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Justin Doring

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"And were Copland's interpretations of his own Americana any better than the definitive Bernstein recordings on Columbia/CBS from the 1960s?"

No. Copland is among my favorite composers, but his conducting of his own works doesn't do much for me. It's not that he's a bad conductor, but I think that even modern interpreters like MTT and Slatkin do a far better job. After all, artists are rarely the best interpreters of their work. Bernstein is definitive when it comes to Copland, and I dare say he'll never be surpassed.

As far as Williams giving credit to his influences, in interviews he freely admits them. After all, the "Main Title" from Star Wars is simply a reworking of Korngold's "Main Title" from King's Row.

Regarding Mahler, he is my favorite composer, but it took me awhile to "work up" to his music. Prominent themes in Mahler's music (it could be said that he basically composed one huge symphony, just as Wagner composed one huge music drama) are childhood, nature, and death. Remember those three themes, and you should be okay. Also, biographical information on Mahler helps immensely in understanding his music, but it also speaks for itself.

I'd recommend beginning with Blumine, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, and the First and the Second Symphonies. This is the "first movement," if you will, of Mahler's gigantic "symphony." When you're wide awake with no distractions or interruptions, and preferably in the dark, try listening to the first two pieces in one listening session. Try the First the next night, and the Second the next night. Then go back and do it again a few more times. What does the music say to you? What do you feel? Mahler is a very emotional composer, and what you bring to the music is crucial.

As far as recommendations on particular interpretations, ask a dozen Mahlerians and you'll get a dozen different responses. Unlike Copland, I don't think Mahler has any definitive interpreters. I think Water is a generally stunning interpreter. I'm personally not big on Solti, but he has his champions as well as detractors. I like Chailly for the First, but Bernstein gives a nice, brisk reading of it. Bernstein generally delivers a very emotional and slower paced Mahler, which is certainly welcome in my opinion, but some think he’s too emotional. Boulez is the exact opposite, and he prevented me from "getting into" the Seventh, but I curiously really like his interpretation of the Sixth. MTT and a little help from my friends helped me "get" the Seventh, which I think is Mahler's most "difficult" symphony. I haven’t heard the SACD of MTT’s Sixth, but I’ve heard it’s fabulous. Zander’s Fifth on SACD is a very different interpretation of the work, but a refreshing one. The bonus CD where he lectures on the symphony is invaluable. In my opinion, the other two best modern Mahler interpreters are Rattle and Salonen, and they’re superbly recorded. I’m fortunate to generally hear two live Salonen Mahler performances a season, so that might explain my bias. I adore Salonen’s Third and Rattle’s Fourth.
 

rob kilbride

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Which ones in particular did you like?
I meant out of the ones I mentioned. You said you liked some of my mentions in my first post.
I don't think Stravinsky openly credits Lanner or Pergolesi. Its noted in the liner notes. Its not like its listed on the title page as Pulcinella(based on themes of Pergolesi) or Petrouchka(with waltz music by Lanner). Stravinsky is guilty of the exact same thing. But you don't seem to want to except this. You seem to be uninterested in comparing the Williams and Stravinsky as I requested and without doing so I don't think your opinion is very informed. I think it barely qualifies as a quote. Its extremely similar in that one part and it was definitely the inspiration for it but its not the same and Williams develops the idea. And I don't think you have any way of knowing whether the theme was from folk music or not. I wouldn't have guessed any of it was folk music but the scholar says many of the themes are.
 

Jack Briggs

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I think Bruno Walter's performance of the Resurrection Symphony--with that studio ensemble, the "Columbia Symphony Orchestra"--is just about the best Mahler Second I've ever heard.

You wouldn't believe, however, how rousing a performance of this mammoth work I heard at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion when Zubin Mehta led the LAPO in an amazing interpretation. I was thunderstruck. And I never would have guessed that "Zubie" had a real sensitivity to the second symphony.

I do, however, like Solti's performance on Decca.
 

Zen Butler

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I do, however, like Solti's performance on Decca.
I am assumimg guys that this is one to own more than one reading? I do own 7 renditions of Debussy's La Mer.
How does Mr. Mehta's reading of Resurrection on Decca compare to Sir George Solti's of the same label?
I've read Mehta "owns" this symphony, and will not disguise that I have seen many Mehta releases including the DVD. Answers for the ignorant please!
 

Jan H

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My desert-island Mahler recommendations:

Symphony #

1 - Bernstein on DG with the Concertgebouw.
2 - Rattle on EMI (but Walter's is excellent)
3 - Again, Lenny, on DG with Concertgebouw
4 - Maazel with Kathleen Battle on CBS (the only Maazel recording I like)
5 - Barbirolli on EMI - a classic.
6 - Lenny again
7 - Lenny again, though Abbado's is superb on DG
8 - Tennstedt on EMI, but it's a toss-up with Solti's.
9 - Von Karajan, DG, his final recording.

All are IMHO, of course, but a I'm a Mahler nut and have heard most of the great recordings out there. Bruno Walter is probably the greatest Mahler conductor of them all, but I found the recordings (CD's) to sound somewhat strident and brittle. The music is beyond reproach, however. My .02.
 

Stefan A

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Stravinsky is guilty of the exact same thing. But you don't seem to want to except this. You seem to be uninterested in comparing the Williams and Stravinsky as I requested and without doing so I don't think your opinion is very informed.
How did you ask that I compare the 2 composers. I don't recall.

But, in the end I am sure I could not do justice to any written comparison. I certainly don't consider myself a scholar on this, or any subjects. I am more of a real musician rather than a paper musician. I know what I like and don't like and have opinions. But, unfortunately can't comment scholarly about to much unless I spend time doing research - which I just don't want to do. As I said, I don't have the album, and it's been many years since I heard it. So, it's hard to remember exactly what it was. I am just growing tired of this discussion. I really didn't want to come off as some kind of know-it-all because of what I have said above.

You are right, I don't ackowledge Stravisky's lack of giving credit to quotes. I am not familiar with Pulcinella and certainly not Lanner to make intellegent comments about it. But since I know that Stravinsky is a better composer, I just don't feel the need to justify his choices - not that I am in a position to do so.
 

Justin Doring

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"You wouldn't believe, however, how rousing a performance of this mammoth work I heard at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion when Zubin Mehta led the LAPO in an amazing interpretation. I was thunderstruck. And I never would have guessed that "Zubie" had a real sensitivity to the second symphony."

Jack, I was there! While I thought the performance was quite good, I wasn't as enthusiastic about it as you. I'll take Salonen for Mahler over Mehta, even though I haven't heard the former's Second.
 

rob kilbride

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I am just growing tired of this discussion.
Why? You throw out a criticism of one of my favorite if not favorite composers and you are annoyed when I come to his defense? I've proved Stravinsky did the same thing you accused Williams with 3 examples not opinions of mine. How more fair could I be in this discussion.
 

Tomoko Noguchi

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Ooooh. A discussion about Mahler. Now there's a topic that will scare off the majority of music lovers.

I say that because I think most people look at Mahler as impossible to deal with. I know I did the first time through. Personally, I really love his 3rd symphony and Barbirolli on BBC is just great.
 

Stefan A

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The reason I am growing tired of arguing this is for reasons I very clearly explained. I am not a expert on the subject - but I have certain opinions. If I had the inclination, I would do some real research so I can argue this more convincingly.
Plus, I am starting to say the same things. I have acknowledged that Stravinsky, and many composers have quoted other composers. Furthermore, I don't consider using folk music of your country an unoriginal compositional technique. In musical terms, it's considered nationalism. Showing pride in their country. Sometimes they use folk tunes - or musical styles from other countries. That is known in musical circles as exoticism. For instance, Tchaikovsky's 1812 overture. He uses a Russian folk song and the French nation anthem (It may be a folk song) to describe a battle. It's being used for a reason - to paint a picture.
Bartok spent many years of his life scouring the Hungarian countryside recording Hungarian folk music from the people. He then used it constantly in his music. An extreme case of nationalism.
Nationalism and exoticism is one of the many things that furthered the art of music. It was an inovative thing. It may not seem like a big deal now, but there was a time when that wasn't done.
I am sure that all these composers acknowledge that they have done this. Perhaps in the title of Pulcinella, credit is not given to Pergolisi and in the title of Petrushka, credit is not given to Lanner. But, I bet if you researched the topic, in some writing somewhere, Stravinsky acknowleged this. I wonder if Williams has acknowleged this. You see? This is the research I am talking about. Are you going to spend the time and do it? This is why neither of us will be convincing to each other. And, this is why I said I am growing tired of this discussion. There is no conclusion in sight. You accused my opinions of uninformed and now I am saying the same to you.
I have no problem with your THINKING Stravinsky is a better composer though I doubt many people would think this unless they were hardcore classical fans. Its certainly not as melodic as Williams.
Oh Boy.
It's one thing to like and enjoy one composer over another. But to make this statement? Before I start crying because of the sorry state music must be in, perhaps you should define what you mean by "better composer" Have you actually listened to Stravisky's music? Not just the popular stuff - but representative pieces throughout his 3 main stylistic periods?
And please define "people". For the majority of people in the music listening world, I think comparing Williams to Stravinsky is a non issue. Most people probably have not even heard of Stravinsky - much less have enough information to do a fair comparison. I think the only people really qualified to do a fair comparison are people who are familiar with the music of both composers. Or, people who are musicians and know and understand music. I challange you to gather a group of people who know BOTH composer's music well and/or know and understand music and do a "test". See if your quote above holds water.
 

rob kilbride

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Stefan, you originally said that Williams was unoriginal because he lifted music from other composers. Then when I showed you Stravinsky did it too you changed the focus to well he should have credited him. Then I showed you Stravinsky didn't credit anyone in the piece descriptions either. The fact remains there is no mention in the titles or the description of the pieces, or movement names. So you're suggesting that mentioning it in a writing somewhere amounts to giving full credit? Do you expect very many people are gonna actually read it if he did? There's a good chance he did admit it since it is well known and in the liner notes. But to me thats not giving full credit.
Since you don't believe anything I say no matter how reliable my sources of information are maybe you'll believe Justin on the topic of Williams acknowledging his influences:
And please define "people".
Members of the species homo sapiens.
And you seem to be picking and choosing what is ok to do. Why is it more original to use folk music than to base a work on another composers work? And yes I have listen to Stravinsky, mostly his major works but also some others. I said I like him very much. Just I enjoy Williams a little more. Perhaps its the popular music fan in me that really appreciates a great tunesmith.
Frankly I don't think you listen to reason. No matter how well I document my facts(not opinions) you don't believe me and refocus the argument. So I'll let you have the last word if you want it and I won't reply to you unless you have any new things to add.
 

Stefan A

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Funny how you didn't use IMHO which seems to be such a majir issue for you.
I purposely didn't type that because I knew how you felt about it.

I have no response to anything else either. There is a point that we have to agree to disagree.
 

Jack Briggs

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I second that.

Let's divert this potpourri elsewhere, but with a view to thematic-intensive, lushly orchestrated warhorses that please the concert-going masses.

Any Respighi fans in the house? He's one of my guilty pleasures. And I just love the Vetrate di chiesa (Church Windows) tone poem. Though the more recent, Absolute Sound-sponsored audiophile recording by the Pacific Symphony Orchestra under the direction of--oh my goodness, can't think of his name (somebody help here)--is the most beautiful-sounding interpretation of this gorgeous piece, I still prefer the vintage, mid-sixties performance by the Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy.

And, of course, there are those Roman-appreciation tone poems of his. I absolutely love Charles Munch's take on The Pines of Rome on Decca/London.
 

Jan H

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I will get scoffed at for sure, but I LOVE the James Levine "Pines of Rome" on the Fantasia 2000 DVD (the one with the flying whales). Sounds great on DTS. For standard CD's I found the Sinopoli interpretation on DG to be the most vital and well-recorded interpretation. Good call, Jack, it's a fun piece.
 

rob kilbride

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I will get scoffed at for sure, but I LOVE the James Levine "Pines of Rome" on the Fantasia 2000 DVD (the one with the flying whales).
I think everyone should know that it is not a complete version though. It's significantly edited.
By the way Church Windows is based on Gregorian Chant. I wouldn't call Gregorian Chant folk music. So is Respighi a ripoff artist too?
 

Stefan A

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I like Respighi very much. Church Windows is a piece that I have not gotten into though. I have the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra recording along with Brazilian Impressions. I have listened to it a few times and enjoyed it while listening - but I never been inspired to do too many re-listens to actually know the piece. As far as the Trilogy goes, I have Philidelphia with Ormandy - which is great. I also have Sinopoli with the NYP and Louis Lane with Atlanta. I like The Birds which is on the Atlanta. I still don't have Ancient Airs and Dances which I would like to get. From the Trilogy, I think I like Roman Festivals the most. Then Pines, then Fountains. As far as recordings, I heard Mazel with Pittsburgh a while ago doing Pines - I thought it was very well done.
 

rob kilbride

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Stefan, without trying to restart the Williams versus Stravinsky debate, do you think that many average people would like Stravinsky? To me , it is the kind of music that is best appreciated by people who like very complex, heavy music, not any kind of casual fans. That was my only point. I think its safe to say that for the average music listener Romantic orchestral music is more accessible than most more modern styles. So my only point was that most people probably wouldn't be into Stravisnky, only people like you and I who appreciate complex music. It was only in response to the way you made it seem like it is so clear that he was better that Williams. I just was saying most people, not classical fans, would not think so. It would hold true for many composers I consider inferior to Stravinsky not just Williams. Lets just address the relative accessibility of Stravinsky and not rehash the comparison. I'll certainly concede to you that Stravinsky was more groundbreaking than Williams. I don't think Williams ever was trying to redefine music the way Stravinsky did. But being more groundbreaking to someone else does not necessarily make them better or more enjoyable.
And another thing, I really don't like the argument that you have to be a performing musician to understand what good music is. Isn't it the PEOPLE that music is written for? I have over 4000 cd's and have cd's in the pop/rock field from Bing Crosby to Slayer and everything in between. Pop, rock, progressive rock, heavy metal, R&B, Funk,Rap, Country etc. I also of course have a large selection of classical music. I'm guessing I have somewhere between 800-1000 classical cd's dating from Hildegard von Bingen born in 1098(the oldest known composer in my collection Gregorian Chant dates back even further) to Carter Pann born in 1972(younger than me!). And I'm starting a jazz collection too. So I think I'm knowledgeable enough to have a valid opinion and I am certainly not a trained musician. In Fantasia, Deems Taylor notes that the visual interpretations of the pieces were not those of trained musicians and that it was all for the good.
 

Zen Butler

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I absolutely love Charles Munch's take on The Pines of Rome on Decca/London.
The one I own is Munch but with NPO, I love Munch. Of my 7 La Mer I own(I know I said it before), Munch and the BSO is by far my favorite with the Boulez reading a close second. "Lenny" fans may flame away

My favorite part of this beautiful poem would be the quaint part IIPinni Presso Una Catacomba. For which my version surpasses Von KarajanIMO and that's bold to say. One of my favorites of the Charles Munch I own, with his stellar Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique right up in the running.
 

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