Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Masterpieces Born of Pure Travail...

My previous blog dealt with the composer Miklos Rozsa, as you may know.  Shortly after writing it, I watched one of the classic movies that Rozsa wrote the music for; namely, "Lost Weekend," a story dealing with alcoholism.
Briefly;  a tale of a young man struggling to write his first novel, then falling under the weight of alcohol addiction.  At one point, it describes the struggle our hero has with the  reality that the imagery of his writing takes flight whenever he emerges from his  bouts of semi-consciousness while under the effects of  'the bottle.'  And so the tragedy is heightened by his losing the powers of  creative imagery when in a lucid state.
As this phase of the movie was described, my thoughts went to two great composers who were beset by the  darkness of drug addiction.
The first who came to mind was the French master of early Romanticism Hector Berlioz, whose  masterpiece "Symphonie fantastique" was a direct product of his struggle with opium. The vast aural expanse of tonal color is the base of the existence this powerful  example of orchestral architecture projects, let alone the frightening struggles which can beset human consciousness, as is given us in the story which catapults the music into existence.
The second composer was the Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky, arguably the most gifted of the so-called Mighty Five, who murdered himself at age 42 by way of alcoholism.
Toward the end of his brief life, and firmly held in the grips of the horror that had enslaved his existence, Mussorgsky ground out his "Pictures at an Exhibition."  The sudden death of his friend Viktor Hartmann, the enormously gifted young artist, propelled the composer to enter that dark field of self- annihilation for what turned out to be the final time, during which his "Pictures" was born.
In his "Fantasia,"  Disney uses "Night on Bald Mountain" of Mussorgsky  to project, through animation, that evil evening, replete with horrible creatures scattering about  in various forms of grotesquerie  - Disney gives us, in wondrous brilliance, one of his best examples of  abstract animation, and very well may have captured the  terrible  fears that  engulfed  Mussorgsky while writing his best-known work.
I have a copy of the composer's original manuscript of  "Pictures," which, sadly, bears some testimony to the state of mind of  Mussorgsky; namely, the kinds of errors that are shown.
Imagine!- a measure in six/eight time, containing the wrong number of beats... or, a section of the Promenade theme, with almost  every note preceded by a #, rather than his simply writing a key-signature of 6 #'s, which was the key this section was in.
And half a dozen  errors or strange notation before one gets  past the first few pages.
All this simply because Miklos Rozsa wrote the the music to a movie I had just seen!
Incidentally(this  event may be the only time it occurred), in 1945, Rosza was given Academy Award nominations for two movies he wrote for that year; one being the picture  mentioned in this blog, "Lost Weekend," the other "Spellbound." .
Rozsa lost to himself, as "Spellbound" was the movie which won the Academy Award for the music written. 



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