Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Apropos of Nothing... 

I love Shostokovich. Period. He's my favorite composer of the 20th Century. Start out with his 5th Symphony, try the 13th if you're ambitious, then check out any of his piano concertos in a minor key. Beyond that... the man was a friggin genius. He even managed to orchestrate "Tea for Two" in forty minutes (on a bet) and come up with something that transcends the mundane original... it's called "The Tahiti Trot", in case you want to look it up.

Then again, I have a thing for bombastic Russian composers. Prokofiev. Stravinsky. Rimsky-Korsakov. Tchaikovsky. And look at the latter. Tchaikovsky. Who else but a raving queen would write a piece using cannons as instruments?

But, back to Shostokovich -- fucking genius. If you don't know him, get to. You'll be glad you did. And you'll find out where every modern movie composer stole their ideas, when they weren't cribbing from Gustav Holst -- who got lucky with one movement of a suite (Mars from "The Planets"), but sucked with everything else.

That's the Orff disease. Write one good theme... "O Fortuna," and be known forever, even if the original work is kind of dull. Oh, wait, no... that's the Strauss disease. If it weren't for Stanley Kubrick, no one would know anything of Richard Strauss's "Also Sprach Zarathustra" because, frankly, it's a minute and a half of interesting followed by forty-five minutes of boring.

Which brings me back to Dmitri Shostokovich... he was never boring. Which is why I recommend him. Too bad the dude spent too much of his life writing sound tracks for Joe Stalin's propoganda movies. But, in a better world, the US would have smuggled him out just because of his talent. In which case most of the best US films of the 30s and 40s would have been scored by the master.

And Danny Elfman would sound a whole lot different. Or not. Side note: I think that Danny Elfman is the best living film composer, next to Nino Rota, who I think is still living, though not composing a lot. And I think Rota was influenced by Shostakovich, and Rota influenced Elfman...

Full circle. Just listen to the fucking Russian, okay? Get an ear, and learn...

I strongly recommend Shostakovich's string quartets also. There was one for each symphony. They are all profound and deeply moving. I have two complete sets.
Nino Rota died in 1979. I have his 3rd symphony and some misc stuff on a CD that is good listening. There were a couple of movie composers who were far better than Elfman who tends to be repetitive. I'm recommending Erich Korngold and Dmitri Tiomkin as two original craftsman.
Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges is a fun opera available on DVD. There is a DVD with Stravinsky's Firebird & Petruska and containing Rimsky-Korsakov's Sheherazade. It's a bit heavy, but great eye candy. As far as I'm concerned Tchaikovsky blows.
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