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Heroic Men and the Composers who Stand for them

Heroic Men and the Composers who Stand for them
November 06, 2008, 09:43:55 AM
Among the many and varied reasons for music to exist and an equally large number of spirits to praise there has always been a special place in my heart for the music that exonerates the epitome of the Greek image of the hero. Not all great composer write music of the traditional ideals of the Greek hero. J.S. Bach in his closest parables of the St John and Mathew passions paints the picture of a man with the virtues that the music ascribes to him facing the weight of the world in a quite and peaceful acceptance of his death. But of the composers who do choose to explore what makes a man a revered hero each period of music gives its own zeitgeist to the properties of the hero. G.P. Telemann in his broad and dramatic strokes gives the image very much akin to the period's visual arts. Movement, dynamics and above all an idealized picture of a man while purging all that makes the man impure. The heroes that he describes are the same as the much more literal hero of Jacques-Louis Davidís Leonidas At Thermopylae or Federico Barocciís Aeneas flees burning Troy. The music of G.F. Handel being a contemporary of Telemann and also writing in a similar high Baroque style (but without the early Baroque tendencies of Telemannís music) and sets the image of the same men and same traits but shows it through the lens of a somewhat darker and violent individual. Moving beyond the Baroque we find in Beethoven a man carrying on the legacy of Telemann and Handel. Schubert could also be added to this list of great hero composers. Of the romantic I am sure it will not take long for you to begin to imagine composers who can also be added and perhaps if we clear away the surrealists muck we may find some in the 20th century as well.