28 abr. 2011

Lo bueno, si breve, dos veces bueno

People think of classical music as consisting mostly of very long pieces. Part of the satisfaction of listening to it is the experience of following a musical development over 20 minutes, or an hour. A Mahler symphony is not a brief work.

Yet if I look at my classical music on itunes, I find many short and satisfying fragments. A two minutes fugue by Shostakovich, a movement of a Bach cello suite or violin sonata that's three minutes long, Panzera singing Baudelaire for 3 1/2 minutes or Schumann for less than 2. I have very short art songs by Ned Rorem.

Now some of these are movements of longer works, but some are self-sufficient and more or less self-contained. The Lied, art-song, or French mélodie lend themselves especially well to be brevity of lyric poetry. So if you know someone who doesn't like classical music because of an inability to follow long developments, there is a way of entry into the music through works and fragments of extreme brevity. Start with the Minute Waltz and build up from there.