<< -- 2 -- John Bell Young A NEW 'ENOCH'
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
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
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.
Copyright © 23 September 2002
John Bell Young, Tampa, Florida, USA