The weekend covering “The War to the Wall” i.e. 1945 – 1990 was particularly interesting to someone who had lived and worked as a musician during that particular period. I found myself wondering why I hadn’t got involved with many of the great names (Stockhausen, Henze, Cage, Nono etc.) of the period , why having played as much Schoenberg, Webern, Berg, Bartok, Britten as the next man I had hardly come across the “Darmstadt” group at all.
Hans Werner Henze in 1960
We did once try to play a Henze quartet but found it impossible to stay in the same bar together so incapability may have had some bearing on the matter. But on reflection it may have had something to do with the fact that what talents we as a quartet had were not sought after by these composers. Our ability to play a melody, to respond to the harmonic implications in the music, all the things that excited us and made us want to practise and rehearse were not very evident in most of what we came across so we naturally moved to the sort of music that we felt we had some sort of talent for.
I pose the question: most performers spend thousands of hours learning their instruments because they find at an early age that they have an ability to play a tune beautifully, respond to exciting rhythms, make a beautiful sound etc. etc. not because they can solve difficult rhythmical problems and play notes that have no obvious connection at great speed.
Shouldn’t composers respect this natural phenomena and at least try to reward the performer with some sort of pleasure other than the satisfaction of getting it all right?
I would love to know how Stockhausen/Henze/etc. would react to this question. Perhaps some practising composer will respond!