May 26, 2016

Eloquence or logolepsy?


When a review of an opera CD in a respected non-specialist general magazine* uses words like uxorial and oneiric -

"...the apotheosis of chaste, uxorial devotion is set against a lush orgiastic orchestra..."

"The proper name for the resplendent, oneiric terrain where the kitsch-Kundry reigns is Tinseltown."

- what does this say about the author?  Personally I find such words irritating not because they are obscure but because their use strikes me as gratuitous.  Familiar English words wifely and dreamy (or dream-like) respectively would do perfectly well in the above quoted sentences.  But then my preference for linguistic clarity, transparency, and directness may have more to do with the fact that English is not my mother tongue than with some objective criteria of literary aesthetics. 

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* Richard Taruskin, 'The Golden Age of Kitsch', The New Republic, 1994.  Reprinted in The Danger of Music and Other Anti-Utopian Essays, U. of California Press, 2008.

May 19, 2016

Geriatric Cool


A 70-year old soloist (Daniel Barenboim) and a 76-year old conductor (Zubin Mehta leading Staatskapelle Berlin) performing a new composition by a 103-year old composer (Elliott Carter) while a famous 87-year old conductor-composer (Pierre Boulez) listens intently from his seat in Row 2.  This kind of Geriatric Cool, captured on HD video at the Berliner Philharmonie (Barenboim's 70th Birthday Concert on November 15, 2012), surely makes old age seem less depressing than it really is.

May 9, 2016

Why learn difficult scores if all you want is to dance on the podium?


Bernstein ... shows an interest in progressive music only for the sake of publicity or scandal - he doesn't like it - what he likes is American versions of Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
Elliott Carter, letter to Goffredo Petrassi, 11 May 1959*

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* Elliott Carter: A Centennial Portrait in Letters and Documents, F. Meyer and A. C. Shreffler (eds), Paul Sacher Foundation, The Boydell Press, Woodbridge, Suffolk, 2008.