Page 10, 8th July 1938

8th July 1938
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Music

CRITICISM OF A CRITIC

Some Apparent Discrepancies

By

Ernest Moss

Mr. W. J. Turner deserves to be the least understood of music critics. His taste and judgment are admirable.

But he won't or can't discipline himself to a suiRcient elaboration of statement. Moreover, his conscious air of exceptional authoritarian discernment, which personally I find pleasant enough, evidently annoys some people; and the Music and Letters reviewer of his recently published book on Mozart (Gollancz, 16s.) uses a lot of space for grumbling about this mannerism, while failing to make out a substantial ease against Mr. Turner's opinions. Mr. Turner of all people can least afford an unsympathetic inattention.

His habits of understatement give rise in this new book to a number of apparent contradictions.

Thus on p.119 he says : " That Wolfgang before his fifteenth birthday had succeeded in Mitridate in composing an opera at least as good as those of the majority of contemporary mature Italian masters is abundantly clear from the unquestionable success of the work with the public."

On p. 191 he quotes with approval a statement of 1788 that "Kozeluck's works hold their own and are everywhere acceptable, but Mozart's are not by any means so popular."

Again, on p. 320, he says: " There is no waste' in Mozart—no overlapping, no exaggeration, n o

No Waste strain, no vagueness, in Mozart no distortion, no sug

gestion. He is so pure that he seems often meaningless. His music disappears, like the air we breathe on a transparent day . . . Such a day does not provoke or in the faintest degree suggest one mood rather than another."

On p. 359 he says: " Music only achieves reality when, like nature, it is an organism with an inner life of its own which we can apprehend because it is connected with oars, or, in other words, has a meaning -for us."

On p. 349 (about an essay on Mozart by Kierkegaard): ". . . music can express many differences and Not Argument, extremely subtle ones. But Persuasion Surely the distinction is that music can express differences in mood, feeling, character, but not in intellectual concepts as such, i.e., music is not argument though it may be persuasioe."

On p. 333, of Cosi fan Tutte; "He has written for this opera the most tender, poignant, intensely dramatic and powerful music of which he was capable. He has made every character real, pulsing with life, and has given to each one all the emotions proper to such experiences as young love, the anguish of separation, the horror of Infidelity, the ruthlessness of nature, the unexpectedness of one's Own natural behaviour, the tortures of jealousy and the differences in human characters even when fundamentally they are subject to the same iron laws of nature."

This last would be overwhelmingly impressive if we knew that Mr. Turner had worked backwards from the music to the libretto. But in any case it is clear that in order to associate it correctly with the other quotations we must know with more exactitude his meanings of meaning.

Next week we will deal with another and far more important class of apparent discrepancies. For on the solution depends the motive and justification of the entire book.

Meanwhile, I draw the attention of readers to the forthcoming festival of ancient chamber music at Haslemere, July I8 to 30. The seventh concert is devoted to Mr. Arnold Dolmetsch's own music and celebrates his 80th birthday.




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