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<<  -- 2 --  John Bell Young    A NEW 'ENOCH'

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Now, for the first time in more than forty years, a legendary figure of stage and screen has seen fit to resurrect Enoch Arden. Americus Records has just released its recording with Michael York, the cinematically ubiquitous film star and renowned Shakespearean. Whether by luck or some higher authority, the privilege of collaborating with this extraordinary artist, as both pianist and producer, has fallen to me.

Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Enoch Arden, music by Richard Strauss. Michael York (left), narrator, John Bell Young, piano. Photo © Russell Baer, www.russellbaer.com
Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Enoch Arden, music by Richard Strauss. Michael York (left), narrator, John Bell Young, piano. Photo © Russell Baer, www.russellbaer.com

Still, I couldn't help but wonder, after listening to this magnificent composition : why had it suffered such neglect?

A strangely clad Enoch Arden - a still from the 1915 film by D W Griffith and Christie Cabanne
A strangely clad Enoch Arden - a still from the 1915 film by D W Griffith and Christie Cabanne

Set to the tragic narrative poem about a shipwrecked sailor by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Enoch Arden enchants with its alluring charm and poignant sincerity. That may be because it encourages us to integrate words with music in a way that stimulates our imagination. Is there perhaps something about a narrative, musically enhanced, that brings us back to childhood, so redolent with fond memories of storytelling? Or perhaps it gives way to the kind of experience that reaches some primitive part of the brain, evoking a shadow of those days when, a few hundred thousand years ago, our hominid ancestors sat around a fire and, 'babbling idiot-like', turned their daily experiences into magniloquent sagas.

If there is any reason that classical music no longer commands the enthusiasm of earlier generations, it's because imagination itself has been so severely compromised. Television and movies, eager to entertain and sell something in the process, have taken the place of books and ideas. The melodrama, on the other hand, demands greater attention.

Determined to restore to melodrama something of its former prestige, I was convinced that Enoch Arden was the perfect vehicle. What it needed was a new protagonist whose international celebrity and artistic authority could again draw attention to it. In my view, this masterpiece needed to be introduced anew into the increasingly lackluster world of the concert hall, where conventional programming has become routine.

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Copyright © 23 September 2002 John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA

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