Bert Bailey responded to me:
>>To me it is utterly vain and self-centered.
>This, indeed, is the point, although it just repeats the "offending"
>passage, the one that raised the call for some account. That is: this
>begs the question, and doesn't address it. That question was: just how
>does an assemblage of notes on a page and/or of organized sounds occupying
>a stretch of time manage to show that its maker is vain and self-centred?
I once listening to one of Liszts dreadful organ pieces. It was meant
to reenact the storm which tossed the boat with the sleeping Jesus and
the hysterical disciples. Liszt couldnt resist the temptation to show
the waves by endless organ chords. Again and again and again. Boring
and pointless. Someone with more economy would have resisted this
temptation. But Liszt, vain and proud of his virtuosity, did the Hollywood
thing. Just one example for which I will have to justify again...
>>Nikolaus Harnancourt once said that he doesnt conduct Mahler because
>>"his music is only occupied with himself". In other words: vain and
>>self-centered. Now would you command Mr Harnancourt that he has to
>>justify this "vile slander"?
>But wouldn't it be nice to know what he meant? Sounds pretty strange
>to me -- even granting that Harnoncourt probably knows a lot more about
>music than me. If he said it was overladen with harmonic density, or
>thematically thin, or that there were "too many notes," you might well
>disagree, but at least you'd *understand* the point.
I understood him perfectly when I first read this. Mahler put all his
neuroses into his music, showing angst and dread and chaos. And Harnancourt
dislikes this. (I, strangely enough, quite like Mahler. Maybe because
of my own neuroses...)
>Say Furtwangler held that Celso Garrido-Lecca's Cello Concerto struck
>him as polka-dotted, having the smell of lemons, and had a certain
>Thursday feel to it. Would you defend his right to his tastes?
Yes since this sounds so totally dadaistic that I would want to kiss old
Furtwanglers forehead for such refreshing words. Now is it only me or
are there more people who say when listening to a piece of music: "Cold"
or "hot" or "hysterical" - and not "oh, overlanden with harmonic density",
"interesting tonal shifts" or things like this. There are even people
who associate music with colours or stories or scents. To me Schuberts
Unfinished is a deep green... (No irony.)
>For my part, I'd call these category confusions, and would want him
>to account for why they're not. Just because it's Rostropovich (well,
>whoever) doesn't mean they make any sense. It doesn't remove any the
>musical authority of such people to expect them to submit to logic, to
But music is the most emotional art, often leaving logic (or the simple
act of writing down notes in a certain order) behind.