The Danish Music Review
The Danish Music Review
Flemming Weis 50 Years
On the 15th April, 1948, Flemming Weis, the Danish composer, head of the Danish section of the I.S.C.M. celebrated his 50th anniversary. On this occasion Sverre Forchhammer writes an article from which appears f. inst. that Flemming Weis in his private life is an energetic amateur entomologist who has written articles highly respected by scientists on new Danish species of butterflies. As a composer Flemming Weis belongs to the modest kind, and his great and disinterested work for "Det Unge Tonekunstnerselskab" ("Society of Young Musicians") is highly admired. - In a slightly humourous article Frede Schandorf Petersen on the same occasion reviews a newly issued suite for piano, published by Wilhelm Hansen.
,,Peer Gynt" with New Music
Pauline Hall, the Norwegian music critic, in this article writes about the new Peer Gynt performance at "Det Norske Teater" (The Norwegian Theatre) in Oslo, being especially remarkable because the great drama by Henrik Ibsen for the first time was given in the New-Norwegian language, and, not less interesting, with new music by Harald Swverud, the Norwegian composer. - Violent discussions have preceded the performance of this work in its new aspect, but the author underlines that even if the Norwegians will love forever the music written by Grieg for Peer Gynt, the ideas and tendencies in Ibsen's poem have been somewhat smoothed by Grieg's tones. "Just because the music of Grieg is so dear to, us, we are able to appreciate the work of Sxverud. He has not in the least tried to. approach Grieg's music. He has totally met the demands of the theatre: he has renounced whenever a less sensible mind would have wanted to maintain his socalled compository "right and followed the indications of Hans Jacob Nilsen, the stage manager and at the same time the leading character. If a composer wants to write music for the stage, he should follow just this course, he should be a collaborator and subordinate himself to the varions. factors of the drama". The author concludes a more detailed analysis of the music with the following reflections:
"I was not in the least inclined to compare with Grieg, on the whole the music is felt as part of the performance, a voice, now sonorous, then rythmically inspiring, then a clearly singing voice, something ubiquitous, often nearby, often far away in the horizon, but always a tone almost inherent in the poem, created by this performance but nevertheless with power enough to carry on its own life".
Young Swedish Music
In his continuation of the article about "Young Swedish Music Ingmar Bengtsson deals with the question why the young Swedish composers - contrary to other artists - are so f ew, and he maintains that this is to a large extent due to the partial worship of reproduction which is again a consequence of the great stress laid by the artists on retrospect. This indicates that to many people music is a decoration more than a spiritual source of power. Another important question is that the composers - and contrary to other artists - in their art do not seem to reflect the great violent revolutions of our time, political and economical crises, nor seem the threatening compulsory regimes of the future to have any influence on the creation of music. The answer to this again lies in the answering of the question why the young Swedish composers do not to the same extent as painters and authors spring from the working class. This is due to the fact that music has no clear and palpable language that may bear forth political ideas and cultural programmes. Certainly music is a "language of feelings", and that is why it may also take effect by a direct suggestive force. Quite another question is: Who dares guarantee that young music totally lacks connection with contemporary events? No creation becomes art only by serving great ideas, and if music does so to a smaller extent than other kinds of art is must be due to the fact that this art is least conveivable.
These are some of the reflections set forth by Ingmar Beng Isson as the background of his more thorough mention of the youngest generation of Swedish composers. The number of these the musical characters of whom will be dealt with in a following article is about seven, and the main place of their activity is Stockholm, where Hilding Rosenberg, the composer, and not the Music Academy, has been the artistic guide to most of them. Already at the beginning of the last war the young artists united in the so-called "Monday Group". Here music-technical and -theoretical problems as well as literary and humanistic problems were discussed. Their ideals were Mozart, Carl Nielsen, as well as Hindemith, but otherwise their activities were not inspired by great revolutionary ideas. Later on these energetically working artists became the centre for the establishment of a chamber orchestra and again later of a chamber choir where also classical music was worshipped, and at the same time these ensembles inspired the composers to write chamber music. - After the war several of them went abroad in order to study for as long as time allowed, but now they are again together forming the heart of young Swedish music.
Music in Strait-Jacket
On the occasion of the reprimand which the Soviet-Russian Communist Party's Central Committee on the 12th February gave the leading Russian composers, reprinted in the third issue of D.M., 1948, Knuådge Riissager, the Danish composer, writes on page 88 under the above title as follows: "The document leaves no hope that the aim of the article should be different from what countries with freedom of speech had made out of it". Furthermore Riisager writes that is has been maintained that the revolution had an artistic purpose and took up a badly needed position against dissolving tendencies, and that therefore it was well-founded also from the point of view that art is meant for the people, i.e. for mankind and not only for specialists. But it clearly appears from the Russian article that the Central Committee is up to deciding how music is. to be composed, certainly in vague allusions which can only be understood in the most vulgar way: that music must be popular. Democratic society has contrary to what has earlier been the case given millions of people far greater possibilities of a share in the boons of culture and thus of art, but this has created a constantly deepening cleft between subtile art and publicity, not least on account of a too partial liking for the material side of life.
If art is reposing in itself, classified art - social art - is pure nonsense. Art is a manifestation of life and therefore accessible to everybody. If the 9th symphony of Beethoven is a work of importance to mankind, the symphony has this importance no matter if "Mr. Smith" has ananutial income of £ 200 or £ 1000. Thus the problem cannot be solved by compensating for great art exclusively hy giving all classes of the people an artistic, cultural education. The fault should therefore be found among those who ought to have taken care of creating favourable conditions for the majority of the people to profit by the boons of culture.
On the other hand the Russian decree shows that art - just as under the dictatorship of nazism - is forced to serve a purely political purpose; only statesmen and politics are in a position to decide, and artists are so highly salaried by the state that they simply owe it to their protectors to listen to reason, if they do not want to be struck down by strict economic reprisals.
If there really existed a universal genius able to lead art into the right direction, he would hardly be found in a government office but among composers, creative and showing the way by means of his own works. The decree of the Central Committee is suggestive - even if the means indicated therein cannot be accepted - as this shows how important is is for a democratic society to take up seriously and rationally the whole question of making art available to the people.
// In connection with Knuddge Riisager's article on page 88 a translation cited in the Manchester Guardian of Siostakovitch's answer to the resolution from the Central Committe of the Russian Communist Party is given.
// On page 92 Erik Stahl continues his biographic article on Serge Prokofiev.
// In continuation of the article about musical education in folk schools on page 98 the new inspector of singing of Denmark gives an account of the conditions for singing teachers in schools.
// On page 99 Frede Schandorf Petersen reviews the recordings newly issued by "Tono". Among these may be mentioned two excellent English songs, composed by Otto Mortensen, the Danish composer, sung by Anne Brown, the American singer (the original Bess).