Friday, June 13, 2008

Is Travail a Requisite for Profundity?

Whenever I think about the music of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, I sometimes ponder the relationship between the product the composer gives us and the road that his life travels upon. To explicate:
Mozart , the grinding poverty and denial, in general, of his entity.
Beethoven, his deafness and the essential destruction of social intercourse.
Chopin, the constant struggle with his lungs and general well-being.
Schumann, the injury to his hand and eventual insanity.
Moussorgsky, his struggle with and destruction by alcohol.
Scriabin, his personal demons and escape into pure mysticism.
The reader can easily, if desired, probe into the personal tragedies of these men; therefore, there is no need for me to delve into issues which can be uncovered by anyone who chooses to do so.
I bring all this up because of one other composer, Felix Mendelssohn, who had none of the above encounters with elemental misfortune.
His was a life of relative calm and placidity , which were the products of family wealth and resulting security.
For me ( and there will be those of you who may disagree), I find that this composer, who may very well have possessed a creative gift second only to the likes of Mozart and Schubert,
produced music that was at times heart -rendering in pure beauty of sound, but almost never touched the bubble of profundity.
As an example, the second movement of his great trio begins with a melody that is essentially as beautiful in its aural movement as any melody I know; but, for me, I am not assailed in the same exquisite manner that I am when I hear, for instance, the titan of the profound as represented in the final movement of Mozart's 'Jupiter'; or, the prelude to the first movement of the sonata, Opus 78 , of Beethoven; or, the opus posthumous Nocturne in "C#" minor of Chopin.
Please be reminded that this is through my own personal experience; no one else's.
I as well understand that this is not an infallible argumentation from my perch; for example, Liszt suffered no cataclysmic experience as a composer, but did touch upon the profound from time to time. I think of his Consolations, or his great sonata.
It's simply that I find myself thinking about this issue, and I dwell upon it from time to time, merely as a personal struggle with the ultimately unanswerable.

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