We must not confuse the issue: whatever words Beethoven used to describe the Eroica , whatever the function in it of the funeral march, the work must have an integrity independent of such matters. If the composer is successful in predisposing our minds by means of words, he has still to satisfy them by artistic mastery. The common assertion that music means only itself is, pace Stravinsky, a fallacy, since everything we produce has manifold origins and therefore meanings.
Art nevertheless has its own inviolable and merciless standards, which in the end have to sweep all else away.
Solomon would not deny this, but it is a little disturbing to find him confusing different levels of attention. A great work of art will, on its own terms, continue indefinitely to offer deepening satisfaction, and a point will never be reached at which biographical information becomes indispensable. If this was one of the means by which such magnificent concentration was achieved, the concentration is no less remarkable because we think we can give one possible reason for it.
It would in any case be impossible without genius, which we cannot explain. He disposes of persistent theories about Josephine Deym with wit and unimpeachable scholarship. There is a detailed account of his misapprehension misrepresentation? Much of the diary concerns trivial chores and domestic worries; one should, he says, have different ear trumpets for music and speech, and also for halls of various sizes.
It is about the Ninth Symphony; and the order Solomon wishes to reveal seems to be based on various thematic connections some obvious, some not which he finds in the work, and various uses premonitory and retrospective of intervals, particularly the fourth and fifth, throughout the symphony. These are frequently given extra-musical connotations, as are scalic passages found to be common in the work. Perhaps he senses this when he says:. This is an attractive suggestion.
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However, such procedures may in fact disrupt the organic flow of the materials and their orderly development. The references become embedded within the form itself, lending coherence at the same time that they press beyond the merely formal to extra-musical denotation. Leaving aside the begged question about the nature of form itself and the distinction often erroneously made between form and so-called content if you alter one, do you not alter the other?
These matters are difficult, and composers have more often learned them instinctively than by rationalisation. All the great Classical composers have this ability, Beethoven more than any other, and we have to come to terms with it. Sureness of movement becomes form. Music is the illumination of time. Writing about music is almost impossible, and too important to be left to musicians. Nonmusicians must take care, however. Anthony Payne.
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