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#445810 - 01/30/08 04:29 AM Are US composers overrated or underrated?
Robert Kenessy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/07/07
Posts: 394
Loc: Enebyberg Sweden
I have been noticing in Pianist corner that US composers are more played and higher rated than over here in ((good) old) Europe. Over Christmas I was in Minnesota. I browsed through a book in Barnes&Noble on 50 classical music composers, arranged according to the top 50 ranking of the US author. I was surprised that many US composers like Crumb, Barber and Adams ended up close to the top.

Reception and “ranking” of a composer depends not on his/her musical merit only, but on other factors as well. For instance, I think the neglect Alkan has suffered is largely due to him being a secluded, eccentric and unsocial jew.

So my questions are:
are US composers underrated in Europe or overrated in the US?

Will the strong imprint the US has on world wide culture give US composers a stature they would not have had, had they not been Americans?
Robert Kenessy

.. it seems to me that the inherent nature [of the piano tone] becomes really expressive only by means of the present tendency to use the piano as a percussion instrument - Béla Bartók, early 1927.

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#445811 - 01/30/08 03:06 PM Re: Are US composers overrated or underrated?
jdhampton924 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/13/08
Posts: 1048
Loc: Evansville, Indiana
If it is like anything else, its a little bit of both. I find barber to be amazing, but definitely not more then I find beethoven or mozart. It is very hard to have a top 50 for music because it is based on personal biases. How did gerswhin fair?

#445812 - 01/30/08 05:42 PM Re: Are US composers overrated or underrated?
tomasino Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/24/05
Posts: 2039
Loc: Minneapolis, Minnesota
How would I know, being that I'm isolated here in Minnesota. I seldom get outside in the winter, so it's hard to imagine getting to Europe to experience the culture and make a comparison. Today, it's 5 degrees below zero F. I'm not even gonna touch the doorknob to experience the rest of the world.

"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#445813 - 01/30/08 06:29 PM Re: Are US composers overrated or underrated?
mickmontreal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/20/08
Posts: 23
Loc: Montreal
I completely agree with jdhampton924. Some may ask themselfves the same question about europeen, african and asian composers.

#445814 - 01/30/08 07:20 PM Re: Are US composers overrated or underrated?
Kreisler Offline

Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13825
Loc: Iowa City, IA
I think they're underrated in Europe, but I also think Americans unfairly neglect good composers from other countries as well.

(Rautavaara, Schnittke, Henze, etc...)
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


#445815 - 01/30/08 08:17 PM Re: Are US composers overrated or underrated?
Nikolas Online   content
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/26/07
Posts: 5919
Loc: Europe
Every country's got it's favourite composers, etc... The same with everything really. Politics, sports, celebrities, you name it.

I don't think that anyone thinks lower of US composers here in the UK or europe in general, but I, for example, do tend to forget the US composers, when I'm making a list. It's what I listen to all the time and see all the time (only the Internet is different).

In another thread down in the composers forum, I was speaking about composers and totally forgot ALL American composers (not on purpose of course). Adams, Glass, Persicetti, Crumb, etc. I'm still having trouble thinking about other names, although I know many more in reality. I'm ashamed of that really.

Plus training, education and culture is totally different between countries, imagine continents. One of the reasons I didn't go to study in the US, was exactly that I thought (and still think) that I would have much more difficult time coming back to Europe, than staying inside for the whole time.

I only imagine it's the same for Americans as well...

(I can name quite a few Brittish composers, who are considered top names over here, but somehow I doubt if other people will know them: Phil Cashian, Tansy Davies, Thomas Ades, Anna Meredith, etc...)

#445816 - 01/30/08 09:23 PM Re: Are US composers overrated or underrated?
Theowne Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/06
Posts: 1099
Loc: Toronto, Canada
Likewise, I can bring up a couple of Canadian names and I'm sure only a few would recognize them...Alexina Louie, Robert Aitken, Oscar Peterson, Louis Applebaum....

As for American, I'm familiar with Copland...and I saw a performance by Julius Williams once (not a composer). And of course I'm a big fan of Gershwin....Anyways, yeah, people are always inclined to be nationalistic about these sort of things, so there's no surprise...
http://www.youtube.com/user/Theowne- Piano Videos (Ravel, Debussy, etc) & Original Compositions

#445817 - 01/31/08 02:15 AM Re: Are US composers overrated or underrated?
wr Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/23/07
Posts: 8438
Originally posted by Nikolas:

I can name quite a few Brittish composers, who are considered top names over here, but somehow I doubt if other people will know them: Phil Cashian, Tansy Davies, Thomas Ades, Anna Meredith, etc...

I'm in the USA, and thought you might find it interesting that your list has one name that's fairly well known here (at least among those people who tend to know about living people who write music) and that is Thomas Ades. I think I may have heard pieces by the other three on BBC Radio 3, but don't remember them particularly.

Some other composers still living and from approximately your part of the world that I have heard some music from are Turnage, Finnissy, Holloway, Max Davies, Barry, Weir, Bryars, Harvey, Ferneyhough, Matthews, Birtwistle, Skempton, Knussen, and Benjamin. There are others, I'm sure (and I didn't include a couple whom I dislike too much to mention). Some of that is simply because I listen to a lot of BBC Radio 3 webcasting, but I've actually heard live local performances of music of some of those names.

And then there are all the dead ones...

#445818 - 01/31/08 02:40 AM Re: Are US composers overrated or underrated?
argerichfan Offline
9000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/15/06
Posts: 9088
Loc: Pacific Northwest, US.
Originally posted by Nikolas:
I can name quite a few Brittish composers, who are considered top names over here, but somehow I doubt if other people will know them: Phil Cashian, Tansy Davies, Thomas Ades, Anna Meredith, etc...)
And don't forget James MacMillan, Philip Moore, Bryan Kelly, Francis Jackson, Grayston Ives, William Mathias, Mark Blatchly, Robin Orr, Stanley Vann, Giles Swayne, Robin Holloway, Patrick Gowers... all UK composers who have written magnificently for the Church.

The list is really endless, isn't it? With the exception of Mathias, these composers are all still living to the best of my knowledge, though I should be surprised if Stanley Vann (Peterborough Cathedral's greatest DoM) is still composing- he must be well into his 90's. I've met his son.


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