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https://youtu.be/SOsp4igO9NQ?t=1694

Bach, Handel, Schubert, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak... not so many.

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Almost a ridiculous statement I think. He must be thinking of a very specific type of melodist.Almost all the great composers were great melodists. He left out Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Brahms, Grieg,Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Scriabin, and all the great opera composers to name just a few.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Almost a ridiculous statement I think. He must be thinking of a very specific type of melodist.Almost all the great composers were great melodists. He left out Scarlatti, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Liszt, Brahms, Debussy, Ravel, Rachmaninov, Prokofiev, Scriabin, to name just a few.

I was thinking Scriabin too. Especially the Second Sonata. So many beautiful melodies. And the early etudes. But of course he is a great Scriabin player. I wonder what triggered the exclusion?

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Let’s not forget Schubert.


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Originally Posted by gooddog
Let’s not forget Schubert.
He included Schubert.

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Initially western music (if one can even call it western in the case of greek origin) was only melodic. Harmonic composition came in very late. So one can find plenty of wonderful melodies in plain chant or in most homophonic compositions. For a very long time, polyphonic music was made of melodic lines sung together. So Chopin is a great melodist, but thete are many others, centuries before him.

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I suppose it's about this quote, and he is suggesting that he is quoting someone else

Originally Posted by Garrick Ohlsson
It's a favourite reference, I'm not sure if I'm right
there are very few really great melodists who just produce
melodies the way that a fruit tree produces fruit.
I mean in our great musical tradition what who
Bach Händel Schubert Chopin Tchaikovsky Dvorak? I would put him at the amongst the peaks nowadays Tchaikovsky of course
not so many

I suppose he is claiming that broadly speaking, the others usually make melodies to fit in an already existing larger scheme (chord progression, counterpoint, rythm, etc), instead of fixing the scheme to the melodies.

For instance he hesitates on Rachmaninoff as he thinks is often using mannierisms when making melodies. Such as "stepwise almost slavonic church mode". And "the big soaring ones usually don't... seem to just grow".

To prove or counter it, you would have to analyse a good part of the works and determine if it is created out of the melody or if the melody was created afterwards. Or maybe find out in another way how the composer makes the melodies. What the composer himself says on it may not be trustable.


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Well one thing we can all agree on...his wife makes the best coffee!

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Originally Posted by wouter79
I suppose it's about this quote, and he is suggesting that he is quoting someone else

Originally Posted by Garrick Ohlsson
It's a favourite reference, I'm not sure if I'm right
there are very few really great melodists who just produce
melodies the way that a fruit tree produces fruit.
I mean in our great musical tradition what who
Bach Händel Schubert Chopin Tchaikovsky Dvorak? I would put him at the amongst the peaks nowadays Tchaikovsky of course
not so many

I suppose he is claiming that broadly speaking, the others usually make melodies to fit in an already existing larger scheme (chord progression, counterpoint, rythm, etc), instead of fixing the scheme to the melodies.

For instance he hesitates on Rachmaninoff as he thinks is often using mannierisms when making melodies. Such as "stepwise almost slavonic church mode". And "the big soaring ones usually don't... seem to just grow".

To prove or counter it, you would have to analyse a good part of the works and determine if it is created out of the melody or if the melody was created afterwards. Or maybe find out in another way how the composer makes the melodies. What the composer himself says on it may not be trustable.
If that's what Ohlssohn means he should explain it much more clearly. I don't think many would care which approach a composer used when they are evaluating the composer's melodic ability. And what one earth does he mean when he says that the melodies "dont grow"? Bottom line... I think 99% would disagree with Ohlssohn.

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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Initially western music (if one can even call it western in the case of greek origin)

Bizarre comment about Greece. Everything great in western culture started in Greece. The battles of Marathon and Salamina made sure that western civilization could and would flourish.


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Originally Posted by Vikendios
Originally Posted by Sidokar
Initially western music (if one can even call it western in the case of greek origin)

Bizarre comment about Greece. Everything great in western culture started in Greece. The battles of Marathon and Salamina made sure that western civilization could and would flourish.

I meant that the classical music, as most people understand it is very different from the musical system of the greek, even if some elements were reused. In fact the western classical music is a very wide field with many influences that shaped various styles in different countries. I did not talked about civilization and I would not say that everything great in western civilization started in Greece. Probably a little more complex than that.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by wouter79
I suppose it's about this quote, and he is suggesting that he is quoting someone else

Originally Posted by Garrick Ohlsson
It's a favourite reference, I'm not sure if I'm right
there are very few really great melodists who just produce
melodies the way that a fruit tree produces fruit.
I mean in our great musical tradition what who
Bach Händel Schubert Chopin Tchaikovsky Dvorak? I would put him at the amongst the peaks nowadays Tchaikovsky of course
not so many

I suppose he is claiming that broadly speaking, the others usually make melodies to fit in an already existing larger scheme (chord progression, counterpoint, rythm, etc), instead of fixing the scheme to the melodies.

For instance he hesitates on Rachmaninoff as he thinks is often using mannierisms when making melodies. Such as "stepwise almost slavonic church mode". And "the big soaring ones usually don't... seem to just grow".

To prove or counter it, you would have to analyse a good part of the works and determine if it is created out of the melody or if the melody was created afterwards. Or maybe find out in another way how the composer makes the melodies. What the composer himself says on it may not be trustable.
If that's what Ohlssohn means he should explain it much more clearly. I don't think many would care which approach a composer used when they are evaluating the composer's melodic ability. And what one earth does he mean when he says that the melodies "dont grow"? Bottom line... I think 99% would disagree with Ohlssohn.


I agree he's not explicit. But this is an interview, not a scientific presentation, you have to listen to the context and follow his lines of thought.

What I understand from "growing like a tree", he means that somehow the next part of the melody follows from the previous parts. I imagine it a bit like a story, where the next part grows out of the previous part, rather than a stamp repeating similar texts.

This interview is not going into details about it, I suppose a full video could be made about just this.

Just my 0.02$ from this short fragment.

I'd like to hear other interpretations.


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Originally Posted by Sidokar
Initially western music (if one can even call it western in the case of greek origin)

The grammar of your sentence suggests that if something is of greek origin, it should not be called western, and this is what I have found bizarre. For the rest, read a little Plato or Thucydides and enjoy.

Last edited by Vikendios; 12/06/20 01:23 PM.

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Originally Posted by Vikendios
Originally Posted by Sidokar
Initially western music (if one can even call it western in the case of greek origin)

The grammar of your sentence suggests that if something is of greek origin, it should not be called western, and this is what I have found bizarre. For the rest, read a little Plato or Thucydides and enjoy.

I was talking about music as stated in the sentence. And i did mean to say that the musical system of Ancient Greece, as described by Aristoxene for example is far away from our classical western music. If you want to discuss about it, that can be an interesting topic. That said i think you could make the assumption that people have enough culture and knowledge of history to be aware of the Greek contribution and litterature.

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He is not saying that other composers, such as the others mentioned upthread, did not write great melodies, but just that some composers were the greatest melodists.


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Originally Posted by Sweelinck
He is not saying that other composers, such as the others mentioned upthread, did not write great melodies, but just that some composers were the greatest melodists.
But I didn't hear him phrase it that way at all. And he left out such obvious choices as Mozart, Schumann, Brahms, Beethoven, Rachmaninov and major operatic composers.

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I do consider Chopin, Schubert, Tchaikovsky, Dvorak, and Mendelssohn to be greater melodists than Mozart, Schumann, Beethoven, and Brahms. That is not saying that they are greater composers. One also could argue that Beethoven is the greatest melodist by how much mileage he gets out of short melodic motifs.

My musical taste is biased toward music with melodic strength, which is probably why I rank Handel, Dvorak, and Pachelbel higher than some other PW members rank them.


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Ah, I thought the OP said Methodists.
I started looking for my hymnal.


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Took lessons from 1960 to 1969, stopped at age 16.
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Another point is to distinguish melody writing from motivic or pattern based themes, though it is a very fine line between the 2. Some Beethoven pieces are indeed more based on development of short motives. Is that still a melody ?

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From my rather naïve point of view, and because greek is my second language (like Bennevis, english is my fourth), I cannot dissociate easily μελωδια (meaning song) from singing. Things become easy : it is melodic if I can sing it, and semi-melodic if I can easily hum it, like for instance Beethoven's Tempest sonata. This of course will design as "melodic" composers those that have written extensively for the human voice (but not necessarily so), and generally not those that depend on the polyphony of many instruments.

Of course Wagner has written many operas, and Mahler many lieders, but they do not come up in member's list of "melodic" composers. I think we all understand why. Non sequitur, but I could also say that Chopin, Dvorak, Brahms, Lizst all acknowledge that they have borrowed heavily from existing popular "tunes" (often gipsy) for their melodies.

Today, for the general public, the best known classical music melodies come from later operas by Bizet or Puccini. And I am sad at the lack of melody in Techno and Rap, compared to the lovely tunes I used to hear from Paul Simon and Neil Young.

Puccini will write one charming melody and recycle it throughout a whole opus (Madama Butterfly), Verdi two or three, but only Mozart (particularly in Le Nozze and Don Giovanni) will come up with one lovely melody after the other, all different, all more moving than the one before, for two and a half hours.

For me, he gets the crown.


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