Thursday, March 03, 2011

Anton Bruckner's Gods: some composers' early works are their best; A note about Mac Logic

The other day, I played Riccardo Chailly’s 1984 recording  (CD on London) of the “Vienna” version of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony #1 in C Minor, as revised in 1890, after the composer had started all of his symphonies.  Bruckner used C Minor twice in a row (#1 and #2), and then again in #8, the last symphony that he would complete.

I had a DG record of the earlier Linz version, which sounds almost Schubertian (which is not to put it down).  But the 1891 Vienna version (not to be confused with the notorious “Vienna Variation” in chess) really does strive to invoke the Apocalypse, “The Event” (yes, “They” are going to take Earth back, if you haven’t heard yet). The tempos slow down to a crawl in the finale and the composer takes us through every chromaticism, stretto and passing tone imaginable, almost as if he wanted to enumerate all possible consequences of the famous dissonance in the development section of Beethoven’s Eroica Symphony first movement. Finally, we are in another parallel universe, but anchored on C octaves. The life we left was transient after all. But we know that something of each one of us will go on, forever.

The rhythm in the Finale appears in Bernard Hermann's score for "Vertigo" at some of the most critical moments. 

Sergei Rachmaninoff would pull the same hat trick on one of his early works, the Piano Concerto #1 in F# Minor, in 1917 (not so late in his life, however). He would trim it down and make it leaner, and take out the finale “big tune” which ought to sound rich in F-sharp, but which musicologists say seemed trite compared to the success Rachmaninoff had with the thrilling conclusions of his Second and Third Concertos.

Sometimes early works turn out to be more daring than later well accepted “masterpieces”. Dvorak’s Symphony #1 in C Minor may be his longest, and the finale has truly daring experiments with continued dissonance in its development section; the closing pages of the finale are brazen, and not done justice by conductors. The Second, in B-flat, is also daring harmonically. Both early symphonies have expansive slow movements.

Of course, we all know that Richard Strauss wrote many of his famous tone poems early. 

I've ordered the Naxos recording of the "completed" Bruckner Ninth and comment later. 

I’ve connected Logic  Express 9.0 to my new Casio digital piano, and started experimenting, leading to the idea of getting my own youthful works saved on a computer, printed, maybe published and performed professionally (after considerable editing). I must say that an inexperienced Logic user will create polytonality unintentionally, whether useful or not (you don’t need Mozart’s Coronation Concerto as a starting point).  It seems a bit like Cakewalk, but with even more features (even in Logic Express).

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