Friday, March 28, 2014

Some Examples of the Oddities and Ironies Emanating From Human History...

I had, in at least one of my preceding blogs, mentioned the reality that the greatest mystery I know of is the image I see in the mirror while shaving. For me, the most imponderable questions that grip me are  - Who and What  am I?  Why am I where I am?
To cite some examples of the Human Condition, especially dealing with another mystery we call Music:
Imagine  the final concert given in Berlin; during the death throes of Nazi Germany, in the midst of the final horrific  Battle of Berlin -  in an unheated hall with an audience which consisted,  in part, of some of the more important Nazis(I believe that Albert Speer was there), wearing  coats and shivering while listening to a Bruckner symphony,  among other masterpieces.  Bruckner was the object of much controversy in Germany during his time, and there were those who thought that his music would best be suited for the nearest bonfire. And yet, shortly after France was occupied by Hitler's hordes in 1940, the manuscript to Bruckner's Second Symphony was lovingly smuggled out of Vichy France by none other than the widow of Gustav Mahler, who walked over a portion of the Pyrenees to Lisbon, coming to rest, at long last , to California and final freedom.
Adolf Hitler championed and listened much to the music of Beethoven, which tells me that the tyrant  appeared to be unaware of Beethoven's unbridled hatred of and utter disdain for Authority and the trappings of Royalty - the great composer  once remarked that it is "they who should bow to us." What if   the tyrant and composer had been  contemporaries? We will never know the answer to such a question.
During my early years in music, I remember doing an informal recital in a large home in Vienna, with about fifty or so people in attendance. During intermission, while I  mingled  among the audience members, a gentleman approached, shook my hand, and stated that he liked my playing of the "D" major Rondo of Mozart. He made a point of reminding  me(rather needlessly) of Mozart's historical importance to Vienna. I MUST say that his stance of superiority irritated me,  and I retorted quietly to him that it should be recalled that while citizens in Prague  were whistling his tunes, Mozart was quite ill and in debt in his native Austria. This gentleman  drew himself up in anger, wheeled and  walked away.
Perhaps I should have been 'nicer';  however, I  felt quite self righteous, being quite young and feeling justified in simply uttering the truth - oh, well...
Mozart once called Muzio Clementi a "mechanicus."  It might be of some interest to the reader that  the personal library of Beethoven contained more of the piano music of Clementi   than the piano music of Mozart.
Oh, well...
Did you know that  the name of the  most powerful composer in the music of the West(yes, indeed - Bach) can be found on police records? Yes, he was imprisoned for a short period for having been too irascible in an argument with a local politician.
At a time when Jewish music was again being played in Germany after World War II, an article appeared in Time Magazine describing the event. Obviously, the article centered around Mendelssohn, and  was excellently written, describing the importance  and makeup of this composer. One aspect had been forgotten, which prompted me to contact Time magazine, reminding them that the discovery of Bach by Mendelssohn was veritably as important as  the music by Mendelssohn. I was asked to write about this aspect, which appeared in Time shortly thereafter.
After all; the Bach Cult has been going on ever since 1829, when Mendelssohn staged the first performance of  Bach's greatest  Mass since Bach did it a century before...
And did not the Teacher become the Student of the same man? Haydn was born in 1732 -  Mozart in 1756, but who died some eighteen years before Haydn passed away. Mozart studied with Haydn during his youth; however, I cannot shake loose from the enhancement of  the compositional process that Haydn must have undergone during his latter years after having been witness, as a great composer himself, to the heights his former student reached during such a brief period. This array of events has never been replicated. To consider all that came to us from 1732 to 1791 -
And so it goes...  



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