Friday, 4 November 2011
Roll Over, Beethoven
I received my musical education, such as it was, in an atmosphere of Beethoven Worship. The prevailing view was that the German Romantic composers represented the summit of musical creativity, that the symphony was the supreme musical form, and that Beethoven, the great symphonist, reigned as the God of Music. Around his throne were ranged the lesser genii, most of them stars of the same Germanic firmament. Italian, French - and especially English - music were rated considerably lower, and 'early music' was strictly for cranks. In my tender years I plunged headlong into the Beethoven symphonies (and the piano sonatas) and indeed became so obsessed with the great Ludwig that for some time I scarcely looked beyond his mighty oeuvre. Schubert and Purcell I knew only for a handful of charming songs, and Bach for a few popular gems. Now, all these years later, Schubert is one of the composers I love the most (and it's his 9th symphony that I'd have as my single Desert Island Disc), Bach is another, and Purcell, I suspect, is well on his way to becoming a third. It has taken me many years to get to Purcell, but now, finally, I am beginning to explore his music - and finding beauty and wonder at every turn. Was ever an English composer so prodigiously gifted? Did anyone ever put English words to music so exquisitely, so beautifully? (How about this? Or this?) And the songs are just a part of his enormous body of work (though he died at just 36) - I have so much more to explore... It took me far too long, but I am so glad that at last I am beginning to discover the greatness of our own Purcell.