They might really be radicals

Posted by on Apr 10, 2014 in Storyteller | No Comments

“The notion that there might be something “modern” about Sibelius was risible to self-styled progressives of the immediate postwar era. The Schoenbergian pedagogue René Leibowitz summed up the feelings of many new-music connoisseurs when, in 1955, he published a pamphlet titled Sibelius: The Worst Composer in the World. Surveys of twentieth-century music labelled the composer a marginal figure in the central drama of the march toward atonality and other intellectual landmarks. Yet performances of Sibelius’s music continued unabated; conductors and audiences had it right all along.

In the last decades of the century, the politics of style changed in Sibelius’s favor. He began to be understood in terms of what Milan Kundera called, in another meditation on the culture of small nations, “antimodern modernism”—a personal style that stands outside the status quo of perpetual progress […]

In 1984, the great American avant-garde composer Morton Feldman gave a lecture at the relentlessly up-to-date Summer Courses for New Music, in Darmstadt, Germany. The people who you think are radicals might really be conservatives, Feldman said on that occasion. The people who you think are conservative might really be radical. And he began to hum the Sibelius Fifth”

Excerpt from “The Rest is Noise”, the essential book written by Alex Ross

 

 

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