Sunday, December 21, 2008
Music without moderation
The über moderators at the BBC have decreed that Handel, Haydn, Mendelssohn and Purcell are 'composers of the year' for 2009, and official Radio 3 bloggers have been appointed to moderate what we read about them. While elsewhere trombonists are busy moderating which conductors we can hear. Moderation will be the big thing in classical music for 2009. As Tariq Ali said recently - 'The 'elite' control not by choosing the topics of discussion, but by controlling those topics not discussed.'
The moderation madness will multiply in 2010 and 2011. Gustav Mahler was born in 1860 and died in 1911. Double anniversary cycles of his symphonies will tick all the boxes for the modish mass of music moderators. Besides, what an opportunity for Gilbert Kaplan to expand his repertoire.
The BBC moderators have decided that classical music died together with Mendelssohn in 1847. So Bohuslav Martinů has been written out of history, despite 2009 being the fiftieth anniversary of his death. But fear not, a moderate amount of Martinů will feature here. As I said some time back - more of Martinů's music please.
Now playing - Bohuslav Martinů's Symphony No. 4. For me this is one of the great life-affirming works of the 20th century. I grew up with Václav Neumann's account from his complete cycle of the symphonies on vinyl LP. The box is seen above, my discs still sound superb despite the variable quality of the Czech Supraphon pressings. This set is now available as three CDs and is highly recommended. Why, with the current obsession with all things Shostakovich, do the myopic moderators ignore Martinů's equally deserving music? Is there an orchestra immoderate enough to programme one of Martinů's two quite superb, but virtually unknown, cello concertos instead of the ubiquitous Shostakovich alternatives?
Not quite as authentically Bohemian, but recommended nevertheless, are Bryden Thomson's recordings of the Martinů symphonies with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra from the late 1980s. These are available from Chandos as MP3 downloads. Bryden Thomson's early death in 1991, aged 63, was a sad loss. If he is remembered at all today it is as a British music specialist. But these Martinů symphonies are confirmation that such a categorisation is grossly unfair. He also recorded a fine cycle of the Nielsen symphonies for Chandos with his Scottish orchestra more than a decade before the composer's music was 'approved' by the moderators.
Another Nielsen champion and victim of BBC moderators here.
The gorgeous typography on the Martinů symphony box is by Miroslav Jiránek. All CDs mentioned were bought by me at retail price. I probably bought Václav Neumann's Martinů cycle with money from my newspaper delivery round. I have used CDMusic.cz successfully to buy Czech CDs, their prices are good and delivery is fast. Any copyrighted material on these pages is included as "fair use", for the purpose of study, review or critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Report broken links, missing images and errors to - overgrownpath at hotmail dot co dot uk