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Beethoven's Music Is Here to stay - Get over it !

   Composers , critics and others are always complaining about the supposed lack of new music  being performed today in our concert halls and opera houses .  And this is nothing new .  Even  in the earlier  years of the 20th century , when so many great composers were  writing so many  new works in all forms and genres and in such a bewildering variety of styles , many expressed resentment  at  orchestras ,opera companies , arts administratorsme old same o and  concert managers  who supposedly just kept on playing  and programming the same old same old .

    And who gets blamed for supposedly causing this whole mess ?  Good ole Ludwig  van Beethoven , and  other greats of classical music such as  Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Bach et al .  But it isn't their fault that their music (actually only  a limited number of works among their vast output )  has achieved a lasting place in the repertoire .  That's  just how the classical music lottery turned out .  The vast majority of all the countless symphonies, concertos,  operas, oratorios , string quartets , art songs ,  etc  which have been written over the centuries have been forgotten  and are gathering dust in  libraries across Europe , rightly or wrongly .

    But the repertoire of classical music  is not at all "ossified" as many critics and musicologists would have us believe . In fact, it is in constant flux .  There is a  "Canon" of established masterpieces which  audiences love to hear and  musicians live to perform , and which have been recorded countless times  by countless perfomers .  But new works are always being premiered , and long neglected works constantly being revived .  Only time  will tell which of  the  works premiered in recent years will  make it into that "canon ".  Most will not,  but that is true of  countless works from the past . But you can never predict when any of these might resurface .  Many  so-called "experts" do not realize that there is greater diversity of repertoire being perforned today than ever before in  the  centuries old  history of classical music .

     Some works enjoy a brief period of  popularity and then  fall into  neglect . Some  were not  widely performed at first but gradually  made  it into the canon .   But the nusic of Beethoven, to ciite only one great composer , will alway sbe with us , and will be performed as long as classical music is performed .  His music will never become dated , because it has spoken to  countless people  for about 200 years , and  has stirred ,  moved and fascinated them  from the very beginning . 

     No, we can't just stop playing Beethoven at concerts  just to make room for new music , or stop studying  and recording it for posterity any more than we can stop performing the plays of Shakespeare , Shaw, Ibsen, and other great playwrights , stop reading the novels of  Dostoyevsky,  Tolstoy, Victor Hugo and jane Austen ,  stop reading the poetry of Keats, Byron ,  and other great poets or stop  viewing the  paintings  and sculpture of  Van Gogh ,  Michelangelo  and other great artists . They are an part of  the humanity , and we  cannot and must not forget them .

     Remember - any time  an orchestra plays  an old warhorse such as Beethoven's 5th symphony, Schubert's Unfinished symphony , the familiar piano and violin concertos of Mozart, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Schumann,  etc, there is always the chance that there will be some people in the audience, not necessarily youngsters , who have never heard these works before  . These  thrice familiar works may come as  a revelation to  these newcomers  and trigger a lifelong love of it  and the motivation to explore classical music in all its infinite diversity . 

    Also, it's impossible to achieve  understanding of the music of the present day and recent past  without adequate familiarity with the music of the past .  If the first  performace of classical  music you attend  features only  challenging music  by th elikes of the late Elliott Carter and other composers of our time ,   it will be a baffling experience . You will have no context, no frame of reference to guiide you .

     So, you grumpy and  bitter composers and critics, keep these fact in mind the next time you complain the  the orchestras  whose concerts you attend  are  still performing  the works of Beethoven  et al .  Composers - people cannot understand your music if they know nothing of the great music of the past .


Posted: Jun 10 2013, 10:30 PM by the horn | with no comments
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