Monday 16 March 2009

Roger Scruton on Beauty

Saw this in The Times today, didn't read it at all properly and thought I should have a look again. He wrote some interesting stuff on music in his 'Aesthetics' book. At least he knows some music.

It certainly seems to be true that without Christianity (Bach was a Lutheran OK, my one concession to ecumenism, if only he'd lived in Bavaria...) people cannot create beautiful music.

Tomorrow, I will be playing in a performance of a mishmash of religious, historical and cultural allusions bound together by repetitive, trite sub minimalist motifs. Trash.

I want Beethoven 9, The Missa Solemnis (and people say he was a weird Catholic, go listen to the Benedictus Violin solo,) or even the Brahms German Requiem (a miserable agnostic Lutheran.)

At least the viola part is easy. One movement I swear I play the same 16 bars five times and it's not even fast. So from the, 'Do I need to worry about this and do some practice?' perspective it's top stuff. As a piece of music, it's really making me angry.

To bed.
NB Viola jokes in the com box will be dealt with swiftly and ruthlessly.


Mulier Fortis said...

Oooooooh... do you know any good viola jokes then??

(Go on... you know you want to!)

Ches said...

I could quite happily leave most of Bach to one side, but give me Brahms's 'Requiem' all day long, especially 'Herr, lehre doch mich' or 'Denn alles Fleisch'.

Jane said...

Leutgeb! Viola jokes?!! Now, what on earth CAN you mean?!!!!!

Off to look for Byrd or Lassus 'Justorum animae' to link on my blog to mark Fr Sham's funeral today.


Ben Trovato said...

You think viola jokes are bad... you should try being a balding middle aged ex-drummer and even more ex viola player...

berenike said...

I wonder if preferring Brahms' Requiem to Bach is like preferring sexual relations withe people of the same sex - a disorder, the afflicted by which need to learn to get on with life cheerfully as the rest of us get on with our physical-psychological-life situation-mental handicaps. THat is, carrying on cheerfully without assenting to any of the disordered acts to which our handicaps incline us, and attempting to train them out where possible. Not by indulging them, and playing Brahms more than Bach. Eurgh.

leutgeb said...


interesting analogy, though Brahms is a great composer.

The slow movement of the Violin Concerto. I rest my case. (horn case obviously.)

The St Anthony Variations. What beautiful treatment of melody and orchestration. He was a sensitive bunny, (with huge hands and a big beard.)

The Requiem is cool too and has no violins in the first movement, striking a blow in the viola quest for orchestral domination.

I heard it in Lourdes last May. (where else?) Went to a concert after the Procession expecting Russian Orthodox music and got Brahms. Thought the pianist was doing grand job playing all those notes and then realised it was four hands at one piano. Oops! They were very good and it was standing room only.

berenike said...

You see how the disordered will affects the judgement of the intellect? Your viola-playing is inclining you to Brahms. After all, wasn't it Brahms who said "ich habe euch Bratschen zu Mensch gemacht" (except possibly in better German, I read thsi qutoe a loooooong time ago).

Ches said...

On the contrary, Berenike, Brahms's romantic lyricism recovers some of the depth of soul which gets lost in the creaking, organ billowing, melodically ranting, I'm-justified-in-the-Lord smugness of Bach.

In fact, if you insist on your odious comparison, I'd retort that preferring Bach to Brahms is tantamount to preferring the powerful to the humble - which, itself, is an inexorable mark of the Pandemonium (a word which comes from High German and means 'the music of JS Bach') ;-)

leutgeb said...

What have I started? Composer Wars?

berenike said...

Au contraire, my froggily inclined friend. Bach was an artificer, an honest craftsman, whose music uses the restraints of convention as a ladder to heaven.

The Romantic is the artist who will not serve, romanticism the substitution of the sublime for the good and the beautiful.

Ben Trovato said...

Stop bickeiring! Instead, go out and buy a copy of Classic, Romantic and Modern (Jaques Barzun) which will shed great light on all this (though it's mainly about literature - but you are clever enough to read across to music.)

Ches said...

Berenike, you appear to be implying that sublime is not good, which is surely shome mishtake for a Scot to make. As for Bach, only when provoked do I struggle to cope with the Ikea-assembly features of certain conventions. On the other hand, that thing he wrote for the Hamlet cigar advert was priceless ;-)

leutgeb said...

Composers compared to furniture?

This reminds me of when a colleague and I used to play synaesthesia in the corridor when classes were lining up.

What colour is C major?


Wrong. It's yellow.
Or Magnolia acording to my HoD who wouldn't really play the game. Boring.

We extended this in the Common Room to composers and food.

Bruckner 9 is mulled wine in December. Strickly speaking only that lush second subject in the first movement. The rest of it you are outside without a coat. By the last movement it's driving rain and pretty miserable. No mulled wine, either. A wet park bench.

So Bach, Brahms, Debussy which colours, textures, food and furniture are they?

PS If some of my pupils would stick to my IKEA assembly instructions for Bach Chorales, rather than thinking they could sneek some crimes against harmony past me, I'd be very happy.