Sunday, April 25, 2010
Sunday Music Corner
She was no dazzling executante; her runs were not at all like strings of pearls, and she struck no more right notes than was suitable for one of her age and situation. Nor was she the passionate young lady, who performs so tragically on a summer's evening with the window open. Passion was there, but it could not be easily labelled; it slipped between love and hatred and jealousy, and all the furniture of the pictorial style. And she was tragical only in the sense that she was great, for she loved to play on the side of Victory. Victory of what and over what-- that is more than the words of daily life can tell us. But that some sonatas of Beethoven are written tragic no one can gainsay; yet they can triumph or despair as the player decides, and Lucy had decided that they should triumph.
A very wet afternoon at the Bertolini permitted her to do the thing she really liked, and after lunch she opened the little draped piano. A few people lingered round and praised her playing, but finding that she made no reply, dispersed to their rooms to write up their diaries or to sleep. She took no notice of Mr. Emerson looking for his son, nor of Miss Bartlett looking for Miss Lavish, nor of Miss Lavish looking for her cigarette-case. Like every true performer, she was intoxicated by the mere feel of the notes: they were fingers caressing her own; and by touch, not by sound alone, did she come to her desire.
Mr. Beebe, sitting unnoticed in the window, pondered this illogical element in Miss Honeychurch, and recalled the occasion at Tunbridge Wells when he had discovered it. It was at one of those entertainments where the upper classes entertain the lower. The seats were filled with a respectful audience, and the ladies and gentlemen of the parish, under the auspices of their vicar, sang, or recited, or imitated the drawing of a champagne cork. Among the promised items was "Miss Honeychurch. Piano. Beethoven," and Mr. Beebe was wondering whether it would be Adelaida, or the march of The Ruins of Athens, when his composure was disturbed by the opening bars of Opus III. He was in suspense all through the introduction, for not until the pace quickens does one know what the performer intends. With the roar of the opening theme he knew that things were going extraordinarily; in the chords that herald the conclusion he heard the hammer strokes of victory. He was glad that she only played the first movement, for he could have paid no attention to the winding intricacies of the measures of nine-sixteen. The audience clapped, no less respectful. It was Mr. Beebe who started the stamping; it was all that one could do.
But before he left Tunbridge Wells he made a remark to the vicar, which he now made to Lucy herself when she closed the little piano and moved dreamily towards him:
"If Miss Honeychurch ever takes to live as she plays, it will be very exciting both for us and for her."
Evening approached while they chatted; the air became brighter; the colours on the trees and hills were purified, and the Arno lost its muddy solidity and began to twinkle. There were a few streaks of bluish-green among the clouds, a few patches of watery light upon the earth, and then the dripping facade of San Miniato shone brilliantly in the declining sun.
"Too late to go out," said Miss Alan in a voice of relief. "All the galleries are shut."
"I think I shall go out," said Lucy. "I want to go round the town in the circular tram--on the platform by the driver."
Her two companions looked grave. Mr. Beebe, who felt responsible for her in the absence of Miss Bartlett, ventured to say:
"I wish we could. Unluckily I have letters. If you do want to go out alone, won't you be better on your feet?"
"Italians, dear, you know," said Miss Alan.
"Perhaps I shall meet some one who reads me through and through!"
But they still looked disapproval, and she so far conceded to Mr. Beebe as to say that she would only go for a little walk, and keep to the street frequented by tourists.
"She oughtn't really to go at all," said Mr. Beebe, as they watched her from the window, "and she knows it. I put it down to too much Beethoven."
--E.M. Forster, Room With A View
Though it wasn't the performance in the youtube clip above, we had the pleasure of attending a rousing perfomance of Beethoven's 7th symphony last night at the Long Beach Symphony. This season has featured Beethoven's symphonies to celebrate what would have been his 250th birthday year. Last night's program opened with Beethoven's not often performed Symphony No. 2, followed by The Red Violin: Chaconne for Violin and Orchestra by Corigliano. (I'd seen The Red Violin and loved it but didn't remember the music being quite so discordant as this piece. Apparently this concert piece was composed separately.)
Next season, the Long Beach Symphony theme is "From Russia With Love" which will feature works by Rachmaninoff, Mussorgsky, Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and others. If you, like une femme believe there's no such thing as "too much Beethoven," there is one more concert left in this year's series, which will feature Beethoven's 4th and 5th symphonies.