Friday, March 2, 2007

Who didn't make it?

So, which big names didn't make my list of musical faves? Probably Haydn and Bartók are the most noteworthy, and I have always definitely had blind spots where they're concerned. Not that I don't enjoy any of their works. I could see letting Haydn's Cello Concerto in C in the door, but I always have the feeling that there are lots of people who like everything else of his much more than I do. I'm starting to wonder if I don't have a fundamental problem with sonata form. So many recapitulations that seem like going through the motions. I found myself watching old basketball videos on my iPod during a performance of The Creation last year. Same thing with Bartók - I just can't get as excited as others do. I like the Concerto for Orchestra but more for isolated moments than as a whole.

I was surprised to struggle in the search for essential Debussy and the violin sonata is a quirky choice from his catalog. It's a strange piece, but so sensuous and thrilling. Much of his piano music is wonderful, but I find myself thinking about it from a distance and having a hard time isolating particular works. To some degree I had the same problem with Chopin, who deserves to be more represented. Maybe all the etudes should be listed and leave it at that. I should probably include at least the E Minor concerto, even though the last movement's a bit goofy. (If only I'd written anything that goofy when I was 19, or at any point in my life.)

Otherwise, the big gap is the absence of contemporary music. What can I say? I'm not going to pretend that music of Adams, Reich, Ligeti, Harbison, Bolcom, Takemitsu, Tower, Lieberson, etc. has yet reached me on the same level as the list below that could easily be much longer. It's probably a sign of weakness on my part and maybe the magic will happen some day with music that's younger than I am. I hope so.


Elaine Fine said...

I think that the Debussy Violin Sonata is a great choice for Debussy. It sort of ties together all the stuff that he did during the earlier parts of his life (it was the last piece he completed and the last piece that he performed), and because it is actually in Sonata form, a concept he detested for most of his life, he comes to terms in the piece with the fact that he could work within the "confines" of a well-worn Germanic form, and still come out smelling like Debussy.


Agreed. I think its the sense of struggle that I'm attracted to. So much of Debussy's music is ravishing (Nocturnes, Estampes, most of the songs, etc.) but it almost seems to come too easily; it's so beautifully constructed. The violin sonata has a degree of improvisatory fantasy and even desperation that I find more engaging as a listener.