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Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
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Monday, 2 April 2012

Who cares how many years

It’s Schubert’s anniversary and here’s his birth-house in Vienna. Offering wall-to-wall Franz BBC Radio 3 ditched coyness and repeatedly insisted “he died of syphilis at 31”. Had it been typhoid the Trout might, presumably, have become the Mackerel.

For me Schubert is songs and chamber music. The orchestral stuff doesn’t cut it. My (our!) little nosegay has nothing obscure. Why bother since FS says it all in the song most people know: An die Musik (To music). Here’s a slightly over-charged translation:

Oh lovely Art, in how many grey hours,
When life's fierce orbit ensnared me,
Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
Carried me away into a better world!

How often has a sigh escaping from your harp,
A sweet, sacred chord of yours
Opened up for me the heaven of better times,
Oh lovely Art, for that I thank you!


But you get the idea. A permanent text for Tone Deaf’s sermons even though I also read books, dream about rock climbs I’ll never do and motorbikes I’ll never ride. Putting aside a Janet Baker version (Murray Perahia (!) at the joanna) how about a very early LUCIA POPP.

In the String Quintet in C major the additional instrument is another cello. The music is thus sombre but not solemn. The showboat pianist, Artur Rubinstein, didn’t say he wanted it played at his funeral but while he was dying. Reflect on that and listen (on Mrs LdP’s recommendation) to the ADAGIO by the Cleveland with Yo-Yo Ma.

The Trout seemed obvious but Mrs LdP, getting into her stride, said why not The Wanderer fantasy for piano, Schubert’s muscular equivalent of LvB’s Hammerklavier. Note: It can be wilder than this BRENDEL version (eg, by Pollini) and still work.

But let this be the humblest of springboards. There’s so much more.
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7 comments:

Plutarch said...

I happened to be listening to the Quintet only yesterday. "Solemn but not sombre", yes. But it invariably cheers me up, which is in no way inconsistent. Serious music, I find, often has an underlying cheerfulness, almost gaeity. Perhaps it is a noble indifference to the mundane and to cruel vacuity.

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

Plutarch: T'other way round, actually, since "solemn" is often pejorative these days, a synonym for po-faced (always assuming I know exactly what that means). Otherwise I agree; I think I only want to hear serious music. Or perhaps I should say I've always disliked light music. One of the crosses I've had to bear is having to decide whether it's necessary to augment the statement "I like Strauss." with "Richard, of course." if I think that the person I'm addressing might think I'm referring to Johann.

I'm not alone in this. Once the great Swedish (just checked that; always thought he was Russian) tenor, Nicolai Gedda, was being interviewed on Radio 3 and in going over his career the interviewer referred to early days spent doing operetta. Gedda detected a tone of disparagement and told the interviewer not to knock operetta; it had kept food on Gedda's table during his youth. An anecdote which emphasises the gulf between the professional and the amateur. Gedda could apparently regard Lehar as simply a technical singing proposition while my heart goes down into my boots when The Merry Widow Waltz starts up. I find operetta arch.

Plutarch said...

You're right about operetta. Arch is the word. I think I blogged recently about the gardener opposite playing a tape of The Blue Danube while he laboured. The anomally still makes me laugh for some reason. I think I can afford to be snobbish about Johann Strauss as you can about Lehar.

You are probably less concerned than most about Andrew Strauss who hasn't been playing to well recently.

Julia said...

I keep coming back to Schubert's songs. He combines piano and voice so well and in such an illustrative way that it's easy to see his influence later on for movie composers. (In all the best ways.)

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

Plutarch: On the contrary I bleed readily for Andrew.

Julia: When it came to Schubert I had some lucky insights. BBC TV regularly showed song recitals introduced by Britain's greatest accompanist (Gerald Moore. Are you familiar with his autobiograohy, Am I Too Loud?). In a totally unfussy way he explained how piano and voice fused, and then he would turn to someone like Janet Baker and prove his point.

There are so many songs and cycles I could have chosen (Die Schõne Müllerin is still as fresh as it ever was) but in some respects An Die Musik exemplifies Schubert twice over - via the subject matter as well as the arrangement.

Julia said...

I had not heard of Gerald Moore but I'm now listening to his "The Unashamed Accompanist" on Youtube (which has, once again, earned its nickname of Youtopia).

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

Julia: He's not heroic in shape, looking like an earlier paternalistic bank manager, but he's a genuine hero in communicating music's wonders.