Dina Koston, founder of the RSF, complained about neo-romantic music. The phrase I remember her using was “warmed-over Schumann”. But that was directed at other names, not at Del Tredici.
I was surprised to learn that she programmed the music of David Del Tredici because she likes modernists and because people called Del Tredici a neo-romantic. I don’t know all of his work enough to know if any of them fit that description. There are diminished7 harmonies in Herrick that play at Romanticism.
But the music is never made of octatonic scales. I know from conversations with the composer that he did not like to see composers abusing the octotonic scale.
Many composers avoid diminished7 harmonies to avoid any association with Romanticism; Scott Johnson mentioned that in a conversation. Try to imagine a dim7 chord in David Lang or Reich. (Glass, yes… I might know David Del Tredici well enough to consider that he might be delighted with the misappellation, “neo-Romantic”. Any movement that will pry us out of bad habits would be ok with him.
I could not call Herrick’s Oratorio and his 2nd String Quartet “neo-Romantic”. I claim Del Tredici as the most subversive post-maximalist Princetonian. He transformed what has now become the most unfashionable, out of favor, strain of music, and yet tinctures of his Princetonian past remain in his work, certainly in Herrick & Quartet #2. And he told me his modernist background provides him with the tools to keep anything from getting stale. He has an arsenal of tools or tricks to subvert even the most innocent-seeming passage.
In those days, when Dina and I were talking about these things, I was still too much of a stubborn modernist to have taken any notice of the music of David Del Tredici.
There was a personal connection between Dina, her husband Roger Shapirio and David. They met in the 1960s at the Marlboro Music Festival. I assumed that for Dina, as for me, a personal connection will outweigh an ideological difference. If there’s someone that you care about and if you are in communication, then there could be a gradual meeting as each party grows.
But now I can speculate that Dina knew something about Del Tredici that I didn’t get until I heard his 2nd string quartet. That piece and also his early modernist works convinced me that Del Tredici should be taken seriously.
And I have to thank Harold Meltzer & Sequitur for the program they produced at Miller Theater about composers who began as modernists and ended somewhere else. They did a split bill, Rochberg and Del Tredici. I played guitar in Rochburg‘s luscious “Serenade d’estate”. Del Tredici‘s early moderist work is really very beautiful, persuasive, and not offputting to proud modernists.
If not for these circumstances, and for not being hopelessly ideologically static, I could see myself being like Jim Baker when he was conducting Del Tredici’s “Last Rose of Summer”.
It was amusing to see two people from different universes in the same space. It seemed if they got too close to each other they would both blow up in a fiery explosion.
I have been flashing back to the last choral work to make a strong impression on me — Andrew Imbrie’s *Adam*. Thanks to Anthony Korf, Riverside Symphony and NY Virtuoso Singers for presenting that 5 or 10 years ago at a midtown church.
Having these two works in mind, I note—
Imbrie is straightforward with his texts.
Del Tredici is playful with his texts.
Del Tredici, I intuit, likes the misappelation, “neo-Romantic”; he is not straightforward with his texts……
He is a trickster while Andrew Imbrie is a shaman.
William Anderson is a guitarist and composer and an advisor to the Roger Shapiro Fund.