Nationalism is a major theme that stands out from all of my papers written for this class. My first paper on French pianist and pedagogue Marguerite Long addresses gender issue primarily, as Long experienced discrimination and obstacles during her promotion in Paris Conservatoire because of her gender. However, historical accounts on Long also discuss the “Frenchness” of her piano playing style, which I included in my paper. Long’s style was called the pearl style of playing, which is simple, clear, and succinct. This style is tightly connected with what we read about and discussed in class, the “Frenchness” in music. D’Indy, Cocteau and Ravel agreed with each other in their writings that the “Frenchness” equals to clarity and simplicity. I found it interesting that musicians demonstrate nationalistic ideas not only through composition but also through instrumental performing style.
This theme of nationalism continues in my second paper on Société Nationale de Musique, a French music society we covered quiet a lot in class. My third and fourth papers focus on Stravinsky’s Concerto for Piano and Wind Instruments, which was premiered on May 22nd,1924 in Paris. Stravinsky’s Concerto is written in the style of Neoclassicism and seems to have little to do with nationalism. However, I found that people back in 1920s use possibly nationalism influenced language when they talk about the composition. The Concerto, after its premiere, received mixed reviews and divided music critics. While some found it fresh and full of excitement, others did not welcome Stravinsky’s neoclassicism and missed his “primitive Russian style” in pieces such as Petrushka and Rite of Spring. Prokofiev, who very possibly attended the Parisian premiere, simply disliked the attempted imitation of Bach (but he does like Bach). Bartok’s second wife, who went to the Hungarian premiere together with Bartok, reported in the letter that the work is too cold and “machine-like”. Neoclassicism draws on the “common music tradition” of Bach and Baroque style and hails musical objectivity. Being purely Neoclassical, therefore, could equal to turning away from nationalistic voices. Obviously, not everyone in 1920s was happy with Stravinsky’s attempt to abandon his signature “Russian” voice.
Throughout this semester, I learned how to apply various nonmusical lenses to musical materials and identify the important influence of nonmusical factors on musical production. As a political science major, I was very happy and excited to read about nation-state, nationalism, wars and politics in class. We even touched a little bit on left-right differences in the d’Indy reading, which I did not find fully convincing though. In the future, I will be more attentive with context of music when I approach music composition. This will help me to become a more awared musician.