Saturday, February 22, 2003


Gosh, even more spleen from The Wire (see 'Highly Strung', below). This time it's Philip Clark laying into Robert Maycock. In a well-judged appraisal of 'Glass: A Portrait' (Sanctuary, September 2002), Clark rightly disses cheap point scoring against serialism and the post-Darmstadt era. Philip Glass deserves better than to be used as a battering ram for ideological philistinism, and Maycock's assault on Olivier Messiaen is ignorant and fatuous, as I hope Glass points out to him.

"Maycock describes the 'teacher in France' as composing music that audiences could only grasp by 'sitting through the difficult bits' to wait for 'something spectacularly luscious', and that fellow composers would 'snigger behind Messiaen's back' at his religious beliefs. I can only assume that this is why Messiaen became the most admired teacher and influential composer of his generation." Quite. The truth is probably more aptly summed up in the review in today's Guardian of Peter Hill and Benjamin Frith's piano duo recital at Cardiff University last week. Rian Evans writes:

"The evening's high point was Messiaen's ecstatic cycle for two pianos, 'Visions de l'Amen'. The playing was so vivid that the air seemed to fill with the sweet smell of incense and the joyful clamour of birdsong and exotic gongs. There was a tenderness and sensuality in the lyrical phrases but, in the hands of Hill and Frith, it was the florid rhythmic exuberance and cumulative force of Messiaen's impassioned testimonies to divine power that made this so compelling. Audience and performers alike seemed stunned but elated by the experience." (c) Guardian Newspapers / Rian Evans

That's more like it...

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