If a composer leaves a work unfinished, whether by choice or by the
fateful accidents that have a habit of deciding matters for us, it is
no business of ours to leap into the breach heroically to give the world
what we decide it so richly deserves. The chances are there is quite enough
of the composer's work already complete and polished and wearing well.
Excusable it would be, perhaps, if the composer in question was a parent or
favourite uncle whose creativity had been a personal and shy indulgence, none
of whose holiday diversions had ever been finished properly anyway. But to
attempt the completion of a classical fragment, a few dozen bars of Mozart or
Schubert, for public presentation seems an unnecessary audacity, though as an
academic challenge it does have a certain fascination.
To attack a Beethoven
sketch is brazenness in extreme, for the magical transformation from his rough
draft to end product would be like an unknowing child trying to guess what the
chrysalis or tadpole might become. Though it is good to have the whole of a
Requiem attributed to Mozart, it is an uneasy achievement which, at that stage
of his remarkable creative maturity, is precarious guesswork. Even more so
with Mahler. The Adagio which he labelled the first movement of a tenth Symphony
is so much more modern, forward looking and exploratory than anything the younger
Viennese were dreaming of at that time, that anything more than piecing together a
performing version of the other (Purgatorio) movement is outrageous.
which in the end become single lines (as Beethoven's sketches of the Eroica)
cannot be a key to what was at that time a remarkably progressive imagination.
Attempts to complete it become an imitation of what the composer had previously
done -- a past from which he clearly wished to move on.
Who can be presumptious
enough to know the inner progress of the artist's imagination? It is just as
impudent to exhume the earlier versions of works the composers saw fit to revise.
Rarely does this ever do anything but disservice to either the piece or its maker,
as examination of the first two versions of Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet will
Surely we can turn our own modest creativity to other than pretending
to serve the musical world in this way? Wise old Brahms to have destroyed all
sketches and incomplete projects!
Copyright © 26 September 2002 Patric Standford,
West Yorkshire, UK
From: Bernard Chasan, USA
Patric is of the opinion that unfinished compositions be left alone. There are
good arguments for following this advice. However, I am very pleased that someone had
the gall to finish Mahler's Tenth Symphony and Elgar's Third. They stand on their own
and they illuminate the thoughts of their (original) creators in a way which
complements their other work. It is fascinating to hear the leaner Elgar sound of the
Third Symphony compared to his two completed symphonies.
From: Mark Ward Donaldson, USA
Although I haven't read the article, one thing caught my eye about
'completing' works that the composer never finished, whether intentionally or by
forces of nature (such as his death). One that comes to mind is Holst's The
Planets. It is a work I absolutely adore, for its music, not its
astrological philosophy. How Holst went from Violent to Sublime to Surreal is
nothing but pure genious, in my purely unqualified and uneducated opinion.
I realize that Pluto may have not been discovered when the work was written, but
someone has taken it upon himself to add another movement, which I hate.
I hate it for its atonality, more than anything else, which is why I hate
modern music. I can appreciate that this composer probably wrote it in tribute to
Gustav Holst, but it does nothing for the work, in my thoroughly unqualified opinion.
It absolutely ruins and destroy's its beautiful continuity. I think The Planets
stands alone fine without the additional music, if one can call it that.
problem is my untrained ear. (After all, when I first heard Rite Of Spring I
violently detested it, it really wasn't until I looked at the score that I
realized what a masterpiece it is.) Well, not that you asked, but there's my opinion
anyway. But, then again, what does a High School dropout such as myself know anyway?
By the way, I do love this cyber-magazine of yours very much!