Some possibly unwritten books I want to read

I’ve been reading a lot lately, and mostly it has been a disappointment — and how can it not be, generally.  I won’t mention the books (no point hurting you by showing you my wounds), but how I wish I could read well-written books by intelligent/not-ideologically-minded persons from time to time.

And how about — on these topics:

1.  The Haydn-Mozart quartets.  Something not musicological.  Something about Mozart as a person, Haydn as a person, their professional lives, their aspirations, their friendship, the new art form of the string quarter (Goethe: “Four intelligent people talking together”), and what it was like for Haydn and Mozart to develop this new art-form; how they struggled as men, lovers, husbands, professionals and yet, in another dimension altogether, how their life had another deeper, secret meaning, appreciated only by those in the know:  that of a composer who broke new ground, developed new ideas, presented and solved new problems; and how their takes on the string quartet reveal their personalities; and how Mozart’s Nos. 15-19 respond to Haydn’s op. 20 and how Haydn’s op. 33 in turn respond to Mozart’s.  I have been listening to them now these 3 years and forever find much surprising depth in them — intelligence, wit, polish, yes, but also so much intricate, innovative thinking; just take op. 20 no. 4 1st movement with the shocking arpeggio and all its false reprises, how very odd, how very special.

(Btw, if you are just beginning in the field, then the recordings to listen to are:  Haydn’s op. 20 – by the Lindsays; Mozart’s 15-19 — by Aban Berg; and Haydn’s op. 33 — by The Borodin).

2.  The Paris 1900 World Expo.  The largest, the most ruinous, and therefore the last of the world expos; ended in a spectacular bankruptcy; featured grand palaces by all major nations of the world built in a kind of Potemkin Village material; a human zoo; Japanese pavillion with geishas; a two-speed moving sidewalk which circum-ambulated the place; and the Balinese dance troupe which Rodin was unable to draw (like he was unable to draw/sculpt everything else) and — what that troupe’s success tells us about high brow art (that it’s does not rise from the folk art, it is not particular to a culture but — to a kind of brain — to some of us, the unlucky few who have drawn it as their birth lottery-ticket; and how for us it is universal, undivided by languages and borders).  And the first showcasing of Art Nouveau, too.

If you can suggest titles – could be in other languages, shout.  If no one can, perhaps someone could write these books, please?

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8 responses

  1. Hey, glad to see you are around!

    Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style is about as close as I can think of in response to your first request, although it’s very much on the musicological side. But this actually sounds like a book that should be written, even if it hasn’t yet!

    May 17, 2013 at 18:18

    • Yeah, I specifically meant Rosen when I said “non-musicological”. I’m fond of chatty books like “Mozart in Vienna” and “Chopin in Paris” and — a kind of musical version of Vermeer’s Hat, if you know what I mean. Glad to have you around, Sir A. How’s The Life Of The German Scholar?

      May 18, 2013 at 09:22

  2. I figured you meant Rosen, but he’s really not so bad. I think between The Classical Style and The Sonata Forrms, you’d have something close to what you are asking for. And details aren’t so bad, are they?

    The life of a German scholar is impoverished and unrewarding. But I suppose that was all I could expect!

    May 21, 2013 at 00:15

    • I would not dream of knocking Rosen — good, solid, no nonsense musicology — and a good read too; but it is my fervent wish to read a book about what it was like to be Haydn and Mozart, to be friends with each other, and to engage in that wonderful exchange; a book about being a man who happens to be a composer, too, and how being composer sometimes… kind of… takes over. Have been going through Kodaly’s complete recordings, which contains the only passable recordings of op. 1, 2 and 9 ever and have just been taken aback with how interesting that music is; and emotionally rich, into the bargain, without being in the least bit rude or obscene or in any sense perverted. An intelligent person speaking, indeed! How do you suppose did these miracles come about? Do you imagine, like me, Haydn taking an afternoon walk and composing — “playing” an “hearing” in his mind op. 1 no. 4? One could make a beautiful film about it, in the best Kaplanoglu school: slow, silent, with much slow, unfocused gazing, of a beautifully dressed young man composing while walking in the park and looking up at the clouds.

      Regarding German scholarship… the problem isn’t so much scholarship, I feel, as… Germans. As an Italian (or French, or Polish, for that matter) scholar you would be just as financially impoverished but at least you’d be dealing with (on the whole) wholesome literatures. (OK, maybe not entirely in the case of French scholarship, I grant). Have you considered the following project: translating Hoffmansthal’s dialogues? (Like the one about a new book I summarized here). It is amazing to think that they have never been englished while his awful crowdpleaser operas and dramas (all written to impress the god-awful Richard Strauss) — multiple times!

      May 21, 2013 at 12:18

  3. Speaking of chatty books, Beaumarchais in Seville is very entertaining. Regarding cultural impact of 1900 Paris and keeping in line with previous rants about academic books, you’ll probably be better off with a good selection of academic papers.

    Good to see you back. I see you have found the land of *my* ancestors. Thanks to the Portalegre digital archives, I recently was able to track back 12 generations of mostly Alentejo peasants…

    May 22, 2013 at 11:41

    • “good selection of academic” — with stress on “good”

      re alentejo – see next post and weep

      May 26, 2013 at 07:56

  4. Actually, my girlfriend is translating some Hofmannsthal right now! He’s her speciality, actually, and so I will ask her about that!

    I have to say, I really like this idea about the Haydn/Mozart book. I have also long wondered about that, the idea of the two of them playing string quartets at some party and then drinking wine or beer afterwards, laughing at it all, and then going home and writing some eternal music – can you imagine?

    May 23, 2013 at 12:56

    • There is a successful hassler aspect to Hoffmansthal’s persona that I’m not all that keen on; much of the Strauss-related production comes in this marketing-oriented vein – a kind of intellectualized soft-porn, really. I guess you can’t be all things to all people. But his dialogues are very fine. Not in position to judge the poetry of Loris.

      Wow, so you have a gf now. Good going, Sir A. Me – I think I’m over the hill. :)

      Haydn and Mozart… probably beer, I imagine. Unless it was Tokaj – pretty horrid stuff. :)

      May 26, 2013 at 07:11

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