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<<  -- 3 --  Peter Dale    CLASSICAL OBJECTIVITY?


However, in a text which, though it depends for at least some of its shape upon the events and chronology of its subject's life, it is actually so circumspect as to say very little about either, and still less about what might be connections between the life and the music, it is the inclusion of photographs which perhaps make the most important contribution to the new edition. From a book notable for its almost complete absence of discussion about the character of the man who is its subject it is very hard to avoid the inference that Dickinson considers character to have very little bearing upon the music. Almost the sum of what we learn about Berkeley -- his mind, his values, his loyalties -- is that he became a Roman Catholic.

I can understand how a classical objectivity -- unfashionable though it is now -- can nevertheless inform and shape music of more than ordinary interest, particularly in a century which began with an example of self-indulgence on the scale of that of Gustav Mahler. But Dickinson's reserve is too absolute, too deferential, too doctrinaire perhaps. The result is not that the life comes over purely as a function of the music, but that as a person the subject of this book comes across, by default, as probably having been so intrinsically dull as barely to be worth mentioning. That done, a measure of the same dullness seeps into and over the whole book. It seeps into impressions the reader forms of the nature of Berkeley's music, impressions which Dickinson himself can never have intended. Classical impersonality is one thing -- a virtue, surely -- but objective impersonality or, in effect, characterlessness, is another, and, overall, it is a sense of the latter which the reader carries away from this otherwise excellent book.

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Copyright © 24 August 2003 Peter Dale, Danbury, Essex, UK


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