Pierre Boulez, who knows a little about music and music writing, said
that music criticism was like poetry. Good work conveyed much more than
simply words. It ties in with the observation of so many, including
Mahler, that "music isn't just in the notes". There is much more to
understanding music than simply reading notation. Two musicians may be
technically on the same level, but one might create art, the other purely
surface sounds. Being able to play alone doesn't make anyone a musician.
To return to what sparked the thread in the first place. Peyser is
to music writing what light beer is to the finest vintage champagne.
OK for popular reading, but not characteristic of the genre. To read
Peyser on Boulez without reading Jamieux on Boulez is unthinkable.
Jamieux spent years with Boulez, learning to understand Boulez "from
within" as far as it's possible. His insights on the music are therefore
exceptional. There's plenty of wonderful music writing around, but what
seems to characterise is it the writer's ability to get beyond just the
technicalities. Donald Mitchell is another example. His writings on
Mahler (and Britten) are so good because he writes with intuition,
"beyond" the notes.
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