Bounce and novelty
Music on radio
Friday 30 August 1996
In the event, it did not quite live up to that promise as the music formed a mere background to descriptions by dancers and commentators of Balanchine's famous choreography. Still, it stretched one's attention and recovered something of the essence of "Mr B's" vision. I cherished his "Simplicity is a complicated thing. You have to know an awful lot to know what is not necessary."
This time last year a short series of programmes did a fine job in refocusing our attention on the so-called light music of Eric Coates, Haydn Wood and their like. It was a genre which often produced music of more than ephemeral appeal, and at its finest could move as well as entertain. Record sales indicate that such music might be returning to favour and the time is certainly ripe for further reassessments. Billy Mayerl, the pianist whose phenomenal virtuosity in syncopated novelty numbers brought him fame in the Thirties and Forties, wrote music of this kind in addition to his jazzier pieces, and Peter Dickinson reviewed his achievements in Radio 3's profile on Saturday's A Formula for Success.
Mayerl's captivating novelty items like Railroad Rhythms still carry an electric charge, especially when heard in the composer's own brilliant recorded performances. Some of the straighter pieces like Caprinella for violin and piano, which belong to the world of Bridge and Ireland, also charmed us, but Mayerl sometimes meandered a little in this idiom, and it is certainly the bouncy novelty items that stand the best chance of living on.
It is bounce and novelty of a rather different sort which have been responsible for one of the most astonishing developments in popular classic taste this century - the phenomenal ascent to stardom of Vivaldi, a composer who was known only to specialists 50 years ago yet is now one of the most recorded of all. This development, along with the changing attitudes of interpreters from the unashamed romantics of the Thirties to later authenticists and today's somewhat more liberal school, were fascinatingly examined by Harry Haskell on Sunday's Interpretations on Record.
There were odd revelations like the importance for the Italian fascists of rediscovering Vivaldi as a cultural icon, while the energy and virtuosity of the music seemed indestructible even at the hands of Cortot's appalling piano transcriptions. But despite its life force and its splendid use of instrumental virtuosity as a musical and not merely a display element, Vivaldi's music still seems one-dimensional in comparison with such as Bach and Handel. It is perhaps a mark of our time that it currently seems to be outstripping both those composers in the popularity charts.
Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigourfilm
Bannatyne leaves Dragon's DenTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 World Cup 2014: 20 things we learned in Brazil
- 2 Why I'm on the brink of burning my Israeli passport
- 3 War is war: Why I stand with Israel
- 4 L'Oreal cuts ties with Belgium supporter Axelle Despiegelaere after hunting trip photographs
- 5 World Cup 2014: Robin van Persie gives his bronze medal to eccentric Netherlands fan moments after being handed it by Sepp Blatter
Sustained immigration has not harmed Britons' employment, say government advisers
War is war: Why I stand with Israel
7/7 memorial defaced on anniversary of 2005 attacks with ‘Blair lied thousands died’ graffiti
Australia facing international condemnation after turning around Sri Lankans at sea
Even when it brutalises one of its own teenage citizens, America is helpless against Israel
Socialist Worker called to apologise over ‘vile’ article saying Eton schoolboy Horatio Chapple's death is ‘reason to save the polar bears’