AKnEl Greco on Constitution AvenuenAnyone who saw El Greco in Toledonmust have been overwhelmed by thenrefined, even coquettish, gauntness ofnhis figurative renditions, by his magicalnstyle that transmutes posed asceticism intonsome sort of spiritual chic. In the NationalnGallery of Art in Washington,nD.C., where a lot of El Greco’s paintingsncould, in July and August, be seenntogether in one package, it is his sexualnpreference that comes hauntingly to thenfore. We are far from hinting that thencurators and producers of this particularninternational exhibition (besides the NationalnGallery, also displayed at thenPrado in Madrid, and to be shown at thenToledo Museum of Art and the DallasnMuseum of Fine Arts) intended tonMusical Masters: Minor to Majornby Robert R. ReillynA great deal of formula music is writtennin any age by musical grinds who cannneither bring a form to perfection (a lanBach or Mozart) nor blaze a path beyondnit (a la Beethoven). There are, however,npetits maitres, who work well within thenconfines of the musical orthodoxies ofntheir period. LudwigSpohr (1784-1859)nwas one of the best of these.nCharm is the word for the music ofnSpohr, and the Musical Heritage Societynhas produced a two-record set of hisnchamber music (MHS 824364) containingnA’b«^^/« F, Op. 31; Octet in E, Op.n32; Quintet in C Minor, Op. 52; andnSeptet in A Minor, Op. 147. The firstnMr. Reilly is with the United States InternationalnCommunication Agency innWashington, D.C.npander to the Village Voice crowd andnthe denizens of Christopher Street innNew York City. Whatever attractionnresides today in deviationism, we wouldnprefer to stress that this aspect is of exceptionalninterest only to those who wondernhow a great artist can serve as an apologistnfor the most rarefied religious sentimentsnand, at the same time, be at severe variancenwith one of Christianity’s most uncompromisingntenets. This query aside,none wanders through rooms filled withnrealizations of El Greco’s genius, hisnvisual sophistication, his sorcery with color,nhis graphic perfection, and one isngrateful that paradoxes serve us so well,nwhen they are only put into proper perspective,nnnMrsK Jntwo are for winds and strings, thenQuintet for piano and winds, the Septetnfor piano, winds and strings. The Nonetnis particularly pleasing and one seemsnnever to tire of it. The Octet and Septetnexude the same gentle lyricism and sweetnmelancholy. Spohr’s instrumentation isnfresh, his music has the same crystallinenquality as the music of Mozart, whom henidolized, and he makes his instrumentsn”sing” in a way that goes directly to thenheart. This is the kind of music that usednto be written before Romanticism becamentoo headstrong and hysterical forndelicacy and charm.nAlso from MHS is the work of anothernminor master, Luigi Boccherini’s SixnQuintets for Flute and Strings, Op. 12n(1773), played by the Via Nova Quartetn(MHS 4290). Boccherini (1743-1805)nwas almost as prolific as Vivaldi, writingnover 500 works, but his music has yet tonnnundergo a similar renaissance. Boccherini’snmusic noddles along quite pleasantlynwithout demanding one’s full attention,nthough one’s attention is rewardednwhen it is applied.nJosef Suk (1874-1935) was a studentnof Dvorak, who also became Suk’snfather-in-law in 1898, just before Sukncomposed the incidental music to Juliusn2ii.yQi’sp2.yRaduz8cMahulena. In 1900nSuk fashioned a suite out of this material,ntnxkl^A A Fairy Tale, Op. 16, which hasnbeen recently recorded by Supraphonn(1410 2699 Q()). “This is music fromnheaven,” exclaimed Dvorak. Not quite.nBut nepotism aside, this suite makes fornvery pleasant listening. No plot for thenstory of Raduz’s love for the royalndaughter Mahulena is provided asidenfrom the four movement titles, but nonplot is needed to enjoy this melodious,nfolkishwork. The Fantastic Scherzo, Op.n25, is equally ingratiating and colorfiil.nJiri Belohlavek effectively conducts thenPrague Symphony Orchestra.nThe beginning of the 20th century wasna time of ferment and crisis characterizednby a revulsion against the grotesqueriesnof bathetic Romanticism. Composers recoilednin a variety of ways. Stravinskyntook refuge in neoclassical discipline andnclarity. Eric Satie and Francis Poulencntweaked noses and punctured pompositiesnwith humor. Serge Prokofiev celebratednthe new “Age of Steel” withnmotoric and violent hymns to the newngod—the machine. Bela Bartok andnZoltan Kodaly turned for inspiration tonfolk music. Arnold Schoenberg, afterntaking morbid Romanticism about as farnas it could physically go in a two-hourncomposition for Mahlerian mega-orchestranand chorus with Gurre-Lieder,nturned against his first love with annalmost pathological vengeance by guttingnmusic of tonality and key structure.nHaving nothing else to hang his musicnon, he later returned to classical forms,nthe genesis and sense of which comenfrom the natural tensions and resolutionsninherent in the tonal relationships henhad abandoned and forbidden. Londonn••^^47nOctober 1982n