Skip to comments.Death of a great musical mind
Posted on 12/10/2012 7:55:54 AM PST by Borges
Charles Rosen pianist, philosopher, polymath has died in New York.
He was 85.
A pupil of Josef Hoffman, he held authority on the music of Schoenberg and Elliott Carter and spoke with authority on the rest of the canon and, indeed, on French literature, in which he had a doctorate, and much else.
We once crossed swords on a BBC radio programme, discussing declining attendances at classical recitals. Charles said: I remember a concert where I played for an audience of 15. He paused for monent, then added: Of course, 12 of them held Nobel Prizes
May he rest in bliss.
He had a wide range of interests.
A little bit of Shoenberg goes a long ways. Prokofiev went about as far as I would like to go in incorporating semi-modern elements to classical romantic piano pieces. Shoenberg was a bit much. I mean the 12 tone premise that any note can follow any other note is a bit out there.
Like liberalism, as I recall there are special rules that mean it's not really "any" note, right? Aren't certain notes forbidden from following others because the ear will naturally intuit (Eeek!) tonality to the pattern?
The mystery of declining classical audiences was easy to explain following Stravinsky, Schonberg, et al.
A bit out there? Complete lunacy I’d say. He might as well have tried any frequency following any other frequency. As a matter of fact I would have liked to subject him to a “piece” using random frequencies... Little payback for the complete nightmare I had to listen through at a concert of his works many moons ago.
They turned to the tone row when they ran out of musical ideas, so they went on to intellectual ones.
Stravinsky kept tonality alive for a long while. He was Schoenberg’s rival. As for Schoenberg, he was many things but liberal he was not. And he wrote his share of beautiful music. Atonality was inevitable.
Don’t forget that charlatan John Cage. I saw a documentary one time about Cage, and he fervently believe no note meant more than any other note. In short, for Cage there was no such thing as hard-wired musical taste. In fact he was at that time in the process of writing one of his “musical” compositions by throwing dice to determine what note he wrote down. Many supposedly educated people/fools bought his scam.
Cage’s famous line was that “Beethoven was wrong” as the latter constructed music as a harmonic narrative.
A great scholar and teacher. RIP.
As did I. I also got a lot of insight from Piano Notes, in particular Beethoven's tendency to try out ideas in a sonata, move it forward in a symphony, and perfect it in a string quartet.
I read The Romantic Generation recently. Found it very informative.
Dont forget that charlatan John Cage. I saw a documentary one time about Cage, and he fervently believe no note meant more than any other note. In short, for Cage there was no such thing as hard-wired musical taste. In fact he was at that time in the process of writing one of his musical compositions by throwing dice to determine what note he wrote down. Many supposedly educated people/fools bought his scam.”
Cage was many things. But he wasn’t really a charlatan. He believed sincerely in what he promoted. He was wrong, fatally so.
But he was outrageously sincere. And sincerely insane.
OK. But what does it mean?
A polymath is a person with many interests/abilities.
I figured that out the second time.
Then maybe you’re a polymath.
wasn’t there an alien on RED DWARF called a polymorph?
This reminds me of what Charlie Parker's melodies sounded like to 1940s audiences. Jazz composer Art Tatum said "There's no such thing as a wrong note. It all depends on how you resolve it." Miles Davis: "It's not the note you play that's the wrong note. It's the note you play afterwards that makes it right or wrong."
I suppose the same could be said for harmonic and polyphonic progressions.
Not sure why you would compare real musicians to shoenberg. Shoenberg is somewhat interesting but he is really a light weight intellectual. Jazz musicians improvise and classical writers are limited to writing everything down. Of course what shoenberg writes down sounds like the improvisation of an untrained child.
I wish I could appreciate modern constructs more but I hit my wall with Janacek and Bartok. Maybe it takes more than my poor abilities to appreciate...
Arnold Schoenberg was one of the most rigorous musical intellects of the 20th century. His book on Harmony is still a standard text in conservatories. Listen to ‘Verklärte Nacht’ or ‘A Survivor from Warsaw’ and tell me his music sounds like that of a child.
Thanks. I did not remember those two pieces so I listed to them. My child analogy was flawed and - admit that. Not sure what analogy makes sense with that guy.
The Nacht piece is earlier schoenberg and is not the 12 tone stuff I was refferring to. It is a bit more conventional but I found it dull and boring and not very interesting.
The survivor piece is later 1940s shoenberg. Modern 12 tone style. I like adventerous music like prokofiev and some bartok but have never found a shoenberg piece that I liked. But thanks for the input as I do enjoy being exposed to different stimuli even if I don’t like the pieces! By the way I have visited warsaw and met descendants of holocaust survivors. I did find the naration interesting just not the music.
Some jazz musicians compose. In fact, what may appear to be improvisation can be something that was very well thought out beforehand, or even memorized.
and classical writers are limited to writing everything down.
No, Bach had improvisation contests (but sometimes his opponents did not show up). In a sense, aren't all musical expressions improvisations the first time the composer thought of them?
Of course what shoenberg writes down sounds like the improvisation of an untrained child.
Schoenberg is not my favorite composer, and I don't know most of his works, but I like Verklarte nacht and Kol Nidre.
Are you sure you don't like anything he ever wrote?
Yes there are always exceptions. But I stand by my generalizations. Jazz musicians generally improvise and classical musicians generally just recite. Jazz players improvise around a structure. They may splice together segments they have memorized but its improvisation nonetheless to put it all together. It is on a whole different planet than the classcal musicians of today who just recite. Few exceptions nonwithstanding. Keith jarett improvises classical and is pretty cool. But today’s symphony musicians need it written down so they can recite.
I like both composition and improvisation aspects myself and I play a little of just about every style. So I don’t reject any of these approaches. Thanks
‘Nacht’ is the last word in post-Wagner German Expressionism. Schoenberg had a period before 12 Tone where he was writing what he called Pan-Tonal music. The piano pieces are a perfect time capsule of turn of the century Vienna and are quite beautiful.
>> He had a wide range of interests.
And typically successful in those interests; e.g., Ben Franklin.
Improvisation was a standard part of Classical performance until the mid 19th century. But Classical musicians don’t just recite any more than a great Shakespearean actor just recites - they interpret.
Yes. There is some interpretation going on but it is minor when contrasted to what happens in jazz. The score is written down and there is certainly no improvisation of notes themselves. What I find interesting are those artists that can cross some of these boundaries and combine a compositional structure with improvisation. Some of the prog rock artists in 1970s did that. Herbie Hancock has mixed these worlds together as have others. I like both and love Oscar Peterson and Vladimir Horowitz. Totally different but both incredible. Cheers
Didn't Beethoven start a trend when he composed candenzas for his concertos? Maybe he didn't think the improvised cadenzas by pianists of his day were good enough. I remember reading that somewhere...
Now some pianists are playing their own candezas in Beethoven's concertos. Maybe Beethoven's cadenzas don't show off their best skills.