Friday, May 27, 2016

A Constant Companion in the World of the Arts - Speculation...

For a brief period, I experienced an exchange of letters with the celebrated presidential historian Stephen Ambrose (remember his ending his letters with"happy trails," which I had mentioned in a previous  blog?). In one of his letters he speculated that if Hitler had defeated the Americans in the Battle of the Bulge by wresting the port of Antwerp from the Allies,  Stalin might well have considered forging a treaty with Hitler, in a final stage of exasperation, after all the bloodshed these two tyrants had caused against one another.
I had always been fascinated by Ambrose having indulged in historical speculation, but I've  since found out that this process is utilized as a kind of 'game' by many historians; probably as a source of
enhancement of the historical process through perspective.
I find myself, occasionally,  pursuing the 'game' of speculation, more for relaxation than anything else. For instance: what if Mozart had  lived  another twenty years, returning after 1788, his final symphonic year as we know it, to the writing  of symphonies after the "Jupiter?"  Would we know Beethoven today in a different form?
Or; What if Brahms had not destroyed ( mostly through burning) a number of his works he wanted to disavow ? Would we now be listening to more of his creations today?
Or, What if Gershwin had lived to be, say, 58 (he died at age 38)? Would Bernstein have been a different Bernstein today?
Obviously, there will never be an answer to any speculative query.
And so, may I invite you to   play the 'game ' with me by adding to the list below?

What if Bernstein had been so affixed to his "Jeremiah" symphony, written so soon after his Harvard days, that all of his creative energies were to  follow in the same line, without a thought of Broadway?
And no "West Side Story?" or "On the Town?"
What if Beethoven had not become deaf? Would  the greatness have taken a different direction?
And the following list of artists, whose greatness was a reality;  or yet to certify as greatness;  or, if at all?
Dinu Lipatti - dead due to  Hodgkin disease   at age 33.
William Kappell -  killed in a plane crash at age 31.
Michael Rabin - died of injuries in a fall at age 35.
Vincent Van Gogh - a suicide at age 37.
Giovanni Pergolesi - died of an illness at age 26.
Guido Cantelli - killed in a plane crash at age 36.
Alexei Sultanov - died of a series of strokes at age 35.
Ginette Neveu -  killed in a plane crash at age 30.
Julius Katchen - dead of cancer at age 42.
How different would our sense of "now" be than it is?
No answer, of course, can be available.
But, I cannot deflect from wondering, at times...
I invite you to add to my list, which, of course, is partial!

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