14 February 2021

The Odd Reflection

Be fearless. But be good.
Porridger’s Almanack (Breakfast of Ganglions)

I had a serious talk with Strauss in Berlin and tried to show him the blind alley he had got into [with Salome] Unfortunately, he could not quite follow what I meant. He’s a charming fellow, and I’m touched by his attitude toward me. And yet I can mean nothing to him—for whereas I see over his head, he sees only up to my knees.

— Gustav Mahler, in a letter to his Alma (Dresden, 19 Dec 1901)

My first reflection on reading this, was a mild revulsion at what might appear Mahler’s self-absorbed hauteur.

Then I thought of a later encounter of Strauss’s:

Strauss: Why do you compose atonal music? You have talent.

Hindemith: You compose your music, Herr Professor Doktor, and I’ll compose mine.

One of the things I miss at present, but which I am working to restore, is being able to hold and read a book and turn its pages normally.

Latest review: Chilean Music for viola and piano.

I’m suffering (mildly) doubts of whether I may be inconsistent.  I do not, as a rule, care much for the Shostakovich Chamber Symphonies (which I almost cast in quotes, but I forbear for reasons presently to emerge) which are simply arrangements for string choir/orchestra of a few of the quartets. Why? Is it because (although I still need to get to know many of the quartets better still) I really enjoy and admire the quartets as quartets? Yet, while I clearly prefer the original sextet version of Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, I love the “big band” string orchestra version very well.

The reason for this ultimately inconsiderable micro-episode of self-doubt is Weinberg, I have even more work cut out in getting to know his quartets than Shostakovich’s ( at present, I have done little more than complete my initial survey of all the seventeen) and possibly because they are for me at present an additional means of getting to know the quartets better, possibly (as well) because of the excellence of Kremerata Baltica, I find the Weinberg Chamber Symphonies immediately and unqualifiedly enjoyable. Maybe the lesson for me is: just give the Shostakovich Chamber Symphonies a chance.

Ive also been listening to the Holmboe Chamber Symphonies, which are another thing entirely.

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