Page 10, 25th November 1938

25th November 1938
Page 10
Page 10, 25th November 1938 — Music

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Public Cinema

Page 16 from 27th September 1935


Because the English try to be French and Italian and German instead of themselves opera is unsuccessful here


Ernest Moss

ItNEST NEWMAN, with characteristic aggressiveness, is fighting his old battle of race and nationality in music again. To some of us his opponents seem to be the shadowy figments of his own imagination. The reason opera isn't a success in England, he says, is because the English try to be French and Italian and German instead of themselves. "I attach special importance to the question of native works because, as the experience of every other nation shows, it is only out of an art-form stemming straight out of the totality of a nation's own mentality and culture that a truly national style of performance can be evolved . . . We can no more escape from our own nationality than we can . . . I jump over our own shadow t would be of immense good to our native singers to be able to exercise their minds for a few years on a succession of fine native works, for through these they would discover their real selves, which will always be impossible to them so long as they have to pretend tonight that they are German, tomorrow French, the next day Italian, and the day after that Russian, with the feeling all the while at the back of their minds that they are being forced to perform a number of tricks for which nature never constructed them." Again, " If the operatic German cannot sing or think like an Italian or Frenchman, it is unreasonable to Criticism—A expect an operatic Simple Matter Englishman to sing or think like the natives of every other country in Europe." Criticism along such lines is a very simple matter. Newman (who, as we know, likes his music to be richly turgid) disapproves of Stravinsky's Dumbarton Oaks. The reason of Stravinsky's downfall is because of " the mish-mash of styles that have afflicted the talented Russian composer since he ceased to renew himself in Mother Volga."

We might ask Mr. Newman what, in brass-tack terms, are the characteristics of the musical " cultures" of Frenchmen, Italians, Germans, etc. If he were an honest man he would say " since I cannot think like a Frenchman, etc., it is impossible to be clear about any culture' other than tny own."

Instead of this, as we saw some time ago, Mr. Newman tells " one of the most most gifted of living Newman German musicolo Tells Us . . gists, Dr. Ernst Bilcken " that his interpretation of the characteristics of the German '• culture " is completely topsyturvy. Nevertheless, Mr. Newman confesses: " I use the term ' Nordic ' for convenience sake, without implying that 1 or anyone else knows precisely what it means in terms of sober science." It might be expected, at the very least, if a particular national " culture " is allimportant, that it would be sufficiently homogeneous to be intelligible to the majority of the nationals. The constant diversity of taste in all countries, the multiplicity of " schools " suggest, then, that no nation has succeeded in expressing its " culture " adequately in terms of intmlc. Points like this, Mr. Newman is bound to ignore. He cannot maintain his shadowy opponents if he sub "Sober jects them to the Science" illumination of "sober science." A n d if Italians are on the whole better suitc I physiologically to sing coloratura than Germans, are we to deprive the latter of coloratura joys because they can't produce them themselves? Are we to stop a man enjoying the fiddle because he can't play it? Mr. Newman's answer, of course, is that the German's can't " think " coloratura.

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