Who needs the complete works?

All around the world orchestras are presenting Mahler cycles, including the complete symphonies in twelve days. BBC Radio 3 has just finished grinding its way through two and a half days of British light music. In January the same station cleared its schedules for twelve days to air the complete works of Mozart. All of which makes the following comment by the Hungarian composer Sándor Balassa particularly piquant:
'To my mind Bach would be angry if he knew that the first volume of the Wohltemperiertes Klavier is performed nowadays in a single concert. The twenty-four preludes and fugues were not meant as a recital program. Or, just imagine a huge concert with 300 concerti grossi by Vivaldi played one after the other. I think, if he had to listen to it, the composer himself would have a breakdown.

A composer does not work for a complete edition of his music. He strews his pieces in time and space. If a Vivaldi concerto is programmed next to Mozart or Bruckner, nobody would be thinking the other 299 were composed in the same spirit'
What we need instead is more of the uncertainty principle.

Quote is from Three Questions for Sixty-Five Musicians by Bálint András Varga. Image credit Garden Theatre, Winter Garden, Florida. 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
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Daniel Wolf said…
Bravo, Pliable!

in the case of Mahler, forcing a chronological cycle of symphonies onto an audience helps reinforce the fiction of their teleology. Mahler died too young and I'm certain that he did not intend to write his own demise into his compositional output. In his last years, he had got into a compositional rhythm of roughtly a symphony a year, so had his life gone on for a reasonable 25 years more, we might be discussing the 9th, 10th and Das Lied von der Erde as middle period works, while pondering the fatal character of symphonies 34 and 35. (Okay, that may be stretching it a bit, but we are surely entitled to have expected a sweet 16 or so!)
Pliable said…
Daniel, thank you for that. To misquote an earlier post, you are a composer and a gentleman -


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