Coronation of the Statue of Jupiter
Maximilian Steinberg, Lés Métamorphoses Suite, Op. 10
I have a long list of Russian classical composes I admire, and whose works I have collected—and tonight I add Maximilian Steinberg. His name appeared today on the calendar of birthdays of classical composers I am following, and I looked into his music. There is not much available, but what I found is captivating.
Steinberg (22 June 1883 - 6 December 1946) studied in St. Petersburg under Rimsky-Korsakov and Glazunov (both important classical composers), and the influence of his great teachers is unmistakable. They encouraged him—favored him, even: much to the annoyance of Stravinsky, who was a student there at the same time. Steinberg married one of Rimsky-Korsakov's daughters. For a time, Steinberg's music was more highly regarded than the music of Stravinsky or Shostakovich, but that has faded. Steinberg followed the Romantic traditions in melody and composition. As a result, his music is beautiful to hear, not atonal or difficult. Steinberg's music required few changes to meet the edicts of socialist realism in the communist Soviet Union. This has not helped his reputation.
There are five parts to Steinberg's Lés Metamorphoses Suite:
- Coronation of the Statue of Jupiter - Dance of the Phoenician Slaves
- Apollon - Dance of the Muses
- The Transformation of Adonis - Round Dances of the Sylvan Gods
Steinberg's music was influenced by literature. Greek mythology inspired Les Metamorphoses. The music shimmers throughout, and is entirely fitting for glens where goddesses might dance. The music is also playful, as in "Pan"; and dignified, as in "Dance of the Muses." In the final movement, themes from the first four return: it is lovely; the music fades away, shimmering again, to calls from Pan on his pipes.
I predict a Steinberg revival. A time will come, I think, when his music is once again valued, studied, and performed widely. I am glad to have found it.
Here is a link to Lés Metamorphoses on Amazon.com:
How Hearing This Affected Me
A Year for Music was hard to begin, but I am having fun with it now. I still do not listen to music except when I am researching my posts and writing them. But it feels good to have made a plan to win music back, and to be carrying out that plan.
I once took a communist to McDonald's, and the experience changed me. I had become friends with Valentina Inozemtseva, a visiting professor from Irkutsk. She ran an academy on the shores of Lake Baikal, in Siberia, where she taught English to scientists, scholars, writers and artists preparing to visit the West. She had asked my friends and me to write short, one-act plays that would teach advanced concepts of English grammar to students at her school, and we did (I later turned my play into the short story "Bright, New Skies," published in the The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction [June 1997]).
Valentina had a way of putting her finger on America's problems. She wanted to visit an Indian reservation. She wanted to visit Las Vegas. And she wanted to eat at a McDonald's.
So, at lunchtime one Saturday, we took her out for fast food. She talked to the staff about the cooked meat waiting to be assembled into hamburgers, and she asked what happened to it if no one purchased it in the allotted time. "We throw it out," she was told. We got our burgers, fries, and drinks, and ate them. When we finished, I started to clean up the trash. "What about the salt?" she asked. Amongst us, there were a few unopened salt packets, and pepper, clean napkins, straws. "These are the world's," she said. "We cannot waste it."
We took home that day the extra, unused things we would have discarded. I have been mindful, since, not to waste what is the worlds. If I don't use it after I have bought it, I take it home and use it there. "Like good communists," she said of us, as we pocketed our unopened salt packets and clean napkins.
In 2006, I created the above image: "Chains to Lose!" It is based on Mandelbrot fractals. The title is from Karl Marx in the Communist Manifesto (section 4, paragraph 11, the last paragraph): "Workers of the world—unite! You have nothing but chains to lose, and a world to win!"