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The Music of Cyril Bradley Rootham

Author(s): A. J. B. Hutchings
Source: The Musical Times, Vol. 79, No. 1139 (Jan., 1938), pp. 17-22
Published by: Musical Times Publications Ltd.
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Accessed: 29-01-2018 21:31 UTC

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descendant of Ex. 7. It 1 has

a passing
a passing
a quick asuccession
quick succession
of incidents
of incidents
sostenuto version, the latte rr being:
of a non-stop
of a non-stop
railvay journey.
railvay journey.
Ex,17 1 - It is too multifarious for dissection, but all its
bits fall into a line. The broad coda dwells on
Rbbb~~ 1 I -
. .i f I
I elements from Ex. 15.
cIJ I'he remark about dissection bears on all the
p espress. four movements. IThroughout the symphony the
feeling of free and spontaneous action is a more
OI L ,'2T~-, \present sign of character than responsibility to
| F + j prule. The work bears the title of symphony with
good reason, but it offers an abundance of other
-_ good reasons for claiming our attention; and it
Another is a more succinc t echo from the first needs attention, for it is music that never goes
movement. Others are new arrivals. The allegro slack. It is too closely musical to have room for
is crowded with themes o f various shapes and purely orchestral effects. The scoring is always
fulness that willingly directed to a better purpose than itself and never
sizes and brands of cheerf
ny and agree in their fails to present it with clarity and full effect.
accept one another's compa
ve. ali
way of keeping the game The characteristic Following the performance with the score one
of the movement is the wa Ly it goes on and on, could hear everything that was seen.

The Music of Cyril Bradley Rootham

THERE are many who consider that the more
for gratitude
for gratitude
either to
either to
musical reputation of Cambridge was morethe the C.U.M.S.
C.U.M.S. or or
to the
to the
of St.of
St. John's
College College
enhanced by the first performance of (for (forRootham
Rootham is aisfirst-rate
a first-rate
and choir-
and choir-
Brahms's C minor Symphony than by reflected master).
master).SomeSome readers
maymayhave have
been amongst
been amongst
glory emanating from the personal achievements those
Londoners who who
to get to
intoget into
of Bennett, Stanford, or Charles Wood. Yet who the
the hall
a Robert
a Robert Mayer
a few years
a few years
can persuade the average member of a university ago
ago in
Westminster at which
at which
St. John's
St. John's
Choir sang
Choir sang
musical society that a Beethoven symphony can Tudor
Tudorand andmodern
modern d cappella
d cappella
be given a better performance elsewhere, and that excerpts
excerptsfrom from 'Worcester
a university does more for music when it seizes of the 13th and 14th centuries.
opportunities which more commercially organized It will be seen from this list that Rootham has
done much for other contemporary composers;
institutions lack ? There are treasures of the past
which have been allowed to rust; others which unfortunately he has been deficient in the art of
need showing in their original lustre, stripped ofpeddling his own wares. Only a few years ago
the vulgar coating imposed by this or that passinghad I any direct experience of a major work from
fashion; there are sincere modern works which his pen, which gave me some intimation of his
need time for rehearsal and revision such as stature as a composer. In one sense I am glad
that I am not among the fortunate who have
cannot be spared in the rush of a London season.
passed through his hands at Cambridge, for I am
While Cyril Rootham has been senior musician
able to know him first as a composer, to be com-
at Cambridge his strong leadership and generous
pared without prejudice amongst other composers.
participation in undergraduate musical activities
have ensured the development of a healthy My hearing of his elegy ' Brown Earth,' to words
tradition, and many who at first resented of Thomas
his Moult, made me wonder why this
insistence on enterprising programmes haveman was known chiefly as a teacher. A friend to
glad that they succumbed. (I understandwhom thatI made the remark said, 'But you must
this is the right word to use !) Under Dr. hear the Nativity Ode ! ' I kept a sharp look-out
Rootham's baton, the C.U.M.S. of our generation and heard the Ode at a Three Choirs Festival.
has to its credit a series of memorable perform- Falling almost unconsciously into our silly habit
ances. Perhaps the most noteworthy was the of placing composers in a sort of Order of Merit,
attempt, in 1911, to give the first modern per- I concluded that, whatever could be said for or
formance of' Zauberfl6te ' which fulfilled Mozart's against the music itself, Rootham had no rival in
intentions with regard to orchestration and this country in at least one branch of the art-
dramatic sequence; the text and translation namely, the setting of a poem for the medium of
prepared for this occasion by E. J. Dent is now voices with orchestra. I have since learned that
regarded as authoritative. One recalls also the Dr. Rootham himself considers his setting of
dramatic performances of ' Samson,' ' Jephthah ' Milton's 'Ode on the Morning of Christ's Nativity'
and ' Semele,' the first revival of Purcell's to be his best work; I hope that he will excuse
' Fairy Queen ' and of the ' O quam suavis ' Mass my presumption when I say that I was first
(text prepared by Dom Anselm Hughes of Nash- induced to write this belated tribute to his music
dom Abbey), the first stage performance through
of hearing the first broadcast of his C minor
Honegger's 'King David,' of Pizzetti's MassSymphony and this year by the B.B.C. Orchestra.
Piano Concerto, of Bax's ' Mater ora Filium,' of My subsequent examination of the score has
Patrick Hadley's 'The Trees so High,' andconvinced of me that the first two movements of
this symphony contain not only Rootham's
Vaughan Williams's 'The Poisoned Kiss.' Since
greatest musical expression so far, but also a
the advent of broadcasting, listeners have had

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18 THE MUSICI 4L TIMES January 1938
filling of the time-honoured mouldsbay, that makes
shouting 'This is something I know.' The
incredulous will not be convinced by inadequate
them as fine and as personal as any corresponding
movements among contemporary symphonists. quotation ; any four bars would show the quality
This seems an extravagant claim to the of thereader
workmanship, but the opening has the
who has not heard the two movements himself; advantage of needing no context for its appre-
I feel like the convinced religionist when at ciation.

Adagio ma non troppo

Ex.l .W.Wtf : I:
E WtT 17 |i - I - (I
P f Tr.


II^t- I- t. ! - '

sb ^ilSJ j, ij" 1 f- j i

j d 1 b tf
a _.- a a

i j- i)

Here is a great work which tocalls

bear loudly
a symbolicfor two
interpretation-may suggest
or three fully public performances. Two
a kind of funeral unique
salute over the long theme which
dramatic strokes punctuate the second
has just passedmovement,
to rest; I will leave it by saying
that closes
which, though elegiac in spirit, the effect is
its' romantic ' in the best sense of
in two places with an unexpected yet term.
that much-abused not violent
fanfare on the brass. To some ears this may seem
Adagio molto pizz
Ex.2 Ob. L h

C- erQ tt&jrp . - - ti

r-i Cor - - H arp

Rootham is at his best when he makes least con- than from healthy vulgarity. Rootham's reluct-
cession to popularity, or perhaps I should say ance to bend to popular taste is a part of the
immediate popularity. With some composers this particular type of texture and technique in which
is not so; indeed, too much modern music suffers he finds most personal expression-a vigorous
from an effete and splenetic enervation rather interplay of part-writing; as one line moves to

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January THE

concordance, another moves to challenging C minor Symph

discord. Such was the very procedure which songy or (to pu
made old Sarti shake his head over Mozart's swing of the fi
C major Quartet. Had the whole of Rootham's
Ex. Con sPirito

- LJ0jJFK If. I
it might have gained an immediate popularity, his choice. If, as some say, he was for a time in
as, apparently, do the symphonies ofa more rut, then glib
so large a man can do wonders in a rut,
and juicy harmonists than he aspires even though
to be. he enlarges it for smaller men to
theme quoted in Ex. 3 may be good intrinsically, stick in; some are still sticking, though one can
and is treated with delicious and descanting hardly blame them, if their sensitiveness recoiled
counterpoint later on, but I feel that it might from Strauss and Elgar, for running quickly up
have come from other pens of the 'English a new opening for artistic expression. Just after
School,' and it is my desire to show that Rootham the War there were several little aesthetic back-
kept out of any technical ' school,' preferring the waters to lure composers. There was Delianism
main stream of musical tradition to its enchantingor Mr. Scott's Fancy, Stravinsky-Ravelism or
and artificial backwaters. Despite the superb Mr. Bliss's Pleasure, Pentatonic-cum-neo-Tudor-
scoring and immediate attractiveness of the modalism or Mr. Moeran's Maggot. All have been
Scherzo and finale, they have less of the com- of use to the man who does not succumb to one.
poser's personality to reveal at a second and third Rootham could easily have joined a technical
hearing than have the first two movements. coterie; his life runs parallel with that of Vaughan
It is hard for us to-day to recognize the position Williams, whom he numbers among his closest
of a highly receptive talent during the indeter- friends, and with whom he was a fellow-student
minate years (before and after the War) which both at Cambridge and at the R.C.M. No school
saw the final discredit of German romanticist of thought lured him from the traditional path of
technique. We wrong men like Vaughan Williams sound contrapuntal writing; he will call upon
and Holst by associating their names exclusivelythis or that mode for its expressive value at a
with the folk-song and Dorian sixth traffic; for moment, especially when setting words,
at the time of which I am speaking, arty-crafty but he does not dabble in the' archaic ' flavour of
preciosity was to be found as far afield asone in or
thetwo snug harmonic cliches.
work of Kodaly, and the pastoral flutings of This sturdiness did two things for Rootham.
R. V. W. and his camp-followers were but an First it enabled him to reach before others a
insular expression of revolt against vulgar stage of writing which cannot be ' dated.' If on
alternatives-Stravinsky, or Sch6nberg of the of our' rising ' composers had the following to h
' Gurrelieder' and 'Verklarte Nacht.' Nobody credit, we should justly praise him, yet the
who has read Vaughan Williams's lectures on passage comes from a Sonata for Violin and Piano
Nationalism in Music can doubt the sincerity of written in 1924.
Molto adagio
?x.4 Vln. 8
.- - -- - - -

i- ' - la . ico
=SJ. i? _ - lo-hco . I... 11
4 F>-tPP: F- -

I Pf I
* 4 :

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Such a passage concedes nothing to any fashion;

periods, may usually be traced to his di
at the same time it shows something of for Rootham's
warm harmonic wadding. That he can be
characteristic austerity. If coldness is as
a simple
and appealing as any of his con-
in his work, it is counterbalanced by temporaries
his extreme might be illustrated from many a
vigour and virility, and where it prevails
simple for
song. long
From 'Morning and Glory'
f% p V - .

6~ ~, [f.t
t ~Lpifgf
-~~~~~ ~rh
. v :Itt 1J-1
IP T ~ -
While the lord of their de- sire sleeps be-lowthe crim
I' r F
- son thorn.
A noticeable trait of Rootham's scores is the The first method, which has become a sort of
absence of those chains of related or unrelated
disease, is not happy unless it is writing in a
block-chords which Hoist or Vaughan Williams
declamatory style. I shrink from the mention of
indulge in for the sheer enjoyment of theirnames,
taste.but let the reader imagine that I am doing
Only in the expression of deep emotion, such
the ' as
gags ' in ' Mikado ' ! Three Choirs Festivals,
is demanded in 'Brown Earth' or 'For the Leeds Festivals, Concerts of Contemporary Music
Fallen,' does Rootham's counterpoint -allrespect
show littlethe
sign of respite from continuous
softness of superimposed chords. Elsewhere declamation. Theitssecond method is honoured by
forward thrust refuses the preconceived clinging
Beethoven; those who adopt it force their words
of harmony except in cadence, which tohefitfrequently
the recurrence of themes which have been
brings off with masterly effect. (See constructed
the asteriskedwith symphonic economy; it is easy
chord in Ex. 1.) thus to hold the work together. Elgar took this
The second result of Rootham's detachment attitude, and a comparison of his score of ' For
from cliques was to make him an ideal teacher. the Fallen' with Rootham's treatment of the
Rarely does the young student find his same guidetext
to (accepted by the same publisher befo
be something more than an academic craftsman; Elgar's was begun) is very interesting. While I
still more rarely does a creative artist of fine do not presume to judge between them, no one
sensibility avoid giving his disciples' work a can doubt which of the two shows the greater
permanent distortion towards his own technique. respect for Binyon's poem.
Do we not know a subtle difference between our For Rootham is the finest exponent of the third
R.C.M. and our R.A.M. composers ? Who would
and most difficult method of treating words-a
have come from Delius uninfected ? Was Ravel the claim which it is difficult to substantiate before
best teacher, except for a genius who has already those who have no knowledge of one of the all-
stood on his own legs ? Who but Berg survived too-rare performances of his greater works for
Sch6nberg ? Rootham, like Stanford, is an chorus and orchestra. (The most recent have
exception to the general rule that it is safer tobeen those of the 103rd Psalm and of ' City in the
take one's counterpoint round to Albrechtsberger West.') I would beg the reader, especially if he
than to spend one's evenings at the feet of happens to be the conductor of a choral society
Schubert. Consider the writing of Arthur Bliss,of moderate achievements, to examine the vocal
Armstrong Gibbs and Patrick Hadley; all three score of ' Brown Earth.' Few things would better
passed through Rootham's hands at Cambridge, illustrate my comparison of methods than a con-
but what have they in common except good cert at which this work was preceded or followed
workmanship ? by 'WE are the MU-sic MA-kers.' To respect
It was inevitable at first that a young man who the poet's rhythmic subtleties, together with the
had all the styles at his command should show variations of mood suggested by passing images,
a refined eclecticism-a fault which implied a while at the same time keeping the whole work
growing strength, especially in the ability to securely bound together, is a far more difficult
express the changing moods and images of a undertaking than ' the composition of an
poem. To avoid accusation of vagueness, let me extended work for chorus and orchestra ' such as
point to the healthy savour of Parry at the words is demanded of 'candidates for the degree of
' Ring out, ye crystal spheres' in the Nativity Ode. Mus.Doc.'
Rootham is that rare creature, the composer who ' Brown Earth ' may help us to find how su
respects the poet above himself; he was a friend a work can be kept securely bound. Parts of i
of the late Robert Bridges (how many people may be said to be in variation form; even so, t
know his delicious little setting of 'A Vignette' by little figure which is first heard in the orchest
that poet ?) and took his academic degree in introduction becomes the chief 'point' in the
classics. He illustrates in his choral works the S.S.A.A. semichorus which also acts as a 'binder'
rarest of three methods of approach to words by entering above the main chorus at several
which are to be observed in contemporary music. places throughout the work.
Ex. 6 . -. .a2 1

?"2J-.'j i r ,^^ I-T


C) t^vr - -kf.r
[N,4 i?I U' J\ - r
ALTO I I -r r... r F

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January 1938 THE MUSICAL TIMES 21

i. - - -

7 7 t
14- 1 1
_ C_ f L 1 - ,
A semichorus is used them again in the
is well rewarded. Nativity
This is largely due to the Od
though not quite so directly composer's predilection
for for thevocal and
samesingable purpo
The vocal score of this work should be in the lines, even when writing for the orchestra. Many
hands of all advanced composition students. of his part-songs are fortunately well known : the
Much could be gained by thinking out a solutionMiniature Suite for strings and the Trio for violin,
to its difficulties before glancing at the work. 'cello and piano present no fearsome passages;
The opening, 'This is the month and this the happy this last work I do not consider to be more than
morn .. .,' calls for a declamatory solo, which ' engaging '-it is probably not meant to be any-
must not be cut short before the actual hymn. thing more; but the String Quartet in C is a
Shall there be a prelude-would it be the right fine and characteristic piece of writing. What
thing for such an opening ? Is the herald to lead other fate than the shelf can it expect while
boldly into the first chorus ? These problems are Charles Wood's Quartet in D shares the same ?
solved by master-strokes which make it difficult One day, I suppose, both works will be discovered
to conceive of any other solutions. The' orchestral and done to death for another shelving. Both
prelude ' is simply one trumpet D, p - f; works show arresting and fascinating pages which
and the not entirely declamatory recitation breaksdo not contain one accidental.
into polyphony when a semichorus of boys' voices To write any account of Rootham's songs would
superimposes the words ' Who shall ascend to the need a whole article, with many quotations; I do
holy place ? ' The counterpoint thins down again not propose to draw attention to them by name
to one voice and note, thus giving a perfect but to observe that among them there are many
preparation for the hymn. At this point Rootham of a genre not favoured by other modern com-
uses a different binding (levice-a trochaic basso posers. Such are the fine ' Dramatic Lyrics' to
ostinato, suggestive of an All-powerful Master, to words of Mary Coleridge, and the superb ' Every-
whom ' Nature in awe of him, had doff'd her gaudy one sang ' of Siegfried Sassoon. These songs alone
trim.' Further description would be meaningless would have made the reputation of any composer
without the quotations which space will not permit. but one whose merits as a creative artist have
The Nativity Ode is a difficult work, but its been crowded out by our association of his nam
difficulties are surmountable; time spent on with other activities.

List of Works by C. B. Rootham

Opera Date and Publisher Orchestral (continued) Date and Publisher
'The Two Sisters' (at Symphony No. 2 with Choral
present some of this is Finale ... ... ... 1936 (in course of
being arranged for ballet) 1920 Curwen Vocal ~~~~~Vocal ~completion)
Choral and Orchestral (For Chorus S.A.T.B.)
'The Stolen Child,' 'Sweet
'Andromeda' (Bristol Fes.) 1908 Novello Content' ... .. ... 1911 Stainer & Bell
' For the Fallen ' ... ... 1915 Novello
'Brown Earth' (Carnegie Three Songs with Orchestra
or Piano ... ... ... 1910 Stainer & Bell
Award) ... ... ... 1921 Stainer & Bell 'Twa Sisters of Binnorie ' 1922 Curwen
'Ode on the Morning of
Christ's Nativity' (Carnegie ' Daybreak at Sea ' (Six-part
Award) ... ... ... 1928 Stainer & Bell a cappella) ... ... 1933 Oxford Univ. Press
' Hark, where Poseidon's
' City in the West ' ... 1936 Oxford Univ. Press VWhite Horses ' ... ... 1936 Oxford Univ. Press
' Psalm ciii ' ... ... 1934 Oxford Univ. Press
(This list is incomplete.)
(For Women's Voices):
'Pan.' Rhapsody for Full 'The Quest' (with accpt.
Orchestra ...... 1912 MS. (O.U.P.) strings and piano) ... 1911 Stainer & Bell
'The Two Sisters' Concert ' Achilles in Scyros ' ... 1912 Stainer & Bell
Overture ... ... 1918 MS. (Curwen) 'The Golden Time' (also
Processional for the Chan- S.A.T.B.) ... ... ... 1925 Curwen
cellor's Music ... ... 1920 MS. (O.U.P.) 'Full Fathom Five' ... 1937 Curwen
Miniature Suite ... ... 1921 Curwen
'Sigh no more, Ladies' ... 1937 Curwen
(The Miniature Suite is d1 o p: bli it hI for '-trings atid piano.)
'0 may I join the choir
Rhapsody on the tune ' laza- invisible ... ... 1910 Stainer & Bell
rus' for Double String 'Lullaby' .. ... ... 1910 Stainer& Bell
Orchestra ... ... 1922 Murdoch
St. John'sSuite(SmallOrch.) 1921 MS. (O.U.P.) (For Men's Voices) :
' Psalm of Adonis ' ... 1930 MS. (O.U.P.) '( oronach' (Baritone Solo,
Symphony No. 1 in C minol 1931 MS. (O.U.P.) voices and orchestra) ... 1910 Stainer & Bell

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22 THE MUSICAL TIMES January 1938
Arrangements Date and Publisher Chamber Music (continued) Date and Publisher
Dances from Purcell's 'Fairy Sonata in G minor for Violin
Queen' for Strings (or for and Piano ... ... 1925 Oxford Univ. Press
violin and piano) ... 1926 Curwen Septet for Viola, Flute,
Six Dances of Mozart, for Hautboy, Clarinet, Bas-
small orchestra ... ... 1926 Oxford Univ. Pr ess soon, Horn and Harp ... 1930 MS. (O.U.P.)
Trio for Violin, 'Cello and
Chamber Music Piano ... ... ... 1931 Oxford Univ. Press
String Quintet in D major MS. (A Iso pieces for organ, Church Music, and a
String Quartet in C major Murdoch songs; all these are published by Curwen
Suite for Flute and Piano 1921 Chester Novello, Oxford University Press, Stainer

Maurice Ravel 1875-1937

W RITING on Ravel four-and-twenty years and
and subtlety.
it it
is interesting
is interesting
to to
ago (Musical Times, December 1913), mark Vaughan Williams's statement, in a note
I made a point of dealing with the to the Daily Telegraph and Morning Post of
question of the artificiality of his art, which had December 29, that ' Ravel had urged him to
been stirred ever since the beginning of his make his music complex but not complicated.')
career, and up to the present day has continued This was the natural, and indeed inevitable,
to loom large in the critical judgments of both thing for him to do. Most of his previous works
champions and censors. It was skilfully set forthhad marked, so to speak, a ne plus ultra in a
and wisely solved by Roland-Manuel, in a brief given direction: ' Gaspard de la Nuit' (1908) in
essay of 1925 entitled ' Maurice Ravel ou l'es- the matter of getting the utmost out of the
thetique de l'imposture,' the substance of which piano; ' Valses nobles et sentimentales ' (1911)
is incorporated in his book of 1928, 'Maurice in that of complex, elliptical harmony; 'Daphnis
Ravel et son ceuvre dramatique.' But readers et Chloe' (1911) in that of mellow, highly
delving less deeply into the matter are liable to variegated orchestral profuseness; and ' Trois
miss the philosophy of it; and, retaining nothing poemes de Mallarm6 ' in that of recondite subtlety
but the label, loudly proclaim that they have no of expression. So nothing remained for him but
use for imposture in art. Such was the attitude to attempt to maintain the same level of imagina-
of the judges who withheld the ' Prix de Rome ' tion and style while renouncing most of the
from him, and that of many French critics, long purely decorative and scintillating elements, and
after his music had ceased to be an object of submitting his materials to an ever increasingly
censure in official circles; and it is they alone rigorous process of concentration and elimination.
who are to blame for the controversies that This he achieved to perfection in his Duet for
ensued, which would have been thoroughly violin and 'cello (1922). Another good, though far
puerile but for the need to secure a fair hearingless ambitious, example is the lovely ' Forlane '
for his music. in 'Le Tombeau de Couperin ' (the ' Tombeau '
'The artificiality of Ravel's art [I wrote] is one of the very few works he composed during
is, in a way, beyond question. One might the war years, after he had finished, in 1915, his
indeed say that artificiality is natural to him.Piano Trio).
He is sensitive enough, and thoroughly In other post-war works we see him simplifying
sincere; but the subjects that appeal to his the terms of his problem rather than the methods
imagination are few, and perhaps rather of solving it: not only in ' La Valse,' ' Bolero,'
peculiar as a rule. It is a significant fact that or 'Don Quichotte a Dulcin6e '-all of which,
the majority of these should have tempted no whatever their merits may be, are of a more
other composer. Even when he happens to obvious kind than anything he had previously
select poetic subjects that others have treated, written--but also in the Violin Sonata and the
there are typical differences in the mode of two piano concertos. This tendency is apparent
treatment [both these points I proceeded to already in the splendid Piano Trio (begun in
elaborate at some length]. The very deliberate- 1914); and maybe the influence of a steadily
ness, the remorseless limitations of the growing interest in the music of Saint-Saens,
emotional range of music that are fundamental which those of us who were in close contact with
characteristics of his art might in a less gifted Ravel had noticed gradually developing from 1910
composer be defects. In him they are part or so onwards, had something to do with the
and parcel of the artistic individuality. The opening of this unexpected chapter in the history
absence of emotion is only apparent; and of Ravel's evolution.
although the emotion itself is subdued, and its That this interest was not restricted to Saint-
expression always toned down and restrained, Saens's technique is shown by a tribute he paid
many instances can be adduced in which to him on the occasion of his jubilee, in which
genuine feeling asserts itself under the indus- the following remarks occur:
trious show of impassivity, while, elsewhere, 'That perspicuity, that airiness in elegance,
the composer drops the mask altogether.' that dexterity which are so characteristic of
After 1913 the outward characteristics of Saint-Saens do not necessarily connote shallow-
Ravel's style began to change. He aimed more ness or lack of vigour. Depth and spaciousness
and more at simplification and thinning out of exist in French music as well as in German:
texture, but never at the expense of complexity only, they are achieved otherwise. Nobody

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