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Thread: Tchaikovsky mediocre or not?

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    Tchaikovsky mediocre or not?

    There is an interesting discussion on Tchaikovsky in the AP Cohen swan lake thread. Some posters think he is a god, some think he wrote some mediocre music.

    What do you think is his place in music or ballet history. I don't have much to contribute, but I love to hear what the ballet and music posters opinion.
    Last edited by gezando; 09-26-2003 at 10:46 AM.

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    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
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    Tchaikovsky mediocre or not?

    Definitely Not Mediocre! I would not call the 1812 Overature - mediocre. Tchaikovsky wrote many moving pieces - in particular his Sixth Symphony - Tragic.

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    Custom Title Mathman's Avatar
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    Hi Gezando, I think the comment on the AP Swan lake thread was that within the context of Tchaikovsky's body of work some of the music of Swan Lake was mediocre. After all, no matter how great a composer you are, unless you are Mozart some parts of your music will be better than others, even within the same work.

    Hi LAD, That's interesting that you mentioned the 1812 Overature, because IIRC that was a composition that Tchaikovsky himself didn't think much of. Another was the Nutcracker. Yet a hundred years later this is his most beloved and most often performed work: year after year a hundred thousand parents troop dutifully to the recital hall to see their darling portray a mouse or a toy soldier. That's the greatest music in the world.

    It's funny how sometimes it is the pieces that composers almost toss off as an afterthought sometimes become the great classics. Like Dickens. He wrote 20 or so towering novels, representing the greatest prose ever written in the English language. Yet he is best remembered for a trifle -- a little short story commissioned for a magazine about Ebeneezer Scrooge and the Three Spirits of Christmas.

    Mathman

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    Minusaramadad from Arctaroon John King's Avatar
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    Tchaikovsky mediocre or not?

    "We want to know the truth about Tchaikovsky;was he a genious who put haunting melodies to life,or was he just an old poof who wrote tunes?"

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    Extinction is Forever 4dogknight's Avatar
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    John before you can have any discussion, you really should have at least some background. And please remember any dialogue on composers can be just as heated as a dialogue on elite skater's edging.

    Here's some sites to give you at least a glimpse into Tchaikovsky's life. Remember also that PT's career spanned the Romantic and Nationalistic periods. Hopefully Eltimania and Pitchka and even Mathman will jump in with more specific information. Oh yes, rgirl is also somewhat of a maven on this subject.

    http://www.incwell.com/Biographies/Tchaikovsky.html

    http://www.webcom.com/shownet/ice/tchaikov.html

    http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/refpag...efid=761577231

    http://www.classical-composers.org/c...?comp=tchaikov

    http://w3.rz-berlin.mpg.de/cmp/tchaikovsky.html

    4dk

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    Just in time for the skating season to start, last Thursday evening the cable show "New York Dance" showed the London Festival Ballet doing none other than "Swan Lake." I watched it paying particular attention to the music. What I thought was that there is so much interesting music from "Swan Lake" that skaters never use, music that most people would never know was from "Swan Lake" unless you told them, especially in Act III. I'd love to see AP and Sasha skate to these "underrepresented" sections of "Swan Lake" and stay away from the theme we all know so well and the pas de deux music that everyone seems to use.

    As to whether or not it's mediocre, I think it depends on whether you're talking about music for pure listening or music for dance. There's a ballet by the Danish choreographer Bournonville that uses music that I can't recall off hand, but a friend of mine who used to play in the Utah Symphony would always moan when they had to play it for Ballet West. "It's such awful music!" he would say. And true, compared to Stravinsky, Mahler, Beethoven, yeah, it stunk. But for Bournonville's choreography and 30 dancers on stage plus soloists and demi soloists and it was great--strong underlying beat, a lot of power, but not so much as to overpower the dancers.

    So, that's not an answer, but that's what I think.
    Rgirl

    PS to 4DK: LOL that the day after you write that, among others, maybe Rgirl "will will jump in with more specific information" on this subject, here I am, feet first. Great Tchaikovsky links. Thanks!
    Last edited by Rgirl; 09-30-2003 at 02:23 AM.

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    Just in time for the skating season to start, last Thursday evening the cable show "New York Dance" showed the London Festival Ballet doing none other than "Swan Lake." I watched it paying particular attention to the music. What I thought was that there is so much interesting music from "Swan Lake" that skaters never use, music that most people would never know was from "Swan Lake" unless you told them, especially in Act III.
    What a great coincidence! I watched the same program but the next day. ITA 100% about the music in Act III. For me the most emotional part of the ballet is the finale, and I would think that at least one figure skater would have used the music to help evoke emotion in their program (hopefully this one skater will be sasha cohen).

    Getting back to the subject, I can't ever imagine Tchaikovsky being mediocre. I admit it, I don't know a darn thing about classical music except that I deeply admire it and that it's my form of escape. Maybe some of his music lacked this or that (insert hard-to-spell usic term here) but to me, his music just builds to the point where I have this big grin on my face- I can't help it! :D
    (especially the pas d'action from Sleeping Beauty)

    The mediocre comment may have come from the fact that so many skaters have done swan lake to death that the music may seem like nothing much. I admit that even I'm tired of the main theme.

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    Originally posted by nysk8r
    What a great coincidence! I watched the same program but the next day. ITA 100% about the music in Act III. For me the most emotional part of the ballet is the finale, and I would think that at least one figure skater would have used the music to help evoke emotion in their program (hopefully this one skater will be sasha cohen).
    Nysk8r,
    Cool! OT, I think there's a lot of great stuff on "Dance New York." They also have "Music New York" and "Opera New York." Also, on the NY cable station for PBS, "New York Metro" (channel 95 in Manhattan) they have a lot of great dance and music programs either from the PBS archives or are NY-specific. People who live elsewhere look at me like I'm crazy when I say one of the great things about living in NYC is the TV, but it's true, lol.

    Back to Tchaikovsky, specifically "Swan Lake," I know a lot of people didn't like Shizuka Arakawa's techno version of "Swan Lake" last season for ehr SP but I loved it. To me it used a part theme and variation style and part hip-hop style (sampling) to turn an old warhorse of skating music into something fresh and that suited Shizuka's style of skating. In fact, I thought she skated the best I had ever seen her in that SP. I think a lot of people were more put off by the costume than the music, though I liked the costume too.

    I think one of the things that attests to the strength of Tchaikovsky's music (and he is by no means one of my favorite composers) is how often his music is recorded and how often it is performed for symphonic listening. One of the reasons I think Tchaikovsky is argued about as to whether he is a "B" level composer is the fact that he wrote so much music for ballet. Composing for the ballet, especially in the 19th and early 20th Century was looked down upon the same way a great novelist would be if s/he started writing magazine articles or ad copy, sort of like, "Oh, can't write well enough and make enough money writing music people just want to listen to. PIT has to make ends meet by writing for the ballet, where the music is secondary to the dance."

    That attitude went out of fashion when great composers such as Stravinsky collaborated with great choreographers such as Balanchine, or Copeland with Martha Graham. But in Tchaikovsky's time it was very strong. Also, Tchaikovsky's music can, at times, get sentimental and a bit drippy, but OTOH I think that some of his complex symphonies are greatly underrated. Also, in his ballet music, like "The Nutcracker" Tchaikovsky bases a lot of the sections in the Act III on folk music, which was something else the aristocracy looked down upon until Mahler started doing it decades later, but in a very different way.

    I think there's always been a feeling that if classical music is popular with "the masses" that it's not great music. Yet Germans especially were wild about Wagner, as were many others, and despite his viriulent antisemitism, music scholars generally consider Wagner the greatest and most influential composer since Mozart and Bach, which reminds me of one of my favorite quotations:
    "Wagner's music is better than it sounds."
    Mark Twain

    As for Tchaikovsky's place in music, I like what Ernest Newman has to say, "A good composer is slowly discovered. A bad composer is slowly found out." Not that Tchaikovsky is bad, and again I find myself returning to the success of his music for ballet, but rather I think Tchaikovsky is one of those composers who had success in both concert music and music for dance. Often the dancer or skater can make "music sound better than it is." Last season Ilia Kulik skated his own choreography to "Waltz of the Flowers." I was one of those kids and adolescents who did "The Nutcracker" year in and year out, so I'd heard "The Nutcracker" enough for a lifetime. Yet when I saw a male singles skater of Kulik's unique technical, expressive, and choreographic abilities do "Waltz of the Flowers," the music took on a freshness and a whole new meaning.

    Similarly, about seven years ago, a British choreographer, Matthew Bourne, choreographed "Swan Lake" using an all male cast of swans. No, this wasn't "Trockadero" drag-style ballet. The male "swans" were bare chested, with pants that went just below the knee and had an abstract bird/animal sense about them, as did the make-up and head pieces. It was one of the most stunning works I've ever scene. In the traditional ballet production of "Swan Lake" the light and lyrical corps de ballet gives the feeling of a misty fairy tale. With Bourne's male swans, one is reminded that swans are animals, with all the fierceness, strength, and violence inherant in that--and in us.

    The point I'm trying to make is that a lot of what can make music sound "better," aside from how well it's performed, is the context. In the case of "Swan Lake" and "Waltz of the Flowers," seeing men do what are traditionally femaile roles gave me a whole new perspective on both the dance/skating and the music. With the virility of the male swans in Bourne's choreography and in Kulik's skating, I heard new depth and meaning in the music of "Swan Lake" and "Waltz of the Flowers." Is it "kosher" to allow choreography to make music sound "better" or should music be judged strictly on its own merits, separate from anything else? I don't know, but I do know it made a difference to me.

    BTW, speaking of dance music, I do think that Prokofiev's "Romeo and Juliet" is far superior to Tchaikovsky's both for dance and as music.'
    Rgirl
    PS Favorite quote on Tchaikovsky "The only winner in the War of 1812 was Tchaikovsky." Solomon Short.

    Last edited by Rgirl; 10-01-2003 at 08:48 AM.

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    ~ Figure Skating Is My Passion ~ Ladskater's Avatar
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    Tchaikovsky mediocre or not?

    Funny thing - Vincent Van Goughs' art was never appreciated in his time - now it's hanging in the Louvre.

    Thank goodness Tchaikovsky gave us - Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty - all gems in the classical world of Ballet.

    Frank Augustyne (A top Canadian Ballet dancer - partner to Karen Kain) discussed these Ballets in his program "Footnotes." He said because of the joy the music instills in the dancers they never tire of these great masterpieces.

    I never tire of them either.






  10. #10
    Custom Title Joesitz's Avatar
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    It doesn't matter whether it is Tschaikowsky, Minkus, Adam, music composed for classical ballet, imo, is basically, tacky. Yes, they have pretty tunes but not much else. They are geared to the ballet and that is proper but not necessarily worth going to Carnegie Hall for without the dance.

    One of the contributions of Ballanchine was the use of 'great' music for his ballets: Mozart, Vivaldi, Stravinsky, and so many others. Robbins and de Mille used American composers that had something to offer: Bernstein, Copeland, and others. Imo, these pieces could be worth going to Caregie Hall for without the dance.

    As for Tschaikowsky, the music in his ballets is not necessarily the great music he could write in symphonies, concertos, etc., and he would be the first to say it. He was a great orchestrator and that enhanced his ballet music.

    By the way, see the movie with Glenda Jackson and the Dr.Kildare guy (forgot his name and I forget the name of the move. Oh, those senior moments!) I think it was The Music Lovers? The director was Ken Russel and his movies are something else! and this one is too. It's stark!!

    Joe

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