Pierre Ruhe reviews the Atlanta Symphony performance of Carter's "Allegro scorevole" that I posted about last week. Mr. Ruhe also reviews a performance of Paul Moravec's Tempest Fantasy, which won for its composer the 2004 Pulitzer Prize. The critic finds both pieces to be "minor works" that are visible in part because of the lack of alternatives. I would not disagree with him about the "Allegro scorevole" out of the context, but as the finale of the Symphonia: Sum Fluxae Pretium Spei, it is, well, essential.
Mr. Ruhe refers to what he heard as Moravec's "blandness" and called his music "generic", and a reaction to Carter's "dissonant, ferociously complex" idiom. He likened both ways of composing as isolated and self-sufficient, analogous to musical "edge cities", those blights of suburbia dominated by strip malls and a lack of a center. He indicates that he would like to see a new musica that addresses the mainstream--"one had to wonder why it seems so hard to address the middle, to speak with a voice that is at once elevated and common".
I think that is an important issue, though it's very hard to know what such music would sound like, given the fragmentation of contemporary musical life.
After I posted an early version my 101 list, composer and writer Stirling Newberry suggested the metaphor of music as a city. I've intended to expand on that, and Mr. Ruhe's review adds some texture to the idea. I'll be working on that this week.
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