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 Posted:   May 23, 2014 - 6:27 AM   
 By:   Rozsaphile   (Member)

Where I take exception is that John Williams has nothing to feel bad about or apologize for. He's possibly the greatest and most popular composer of the last 60 years. Do we feel bad that Puccini didn't write a symphony? For those who want classical Williams he has written enough for it to be judged against the history of concert pieces. But honestly they don't reach the level of alchemical accomplishment of his greatest film scores...Musically or culturally.

Puccini. Yes, and you might say the same of Wagner or Verdi. Aside from the latter's very theatrical Requiem, neither produced much memorable music away from the dramatic stage. But the analogy doesn't quite work. In opera the composer calls the shots. Words and action are tailored to fit his musical purposes. Wagner even wrote and directed his own scripts. What Previn wanted was freedom. He had the opportunity and he took it. Whether he might have done better work while serving in bondage is an interesting question. But it is harsh to condemn any worker who seeks his freedom.

Every composer finds, or seeks to find, a different balance. Rozsa mostly managed the trick, though not without moments of frustration. And John Williams seems to have done so as well.

 
 
 Posted:   May 23, 2014 - 9:15 AM   
 By:   eriknelson   (Member)

A lot of great posts, I'd say, all around. I'm proud of you guys -- (and agree with many of you...)

Threads like these are why I come to this site. I learn a lot. It's too bad that they're becoming more and more rare.

 
 
 Posted:   May 23, 2014 - 10:42 AM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

You're welcome.

smile

Incidentally, FWIW, some of the posts above reflect the feeling I've long held about a composer I very much admire, Aaron Copland. Specifically, whenever I listen to his 3rd Symphony, I think -- aside from the interpolation of the Fanfare for the Common Man -- comparisons may be odious, but there's nothing in this symphony to match the power and excitement and appeal of the same composer's music for THE RED PONY.

I've mentioned this before, but a composer friend of mine expressed his opinion that Copland allows his heart to bleed in empathy for the characters in, say, OF MICE AND MEN, with a depth of emotional expressivity he's too reticent to explore in his concert works.

 
 
 Posted:   May 23, 2014 - 10:59 AM   
 By:   Smaug   (Member)

In reading "No Minor Chords", I didn't take at all that Previn was looking for freedom. He just didn't like the culture. Like Julius Korngold he was probably getting it from his family too that this wasn't a place for serious music making.

I think the Puccini comparison is apt: it doesn't matter whether there's "freedom" or not, it is a question of what music gets written. A question of where the talent lies. That's why I said I don't lament the fact that Wagner, Verdi, and Puccini don't have big catalogues of concert pieces. Their gift was in opera and the work (libretto, story, etc) is amazing. Bernard Herrmann wasn't a great composer for the concert hall. But he's a musical genius. Williams and Previn's best and most important work happens to be for film. Some composers respond great to push back-whether from film producers or librettists or amazing concert soloists-and that push back/collaboration takes them to higher heights.

Or take another example-Shostakovich never had freedom no matter what idiom he was working in. Even though it's sad, and it's very strange to say, I'm grateful for the challenges he faced that caused him to write the music he did.

 
 Posted:   May 23, 2014 - 11:58 AM   
 By:   Ron Pulliam   (Member)

For superb Previn doing musical conducting/arranging, there have been few musicals done as well on a recording than the soundtrack to "Bells Are Ringing".

Ditto "Kismet".

Previn's original and adaptation work for film was stellar!

 
 
 Posted:   May 23, 2014 - 6:44 PM   
 By:   pp312   (Member)


Or take another example-Shostakovich never had freedom no matter what idiom he was working in. Even though it's sad, and it's very strange to say, I'm grateful for the challenges he faced that caused him to write the music he did.


I hate to say it, but I think the commissars reined Shostakovich in just in time. I find little of interest in any of his works before the 5th symphony. Had that first intervention not happened I think Shostakovich would have gone off on a tangent that left the critics delighted and the public baffled, as so many western composers did. I hate to find myself aligned with Zhdanov and Stalin, but in a sense it's a similar kind of polarisation to that being discussed here: formal expression lacking emotion or emotional expression lacking formal discipline.

A partial answer may lie in Korngold's and Rozsa's examples: make suites of film scores and compose 'classical' pieces using film themes. Bernstein's 'On The Waterfront' suite remains the most salient example (and not even derided by the critics!), but my favourite is the little heard, greatly expanded 'Spellbound Concerto', a very satisfying 22 minutes of great film music in a formal framework. Certainly it's in these forms that film music is most likely to leak its way into the 'legitimate' concert hall; otherwise it's those 'pop' and 'tribute' concerts.

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 2:01 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

There is a greater number of viable pieces for orchestra from the last 60 years that comes from film rather than so-called classical music. You're right, the naysayers don't need ammo, but as a practical matter this is important because as long as that attitude persists among the power holders of the orchestra world, no one will be playing the music of Herrmann, Korngold, Rozsa, etc. It'll always be relegated to the "Pops" concerts or special events. Whereas in truth, someone like Bernard Herrmann is much more
Important than Pierre Boulez whose ilk has had a strangle hold on music during that time. Previn says he doesn't understand that brand of music...well then he should have been a louder voice in the battle while those guys were running people out of the concert halls.


This is absolutely correct and wonderfully salient!! Boulez - who the hell is he and what has he ever done which will leave us flabbergasted by his musical genius? Oh, except say "we should burn down the opera houses". His 'music' is arid and emotionally empty and would suit people who have no real feelings to be reached. Seriously.

Nobody has mentioned the phenomenal jazz pianist that Previn was. I feel it will be this for which he is best remembered. And the Musical Direction job at MGM Freed Unit.

Thanks Preston for posting this interview and thanks to all for those wonderful contributions!

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 2:28 AM   
 By:   TheFamousEccles   (Member)

This is absolutely correct and wonderfully salient!! Boulez - who the hell is he and what has he ever done which will leave us flabbergasted by his musical genius? Oh, except say "we should burn down the opera houses". His 'music' is arid and emotionally empty and would suit people who have no real feelings to be reached. Seriously.

Nobody has mentioned the phenomenal jazz pianist that Previn was. I feel it will be this for which he is best remembered. And the Musical Direction job at MGM Freed Unit.

Thanks Preston for posting this interview and thanks to all for those wonderful contributions!


Say what you will about Boulez as a composer (personally, I like his music), but I think it's his work as a writer about music (Leonard Rosenman once quoted him as saying something like: "The kind of thing where people are sitting in an auditorium and listen to a tape piece is like a crematorium," which I thought was a delightful way of summing up the essential nature of the relationship between music, musician, and audience), a personality/philosopher in the world of music, and a conductor that really resonates and will last. His recordings of the works of Alban Berg in particular are wonderfully trenchant, and to my ears anyway, wholly and holistically embrace both the highly intellectual and incredibly emotional nature of Berg's music.

As for Previn, he's still a phenomenal jazz pianist (I believe he played a few jazz gigs in the somewhat recent past, too), but someone else earlier was a bit dismissive of his work as a conductor, which again, I have to refute - not only based on his marvelous work with the MGM musicals ("Gigi," in particular), but also for his versatile touch with an orchestra. His recording of my late friend Harold Shapero's "Symphony for Classical Orchestra" (a wonderful piece for those that don't know it) is really fantastic - the control, intensity, and sensitivity he brings to the performance is not something a lesser talent could have done. His shaping of the music he conducts is always careful, and I think he should be justly praised and remembered for his exceptional work on the podium. (That and his having composed one of the great film songs: "Second Chance.")

The other difference between Previn's film & concert work (and indeed, most other composers who've led that double life - Leonard Bernstein included - as someone above mentioned "On the Waterfront" in an interesting context) is probably that the concert works, existing as purely a priori constructs, might lack an instant or constant "immediacy" in expression and development - with the composers taking more time to reach certain musical ideas that perhaps would have been compressed, or more explicit, or whatever, when "chained" to a film.

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 4:18 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

I love the music of Berg too.

Your comments about the 'a priori' nature of more extended, conventional artmusic from Bernstein is an interesting one. I don't agree that Bernstein was less successful with this than he was with music for theatre and film - time will bring his music back into fashion as it is not unusual for serious composers to fall into obscurity until a respectable period has elapsed which means they can be "rediscovered". This will happen to Berstein, IMO.

Agree Andre Previn was a good conductor and also a fine music educator. Did you ever see his series on symphonies when he deconstructed specific works (eg. Brahms 4) using different sections of the orchestra? Wonderful.

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dvd-sounds-magnificent-the-story-of-the-symphony-brahms-symphony-no-4/4875797?ean=14381581928

 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 4:30 AM   
 By:   mgh   (Member)

His recording of my late friend Harold Shapero's "Symphony for Classical Orchestra" (a wonderful piece for those that don't know it) is really fantastic - the control, intensity, and sensitivity he brings to the performance is not something a lesser talent could have done.


Just wanted to say that this one of my favorite symphonies. I just wish more of Shapero's music had been recorded.
And for my money, Previn was a great conductor. Just listen to his Walton Symphony No. 1.

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 8:07 AM   
 By:   joec   (Member)

For superb Previn doing musical conducting/arranging, there have been few musicals done as well on a recording than the soundtrack to "Bells Are Ringing".

Ditto "Kismet".

Previn's original and adaptation work for film was stellar!


Yes, I wish we could get an expanded with lots of underscore BELLS ARE RINGING!

 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 8:23 AM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

There is a greater number of viable pieces for orchestra from the last 60 years that comes from film rather than so-called classical music.


About half of my CD collection of contemporary abstract/absolute concert music hails from the post-WWII artistic movements.

Giacinto Scelsi.
Maurice Ohana.
Arne Nordheim.
Toru Takemitsu.
Roberto Gerhard.
Luigi Dallapiccola.
Erik Bergman.
Henri Dutilleux.
Luis De Pablo.
Friedrich Cerha.
Isang Yun.
Morton Feldman.
Goffredo Petrassi.
Paavo Heininen.

I can't imagine my music collection (or my life) without the music of these composers! smile

 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 8:31 AM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)

Boulez - who the hell is he and what has he ever done which will leave us flabbergasted by his musical genius? Oh, except say "we should burn down the opera houses". His 'music' is arid and emotionally empty and would suit people who have no real feelings to be reached. Seriously.


Boulez gave us Répons, Pli selon pli, Le marteau sans maître, and Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna.

Seriously!

... and Bruno Maderna gave us DEATH LAID AN EGG. smile

 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 8:35 AM   
 By:   ToneRow   (Member)


His recording of my late friend Harold Shapero's "Symphony for Classical Orchestra" (a wonderful piece for those that don't know it) is really fantastic -


I'm sorry, FamousEccles, I didn't know Harold Shapero passed away.

In my mind, I expected that Shapero might go on and attain age 103 (like Elliott Carter).

My condolences.

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 3:42 PM   
 By:   TheFamousEccles   (Member)

I'll try and reply to a few different things here:

Regie: Don't get me wrong, I really love all of Bernstein's concert works (particularly the "Kaddish" symphony and "Songfest," which I was slated to conduct a few years ago), but I think that people expecting something more overly and immediately dramatic might be puzzled by the time he takes (this is mostly regarding the poster who mentioned a music critic friend of his that talked about how he wished LB's other concert work had the same vital energy of his "On the Waterfront" suite, and an attempt to explain why that might be the case) in developing and explicating his ideas. In a broadcast he did, Leonard Rosenman talked about the influence that writing for film had on his later concert works, and I think he does hit upon some salient truths in what he says, particularly as it relates to writing in the two fields.

To the folks who also mentioned Shapero - the "Symphony for Classical Orchestra" is a really marvelous (and underplayed) piece (the Bernstein recording is great, too), and Previn himself had some very glowing things to hear about it. It is a shame his music isn't performed more, though a few of his chamber pieces were performed in Massachusetts over the last few years, and his works for strings and two pianos (his sonata for four hands is sublime. I remember being at a performance of it - Harold was there, too, and the applause he received for it was wonderful) are available - though they can get a little pricey. His is a really terrific voice, and he was one of those nexus points in 20th Century music (particularly American music) in that he really did know everyone, from Krenek to Bernstein to Slonimsky and Babbitt. He was a very funny man, and his wit really showed in his music - here's hoping we can get some new performances/recordings in the coming years. I thought he would go on forever, too, ToneRow.

And, finally, to bring things back to Previn - can someone please reissue his really charming score for "The Good Companions"? The combination of his effortlessly assembled melodies with Johnny Mercer's delightful lyrics makes for an effervescent listening experience.

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 4:18 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Boulez - who the hell is he and what has he ever done which will leave us flabbergasted by his musical genius? Oh, except say "we should burn down the opera houses". His 'music' is arid and emotionally empty and would suit people who have no real feelings to be reached. Seriously.


Boulez gave us Répons, Pli selon pli, Le marteau sans maître, and Rituel in memoriam Bruno Maderna.

Seriously!

... and Bruno Maderna gave us DEATH LAID AN EGG. smile



Hi Tone Row. I see by your profile that you love lots of great film music too!! I was paraphrasing Bernard Herrmann when I made those comments about emotionally arid music. I have to say I agree with him - there's a clinical coldness which sends chills down my spine and which my warm heart cannot interact with. But you like this music and I'm glad for you.

Best wishes, Regie

 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 4:45 PM   
 By:   Ray Faiola   (Member)

Previn's greatest contribution to Hollywood was his UNCLE!

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 5:41 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

And HIS greatest contribution to Hollywood was to introduce Frank Skinner and Hans J. Salter to each other.

smile

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 6:00 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

P.S. --

With regard to GIGI, BELLS ARE RINGING and KISMET, I think it takes nothing away from Previn's accomplishments in this arena to point out that a lot of the credit for the sound of these particular MGM musicals must be shared, at least in part, with men such as Conrad Salinger, Alexander Courage, Robert Franklyn, etc, etc..

 
 
 Posted:   May 24, 2014 - 7:15 PM   
 By:   Preston Neal Jones   (Member)

P.P.S. --

Re: Rozsa's "exoticism and dynamism"... Personally, I often find both plentifully supplied in many of his concert pieces, esp. the 3 Hungarian Sketches, and the Theme and Variations, among many others. And I gravitate to them because they strike the same pleasure centers in my brain as his best film scores. But that's just my opinion, FWIW.

 
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