[lit-ideas] Re: Why are the greatest composers all German?

  • From: Chris Bruce <bruce@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 20 Jun 2006 00:50:02 +0200

On 19. Jun 2006, at 06:13, Eric Yost wrote:

Amateur pianists might like to look at the score of William Duckworth's 24-piece piano cycle, "The Time Curve Preludes."

Before I order it 'to look at' (such things are generally not inexpensive), I'd like to know: will I also as an 'intermediate' amateur pianist be able to *play* (at least some of) it?

Thanks very much for the names, Eric. It saddens me that I can reel off almost countless names associated with the products of the entertainment industry marketed under the various labels now assigned to 'popular music', but must stop pretty quickly when asked for the names of contemporary composers (even when that term 'contemporary' is extended to include the last 50 years!) I do hope that your assessment of the current state of the contemporary 'American classical music' scene ("There's a creative explosion of new American classical works, and an increasing number of venues for performing them,") is accurate.

The most recent music I've paid serious attention to (aside from Torsten Rasch's 'Mein Herz Brennt') is John Williams (guitar - both solo and with orchestra) recording of the work of the contemporary Australian composers Peter Sculthorpe and Nigel Westlake.

By no means contemporary compositionally, but nevertheless a remarkable piece of 'recent' work is Stanley Yates' arrangement for guitar of Bach's 'Six Unaccompanied Cello Suites'. This comes in a spiral-bound book containing the arrangements, the original scores, some very insightful comments, a 40+page epilogue on 'Arranging, Interpreting, and Performing the Music of J.S. Bach' and (if you buy the right edition) a recording of Yates playing (unfortunately only) the first three suites, published by Mel Bay Publications (in 1998 - I just recently caught sight of it in the window of the local piano store and to acquire it happily handed over an exorbitant sum [46 Euros for an item bearing a US$39.95 price sticker; worth every - Euro or American - cent]).

Important note: the book is apparently available in both a 'book only' and a 'book/compact disc' configuration. With the latter you get the Yates' performance of the first three suites, which I highly recommend.

(I know that something published in 1998 is hardly 'new', but I'm so delighted with this that I can't help remarking on it. The Australian pieces - composed between 1989 and 1994 - I mention above are hardly 'new' either; especially by the 'popular music' standards of my adolescence, when something a month old was very old indeed!)

Chris Bruce
Kiel, Germany

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