jeffrey zeigler

45th Parallel non-review: Much unfamiliar, little new

Chamber music concert presents less familiar names, but stays in traditional aesthetic territory


What do concert reviews review? The music?

Excluding Kenji Bunch’s premiered work for solo cello, the music in 45th Parallel’s November 14th concert at Portland’s Old Church doesn’t need reviewing: it’s already been premiered, reviewed, reviewed again, mentioned in scholarly columns and in the various composers collected works published shortly after their obituaries. In short, what new is there to say about Schulhoff, Kreisler, Cowell, or Shostakovich? Am I to seek out that one obscure fact about their lives still not published that some poor doctoral student is going to try and turn into a thesis?

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Now to be fair: this certainly wasn’t just another concert of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart or their 20th century equivalents Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Cage. Without having committed relatively large portions of time to the exploration of 20th century music, Schulhoff and Kreisler might not be familiar. However their aesthetic surely is not foreign, nor is it new.

Cellist Jeffrey Zeigler (r) appeared with 45th Parallel at Portland's Old Church.

Cellist Jeffrey Zeigler (r) appeared with 45th Parallel at Portland’s Old Church.

Schulhoff’s In Futurum predated John Cage’s famous so-called silent piece 4’33” by several decades, but both are old news. Programming obscure names is not the equivalent of programming an obscure or new aestheticism. Aesthetics are time sensitive. That is not to say older aesthetics cannot fill every emotional aspect we expect from art, but older works were written for a different time with different societal concerns and vogues; there’s a reason I like Hank Williams III, my father Hank Williams Jr., and my grandfather just ol’ Hank Williams. So, perhaps you haven’t heard of Schulhoff and Kreisler by name, but their late Romantic aesthetic sensibilities can be heard in a large swath of early twentieth century music.

Schulhoff’s Concertino for flute, viola and double-bass, Kreisler’s Caprice Viennois for violin and piano, and Shostakovich’s Piano Trio No. 2 can be reviewed in one fell swoop: late Romanticism. Well-executed late Romanticism, but by this point our (or perhaps just my) ears are so desensitized to the aesthetic that it falls flat. 45th Parallel’s concert themed around the performance of forbidden (late Romantic) music itself partook in passive oppression-of-omission. Music aesthetics outside of Baroque, Classical, and Romantic are still drastically underrepresented and effectively repressed by omission from the repertoire.


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