excerpt from 'In Pursuit of Music' pp. 25-26 (305 words)

excerpt from 'In Pursuit of Music' pp. 25-26 (305 words)

part of

In Pursuit of Music

original language

urn:iso:std:iso:639:ed-3:eng

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25-26

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text excerpt

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When critics complain that they are tired of familiar masterpieces and even talk, as I once heard one do, of a desire to ban certain works like the Beethoven symphonies for a period of years, I wonder if they give a thought to the many who, at every concert, may be hearing them for the first time?  The Berlin Philharmonic played on this, for me, historic occasion nothing more adventurous than the Third Brandenburg Concerto, the Fifth Symphony, Tod und Verklärung, and the Prelude to Meistersinger – works so well-known that the composers’ names are redundant.  Yet the word ‘unadventurous’ is singularly inappropriate in this context, for the whole evening was an incredible adventure to me.  I had heard none of the music before.  The actual sound of the orchestra was a blessing: ‘I have never felt so near to heaven’ whispered my mother after the Bach, which was probably played in a rich sonority quite alien to more modern ideas of authentic style, but which fell like balm on the ears of the uninitiated […]

                Then came the Beethoven, the effect of which I have already described; and this I carried away in my heart afterwards, for the Strauss was beyond my comprehension, except as a vehicle for Furtwängler’s extraordinary gestures, as though he were digging up mud from the bed of a river, and the splendour of the Wagner left me, at that time, no themes to remember.  But Beethoven, as E.M. Forster’s Helen said, ‘appeared in person’.  The ‘revelation’, the crystallisation of emotion into the moment that is infinite – an effect described so beautifully and so understandingly by Victor Gollancz, as an antidote to The Devil’s Repertoire – reached me in full measure.

When critics complain that they are tired of familiar masterpieces and even talk, as I once heard one do, of a desire to ban certain works like the Beethoven symphonies for a period of years, I wonder if they give a thought to the many who, at every concert, may be hearing them for the first time?  The Berlin Philharmonic played on this, for me, historic occasion nothing more adventurous than the Third Brandenburg Concerto, the Fifth Symphony, Tod und Verklärung, and the Prelude to Meistersinger – works so well-known that the composers’ names are redundant.  Yet the word ‘unadventurous’ is singularly inappropriate in this context, for the whole evening was an incredible adventure to me.  I had heard none of the music before.  The actual sound of the orchestra was a blessing: ‘I have never felt so near to heaven’ whispered my mother after the Bach, which was probably played in a rich sonority quite alien to more modern ideas of authentic style, but which fell like balm on the ears of the uninitiated […]

                Then came the Beethoven, the effect of which I have already described; and this I carried away in my heart afterwards, for the Strauss was beyond my comprehension, except as a vehicle for Furtwängler’s extraordinary gestures, as though he were digging up mud from the bed of a river, and the splendour of the Wagner left me, at that time, no themes to remember.  But Beethoven, as E.M. Forster’s Helen said, ‘appeared in person’.  The ‘revelation’, the crystallisation of emotion into the moment that is infinite – an effect described so beautifully and so understandingly by Victor Gollancz, as an antidote to The Devil’s Repertoire – reached me in full measure.

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excerpt from 'In Pursuit of Music' pp. 25-26 (305 words)

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