ROM TIME TO TIME, friends inquire why I no longer compose substantial vocal works. When I say “substantial,” I mean lengthy pieces for advanced choirs.
Once upon a time, I did write such pieces, and they were occasionally performed by serious ensembles (e.g. the Philadelphia Singers). There are actually a number of reasons I could give, but one is preëminent: I realized I cannot compete on the level of the true masters.
Yet, it’s always fun to discover early works. I recently came across an SATB version of the Veni Creator Spiritus, written for one of my composition classes. Some fellow students recorded it with me:
* * Veni Creator Spiritus — Jeff Ostrowski (early 2000s)
The piece certainly leaves a lot to be desired, but I have a confession to make. I actually enjoy the section midway through, starting at “Imple superna gratia.”
THE TRUE MASTERS OF THE PAST are known to all serious musicians: Morales, Victoria, Marenzio, Bach, and so on. With regard to the present, there are still true masters among us. Kevin Allen & Melanie Hadley Lina come immediately to mind.
Anton Rubinstein once said to the young Josef Hofmann: 1
“Let those who wish to play on my level do so … if they can.”
To the masters living today, I say: “If you can survive in such an environment … do so.” However, I don’t see myself joining that club anytime soon because—as I’ve already explained—there’s too much I lack.
I struggle mightily to comprehend the exceedingly transitory nature of our modern lives. “Here today, gone tomorrow” seems to describe perfectly the ephemeral world of 2014. When I observe our beautiful children, I realize that God is, indeed, the True Artist.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Hofmann was possibly the world’s greatest child prodigy, up there with Felix Mendelssohn & Camille Saint-Saëns. Speaking of Hofmann, I find this 2008 exam—from one of my high school students—extremely interesting! Do you see why I say this?