In a shrewd and affectionate TLS review of the second edition of the Grove Dictionary of American Music, the composer Stephen Brown makes a telling observation about the ephemerality of classical reputations.
He writes: ‘It is curious that mid-century modern is now such a sought-after furniture style, while mid-century modern music is rarely heard in appropriately furnished living rooms.’
He continues: ‘Of which American composers can we say that “much of their music has continued to be performed” a generation after their deaths? Roger Sessions? Vincent Persichetti? Walter Piston? Roy Harris?’
One could say the same of mid-century Europeans: Martinu, Frank Martin, Hartmann, Malcolm Arnold, Maderna.
Now why is that?