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Brahms and Bruckner as Artistic Antipodes

Studies in Musical Semantics

Constantin Floros

In the last third of the 19 th century Brahms and Bruckner were regarded as antipodes. Is this perception really true to the historical reality or had their contemporaries overestimated the «dimension of their distance», as argued later? Both wrote autonomously conceived music, both held on to traditional forms, and both rejected program music. To find an answer to this question, part I tries to elucidate Brahms’ relation to Bruckner in its biographic, historical, artistic and art-theoretical aspects. At the center of the second part, whose subject is Brahms’ early work, is the question whether Brahms was indeed an autonomously working composer. The topic of the third part is a taboo of Bruckner research: Bruckner’s relation to program music.
«The second and third part of the study achieve new insights. With a consistent analysis of biographic data and, simultaneously, a careful scrutiny of musical facts (increased experience in assessing the music of the 19 th century), Floros gains convincing interpretations.»
(Friedrich Heller about the German edition of the book)
«The book is the result of Floros’s intensive study of Mahler, during which he found hitherto undiscovered clues to the interpretation of Brahms’s and Bruckner’s work. Most of the borrowings discussed confirm differences between the two composers in both ideologies and musical heritage. Long thought to be ‘absolute’ music, Bruckner’s compositions carry significant semantic meaning when the composer desired.» (Musical Borrowing)
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Alban Berg

Music as Autobiography- Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

The central point of this book is the realization that the creative work of Alban Berg, which in recent years has moved to the forefront of scholarly interest, is largely rooted in autobiography, so that therefore one can gain access to the music by studying the inner biography of its creator. Accordingly, the first of the three parts of this volume outlines a character portrait of this great composer. Part two considers the conditions relevant to a deeper understanding of Berg and of the Second Viennese School generally. In part three, then, Berg’s key works will be analyzed and semantically deciphered in terms of his inner biography. The study is based not only on the sources in print but also on the rich unpublished material. Alban Berg was incapable of composing without a program. He needed an extra-musical stimulus. With him, personal experience was the indispensable condition of the creative process: the autobiographic reference was all-important for composing.
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Anton Bruckner

The Man and the Work

Constantin Floros

While unappreciated and controversial during most of his life, Anton Bruckner is today regarded as the greatest symphonist between Beethoven and Gustav Mahler – in terms of originality, boldness and monumentality of his music. The image of Bruckner the man, however, is still extreme instance of the tenacious power of prejudice. No less a figure than Gustav Mahler coined the aperçu about Bruckner being «a simpleton – half genius, half imbecile». The author is out to correct that misperception. His thesis in this study is that contrary to what has hitherto been asserted, there is an intimate relation between Bruckner’s sacred music and his symphonies from multiple perspectives: biographical data, sources and influences, the psychology of creation, musical structure, contemporary testimony and reception history. Additional chapters assess important Bruckner recordings and interpreters and the progressiveness of his music.
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Gustav Mahler. Visionary and Despot

Portrait of A Personality- Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

With the terms «visionary» and «despot», the author seeks to circumscribe the multilayered personality of Gustav Mahler. Opening up a terra incognita, he draws a comprehensive map of the various aspects of Mahler’s inner biography: his unshakable belief in the «sacredness of musical art» and strongly developed sense of mission, his double life as conductor and composer, his inexorability and refusal to compromise vis-à-vis himself and others, his discomfort with the world in which he lived, the complex facets of his psyche and his enormous energy potential. The result is the disclosure of new and unexpected connections between Mahler’s personality and his œuvre.
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Constantin Floros

The subject of this book is the semantics of symphonic music from Beethoven to Mahler. Of fundamental importance is the realization that this music is imbued with non-musical, literary, philosophical and religious ideas. It is also clear that not only Beethoven, Schubert and Bruckner were crucial role models for Mahler, but also the musical dramatist Wagner and the programmatic symphony composers Berlioz and Liszt. At the same time a semantic musical analysis of their works reveals for the first time the actual inherent (poetic) quintessence of numerous orchestral works of the 19th Century.
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The Origins of Russian Music

Introduction to the Kondakarian Notation- Revised, Translated and with a Chapter on Relationships between Latin, Byzantine and Slavonic Church Music by Neil K. Moran

Constantin Floros

Five kondakarian manuscripts dating from the 11 th to 13 th century belong among the oldest witnesses of Russian church music. The Slavonic church texts are accompanied by a peculiar notation which represents the most complex notational system of the European Middle Ages. For centuries this system has been viewed as being undecipherable. In 1962 the author of this book succeeded in deciphering this notation using various methods even though directly compatible Greek sources were unknown at that time. His research appeared in two issues of journal which ceased publication several years ago. After the publication of the first part of this study a Greek philologist discovered in Kastoria (Northern Greece) a unique manuscript with a system of notation similar to that of the Russian kondakaria, confirming there by his research results in a most unexpected and indubitable manner. This path-breaking study has been revised and brought up to date in the present publication. The prominent Russian scholar Yuri Keldysh was of the opinion that «no historian of Russian music would be able to proceed without taking into consideration this study».
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Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

A Critical Biography

Constantin Floros

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky remains to this day one of the most-performed Russian composers. Based on recent studies and source editions, this book demonstrates the close interrelationship between Tchaikovsky’s life and his work. The author portrays the versatility of the musician who died at the mere age of 53 under controversial circumstances in St. Petersburg.

About the German edition of this book:

«[…] Constantin Floros devotes himself initially to the biography and then to the compositional oeuvre, divided according to genre and supplemented by concrete illustrations, thus giving greater significance to the music.»

(Forum Musikbibliothek 27, 2006)

«[…] the music gets more weight of its own in the more detailed analyses – illustrated with revealing note citations – which yet always remain readily accessible.»

(Steffen A. Schmidt, Das Orchester 02/2007)

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Passion: Music - An Intellectual Autobiography

Tanslated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

The present autobiography sets out from the contrast between "establishment" and "outsiders" in science and scholarship. It portrays a number of prominent composers, conductors and musicologists and seeks to illuminate the nature of the phenomenon of music from diverse vantage points, centering on cultural, biographic, psychological, philosophic, critical, aesthetic and axiological questions.

 

Lutz Lesle (Das Orchester, 2018): At the price of being deemed an outsider, Floros has devoted a major part of his life's work to the semantic dimension of music,  from the Viennese Classics to Postmodernism. His endeavor has been to preserve for music the dignity of manifold meaning that the school of bean counters were stripping from it by reducing musical scores to structure-analytical databases. "To simply ignore the spiritual depth dimension of important  musical art works," the author bluntly proclaims, "and to limit oneself to the investigation of the 'tonal body': to me there is no greater aberration."

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Beethoven’s «Eroica»

Thematic Studies- Translated by Ernest Bernhardt-Kabisch

Constantin Floros

With this study the author «opened up a previously locked door of Beethoven research» (Martin Geck). The book presents conclusive answers to questions that had occupied critics for more than a century. It makes clear what exactly Beethoven and his contemporaries meant by the term «heroic». It proves that the «heroic-allegorical ballet» The Creatures of Prometheus is a key work for an understanding of the Eroica, and shows that Beethoven associated the First Consul of the French Republic, Napoleon Bonaparte, with the mythical figure of the Titan Prometheus. The book draws on interdisciplinary researches in the areas of Greek Mythology, Napoleonic History and Comparative Literature.
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Music as Message

An Introduction to Musical Semantics

Constantin Floros

Music is often defined as art for the ear, as the language of feeling, of the heart, as sound play, or as the science of composition. But music also conveys intellectual and emotional experiences, literary, religious, philosophical, social and political ideas. Countless composers encrypt contents in their music that can be deciphered by a variety of methods. This book is designed as an introduction to the basic questions of musical semantics and discusses Beethoven’s committed art, the core ideas of the «Ring of the Nibelung» and of the «Symphony of a Thousand», Wagner’s idea of a religion of art, the relation of music and poetry, the musico-literary conceptions of composers, the large field of program music and the history of the impact of Gustav Mahler.