Well ,for one thing , it depends on what you consider to be tuneful . Not everyone agrees about this . Melody is certainly an important part of what we call classical music , but not all music ,particularly atonal and 12-tone works of the 20th century is conventionally melodious . It should be remembered that while all 12-tone music is atonal ,not all atonal music is 12-tone in the Schoenbergian sense .
Some classical works by famous composers are very tuneful , and listeners find this very appealing , and why not ? The most popular classical works usually have catchy melodies ,and this is one reason even people who have little or no knowledge of classical music can easily recognize them .
But many great works by many great composers are not full of immediately appealing melodies , such as the music of the so-called "Second Viennese School ", ie , the music of Arnold Schoenberg and his two most famous disciples Alban Berg and Anton Webern . Or other important 20th century composers such as Olivier Messiaen , Elliott Carter , Milton Babbitt , Pierre Boulez et al .
However, this is no reason to reject their music out of hand . You simply need a different mindset , as well as some patience , to appreciate it . It also helps to have a decent or better background in music theory , but this is not absolutely essential .
The 12-tone works of Schoenberg are not conventionally tuneful , and you're not likely to exit a performance of them whistling the tunes . But they DO have recognizable MOTIFS , that is short recognizable recurring (sort of ) melodic ideas . A melody might be defined as a tune of some length , but a motif might be described as a very brief (sort of ) melodic idea .
While melody is certainly important in classical music , nice hummable melodies alone do not great music make . What matters is what the composer DOES with those melodies or themes . This is what creates masterpieces . The themes ,or melodies if you insist on calling them this , are merely the basic building blocks ,the raw material , of any given classical work , whether a symphony , concerto, sonata , or what have you .
Many of the themes in Beethoven's music , for example , are not particularly interesting in and of themselves . They're just simple themes consisting of rising and falling melodic lines , scalar ideas , that is ,melodies rising or falling by short intervals , or with disjunct intervals of wider leaps . But Beethoven's genius consists in his ability to transform these simple basic ideas by constantly altering them in the most ingenious manner .
In any given symphony , concerto or sonata etc by Beethoven , those basic themes are constntly varied and altered ; by subtly changing the basic shape of the melody , using different orchestral instruments to play them , thus varying the tone color , switching the themes from major to minor or vice versa , using augmentation and diminution of the themes by lengthening or shortening the length of the notes, using counterpoint ,or having the basic ideas played as different voices going on at the same time but not beginning exactly at the same time , and many,many other ways .
You might compare this to a novel or short story ; each consists of a story with a varity of different characters , and a symphony could be called a novel in music , with a variety of different themes occurring through the different movements . Each movement might be compared to a chapter of a novel , although symphonies , concertos & sonatas usually have only three or four movements , occaisionally more or fewer than this .
As in a novel or short story , the themes are like the characters ; they never remain the same and are constantly changing and evolving over time . The hero or heroine of a novel is never the same as in the beginning ,nor the other characters .
A theme and variations is a work where a composer takes a preexisting melody from some other work , either by another composer or himself , and subjects that melody to constant changes over a period of time . It iusually consists of the basic theme , which keeps changing , in separae sections , vraration 1, 2, 3,4, 5, and more ,sometimes more than 20 . Orthe theme could be a popular melody or folk song .
There are so many of these by so many great composers , such as Haydn,Mozart, Beethoven , Brahms , Tchaikovsky ,Rchmaninov , to name only several , and they are can be for solo piano , piano and other instruments , or for orchestrra etc . Some individual movements of symphonies or sonatas etc , consist of themes and variations , one of the most famous being the famous Schubert quintet for piano and strings , the so-called "Trout Quintet ", where the composer takes the melody from one of his songs , which happens to be about a fisherman fishing for a trout in a stream and subjects it to variations .
Schubert music is known to be very melodious ; but what makes his music great is not the melodies alone . And this is true of so many great composers . Catchy melodies without a great composer's genius in working with them are not really worth much . So when you listen to any classical masterpiece , you should always try to be aware of what the composer ACTUALLY DOES with the melodies to gain true enjoyment and understanding of the music .
Today is the 83rd birthday of one of the greatest masters of that treacherous instrument , the French horn ,or as some purists insist ,the horn , Australian native and world citizen ,Barry Tuckwell . He has been retired from playing the horn in public since the late 1990s ,but is still very much active as a teacher and a conductor .
As a former horn player myself ,I've always been in awe of his incredible virtuosity and golden tone . But this is true of every one who plays this instrument . He makes it sound as though playing this extremely difficult instrument were easy ! Tuckwell is one of the few horn players to make a successful career as a full time soloist ,although he began as an orchestral player .
Because of his astounding virtuosity , Tuckwell has been called the "Heifetz of the horn ". Born in Melbourne in 1931 , Tuckwell took up the horn as a boy and showed such innate andprodigious talent for the instrument he began to play professionally in Australian orchestras as a teenager . He moved to England and played in various leading British orchestras until becoming principal horn of the presitgious London symphony orchestra ,playing under many of the world's foremost conductors , and left the orchestra to pursue a career as a solo hornist ,appearing to great acclaim all over the world
In addition ,he has made numerous recordings ,more than any other horn player , of the horn concertos by Mozart ,Haydn , Richard Strauss ,Paul Hindemith , Carl Maria von Weber and lesser known composers who have written solo works for the instrument , as well as new works by leading contemporary composers such as Gunther Schuller , a former horn player himself , Thea Musgrave , Robin Holloway , Richard Rodney Bennet Oliver Knussen and others . These composers have written works specifically for him .
Tuckwell has also been active as a conductor , appearing with many different orchestras , including the London symphony , and has served as music director of the Baltimore symphony orchestra in America . He has taught horn master classes alll over the world as well as teaching privately at leading music schools .
He has written three books on horn playing ,including one for the late Yehudi Menuhin's series of books on the various orchestral instruments written by various great virtuosos . This book is a goldmine of fascinating information about the history of the horn ,its playing technique and construction , and I recommend it highly .
If you would like to experience his great artistry , try his recordings of some of the most famous works for the horn first , such as the concertos of Mozart and Richard Strauss first . They are easily available at amazon.com and elsewhere on the internet .
"Modest Maestro " sounds like an oxymoron , but today is the 85th birthday of the venerable Dutch conductor Bernard Haitink (High -tink) ,one of the most eminent maestros of our time . Conductors have the reputation of being flashy, imperious ,egotistical and sometimes downright ruthless , but the veteran Dutch conductor has never shown any of these qualities . He may be the most unpretentious individual ever to achieve world renown on the podium .
And musicians in virtually all the world's great orchestras have enormous respect for his sterling musicianship and leadership abilities . They certainly don't like every conductor they work under , and in some cases they have nothing but contempt for them , but if you talk to ny of them , they have nothing but the highest regard for him . They can spot a phony instantly .
He has conducted virtually all of the world's top orchestras and conducted opera at the Met and served as music director of London's presitgious Royal Opera for some years ,but the orchestra with which he has been most closely associated is the great Royal Concertgebouw orchestra of Amsterdam , where he was principal conductor for many years untlil stepping down in the late 1980s . This is the foremost orchestra in the Netherlands , and virtually all the world's greatest conductors have appeared with it .
Mestro Haitink has also served as principal conductor of the London Philharmonic , the Staatskapelle of Dresden , music director of the presitgious Glyndebourne opera festival in England , principal guest conductor of the Boston symphony , and served for some time as principal conductor of the Chicago symphony ,not music director , in between Daniel Barenboim and its curren tmusic director Riccardo Muti . He has also been a regular with the Vienna Philharmonic , the Bavarian Radio symphony of Munich and the Berlin Philharmonic .
As a conductor,Haitink has always avoided interpretive flashiness , and his performances are straightforward but anything but dull . His repertoire ranges from Mozart and Beethoven to works by contemporary composers ., He is particularly renowned for his performances of the monumental symphonies of Bruckner and Mahler, which he has recorded complete .
Haitink has made numerous recordings of orchestralrepertoire as well as a number of complete opera recordings , including Wagner's complete Ring with the Bavarian Radio orchestra . He has made no fewer than three recordings of all nine Beethoven symphonies , three of the four Brahms symphonies , the six of Tchaikovsky , the nine of British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams , the four of Robert Schumann, aand many other composers . The Netherlands has produced a fair number of composers ,none well known outside of the country , but Haitink regularly performed their music in his native Amsterdam .
He has reached the age of 85, a time when most people have long been retired or are now in homes for the elderly , but maintains an active international schedule . Many great conductors ,such as Stokowski , Ormandy , Sir Adrian Boult , Otto Klemperer , Kurt Sanderling , Pierre Boulez , Kurt Masur , and others have never felt the need to retire because the physical activity of conducting seems to promote good health in old age .
So let's all wish a happy 85th birthday to a modest but remarkable musician !