Yes, I’m hard at work on Opus 106–the “Hammerklavier” has loomed over me since I started this thing.
I’m going to make a pronouncement of sorts–the classical music world has moved on. I went to the Grammy Award website this morning (I just couldn’t stay up late enough to hear them announce Classical Album of the Year on TV last night (ha!) and discovered that most of the Classical awards went to recordings of 20th and 21st century music–Weill, Shostakovich, Carter, Corigliano. This strikes me as a good thing. (Unrelated question–why is there no Grammy category for early music?) I thought more about it, and realized that at our faculty recital last night, the oldest composer represented was Sergei Rachmaninoff (the recital was fantastic, by the way).
No Beethoven, no Mozart, no Bach. No Brahms, no Wagner, no Hadyn. No Schumann or Mendelssohn.
It strikes me as being possible that we, the classical music community, are glad that the Baroque, Classical and Romantic composers did what they did, but we’re finally out of the shadow of them. Beethoven’s “Waldstein” sonata will always be a great thing and a joy to listen to, but we no longer have to set it on this pedestal and write music that somehow apologizes for not being Beethoven. I seem to know more and more musicians who are excited, instead of revolted, by contemporary music.
When thinking about the place of musical art in society, I often find it relevant to relate to the visual art world. No visual artist (or human being) would deny that the Mona Lisa is a beautiful, well-crafted, wonderful painting, and I would look askance at someone calling himself or herself a musician who couldn’t appreciate (as opposed to like) Bach or Mozart. But at the same time, no self-respecting artist in this century would attempt to create a painting using Da Vinci’s techniques with the intention of displaying it next to the Mona Lisa. I would not write a cantata using the same sentiments that Bach expresses–we now have a different view of religion, of life and of music’s place in the two.
If we leave behind the idea that we must stick contemporary music next to something “pretty” we will have moved away from the museum mentality that afflicts many or our major performing organizations. Not that we should never hear Beethoven and Brahms–but there should be a reason. This kind of authentic, unapologetic programming is crucial to drawing a new kind of audience–the kind we want. They will come to hear music that is relevant, intelligent and innovative. It is always a mistake to put that kind of music next to music that was intended for rich people to eat dinner and gossip to.