Monday, April 26, 2010

Everything is Connected

Daniel Barenboim (born 1942 )
Just finished reading Daniel Barenboim's 'Everything is connected', (Phoenix paperback 2009) a collection of essays about music. I've long rated Barenboim's performances of Mozart's piano concerto's as the most enjoyable and perceptive interpretation of all available recordings, even though dating from the late 1960's and 70's, his recordings remain quite simply the creme de la creme. His much later recording of the Bach Preludes and Fugues 'The Well-tempered Klavier' is also superb, from the opening bars of the well-known Prelude in C major, at quite a fast tempo; apparently its his usage of the sustain pedal on the piano, a feature not available in Bach's day which makes his interpretation of the Well-tempered Klavier so refined in phrasing, unlike Glenn Gould's equally revolutionary recordings of Bach on piano.

In any event, upon listening to Barenboim perform one immediately recognizes a musician of infinite sensitivity and profound perception, as well as being technically brilliant, skills acquired from a life-times professional involvement in music as both a pianist and conductor. And perhaps its in the less common role of pianist/conductor which makes Barenboim's recordings of the Mozart piano concerto's particularly fine. Just as Mozart presumably would have performed himself.

I could never articulate anything quite like the wonderful things that Barenboim (born 1942) has stated about music, except perhaps for occasional phrases such as, 'the so-called 'little g minor' symphony by Mozart (K183) is his teenage temper tantrum symphony'. I like his observations upon the laughing, golden boy of Classical music. Here's a few quotations which strike me as worth sharing.

Barenboim On Music

'What is, ultimately, perhaps the most difficult lesson for a human being - learning to live with discipline yet with passion, with freedom yet with order - is evident in any single phrase of music'.

'The availability of recordings and films of concerts and operas stands in inverse proportion to the poorness of musical knowledge and understanding prevalent in our society. The current state of public education is responsible for a population that is able to listen to almost any piece of music at will, but unable to concentrate on it fully'.

'The power of music lies in its ability to speak to all aspects of the human being - the animal, the emotional, the intellectual, and the spiritual. How often we think that personal, social and political issues are independent, without influencing each other. From music we learn that this is an objective impossibility; there simply are no independent elements. Logical thought and intuitive emotions must be permanently united. Music teaches us, in short, that everything is connected'.

'Music and religion share a common preoccupation with the relationship between human beings, and between man and the universe. Involvement with music requires a permanent search for a whole in spite of the infinite diversity in any particular work; in religion this has its parallel in the individual's striving for oneness with the Creator. Religion, though, is primarily concerned with man's relationship to the universe, whereas Western classical music is more interested in exploring the depth of the individual's existence and , as such, is termed secular. Both music and religion, though, grapple in essence with the paradox of the finite being's attempt to become infinite. the composer with the greatest ability to transcend this paradox was Bach, whose works, sacred as well as secular, are suffused with both piety and a deep respect for the individual'.

Barenboim On Bach

'Why did Bulow describe Das wohltemperierte Klavier as the Old Testament? What is the Old Testament? On the one hand it is the narrative of a people and its experiences. On the other it is a compilation of thoughts about life on this earth, love, ethics, morals and human qualities. Thoughts on the experience of the past provide a statement about the present and also a lesson for the future, showing thoughtful people where and how they can find their own way. That is what the Old Testament means to me, as does every masterpiece, including Das wohltemperierte Klavier . It makes a statement about everything that preceded it in music. It makes a statement about music in the time of Bach. But it also indicates the direction music might take as it develops - as indeed it has developed.....In other words Das wohltemperierte Klavier is not only the sum of everything that has preceded it, but also points the way ahead. In the history of European music there are very few composers to whose works that applies. This is one of the reasons for the towering stature of Bach's music'.

Barenboim On Mozart

'Mozart says, that nothing in life is inherently moral, immoral, amoral, unless the human being makes something moral, immoral, or amoral out of it'.

'Mozart was the first pan-European. He spoke many languages, German, Italian and French'.

'Mozart says greatness, sensuality, what else? Mozart points at us, at you and me. And has a much deeper, much broader, understanding of human nature than we can come up with today. That's what makes him so strange to us'.

'Beethoven strives towards heaven, Mozart is from heaven'.

'If there's something we can learn from Mozart today, then its not to take everything so horribly seriously'.

'Mozart just shows that feelings are fragile. I love you - but I love you as well'.

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