<< -- 4 -- Alistair Hinton THE SAME OR NOT THE SAME?
The true 'sameness' in a creative musical (sorry, Ferruccio!) persona, far from being a form of mere surface gloss, is that which informs -- or rather underlies -- all its outpourings, notwithstanding the vicissitudes of the composer's life. Do not Don Juan, Salome, Capriccio and Vier Letzte Lieder clearly emerge from the same distinctive creative wellspring, for all their obvious differences? If that is indeed true, it must be due to a kind of constancy in Richard Strauss's persona that permits all manner of development in and between such works without actually turning against itself at any point; this may be surprising, given the vastly and irrevocably changed world in which the composer, in his eighties, came to find himself after the close of World War II. Perhaps Metamorphosen might be regarded as a sort of monument to this very kind of change. And is it not curious that Strauss and Schönberg -- despite what some might see as the unbridgeable differences between their creative journeyings -- each came to celebrate Mozart as they approached the ends of their respective lives? -- Strauss in some of his actual music and Schönberg in his beration of someone claiming him to be an auto-didact with the words 'I am a pupil of Mozart!'.
That we have come full circle back to Mozart here is perhaps not so surprising, in that it somehow reflects the kind of 'sameness' -- in the constancy sense -- with which Mr Standford's thoughts 'provoke' us (and perhaps, in the light of the 'constancy' referred to in the last paragraph, it could be suggested that Mr Standford has indirectly shed new light on the reason that Mozart married someone called Constanza...). Mozart's death occurred more than two centuries ago, long before there was even the communicative means to enable his work to achieve the well-nigh universal global admiration it has come to attract since, yet during those two centuries so many composers of different persuasions have sought to cite him as some kind of god-like creative persona -- from his near-contemporaries Haydn and Beethoven through Chopin, Schumann, Brahms, Tchaikovsky, Strauss, Schönberg, Stravinsky, Britten -- even Elliott Carter, in a relatively recent interview, claimed that, as a composer, he didn't really feel particularly influenced by anyone -- except probably Mozart!
So, with this in mind, perhaps it is not so much that 'all Mozart sounds the same' but that 'all music sounds the same'! Now there's a provocative thought!
Copyright © 2 November 2004
Alistair Hinton, Bath UK
Born in Scotland, Alistair Hinton is Curator of the Sorabji Archive (an organisation which he founded, following his friendship with the Parsi composer Kaikhosru Sorabji), and also a composer, record producer and writer. He studied music from the age of twelve and, with the help of Benjamin Britten, attended London's Royal College of Music for lessons with Humphrey Searle and Stephen Savage.
Hinton's String Quintet Op 13, designed to be the sole work in any programme, might lay claim to being the world's largest chamber work. The world première recording in 2002 (Altarus AIR-CD-9066) was issued on three CDs.
Alistair has written many times for M&V, usually in response to something already published here, with essays such as Premature conclusions?, Transcending virtuosity, The specious origins of originality, How essential is the difference? and Emotions and Music.
Another composer, Patric Standford, has been successfully provoking feedback from M&V readers for several years now with articles in his monthly column Provocative Thoughts. Alistair Hinton's comments in this article are based on the most recently published to date of these articles, entitled Trade Marks.