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Bach "vs" Rachmaninoff

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I am a melomaniac, I probably have absolute hearing, I don't play any instrument but Music is the highest pleasure I've experienced so far.

I listen to a lot of music, from the XVI to the XXI Century, and I've been a fan of a lot of bands, a lot of classical musicians, but in the end there are only two that consistenly make me shiver when I hear some of their piesces: J. Sebastian Bach, and Sergey Rachmaninoff.

Rachmaninnoff elevates my soul, it has purposeful direction. His concerto n 2 is an anthem of human glory, of, literally, volition. I can picture the construction of a vertical force growing out of its own glory.

Bach in contrast is , more circular or cyclical, mathematical, but over all its subtle it demands focuss. It embodies the Rennaisance as it evokes a timid but firm awakening of the human soul.

So.. is there any sense in what I'm saying? Can music be described objectively? Is it useful to describe something subjectively?

Is Rachmaninov superior to Bach?

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So.. is there any sense in what I'm saying? Can music be described objectively? Is it useful to describe something subjectively?

Is Rachmaninov superior to Bach?

I don't believe that music can be described objectively in the context of our present understanding of music's effect on people. But I think it can potentially be described objectively one day. I do think that it is useful to describe subjective things subjectively, if by "subjective" one means a description of one's personal experience with something, the objective causes of which one is unable to determine at that time.

Here is an excerpt from Ayn Rand's The Romantic Manifesto on the subject of music. (She writes more about it than this, but this is just one excerpt that I quoted on a different thread so I cut and pasted it here):

"In listening to music, a man cannot tell clearly, neither to himself nor to others—and, therefore, cannot prove—which aspects of his experience are inherent in the music and which are contributed by his own consciousness. He experiences it as an indivisible whole, he feels as if the magnificent exaltation were there, in the music—and he is helplessly bewildered when he discovers that some men do experience it and some do not. In regard to the nature of music, mankind is still on the perceptual level of awareness.

"Until a conceptual vocabulary is discovered and defined, no objectively valid criterion of esthetic judgment is possible in the field of music. (There are certain technical criteria, dealing mainly with the complexity of harmonic structures, but there are no criteria for identifying the content, i.e., the emotional meaning of a given piece of music and thus demonstrating the esthetic objectivity of a given response.)

"At present, our understanding of music is confined to the gathering of material, i.e., to the level of descriptive observations. Until it is brought to the stage of conceptualization, we have to treat musical tastes or preferences as a subjective matter—not in the metaphysical, but in the epistemological sense; i.e., not in the sense that these preferences are, in fact, causeless and arbitrary, but in the sense that we do not know their cause. No one, therefore, can claim the objective superiority of his choices over the choices of others. Where no objective proof is available, it's every man for himself—and only for himself."

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I think this is the key:

In regard to the nature of music, mankind is still on the perceptual level of awareness.

But again I remember from TRM that she identifies some objective criterium, if only by empirical evidence, in order to judge music. The monotonal "tribal drumbeats" of "primitive cultures" in contrast to I believe she cites Tchaikovsky.

Isn't it self-evident an evolution from the Gregorian Chants to Rachmaninoff? As self evident as the development of perspective in painting? Then again pagan music was lost, if Carmina Burana was indeed a recovered piesce from the past (I believe it's not) it would render this theory false.

On another note I was asking for personal subjective opinions on both Bach and Sergey.

Edited by volco

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if Carmina Burana was indeed a recovered piesce from the past

Carmina Burana's music was written by Carl Orff. Only the lyrics were recovered from past scrolls.

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Isn't it self-evident an evolution from the Gregorian Chants to Rachmaninoff? As self evident as the development of perspective in painting?

I think this begs the question. It is self-evident that there is a progression; however, in painting perspective can be guaged according to a standard of reality. What is the standard in music? That's the issue. I certianly feel as though there is an intuitive evolution, and it certainly does correlate with the progression of ideas and philosophy, but that isn't self-evident, nor is it rational. It could be the basis of evidence for the beginning of an inductive development of the theory of music.

One could claim that Mahler to grunge, or Delacroix to Rothko is a self-evident evolution (since it is also chronological in time) How would you counter that?

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I think this begs the question. It is self-evident that there is a progression; however, in painting perspective can be guaged according to a standard of reality. What is the standard in music? That's the issue. I certianly feel as though there is an intuitive evolution, and it certainly does correlate with the progression of ideas and philosophy, but that isn't self-evident, nor is it rational. It could be the basis of evidence for the beginning of an inductive development of the theory of music.

One could claim that Mahler to grunge, or Delacroix to Rothko is a self-evident evolution (since it is also chronological in time) How would you counter that?

I never implied that the passing of time automatically produces evolution, of course I'm not sure you did accuse me of thinking that. Also, it's not just that you and me "feel" it, the increasing diversity of tones can be seen as empirical evidence, but again this is just "the basis of evidence for the beginning of an inductive development of the theory of music".

Pointless thread.

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But again I remember from TRM that she identifies some objective criterium, if only by empirical evidence, in order to judge music. The monotonal "tribal drumbeats" of "primitive cultures" in contrast to I believe she cites Tchaikovsky.

No, she doesn't. She does contrast music as being periodic in nature as opposed to noise which is non-periodic, though.

FIGHT!

Bach wins...

Baroqueitality!

*harpsichord riff plays*

Lol.. Personally, I hate Bach and love Rachmaninoff for the most part. But there are some pieces by Bach that I love and some by Rachmaninoff that I hate.

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Theyre totally different composers, centuries apart, who were trying to do different things with their music in different ways. I dont think theres any way to directly compare them, nor am I sure why you'd want to.

Personally I find much of late romanticism to be long winded and melodramatic and prefer the conciseness/simplicity of Bach - but this is entirely pesrsonal taste. I do like Rachmaninov a lot more than his contemporaries though (Tchaikovsky/Mahler/Bruckner/etc) - his work is very beautiful, and I'd agree about the 2nd piano concerto in particular. But its just too different from the music Bach was writing to make a direct comparasion possible - you might as well ask whether a book of beautiful haikus is 'better' than Paradise Lost. I think comparasion is only possible between composers who were working in similar styles, otherwise you end up comparing the styles themselves rather than the individual composers.

Edited by eriatarka

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On another note I was asking for personal subjective opinions on both Bach and Sergey.

Bach's Organ Fugues are my favorite set of classical pieces. I'm especially fond of Toccata and Fugue in Dm and Prelude and Fugue in Am. To use your term, I 'shiver' while listening to these. As much as I love a number of rock bands/songs, they never come close to having this effect on me.

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Rachmaninnoff elevates my soul, it has purposeful direction. His concerto n 2 is an anthem of human glory, of, literally, volition. I can picture the construction of a vertical force growing out of its own glory.

Thank you! How have I gone so long without hearing this music? It is brilliant.

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Bach's Organ Fugues are my favorite set of classical pieces. I'm especially fond of Toccata and Fugue in Dm and Prelude and Fugue in Am. To use your term, I 'shiver' while listening to these. As much as I love a number of rock bands/songs, they never come close to having this effect on me.

J.S. Bach was in the Baroque Period, not the Classical Period, as defined by the span of time between Beethoven and Mozart, who lived in a much later time period.

Addressing the Op's question, and it is a personal opinion, I find both of these composers interesting in different ways and for different reasons. Each one reaches me on a different level, stimulates different emotions than the other. Right now, I am enjoying a piece that was co-authored by Rachmaninoff and Fritz Kreisler, Liebesleid. I recorded it last Saturday, for a client who performed with the symphony here in a major CT city. Perhaps it's the young lady's lilting and uplifting performance and the use of tempo changes and dynamics that makes this particular performance such a joy to listen to, but without the composer having written it, I would not be experiencing the enjoyment now.

I seem to recall in the 1960s, that Mary Ann Rukavina gave talks on the philosophical meaning of music, how to identify its motives and what these motives mean, philosophically. I believe too that if one is integrated and has developed listening skills, then it is possible to see why a downward chord progression would be deemed depressing, while generally upward progression would be uplifting. Every melody makes an impression upon us. Music stimulates our emotions most of all, but since emotions are the rapid-fire response to incoming information and are based upon a sum total of our philosophical premises, then we can deduce that music does have objectively-definable attributes.

There are so many levels on which this operates--at the gutteral level of a savage, all the way up to the sophisticated allegories of a symphony which intertwines many thematic elements into a cohesive whole. Music doesn't just 'happen' and it doesn't lack some sort of philosophical principles--on the contrary, music is an expression of philosophical ideas and there are specific devices in music that express ideas, purely on an instrumental level. I think most of us, if asked, could identify a piece of music that was pragmatic, vs. a piece that was carefully-integrated. To understand why, may take more than a layman's knowledge in music, but I am quite certain that it can be dissected and analyzed and the components of a piece and it's sum total can be identified down to philosophical motives.

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I have never been able to understand how anyone can enjoy Bach.

The Rach 3 is incredible. It's more impressive with regards to piano talent also. But I don't think it beats the 2nd. It's not as purpose driven, not as focused. That's my impression, anyways.

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I have never been able to understand how anyone can enjoy Bach.

Check out this unusual performance of his Prelude No. 2 in C Minor from Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier:

John Link

Edited by softwareNerd
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Bach is a giant, he is the alpha and omega of music. Rachmaninoff is a composer of some beautiful music but he certainly doesn't belong in the class of Bach. But to appreciate Bach's music you'll have to know more than a few popular pieces like the Toccata and Fuga in d minor (it isn't even certain that this is a work by Bach!). His range of emotions is enormous, from the most sorrowful to the most joyful of music, from monumental to very intimate. It takes many years to begin to appreciate the richness and complexity of for example the WTC with its often subtle connection between each prelude and fugue. So don't dismiss Bach if you hardly know him.

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I have never been able to understand how anyone can enjoy Bach

It's hard to explain ("...every man for himself--and only for himself..."), but I can say that the pleasure of listening to, say, the fugues from the WTC is almost literally like a massage for my brain: the pleasure I derive from their clarity, order, and complexity is similar to the pleasure I get from doing mathematics--and the explanation of that pleasure would require a long discussion in itself.

RicardoSmith23, also keep in mind that many major Romantic composers, including Beethoven, Chopin, Mendelssohn, and Rachmaninoff himself were influenced by Bach.

The Rach 3 is incredible

The climax of the first-movement cadenza is, for me, the most powerful moment in all of music. However, the depth of its darkness is dangerous, and not something I allow myself to experience frequently. Black magic should not be toyed with unless one knows one is strong enough to handle it.

Bach is a giant, he is the alpha and omega of music.

I feel this way sometimes too, T-Man. Indeed, if I had to choose one and only one album to listen to for, say, the next five years, it would be the WTC. However, you've got to realize that your claim is based on emotion, as many other kinds of music are, as you put it, in a different class and hardly comparable (i.e. they influence different parts of the brain/patterns/emotions/etc.) Speaking of which:

His [bach's] range of emotions is enormous, from the most sorrowful to the most joyful of music, from monumental to very intimate.

Sorry, I think Rach's got you beat there. See my above comment, or just watch Shine again.

It takes many years to begin to appreciate the richness and complexity of for example the WTC with its often subtle connection between each prelude and fugue.

This is an interesting claim. I can't exactly refute it, as I followed the same path (loved only Romantics as a youth, became more sensitive to the exquisite pleasure of Bach late in college), but I wonder why and, more importantly, how one develops this appreciation without actually playing them for himself. (I only played one Prelude, the D-major from book I, and never learned to love the fugue as a sixteen-year-old.)

Edited by softwareNerd
User Name Reference edit

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This may be heresy but I prefer Shostakovich's first book of preludes and fugues to anything Ive heard by Bach, and to me it carries more emotional range.

(these are pretty horrible performances though, Keith Jarrett's interpretation is exceptional and the one I'd recommend. Why are so many composers so bad at performing/interpretating their own work? I'd say the same about Rachmaninov too!).

Edited by eriatarka

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I must admit that I know very little about classical music, and honestly I find a lot of it quite booring. There are exeptions though, like most of what i've hear from Chopin and Dvorak. I also like the little i've heard of Rachmaninoff. But then... then there's the Chaconne! This simply beats anything i've ever heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyBqR7dCbic

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDQi_MwpXiI...feature=related

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I must admit that I know very little about classical music, and honestly I find a lot of it quite booring. There are exeptions though, like most of what i've hear from Chopin and Dvorak. I also like the little i've heard of Rachmaninoff. But then... then there's the Chaconne! This simply beats anything i've ever heard.

Damn, the Chaconne is nice. I myself have only gotten into classical music in the past few years. It all started with Rach's 2nd Symphony. I myself cannot get into Bach terribly much, though there is one specific piece I absolutely love. Here is a lovely video of it on YouTube.

It is one of his Shubler Chorales.

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Mendelssohn!

I love Bach myself, but I haven't heard enough Rachmaninoff to compare.

and I agree with

Isn't it self-evident an evolution from the Gregorian Chants to Rachmaninoff? As self evident as the development of perspective in painting?

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Sorry, I think Rach's got you beat there. See my above comment, or just watch Shine again.

Oh no, then you still don't know Bach... I don't know Shine, but I know Rachmaninoff's music very well. The comparison Rachmaninoff - Bach is somewhat like the comparison Spillane - Hugo. For quick and easy trills Spillane is fine, but for the real work you'll have to read Hugo, which may not reward you much however, if you haven't already built up the necessary reading skills. Of course you shouldn't take this comparison too literally, it's just to give an idea what I mean.

This is an interesting claim. I can't exactly refute it, as I followed the same path (loved only Romantics as a youth, became more sensitive to the exquisite pleasure of Bach late in college), but I wonder why and, more importantly, how one develops this appreciation without actually playing them for himself. (I only played one Prelude, the D-major from book I, and never learned to love the fugue as a sixteen-year-old.)

Well, the fact that I've played a lot of Bach myself of course will have helped, which also prompted me to read books about his music, such as a monograph on the WTC. On the other hand I also deeply enjoy a work like St. Matthew's Passion which I cannot play myself (well, apart from playing through a piano transcription and singing along with "Mache dich mein Herze rein"). While Bach always had an immediate appeal to me, studying his music (active and passive) has immensely deepened my appreciation.

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I must admit that I know very little about classical music, and honestly I find a lot of it quite booring. There are exeptions though, like most of what i've hear from Chopin and Dvorak. I also like the little i've heard of Rachmaninoff. But then... then there's the Chaconne! This simply beats anything i've ever heard.

You're right, this is one of the greatest marvels in music! I think you should explore further, then you'll discover that there is a lot of classical music that is far from boring. Live concerts can be a revealing experience! I've more than once been converted hearing a work in a concert which I knew from radio or cd and which I didn't care for.

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Is Rachmaninov superior to Bach?

Tensorman replied:

Bach is a giant, he is the alpha and omega of music. Rachmaninoff is a composer of some beautiful music but he certainly doesn't belong in the class of Bach.

Exactly.

I can't imagine there are any professional classical musicians (performers, composers, conductors) who, if asked to rate the two composers OBJECTIVELY(i.e., not based on their personal tastes/preferences but based on their objective assessment of Bach's and Rach's compositional abilities and accomplishments) would pick Sergei over Johann.

Bach is arguably the greatest composer in the history of Western art music. Rachmaninov doesn't even make the Top 40.

Edited by arete1952

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