Late Bloomers

Anton Bruckner

Anton Bruckner

Not all of the great composers were child geniuses or teenage whizzkids. This week, Mahlerman looks at some who found their true voice later in life…

I have always felt that the Octet in E flat major by Felix Mendelssohn is as close to a musical miracle as we are ever likely to see. The fact that he produced it in his 16th year goes beyond what is believable, eclipsing anything produced by Schubert or Mozart at the same age; put simply, it defies logic. But does genius demand the brio and precocity of youth? About this I am less sure, at least in the musical empyrean.

Today we look at a handful of masters who were well past their teenage years before they got into their stride.

The Moravian Leos Janacek was in the last quarter of his life when a revision of his earlier opera Jenufa made his name in 1916 – but as he was born in 1854, that made him famous at 62, an age when most of us are reaching for the slippers. But not this idiosyncratic master, perhaps the greatest Czech composer of the early twentieth century. Energised by the success of the opera, and further stimulated by a deeply felt love affair with a younger married woman, Kamila Stosslova, he packed four more masterful operas and the amazing Glagolitic Mass into the next fourteen years until his death in 1928 – and although the relationship with Kamila was platonic, there is no doubt from the composer’s writings, and from various clues in his scores, that this lady had become the most important single person in his emotional and creative life.

Just before the success of Jenufa, the composer produced, and published, the first book of his extraordinary cycle of piano pieces, On An Overgrown Path. The third movement is the magical Madonna of Frydek, used extensively in the overlong but enthralling movie by Philip Kaufman, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, from the book by Milan Kundera.

It was Matthew Arnold who mourned that France was ‘famed in all great arts, in none supreme’, and perhaps that might have been true in the middle of the 19th Century – but a dozen years after Arnold’s death the century turned, and by that time Monet, Cezanne, Renoir, Degas and many others were creating what we now know as a revolution in painting – as was Claude Debussy in music. But there was another group of composers in France, led by Gabriel Faure and Cesar Frank, who were less ‘revolutionary’, but whose music, it turned out, didn’t travel well and, broadly speaking, was not ‘exportable’. Yes, we hear Faure’s sublime Requiem, Pavane and Clair de Lune regularly – but who can name another piece by this great master of human feeling at its warmest? The more so with Frank (who was Flemish by birth), whose music is today almost totally absent from the concert hall – and for that matter, our thoughts. In my teens over 50 years ago his only symphony in D minor full, as it is, of eloquent and beautiful themes, had a considerable vogue – but no longer. Perhaps this is because even in his finest music, we do not think of the Low Countries or of France, more of the extreme chromaticism of Wagner’s Germany. And perhaps also it is because the composer was well into his sixties before he ‘got going’, and much of his music sounds ‘old’.

A piece that absolutely does not sound old is the delightful concertante Variations Symphoniques for Piano & Orchestra, composed when he was 63. This short marvel was also popular when I was in short trousers, and its eclipse today is something of a mystery. It is played here by a man who, back in the days when the BBC cared about such things, was a regular on television, partly because, whilst playing Liszt, he could burn a piano to the ground, and partly because he was better looking than most of the film stars of the day, a fact that my late mother would have flutteringly supported. My mum was not alone in her yearning for Georges Cziffra. I attended a couple of his solo concerts, and he could, very quickly, whip an expectant audience into something close to a frenzy. There are videos with better sound than this, taken from a concert in Paris in 1965, with his only son Georges Jr conducting the Orchestra National de l’ORTF, but none with quite the touch and personality that this musical giant brought to even a relatively restrained piece such as this. A sad footnote is the death of Cziffra Jr in a Paris house-fire just 16 years after this recording, with a note suggesting that he had set the fire himself in order to end his life. His father never played with an orchestra again.

Could it be said of the Austrian Anton Bruckner (pictured top) without, seemingly, insulting a whole nation, that he was a simple, good natured, religious, typically Austrian character? His lack of sophistication was expressed in clothes that always seemed a size too big, and hair that was untidily cropped short. He would love to have taken a wife, but his many proposals, usually to teenage or pre-pubescent girls, were repeatedly turned down. And for the first forty years of his life he was better known as an organist than a composer, never really getting started on composition until he was in his late thirties, an age that Mozart never reached.

It was almost a decade later before works like the Mass in F minor and the Third Symphony started to generate real interest and the beginnings of a worshipful following, and a further decade more, in fact at the premiere of his Seventh Symphony in 1884, when the full weight of his genius was at last recognised; he was, by then, sixty years old. The first performance was conducted by the great Arthur Nikisch who said after the event ‘Since Beethoven there has been nothing that could even approach it’. Bruckner had at last arrived. Hard to pick something worthwhile from symphonic movements that often exceed 20 minutes (from symphonies that last 80 minutes), but the Fifth Symphony in B flat major has always struck me as a perfectly balanced whole crowned, as it is, with a blazingly uplifting finale. Here is the late Claudio Abbado in Lucerne in 2011 conducting the Festival Orchestra, the video playing short extracts from the first three movements, and ending (from about 2.45) with the wonderful brass chorale that ends the work.

Jean Philippe Rameau has arrived among us – and it has only taken two hundred and fifty years. Unknown, except by academics and harpsichordists even fifty years ago, this grumpy late starting genius is now recognised as one of the greatest creative artists of the 18th Century. For more than the first half of his life (he died at 81 in 1764) he didn’t create music, he wrote about music, in particular notorious theories on harmony (Traite de l’Harmonie) that were not always well received. Like Bruckner he had a taste for teenage girls and when he was 43 he married one – he seemed to be a late starter in everything. The Lyonnaise Marie-Louise Mangot was just nineteen.

The composer was 50 when he produced his first opera Hippolyte et Aricie, and he followed it in the next thirty years with twenty more – an amazing achievement at any age. He began working with Voltaire immediately after Hippolyte, and followed the spectacular success of this work with another tragedy Castor et Pollux in 1737. From Act One of that masterpiece an aria to stop the clocks, Tristes apprets, pales flambeaux, sung by Agnes Mellon with Les Arts Florissants, conducted by the man who, perhaps more that anyone in the last thirty years, has been responsible for our renewed interest in the music of the French baroque, William Christie.

To end today, a short excerpt from another Rameau masterwork Les Paladins, in the comedy lyrique style that the composer as-good-as invented, along with opera-ballet. This long, passionate work has a complex, labyrinthine plot, and would be an achievement at any age. That Rameau was now a septuagenarian is hard to grasp, as the musical invention remains as fresh as ever – magnifique!

Great Britten

Returning to the new-look Dabbler, Mahlerman turns his attention to Benjamin Britten and shares his personal attachment to the greatest English composer since Purcell…

Had he not lived in Restoration England, where fully-composed opera was not yet accepted, there is little doubt that Henry Purcell would have developed into the great operatic composer many, even today, believe him to have been. But this undoubted genius liked a drink and, one evening, his wife Frances locked him out of his own house in Westminster, and the chill (or perhaps TB) that followed his night on the tiles finished him, aged about 36 – a loss to music that ranks alongside the death of Franz Schubert just over 100 years later.

Aside from his wonderful melodic gifts and his vividly dramatic imagination, he had a profound understanding of the human voice, and a skill in setting English words to music that has perhaps never been equalled – until the arrival of Benjamin Britten, born just before the Great War. To Britten, and for that matter his near contemporary Michael Tippett, Purcell was an idolized foster-father, and you don’t have to wander too far in Britten’s vast neoclassical oeuvre, to find the fingerprints of the 17th Century master.

In 1695, the last year of his life, Purcell produced the ten movements of the incidental music to Abdelazer, or The Moor’s Revenge, itself an adaptation of the tragedy from 1600, Lust’s Dominion – and as WW2 was ending, the 32 year old Britten boldly appropriated the second movement Rondeau from this suite and began work on his Opus 34, the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of Purcell, that became better known as The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra. Like many others I’m sure, this wonderful piece was my introduction to Britten’s highly individual soundworld, and I vividly remember being almost sick with excitement when the triumphant final Fugue started, shifting from minor to major in the last few pages. Here, any suggestion that the Berlin Philharmoniker is not the greatest orchestra on the planet, are put firmly to bed.

Five years earlier at the start of the war, the pacifist Britten was in America considering a return to England when, curiously, he received a commission from the government of Japan, for a piece to celebrate the founding of the Japanese empire (why Britten I wonder?). The commission was accepted and delivered – but rejected by Emperor Hirohito, who considered the ‘Christian’ titles, and bleak content, an insult. The purely orchestral Sinfonia da Requiem is indeed one of the most harrowing pieces in the composer’s output, but stands as an extraordinary achievement for a 27 year old. The Lacrymosa first movement is a funeral march of unremitting blackness, and the mood is rarely lightened in the following Dies Irae and final Requiem aeternam. The nod to Tchaikovsky in the Young Person’s Guide is not particularly obvious; the debt to Gustav Mahler, one of Britten’s favourite composers, is clear on every page of this amazing score. The scratchy film of Hermann Goring and the other bad-boys at Nuremberg, post-dates the music by about five years.

In the run-up to the first and second performances of Britten’s War Requiem in May 1962, my interest in ‘serious’ music was embryonic, shall we say. I had met Ornette Coleman at Birmingham Town Hall, I had seen the Everly Brothers at the Opposite Lock, and I had heard Dylan, also in Birmingham, draining the National Grid, and driving the Folkies to distraction. I’d also dropped my sister at the Coventry Hippodrome to see the Beatles, and gone there with my mum, who wanted to see a very young Tom Jones – and yes, they did throw knickers at him from the balcony. I suppose you could say that I had, in a dull post-war Midlands City, an exposure to quite a number of musical influences.

I played violin in a number of youth orchestras, and I could sing a bit – or thought I could. One of the orchestras was run by a brilliant organist who, in 1961 became the first organist and choirmaster of the new Coventry Cathedral. David Lepine (who was later engaged to the novelist Susan Hill, but whose heart stopped beating in 1972, when he was just 43) was casting around for good boys’ voices to sing in the treble chorus at the looming premiere and, probably pushed forward by my mother, I sleepwalked into an audition. It took Lepine less that a minute to spot the lack of quality in my voice, but the pearl in the cow-pat, for me at least, was a place at the first performance of the Requiem, and the second – and on the day before the premiere, I heard the first performance of Michael Tippett’s King Priam, the musical language of which was a bit too advanced for my young ears.

My musical God was Dimitri Shostakovich and, a decade later he was in Dublin with his wife, collecting a doctorate from Trinity College and attending a concert in St Patrick’s Cathedral, at which I met him, briefly. He was very ill at this point with the cancer that, three years later, would end his life, and one of the pieces played at the concert was by Britten, his Serenade Opus 31 for Tenor, Horn & Strings. I didn’t know then, but have learned since of the close personal friendship that existed between the two composers, and the love and respect they both had for each other’s music – and it seems that the Opus 31 was the Russian master’s favourite piece of Britten’s music.

It is cast in six movements that are enclosed by a horn-solo Prologue and off-stage horn-solo Epilogue. The broad theme, as in the Requiem above, is darkness – evening, night and the approach of sleep. Here is the last sung movement Sonnet, to words by John Keats ‘O soft embalmer of the still midnight’. In performance this movement is ‘used’ by the horn player to remove himself from the stage to a distant spot in preparation for playing the solo Epilogue that concludes the piece. Britten’s sense of theatre never deserted him.

Although it is slowly starting to appear in the concert hall, the Violin Concerto Opus 15 was hardly played anywhere until the very end of the last century. This is something of a mystery.  It has all the cool beauty of the Alban Berg (the first performance of which Britten attended, reporting afterwards that he found it ‘just shattering – very simple and touching’), some of the elegiac quality of the William Walton, and all the restless intensity of the first concerto by Shostakovich; the concerto by Jean Sibelius from 1904 towers over everything, including the Elgar. The intensity present in this concerto grips the listener from the very first bars of the opening movement, and the clenched-fist stays locked until the contemplative close of the third movement Passacaglia, the last pages of which we can hear on this video of the Russian virtuoso Maxim Vengerov.  Britten used the passacaglia form seriously for the first time in this movement and, both he and Shostakovich employed it extensively for the rest of their lives, as it usefully indicates a ritualized mourning, an aural atmosphere that both composers revelled in. When they employed the passacaglia form, graveness was never far away.

After Bach

Bach_2

This week Mahlerman selects works by four composers who were direcly influenced by the greatest of them all, J S Bach…

Without the famous horsehair wig, and looking more like a Soho bouncer than perhaps the greatest composer who ever lived, we can better appreciate the personality of J S Bach, which was far removed from the earnest spirituality conveyed in the only extant ‘bewigged’ portrait we have of him – for alongside his well-known modesty and tolerance, sat a man who was never patient with incompetents and, if he felt that displays of effrontery got in the way of his work, would often attack the miscreant. On one occasion he tore off his wig and threw it at a musician, exclaiming ‘You should have been a cobbler!’.

It must have been obvious to anybody reading my post on J S Bach earlier this year that, perhaps more than any other composer before or since, his music lends itself to performance by almost any instrument, in almost any context – and furthermore it can be adapted, re-arranged, transcribed and even reversed, at a whim.  Instead of listing the composers of Bach’s time and after who have acknowledged his genius, better to ask who has not, at some point, fallen under the spell of this great Lutheran? Almost nobody I would suggest – including JSB himself who, if pressed for time, ‘borrowed’ from the Italians or, on occasion, borrowed from himself. Today, leaving aside Stokowski’s rather heavy-handed efforts for Walt Disney, we look at some less-obvious modern masters who purloined perhaps just the essence, the pith of a theme, and set forth to make something of their own.

Although the Quartet No 1 (From the Salvation Army) by Charles Ives dates from the last years of the 19th Century when the composer was a student at Yale, it is impossible to think of this American pioneer as anything other than a modern master – and one of the great ‘borrowers’ of his time. The Salvation Army, hymn tunes, traditional and patriotic songs, fiddlers at Saturday night dances, a town band at a holiday parade – all these and more were assimilated and processed by his extraordinary imagination, emerging often barely recognizable.  The Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV 538 has been a popular source material for many composers, and here (and in the 3rd movement of his 4th Symphony) Ives uses just a tincture of the theme to stimulate a dozen marvellous ideas.

Although I happily put Stokowski aside because his ‘dead hand’ seems to smother the life out of Bach, Ottorino Respighi runs him pretty close in this amazingly ‘over the top’ realisation of the Prelude & Fugue in D major BWV 532, dating from 1929.  Fifty years ago just the mention of Respighi’s name would bring forth a smile or a snort from so-called music connoisseurs ( ‘a sorry cocktail of Wagnerian muscle and unmelodious Puccini’ ) but his rehabilitation is well under way, and he is now rightly recognised as both a scholar of genius, and an unsurpassed orchestrator. The wonderful painting of the Grote Markt in Haarlem by Gerrit Berckheyde was fashioned in 1669.

Although he can be numbered as one of the key figures of the Second Viennese School, any number of music-lovers and musicians of my acquaintance cannot listen to the music of Anton Webern without experiencing some kind of discomfort. His concise and highly individual atonal and serial compositions are seen as simply too astringent for pleasurable listening and, amusingly, I have heard more than once that composers who produce ‘difficult’ or intellectual music ‘should be shot’. Regular readers of this column will know that Webern, tragically, was indeed shot, mistakenly, just after the end of the war by an American soldier, as he enjoyed a last cigar while visiting his daughter near Salzburg. The soldier, unable to cope with his ‘error’, turned to drink and later committed suicide, doubling-up the calamity.

The Musical Offering is a collection of canons and fugues based upon a notable ‘theme’ given to Bach by Frederick II of Prussia. Many have felt that Webern’s ‘version’ of the Ricercar Fugue drains the music of its vital energy in an attempt to shoehorn it into a 20th Century mould. All I can say is that I don’t share that lack of enthusiasm for what emerged in 1935.

The most prominent members of the so-called Second Viennese School alongside Webern were Alban Berg and the great Austrian revolutionary Arnold Schoenberg who, in the early 1920’s, began work on what became his notorious Twelve Tone System of musical notation – but he didn’t completely abandon Free Tonality or indeed the Romanticism of his early student days, and in 1922 he produced two exquisite orchestrations of Bach’s Chorale preludes BWV 631 and BWV 654, the serenely beautiful Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele. Robert Schumann, who knew a thing or two about pulchritude, called the Bach original a composition ‘of unmatched beauty’, and this modern reworking of the score, including a beautiful ‘cello obligato amidst the lush orchestral backdrop surely reinforces those sentiments.

Papa Haydn – Father of the Symphony

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Mahlerman turns his attention to Joseph Haydn, the ‘father of the symphony and the string quartet’…

To my shame, when finishing my post on Leonard Bernstein a few months ago with a blissful performance of the last movement of the Symphony No 88 by Joseph Haydn, I realised that in the years of writing these musings, that perhaps the greatest of all composers from the classical era had featured hardly at all. The only excuse I can hide behind is that his long life was comparatively uneventful, save the extraordinary industry he brought to composition, and the signal fact that this industry was supported by an inventive flair that seemed inexhaustible, and comparable only with his friend Mozart.

Although Haydn is known today as the father of the symphony and the string quartet, he ‘invented’ neither – but brought them both to a complete classical apogee. But there was nothing stuffy or ‘classical’ in the make-up of this most unassuming of men – and often, beneath the veneer of propriety and rectitude, lurked an almost schoolboy sense of fun and japes, most famously expressed in the slow second movement of his Symphony No 94 in G major, nicknamed ‘The Surprise’. But it is worth noting that even here, when the ‘surprise’ arrives, the composer does not labour the ‘joke’ of waking-up the half-listening audience-member in Row K; the refined classical framework is disturbed just briefly. The orchestra is the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by the Latvian Mariss Jansons.

Haydn’s most stable permanent employment was the thirty years he spent as Kapellmeister to the immensely wealthy Esterhazy family where, among other ‘favours’, he enjoyed daily access to his own orchestra – and we can reasonably assume that this patronage was repaid in music designed to please the Prince and his Court. This may explain the upbeat emotional tone of much of Haydn’s music, but also his fundamentally healthy and well balanced personality. The fast movements in many of his symphonies and concertos have a wonderful rhythmic propulsion, with a ‘rollicking’ style and a winding-up of tension worthy, much later, of the youthful Rossini. Here is the ‘madcap’ final movement of the often Mozartian Keyboard Concerto No 11 in D major, played at a ridiculous lick by the incomparable Martha Argerich.

The Haydn String Quartets span the whole of his creative output and thus, the greater part of his life – and the string quartet form has been called, by Goethe no less, ‘a stimulating conversation between four intelligent people’. The early examples (there are in total about 70) exude a touching, untroubled sincerity, but the final group of Opus 76, written in 1796/7 and published a couple of years later, represent the greatest among his many masterworks. The third of this group is the Emperor, in C major, and the hymn-like second movement will be familiar to football fans and others as “Gott erhalte Franz der Kaiser” ( no, not Beckenbauer), the memorable Austrian National Anthem then, the German Anthem today. The four variations that follow the ‘hymn’ theme are heard, unvaried, by each instrument in turn, this changing climate reducing the militaristic, hawkish feel of the piece.

At the same time as the now-affluent composer was working on the last set of quartets, his mind turned to such weighty matters as the meaning of life and the purpose of humankind. He also resolved to spend more time than had previously been possible on composition, in an attempt to render the sublime in sound – for posterity, if nothing else. The result was indeed sublimity, in the form of two oratorios, The Creation (1798) and, two years later The Seasons. Few would argue that The Creation is Haydn’s greatest single achievement, the sense of order emerging from chaos, and light from darkness, being just the most obvious sensation. The piece is cast in 34 movements spread over three parts and here, at the start of Part III, we are in the Garden of Eden, sharing in the happy first hours of Adam & Eve. Movement 29 Aus Rosenwolken bright (In rosy mantle appears) depicts dawn in the Garden, and is followed by a tender recitative for a tenor representing Uriel, the Angel of Wisdom. This is followed by the three-part Movement 30 Von denier Gut, o Herr und Gott (By thy goodness, O bounteous Lord), where Adam & Eve offer a prayer of thanks, accompanied by a chorus of angels. In this wonderful performance, the Freiburger Barockorchester, RIAS Kammerchoir and Soloists, are conducted by the Belgian Baroque specialist Rene Jacobs.

A Way Of Seeing

vivian-maier

Mahlerman combines sublime music with the work of great female photographers…

Around the middle of the 19th Century, Robert Schumann’s wife Clara, a brilliant pianist and sometime composer, gave up writing music because ‘no woman has been able to do it’, which, broadly speaking was true, and has remained so to this day. This misogynic view of women stemmed from the notion that they were (and are) commanded and controlled by their emotions and were thus incapable of abstract, objective thinking – and as painting, composing music and poetry, philosophy, and even the higher reaches of science require a certain objectivity, does this not go some way to explaining why almost all the great masters in these disciplines have been men?

However, an art-form where men have dominated, though not by any means completely, is the art of capturing light upon a sensitive surface (or nowadays an optical sensor). It is called photography and, over the span of the last one hundred years women have made an indelible impression, often post mortem.

The extraordinary life and work of Vivian Dorothea Maier [above] only began to emerge as she lay dying, unknown, following a fall, in a nursing-home outside Chicago in 2009. Little is known of the early life of this working-class American woman, save the fact that she spent much of her childhood in France, before working as a nanny for almost 40 years in Chicago, taking hundreds and later hundreds of thousands of photographs on her days off. This trove was auctioned in 2007 when Maier fell into penury and was unable to pay the modest storage charges to house the vast collection. The bulk of it was acquired by a Chicago property speculator and collector John Maloof, who quickly realised the artistic value of his purchase and set about first trying to find out who had created this mountain of mostly black & white images, and then making some sort of order from the jumbled chaos. This took several years, and was the inspiration for the film on Maier’s life ‘Finding Vivian Maier’ that followed in 2013. I watched the movie in stunned silence the other day, and what struck me most forcibly was the way that this modest woman, armed with just a Rolleiflex (ideal for sneaky shots) was able to capture the quiet essence of her subjects when, seemingly, standing right next to them. Was it a sort-of magic?

The music is the opening Prelude from the suite taken from the film music for Alfred Hitchcock’s creepy film Vertigo, composed by the brilliant New Yorker of Russian extraction, Bernard Herrmann. The now-famous falling two-note motif cleverly imitates the two fog-horns located at each side of the Golden Gate Bridge, forming an integral part of the labyrinthine story.

Another Dorothea, born in the 19th Century and therefore well placed to record the poverty of the Great Depression in the 1930’s, was Dorothea Lange. Her first marriage to the painter Maynard Dixon produced two sons, but after fifteen years she divorced Dixon and hit her stride after a second union, with the economist Paul Schuster Taylor, the pair setting out to record the desperate plight of the homeless and unemployed heading toward California in the hope of a better life. Her extraordinary picture of Florence Owens Thompson, ‘Migrant Mother’ is one of six exposures taken when Lange stumbled upon the family in Nipomo Mesa. The blend of dignity and stoicism on the 33 year old face of this American/Cherokee woman (looking, perhaps, 20 years older than she was), makes words seem rather trite. She died, aged 80, in 1983.

The gentle musical number is by the South Carolinan Samuel Beam, who trades under the name Iron & Wine.

In 1945 the landscape pioneer Ansel Adams invited Dorothea Lange and Imogen Cunningham, to become faculty members of the photography department at the California School of Fine Arts in San Francisco. Lange was just 50, but Cunningham was in her early 60’s, and a revered master in the fields of portraiture, nudes (often of friends) and, principally, a series of amazing studies of plant-forms. Her detailed scrutiny of Magnolias and Calla Lilies began in the early 1920’s and quickly made her name around the world. They are usually formalised as Silver Gelatin or Platinum/Palladium Prints, as in the short video.

These breathtaking images are perfectly partnered here by the intense beauty of In Pace in idipsum (In Peace Itself I Will Sleep), a motet by the 17th Century French master Guillaume Bouzignac, a predecessor of Charpentier and Lully, and a contemporary to Descartes. Music to stop the clocks, I feel.

Unfinished Symphonies

Portrait of Schubert in Viennese Countryside

Mahlerman selects three fine works by composers who died ‘in service’…

Emerging, as I did the other day, from the subterranean depths of the tube into the bright sunlight of Tooting Broadway I was greeted by the familiar beauty of Franz Schubert’s imperishable masterpiece, Deutsch number 759, the Symphony No 8 in B minor known as ‘Unfinished’ – and with a little time to spare before my appointment, I thought I would try to find out why that unloved organisation Transport for London would create such incongruity, even for a fleeting moment, and why Schubert? Was there a station manager who had ‘always loved the classics’, and this was his way of letting us know? If only life were as romantic as that. Behind all this, is that familiar phrase ‘antisocial behaviour’.

It seems that Tooting Broadway is not an exception, more a rule (almost), as ‘serious music’ is now to be heard across London in dozens of stations (I must get out more) in ‘troubled’ areas. What we are talking about here is ‘yob clearance’. The bad-boys and street-gangs don’t care for Franz or Ludwig, as these ‘guys in wigs’ don’t chime with their elevated ideas of their own importance, their own ‘cool’ – and they simply move along. The station manager told me that since the piping of ‘classical music’ began several years ago, there had been a sharp drop in robberies, assaults and even vandalism. What would young Franz (he was always young) have thought about it? Or Plato, writing circa 300 BC that ‘Music is a moral law, it gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything’.

But I digress.

Pondering Schubert, as I wandered towards the ‘city within a city’ that is St George’s Hospital, I convinced myself again that the two movements that make up the perfection of this wonderful creation are not ‘unfinished’ at all. He didn’t conk out after composing them, he set them aside to write something else. Music poured out of him in such a torrent that, at times, the administrative side of his life suffered.

Most composers, in fact, really do ‘conk-out’ during the creative process, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky would be numbered among them. He wrote once that ‘I cannot live without working’, and although his rarely played Symphony in E flat is numbered as his 7th, it was part-composed after the Fifth and followed, of course, by the ‘Pathetique’ Sixth. It is something of a curate’s egg, routine for the most part, containing no great Tchaikovskian melodies but, like everything this great Russian did, beautifully finished. The third movement is a fleet, diaphanous Scherzo of no particular merit, but the second movement Andante is a serene and idiomatic beauty that could have been lifted from any of the great ballets.

By 1909 the heart disease that had plagued Gustav Mahler for several years, made it at first difficult, and later impossible, for him to finish the five movement work that would eventually ( with help from friends and, later, musicologists ) become his Symphony No 10 in F sharp minor. Almost everything about this remarkable piece is unusual, not least the form – two huge Adagio outer movements each running toward 25 minutes, enclosing two Scherzos of about 12 minutes each, with a central, spooky purgatorio movement at less than five minutes. The manuscript copy tells us that only the first movement Adagio and the third movement ‘Purgatorio’ were in any way ‘finished’ in Mahler’s hand, the rest was a jumble of half-finished thoughts and ideas, but with enough ‘shape’ for the detective work to begin – which it did, shortly after the composer’s death in 1911 when Mahler’s one-time son-in-law Ernst Krenek collaborated with composer Alban Berg to ‘tidy up’ the almost finished Adagio.

These days, amongst a crowded field, it is the completed version of the five movements made over fifty years ago by the late Mahler scholar Deryck Cooke that holds sway, and convinces me that this staggering work is perhaps the composer’s greatest achievement, notwithstanding the ‘input’ of others. All the factors that Mahler lovers look for and expect are here in this deeply personal piece – death, redemption, salvation and, perhaps, a farewell to life and to his beloved Alma, who had already, as he knew, transferred her favours to another.

Here, the start of the last great Adagio explodes into life with several bass-drum whipcracks. A hint of melody is taken-up by the horns to flower (at 2.10) into one of Mahler’s most haunting and beautiful creations, a meandering flute solo that, without repetition, unfolds an 80 second melody that stunned me when I first heard it, and still does.

It has been said that Mahler spent a lifetime looking for God, but the Austrian Anton Bruckner found Him, and in fact dedicated his last utterance, the Symphony No 9 in D minor to ‘dem lien Gott’. Cast in four movements, the composer’s death in 1896 left the last movement in fragments, and today the two giant slow movements straddling a scherzo are the usual performing versions. Like a handful of other works I have mentioned in these posts ( Mahler 9, say ), I have seen listeners drifting toward to exits with tears streaming down their cheeks after hearing both the monumental architecture of this piece, and the deeply felt expression of the composer’s love for his God, an effort he put into almost everything he wrote. This recording is quite a long way removed from what was once known as ‘high-fidelity’. Nor is the playing as good as we have come to expect from the modern-day Berliner Philarmoniker. But standing on the rostrum in front of them almost exactly 70 years ago was a Berliner that became a legend in his own lifetime, and something of a musical deity in the years that followed his death in 1954, ten years after this recording was made.

His name was Wilhelm Furtwangler. His ‘stick technique’ was, at best, hazardous. The printed score he treated as a ‘guide’ – he had no interest in exactitude. He was tall and bean-pole thin, and often seemed to be in a trance when conducting. But…..he was a magician as well as a musician, a man who had the ability (like Carlos Kleiber who came after him) to create ‘ignition’ and, to quote conductor/pianist Christoph Eschenbach, he was ‘capable of setting an entire ensemble of musicians on fire, sending them into a state of ecstasy’.

Scorsese, Robertson, and the Music of Shutter Island

Teddy Daniels

Mahlerman returns with a post celebrating the exceptional soundtrack to the film Shutter Island, one of many successful collaborations between Martin Scorsese and Robbie Robertson…

The time was Thanksgiving, 1976. The place was the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, and the last performance of the Canadian-American rock group The Band. It marked the start of an almost 40 year friendship between the guitarist Robbie Robertson, and the Italian-American film director Martin Scorsese.

The first fruit of that union came in 1978 with the release of perhaps the classic rock movie, a record of that memorable final concert that became The Last Waltz. But it wasn’t the last waltz for Robbie, who went on to create, produce or ‘supervise’ on a number of Marty’s films – most recently the insanely over-the-top, The Wolf of Wall Street, a movie that, at three hours, didn’t seem overlong. But it was back in 2010 that the director started flexing his auteur muscles with the two hours twenty minutes of Shutter Island, a spooky thriller that I didn’t fully understand, but found myself enjoying for the unusual (for Scorsese) soundtrack, which moved from dark, to black-as-a-coal-hole-on-a-November-night.

I’m guessing, but after a long friendship, and no little success, the director must have trusted Robertson enough to allow him the freedom to find existing non-diegetic music that would not ‘describe a scene’, but would add emotional texture, and create (as it did for me) a sort of parallel universe of sound.

As the film begins we hear the ominous Gothic sprawl of Fog Tropes, for brass sextet and tape, by the post-minimalist American ‘expressivist’ Ingram Marshall. As with a lot of ‘music’ of this kind, it started life in one form, and gradually transmogrified into something more complex – in this case, from a set of field recordings of fog-horns around San Francisco Bay, made in 1979 for performance artist Grace Ferguson, it was manipulated and expanded, with added brass, into a dense neo-symphonic structure that works wonderfully well as a bleak, modern, stand-alone tone-poem, of the kind that Richard Strauss might have composed had he lived to 150 years.

A little later in the film, as the main protagonist Teddy Daniels and his partner Chuck first see the forbidding island, we are treated to the striking Passacaglia movement from the Symphony No 3 by one of the giants of 20th Century music, the Pole, Krzysztof Penderecki. Written in ‘arch’ form, the composer immediately sets the tone of the piece with a repeated ostinato in the low strings, and the movement builds to a shattering climax, before subsiding into quietude. The painting, as densely packed as the music, is Painting, 1948 by the Dutch master Willem de Kooning.

Can you remember the last piece you heard by Morton Feldman? Well no, neither can I – but I have sought out the music of this Russian-Jewish New Yorker and have concluded that he should be numbered among the greatest composers of the 20th Century – but he is not. I will not attempt to describe the unique style(s) of his various periods of composition – more able writers than I have tried, and failed – but I will say that his acceptance into the mainstream has been hampered by one simple fact: his music needs to be not heard, but ‘listened to’ with rapt concentration. And who, today, concentrates on anything for longer than 9 seconds? Who is prepared (and you would need to prepare) to invest the six hours needed to perform Feldman’s String Quartet No 2 (1983)? Whatever is the polar opposite of lift-muzak, it is probably written by Feldman.

In his early years, Feldman was very much a part of the turbulent artistic scene in New York, and became close to Jackson Pollock, Robert Rauschenberg, Jasper Johns and many others – and a visit to the non-denominational Rothko Chapel in Houston, Texas inspired one of Feldman’s best known (and most approachable) pieces. The fourteen paintings by Mark Rothko contained in the building are site-specific, and were completed shortly before his depression-induced suicide in 1970.

Scored for, unusually, viola, celeste, percussion and choir, Robertson chose a section of the second part for the movie.

Finally, as Leonardo diCaprio stalks through Block C of the psychiatric hospital, a large orchestra depicting the opening and closing of ‘a window on long submerged dreams of childhood’ (Ligeti) intones ominously. The tone painting Lontano (1967) by the Transylvanian Gyorgy Ligeti, another neglected 20th Century giant, is again working its magic realism, as it had many years ago for Stanley Kubrick in The Shining. A marvellous union of diatonic melody, and dense, slowly shifting microtonal harmonies, this work, after many years of ‘experimentation’ (Poeme symphonique for 100 metronomes, 1962) in a sense ‘made’ Ligeti into a world renowned figure.

The Cow-Pat School

Mahlerman celebrates a quartet of great English composers once dismissively described as the ‘cow-pat school’…

My default position when asked, as I am from time to time, how one ‘gets into’ serious music, is to suggest tuning in to Classic FM. I don’t tune in myself however, as I don’t like music chopped-up into bits to suit the attention span of listeners, and I really can’t accept some jock, in love with the sound of his own chatter, jumping in at the end with an asinine comment. But….the station does serve as a useful way to get people listening to good music, even if it is ‘relaxing classics’, or ‘the most beautiful music in the world – ever’.

And if you were to run an eye over their current ‘top ten’, you would notice that four of that list are fully paid-up members of our thriving ‘cow-pat school’, a term (which stuck) conjured up by arch-modernist composer Elizabeth Lutyens (’12-Tone Lizzie’) sixty years ago to describe the pastoral school that she clearly had little time for. No sign of Sir Edwin’s little girl in the Top 300, and I don’t hear many paper-boys whistling her first success ‘O Saisons O Chateaux’, but the Classic FM list is splattered with musical bovine faecal matter that, put simply, people love. Today we will stay clear of the chart-toppers, Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending (1) and Tallis’ Fantasia (3), and take the overgrown path to some rarely heard dabbling beauties.

At Number 30 Tite Street, Chelsea, just before Christmas in 1930, the composer Peter Warlock died of gas inhalation – probably by his own hand. He was 36. His birth name was Philip Heseltine and, virtually self-taught, he created for himself a strange dual personality. Well born, and classically educated at Eton and Oxford he was however a rather weak, idealistic character who, though married briefly and producing a son, led a strange, disordered private life. An early dabbler in black magic and flagellation, he also experimented with cannabis, and became an expert composer of obscene limericks; the kind of chap we really like, here at Dabbler HQ. A closer look at his music reveals a minor genius, particularly for song; his devastatingly bleak song-cycle The Curlew, to words by WB Yeats was featured in an earlier Lazy Sunday. Here, from the Capriol Suite for string orchestra, the simple, affecting beauty of Pieds-en-l’air, the fifth movement of six.

The rehabilitation of Ralph Vaughan Williams, beginning a couple of decades ago, is almost complete – and he now stands shoulder to shoulder, if not slightly in advance of his great contemporary Elgar. Anybody doubting Elgar’s genius should, as quickly as possible, lend an ear to Gerontius or Falstaff, the Enigma or the ‘Cello Concerto; but even in these great works there is more than a whiff of the sentimentality and triviality of Imperial England, not to mention the bombast. The modalism of RVW expresses an altogether more personal vision with origins in folk song and the vocal polyphony of Tallis and Byrd. And although it is hard to think of anything more winningly melodic than the Serenade to Music, or more intoxicating than the stained-glass beauty of the Tallis Fantasia, the 4th Symphony can pin you to the wall in the same way that Sibelius or Bartok can. A few years ago one of my sons died unexpectedly, and when I was casting around for some suitable music to play at the modest service we put together in a daze (The Lion King theme is apparently very popular), I remembered the quiet, dreamy beauty of Flos Campi, an expressive, six movement pastoral for Viola, wordless Chorus and Orchestra. Along with Norman Blake’s version of ‘You Are My Sunshine’ it ensured the day was a six-hankie job.

The English teacher, critic and composer Herbert Howells also lost a son (Michael, to polio in 1935) and, by most accounts of his life, he never really recovered his composure after this dreadful event, going on to dedicate a number of works to this lost child. He was considered a rather pale reflection of Vaughan Williams, a close friend, until the composition, in the mid-30’s, of Hymnus Paradisi. Still stricken by Michael’s death, the piece lay unperformed for almost twenty years, being first heard at the Three Choirs Festival in 1950 at the urging of RVW. Today we have a close relative of the Hymnus, composed in ’32/’33, the Requiem Aeternam from the sublime Requiem

Another acolyte of RVW was the English composer of the modal school Gerald Finzi and, though a Jew, all of his music has a strong ‘English’ stamp. The best of it has an unforced but deeply felt lyricism that will appeal to lovers of English poetry. There is very little overt drama to be heard, the music being mainly meditative and contemplative. When he died at 56 of Hodgkin’s disease and complications, England lost a still developing major talent. Here we have the early Introit for Violin and Small Orchestra, extracted from a planned Violin Concerto, and played by the LPO conducted by an early champion of Finzi’s music, and English music generally, the greatly under-appreciated Sir Adrian Boult.

This post originally appeared on The Dabbler in November 2011. Mahlerman is away this week, and will return with another new post in a fortnight.

Forgotten Symphonies

Forgotten

This Sunday Mahlerman revives four masterful symphonies that have ‘somehow slipped through the net of recognition and lie, unknown and unloved, on the coroner’s slab’…

If, unlike Igor Stravinsky, you accept that symphonic music is capable of ‘saying something’, you would probably agree that the high point of symphonic music was born in the 18th Century with the symphonies of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. The word ‘symphony’ simply means ‘sounding together’, which helps not at all – but does offer a clue to the universality of the form. To ‘make’ a symphony takes a lot of intellectual rigor from the composer and, collectively, a great deal of perspiration and, eventually inspiration by often up to one hundred people, to turn the dots on the score into aural reality, in a room that will accommodate them and allow space for a paying audience to come and listen. Profit is a word rarely heard in the concert halls of today – and it was ever thus. The struggle we hear in greatest music of Beethoven, the sense that it was hewn out of a rock-face, is a testimony to the effort required to bring it forth – and it galled this heroic master that a lesser talent, Rossini, could make several fortunes with his tuneful operas and overtures, full of froth and fun as they were.

So – is it too fanciful to say that a symphony orchestra playing together seems to be a picture of a society in which every member supports the others? Is it this intangible that keeps intact the mystery of a great symphony, and why it can affect us so profoundly?

Today, in keeping with the spirit of these posts, I would like to suggest a handful of truly masterful symphonies that have somehow slipped through the net of recognition and lie, unknown and unloved, on the coroner’s slab. It is said that all things are possible (except skiing through a revolving door), and perhaps the day will dawn when all seven of the marvellous symphonies of Sir Arnold Bax will fill our concert halls, as those of Gustav Mahler do today (but didn’t fifty years ago) but I, for one, am not holding my breath.

There was much more to the Parisian Paul Dukas than the ubiquitous potboiler L’apprenti sorcier, good though that symphonic poem is. His problem, as with his near-contemporary and next in the alphabet Henri Duparc, was a nervous susceptibility to the influence of other musicians, leading him to seriously underrate his own creative gift and, ultimately, to destroy more compositions than survived him – as did Duparc. The remarkable Symphony in C major, published in 1896 when the composer was just thirty-one, languishes in near total neglect. Here are the last few measures of the languorous second movement Andante espressivo e sostenuto, with the chromatic sound-world of Wagner looming large, but couched in a language that is all his own.

Not quite reaching his half-century in years and, like Dukas, falling under the unmistakable influence of Richard Wagner, another Parisian Alberic Magnard died at the start of the Great War when German invaders set fire to his country house. In the previous year he had completed his opus 21, the grave but magical Symphony No 4 in C sharp minor. But neither this important work, or the three symphonies that came before – or indeed any of this composer’s music, has managed to ‘break through’ either in France or anywhere else; a mystery. The only explanation I can put forward is that while he was alive, and being the son of a powerful newspaper owner, he recoiled from any suspicion of nepotistic influence to the point of paranoia and, by extension, made no effort to promote his own highly original compositions. Here are the closing pages of the third movement, marked Sans lenteur et nuance.

Unless you have a particular affection for music from the frozen wastes of the Baltic, you probably haven’t heard any music by the Estonian Eduard Tubin, and may never even have heard his name uttered, but his eleven symphonies, which form the backbone of his life’s endeavour, are powerful statements, imbued as they are with expansive melody and propulsive rhythms; amazing that such music is never heard in the concert-hall, and rarely recorded. The soundscapes evoked by Tubin’s music are the lonely landscapes of Sibelius, and a certain kinship with the folk idioms of the Hungarian, Bela Bartok – with perhaps a tincture of the Celtic twilights of Bax. His Symphony No 2 in B minor ‘The Legendary’ contains a second movement in ‘arch form’ ( a slow crescendo followed by a decrescendo), which is marked Sostenuto Assai – Grave e Funebre. See if you agree that this is music that should be heard more often than…..never?

The competition for a place in this quartet of nobodies was intense with, from another age, Bizet rubbing shoulders with Dvorak’s son-in-law Suk, a Schmidt against a Schmitt, and a large group already well represented in these pages – Korngold, Myaskovsky, Roussel, Martinu and Honegger. But to include the music of the late (he died last year, age 97) Henri Dutilleux I have had to change my own rules for inclusion (it’s my party..etc). It is not that we never hear his two symphonies, but we don’t hear them nearly enough. Both are unquestioned masterpieces, lying in a direct line from Debussy and Ravel. The Second Symphony is sub-titled ‘Le Double’ with good reason as it is scored, in effect, for two orchestras – one a chamber ensemble sitting directly in front of the conductor, with the main body of the band fanning out in the usual way. From this wonderful work, the last few pages, marked ‘Calmato’, dissolving into nothingness, and giving the lie to Philip Hensher’s unkind remark in the Daily Telegraph that Dutilleux was ‘the Laura Ashley of music’.

Invitation: Richard and Cosima At Home

Richard & Cosima

Richard Wagner was ‘about as detestable as it is possible for a man to be’. And as for Cosima Wagner…

Never thinking for a moment that I would ever use my Sue Ryder Loyalty Card, what did I discover there a few weeks ago but the first volume of Cosima Wagner’s Diaries, published by Collins 36 years ago, and covering the fairly short period between 1869 and 1877. The 1200 odd pages make it not so much a coffee-table book, more a coffee table. What could it tell me about R (as Cosima inscribed him) that I didn’t already know, or could guess? Well, as it turned out, a great deal – and with the second volume covering the period from 1878 until his death in Venice in 1883 (another 1200 pages, and available in all good bookshops), it looks like my summer will comprise just one book and a hernia.

Back in the summer of 2011 I made a rather limp attempt to grasp the essence of Richard Wagner in Tricky Dicky, and was reminded by the evergreen Malty in the Comments that The Ring Cycle was ‘the greatest music drama ever written’, a statement I would struggle to take issue with. What I do struggle with is not all the ‘nazi stuff’ (who cares what music Adolf liked?), nor the appalling behaviour of both these monsters, nor even the rabid anti-semitism that they wallowed in daily, bad as it undoubtedly was – no, what I am unable to square is how Wagner, as Bernard Levin expressed in The Times of 1978 ‘….was surely unique in the breadth of the gap between his measure as an artist and as a man, in which latter capacity he was about as detestable as it is possible for a man to be’. Levin goes on to suggest that we listen to the marvellous Quintet from Act 3 of Die Meistersinger. Can we ‘hear the darkness that runs through its creator’s story?’

That amazing eighty year old recording is close to the dream-team that the old monster might have imagined in his reveries: Elizabeth Schumann, the soprano of the age, sings Eva; the Dane Lauritz Melchoir, the pre-eminent Wagner tenor for thirty years sings Walther, and the central part of Sachs is taken by the great Austro-Hungarian Bass-Baritone Friedrich Schorr, who sang the role over 150 times. The orchestra is the LSO, the conductor John Barbirolli. Wagner heaven.

Of the ‘detestable’ character there is no sign whatever – in fact Meistersinger stands alone in the canon, not just as a comedy, but as perhaps the ultimate expression in music and words of the soundness and goodness of normal human life, and as such it has always presented a problem to the whole-hearted anti-Wagnerians (and there is an army) who simply cannot deny the beauty of workmanship and texture, and the seemingly inexhaustible variety of invention and device; to quote another commentator, there seems to be an ‘almost Haydn-ish ease of composition’.  The opera was first performed in 1868, and by this time Wagner had spent almost 20 years trying to reshape the very pith of opera into something closer to his own ideal of a ‘music drama’, a fusion of poetry, music and (realistic) dramatic elements. This ‘unification’, this gesamtkunstwerk, and the introduction of leitmotifs (essentially, musical motifs, themes, ideas, that can be used to identify people, places etc, as the ‘music drama’ moves forward), was brought to its apogee in the operas that make up the fifteen hour Ring tetralogy, beginning with Das Rheingold.

I should say at this point that I am no fan of ‘newness’ in the staging of Wagner. I have a very clear idea of how these dramas should look as they unfold, and I find myself alongside the great John Culshaw when he suggested that if a producer elects

to portray the first act of Die Walkure as taking place in a modern railroad station, then so far as I am concerned he has already departed so remotely from Wagner’s intentions that he might just as well have Sieglinde played by a boy soprano who is having a homosexual affair with Hunding until he is eventually seduced by his twin transvestite brother Siegmund.

 If, however, you are lucky enough to find yourself in a good seat at Bayreuth, and you know that the producer is not a madman, you are waiting in almost pitch darkness for the conductor (hidden under the cowl of the stage, along with the orchestra) to signal the start of 150 minutes of unbroken drama in four acts. Then, out of the very depths of that darkness, comes the long, ominous, elemental double-bass E flat, the first sound of Das Rheingold, and what the composer remarked, speaking to Franz Liszt, should sound ‘like the beginning of the world’. Played here by the Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Sir Georg Solti, it also suggests depth and, as we move forward water – we are actually in the water, the water of the Rhine of course. Is this magical realism?

A clue to the obsessive, driven nature of this tiny (5’5″) bundle of energy, is a quote from his diary in the period leading up to the composition of Das Rheingold. He had spent the night in a fever of sleeplessness, and forced himself to take a walk in a pine-forest, hoping to find sleep on his return:

it did not come; but I fell into a kind of somnolent state, in which I suddenly felt as though I were sinking in swiftly flowing water. The rushing sound formed itself in my brain into a musical sound, the chord of E-flat major, which continued re-echoed in broken forms; these broken forms seemed to be melodic passages of increasing motion, yet the pure triad of E-flat major never changed, but seemed by its continuance to impart infinite significance to the element in which I was sinking. I awoke in a sudden terror from my doze, feeling as though the waves were rushing high above my head. I at once recognised that the orchestral overture to the Rheingold, which must have long lain latent within me, had at last been revealed to me.

 

At about five hours, the next part of the tetralogy Die Walkure is roughly twice as long as Rheingold. In a way, the listener needs to prepare for it, perhaps by taking the day off before heading to the theatre – the sight of grey-suited business types falling asleep in the second act is quite common. But notwithstanding any of this, Walkure remains by far the most popular element of the Ring Cycle – probably because it contains a number of ‘hits': the Magic Fire music at the end of the opera; Wotan’s moving farewell to his daughter; the so-called Ride of the Valkyries at the start of Act 3 – and, in Act 2, Wotan’s lengthy monologue, an acting and singing examination that tests the very best. But perhaps the most transcendentally beautiful moment comes in Act 1, with Siegmund’s aria ‘Wintersturme’, a paean to his growing love for his twin sister Sieglinde. With adultery and incest just across the glade, one might imagine more disturbing sounds, but no – what we get is the innocent beauty of arguably the finest love music Wagner ever wrote, sung here by the great Canadian tenor (now retired) Ben Heppner, recording the piece in Dresden with the Staatskapelle.


So, ‘Richard & Cosima at Home’, the invitation that nobody in their right mind would want to receive. She, daughter of another mountebank, Franz Liszt, married the conductor Hans von Bulow and, almost immediately, began an affair with Wagner that, whilst she was still married to von Bulow, produced two children and the seed of a third. He, pleading his adoration of her from the outset, can be found writing a lecherous letter to another lover a few days later, this mistress being the daughter of a Viennese pork butcher (‘I hope your pink drawers are ready, too’). I will only get the measure of this appalling couple when I have swallowed ‘Act 2′ of Cosima’s Diaries, and digested the horrors. The genius of Richard is almost beyond dispute. For Cosima there seems to be no such salvation, save the fact that her life up until the moment she met Wagner appears, in retrospect, to be a leading up to that fateful meeting and the 14 year union that followed; and the 47 years that she lived after Wagner’s death, were simply devoted to keeping the flame of his genius alive. In short, she devoted her life to R, and for that she earns a modicum of grudging respect from this writer.