Thursday, February 09, 2006

Musical Possibilities

"Bach's great Mass in B Minor was never performed during his lifetime: as a Catholic Mass, it could not be played in a Protestant church, and the use of an orchestra was forbidden in Catholic churches during Bach's lifetime, although he hoped it might eventually be possible. His 'Goldberg' variations is the most successful of all his works in concert performance today, yet the kind of concert in which it can be performed did not exist for another century, and it had to wait for recognition and acclaim for still another hundred years...

The first great set of works to become the staple of serious public piano performances was the thirty-two Beethoven piano sonatas: only two of these were played in a concert hall in Vienna during Beethoven's lifetime... the musical system changes over the centuries, possibilities of exploiting the musical language suggest themselves that are too fascinating to ignore, but the works inspired by this stimulus may possibly have to wait a long time for their exploitation..."

Charles Rosen, from his review of The Oxford History of Western Music, by Richard Taruskin, The New York Review of Books, February 23, 2006, p. 43


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