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Mr Standford cites the stranglehold (again, not his word) of Boulez, against which the French musician's older compatriot Dutilleux has himself famously inveighed -- but in the more long-term scheme of things, what has this achieved? We nowadays think of Boulez as an artist who has vastly enhanced our expectations of performance standards in certain contemporary and recent music (most especially Webern) while at the same time devoting immense energies to the promotion of Debussy, Ravel and Bartók as well as Wagner and Mahler -- not to mention Schönberg, whose 'death' he had himself, as a young firebrand, (in)famously exaggerated in 1952! His status as a musical giant of our time now seems far less a consequence of his earlier so-called 'stranglehold' than of the value of the work he has done. What had earlier held good for the extraordinarily self-percipient Richard Strauss -- 'I shall begin as an iconoclast and end as an old master' -- seems now to be serving 'Le Maître sans Baton' rather well ...

Mr Standford's last two paragraphs are virtually beyond argument, let alone reproach -- save, perhaps, for a suggestion that his perception of our current lack of musical giants may, as I implied earlier, be somewhat more influenced by the noisy and widespread advertisement of charlatans as though they were giants than by an actual shortage of the genuine article.

Copyright © 30 November 2005 Alistair Hinton, Bath UK




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