Vivo from Präambeln und Interludien (1954) by Hermann Schroeder (1904-1984)

This week’s Lenten saintly figure is Hildegard of Bingen, a German composer (1098-1179). In her honor, all works this week are German. We don’t hear much about Hermann Schroeder over here but we should. He was a prolific and influential teacher and composer in Germany. He was especially important in bringing German Catholic church music out of heavy (dare I say, bad…not to be confused with the excellent, authentic) Romanticism (upper-case “R”) into interesting yet accessible 20th Century music. I suspect the reason the world of classical music has ignored him is that he’s part of a genre of music composition termed, “Neoclassical.” Neoclassical composers are shunned because the style in mid-20th Century music that was fashionable with those who controlled the purse strings and awards of the contemporary classical music scene were committed to dodecaphonic serialism. (My own theory as to why this was true was that that kind of music was easy to write articles about and since the primary proponents of that music were college professors it was a good fit.) Only problem was performing musicians themselves and audiences (especially) didn’t enjoy it. Fortunately, a number of composers in the 60s who came out of a genre of contemporary music of the extreme avant garde and who were proponents of the compositional ideas of John Cage revolted against the academic establishment and their style evolved into what eventually become known as minimalism. Its most stunning quality was that it was fun to play, tonal, and a pleasure to listen to! (Shocking at that time.) Surprisingly, a similar revolt was happening in eastern Europe: dramatic, very expressive music known as the “Polish School.” Those two revolts have continued to evolve and merge and together are now just known as “music.” It’s my fervent hope that this stylistic freedom will encourage a positive reassessment of neoclassicism. Maybe Schroeder and others will finally have their day.

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