THE SAME OR NOT THE SAME?
That is the question.
ALISTAIR HINTON responds to
Patric Standford's recent provocative essay
'All Mozart sounds the same'? Now there's a topic for a good many more paragraphs than the few succinct ones that Patric Standford gives us here!
I promise nevertheless that I will confine myself to just a handful more.
He cites Haydn, observing the confusion that would arise in us had his style changed as radically as did Schönberg's between his first and third string quartets. His observation about the 'artist whose creative personality is altered, affected or damaged by circumstance' is indeed pertinent when considering one whose style and manner undergoes substantial transformation and perhaps may be argued to have 'reinvented' itself. But does this factor account fully for the apparent voltes-face by which we know Schönberg? I'm not so sure. That Schönberg's creative personality was affected in the way Mr Standford describes is unquestionable -- and yet to what extent did he really 'reinvent' -- or even seek to 'reinvent' -- himself and put immeasurable distance between his mature and his youthful persona? Very little, it would seem, if his crucial Second Chamber Symphony is anything to go by -- a fine work in which he deliberately and successfully picked up threads abandoned many years earlier and which is anything but a piece of mere nostalgia for times past. This almost seems to parallel his attitude to his Jewish faith, which at one stage he sought to turn his back on and yet later wished to return to. So it seems evident that, even after he had, as he put it, developed a system of composing that would 'ensure the supremacy of German music for the next one hundred years' (to which notion Ronald Stevenson once wisely and wittily observed that this was a strange desire for an Austrian Jew to have), he did not -- nor did he even seek to -- unburden himself of the creative thrusts which so powerfully informed his musical youth.
Copyright © 2 November 2004
Alistair Hinton, Bath UK