Elaine Meinel Supkis
I always disliked the music critic for the New York Times. When he was much younger and I was younger than Mr. Holland, I though of him as an old, crotchety fuddy-duddy. His taste in music made me ill and what he loved gave me, a fully trained musician/dancer, a migraine headache. The souless, harsh music he seemingly wants us to listen to annoys me so much, if I am writing or digging ditches, when it comes on, it causes me to make mistakes or wreck something. Anyway, he is back on the warpath going after people who are like Jackie Du Pre, a great, now long gone, cellist who all the critics hounded because she was so emotional. Blast them all to hell, I say. Give me more feelings. Yes...
Wandering from one television channel to the next the other day, I came across young people playing the piano. One man, bearded and a little hefty, rippled through a Beethoven sonata, sharing with the camera complicit smiles, exultant grimaces, gazes to the right and left, and a gentle swaying from side to side.
The next, a young woman, sat down to Schumann, bending her back, lifting her head and gazing straight up. Maybe God was sitting in the rafters just above her, and she was using the opportunity to say hello. Both pianists were perfectly fluent. They kept time, played the right notes and sounded expressive when they were supposed to.
I had to turn away. I could listen, but I couldn’t watch. Two performers, four glazed eyes and four waving arms were too much for my stomach. And if someone with a lifelong love for the piano repertory has this kind of reaction, what about those coming to classical music from the outside? Think of the smart young people ready to believe, filled with curiosity and good thoughts, and imagine with what astonishment and amusement they must come away from such scenes.
Holland is getting both old and very grumpy. I know that my arthritis prevents me from dancing, ice skating or jumping off of mountains but I still do love, a lot, watching young people do all those things! They are so full of energy, life and a sense of humor and lord knows, we need humor! I spent years in music schools and nothing is more fun than to sit next to or under or behind a fine performer who is totally absorbed in his or her music or dance. Good grief, even Lucy would perch on Schoeder's piano when he was enfolded with in his Beethoven or Bach!
So let's look at Lang Lang who seems to irritate the old geezer, Holland, so much:
Lang Lang playing the most hysterically funny and amazing Liszt Hungarian rhapsodies on earth.
Here he is with his teacher explaining with great excitement how he visualizes a difficult Prokofiev piece...as a video game! My children appreciate this sort of thinking. They love classical music because they learned about it via Japanese anime and video games. With my guidance. I greatly approve of how Lang Lang enthusiastically approaches these daunting pieces.
Here is an old film of the beautiful, tragic Jacqueline du Pre playing the Saint-saens Concerto in A minor, the same piece I was doomed to play for my college cello recital. I could never match her in any way, only love her and when we learned she could no longer play due to her illness, we cried, all of us young women in the cello group, we wept for her.
The dried out seedless music critic in the mainstream media hammered on her mercilessly. When she fell apart, they were happy, those noxious little, heartless squibs. Pah. I despise them.
Classical music was nearly murdered by these critics and the 'we hate melodies and feelings,' composers and music instructors. Taking their cue from Schoenberg when he renounced his greatest works, Verklaerte Nacht and Gurrelieder, he descended into increasing despair and chaos until his compositions were very destructive and detached from any possible enjoyment.
I listen to classical music when I write. I move with the music, it moves my soul and helps the words flow in the brain as I keep pace with the pulse of the music. I like to enjoy music. And music is one of the Graces who live with Pegasus and they are the inspiration for artists who can fly to the heavens when thy are in the grip of the Dionysian forces where all the arts grip the entire mind, soul and body and all move to a greater force, one fed by wine and a drunken release of feeling, guided by the expression of higher sentiments for one can't dance, write poems, make music or any of the Arts unless one has strict training and works very, very hard. And then the 'release' can finally come!
Children must be very ernest while they draw pictures or try to pirouette or sing a simple song. But by the age of 15, one begins to master the arts so one can plug into the greater forces, the deeper, darker parts of the human psyche or soul. This is the hard road to real ecstasy. The Puritanical repression which has its pleasures, mostly intellectual, is a necessary counterweight to this release of pent up powers.
But it is a counterweight, not a rigid straight jacket that locks us out of the real life forces out in the real world. Sterile and cold as the moon at midnight, this isn't good enough for those of us who need the emotional charge that comes from ecstatic performances.
The people who hounded Jackie Du Pre nearly to her grave should be ashamed of themselves. But then, they hated Isadora Duncan, they hate all of us who like to throw ourselves into whatever we do. Fie on them, I say. If Mr. Holland hates all this, he can go hang. Excessive messes need to be made then he and grumble and complain and clean it all up afterwards. He can be the janitor at the Bacchus Saloon. I, on the other hand, plan to be one of the people drinking the blood red wine.