Article, History, Music, Poetry

IS GREAT MUSIC THE WORK OF DIVINITY OR COMPOSERS

Many great European musicians believed that they were merely copyists for a Divine Spirit. Arguably the greatest musician of all, Ludwig van Beethoven refused to take credit for his music. For those of a mystical frame of mind, there is much to ponder on. How do you describe something you cannot see? How did Beethoven create the most beautiful orchestrations of his music whilst unable to hear?

Beethoven’s passing in 1827 is threaded with mystery. As the Reaper embraced this shabbily dressed irascible genius there broke over the Viennese night the most violent and terrifying electrical storm. The city cowered as thunder and lightning split the heavens. Beethoven, lying semi-conscious on his bed, was heard to murmur, ‘I shall hear in Heaven’. The great master raised his arm as though to salute and departed. As his soul departed, the storm immediately began to abate.

Great Europeans

His funeral cortège brought Vienna to a halt. Schools and businesses closed and upwards of 30,000 people lined the streets to pay homage. Among the throngs was the great Franz Schubert who was to follow the great master to the grave just 12-months later.

The renowned Irish flautist James Galway is adamant that the edge to his virtuosity is sharpened by God’s guidance. When discussing his ambitions Galway agreed that they were limited: ‘They are merely that I should leave good memories behind me; that people should feel when they recall my name, that in some odd inexplicable way, they have at some time heard the voice of the Infinite through me.’

Mozart

Ludwig van Beethoven was just twelve years old when his virtuosity inspired his kindly mentor, Christian Gottlob Neefe, to present the talented child to the Elector of Cologne, Maximilian Franz: ‘He is, I believe, touched with genius.’

‘Quite a word to use of one so young,’ said the Elector: ‘You must not let this go to your head, young man,’ he added looking directly at Ludwig.

Ludwig spoke in a firm, clear voice: ‘Sir. I have a gift that people say comes from God. I believe that to be true.’

The tremendous storm that consumed Vienna at the time of Beethoven’s spirit readying itself to leave his life-form may be dismissed as coincidence. Yet a similar freak of Nature occurred as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s hearse trundled to his final resting place:

‘The hearse, with the few mourners, then proceeded to St Mark’s churchyard, but before the burial place was reached a terrific storm of snow and rain burst overhead, and with one accord the mourners turned back and left the hearse to proceed alone.

And thus the master, of whom it was prophesied that he would cause all others (composers) to be forgotten, was left to be buried by the hands of strangers in a pauper’s grave, without even a stone to mark where he was laid,’ wrote Francis Jameson Rowbotham.

When Beethoven arrived in Vienna for the first time, he looked forward to meeting yet another great musician; Wolfgang Mozart. Music, he thought, the highest art, coming directly from God. How many men have such a calling?

‘Mozart makes you believe in God, much more than going to Church, because it cannot be by chance that such a phenomenon arrives into this world and then passes after thirty-six years, leaving behind such an unbounded number of unparalleled masterpieces,’ says Sir Georg Solti, Classical Conductor.

‘It is already a great thing if the main ideas and general outline of work come without any racking of brains, as the result of that supernatural and inexplicable the force we call inspiration.’ ~ Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

‘The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.’  ~ Johann Sebastian Bach 21 III 1685 – 28 VII 1750.

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‘Supreme serenity still remains the Ideal of great Art. The shapes and transitory forms of life are but stages toward this Ideal, which Christ’s religion illuminates with His divine light. I did not compose my work as one might put on a church vestment. Rather it sprung from the truly fervent faith of my heart, such as I have felt it since my childhood.’ ~ Franz Liszt. Artur Schnabel

 Described Franz Schubert as ‘the composer nearest to God.’ Beethoven evidently agreed: ‘Truly, the spark of Divine genius resides in this Schubert.’

Half an hour before he died he (Dinu Lipatti) was listening to records of Beethoven’s F minor Quartet. To his wife, he said: ‘You see, it is not enough to be a great composer. To write music like that you must be a chosen instrument of God.’

‘It seems as though God gave me a cheerful heart, so I’m sure He’ll forgive me if I serve Him cheerfully. Whenever I think of God I can only conceive of Him as a being infinitely great and infinitely good. This last quality of the divine nature inspires me with such confidence and joy that I could have written even a Miserere in tempo allegro.’ Joseph Haydn

Giacomo Puccini: ‘God touched me with his finger and said ‘write for the theatre, mind you – only for the theatre’… and I’ve been faithful to this supreme command.’

On composing Messiah, (Georg) Handel is said to have remarked (1741): ‘I did think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God Himself.’ On another occasion, Handel whilst writing the Messiah, when speaking to a servant at the hotel in which he was staying: ‘Once he had finished the hallelujah chorus he spoke to the servant, ‘the Lord spoke to me and hath said ‘Twas not I who wrote this but on accord of Him. Whether I was in my body or out of my body as I wrote it I know not. God knows.’

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Richard Wagner, the doyen of the anti-Globalist (Bolshevik) worldwide community: ‘I am being used as an instrument for something higher than my own warrants. I am in the hands of the Immortal Genius I serve for the span of my life and his intention that I complete only what I can achieve.’

Wagner on another occasion: ‘An atheistic upbringing is fatal. No atheist has ever created anything of great and lasting value.’

‘How do you think of those lovely melodies?’ asked a female admirer of Charles Gounod: The master replied: ‘God, Madame, sends me down some of his angels and they whisper sweet melodies in my ear.’

Brahms

Johannes Brahms, ‘I know several young composers who are atheists. I have read their scores, and I assure you, Joseph, that they are doomed to speedy oblivion because they are utterly lacking in inspiration. Their works are purely cerebral. No atheist has ever been or ever will be a great composer.’

Walter Legge, the impresario was later to remark of Dinu Lipatti: ‘by the same light we may say it is not enough to be a great pianist: To play as Dinu Lipatti played you must be a chosen instrument of God. God lent the world His chosen instrument that we called Dini Lipatti for too brief a space.’

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, the renowned Italian Classical Pianist: ‘I’m nothing but a priest of god’s music.’

‘Life was a much-uncomplicated thing to him. Instead of turmoil or neuroticism or dark brooding, we encounter simple and sincere piety, such as only the deeply religious man is capable of,’ was a writer’s observation of Antonin Dvorak Czech composer.

‘That (Anton) Bruckner felt inspired by God is to state the obvious. In addition to the vocal religious works, he dedicated his 9th Symphony ‘To our Beloved God’ (although it’s said that he modestly appended ‘if He’ll accept it’).

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Anton Bruckner did make it clear that he also considered his view of the Day of Judgement as part of his perspective.

‘They want me to write differently. Certainly, I could, but I must not. God has chosen me from thousands and given me, of all people, this talent. It is to Him that I must give account. How then would I stand there before Almighty God, if I followed the others and not Him?’ – Anton Bruckner.

Mireille Mathieu, the vestal virgin of popular music, throughout her life believed she worked with Our Lord. Her motto was, ‘My God and my Work’.

Amália Rodrigues

Amalia Rodriguez was an international singing sensation in the mid-20th Century: ‘Even if He doesn’t exist, I believe in Him.’

Her words were echoed more or less by many others, including Placido Domingo, the greatest of contemporary tenors: ‘I thank God, music and the public for making this possible.’

‘The greatest classical Spanish guitarist of all time, Andres Segovia had said of (John) Williams: ‘A Prince of the Guitar has arrived in the musical world. God has laid a finger on his brow, and it will not be long before his name becomes a byword in England and abroad, thus contributing to the spiritual domain of his race.’

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When asked where his talent came from, Herbert von Karajan, the Austrian-German musician and conductor was forthright: ‘I was given special tools, special talents. I never had any doubts that my talents came from the Creator. My duty to Him is to exploit them to the fullest. My ambition is to make music as perfectly as possible and reach as many people as possible.

You don’t need faith to believe in God, because there are plenty of signs available of His existence. Mozart wrote a symphony as a child. Heredity cannot account for this. There is only one explanation: the Creator chooses people as His instruments to produce some beauty in a world that is all too ugly.

‘We see and hear him now (von Karajan) at the height of his powers, superbly able to keep a Bruckner symphony spinning not like a top but rather like some celestial sphere, massive, glowing, and infused with cosmic power,’ wrote Denis Stevens describing the final von Karajan recording of Bruckner’s 7th Symphony in April 1989. The maestro of maestros passed peacefully on three months later.

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Article, Music, Poetry

IF YOU’VE GOT IT FLAUNT IT

On-going debate about the distraction of social media and television has much merit. But, it is our weakness if such takes too much of our time up. I wonder, having watched a favourite programme, will we ever glow from the satisfaction of having ourselves created something of enduring pleasure.

I spend too much time on Facebook; I enjoy the cut and thrust of social activity that crosses the world’s frontiers.

However, I must admit to being torn as to how I spend my leisure time. Like many others I have been given a gift; mine is creative writing, which I enjoy immensely.

A Latvian friend would spend hour after happy hour crocheting the most beautiful garments. I know of at least one church where her work performs its task as a sacred altar cloth. Her crocheting provides lasting pleasure and earns her high praise.

Many people hide their gifts as if they are ashamed or perhaps consider it vain to mention them. My profession meant my making home visits. Often, my attention would be caught by a photograph or artwork, a figurine or an item of clothing.

My expression asked the questions. Often, the shy reply would be, “it’s one of mine.”

I recall a 2 x 1 metre bevelled mirror that depicted an etched image of the RMS Titanic lunging out of the Atlantic as it collided with the iceberg. The etching was so breath-taking in its drama and beauty that I never forgot it. Yet, it was the work of a young glass engraver.

An acquaintance created an exact replica from sculptor’s clay of the church one was married in. I met a lady who applied her skills by turning enamelled dolls into imitations of one’s daughter. A young pianist composed her own melodies.

A was awestruck by personally created wedding dresses, hand-crafted furniture, carved figurines, paintings, photographic art, and replicas of everything from model ships to busts. Without question, each artefact was up to art gallery or museum standard. However, those with the greatest gifts tend to be the most quietly spoken.

Impressed by the skills and patience of their creators I was even more impressed by their creators’ blasé response to praise.

I am sorry I never pursued the idea. It occurred to me that if I were to book a local hall there would be an opportunity to showcase works of art created by the town’s most gifted citizens. I am sure the hall’s booking fee would be modest. Imagine the thrill of sharing one’s gifts with those you rub shoulders with every day.

Article, Music, Poetry

THE BARREL ORGAN PLAYED

He took the book down from its shelf,
The page was one-o-three,
The barrel organ in the street,
Its air was ‘What’s to be?’
The poet turned a page or two,
His eye fell on the scene,
Such mourning brought the land to grieve,
The cortège brought their Queen.
.
The poet turned another leaf,
He wept at what he saw;
The page was 1914,
And the story told of war.
Europe’s youth like wheat they fell,
Scythed and reaped for what,
That blood be turned to rich man’s gold,
And I’ll forget-them-not.
.
The poet thought to close the book,
He trembled then he sighed,
Perhaps he knew that times had changed,
That truth had also died.
Sad the bard resumed to read,
Where now his world would go;
He turned the page but knew at heart,
He’d see more tears flow.
.
The poet turned to time and place,
The barrel organ played,
Again the air, ‘What is to be?’
And once more mothers prayed;
The sheep are shorn, the wolves set free,
How soon the bullet flies,
Boys will sleep in homes of clay,
They’re buried under lies.
.

Michael Walsh Poetry

SANTA AMAZON TO THE RESCUE

Article, Music, Poetry

DMITRY HVOROSTOVSKY SUPER STAR

Dmitri Hvorostovsky has died at the age of 55 following a lengthy illness. In late June 2015, the singer, who has lived in London for many years, announced that he was suffering from a brain tumor. Dmitri Hvorostovsky died in London at 3:36 am London time, RIA Novosti reports, citing Russian musician Dmitry Malikov. His family has confirmed his passing.

After his opera debut in “The Queen of Spades” by Tchaikovsky in Nice in 1989, Hvorostovsky was invited to perform at the world’s best opera houses and participate in recognized opera festivals such as the Royal Theater of Covent Garden (London, UK), Metropolitan Opera (New York, USA), Paris Opera, Bavarian State Opera (Munich, Germany), La Scala (Milan, Italy), the Vienna State Opera and the Salzburg Festival.

Vanity Fair summed the Siberian baritone up by describing the silver-haired opera star thus; “He is sending aficionados the world over into a collective swoon.” W Magazine described the velvet-voiced singer as ‘opera’s reigning, and perhaps its one and only hunk.”

The periodical should stick to vacuous celebrity gossip, reviews and pictures. The world of operas is globally renowned for ethnic-European drop-dead-gorgeous sopranos, tenors and baritones. But never mind that, October 16 marks the 55th birthday of arguably the most famous baritone in recording history.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky was born and studied in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia. Audiences the world over are intrigued by the baritone’s platinum-coated voice, innate sense of musical line and natural legato. The outstanding singer has appeared at Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, Paris Opera, Bayerische Staatsoper Munich, Salzburg Festival, La Scala Milan, Vienna State Opera and Chicago Lyric Opera.

A celebrated recitalist in demand in every corner of the globe, from the Far East to the Middle East, from Australia to South America, Dmitri has appeared at Wigmore Hall, London; Carnegie Hall, New York; the Teatro alla Scala, Milan; the Tchaikovsky Conservatoire, Moscow; the Liceu, Barcelona; the Suntory Hall, Tokyo; and the Musikverein, Vienna.

Dmitri retains a strong musical and personal contact with Russia. He became the first opera singer to give a solo concert with orchestra and chorus on Red Square in Moscow. This outstanding event was televised in over 25 countries.

Known by the company one keeps, his co-stars and friends include celebrated artists Renée Fleming, Anna Netrebko, Barbara Frittoli, Elina Garanca, Sumi Jo, Sondra Radvanovsky, Jonas Kaufmann, Marcello Giordani and Ildar Abdrazakov.

Recently it was reported that the acclaimed opera star had passed away. The reports, carried on the BBC News website, were completely without foundation. Some months ago, Dmitri asked all media not to circulate any reports about his health that did not originate from himself or his family. The artist, 54, is receiving treatment for brain cancer.

NEZHNOST’ (TENDERNESS)

Earth is empty when you’re not around;
Minutes flow like hours, and hours like days.
Still, the orchard leaves keep falling down,
And the cabs keep rushing on their ways.
Oh, how empty has the world become without you.
And you, you keep flying, and stars
Share with you all their tenderness . . .

In the age when partings rule the world,
Life is tougher yet for those who stay,
For to wait is harder than to risk
For the billion stars dividing us.

As the radiation storm is raging below,
I still feel you down there on Earth
Sending me all your tenderness . . .

Article, Music, Poetry

IMAGINATION vs. REALITY

“A man of ordinary talent will always be ordinary, whether he travels or not. But a man of superior talent will go to pieces if he remains forever in the same place.” ~ Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

There is a man who should know for Mozart was an avid traveller. In this one respect, I am in perfect harmony with Europe’s most famous musician. As a youngster, I gazed across the sea’s horizon. As I whiled away an hour or so I allowed my imagination to let me see things I hoped to one day experience.

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Later, whilst in pursuit of my dreams, I was fortunate enough to make friends in the cantinas of Latin America and knock ‘em back in Melbourne.

As my feet went forward they took me to the admittedly seedy bars scattered along Durban’s waterfront. With a shudder, I recall an occasion when I was nearly ‘run over’ by a barge towing a crane in a Middle Eastern harbour.

My longing to travel remains but my means to do so has left me in its wake. It did occur to me that I could live the good life by offering to be a European aide of an African despot. But, such men can be as temperamental as an opera diva.

Having dropped anchor in Mediterranean Spain I now find myself back to where it all started. These days, as I saunter along our sun-kissed beaches, I still gaze out to sea. But, instead of dreaming I reminisce and to be honest both are to be recommended.

We really don’t take imagination and dreaming seriously enough. Most people settle for less by enduring a rather vapid reality. In my view, the ability to close one’s eyes and daydream is an opportunity to live the life you wish for rather than the existence you have been burdened with.

Your reality sees me stretched out on my patio’s recliner. Look instead inside my head and you will see the reason for my whimsical smile. Inside my sub-consciousness, I relish life on the sundeck of an ocean liner. As I breathe in the briny aromas of the ocean I listen to travelling companions enjoying the pool. Touchingly, beside me relaxes the companion of my dreams.

Do feel free to enjoy your reality by all means but excuse me whilst I close my eyes and live what is to me the alternative reality. “Illusion is the first of all pleasures.” ~ Oscar Wilde.

Article, Music, Poetry

DISTINCT LACK OF HARMONY

If bad behaviour isn’t your thing it’s best to avoid the under the stairs lot notorious for their unsociable conduct. Better to put on one’s best party frock and attend a soiree. Why risk a coup d’état if there’s a tête-à-tête to be enjoyed.

At a dinner party, one is sure to mix with people of refined taste who are above making coarse and tasteless remarks.  If attendees include the best of classical musicians well what more could one ask for; well, quite a lot actually.

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German composer Johannes Brahms is in a class of his own but his table manners were notorious. The gifted musician was once heard to remark: “If there is anyone here who I have not insulted, I beg his pardon.”

Gifted Russian composer, Tchaikovsky, wrote: “Music is an incomparably more powerful means and is a subtler language for expressing the thousand different moments of the soul’s moods.”

Fine sentiments, Pyotr Ilyich, but surely your comment that Handel was only fourth rate might have been left to the German composer’s music to say.

Of his compatriot Maurice Ravel the French composer Saint-Saens remarked, “If he had been making shell cases during the war it might have been better for music.”

I do find myself in agreement with Richard Strauss who of Schoenberg commented, “He’d be better off shovelling snow than scribbling on manuscript paper.”

If SOL Times has Australian readers I suggest they stop reading right now. After a successful tour of Australia, the esteemed Sir Thomas Beecham was asked when he would return. Looking the nervous hack in the eye, Sir Thomas asked, “Does anyone ever return to Australia?”

Brits love their Gilbert and Sullivan operetta but the talented twosome had their critics too. When a singer insisted he knew better than Sullivan how a certain song should be interpreted, Sullivan told him: “In future, I will get you to sing my songs first, then I will compose them afterwards.”

Whilst on the opera circuit we are reminded of American broadcaster Ed Gardner’s comment: “Opera is when a guy gets stabbed in the back and instead of bleeding he sings.”

When asked to define good music a pundit replied: “if you like it is good. If you don’t like it, it is bad.”

Critics too are often on the receiving end of spiteful remarks. “Pay no attention to what critics say.  There has never been a statue set up in honour of a critic.” ~ Finnish composer Jean Sibelius.

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