The best Part of Glass

He seems pleased.

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    • The work was commissioned by a broad consortium of orchestras, guaranteeing many “first” performances. It must have been quite a paycheck.

  • I ordered the new Dinnerstein recording (released Friday) just out of curiosity: what does an 80 yr. old composer have left in him? I also happen to like some of his music (it seems to put me in a minority around here) — I’m really looking forward to Akhnaten (sung by Costanzo) coming to the Met next yr.

  • The photo is double-edged, like the title of this post. Is Pärt laughing because he feels flattered, or because it is utterly ridiculous? Is it the generous gesture of a collegue who writes something totally opposite of the spectrum which is a pleasant surprise to Pärt, or is he flabbergasted because of the irony? Or both?

    • I don’t know, Pärt seems to be a decent sort of a chap, so I imagine that he accepts such things in the spirit in which they are given. I actually rather like some Philip Glass (Satyagraha, for example—ok, possibly only Satyagraha), but to my somewhat conservative tastes (not as conservative as yours, mind) Arvo Pärt is the best composer working today. Unsurprisingly, he is routinely the most performed living composer, and he has achieved the rare feat of being enjoyed by the general public and also respected by the cognoscenti (in contrast to, say, John Rutter, who has achieved only the former, or Harrison Birtwistle, who has achieved only the latter). Pärt would be one of few living composers whose music I imagine will leave a lasting legacy in the future (and I mean as music that people will actually listen to for pleasure, not just as an academic study). Another would be Penderecki.

      • I agree concerning Pärt. It is genuine, truly-felt music and beautifully made. Penderecki – the later Penderecki who returned to tradition – has his moments, but is more superficial and facile, I don’t think much of it will endure.

        As for conservatism: that is something entirely different. Conservative are the people who still think that avantgarde music from the fifties and sixties is an everlasting stasis of progress – mind the contradiction – and think ‘the past’ is something to be overcome. But ‘conservatism’ has different meanings in different contexts. Just one tiny example: when the civil wars in the first century BC disrupted Roman society, culture was brought to a halt; the following restoration of peace and order, which brought about a new flowering in all fields including culture, was later considered a golden age, and its culture revived all the Hellenistic styles and modes of expression of old – of centuries old. It was modern, construcive, and highly artistic. So, enjoying cultural decline for progressive reasons is not modern but primitive and regressive, and cultivating one’s understanding of past achievement is modern in today’s culture. Pärt is modern, for that reason, harking back to archaic cultural times with his recreation of mediëval musical experiences.

        • You are quite right that “conservative” is a difficult term in this context. If one considers that Moses und Aron premiered more than 60 years ago one could hardly now consider Harrison Birtwistle, for example, to be avant-garde or iconoclastic, and nor could one consider Arvo Pärt to be replicating established tradition. I suppose that I use “conservative” as shorthand for “music that ordinary listeners actually understand and enjoy”.

          As for the legacy of Pärt and Penderecki, I suppose it is a feature of 20th- and 21st-century composers that their output often reflects engagement with very different, sometimes conflicting, developments in music. Pärt himself, of course, went through a 12-tone phase. I actually find some of his early works quite interesting, partly because they are by Pärt and illustrate his creative development, but I am sure that it will be the works from his later period (from the 1970s onwards) that will guarantee his legacy.

    • From my perspective, an un-gifted 8 year old could have composed it. But that’s just an opinion, not a fact. Beauty is in the ear of the beholder.

    • I know of a 13-year-old girl who composes much, much better music (personal taste, of couse). Her name is Alma Deutscher.

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