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Will posterity elevate some 'second-rank' composers?

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Initial post: 8 Nov 2012 19:14:19 GMT
JayJayDee says:
Spurred on by the 'My time will come' discussions...
Given that it takes up to 50 or 100 years for the dust to settle on the evaluation of quality in CM....and thinking here of composers like Tubin, Walton, Enescu, Zemlinsky, Schoenberg... which composers (not just these examples) are likely to be elevated to a higher rank by the year 2050?

My point of reference here would perhaps be Nielsen - whose star was fairly low on the horizon in the fifties and very much higher nowadays!

And is it possible that there may still even be some 19th Century composers who have yet to receive proper recognition?

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 19:37:38 GMT
enthusiast says:
The two examples of growing reputation are both for "conservatives". When I was young it was a little passe to think highly of Shostakovich. Sibelius was derided by many in his time for being insufficiently modern.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 19:40:15 GMT
Nick says:
Enthusiast - not strictly true re Sibelius - cf Constant Lambert in "Music Ho" (and others) which elevated Sibelius as the great bastion against serialism et al. His star *then* faded around the time of his death to rise again now.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 19:48:41 GMT
JayJayDee says:
I'd have thought that both JS and DS are safely ensconsed in the first rank, and rarely out of it for the last half century, although sometimes less than flavour of the month.

I'm currently tackling (and enjoying) the Tubin symphonies and wondering if they are neglected masterpieces or overblown imitative efforts!

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 20:25:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2012 20:26:21 GMT
Piso Mojado says:
It's possible that Bruckner will rise a bit vis-a-vis Mahler, particular;y against Mahler's later works, the symphonies 6-9, always excepting "The Song oof the Earth". Some other candidates for higher standing are George Onslow, Etienne Mehul, and Joly Braga-Santos. I've seen the increasing Shostakovich and Mahler phenomena in my lifetime, and a slight decrease for Sibelius, and a more marked one for Hindemith, Prokofiev, Bartok, and Stravinsky. Schoenberg I believe will never be really popular outside his coterie.

I fully realise this is a minority opinion, but borne out by my observation and experience.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 20:32:54 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2012 20:34:02 GMT
enthusiast says:
Nick - My post was misleading in that it implied that both examples were from the time of my youth. The Sibelius one was much earlier. I was thinking more of the attitudes of most modernists to Sibelius in the pre-WW2 period (for example, as described by Alex Ross in his recent book on the 20th century). I'm encouraged to hear that you feel his reputation is now rising again. I had the feeling it peaked 15 years ago.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 20:46:32 GMT
Nick says:
Enthusiast - I had the disconcerting experience a few weeks ago of being told by a young up and coming German conductor that Sibelius was "not understood" by the Germanic countries. my reason for thinking his star is if not rising then at least secure is the preponderance of recordings from around the world.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 21:50:33 GMT
John Ruggeri says:
Not to start a war but I have read here from knowledgeable folk that JS Bach was in a musical limbo for @ 50 years till resuscitated by Mendelssohn. Was this "Elevating some 'second-rank' composer or something else worthy of another thread". HYPNOS will not abide me 'till I know.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 21:51:51 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2012 22:05:44 GMT
Androcleas says:
Sorry to spread from another topic - but Weinberg is a prime candidate simply because of the enormity of his output in many genres from light hearted (he wrote the soundtrack to Russian Winnie the Pooh) to a very serious opera about the Holocaust (He actually wrote 7 operas). In Russia, 'The Passenger' is really starting to get a reputation as a major operatic work since around 2005. I think Weinberg's music varies in inspiration - but there are some real winners in there - (and probably not a small number). And its not necessarily a problem that there is some not so inspired music in there as the same could be said for most major composers. Have you heard Shostakovich's 3rd and 12th Symphonies?

Zaderatsky's 24 Preludes and Fugues for piano must come out of the woodwork some time too.

I suspect that composers who have a small but dedicated following will not disappear - but whether they will become mainstream I doubt - I mean Havergal Brian and Allan Pettersson, although great for some, are just too unusual and 'difficult' to become major composers. Ultimately I think Popov probably falls in this category too. Although Ives has bridged that gap from weird and quirky to mainstream in the last few years.

Having said that, Allan Pettersson stands a chance - just because of the sheer emotionality of some of his music.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 21:53:50 GMT
Androcleas says:
John - you are quite right about Bach - the likes of Mozart and Haydn were not well acquainted with his music at all.

Quite a find!

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 22:01:47 GMT
Androcleas says:
The likes of Rubbra, Simpson, Holmboe and Tubin don't seem to be getting played that much, despite the musical world having retreated somewhat from the modernism of the 60s and early 70s. Maybe they are all a little too narrow in their musical vision - I mean Simpson and Holmboe are pretty austere. Holmboe reminds me of studying Maths at university - somehow very clean and pure and gives your brain a good workout. Simpson is dark like a cosmic process and Rubbra has a very individual spiritual approach to writing symphonies. I feel their music is probably more likely to appeal to a dedicated minority than a broader group.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 22:02:51 GMT
JayJayDee says:
Thread-author censorship...
No talking about the acknowledged masters allowed...


Seriously...who is on the verge of breaking into first rank from 'generally-acknowledged' second rank status?

Hindemith is on that transitional list, but struggling to make the big step...I fear!

I have recently been bowled over by Madetoja and Nordgren, Norgard and Holmboe....but I suspect that only Holmboe might be deemed to make that one step up when 2050 is upon us (or our offspring).

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 22:13:30 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Nov 2012 00:16:35 GMT
Piso Mojado says:
JJD, honourable thread author says "No talking about acknowledged masters allowed." But what if the generally acknowledged masters are in fact second-rank composers that posterity may elevate or, God forbid, discount?

I think you re very brave even to breathe the word censorship.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 22:14:49 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2012 22:15:52 GMT
Androcleas says:
Are there any composers out there who are now very popular - but who posterity will discount?

Most pop groups would of course come into this category (with a few noticeable exceptions)

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 22:16:49 GMT
Androcleas says:
You know - I think Stravinsky's star is waning. Frank Martin seems to have dropped out of the repertoire recently.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 22:18:14 GMT
JayJayDee says:
I had a lecturer at college who viewed Prokofiev as the more important soviet-period composer. Now I do admit I wasn't including the characteristic of sovietism to be essential to my assessment, but I was astonished at his viewpoint. But duly respectful of it all the same...after all he was teaching me stuff I didn't know about Town and Country Planning! I also trusted him implicitly since he lent to me his Abravanel AND Klemperer Mahler 7 sets without first asking to inspect a student's cartridge assembly.

Now, of course, I am vindicated that he was wrong about the respective merits of Sergei and Dmitri.

Which all goes to show that hindsight is a wonderful thing, especially when your money has been on an underdog at the Stamford Bridge dog-track since the sixties!

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 22:18:55 GMT
JayJayDee says:
It was with a
;-) Edgar....

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 22:41:00 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2012 22:43:09 GMT
mancheeros says:
'First rank' and 'second rank' are perhaps equivalent to the other classification of 'major' and 'minor' composers - deeply pernicious terminology, in my opinion, which almost inevitably leads to the very narrow mindset that life is too short to bother with the music of 'minor' composers X, Y and Z and one's time is better spent listening to the culturally approved 'giants' of CM.

I cannot comment on much pre-20th century CM because I don't listen to it, but in the world of Early Music major improvements in scholarship and performance standards over the past few decades have meant the 'discovery' of composers whose work was admired and known about but not necessarily venerated. One thinks of Gesualdo, whose star has been steadily rising (and rightly so), such that he is now regarded as a 'first rank' madrigalist (even visionary) rather than merely a quirky curiosity, which was the previous opinion of his worth. Luzzaschi is another, whose work will grow in importance when somebody gets round to recording more of it. In fact, only a fraction of the glorious madrigal tradition coming out of Italy in the late renaissance/early baroque has been extracted from the archives and performed, so I suspect/sincerely hope that many more important figures will emerge in the future.

As for the 20th century.... Well, a lot depends on what music is performed and recorded - the reputations of composers are at the mercy of performers, record labels, radio stations, music societies, etc. Interesting how after a very dodgy start Ives is now universally regarded as "the father of American music". My hope would be that Roger Sessions will eventually be regarded as a major force; so too Harry Partch. Others to watch out for could be Nikos Skalkottas (the Greeks are becoming more and more proud of him) and dear old Erik Satie, who is increasingly seen as a progenitor of important experimental tendencies and not merely a quirky talent - some now regard him as the godfather of minimalism, no less.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 22:43:00 GMT
enthusiast says:
I am sure that Stravinsky will come back. I am not sure that there are all that many persuasive interpreters of his music with us at the moment. A great composer needs advocates who each show different sides of his masterpieces. Gergiev's recent Symphony in 3 Movements on LSO Live was interesting, though.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 22:46:01 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2012 22:46:58 GMT
Androcleas says:
I like Roger Sessions' music - but I fear it will fall into the same category as that of Schoenberg - very much the music of a smal interested group.

Nikos Skalkottas is a possible candidate. He may come to be seen as the major Greek composer - although Xenakis will likewise remain influential and have a dedicated following, if small.

Not convinced by Satie. I think he is trumped in most areas by other composers - like Scriabin for example.

What about Nikolai Obukhov? - the missing link between Scriabin and Messiaen, and pioneer of elctronic music? 'Th Third Testament' is pretty interesting, if seriously bizarre.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 22:48:20 GMT
Androcleas says:
Point taken about early music. How about Thomas Tallis? - he seems to be making quite a comeback...
Or even Hildegard of Bingen....

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Nov 2012 23:07:45 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2012 23:09:12 GMT
JayJayDee says:
Well I would admit that this thread is inevitably going to provoke some debate about what (or who) constitiutes first and second rank composers...but generally I would have thought that it is a recognised concept, even though there is fair and legitimate debate at the margins.

The margins being the area where most interesting debate tends to accumulate.
Fortunately an ex-contributor is not here to tell us that we shouldn't discuss 'troll' topics!

The secret is within the inverted commas.

Posted on 8 Nov 2012 23:28:36 GMT
I feel an idiot for saying it but Tippett has remained my favourite composer for forty years, and despite searching high and low I have still found no one who brings all the qualities I most cherish into the most perfect balance. A recent foray into newer interpretations of some of his works has only deepened my conviction. Everyone's first thought of the 'silly' or at least problematic libretti, and it's tempting to speculate 'if only he hadn't included those, would people have given him a fairer hearing'? But then I think without those libretti he wouldn't be quite the man I so admire. He, like all the best, is a warts and all composer. The audacious experiments and the occasional failures, it's all part of the package - the overwhelmingly humane package that i wouldn't see changed one jot. Fearless yet utterly kind. Too in love with life to be tramelled by popular notions of conservative taste, and always ready to spell out the obvious that no one wants to hear. If he is to be a lost composer whose reputation dives upon his passing then that will only confirm my deep suspicion of the effects of popular taste on the received wisdom on the relative greatness of composers.

Posted on 9 Nov 2012 00:22:23 GMT
Last edited by the author on 9 Nov 2012 01:15:57 GMT
Piso Mojado says:
Did we consider the case of Richard Strauss yet? He far-sightedly covered all bases by declaring himself a first-class second-rate composer.

I believe a number of his works will last, including some of his operas, the shorter tone-poems at least, and the "Four Last Songs".

Some creators are on record as being honest about it. Donald Hall asked T. S. Eliot about it. Eliot quickly answered, No, I'm not sure. Is anyone? You may have just messed up your life for nothing."

Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse exchanged ideas about it. "Do you ever look at your books standing there on the shelf, and wonder if they are the real thing?", one asked the other.

In reply to an earlier post on 9 Nov 2012 00:35:33 GMT
Henry James says:
Ferngrove: Tippett seems one of the most likely candidates I have seen named so far.

We have, as we must, left ambiguous the line of where the "first rank" ends and the second begins. Is Berlioz first-rank? Faure?
John Philip Sousa? (joke)
But it is probably non-controversial that Tippett is now second-rank.
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Total posts:  117
Initial post:  8 Nov 2012
Latest post:  15 Nov 2012

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