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What shall we do with the melodramas…?

 
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Andrew B
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 06, 2007 10:12 am    Post subject: What shall we do with the melodramas…? Reply with quote

I'm concerned that a number of really good pieces by Sibelius just aren't played (enough) internationally because they are melodramas with spoken text in Finnish or Swedish.

Sometimes the spoken chunk is quite short but for some reason it does seem to alienate people in the way that a sung text in the original language doesn't.

I'm thinking of works such as [and now let's translate the titles wherever possible!] Snöfrid, The Melting of the Ice, The Wood-Nymph, The Countess's Portrait, A Lonely Ski-Trail, and chamber works such as Nights of Jealousy. There is some top-notch music in these works!

So what can we do…?
— omit the spoken text?
— recite in the original language and put people off?
— translate the text and make it understandable but less poetic?
— let the works rot in oblivion?
— any other suggestions?

Let's find a way to get these pieces heard!

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Kurkikohtaus
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Joined: 01 Jun 2006
Posts: 1164
Location: Praha, CZ

PostPosted: Sat Jul 07, 2007 8:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In this specific case, I'm for performing the original, with two caveats:
  1. A line-per-line literal translation in the program
  2. An introduction to the work, its context and its meaning from the podium before the piece

Although as you say, there is some "top-notch" music here, I'm afraid that it's a little too "specific" or esoteric to stand on its own before an average concert audience. But with the right introduction, people may be drawn into the work.

Generally, I think every nation has music that is so specific to its own heritage that it hardly ever grows to be more than a mere curiosity for the rest of the music-listening world. In the Czech Republic, the tone-poems of Dvořák are a prime example.

His trilogy...
  1. In Natures Realm
  2. Karneval
  3. Othello

...gets some play time (especially Karneval)...

...but his tone poems derived from the collection of folk-horror-fairytales called Kytice are usually dismissed, because their content is not understood or dismissed as trivial. That said, among Czech enthusiasts, it is these tone-poems that are considered to be his best output, they are held above symphonies 7-8-9, second in belovedness only to the cello concerto.

They are:
  • The Wood Dove (Holubice)
  • The Golden Spinning Wheel (Zlatý kolovrát)
  • The Water Sprite (Vodník)
  • The Noon Witch (Polednice)
  • The Wedding Shirt (?) (Svatební košile) (Oratorio)


My favourite of these is Vodník, where he instrumentally mimics the Czech speech-rhythms of the original verse. A non-Czech audience can perhaps understand this, but they can never really appreciate this and experience the thrill that this brings upon listening.

So the same can be perhaps said of the Sibelius examples... while non-Finnish Sibelius enthusiasts will certainly appreciate an explained performance of these works, it will probably still leave the average Brahms-Consuming masses out in the dark.

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some guy
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 08, 2007 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I like the translation in the program solution the best. I don't like hearing translated text. (I got a recording of Smetana's Bartered Bride once that was all in German. Unlistenable. (I'd feel the same for Fidelio in Czech, probably!))

But I'm not sure about this:
Quote:
...every nation has music that is so specific to its own heritage that it hardly ever grows to be more than a mere curiosity for the rest of the music-listening world.


I hear this a lot, and for all I know it may be generally true. I can only speak for myself, but the pieces K mentions are some of my favorite Dvořák pieces, and they have been for my entire listening life. I remember the first time I heard Holubice. It was on the local (Sacramento, California) classical radio station. I was just a kid, so I had to be content for awhile with hearing it whenever the station played it, but as soon as I had some money, I started looking for it in local shops. The trilogy was everywhere--I think it's very popular outside České republiky, especially Karneval, which gets more than "some play time." At least when I was growing up, Karneval was Dvořák's most popular piece in the U.S. after the cello concerto and the ninth symphony.

The late tone poems may be dismissed by some people, certainly not by me. (Just remembered, Zlatý kolovrát was almost as popular when I was growing up as Karneval. In fact, I'd been familiar with it long before I ever even heard Othello.) As for "content," are you referring to musical content (which is high) or literary content (which shouldn't make any difference to how a piece of music is enjoyed!)?

If the latter, I think you've just run afoul of some very silly critics whom we should all now on the count of three simply dismiss...

...ready? One, two. ....

Anyway, just so you know, at least one listener, myself, tends to like the stuff best that non-Czechs or non-Finns or non-Poles or whatever are supposed to not like or understand at all. I don't think I'm alone in that. I hope not.
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Kurkikohtaus
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

some guy, great post.

When I talk about "play-time" and popularity, I am not referring to broadcast time or the availability of recordings. I think that much more representative of a work's stature among audiences is the frequency with which it is programmed for concerts. You see much more of a bell-curve there than with what you hear on the radio.

(A side note, for my own information, I do yearly studies of what 100-120 orchestras program and keep charts...)

All of this has of course nothing to do with a piece's intrinsic qualities, it is more a statement about the tastes and expectations of the average concert-goer, and also about what those who control programming think that people want to hear.

A last little point, the United States (thankfully) has been in love with Dvořák for over a hundred years, so certainly his output receives a more balanced representation than in Europe, where 9, Cello Concerto, 8, Karneval and 7 pretty much summarize what is played.

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PostPosted: Mon Jul 09, 2007 1:19 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank God for recordings.

I don't think I've heard more than two or three pieces by Sibelius live in concert. Same for Ives. And Varese. And even Brahms...

I guess that's one good thing about new music--many of those concerts are put on by the composer/performers themselves. I've heard Dumitrescu and Avram and Dhomont and Normandeau live many times--all with the composers right there in the room with us.

Even heard Luc Ferrari live, played by Luc Ferrari.

That's bad news about Europe and Dvořák, though. His music is so wildly pretty, too. Wow.
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Andrew B
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PostPosted: Tue Jul 10, 2007 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Maybe you ought to go to Lahti for the Sibelius Festival, in that case. (This year 6th–9th Sept). There's a really good spirit there with enthusiasts from all over the world. The hall has a pretty hot acoustic too.

I wish I had heard no more than 2 or 3 works by Brahms in concert. I don't really like paying for the ticket and then dozzzzzzzzing off...

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