Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Review your list of the Music of God

Dear Athos and Porthos,

Can we include amongst all these cultural and theological headbanging posts some more dignified or meaningful dialogue? (-:

Being suckled only on rock 'n roll, a little big band, a tiny bit of gospel and country; then "rebelling" into rock and its many tentacles throughout the 70's and 80's, I would like to hear some reviews of the GIANTS in classical music that you 2 have listed in your profiles. Can you do that?


Athos said...

Well, let's just start with G. F. Handel, since we are drawing closer to Advent and Christmas.

Robert Shaw, one of the finest choral directors and arrangers produced in the United States, once said this about Handel's "The Messiah" (I'm paraphrasing):

Handel wrote the entire oratorio in a fortnight. Almost every single song or piece memorial, humable, beautiful. That would be like the Beatles writing all of their greatest hits in a span of two weeks.

(Back to me now:) Whether you reach for his Royal Fireworks or his Water Music, or a lesser known work, you make present an elegant musical expression, in my opinion, worthy of a play or sonnet of Shakespeare.

The Pastoral of his Messiah is every bit as lovely as Bach's Sheep May Safely Graze, perhaps more so.

And to the modern ninnies who believe that human ears have been "trained" to call beautiful certain DWM pieces of music, I say balderdash! Let them die with a sprig of misognist hip hop through their ear drums, or a paean of John Cage stifling their breathing.

Was that scapegoating? Oh, all right then. Nevermind.

So, find a copy of The Messiah -- the "two-fer" with Andrew Davis conducting the Toronto Symphony (it's between the cumbersome Mormon Tab style and the minimalist 'original instrument, original size' tinkle style). Pour a glass of a rich, sweet red, turn down the lights and let the faith of the Church in her Lord pour over you in this magnificent offering of sublime music.

Porthos said...

Well, you know, Athos 'n I are string players, so we got the basic music appreciation course of life.

The periods of music are very roughly:
1) Gregorian chants
2) Renaissance
3) Baroque
4) Classical (Mozart, Haydn, mostlyBeethoven)
5) Romantic (Schubert, Brahms, Mendelsohn [sp?] etc.)
6) Late Romantic (Wagner, Bruckner, Mahler, R. Strauss)
6) Impressionistis (Ravel, Debussey [sp?], some Stravinski)
7) Modern

Working backwards, in my opinion,

7) you can safely skip most moderns, except some Bartok, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, a few others. It's mostly a lot of atonal c*** and I can't believe people actually rehearse it and pay money to go see it.

6) I like Ravel more and more (don't judge him by Bolero), never really got into Debussey, and really like Stravisnki's two impressionistic ballets (Firebird, Petrushka) but not most of his other stuff.

5) I love Mahler, but think Bruckner is just OK. Others love Bruckner, but think Mahler is just OK. Borrow Mahler's Symphony 1 from a buddy or a library, give it 2 or three tries (use headphones), and if you still don't like it, then Mahler's not your bag. It doesn't mean you're a bad person or anything! Never got into R. Strauss THAT much, but you have to give him credit for the Zarathustra thing (2001 theme). About Wagner, Mark Twain had the best appraisal: "He's not as bad as he sounds." (I got that from one of Athos' books.)

to be continued . . .

Porthos said...

5) Didn't use to like Romantic period that much, but I'm acquiring a taste. Old Age? Quite a lot to choose from here . . . Really good on symphonic stuff, in my opinion. This is when the huge modern symphony orchestra came into its own, and these folks were figuring out all the cool stuff you could do with it. Brahms started doing stuff that Mozart and Beethoven just didn't have the technology and know-how to do. (In my opinion, Mahler took it to the limit). Tchaikovsky is not to be sniffed at. A lot of Romantic stuff goes suprisingly well when you're saying a Rosary. And don't forget Schubert's "Ave Maria."

4) "Classical" music proper is Mozart, Haydn, Most Beethoven. I love all of it. However, it's not as good devotional music as I would have suspected, though. Don't know why that is. It's kind of chrystally clear alert music.

3) You cannot go wrong with Baroque. Bach is breathtaking and awe inspiring (check out his masses and passions), but Athos has a point; Handel is also very good (though most of the oratorios bore me). Suprisingly, Bach's sacred music is not always good devotional music. It's very "busy" stuff. There are also some earlier baroque guys who are very pretty, like Henry Purcell, and Albioni (sp?). Composers like Vivaldi and Teleman can be pretty, but a bit mechanical. Harpsichord music bores me--it's better when transposed to piano. All baroque organ music is good. This is, in fact, THE age for organ music.

2) I'm getting more and more into Renaissance stuff. Don't know much about it, though. I just like the way it sounds.

1) Gregorian chants. Well, OK. I copped one CD from a friend and listened to it a lot in the car, for a while . . . Maybe the car is not the best place to listen to it. Maybe it should not be listened to at ALL, but sung, together, in a monastic setting. When you listen to it, it kind of all starts to sound the same . . .

Classical music fizzled out, more or less, in the early twentieth, and creativity in music went eslewhere, but that's OK. Just listen to the old stuff. Milan Kundera wrote that classical music is like a fireworks rocket. It launches with about Gregorian chants, lets off all these brilliant boom, Boom, BOOMs, then right about Mahler's 9th symphony it's dying cinders floating to the ground.

Athos said...

Porthos, you give a great little thumbnail sketch of western music history. Thank you, my good fellow. I for one was smitten at a very young age. My father brought home a recording of Rimsky Korsakov's Scheherazade and it moved my young soul in ways best described by C. S. Lewis when he speaks his childhood experiences of "joy".

I won't blather on about it, but if I were held against a wall in some gulag and demanded at knife point when my first willed steps started toward full communion with the Catholic Church, it would be at that moment.

Point? The Spirit speaks (and preaches, as our good Aramis would say in good Franciscan spirit) often without the use of words.

And many times the theological virtue of Hope was restored to me on my Journey via classical music.

Know what played as soon as I climbed into my car after seeing "The Passion of the Christ?" Korsakov's "Russian Easter Overture." Without a word of introduction. Just the opening plaintive notes.

Grace or coincidence? Go find your own answer, good reader. I have mine.

Porthos said...

Cool post! I was wondering myself if I shouldn't have mentioned ole Rimsky.

Mahler's second is called "The Ressurection Symphony." For the longest time, I couldn't figure out what he was doing with that last movement. It seemed like a jumble of disconnected themes/ideas. Then, finally, it all fit together, and I thought, without really understanding it, "So, THAT's what he's doing!" That movement is a sort of religious experiece.

Porthos said...

Maybe I should my comments preview before send I them. Some of my sentences mangled a bit out come. Not to metnion spellling.

Porthos said...

Just an experiment.

Can I do italics?

Can I do bold?

And what is this bracket A bracket trip?

Porthos said...

Oh, I get it. The bracket A bracket thing is for links, like http://3massketeers.blogspot.com/.

Porthos said...

Well, speaking of the music of God, Mozart's Reqium is on the radio now. I got 50 bucks for playing in it once.

Porthos said...

except that the bracket thing doesn't really link to anything, which makes me wonder what the point is . . .

The easiest thing about this blog was creating it. After that it's all "your browser may or may not support HTML tags. Please refer to our coding matrix. Welcome to the encoding matrix. Please read below to see if your platforms support disco retro. If you'd rather play tag with our HTML tags, refer to the reversible field programming protocols. You can opt to deploy our easy use hide and seek buttons. They will appear if you are supported by Mozarella . . ."

Porthos said...

Mozart's reqium is pretty, but sacred music of the Mozart/Haydn era does not really sing for me as sacred music . . .