In recent reviews, I’ve read about the structural shortcomings of Robert Schumann’s Humoreske and the emotional emptiness of Pierre Boulez’s piano sonatas. When I proposed a complete performance of Messiaen’s Catalog of the Birds in Boston some colleagues told me it wasn’t good music. Let’s be cautious about reaching such judgments.
Just because we have not yet heard (or given) a performance that makes sense of a scripted piece — I don’t believe we can know that the composition is flawed. And just because I may never “get” Schumann’s Faschingsschwank doesn’t mean future performers or listeners will not, or that past performers and listeners did not.
Some music comes to us more easily, or comes more easily at certain times, in particular places, or in particular environments. Some art seems more rooted in time and place. And art’s significations continue changing, as its context and the larger culture change.
Some music is more easily represented in writing or lends itself to the notational practices used — as read by me now. Some fantastic music is only uneasily conveyed through script.
There are magnificent compositions — even old pieces, even often-played pieces (!) — still awaiting performances that might reveal their wonder.