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Theodore Servin

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Everything posted by Theodore Servin

  1. Hello everyone, This is hopefully going to be the first of many posts on the lives and music of rare romantic composers. This series can be thought of as a continuation to my post entitled "The Rare Music Conundrum", and is meant to widen the audience attraction to forgotten romantic-era musical geniuses. I hope it's something that interests you, and you can learn something from. This installment is about the life and music of Soviet-Ukrainian composer, pianist, and teacher Viktor Kosenko (1896-1938). Kosenko was born in St. Petersburg to a large family, but moved soon after to Warsaw. Though musically gifted, he only began music lessons in 1905. He was preparing to enter the Warsaw Conservatory, when the First World War began, which forced him and his family to leave Poland for Russia. He studied at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, where he excelled in his studies, and received excellent evaluation from the faculty, including from Alexander Glazunov. At this time, he also began to compose, writing works for piano. After graduating, he moved to Zhytomyr, where he began teaching at the local academy, and where he married his wife, who became one of his main sources of inspiration. Here, he also began to perform and organize concerts, promoting fellow Ukrainian composers in the process, and was an active member in much of the musical life of Soviet Ukraine. With the arrival of Stalin's regime, he moved to Kiev, where he taught, performed, took part in local music competitions, and, above all, composed. Despite his activity in the world of music in Ukraine, he lived very poorly for most of his adult life, often being forced to share living quarters with other families. Due to insistent persuasion from his wife, the Soviet Government finally awarded Kosenko with the Order of the Red Banner for his efforts in the promotion of Ukrainian nationalistic music. Several months later, in a poor state, Kosenko died from kidney cancer, aged only 41. His wife continued to promote his music long after his death. The music of Viktor Kosenko, in my opinion, is of the highest quality. His music was in the vein of the late romantic era, and possesses deep emotional value, and contains elements of Ukrainian folk-song, as well as melodic, harmonic, and formal clarity. He wrote in most genres, including symphonic music, chamber music, concertos, solo music, vocal music, and even film music. His music is only performed with some frequency in Ukraine; everywhere else in the world, he is practically unheard of. The YouTube channel Pentameron describes his work nicely in this text: "Kosenko's life is conclusively divided into three distinct phases, in Warsaw, where he studied with renowned teachers Mikhail Sokolovsky and Iryna Miklashovskaya, in Zhytomyr, where he began teaching piano and music theory at the Music Technicum, later becoming director of the Zhytomyr Music School, and finally in Kiev, where he devoted more time to symphonic compositions such as his Heroic Overture, which brought him due recognition in the world of Soviet music. A true artist in the very sense of the word, he was a leading figure among the broad-minded artistic collective of the 20th-century Soviet music. Kosenko's legacy is filled with romantic feeling and intonations of Slavic folk songs and Western-European influences. His vocal, chamber and symphonic works are among the most important pieces of that time in USSR. He composed over 100 compositions for piano among waltzes, preludes, nocturnes, sonatas and mazurkas, in a total of about 250 musical works such as his symphonic Moldavian poem, violin and piano concertos, trios and string quartets during his short musical career. His vocal compositions include a large number of ballads, choral and folk arrangements as well." His music most definitely deserves to be heard in much greater number than at present. Among his more well-known works include the 11 Etudes in the Form of Old Dances, Op. 19 (which includes a masterful Passacaglia), 24 Pieces for Children, Op. 25, the Piano Concerto in C minor, the "Classical" Piano Trio in D major, and Mazurkas and Poems for piano.
  2. @Tónskáld, @bkho, and @AngelCityOutlaw, thank you all very much for your responses. These are all very plausible answers, and I do agree with many points. It's true, organizing orchestral concerts is a huge investment, so it would probably be safer to stick with more familiar music. And of course, tastes come and go, as with generations, like @AngelCityOutlaw said. I'm not arguing with any that. I guess what I would prefer (and this is outside of the performance world) is at least some official historical acknowledgement of these rare composers' works and existences by official musicologists and professional musicians, instead of just a complete neglect. But I can't help but think of the history of the performances of the music of Gustav Mahler. Towards the end of his career, his music became more and more unpopular with both audiences and critics alike, and after his death, his music for the most part fell out of the spotlight (though it did have some smaller-scale popularity in the Netherlands and among early modernists). However, during the second half of the 20th century, his music became world famous, in part thanks to promotion by Leonard Bernstein and Leopold Stokowski, and now, his symphonies are some of the most-performed pieces in modern times. Perhaps, though, there is still time for these composers to finally be acknowledged. For example, it took time for Mahler's music to become world-famous - maybe it will be the same for other obscure composers. Like @bkho said, with the growing audiences for these composers online, maybe there finally will be a true renaissance for these works later on. In the mean time, I hope to join this small-scale revival and help promote these composers, starting here on this forum. Again, thank you all for taking the time to respond.
  3. Hi @Monarcheon, thank you for your response. I probably should have clarified that I was not entirely asking in a historical context, but more within a contemporary context. Obviously, historically there were many reasons why certain composers and their music did not become as well known as others, though I do appreciate your input on the matter. But my main issue is why there is very little attempt to promote these rare composers now, in the present era. As I mentioned earlier, now that this rare music is available to anyone on the internet, people are beginning to discover this music, and for the most part are reacting very positively towards it. Some people have even tried to request performances of it in classical radio stations, or concert venues, but often get little to no response. An often-said reason for this is that it won't appeal to general audiences, who like familiarity in music, and aren't willing to have programs changed around. But as an audience member of many concerts, I have never been asked which music I want to hear. My personal experiences have shown me that the audience doesn't get to decide what is performed - the audiences hear whatever gets played, period. And I am referring to mainstream concert venues, like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, or the London Philharmonia. I do acknowledge the attempts that have been made to promote rare music in present times. Even several major musicians have successfully brought previously little-performed works into the light. However, these attempts have usually been limited to small scale performances, or CD recordings that don't circulate very far, outside of the internet. What I wish to know is the reason why there are very few (or no) current mainstream efforts to promote this music by major performance companies.
  4. This is a really beautiful piece! As someone who likes more lyrical music, this was a real pleasure to hear. And you really did capture the feelings of the struggles between winter and spring! It reminds me of the music of late-romantic Scandinavian composers, like Grieg, or Sibelius, or Kuula, for the beautiful wintry sound, though you still managed to make it sound like it belongs in the present era. Well done! 🙂
  5. Thank you, @Tónskáld, for your suggestion! The issue is still open, and though I have figured out a temporary solution, I'm going to try out your suggestion. 🙂
  6. Hello everyone, I take great interest in rarely-played music from the romantic period, and have discovered some true gems among the literally thousands of composers from that era alone. These discoveries have naturally brought the following questions to my mind: why aren't these composers played more often? And why haven't I heard of these geniuses and their music before? The reason I started this post is because of another made by @Maarten Bauer, called "How original do we need to be?", where he asked interesting questions regarding originality in music. I began to consider these questions in an historical context, particularly in the case of lesser known composers. Music historians often say that the music of these lesser-known composers isn't often played because it wasn't "original" enough, and they often refer to them condescendingly. Take, for example, Harold C. Schonberg's comments on the lesser-known composers Sergei Taneyev, Erno Dohnanyi, and Nikolai Medtner, in his chapter about Rachmaninoff from "The Lives of the Great Composers": "Sergei Taneiev (1856-1915) was a Russian academician and specialist in counterpoint, whose music, if his Second Symphony is a fair example, was devoid of life and character and is as individual as a toothpick nestled in a box of toothpicks. Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951) was another Russian eclectic who, like Rachmaninoff, was a pianist-composer and who did Rachmaninoff the great honor of imitating him. Medtner's music has all but disappeared from the repertory. He was a composer in the order of Erno Dohnanyi - a good craftsman who seldom came up with an original idea." Such pleasant writing, huh? But just how "unoriginal" are these composers? Having listened to their music, I personally think that their music is far from unoriginal. Or at least, not entirely conventional. And I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Looking in the comments of videos of these pieces, I see a lot of people saying that these pieces are just as good as many famous compositions, or just people expressing their admiration of these works - quite unlike Schonberg's deprecatory descriptions of them. Obviously, Dohnanyi, Medtner, and Taneyev are not the only rare composers - in fact, there are far more unusual and under-performed masters than those 3. I shall list a few examples: -William Henry Fry, USA (1819-1864) - Niagara Symphony -Franco Alfano, Italy (1875-1954) - Concerto for piano trio -Bernardino Custodio, Philippines (1911-2001) - Nocturne for the Left-Hand -Max Trapp, Germany (1887-1971) - Piano Concerto While all of these composers are arguably late-romantic, some of their pieces are in styles I have never heard before. For example, I have come to believe that had Fry's Niagara Symphony been written by one of the major names in music history (say, Berlioz or Liszt), that piece would have been considered a revolutionary achievement! (It was never played during his lifetime.) I think its safe to say that these composers are not underrated because of supposed "lack of originality". Obviously, the "originality" conundrum is not the only supposed reason for burying certain composers. I hope to go into those other reasons in future discussions, and also mention some remarkable and shocking examples of this apparent historical blacklisting. So, this brings us to those same questions from earlier: why aren't these composers performed more frequently? And why didn't we know about them before now? I'm interested to hear your reasons for this seeming burial of musical legacies; I have a few personal theories, but I want to hear your opinions first. I apologize for the sheer amount of text, but I believe that this is an important issue that needs to be addressed. I also understand that this is an arguably subjective issue, but some things cannot be ignored. My point of view is that I personally care deeply about rare romantic music, and think it should be promoted to much wider audiences.
  7. It's very beautiful! I like how neat and proportional the piece is, both the music and the orchestration. Well done! Theo
  8. @pianist_1981, thank you so much for your comment. I'm glad that you have enjoyed my recent piano works, and my performances of them. It means a lot to me. It's true that the Serenade has a wider range of contrasting emotions than the other piano works. In a sense, the Serenade is the true Fantasy of the three, as it has the most free emotions and form of all three pieces. Also, you're right about the Serenade not fitting as the 2nd moment of the Fantasia. Originally, though, I had a section in the middle of the Serenade that quoted the theme of the first movement of the Fantasia, to try to connect the two works. I realized, however, that the section just didn't fit in with the rest of the piece, plus the piece would have been too long. Again, thank you immensely for your observations. I really appreciate that you took the time to listen to my works and consider them carefully. All the best, Theo 😄
  9. Thank you for your suggestion. The way you have described writing long tuplets on Musescore is the exact same way to write long tuplets on Sibelius. However, my main problem is that if I were to try to put the section from the Chopin nocturne above EXACTLY the way it's written on paper on Sibelius, with all of the fiorituras as they are, I wouldn't be able to. For example, it's impossible to write 18 eighth-notes (quavers) over 4 eighth-notes, without getting the message "This is too long to fit in this tuplet", blocking my attempt. I suppose I should just resort to trying to write multiple small tuplets (maybe even tuplets within tuplets) as you have suggested, because making these tuplets in the way that Chopin or Liszt would write them, is apparently impossible on Sibelius. Again, thank you, @caters, for taking the time to answer my question. Theo
  10. Hello everyone, Is it possible to write fiorituras in the manner of Chopin or Liszt in Sibelius 7.5? Sort of like this: What I am trying to do is create arpeggios in the left hand/right hand parts in a piano score with a similar number of notes as the fiorituras in the Chopin nocturne above. The piece I am writing in is in 6/8 time. Is possible to accomplish? Thanks!
  11. Hi, @pianist_1981, thank you for responding! I have posted a few solo piano works here, and it would be an honor for me if you listened to some of them. The pieces I have posted are: the Fantasia in F-sharp minor, Op 7, the Serenade in E-flat major, Op. 8, and the Improvisation on a Theme by Rachmaninoff, Op. 9. I also have a post on underrated romantic composers, which might interest you. And yes, I do have perfect pitch. Best, Theo 😄
  12. Fantastic piece! I personally find this piece is very appealing, probably because I'm more into darker music these days. - I love all the movements of this sonata, but the 1st movement is probably my favorite movement. I love the dark and brooding feeling that permeates the whole movement, and I also love the clarity and emotional quality of the themes. I also love how smoothly the 2nd theme is introduced. - The main theme of the 2nd movement is just heavenly 😍. The movement has a very interesting form. I like how you end the movement in an emotionally ambiguous manner, in neither a major nor minor chord. - A very exciting and turbulent 3rd movement. I love how you end the movement in C minor. I thought it was going to end in C major, but the surprise of the minor-key end is much more effective, in my opinion. Again, it's a truly fantastic piece! Also, like the Violin Sonata recording, the balance didn't bother me, as I was still able to enjoy the music. I really wish I was at that concert! One of the great things about your music is that even though you compose in a late-romantic fashion, you still manage to express your own voice! You are one of my favorite contemporary composers! Best, Theo 😀
  13. Welcome back! It's a real pleasure to hear more of your amazing romantic music! I only joined this site after the conversion, so this is the first time I've ever heard this sonata. - The 1st movement is very reminiscent of Brahms' violin sonatas, in terms of emotional content, form, and the delivery of thematic material. Very elegant sonata-allegro, with a nice balance of emotions in the development. Well done! - The 2nd movement is just beautiful. What a wonderful emotion to open up the movement, sending the listener to a lovely place. I like your choice of having a darker middle section. But the recapitulation of the 1st theme is my favorite moment in the whole movement. It's just so beautiful and satisfying, the orchestration and the emotional and musical content, especially at the climax at around 6:30. - The 3rd movement is my favorite movement in the sonata, mostly for its thematic clarity. I like how you start the movement in A major, and then finally reach the sonata's home key of D major for the joyous ending. It's a really amazing composition! Also, the recording's balance didn't bother me, and I was able to enjoy the music all the same. Great playing from both you and the violinist! Best, Theo 😀
  14. I can think of a couple of Polish film composers who wrote some beautiful film scores: - Jan A. P. Kaczmarek (born 1953) - Zbigniew Preisner (born 1955) Other than contemporary film music, I can think of a number of rather unknown, but truly amazing romantic-era Slavic composers, mostly from Russia, Ukraine, and Poland. You might know some or most of the names I've listed: - Viktor Kosenko (1893-1938) was a Russian-born Soviet-Ukrainian composer and pianist. He wrote for almost every genre of music, including concertos and piano music. He is probably best known for his Passacaglia in G minor for piano, a magnificent work of epic proportions. Even though he was around during the Soviet era, he mostly wrote in a late-romantic manner. - Sergei Lyapunov (1859-1924) was a Russian composer and pianist. He mostly wrote for piano, but also wrote a few compositions for orchestra, such as his 2 symphonies and piano concertos, as well as other works with a similar orchestration. - Mieczysław Karłowicz (1876-1909) was a Polish composer and conductor. He tragically died young in an avalanche, when he was only 33. Probably his best known works are his Violin Concerto in A major, the Symphony in E minor, and his 6 tone poems, including the Lithuanian Rhapsody. - Vasily Kalinnikov (1866-1901) was a Russian composer. His life was a tragic one, to say the least, having been impoverished most of his life, and dying at aged 34 from tuberculosis. Probably his best known works are his 2 symphonies, both of a fresh and magical quality, with touches of Russian nationalism incorporated in the music. - Vasyl Barvinsky (1888-1963) was a Soviet-Ukrainian composer, pianist, and teacher. For a while, he was a respected musical figure in Soviet Ukraine, until he was arrested on false claims in 1948. He spent 10 years in a gulag, and had all of his music destroyed as part of his arrest. He spent his remaining years after his release trying to reconstruct his music for memory, but was only able to complete a small amount before his death. Fortunately, though, copies of works previously thought lost were found in various countries around the world, and a number of them have since been recorded. - Władysław Zelenski (1837-1921) was a Polish composer, pianist and organist. If at all, he is probably best known for his chamber music, such as his Piano Quartet in C minor, an excellent work, that I would highly recommend to any chamber music-lover. - Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944) was a Russian composer, choral conductor, and teacher. He was one of the foremost composers of Russian liturgical choral music, and his music is still often played in Russia, but less so in the West. It's really beautiful music, and I would recommend the Cherubic Hymn from his Divine Liturgy, Op. 42. - Alexander Gretchaninov (1864-1956) was a Russian composer. He is best known today for his liturgical choral music, including his Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom, but he also wrote a substantial amount of chamber and orchestral music, including the Piano Trio no. 1 in C minor. - Vladimir Drozdoff (1882-1960) was a Russian-American composer and pianist. He was also a co-founder of the Pushkin Society of America. He lived and worked in Russia until 1923, when he decided to settle in America. The Drozdoff Society was created in his memory, with musicians such as Vyacheslav Gryaznov actively promoting his works as members. Drozdoff's music has a generally reflective and sorrowful quality, making it especially worth preserving. I recommend his "Au Tombeau de Rachmaninoff", written on the day of Rachmaninoff's death and in his memory. - Reinhold Gliere (1875-1956) was a Soviet composer. He can be considered to be among the last of the Russian nationalist composers, as his music often incorporates folk-inspired themes, and colorful orchestration often heard in Russian nationalist music, particularly that of Rimsky-Korsakov. He was also a respected teacher, having had many famous Soviet musicians counting as his pupils. Some of his works are well-known within the repertoires of certain instruments, for example his Harp Concerto in E-flat major and Horn Concerto in B-flat major, but he also wrote large-scale symphonies, including the monumental "Ilya Muromets" Symphony in B minor. - Mykola Lysenko (1842-1912) was a Ukrainian composer, pianist, conductor, and ethnomusicologist. He is often considered to be the father of Ukrainian nationalist music, and began a whole generation of Ukrainian romantic nationalist composers. He mostly wrote vocal music, including songs and operas, but also wrote some instrumental music, including piano and chamber music. - Sergei Bortkiewicz (1877-1952) was a Ukrainian composer and pianist. He was a respected virtuoso musician in pre-WW1 Europe and the Russian Empire, but suffered greatly during the 2 world wars, and needed physical and psychological medical attention as a result. After WW2, however, various friends provided financial support for him during his remaining years. His music is much like that of Rachmaninoff's, and is highly accomplished and musically complex. - Nikolai Medtner (1880-1951) was a Russian composer and pianist. He was a good friend of Rachmaninoff's, and even dedicated 2 pieces to him. Probably his best known works are his Piano Concerto no. 3 in E minor, the Violin Sonata no. 3 in E minor, and his 15 piano sonatas, especially the Sonata no. 1 in F minor. - Sergei Taneyev (1856-1915) was a Russian composer, pianist, teacher, and music theorist. He was one of the foremost music theorists in Russia, specializing in the study of counterpoint, particularly fugues. He was also a teacher of composers such as Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Medtner, and Gliere. Taneyev's music is quite academic, often incorporating fugues or some other contrapunctal elements, and I would recommend the String Quartet no. 3 in D minor or the cantata John of Damascus. Hopefully you find this list helpful!
  15. Thank you very much, @J. Lee Graham! I'm very happy that you enjoyed my piece and playing! I, too, am one of those who think that keys have personalities. I think that each key has its own emotions that are intertwined within its scale, even if all major and minor scales follow the same patterns. And I agree with your sentiments of E-flat minor: your description is apt for that key. At the time of writing this piece, I wanted to try writing in keys that aren't commonly written for, in this case, E-flat minor. Yes, indeed, Rachmaninoff was a major influence on this piece. Rachmaninoff is one of my heroes in music, and this was becoming apparent around the time of composing this piece. Again, thank you for your compliments and appreciation. It means a lot to me. All the best, Theo
  16. Thank you immensely, @Pietro17! I'm very happy that you liked my variations! I'm also really glad you liked the fugue as well, especially because you, in my opinion, write the best fugues on this site! So I really appreciate it! Best Theo 😄
  17. @zhenkang Thank you very much! I'm glad you liked the piece! Unfortunately, though, I'm not ready to show the score for this piece yet, as it's kind of messy, and I want to revise it somewhat in the near future. I will make the score available at some point, but as of now, it just isn't ready. Thanks again for your appreciation, and I'm sorry about the score. Best, Theo
  18. @aMusicComposer @DanJTitchener Thank you both for commenting! I'm glad you like the piece and my playing!
  19. Hello everyone, Here is a little piece I wrote over the holidays. The theme is actually a mix of 2 themes by Rachmaninoff combined into one, from the 2nd movement of his Piano Sonata no. 2 in B-flat minor, and his Prelude in B minor. It is a short piece, only lasting 6 minutes. I might add another piece to the opus number later on, but in the mean time, it will remain as is. Here is my performance on Youtube: I hope you all enjoy. 🙂 Theo
  20. This is really good! I love the power and the vigor in the 1st movement! It kind of reminds me of the string quartets of early Beethoven or Haydn or Late Mozart, in terms of emotions and style. Also, you made excellent use of the unusual arrangement! I would love to hear your other quartets. Best, Theo
  21. @J. Lee Graham I've always considered Sheremetev's "Nine sili nebesniye" to be a masterpiece within the Russian liturgical music repertoire. I mean, those harmonies are just incredible! Of course, the same thing goes for the extreme bass notes, characteristic for Russian liturgical music. Unfortunately, this seems to be the only piece I can find by him, which is a shame, because the piece is so beautiful! Here is another liturgical piece that you may be familiar with similar circumstances surrounding it, called "Ne ridai mene, mati" ("Не рыдай мене, мати"), by a composer named Fyodor Ivanov. There is practically zero information about this composer on the "western" internet (meaning all pages not written in Russian), but I think the piece is heavenly. I have heard of Bortniansky. He is a truly wonderful composer, and I especially love his famous Cherubic Hymn no. 7 in D major. It's like an Orthodox version of Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus, in terms of the heavenly beauty that both pieces are written in. I think it's safe to say that Russian liturgical music is some of the best and most underrated music out there, and deserves to be performed much more often in the west.
  22. @Pietro17 Until now, I have never heard of Mieczysław Karłowicz. Having listened to his Violin Concerto, I can say that I want to know more of his wonderful music! Such fine orchestration and harmonies! He is definitely a composer who deserves more recognition. It's also good to know that someone else likes Vasily Kalinnikov! One of my favorites from Russia. @J. Lee Graham I have heard Rachmaninov's (or Rachmaninoff's) All-Night Vigil. It's definitely one the great works from the catalogue of Russian liturgical music. It seems that Chesnokov is much more well-known in Russia than in the west. He seems to be one of the main liturgical composers in Russia, along with Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky. There were many other Russian liturgical composers from around Chesnokov's time, including Alexander Gretchaninov, Alexander Arkhangelsky, Viktor Kalinnikov (brother of Vasily), and even Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, among others. There are a few Youtube channels that are specialized in this type of music, such as "The Oktavism Channel", "VitalyGR", and "Бибилиотека рентгента. Церкного хор" (which means "Library of the Regent (choral conductor). Church Choir").
  23. @HoYin Cheung I love Moszkowksi and Chausson as well! Both pieces that you mentioned are masterworks too! I also love the Piano Concerto no. 2 in E major from Moszkowski and the Piano Quartet in A major from Chausson.
  24. Wow... the harmonies from "Beat Quorum Via" gave me chills! The counterpoint in both the Stanford and Rheinberger pieces is amazing! You might like to listen to some Russian choral music as well, particularly Russian Orthodox Church music. Here is a piece by Russian composer Pavel Chesnokov (1877-1944), another underrated master, called "Cherubic Hymn" (Херувимская Песнь, or Kheruvimskaya Pesnya) from the Divine Liturgy of Saint John Chrysostom: By the way, in case you are interested, here is the 3rd movement to Toivo Kuula's Piano Trio: In case you get to listen to these, let me know what you think of them! Best, Theo
  25. @J. Lee Graham I'm very glad to hear that! Now, I'm also interested in checking out more of Stanford, because I must confess, I have not listened to much of his music. I do like Rheinberger's music very much; very sophisticated and well thought-out music. I enjoy this kind of romantic music. Best, Theo
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