Thoughts on the death of another great musician

Recently I made a resolution not to write a knee-jerk tribute every time a great musician died. Of course the passing of a towering talent must be appropriately marked. But classical music lives in the age of the next big thing, and in our 24/7 connected world the half-life of those next big things is getting shorter and shorter. Yes, let's pay our respects, but we must avoid the untimely death of a great musician becoming nothing more than today's big thing, to be replaced by whatever new big thing breaks tomorrow. We need to remember Peter Maxwell Davies and the others that we have lost recently. But we need to remember them in perpetuity. That means rising to the difficult challenge of keeping their music alive and introducing it to new audiences long after the animated echo chamber of social media has stopped resounding to tweets of 'RIP Max'.

Header illustration is my 1985 LP of Max's Third Symphony with the much-missed Edward Downes conducting the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra on the defunct BBC Atrium label. Any copyrighted material is included as "fair use" for critical analysis only, and will be removed at the request of copyright owner(s). Also on Facebook and Twitter.


Anonymous said…
I agree completely (vehemently) with this item. Coincidentally, when I first saw the news of Maxwell Davies' death, the thought occurred to me to wonder how long it might be before his presence began to "go silent," and his musical voice and visibility would begin to become faint.

There's not much about the current "classical music scene" that I dislike more than NextBigThingism. I realized a while back that my visceral dislike was causing me to avoid the recipients of this largesse, to the point where I still have not listened to any recordings by Lang Lang, Yundi Li ... sorry, Yundi ... and some others. Is it my loss? Perhaps, but I'm living with it quite well.

It's in the same category as those links that appear on or below web page items - "You have to see this!" No, I don't.

Mind you, the classical biz has taken some positive actions, although I suspect not for the most positive of reasons. Among them is the reissue of many lapsed recordings which really should have stayed in the catalogue. The RCA recordings of Julian Bream are one example, which comes easily to mind as I was listening to one this morning (on LP, no less).

Do I have an answer? No, but your linked item on the topic points in some relevant directions.

Thanks for this. It's an important topic that gets too little thoughtful attention.
Pliable said…
Scott, your observation that " I still have not listened to any recordings by Lang Lang, Yundi Li ... sorry, Yundi ... and some others. Is it my loss? Perhaps, but I'm living with it quite well" is vitally important.

I am exactly the same, and I wonder how many other serial buyers of recorded music are starting to actively avoid musicians because of over-hyping. This is the promotional dissonance that I identified in my post about the death of Sinfini Music. Or as another post said, classical music is being promoted to death -
MarkAMeldon said…
"Beginning to become faint" What an apt phrase that could describe the fate of many composers of "notated music" as Alex Ross would describe it. The lights dim for us all one day, but the miracle of recorded performances, now stretching back 100 years and more, preserves a tiny glimmer of light in may composers or musicians darkness as the memories of the living pass into oblivion.

We must not forget that many small, independent, records labels (some, no doubt, akin to cottage industry) preserve music for us. Or should that be "curate"? Just last night I was listening to a Lyrita release of two long forgotten symphonies by William Wordsworth taped off air by the late Richard Itter and released with the o-operation of the BBC. Interesting stuff composed by an interesting man who, I guess, will never be performed live ever again and certainly not by Mr Dudamel and his all-star orchestra.

These small (and not so small in the case of Chandos & Hyperion, for example) record labels deserve our support and money for releasing this stuff and, one day, I fear that the just-departed Maxwell Davies will glimmer in the gloom as far as the "major" record companies are concerned.

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