Sunday, January 30, 2011

Babbitt Composition for Viola and Piano

Milton Babbitt wrote this in 1950, lived until the age of 94, and died yesterday. The Zaslav Duo (Bernard Zaslav, viola and Naomi Zaslav, piano) recorded this in the 1970s.

Update: Here's a recording of the first part of Babbitt's Third Quartet, commissioned in 1970 and performed by the Fine Arts Quartet (with Bernard Zaslav playing viola). Here's the second part, and the third part.


Anonymous said...

A boring piece played competently by two performers. Having heard chamber music and songs by Babbitt and attending a number of his lectures, I think his opera omnia is worthy of a dusty library shelf at best. It is said one should not speak ill of the dead, but I think this kind of music dead, not to mention similar to a huge repertoire of similar stuff ground out by American academic circles patting themselves on the back for being so clever and avant garde. How like old linoleum and fussy wallpaper this music seems today.

Elaine Fine said...

There are people who would say the same thing about 14th-century isorhythm, which, for the most part stayed on dusty library shelves until the 20th century.

Here's one by Machaut, who was also clever.

Elena said...

It's really just all how you perceive it. Some might think that Mozart or Mendelssohn is worthy of a dusty library shelf while others love them so much they don't get a chance to collect ANY dust. I understand the previous comment, as everyone thinks that some music is boring, but Babbitt deserves some recognition at least - he revolutionized the electronic (and other adjectives) music world. And although some pieces might sound similar, they really are all if given the chance of listening for a bit longer.

Anonymous said...

Interesting to hear this performance in light of Mr. Zaslav's behavior at a recent performance.

On 6/6/2011 Brian M. Rosen blogged as follows: [quote] ...there was some pretty spirited heckling during JHNO’s performance at last night’s Longer Burning concert at The Royce Gallery presented by Pamela Z. Details are sketchy, but apparently in the middle of a rather loudly amplified piece, two audience members started complaining about the music even more loudly. One started applauding ironically in an effort to get him to stop playing, the other was less subtle and just yelled out “stop”. One audience member in attendance claims that the hecklers went as far to shout "This is a DESECRATION! I am a REAL violist and I can tell you THIS IS NOT MUSIC!" Apparently this very vocal and persistent minority got under JHNO’s skin and he abruptly stopped playing, threw his viola onto the stage, causing considerable damage, and stormed off. After the outburst, an angry group of audience members (including original Kronos Quartet member Joan Jeanrenaud) amassed around the hecklers, arguing about proper decorum.

George Mattingly then commented: [quote] This wasn’t “heckling,” it was a determined attempt to put an end to the performance. The elderly couple (who did succeed in ending the performance, when JHNO threw his viola to the floor smashing it to bits) evidently had at least three problems: 1) malfunctioning hearing aids inadequate to the task of handling electronic music, 2) a total intolerance for electronic music, and 3) inoperative social governors. Contrary to what one might expect, the man who began derisively applauding, yelling “bravo,” and “I’m a real violist and this isn’t music” wasn’t a blue-haired middle-brow “philistine” with no appreciation of music, but rather a former violist in The Fine Arts Quartet, Bernard Zaslav ( ), formerly at least a champion of contemporary music. Evidently his musical universe doesn’t include electronics, and his social governor is no longer operative.

Elaine Fine said...

My reaction is here.