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Subject: Re: "Eugene Onegin" question
From: Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Maxwell Paley <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 17 Jan 2018 07:00:34 +0200
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I’m not sure what drew up the comparison, but I enjoy and respect Massenet (particularly “Werther” and that superb Letter Scene) but much of Tchaikovsky’s music engages me at a much more profound level. A good performance of “Eugene Onegin” or “Queen of Spades” can rivet me and leave me powerfully shaken.

I find these somewhat fragile works in a sense, as I would also say of Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde.” Some works (“Carmen,” “Rigoletto,” “Bohème”) are indestructible. The essence of the work will somehow survive a mediocre or even bad performance. These two Tchaikovsky works need a high quality of singing, acting, conducting and stage production as well as a very special type of sensitivity to get off the ground.

When I was young, critical opinion was still pondering whether Tchaikovsky’s work should be considered great music. I think that the ideas people then had about his personal life being turbulent and neurotic and the tendency toward great exaggerations in “romantic” interpretations of his music had an undermining effect leading many to consider that his was not “proper” music compared to the likes of Brahms or Beethoven. I see a great positive change in that regard over the past 50 years.

His symphonies occupy my sound system very highly, as do the ballet scores, songs, chamber works and concerti (although the famous First Piano Concerto is one of my less favorites). Of the symphonies, there’s not a loser in the bunch and I’m astonished at the invention and quality of even the earliest.

The last 3 symphonies are played more than the early ones, but people who haven’t explored the first 3 are in for a delight.

Max Paley

Sent from my iPad

> On Jan 17, 2018, at 3:20 AM, donald kane <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> The time comes, after decades of enjoying music, when one is allowed to sit
> back and
> draw conclusions. I've heard my share of Massenet operas, and was often
> impressed
> by a scene here, an aria there:  Beverley Sills seductive Manon "live';
> Gigli's melting
> Werther, and the sweeping duet from THAIS, with Kirsten and Merrill on
> disc; Joan
> Sutherland resuscitating a forgotten, unrevivable ESCLARMONDE; but it adds
> up to
> very little compared with the melodic wealth that poured from Tshaikowsky's
> pen, no
> matter what form he was drawn to. This can't be dismissed as an example of
> musical
> sweet tooth;  those tunes are meaningful..  Tschaikowsky painted, Massenet
> did
> coloring books.
> 
> There was once a fully staged performance of MAID OF ORLEANS at the Met in
> Lincoln
> Center, from a visiting company; it was enthralling.
> 
> But the truth is this; few operatic or concert experiences have ever given
> me the deep,
> satisfaction of a performance - at home or abroad - of the "Pathetique"
> Symphony.
> No theatrics, no stage needed, just the purity of music that goes as far as
> music can
> go.
> 
> dtmk
> 
> 
> 
> On Tue, Jan 16, 2018 at 1:03 PM, G. Paul Padillo <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
> 
>> Mr. Kane wrote:
>> 
>> "So Onegin is an "anti hero"; like a host of others in opera; enough with
>> the psychoanalysis!  Tschaikowsky thought Pushkin's plot would make a
>> good opera, and he was right.  "Syrupy music"  -  but beautiful as
>> Massenet? I don't think so; I would not trade the complete works of
>> Massenet for one of Tshaikowsky's best tunes, of which there are far too ma
>> many to begin to mention, in, as well as out, of  his operas."
>> 
>> As to the "enough with the psychoanalysis"  I can only ask: Why?  I would
>> never dream of telling someone else the manner in which they should
>> enjoy opera, and similarly don’t particularly care for it when someone
>> tells me
>> me HOW.
>> 
>> Pushkin’s poem does indeed make a good opera (which was part of my
>> point in pointing out how many critics have told us otherwise), but Onegin
>> is also more than just good
>> is also more than just good “tunes” and the characters (all of them) make
>> for interesting character studies and analyzation.  As a singer, I can tell
>> you merely learning the words and music, while no small feat in and of
>> itself, just ain’t enough.  We’ve all heard many singers who, despite
>> dulcet
>> tones and (sometimes) good diction, can still make some of opera’s most
>> exciting characters into little more than vocalises.  Opera is theatre,
>> and we
>> we should feel free to look under the makeup of  its characters just as we
>> wo
>> would those penned by Shakespeare, Ibsen, or Shaw.  The composers ce
>> certainly have!
>> 
>> Each composer has his/her defenders and critics, and while you may not
>> care for the work of Massenet (who I adore) many feel the same way about
>> the “syrupy” or “heart on sleeve” music of Tchaikovsky (again . . . I ad
>> adore).   Preferences matter little to each of us, outside of the fact
>> that we ma
>> may have particular favorites which, due to fluctuations in popularity, we
>> ma
>> may not get to see or hear as often.
>> 
>> Speaking of Tchaikovsky, I’m still on a “high” from Odyssey’s “Maid of
>> Orleans” – in Boston this past fall.  The Met really is missing the boat on
>> this one.  To that end, and for anyone who missed it, here’s a brief, but
>> still t
>> thrilling highlight reel:
>> 
>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4BBb9-HpkZI
>> 
>> p.
>> 
>> 
> 
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