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<<  -- 2 --  Robert Anderson    MEPHISTOPHELES IN ATTENDENCE


I was brought up to consider the Beethoven C minor variations one of his worst works. It is therefore very good and cannot be blamed for its complete difference from the 'Diabelli' set in scale and stature. Here the theme, bold utterance if there ever was one, is given with appropriate command, and the first three variations follow with admirable dexterity [listen -- track 1, 0:02-1:03]. The special wartime home of Myra Hess and her arrangement of 'Jesu, Joy' from Bach's Cantata No 147, was the London National Gallery. E M Forster was a persistent and perceptive listener at that special period when 'Into the empty frames, along the discoloured walls, move the masterpieces of Bach and Mozart.' He likened the audience to 'a scattering flight of winged creatures, darting around, and spending much of its time where it shouldn't, thinking 'how lovely!', now 'my foot's gone to sleep', and passing in the beat of a bar from 'there's Beethoven back in C minor again!' to 'did I turn the gas off?' or 'I do think he might have shaved'. No wonder, then, that many an audience member, squaddy from the front, or sandwich-muncher from the office, always considered Hess not Bach author of the piece. The performance here recaptures the essential calm of central London at war [listen -- track 3, 0:00-1:11].

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Copyright © 10 July 2003 Robert Anderson, London UK


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