The right notes
Recalling the rigours of musical accuracy
Most of us music lovers indulge our enjoyment of
the art with countless forays into areas of music old
and new. We are probably oblivious to the precise
joys of specialisation, preferring to learn from
chance encounter. Wise or unwise, this was how I
was eventually baptised into the intricacies of
scholarship and specialisation. In mid-teens my way
of musical thinking was first ruptured and then
enriched under the influence of the distinguished
Bach scholar Walter Emery. He and Desmond Ratcliffe
and I became proof readers for the publisher Novello
-- Emery extremely knowledgeable, Ratcliffe shrewd
and quick to learn, and me gawky and inexperienced.
Frankly, I had not the temperament to take up a
musicological career, even as a secondary pursuit.
But the singular acuteness of Emery's musical mind
was a revelatory influence, and I remain perpetually
aware of that to this day.
So, when listening to old music that has required the
hand of a specialist to provide an authentic reading,
my thoughts go back a half-century to the brilliance
of Walter Emery. Musicology has now long provided a
sophisticated research tool, and the amount of early
music plucked from obscurity and subjected to
expert scrutiny grows continuously. One day we may
have emptied and scraped the bottom of the barrel,
but we don't anticipate such a calamitous event just yet!
Copyright © 3 October 2002 Basil Ramsey,
Eastwood, Essex, UK