Posted 30 December 2008 - 06:56 PM
Mel--obviously I agree with all of this, and in any case, there are all sorts of sufferings that composers as well as all creative artists go through. Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven's deafness, even Haydn (his marriage was no bed of roses), Debussy's most paradisical music (the 12 Piano Etudes, the Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp) written when he was at his most physically ill (and this can never mean mental happiness), Rachmaninoff's depression during the 2nd Piano Concerto (if my memory serves me here). Ultimately, all those personal-suffering contributions have to be subsumed to what is heard as the musical material and experience, and no amount of reconstituting it for 'modern sensibilities', as Adorno did with great alacrity, can exert nearly the influence on ears and musical minds that many of its often pompous claims assert. A few intellectuals will agree that 'Beethoven is dead', but this is concurrent with continued audience demand to hear the 9th Symphony at Carnegie Hall; they don't care what Adorno said.
Oh, now I see what I was confused about. You meant Tchaikovsky himself was thought post-WWII to be 'merely loud', when I wrote this up I thought you meant by 'the composer', as 'composers [all of them] were thought to be merely loud.' I hadn't known this about Tchaikovsky, that that had been his reputation. As well, knowing he wrote the Grand Pas after his sister's death changes my opinion not a whit from what it was, but rather puts into historical context--but personal historical context, not musical historical context. The changes in artistic historical context seem to be years-long phenomena, as I've been noting in McDonegh's book on Graham, and fairly gradual, although I can't say this is always the case. One can surely hear and see something in works that had a great personal impact on the creator's life, but whether it changes the general 'period' that was going to be inevitable for their work is probably unlikely. Since we've been beating the dead horse of the Grand Pas, though, it could be that I find it so unsatisfying precisely because Tchaikovsky is such a great melodist, which you hear in the operas quite as well as in the great ballet scores. It's vaguely satisfying within the whole Act II by its contrast to the charm of all the other dances, but it doesn't come anywhere near what one hears in SB Act III whether in pas de deux or divertissement--I always love the Jewel Fairy and any of the Bluebird music, as well Canary and the other Fairies in the Act I. The one way I can hear the Nutcracker Grand Pas and it make sense is as a kind of 'Miniature Grand', which may attempt to keep it within the scale of what 'grand' would mean for children, rather than adults (which is related to the theme of this thread, although musically 'childlike' or 'more adultlike'), and perhaps 'Miniature Overture' gives a clue to this need to keep the entire ballet within a relatively small dimension of perception and vision. Maybe none of it is meant to be 'grand' in the usual sense of the word even when the word 'grand' is not applied. Do you think that makes any sense? The 'real grand', at least in Tchaikovsky ballets, would be in the more adult Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty. In that way, the simplicity of the G Major Scale placed (at the beginning) on the supertonic A Minor 7th, going then merely to the Dominant 7th, and ending the first phrase on the G Major tonic to E Minor, may then be a childlike version of the 'dramatic'. Or something like that?