Wednesday, June 13, 2012

46. Sorrows, prayers, gaiety, and consolations

In his diary for 13 June 1900, Charles Ricketts wrote:

With Beethoven the conscious intellectual effort is more apparent than in Bach. I believe that Robert Browning's verdict on Shakespeare's amazing facility is applicable to Bach. Beethoven, with his sorrows, prayers, gaiety, and consolations urges you to endure the possibilities of passion and regret. Was Bach, the sedentary and solitary Bach, even more sensitive? Sensitive is not the word, possibly. "Sentient" is better. In a formula of pure pattern and ornament one becomes aware of a thousand exquisite things crumbling away like the glittering mist from a fountain. The Adagio of the D Major Concerto left me almost shattered as if I had been listening to the nerve-racking sounds of Wagner, in which physical strain counts for so much. Baudelaire compared Chopin's music to the flight of a glittering bird over an abyss. This summarizes the effect of a great deal of the finest music - the first movement, for instance, of Beethoven's great concerto for the violin.

[From: Self-Portrait taken from the letters & journals of Charles Ricketts, R.A. London, Peter Davies, 1939, p. 38].