#ClassicsaDay #ForgottenComposers Week 3
This month the Classics a Day team presents a real challenge. And that’s to remember forgotten composers. It’s a challenge, but remembering the forgotten can be important, too.
The idea here isn’t to lift up composers who always labored in obscurity. Rather, the goal is to recall composers that were once popular.
Throughout this month, many of the composers I’ll be featuring will have the same story. During their lifetime they were famous and popular. People flock to hear them play, publishers fight for the rights to their music, and younger composers emulate their style.
And yet, after their death, it all goes away — and quite quickly. Usually, within a decade their music’s out of print, no one performs or discusses them, and they’re virtually eliminated from music history.
Why? The reasons vary. Sometimes it’s gender or racial bias. Sometimes it’s political upheaval. Sometimes tastes just change.
Here are my posts from the second week of #ForgottenComposers. I’ll leave it to you to judge if they deserve to remain so.
11/14/22 Frank Bridge: Three Idylls
Bridge was one of the pre-eminent composers of Edwardian Britain. After World War I, his music became more complex and forward-looking — and less popular. Today, his fame primarily rests in the title of Benjamin Britten’s “Variations on a Theme by Frank Bridge,” which made Britten’s reputation.
11/15/22 Antonio Salieri: Requiem in C minor
Salieri was one of the most respected composers and teachers in 1790s Vienna. By the 1820s, changing tastes, and spurious rumors caused his music to disappear from concert halls. Salieri’s music experienced a revival in the late 20th C. with the success of Peter Seller’s “Amadeus.”
11/16/22 Alberic Magnard: Symphony No. 4
He was known as the “French Bruckner.” Before World War I his star was on the rise. But Magnard was killed in 1914, and styles changed after the war. His music was soon forgotten.
11/17/22 John Knowles Paine: Symphony No. 1 in C minor, Op. 23
Paine was the eldest member of the Boston Six and a major figure in American music in the 1890s. His works were performed internationally and regularly appeared in American orchestral programs. After World War I, there was an influx of European conductors, hired by the major American orchestras. These conductors considered Paine’s music — as well as those of his contemporaries — old-fashioned and provincial. Paine’s music ceased being programmed.
11/18/22 Sergei Taneyev: Prelude and Fugue, Op. 29
Taneyev was a music theorist as well as a composer. He was a master at counterpoint, and preferred to stick to the “rules” of the forms he wrote in. He often clashed with the Five, who were developing a Russian school of composition. Their opinion prevailed, and the music of Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Mussorgsky, et al. became the standard for Russian music.
Uncomfortable with Taneyev’s intellectual approach to composition, Rimsky-Korsakov characterized it as dull and academic (though it was actually neither). Nevertheless, performances of his works soon dropped off.