My Perspective

A prélude to later critiques

While I'm trying to draw out of my brain some priorities of my "world of music", my basic understanding, or maybe philosophy of music, I'm listening to Artur Schnabel's interpretation of Beethoven's Diabelli Variations.  For me, here is something like a serious truth in the music.  You can hear Beethoven thinking about this one, and then the following variation.  The composition is full of emotion, but the emotion is born as a result of an intellectual and essential explanation.  In comparison to some pieces by Chopin for example, Beethoven's emotion seems to be created in a "composition-struggle".

Yesterday I listened for many hours to a similiar contrast in music, to two of the most famous opera duets.  The emotion of Zurga and Nadir in their duet from Bizet's The Pearlfishers seems to be related to Chopin's Étude op.10, no.3.  That emotion is blooming suddenly like a wonderful tulip, without any troublesome process of intellectual refinement or cultivation.  The other duet which I heard several times alternating with the simple beauty of "Au fond du temple saint" (Gedda/Blanc in the above duet) was "O sink hernieder Nacht der Liebe" (Dernesch/Vickers) from Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.  You can hear Vickers "working" on his part while singing .  Of course I don't mean his technique (that's okay with me).  I mean his intellectual absorption of what he is singing.  I'm not a musicologist, so I'm allowed to compare Chopin's op.10, no.3 to that Pearlfisher duet, which often brings me to tears, although I find that particular opera to be absolutely stupid.  A coincidence four years ago at the ENO allowed me to see in English, one evening Tristan und Isolde and the next night The Pearlfishers.  Pearlfishers has some nice arias in a hotch-potch of feeble-mindedness. (libretto/story).

Listening to music like the 33 variations of that Diabelli Waltz is, besides the fun, constantly a challenge.  Tristan und Isolde also is such a fundamental challenge for me.  It's work, curiosity, and fun.  I remember that I made jokes about that opera twenty years ago, that I found it boring and stupid that T & I have to sing for an hour while dying.  Today, Tristan und Isolde is everything for me.  Altogether I needed 15 years of development to come to that point where I am today with my perspective of Tristan.

But not everything in taste of music is as subjective as tending to prefer the Diabelli Variations more than the Étude op.10, no.3 (I love that piece anyway).

Here is the point I want to talk about, where I'm trying to direct your special attention:
I will give you an example citing the critique of the two leading German opera magazines to focus on my point.

"The Opera Event of the year at the MET was a monumental misunderstanding because of dull singing. Eaglen's problem was that her Isolde was incredibly indifferent and without emotions .......and that had nothing to do with her size because "heavies" are able to show as much emotion as anybody else......but there was no identification with the role.  The long love duet in Act II was a fire without heat...........Heppner's dramatic sluggishness has also nothing to do with his size. René Pape as King Marke demonstrated what a psychological creation of a role could be.  He led us far away from the normal way of life.  He was the only one able to give a feeling of otherworldliness singing the German words with meaning."
 (This was a very free translation of my own, emphasizing my own priorities)

There is no doubt about the wonderful and big voices of Heppner and Eaglen.  Therefore so many people liked them so very much in the past weeks.  Nadir & Zurga have to sing a wonderful melody, Tristan & Isolde do too, but that's not enough.  René Pape identified with what he was singing to the point of transcending his role in the story.

The courage to sing with a fundamental feeling for the emotional content of the words should not be confused with barking.  Although I'm aware that my mother tongue (Deutsch) tends to sound rough to "foreign" ears.

-- Wolf(j)
Literary content:
Copyright:  © 2000 Wolf Janson

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