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Showing 1-25 of 48 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 25 Jan 2014 08:47:46 GMT
enthusiast says:
Who is the greatest Russian composer? Will we all say it is Shostakovich? Will anyone dare assert that it is Prokofiev? Or is it Tchaikovsky? Perhaps Stravinsky has a claim or perhaps he sacrificed his "Russian-ness" with his citizenship?

I ask because I can't answer the question for myself - I become unsatisfied with a choice as soon as I make it - while I could answer (for myself!) a similar question on British or French or Czech or even Italian composers. Don't ask about these other nations: I won't answer in this thread.

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 08:53:58 GMT
Bruce says:
Why do we have to choose one - why can't we appreciate many on the same terms?

We are not forced to choose and can give all those we like, equal time and consideration.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2014 09:08:02 GMT
enthusiast says:
You can be exempt if you don't want to play, Bruce. Or do I mean "lighten up"?

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 09:50:10 GMT
Last edited by the author on 25 Jan 2014 09:50:30 GMT
Bruce says:
I'm just saying that in "real life", it is quite possible to like many composers and give them equal time. Music is not a competitive sport.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2014 11:26:43 GMT
Malx says:
A little unfair enthusiast - when you say that "I can't answer the question for myself ".
So why not start us off 'playing the game' and we will accept the choice as being 'choice of the day'.

I'll put my vote down for Shostakovich - largely due to my current love of his String Quartets and Chamber music. The symphonies I still struggle with at times but given the body of work he has produced for me, at this time, he is number one. ( if I'd been asked this 10 years ago it would have been a toss up between Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky - in another 10 years who knows).

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 11:52:33 GMT
MacDoom says:
My top four isn't even mentioned! There's too much in Tchaikovsky that I actively dislike (even while loving a good many works to bits), there's hardly anything in Shostakovich for me to really enjoy, too much of Prokofiev leaves me unaffected (again notwithstanding a huge love of quite a few other works)... So: throw in Rachmaninov, Borodin, Gretchaninov, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korssakov, Medtner, Glière, Balakirev, (S) Taneyev and I'm much happier.

Today: <sound of rolling dice> Mussorgsky!

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 11:53:41 GMT
To my mind a question about who's the "greatest" is unanswerable. Differences in personal taste and outlook will mean that any attempt to settle even on the criteria to be used would be doomed to failure, let alone any attempt to answer the question itself.

If we were voting for our respective favourites, which to me is a rather different matter, my vote would go to Rachmaninov.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2014 12:29:36 GMT
Last edited by the author on 25 Jan 2014 12:30:07 GMT
enthusiast says:
I wasn't wanting to restrict the field, Harry. I'm happy to include all of your suggestions. And Schnittke, Gubaidulina etc.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2014 12:32:17 GMT
enthusiast says:
Maybe unfair, Malx! But I did describe my difficulty. I think the answer is probably Shostakovich but he can somehow (I am honestly not sure how) seem less sure of the crown when stood next to Tchaikovsky. I would give the crown to Stravinsky if I felt he was properly Russian.

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2014 12:34:26 GMT
enthusiast says:
Of course, Bruce. I quite agree. So much so that it never struck me that anyone would take this game that seriously. The discussion may still be fun and even informative.

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 14:40:04 GMT
JayJayDee says:
My lecturer at college (one Mervyn Miller) was convinced that Prokofiev was a greater composer than Shostakovich. He used to lend me his Mahler LPs (which was a great trust when you come to think of it, and allowed me to hear Klemperer's Mahler 7 which was otherwise out of my financial reach).
But,as a 19 year-old I disagreed with him; while seeing his point.
Strictly I am not sure whether we can allow Shostakovich as a Russian since he composed everything in the Soviet era. He was himself ..... Szostakowicz ..... of Byelorussian and Polish extraction.

Another thorny issue is best ever Russian/Soviet emigre composer. Big battle between Igor, Sergei R and Sergei P.

I would stick my neck out and suggest that Tchaikovsky is still the most loved Russian composer in what is now Russia (despite Putin's attempts to resuscitate homophobia). But I suspect history will give it to DSCH by half a length over all rivals. For me he certainly wins 'Best Soviet-Era Composer' by a couple of lengths (and a shorter nose) over the emigres.

But I wouldn't be without any of those mentioned. I'd take 'extended' Russia over England or Germany as a single country of origin for music, if placed on such a ridiculously selective desert island.

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 15:08:29 GMT
Last edited by the author on 25 Jan 2014 15:17:32 GMT
scarecrow says:
All this Greatness is a bit overrated, this "gold-digging". . .?,. . lapidarian "diamond-cuttings. . .
.How you respond to where you live I think has something to do with "greatness", although the term has been bludgeoned to death from mis-use.. . . .
Russian culture was frozen, for mere survival it faced within itself,isolated from the globe;Capital preferred it to be in permanent isolation, to in fact "freeze" it. . . It's why Stalin got the bomb in the early Fifties. He knew he was next after Hiroshima. . . .If he didn't bow to the West. . ..so you cannot use the identical margins of analysis as the "glorious" west. . .
Soviet history took a different dynamic that is difficult to understand. Read: Roy Medvedev "Let History Judge" or Boris Kagarlitsky, or writings from the murdered wondrous writer, Anna Politkovskaya, Moshe Lewin,Stephen Cohen. . . Boris Groys, on culture. . .
Yes if you simply want to use the same predictable bias,the inherent tyranny that is permanent of Russia and its history, well that's not too illuminating. i.e simply take a page from the Westminster Playbook, or the Hudson Institute(USA), those conservative "brain-trusts". . .
Those who take this route, don't really want to understand anything about Russia,or its culture, nor its creativity, nor the paradigms of its history, nor its on-going politics after WW2. . . its Soviet history,Stalin, Eastern Europe. .

I'd place Shostakovich as a great musician that responded to where he lived, the complexity of where he inhabited.
Prokofiev by comparison desired to be where he never was, If he was eating chocolates in Paris, he wanted to "Feel" the pain of Mother Russia, If he was driving past corpse here n' there in his automobile(which he frequently did) in Moscow, He wanted to be in a posh London Hotel round Hyde Park in silk pajamas, writing three pieces simultaneously. . .

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 15:40:10 GMT
JayJayDee says:
I'm glad he wrote his Sixth and R & J though, scarecrow!

No mention, so far, of Bortnyansky I see!

We have two threads affecting DSCH running concurrently and I would love this thread to throw up some other contenders for best ever Russian...even if only to relegate them to a lower place again.
I'm not sure that league tables are useful, and market-forces alone certainly can't be trusted to generate an artistically serious hierarchy. But the Russian public's continued love of/for Tchaikovsky certainly has to tell us something about him and/or them!

There is an overwhelming and pervasive and simplistic trend in musical analysis which is not musical but political when it comes to music of twentieth century Russia. People appear to have been exhorted to listen to or like DSCH 'because' of his alleged cold-war value. I personally reject that as a motive force for listening to his music. When DSCH wrote his 7th and 8th Symphonies I feel that he was deploring and mourning war of all types throughout past and future history. My response to DSCH 8 was not fuelled by pictures from 1942-45, but from TV coverage of Vietnam. I listened simultaneously to Stenka Razin and DSCH 13 in the late sixties and even though the political implications of de-stalinization were massive they were also tangential or additional to musical values - And, like any large-scale work by Tchaikovsky , these works are also representative of timeless human emotions.

Somebody suggested a DSCH thread for the two DSCH fans to discuss his music, but I rather think that there are a great many people out there who are attracted to DSCH for a whole range of reasons. Again, personally, I can see private health-related issues as informing much of his later work.. in much the same way as Schnittke's and Pettersson's later work was similarly afflicted or affected.

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 17:13:51 GMT
Mondoro says:
What about the first really great composer who put Russia on the musical map, Mikhail Glinka?

In reply to an earlier post on 25 Jan 2014 17:52:19 GMT
MacDoom says:

No doubt he did a lot to instigate the whole development of what came after him, but is his own music quite so memorable? I always enjoy listening to him, that's not the problem. But he'd never make even the top 5 of my Top Russian Composers list. It's more his place in history than his actual output that makes him a pillar.

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 20:06:28 GMT
Last edited by the author on 25 Jan 2014 20:16:33 GMT
scarecrow says:
Well now with the break-up of the Soviets, following perestroika you wonder what is left of unified culture, a "commons";
wondrous composer Peteris Vasks is Latvian, Giya Kancheli from Georgia,Valentin Silvestrov from the Ukraine. .

The late Galina Ustvolskaya is quite fascinating, the uncompromising bleakness.modernity of her music. .She has 6 Piano Sonatas,then "miniatures" "12 Preludes" 18-19 minutes duration for the lot. Quite prolific, , ,.Pieces she labels as "Symphonies" for 4 musicians, and or multiple Contrabassi. . .
Curious how the modernity gleaned from the West doesn't quite sit right,(Edison Denisov,Elena Firsova,Boris Tischenko) it's utilized more for its nihilist "third person" dimensions. .Schnittke is a good vibrant example. .He's really not a modernist four-square. He simply "visits","contrives" a musical language trying to locate himself(subjectivity) in some environ. . developing an outright constituted musical language seems not useful, there is no infrastructure to support it.. . . I think this is the after-shocks of a culture that "froze". .was forced into one path for itself in living with the the "force field" of the hostile West, Capital. . . .

Penderecki ,Panufnik,(well not Russian) gave up; threw his hands in the air on modernity altogether. .

Posted on 25 Jan 2014 21:11:16 GMT
Leftin says:
I'd say Borodin, as Prince Igor's the nearest thing to Opera that I actually love to hear. Also, he was a part-time composer, so his achievements are all-the-greater. Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto in D is another absolute favourite, and there's little he composed that I find uninteresting (and his influence on Sibelius puts him ahead). Shostakovich - I only have The Jazz Album so far, but very fine it is. Stravinsky's Rite of Spring paved the way for avante-garde music, some say, and film music owes a lot to him. Russia is spoiled for great composers!

Posted on 26 Jan 2014 03:22:55 GMT
JayJayDee says:
If you have come upon DSCH via the Jazz Album, Leftin, I would recommend that you try out a Used copy of this one......SYMPHONIES NOS. 9 & 10.
Or, for a Bernstein feast....Shostakovich: Symphony No. 5, Piano Concerto No. 2

Posted on 26 Jan 2014 15:20:43 GMT
Lez Lee says:
Leftin, I've got lots of lovely Shosty. Just let me know........

Posted on 26 Jan 2014 16:39:46 GMT
enthusiast says:
I was just listening to Scriabin - 3rd symphony (Divine Poem): I should also have included him in the list of possibles.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2014 12:19:10 GMT
Last edited by the author on 27 Jan 2014 12:21:27 GMT
JayJayDee says:
Do you 'hear' a lot of Scriabin in Myaskovsky... but with more Brahmsian textures?
Or is it just me?

[[ Ooh look - the sad anonymous to$$pot has voted four times against the recommendation of Berglund's DSCH 10 and Bernstein's DSCH#5.
But then 'what do they know'!]]

Posted on 27 Jan 2014 16:57:17 GMT
scarecrow says:
great Russian jazz is Nikolai Kapustin, incredibly prolific. . It is Scriabin-esque at times, has Big Band pieces as well. .. Marc Andre Hamelin has numerous items on his repertoire schedule.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2014 18:16:22 GMT
JayJayDee says:
Nikolai Kapustin ?....?.... sounds like he should have been jamming with the mad (thelonius) monk.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2014 19:01:41 GMT
enthusiast says:
You may be right, JJ, but I don't know a lot of Myaskovsky. I think I do hear something like Brahmsian textures in Scriabin, though.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2014 20:35:20 GMT
Roasted Swan says:
Leftin - I 2nd JJD's recommendation of the Symphonies 9&10 disc - the Berglund 10 is magnificent. They make a really interesting contrasting pair of works too- DSCH at his most ironic in No.9 and formally traditional (with a personal twist) in No.10.
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