Some suggest it was Berlioz. Others that it was Wagner. Looking further back, some point to Haydn as the first. But it was only in the 20th century that the concept of the composer as a self-standing entity – as opposed to a performer who also wrote music – became established. And, as with so much which established itself in the 20th century, it soon became such an accepted norm that it is difficult to perceive how things were before. Students regularly express surprise when they learn that Brahms was a true virtuoso pianist who made a fair living through his performances, or that Rossini trained to be a singer before he ever seriously turned to composition. Handel, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Liszt and Saint-Saens were all famous for their keyboard virtuosity, while Richard Strauss and Mahler were famed internationally as conductors. Yet today we almost look askance at a performer who confesses to dabbling in composing. Pianist Marc-André Hamelin is fighting a battle to try to get people to take his own music seriously, to the extent that he recently wrote an article in The Guardian attempting to forge a link between the two roles of performer and composer; “Over the many years I've been performing, it has become increasingly clear that my attempts at writing music, were significant building blocks in my development as a musical interpreter”.
|Hamelin - Taken seriously as a composer?|
|Malcolm Arnold - from Trumpet|
mouthpiece to Composing pen
|Flor Peeters - Performer and Composer|
|This was my very first ever Organ LP|
Wolfgang Rubsam, who single-handedly seems intent on recording every note of organ music ever written (I once suggested in print that he was perhaps doing too much to put his heart and soul behind every recording he made; he wrote an anguished letter back saying that I had almost made him contemplate suicide) can, possibly, be excused for his adoration of Walcha; he was a former pupil. But his dry playing and the grotesque sounds of over-bearing harmonics and ill-matched stops from this American organ, only undermine the sterility of Walcha's writing. In short, these are utterly charmless discs which serve no purpose other than to get more on-disc exposure of Rubsam and to undermine the posthumous reputation of a man who was, as a player, one of my personal gods. I have often wished that Naxos would exert a little more restraint over its output of organ discs – few of them come close to the standards set by such specialist companies as Regent or Priory, while even more general labels, such as Hyperion and Guild, wipe the floor with their organ discs. These, surely, are discs released for the sake of releasing discs.