Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Stealing from the Best of Them

Given the number of times I am subjected to Max Bruch's first violin concerto (Opus 26 in G minor), I probably write enough about it already. However, my writing usually deals with why a particular soloist (or sometimes conductor) deserves attention for an approach to a warhorse that is already being played to death. On this site, however, I can write about less conventional matters, like why I was drawn to, and still enjoy, this concerto in the first place.

It has nothing to do with usual criteria for either performance of composition. Rather, it has to do with what caught my attention in the first place. It also refers to how hack musicians in the entertainment industry often survive by their skills in appropriation, stealing from the best but never from the obvious. In the first movement of this concerto, anyone of my generation should be quick to recognize how a relatively insignificant bit of bridge material became the basis for the theme of the PERRY MASON television series.

According to Wikipedia, the composer was Fred Steiner. He graduated in composition from Oberlin in 1943, and his page is definitely worth visiting simply for the sake of appreciating the breadth of his achievements. Ironically, in the wake of all that success, he went back to school, getting a doctoral degree in musicology from USC in 1981 with a thesis on the work of Alfred Newman. His many achievements may be consigned to the insignificance of hack work produced on spec, but this was a man who knew his stuff. That knowledge seems to have included a knowledge of how to appropriate without losing your personal stamp in the process!

No comments: