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Despite Audience Resistence , New Music Must Be Given A Chance To Be Heard

  Classical music is a continuum of music from the past stretching back centuries to the latest works by living composers .  It has evolved steadily through the ages and is still doing so .  The earliest important names in the field include such great composers as Claudio Monteverdi of the late 16th and early 17th centuries , his pupil Heinrich Schutz of Germany, and even earlier masters such as Palestrina , Lassus, Dufay , and Machaut . 

  This long line of great composers continues with such giants as Johann Serbastian Bach , Mozart ,Beethoven,Schumann, Wagner, Brahms etc to the present day with such leading contemporary figures as Pierre Boulez ,Elliott Carter , Hans Werner Henze , John Adams and others . Today , we are priveleged to hear music by all of these great names and infinitely more .

 And there are promising  young composers beginning to make a name for themselves at the moment . But unfortunately , many people who attend concerts are set in their ways .  They have grown accustomed to their beloved familiar masterworks by Beethoven, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninov and other familiar names ,and are reluctant to give new works a hearing at concerts .

  Some concertgoers will actually walk out before a new or recent work is being performed at a concert and return when their local orchestra plays its umpteenth performance of the Beethoven fifth or the Dvorak New World symphony , or the 2nd piano concerto of Rachmaninov .  They know what they like and don't want to hear something new and unfamiliar .

  Or if they do listen to the new work , they sometimes find it so disagreeable as to write letters to the orchestra's music director saying that they will cancel their subscriptions if he continues to program such awful stuff . 

  Don't they realize that it is vital for new music to be heard ?  Otherwise , classical music will stagnate and die .  But  their minds are closed .  Fortunately ,there are still some lovers of classical music who are willing to give new music a chance . 

  They don't realize that Beethoven was once considered a dangerous radical by more than a few critics composers and listeners in the early 19th century ,when he departed from the style of Haydn and Mozart and wrote revolutionary worksd such as the Eroica symphony, the fifth, his late string quartets and other masterpieces .  There were those who found these strange new works incomprehensible ,confusing and incoherent .

  It was the same with the wild new music of Hector Berlioz (1803-1869 ) with its enormous orchestras and outlandish use of orchestral color .  The monumental operas of Wagner with their once insanely daring harmonies caused costernation in the world of 19th century music .  In the 20th century , such great composers as Stravinsky,Bartok, Prokofiev, Schoenberg and others were always pushing the envelope .

  But they are all now established figures in classical music .  And who knows how things will develop in the 21st century ,which is only entering its second decade ?  No one can predict this . Grand old men such as Pierre Boulez ,85, and Elliott Carter, who just celebrated his 102nd ! birthday are still very much with us and have created important if extremely esoteric catalogues of works are being performed fairly regularly despite audience resistance and only time will tell how posterity sees their music . 

  And there are other composers such as John Adams,Philip Glass, Ned Rorem,William Bolcom and others who write in a more accessible style and have been widely performed and frequently recorded .  Again,only time will tell what their ultimate place in the history of classical music will be .   But there are still many people who will squirm at the mere mention of Arnold Scheonberg,who was born in 1874 and died in 1951 , and whose still thorny 12 tone music alienates many concertgoers . 

  And in these extremely difficult times for orchestras and opera companies , where full houses are needed so badly ,many orchestras are understandably cautious about alienating conservative audiences with music that is not "easy listening ".  But the world of classical music cannot afford to degenerate into stagnance .  New music MUST be heard .

Posted: Dec 27 2010, 08:58 AM by the horn | with no comments
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