral Pieces (Fünf Orchesterstücke, 1909), and it didn't seem all that weird. I suppose he got weirder later, but then again maybe time has tamed him. We'll see what I make of Webern's Six Orchestral Pieces.

I can thank Alex Ross's book, The Rest Is Noise, for persuading me to give these pieces a try. Ross depicts Schoenberg and Stravinsky as the two poles around which European classical music of the early 20th century rallied. Now I'm listening to Stravinsky's Petroushka (the 1911 version, conducted by Stravinsky himself), which I don't think I've ever heard before, although I've long known it was one of his most popular pieces. Once again the influence it's had (including on Daniel Catán) seems immediately obvious.



( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 23rd, 2013 08:11 pm (UTC)
Webern is weirder than Schoenberg. On the other hand, we've had a while to get used to this stuff. Schoenberg predicted that one day his twelve-tone melodies would be casually whistled in the streets, and that hasn't happened, but, on the other hand, the new-car sheen has definitely worn off.

Stravinsky influenced everybody. His impact on several decades of 20th century music is astonishingly pervasive. The only individual influences in modern musical history to match it are the influence of Beethoven detectable in the 19th century, and of Wagnerian harmonies for the decades around the turn between the centuries.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 09:14 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I clearly need to dig deeper into Stravinsky.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 08:24 pm (UTC)
I've just been watching the fourth episode of Howard Goodall's Story of Music, which he ends by promising to discuss Schoenberg in the next episode, and signs off with Stravinsky's Procession of the Sage, which was still playing as I clicked over to my friendslist and saw this at the top.

That's spooky!
Feb. 23rd, 2013 08:35 pm (UTC)
I'll take this as evidence that Alex Ross isn't the only one who sees the two as the titans of the early 20th Century classical music scene. But yeah, weird synchronicity!
Feb. 23rd, 2013 08:49 pm (UTC)
I don't know what he's going to say about them, but he's calling that episode "The Age of Rebellion," which I assume is a reference to the Russian Revolution, but also to the music. Here's a clip, that should be available everywhere, of Goodall talking about Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:27 pm (UTC)
That's the standard modernist pantheon, actually. Ross in fact departs significantly from it by giving equal attention to Sibelius. Forty years ago nobody would have believed him worthy of it.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:37 pm (UTC)
Yes, Ross' chapter on Sibelius was quite fascinating. And his observation that even someone as different musically as Morton Feldman was actually a big admirer of Sibelius.
Feb. 23rd, 2013 10:50 pm (UTC)
Not to doubt Feldman's sincerity, but he was really playing epater le modernistes when he said that. It was an extremely counter-cyclical view at the time.

However, now we think that was right - Sibelius's standing as a creative artist is now exceedingly high - so maybe Feldman, who has similarly graduated from "downtown weirdo" to master of his art, was on to something.
( 8 comments — Leave a comment )

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