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CLASSICAL  February 2005

CLASSICAL February 2005

Subject:

Re: Musical Quotations 9

From:

Steve Schwartz <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 4 Feb 2005 13:26:05 -0600

Content-Type:

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text/plain (68 lines)

Robert Peters replies to me replying to John Smyth (this will be my last
post on this thread.  The horse is dead.  Robert can have the last word):

>>>There might be something to all this vanity stuff.  I read in a book
>>>about Romanticism that the disappearance of God from culture, (because
>>>of the rise of the philosophy of materialism, Newtonian physics, etc.),
>>>created a need for "supermen," seemingly super human people who could
>>>do the impossible and the miraculous, to replace God.  Super virtuosos
>>>fit the bill, and of course one has to be a little vain to be god-like,
>>>not to mention the music some wrote for themselves.
>>
>>Actually, there's a difference between attitudes toward music and
>>musicians, and music and musicians themselves.
>
>Oh, but these attitudes easily intertwine and I cant see that it is
>possible to really keep the one from the other.  It is psychologically
>impossible.  If you know something about Mozart the man it will influence
>your attitude towards his music.  You can not avoid this.

I know very little about Mozart the man, so it's pretty easy for me.
On the other hand, I know a lot about R.  Strauss, the man and his music.
It's still easy.  The man is nothing special -- a bourgeois with a genius
for writing music.  The music -- *at its best* -- is sublime.  The ease
of separation takes only the recognition that art is only an imperfect
reflection of an artist and that an artist cannot completely will his
art.

>>>Are not cadenzas complete vanity?
>>
>>No, they're not.  They're entertainment, a rhetorical strategy in the
>>course of a movement, and perhaps several other things besides.  Beethoven
>>and Mozart wrote cadenzas, after all.  According to at least one poster,
>>Beethoven, who wrote cadenzas, was not vain and arrogant -- although I
>>myself would say that Beethoven was at least proud.  The *fact* of the
>>inclusion of a cadenza has no psychological meaning at all.  The cadenza
>>itself may.
>
>I disagree. A cadenza can be (and I say can be) a totally vain act of
>showing off virtuosity.

I didn't exclude this possibility.  I merely assert that it's not the
*only* possibility.  The *fact* of inclusion is less important than the
character of what's included.  Otherwise, you must say that Beethoven
and Mozart are totally vain show-offs, since they provided cadenzas for
their concerti.  As little as I know about either of them as men, I
nevertheless strongly doubt it.

>Classical music can turn into a circus act (just think of some of the
>stuff by Paganini).  Thus the inclusion of a cadenza has a pretty big
>psychological meaning (just think of a lot of the dramatically totally
>meaningless cadenzas in baroque arias).

Yes, both classical music *can* turn into a circus act and cadenzas *can*
have a psychological meaning.  However, tell me that the Elgar violin
concerto cadenzas are totally vain or meaningless, and I'll laugh in
your face.  In other words, neither of these outcomes are inevitable.

Furthermore, you seem to dismiss music as entertainment, or at least I
infer from you've said so far that great music addresses only the Higher
Spirit.  The overture to Mozart's Nozze di Figaro shows me otherwise.
Virtuosity, especially over-the-top virtuosity, can be fun.  It's showing
off, of course, but not necessarily to the aggrandizement of the artist.
Indeed, it can be a stategy of *humility*: the artist putting him- or
herself at the demand of pleasing an audience.  This is not always a bad
thing.  Again, listen to Mozart's Nozze di Figaro or even Eine kleine
Nachtmusik.  If you haven't meant any of this, I apologize.

Steve Schwartz

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