Category Archives: culture

29 Mar

The View from the Gutter

Why has the Daily Telegraph replaced its cultivated and discerning radio critic Gillian Reynolds with the arrogant oik Jemima Lewis?

This week she writes: “My ignorance of Paradise Lost is more of a chasm.”

Question: So why are you going to write about it then? Jemima is an expert in the art of the sweeping – and groundless – judgement: “Hardly anyone reads Milton’s epic any more.”

How do you know that?

Never mind, the unread elitist John Milton eventually manages to gain some street cred with Jemima on account, so she informs us, of the fact that he “inspired Pink Floyd.”

(I’m tempted to say hardly anyone has heard of Pink Floyd).

After her excursus on 17th century English verse, Jemima next shines her expertise on the subject of music in a review of the programme Is Music a Civilising Force?

Not if it’s Pink Floyd, it isn’t.

The programme was a talk by Sir Roger Scruton in which the philosopher, musicologist and church organist agrees with Plato that ”the barbarous rhythms of dance music could produce in young people traits of character which no civilised republic should allow.”

Sir Roger continued: “Beware of those rabble-rousing disc-jockeys and music in which there is nothing but a beat. It really matters what the young are listening to.”

Yes, Plato and Sir Roger are in agreement about this. But, according to Jemima, the views of the greatest of ancient philosophers together with those of one of our most distinguished modern thinkers count for nothing. These views are, Jemima instructs us from her perspective in the gutter, “absurdly dyspeptic.”

Jemima Lewis? We’d be better off reading Jemima Puddleduck

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02 Feb

Manchester’s newly-imposed censorship

Manchester Art Gallery has removed a pre-Raphaelite painting which depicts naked water nymphs seducing a man. Hylas and the Nymphs, painted by John William Waterhouse in 1896 is a famous Victorian painting, but its erotic content – combined with the rise of the #Metoo movement and the recent expose of the President’s Club – has prompted curators to take the artwork down.

A statement on the gallery’s website said they removed the painting, “To prompt conversation about how we display and interpret artworks in Manchester’s public collection.”

“This gallery presents the female body as either a ‘passive decorative form’ or a ‘femme fatale.’ Let’s challenge this Victorian fantasy!”

Members of the public – who were not consulted before this iconoclasm was perpetrated – have answered back. One said, “A dangerous precedent is set for other artworks,” Another lampooned the “Po-faced, politically-correct virtue-signalling.”

Now just brace yourself because what I am about to write is not pretty. It is political jargon at its ugliest. Clare Gannaway , contemporary art curator, uses English as a foreign language. She claims the removal of Waterhouse’s painting was not about censorship, but about, “outdated and damaging stories this whole part of the gallery is still telling through the contextualising and interpretation of collection displays. The area of the gallery which included Hylas and the Nymphs hasn’t changed for a VERY long time and still tells a very particular story about the bodies on display.

“We think that we can do better than this and the taking down of the painting is a playful way to open up a discussion about this whole gallery, the collection and the way that artworks speak to us through the way they are interpreted and put into context. We’d like this gallery to tell a different story in 2018, rather than being about the ‘Pursuit of Beauty’ with a binary tale about how women are either femmes fatale or passive bodies for male consumption. Shouldn’t we be challenging this instead of perpetuating views which result in things like the President’s Club being able to exist? The gallery doesn’t exist in a bubble and these things are connected, surely? The gallery’s themes need addressing and challenging. That’s kind of the point and it’s amazing it hasn’t been done sooner,” really.”

Get you breath back for a minute, then I’ll try to comment. We have noticed that what Ms Gannaway writes is not English. It is certainly not art criticism. It is not even joined up thinking – for jargon is not a medium receptive of thought. Her apologia is ideological prejudice of the most narrow-minded and mean-spirited sort.

But I have a question: if we are to remove all depictions of girls and women as temptresses and sex objects, what havoc we shall have wreak throughout all the great European galleries.

Goya’s The Nude Maia will have to go. We can’t tolerate a juicy picture of a comely lass lying naked on the couch and giving us the glad eye.

Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights has kinky nymphets all over the pace – some standing on their heads. Get rid of that too.

Titian’s nude Venus of Urbino has her hand placed provocatively over her – shall we say? – mons veneris

You don’t need to be able to read German to understand what the flagrant flasheress in Klimt’s Frau Bei Der Selbstbetfriedi is doing with her hand: it’s all in the picture.

Rubens’ Leda and the Swan features the creature with his long neck lying between Leda’s thighs. Lucky old swan – but don’t let Clare catch you!

I could point you to hundreds more, but it’s tiring work for an old man like me.

It’s not only the pictures that will have to go. get rid of Wagner’s Ring for a start. Das Rheingold kicks off with water-sports as Rhine maidens frolick and tease a dwarf

Lolita, one of the finest of all 20thC novels must be for the burning, along with The Odyssey, featuring as it does Circe and the sirens, The Bible will have to be scrapped on account of its presentation of Samson and Delilah – to say nothing of Eve and her apple

Nymphs actually exist. They are part of the human psyche. Are we to refuse then to portray those bits of human experience that our resurgent academic Puritanism disapproves? If The Iliad and Rheingold must go, then Snow White will have to go too because it shows us a sweet little girl, no doubt underage, living with seven dirty old men. What’s the policy at the Manchester art gallery then: get rid of all paintings except those depicting middle aged women in dungarees working at the lathe?  

Look, Clare, you warped and twisted reincarnation of all the bowdlerisers and Missis Grundy’s there have ever been, the British public does not appreciate your censorious political prejudice

Why don’t you just climb back up on to your feminist witch waggon and drive off – a bloody long way?

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15 Dec

“Youthquake” word of the year

At least we can still enjoy a laugh on our way from the madhouse to destitution.

The publishers Oxford Dictionaries have just declared “youthquake” the word of the year. Oxford Dictionaries’ executive is Mr Casper Grathwohl. (Oh for heaven’s sake stop giggling at the back there and pay attention!)  Mr Grathwohl said the word was “not an obvious choice.” But, he explained, The use of “youthquake” in everyday speech had increased five-fold during 2017.

He added – in a sentence which reveals that the boss of a firm which publishes dictionaries has only a passing acquaintance with the English language – “In the UK, where it rose to prominence as a descriptor of the impact of the country’s young people on its general election, calls it out as a word on the move”

Come again? Clearly Grathwohl served a long apprenticeship in the Academy of Gobbledegook and Gibberish

Apparently, the use of “youthquake” in Britain peaked during the June general election, after polls delivered a better-than-expected result for the Labour party.

Oxford Dictionaries said the word “sounded a note of hope after a difficult and divisive year.”

Really? be careful what you hope for, Mr Grathwohl, or you just might get it. First he tells us that the popularity of “youthquake” was owing to Mr Corbyn’s having done much better than expected in the General Election. And then he informs us that this was “a note of hope.”

I told you we are on our way from the madhouse to destitution. Where else but the madhouse is the place for anyone who votes for Jeremy Corbyn and his Trotskyist gang which now fills the space once occupied by the Labour party?

The destitution will be along in a little while. once Jeremy is in Number Ten with Chancellor John McDonnell running – ie ruining – the economy according to Marxist principles and that high priestess of multiculturalism Diane Abbott as Home Secretary and Chaplain to All Minorities. McDonnell told us last week that, in the first months of Corbyn’s government, he will set up a national investment bank, funded by exorbitant levels of taxation and borrowing at ten times what we have now. Then – using our  money – McDonnell will instigate a nationalisation programme beside which the wasteful socialist spree of 1945-1951 will look like the very model of prudence.

The trade unions will run the country and they will pay their supporters – and themselves, of course – fantastical wages. There is to be a five year plan – just like the ones invented by Uncle Joe Stalin to impoverish the USSR. Hyperinflation will quickly follow and the days will not be far off when we shall be looking in dustbins for our lunch, just as they do in the Venezuela which Jeremy Corbyn so much admires.

Well now, the Corbyn Destitution Programme has been given this wonderful kick-start by good old Casper Grathwohl.

Clearly, Casper would be the obvious choice as Corbyn’s Minister of Propaganda.

PS I noted earlier that Head of Dictionaries Mr Grathwohl has merely a passing acquaintance with the English language. This acquaintance is even more passing than I first thought. For he says he chose “youthquake” because it conveys “a sense of optimism.”

Nope. “Youthquake” indicates about as much good news for the youth as “earthquake” does for the earth.   

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13 Dec

Our world of lying truths

Matt Hancock, a government minister, has just felt obliged to declare formally, ”Objective reality exists.” To his credit, he confessed to a certain shamefacedness about this but he added that he believes he had a duty to reassure us.

I find it hard to understand what Mr Hancock’s statement means. By “objective reality” does he mean truth? If so, then the proposition “There is such a thing as truth” is self-evident – a necessary proposition – because if someone attempts to refute it and says, “There is no such thing as truth,” then either that proposition is true or the one who states it is wrong. In either case, there is something that is true.

Actually, Mr Hancock’s laudable and public-spirited aim is to reassure us that in our new world of virtual reality, filled as it is with fake news, Bitcoins,  the dissembling worlds of Facebook and Twitter and computer games of such startling verisimilitude that so called “real life” pales by comparison, there yet remains something real, something we can trust.

I think our problem is not epistemological or metaphysical, but psychological and above all moral and spiritual. In our new electronic phantasmagoria, people have become indifferent to the notions of truth and reality. And this disposition has not been forced upon them: they have chosen it quite willingly. The interest of many is not truth and objective reality but images and sensations, and the rapid advance of technology enables us to create images and sensations of astonishing power.

Any “reality” is as good as any other. You choose! Seems? Nay, ‘tis.

Unfortunately, this world of willed illusion becomes also, by the operation of political correctness, a world of willed delusion. People don’t merely choose what to look at; they choose what to believe. Postmodern philosophers and theologians deny Mr Hancock’s (or God’s) truth and objective reality: they speak approvingly of things being” true for you” or “true for me.” And of course this just means we can’t talk about truth at all. The philosophers and theologians have been guided by the politicians who tell them not to insist that there is such a thing as the objective truth – because to do so might “offend” someone who holds to “a different truth.”

Welcome to the world of “equality” and “diversity.”

We have replaced the gospel of St John with the gospel of Pontius Pilate.

This is not going to end well. If we are no longer concerned to inhabit reality but instead we evaluate any image, any sensation, only insofar as it appeals to us, then we have no escape from a world of ubiquitous delusion. Jesus Christ referred to this activity as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit – which he declared to be the only unforgiveable sin. Unforgiveable because it is impossible to repent of it. If you say, “Lies be my truth” and “Delusion be my reality,” then you have chosen paranoid psychosis, madness – hell.

Allow me a personal recollection, please. In 1988 I began to write a novel about Tom and Lucy. These two young creatures of flesh and blood were increasingly drawn into a world which was all images and appearances. I found it intolerable and had to stop writing the damn thing: first, because some of the things that began to happen to Tom and Lucy were so horrific that they turned my stomach; and secondly, because it all sounded too far-fetched.

Well now, thirty years on, is it still so far-fetched?

If you are seeking a definition of the world we now inhabit, look no further than Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus where Mephistopheles, the Father of Lies, exclaims in terror and despair, “Why, this is hell; nor am I out of it!”

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06 Dec

They’re pulling our leg again, aren’t they?

All sing along with me: ‘Tis the season to be hyperbolic…

Last night at a fastidiously pretentious “ceremony” in the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, the African artist Lubaina Himid was awarded the Turner Prize. What more can be said when the whole damn thing is beyond satire? Compared with Ms Himid’s stuff, the act of throwing a pot of paint in the public’s face represents high cultural achievement. What’s it like then? There’s a fair chance that anything I might write would be a bit on the biased side. so let one of her supporters describe it:   

“Himid’s work has long been concerned with black creativity, history and identity and this animated throng represents the Africans who were brought to Europe as slave servants. There are drummers, dog trainers, dancers, potters, cobblers, gardeners and players of the viola da gamba, all decked out in vivid versions of 17th century costume. Labels on their backs identify each individual, giving both their original African names and occupations as well those imposed by their new European owners, and these poignant texts also form part of an evocative soundtrack, interspersed with snatches of Cuban, Irish, Jewish and African music.”

Much of her output looks like a gaudy collage produced by a mildly psychotic six-year-old with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

But don’t take my word for it. Listen instead to the singer Goldie who appeared at last night’s shindig to praise Ms Himid’s work for “Digging deep and challenging people’s perceptions.” Gliding over the surface and massaging familiar prejudices, more like. Another enthusiastic commentator said that Ms Himid’s agenda is “Black identity and the slave industry” And he reminded us that Ms Himid was awarded the MBE for services to “black women’s art.” All of which sounds rather racist to me and it doesn’t say anything about her art.

She produces some of her work on old copies of The Guardian and includes photographs of Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher clipped out from that newspaper. In other words Ms Himid is not about art but about trendy-lefty racial “activism” and, instead of throwing pots of paint in our faces, she is, by her own admission, busy “reclaiming identities.”

Well, it’s trash isn’t it? if works awarded the Turner Prize were not trash, we would all come away disappointed.

Fair enough that it’s trash. But it’s not fair enough that it’s lying trash. Ms Himid claims to be about “correcting false impressions.” Yes, we are all going to have the scales removed from our eyes and see the world as it really is – that is the world portrayed by “the black women’s art movement.”

So why does she peddle palpable untruths? Here’s one: “In the 1980s black people were totally invisible.”

I suppose she means as invisible as Courtney Pine, Sir Bill Morris, Sir Trevor McDonald, Chris Eubank, Cleo Laine, Shirley Bassey, Martin Offiah, Frank Bruno, Ben Okri, Floella Benjamin, Bernie Grant, Diane Abbott, Lenny Henry, Benjamin Zephaniah, Lennox Lewis, Linford Christie, Paul Ince and Ian Wright?

At the time I was living in Bolton – not far from Professor Himid’s hideout at the University of Central Lancashire. I numbered many black people among my friends and acquaintance there  and, so far as I can recall, none of them was invisible.

I must not protest too much and we should be grateful for the crap because it makes us return and repose again in things of quality.

All may be forgiven. Except that the name of the great J.M.W Turner is contaminated with this slime.

 

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31 Aug

Celebrating cultural diversity with knives, blood and acid

“I’ve never known of a single murder at the Glastonbury Festival,” said Commander David Musker, the man in charge of policing this year’s Notting Hill Carnival.

He was replying to an accusation by a “rapper” known to his fans as Stormzy who had claimed that the police precautions against looting and violence at the Carnival targeted only “black events.”

(Wasn’t it rather racist of Stormzy to introduce apartheid in this way?)

Stormzy taunted Mr  Musker’s officers: “Where were you guys at Glastonbury?”

As a pre-emptive tactic before last weekend’s  three days of anarchy, the police made around 300 arrests and this is what enraged Stormzy. But, Stormzy and his mates aside, no reasonable person could argue that the police action was unjustified in the light of the fact that the 2016 event turned into a riot in which six people were stabbed and 454 arrested.

The cost of policing this annual cultural extravaganza is £7 milion.

Besides the customary knives and guns, this year offered a novelty when two people had their faces sprayed with acid.

So did the Notting Hill Carnage 2017 live up to previous years?

It looks as if it excelled itself.

This year twenty-eight police officers were injured by the mob. Bottles were thrown at them – but then that’s only par for the course. In 2017 blood was spat at them as well.

The carnival has got so dangerous that Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, would like Stormzy’s annual “black event” to be banned. He asked, “What other event would be allowed to carry on regardless with so many police colleagues under attack?”

He added, “If this is the norm, it is unacceptable. It is a disgrace. Twenty-eight brave colleagues went to work this weekend and were attacked just for doing their job. This is not normal.”

Altogether 312 arrests were made, 58 for possession of an offensive weapon, knife or blade.

The dictionary defines “carnival” as “A special occasion of public enjoyment and entertainment involving wearing unusual clothes, dancing, eating and drinking, usually in the streets of a city.”

The dictionary might like to add, “With the chance of being stabbed, spattered in blood and having acid thrown in your face.”

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the London Assembly has declared, “Championing black culture is as important as ever and Carnival should continue.”

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, notoriously told us that we must put up with the occasional terrorist atrocity as “Part and parcel of living in a major city.”

Similarly, what are twenty-eight injured police officers – so long as “black culture” continues?

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03 Aug

The Sex Olympics

A new plague is stalking the land. It’s not the black death and it’s not cholera, but much more serious than either of these. I know it’s serious because it was the first item on the SKY News website this morning. It’s called binge viewing and it’s destroying the sleep and, says SKY, the lives of those afflicted.

Sadly, this virulent plague chiefly affects people described as “vulnerable”: that is the hordes of intellectually challenged, morally depraved and aesthetically numb who sit up all night watching tawdry shows such as Game of Thrones. Binge viewing, we were informed, is “a syndrome,” so victims who are made to suffer by Game of Thrones are very likely to have their sorry condition aggravated by the fact that they are also addicted to Strictly Come Dancing or Britain’s Got Talent or that top of the range nuts ‘n’ sluts show Say Yes to the Dress in which very fat women – both black and white, so there’s nothing racist about this – giggle and squeal as they try on ludicrously expensive wedding gowns which are then paid for by their fathers.

Back in the 1960s there was a remarkable and at the time shocking television play called The Sex Olympics. The premise was that there would come a time when, under a totalitarian government, millions would gawp endlessly at actors fornicating on screen. This fantasy has now been realised and it’s called Love Island.   

I recall a telling remark by C.H. Sisson: “What makes St Augustine so interesting is that he lived through times very much like ours – and rejected them.”

Indeed, Augustine describes a state in which people are, “…unconcerned about the utter corruption of their country – ‘So long as it lasts’ they say – so long as it enjoys material prosperity.” The downfall of the Roman Empire was preceded by a whole series of financial crises. It was overwhelmed by mass immigration and threatened by barbarian violence. The comparisons with our own time are very striking. Augustine prophesied against “…rulers who are interested not in the morality, but the docility of their subjects; they are regarded not as directors of conduct but as controllers of material things and providers of material satisfaction.”

Doesn’t that make you think of extravagant loans to people who could never afford them; of laws to encourage 24/7 shopping and 24/7 boozing; of the whole world turned into advertisements? Art and culture debased, as Sir Peter Maxwell Davies once remarked of a Damien Hirst exhibition, “…into manufactured artefacts without content, with just a brand tag supposed to guarantee market value.”

A civilisation cannot survive on such debased conduct, on pretend values which are really valueless.

Augustine describes a society where: “Full publicity is given where shame would be appropriate; close secrecy is imposed where praise would be in order. Decency is veiled from sight; indecency is exposed to view. Scenes of evil attract packed audiences; good words scarcely find any listeners. It is as if purity should provoke a blush and corruption give grounds for pride.”

Here we are again on the eve of destruction. Pizza and porn are today’s bread and circuses. Binge viewers everywhere, sit back and enjoy the Sex Olympics.

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23 Jul

England, Our England

Anyone for pizza and porn?

A visitor arriving in England for the first time and looking for a brief introduction to the life and times of the natives could hardly do better than listen to a seven minutes news summary on a national radio network. I listened this morning to the seven o’clock news on Radio Four. Here is a summary of the contents…

Something called “gender re-assignment” is henceforth to be permissible without your having to get a doctor’s note to say you’re suffering from gender dysphoria – which my dictionary defines as “a state of general unease or dissatisfaction with one’s life.”

Homosexuals and “sex-workers” are to be allowed to donate blood, so long as they promise they have abstained from sex for three months. (They used to have to wait for a whole year). I couldn’t help thinking that a prostitute who hadn’t plied her/his/their trade for three months must be rather on her/his/their uppers, and surely in no state to give of her/his/their blood. Will the blood-donating homos and prostitutes also be required to promise they’re telling the truth about their sex lives?

On the twentieth anniversary of the death of Princess Diana, her sons the princes William and Harry have been offering their recollections of her. Harry said. “She was wonderful and she said we could be as naughty as we liked – only not to get caught.”

Forty left wing – there is no other variety – women presenters at the BBC – the sort who come on the air waves every day to excoriate Tories and fat cats – have written a letter to the director general complaining that some of them earn as little as £150,000pa

A little boy is gravely ill at St Ormond Street hospital and his sad case has been all over the papers for weeks. The hospital authorities claim that to offer the poor mite further treatment would not be in his best interests. The mob has taken to abusing doctors and the nursing staff on the street and over “social media.”

In a rather infelicitous phrase, the newsreader said that the TV programme Love Island is “coming to its climax.” For non-devotees, Love Island is the latest nuts ‘n’ sluts show in which good looking young people are paid to have sex on camera.

So there – courtesy of BBC News – is a brief introduction to what’s going on in England today.

In their decline, the Romans went in for bread and circuses. For us it’s pizza and porn.

As a sort of Thought for the Day, I end my summary report with a text:

“Full publicity is given where shame would be appropriate; close secrecy is imposed where praise would be in order. Decency is veiled from sight; indecency is exposed to view. Scenes of evil attract packed audiences; good words scarcely find any listeners. It is as if purity should provoke a blush and corruption give grounds for pride.” – “City of God” by St Augustine (AD 354-430)

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09 Feb

In praise of Oik Telly

Three cheers for James Purnell, director of strategy at the BBC. He has just announced that “Civilisations,” a new version of cultural history to succeed Kenneth Clark’s original “Civilisation” series of 1969, will, along with all new documentaries programmed by the BBC, be “the opposite” of Clark’s monstrously “elitist” production.

I’m only sorry that the wonderfully egalitarian Mr Purnell fell short of calling the new series by a title more suitable for the emancipated and enlightened age we now live in. He should have been brave and called the series “Barbarism.” But, as they say, brave new world was not built in a day, and I am grateful that Mr Purnell has dared to go as far as he has along the road to pure oikism.

The disgusting patrician Clark – Order of Merit, Companion of Honour, Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath and Fellow of the British Academy – is sure to be surpassed by the presenter of the new series who, according to Mr Purnell, will be “a trusted friend” who will deliver “expertise without elitism.”

I’m all for it: let’s hear it for mediocratism!

Even after 48 years, I can still hear Clark’s disgraceful voice, speaking with sickening mellifluousness in grammatical English – in whole sentences, for heaven’s sake! Our new version will feature the iconic demotic of our democratised times innit, like, dropped aitches and t’s, “their” for the, like, sexist “his” and “her,” and as many sentences – though of course these will not be sentences – as possible starting with “So…”

I recall also Clark’s initial reluctance to produce a book of his series, “…because it would have to be without the classical music on the original soundtrack.”

“Classical music”! I ask you – did ever a man so completely condemn himself out of his own mouth?

Purcell, Byrd, Bach, Tallis, Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven: the 1969 series was full of such class-ridden rubbish. This was made worse by Clark’s misplaced and undemocratic admiration for so-called “Great Masters”: Giotto, Leonardo, Botticelli, Michelangelo, Rembrandt and similar trash. I’ll have you know, Kenneth Clark, your vile era of deference to “masters” is long gone.

The new series will feature the art of the people and its comrade multi-millionaires such as Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and that other hero of our thoroughly-democratised art who fashioned an installation of the siege of Troy on an exquisite pile of (real, his own) shit.

And there will be no problem with the music. How could there be when we have to hand myriads of downloads of David Bowie, Queen, Eminem, Michael Jackson and the sumptuously adenoidal narcissist, St Bob Dylan?

Our new remake will accomplish a total revolution, amounting to an utter repudiation of the repressive “values” of the original. In that old version there was credulous and mawkish piety in the depiction of St Augustine of Hippo, St Benedict, Erasmus, Martin Luther and other devotees of the primitive and superstitious era of so called “Christendom.” We shall present true heroes of modernity and of the people: Marx, Engels, Lenin Stalin, Mao – with a special section on their greatest prophet Eric Hobsbawm.

All together now, let’s join in a thanksgiving chorus of John Lennon’s great hymn of heroically blasphemous praise: Imagine

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30 Aug

Beethoven’s Funk

My first meeting some fifteen years ago with a man who is now among my closest friends ended up in a triple-forte row. Over supper in the restaurant, I mentioned that I had just bought Andras Schiff’s recordings of all the Mozart piano sonatas. My friend, who shall remain nameless – but who’s name actually is Alexander Boot – a man with a well-tuned ear for the apt phrase – said, “I call him Andras S**t!”

He was right. I hardly played the recordings and last year i gave them away. I feel rather guilty about giving them to someone else, feeling it’s a bit like serving your pal a piece of dodgy pork.

Well, I must be a glutton – not for dodgy pork, but for punishment. For last evening I switched on the wireless to listen to Schiff – now Sir Andras – conduct the excellent Leipzig Gewandhaus in a performance of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony at the Proms. The Leipzig musicians played with their usual clarity and tone: but what they had to play, how they were directed to play was an atrocity. I have never heard anything so palpably awful since a performance of Mahler’s Second by James Loughran in the Free Trade Hall in 1975.

That Schiff could do such dirt on Beethoven’s Seventh, one of the liveliest symphonies in the repertoire! It dragged along like a lump of dead meat.

But you know how you do: I persevered, hoping for it to get better. Surely in the presto scherzo he would liven up a bit? No. Not in the allegro con brio finale either – the movement which Nietzsche extolled as “the apotheosis of the dance.” Last night it was more like the apotheosis of lumbago. To say it was spiritless would be to insult all the shades in the graveyard.

Beethoven’s first two symphonies are conventional 18th century style pieces recalling Haydn. (Characteristically, Beethoven, having had lessons from Haydn, claimed he learnt nothing from him. Yes, well, even Homer nods now and then. But the third, The Eroica burst into the world like an exploding galaxy. Music was never the same again. Beethoven seemed – yes, even Beethoven – to need a period of recovery after The Eroica and indeed the fourth is a fairly conventional affair – and no worse for that, by the way. Then he’s back to being a whirling dervish again in the tearaway fifth: that dazzling C-major chord which erupts towards the climax of the last movement…well, it’s what he heard in Haydn’s The Creation, isn’t it? The revelatory “Let there be light!” after the representation of chaos.

The old man needed a breather again and he takes it in the leisurely pastorale of his sixth. Only then does he feel ready to hurl the seventh at us. Another breather in the (almost) dainty precision of the little eighth; before the desert storm of the ninth.

How could Sir Andras perpetrate such an affront to Ludwig van? He made even the costive lushness of Karajan sound spritely. I could have done with a dose of Furtwangler or Leonard Bernstein.

Did Sir Andras get his knighthood for rescuing stray dogs, or what?

(I hope Mr Boot doesn’t mind my telling you this. But you were right, Alex. By hell you were right!)

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