Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Friday, 8 October 2010

A musical morsel

I don’t care for Verdi’s operas, for anything by Khachaturian (especially the Sabre Dance), for Bizet’s Carmen or for le tout Berlioz. But none of my blind spots are interesting since I am a musical ignoramus. What’s fascinating is when someone who knows music says “I don’t like…”

Julia did music at uni and limbers up regularly at the piano. Months ago I tried to get her to blog about music but she refused. With an apprehensive Mrs BB at my side when we were in Prague, I asked Julia why. Seems she has friends who are professional musicians and fears their critical reaction. I sighed, said it was a terrible waste, suggested she was denying her elitism – all the usual journalistic ploys.

But Julia is not a natural refuser. She pondered then let slip a morsel – about Mozart yet. In playing string quartets (You didn’t imagine she was limited to the keyboard, did you?) she’d noticed WAM’s cello writing wasn’t up to much. Bingo! We both agreed this was a price he’d had to pay for ennobling so many soprano roles in his operas. With Beethoven things are the other way round; his sublime quartets were paid for by an inability to come to terms with the human voice, except in the Prisoners’ Chorus.

An important discovery not otherwise available to an ignoramus. Retired fifteen years now, I still have this urge to pry. Mrs BB hates it when I do. I tell her it will be harder next time.

PRAGUE PERSIFLAGE. Lunch on periphery of Old Town: half a duck, red cabbage, potato dumplings – Czk 205 (say £7). No need for dinner but somehow I forced it down.

5 comments:

Julia said...

I am afraid I've chronic stage fright when it comes to writing about music. Talking about music (or should we say gossiping?), now that's a pleasure!

FigMince said...

Allow me a hair-split: Analysis of music (while arguably valid at an intellectual level) is different from the experiencing of it. If music feels good, it's working. Sometimes people should stop talking while they're listening.

FigMince said...

My previous comment is typically dumb. All I was trying to say is: One is either dancing or talking, but preferably not at the same time.

Okay, I'll go away now.

Rouchswalwe said...

BB, I'm with you on the Prisoners' Chorus. How do you feel about the Ah! Perfido aria as performed by Régine Crespin? I've recently rediscovered it.

Barrett Bonden said...

Julia: I jest and I probably shouldn't. I'm well aware music is a serious business for you (which doesn't necessarily exclude light-heartedness) whereas it's peripheral to me. A case of fools rush in where wise men never go. Also, the more you know about something the more you're likely to dwell on what you don't know - a state of mind which encourages caution. Since I don't know any musicians my more extreme musical pronouncements are not vulnerable. However I do know one or two scientists and my flirtations with their subject can bring severe retribution. It was courageous of you to tell me about the cellos, astonishing that you could read my notes, and in the best traditions of the Duke of Wellington (Publish and be damned) that you gave me the go-ahead. I'll let this one rest for a while.

FigMince: No, don't go away - you've only just got here. And, please, hair-split as much as you like - this is Hair-Splitters International. Yes, I accept music works if it feels good but that, alas, is also the basis of advertising jingles. they work so well they embed themselves. For me music is incomplete if limited to an internal visceral experience. I need the wherewithal to talk intelligently about it afterwards (Certainly not during) and to ask non-naive questions. My ignorance precludes this and I regret it deeply.

RW (zS): I was broad-brushing and could, of course, have mentioned the last movement of the Ninth. Very stirring but very much a strain on the singers. LvB wasn't a complete vocal failure but he didn't really write sympathetically for voices and when you get to his lamentable Scottish songs one feels one must draw a veil over these lapses and concentrate instead on something like Grosse Fuge.

I had to rack my brains as to whether I'd heard Ah, Perfido, decided I hadn't, Googled it and found it very faintly familiar. It is of course full of passion and curiously reminiscent of the Revenge (Justicio!) aria in Figaro. I have to say, though, that the passion sort of deliquesces into something rather more desperate and it isn't the sort of aria I'd care to hear repeatedly. I was however listening to a version on YouTube by Aprile Millo (spelling?) where the piano sounded as if it had been dropped into a bucket and there were even more passionate contributions from a consumptive very close to the microphone.