Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Translation of "Salzburg wartet auf ein Theaterstück" by Thomas Bernhard

Salzburg is Waiting for a Play [1]

We are waiting.  We keep waiting and waiting for the Salzburg State Theater finally to put on a play that can be argued about in culturally significant terms.  For two years we have been waiting for such a play, and for a production worthy of such a play, and with the passage of each half-year theatrical season our dissatisfaction has been growing.  Soon even our last glimmer of hope will have vanished and the stage on the right bank of the Salzach, the stage of this peerless Austrian chamber-theater, will be nothing more than a fairground of dilettantism.
Another operetta joins the chain of operettas, another exercise in tastelessness surpasses its predecessors in tastelessness.  I mean, for crying out loud, what is theater anyway?  Does it really consist of nothing but cut-rate, shopworn entertainments?  If the answer is yes, then it really ought to be shut down first thing tomorrow morning!  But how, one pointedly asks oneself, can a city like Salzburg, which every summer is transformed into a European music and theater center of the first rank, stand to own a state-sponsored playhouse that for the remaining ten months of the year sinks to the abysmal level of a music hall for hayseeds?  Do they really think the citizens of this town—a town that is if not actually well-disposed to culture then at any rate not positively hostile to it–-do they really think them such idiots that they cannot safely present to them anything but fairy-tales slathered in curdled cream, day after day and year after year?  Apparently in the Schwarzstrasse more than anywhere else the realization has yet to sink in that there is such a thing as living theater even in these times, that since the days of Hebbel, Ludwig Thoma, and company a number of substantial plays have been written for the stage—and even for the stage of this theater, and by Austrian authors no less!  We recognize the needs of authors; we understand that consideration is due to every local season-ticket holder; we cannot, however, fathom why since Bernanos’s magnificent “Blessed Fear” (from three years ago), and the two abortive but nonetheless courageous attempts with Felix Braun and Georg Rendl, it has proved impossible to bring to the stage of this theater a single play that meets if not all then at least some of the desiderata of good drama.  To say absolutely nothing of the classics, the bulk of which have been basically spoiled for good by our grammar-school pupils’ competitions for the coveted three-schilling prize.  This playhouse is bedridden by a chronic lack of imagination and unmatchable discontent.  Anxiety or convenience, that is the choice here!  (One need only compare the repertoire with that of the other state capitals!)  It is if from the highest to the lowest levels there were an absence of every form of “consciousness,” to say absolutely nothing of enthusiasm.  What is more—we say this in all benevolence and without a trace of malevolence—the stage, however rusticated it may be, is simply not an insurance company.  Everybody is aware of the situation in this neck of the woods: the decent actors—of which there are a handful—are told to hit the road, while the lousy ones—lousier than lousiness itself—sing in operettas; and on many nights the theater is empty.  Not that we have anything against operettas, but the kinds of things that go on in the current house-monopolizer Easy Odette (a piece of hackwork of the shoddiest sort) really just shouldn’t be happening.  As a last, desperate remedy we would prescribe a lexicon of the literature for the theater, to include such names as Williams, Faulkner, Eliot, Miller, and all Austrian writers whose works are sited on the far side of the border between insignificance and significance.  What we crave is controversy!  Is it not true that the only place Salzburg goes to for nourishment is the tavern?
Years ago for some inconceivable reason somebody here choked the life out of opera, in which considerable interest persists to this day; we did the same thing to spoken drama.  Two years ago it was announced that we would soon be seeing an interesting new contemporary play.  And ever since then we have been waiting…
Untrammeled by this state of affairs, the Mozarteum Academy’s acting seminar under the leadership of Rodolf E. Leisner has for many years been staging the works of the most interesting avantgardists with great aplomb and conscientiousness.  The defrauded Salzburgers file into the Studio Sankt Peter in droves.  We recall many exceptionally good productions of Graham Greene’s The Living Room and Christopher Fry’s A Phoenix too Frequent, as well as an accomplished performance of Fodor’s play Night Tribunal from last year.  The studio inaugurated its current season with Thornton Wilder’s Our Town.

[1] Editors’ note: Die Furche, Vienna, 3 December 1955, above the signature “Thomas Bernhard, Salzburg.”  This article earned Thomas Bernhard his first lawsuit: in Vienna in January 1956 the then general manager of the Salzburg State Theater, Peter Stanchina, brought a private civil suit against Thomas Bernhard for “defamation of character.”  The suit went through two courts and was finally settled by a compromise agreement in July 1959.  Bernhard refers to this lawsuit in his 1969 article "In Austria Nothing Has Changed."              

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur.  Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons.  Herausgegeben von  Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth.  Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles.  Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).

A Translation of "Salzburg: Kokoschka and Manzù" by Thomas Bernhard

Salzburg, in July

In the white room of the archiepiscopal palace Oscar Kokoschka is exhibiting his most recent works.  These afford no new revelations.  The centerpiece of the exhibition is his portrait of Pablo Casals, the great Pyrenean artist.  Here color is turned into philosophy and philosophy into the great human question.  Casals is a fighter at war with this earth of ours, his weapon is his cello, his strength is his music.  In it there is no recurrence, only the continuity of existence.  Casals: the name signifies remaining imperturbable and immutable.  In other words: loving creation in bitterness.  This powerful painting says all these things.  Next to it hangs the monumental triptych “Thermopylae,” painted for the University of Hamburg, and depicting the struggle of the Greeks against the Persians at the narrow pass at Thermopylae.  Kokoschka is less of a master of large surfaces than his compatriot Boeckl.  Consequently this cycle is less than completely overwhelming.  Wild colors of the human chaos: the fictive annihilation of the whole of civilization.  However well it may depict his worldview, in this depiction Kokoschka has not attained the sagacity of, for instance, Picasso’s most recent drawings.  He has attempted to transfer it from paper to canvas.  It is the convulsive torments of a latter-day Inferno that shine intermittently through the three oversized paintings—in shades of green, red, and yellow.  The most engrossing of them is the central panel, with the seer Megistias who prophesied the downfall of the Greeks.  This triptych comprises three great attempts.  Perhaps their successful completion is still on the distinguished artist’s to-do list?  Such is one’s first impression—modified by a thorough study of the “consensus” from London and Linz–of an undoubtedly extremely interesting exhibition, one that well and truly would have benefited from the omission of some more or less undistinguished sketches of scenery for this year’s Salzburg Festival production of The Magic Flute.    
In the Bastionsgarten one may see two of Giacomo Manzù’s statues, “The Cardinal,” well known and much admired since last year, and “The Dancing Girl.”  In the pavilion there are some new sculptures.  All of them are worthy of honor.  The strictness of Gothic conventions elevates these effigies well above the level of mere “reality.”  The maturest of these: the bronze reliefs of the crucifixion and entombment of Christ.  They are all utterly devoid of pathos: large-scale and rough-hewn.  The beauty of his “Busts of Women” inheres in their widowed lugubriousness.  One thing is safe to say: along with Marino Marini and Giacometti this shoemaker’s son from Bergamot is the greatest living Italian sculptor. 

[1] Editors’ note: First published in Die Wurche, Vienna, 30 July 1955, above Thomas Bernhard’s signature.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur.  Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons.  Herausgegeben von  Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth.  Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles.  Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Translation of "Von schwarzen Sonnen und heiterem Gemüt" by Thomas Bernhard

Of Black Suns and a Bright Outlook [1]
A Stroll through Salzburg’s Art Exhibitions

Pen-and-ink drawing is at its best when it impulsively emerges from chance events, out of the expiring day, the streets, the fish-market, the landscape, the liminally miraculous world of the artist.  Such is the case in the work of Anton Steinhart, who once a year heads out from Salzburg to the orange and palm trees, and travels along the sea, through yellow coastal regions, always near to the sun, which in no place but between Muran and Ischia is redder and more meaningful in its ascent from the shoreline.  Steinhart’s reed-pen drawings are no narratives, they are like the poems of Rimbaud, fervent and mystery-inducing, sometimes terrifying in their beauty, implacable in the strength of their faces, which in the course of time are excommunicated.  Life is sinful, art is sin.  The ecstatic severity of his India ink portraits is no less pronounced in his landscapes.  Over a hundred sheets from Sardinia, strewn higgledy-piggledy and rationally about the Welz Gallery, exude the freshness of the moment.  Cagliari—a compound of darkness and sultriness, the sea, the garden of Alghero, black, spinning matutinal suns, day laborers at the beginning and end of the world, the backs of hills and acclivities of karst, produce a tough-going and hard-bitten diary-cum-travelogue saturated by the unbudging and unchanging Italian sun.  After last year’s sheets from Ponza we now have a new, even more hard-bitten body of work—a veritable slice of wisdom.
In a single house in the Siegmund-Haffner-Gasse: Alfred Wickenburg and Wilhelm Thöny, founder of the Graz Secession, a colorist who works in bold hues, with a strong constructivist streak.  More than fifty paintings drawn from throughout the artist’s career attest to his achievement.  The arrangement of the pictures makes it possible to walk through all four decades of Wickenburg’s paintings, which are presented as four self-contained tracts of land.  Transition is fulfilled in form.  The exhibition would appear to be grouped around four paintings: “Portrait of a Dancing-Girl,” “The Girl Overcome by Sleep,” with its absorptive Chagallian hues, “Artists,” and “Fairy Tale.”  These are the linchpins of an artistic praxis that is peculiar to Wickenburg and that today would stand (alongside Boeckl, Thöny, and Kolig) at any imaginable summit of Austrian art, if only it had recognized and embraced abstraction, “spiritualization,” as its only safeguard.
On the Salzach, at the Artists’ House, a third exhibition has just closed its doors.  Rudolf Hradil, young and well-traveled, exhibited some paintings and drawings.  An all too rarely occurring commodity is his for the taking, namely: personality!  Art is not self-producing.  Hradil, who learned his craft from Fernand Léger, has succeeded in producing art.  What there is to see so far even has character.  His paintings are documents of their time and relevant to it.  Not just the day-to-day stuff.  Dark visions, austere songs of a believer, a philosophy of colors.  The southern latitudes are also an impetus to him, his themes are “Venice” and “Rome,” along with power stations and drunkards’ holes-in-the-wall.  The drawings are no less pregnant “findings.”  Findings that, after the first five pictures, really are enough to “contaminate” and age the finder.
Before we conclude our stroll, we must take a detour into the archiepiscopal palace, where the “art society” is exhibiting the appliqués of Veronika Malata.  It is a genuine delight to promenade amid the pictures and fabric-remnants, tulle and silk, velvet and peasants’ linen.  Great-grandmothers have long made the clothes they wish to be buried in out of such fabrics.  But how new and refreshing old age sometimes is!  To say nothing of the imaginative power that has given birth to such beautiful modernistic pictures as that of “Jonas” and his history.   What Veronika Malata has conjured up on these walls is certainly not high art.  She has been stitching and sewing away for fifteen years, and she has yet to learn that the product of her efforts is bliss.  Bliss sewn together out of colorful fabrics and a bright outlook. 


[1] Editors’ note: First published in Die Furche, Vienna, 23 July 1955, above Thomas Bernhard’s signature.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur.  Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons.  Herausgegeben von  Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth.  Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles.  Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).

A Translation of "Das Werk von Josef Weinheber" by Thomas Bernhard

The Works of Josef Weinheber [1]

Josef Weinheber: COLLECTED WORKS: Vols, 1, 2, and 3.  Edited by Josef Nadler and Hedwig Weinheber.  Salzburg 1954.  Published by Otto Müller. Currently priced at 2,900 S[chillings] on onionskin [i.e., in one volume], D[eutsch]M[arks] 17.50  per volume, D[eutscsh]M[arks] 18.20 for individual volumes.

Josef Nadler and Hedwig Weinheber, Josef Weinheber's widow, have collected and edited the lyric poet's works.  Their edition is planned as a five-volume set, of which so far four volumes have appeared; these contain his juvenilia in verse, his mature poems, and his short prose writings.  The first volume contains the fruits of the years 1913 to 1931, among these are the collections I and Thou, The Dark Path, A Man who Used to Drink with Me, Amores, The Solitary, Anna Fröhlich, From Both Shores, and Boat in the Bight.  Here, a truly inexhaustible profusion of themes and passions is being brought to light for the first time. 
The second volume contains the poet’s chief works, the well-known book-length collections Nobility and Decline, O Humanity, Beware, Between Gods and Demons, Chamber Music, Vienna Verbatim, and Here Is the Word.  [In these] the pinnacle of our language is attained.  Many people laud the last book, Here Is the Word, as the purest.  It is indeed that in terms of diction, but his poetic idiom takes its deepest breath in Gods and Demons.  In this book inheres Weinheber’s life and Weinheber’s death.  Nothing packs in more soul and more combined Austrianness and Germanness than this work.  The language is not refined, but it is superbly handled.
[The] third [sic (DR)] volume is the essence of a “life” that was “crazy, profound, and ultimately self-exhausting.”  Weinheber was a success; here, in this third volume this is perfectly clear.  And so let a great sheet of forgiveness be spread over humanity, over the blazing fire of neediness, for each of us perforce has forgotten to claim at least a portion of his rightful share.
The third volume brings [together] Weinheber’s three novels, The OrphanageUncoined Gold, and Procreation.  Our poet was never a man who could write truly solid prose.  These three books are suffused with a great love of poverty of the sort that for centuries has been eking out its homely, deadly existence in the Ottakring-Heiligenstadt corridor.  These “novels” are pure autobiography and nostalgia, lovely in the eyes of the citizen of Vienna, who is at home in them, but awfully weird-seeming to anybody who is unfamiliar with that town.  Even in nearby St. Pölten they would never be understood.  Moreover, they are grammatically defective, and most fatally of all, they lack even a minimally necessary degree of cohesion.
The fourth volume comprises some short prose pieces, speeches, articles, critical essays, and a large number of poems that failed to find a home in any of the book-length collections published during the poet’s lifetime.  Weinhaber had plenty of worthwhile things to say about language.  Time and again he alighted on new sources of linguistic richness, on “new landscapes of current German usage.”  In his sketches and descriptions of his homeland a blissful whiff of Austrianness is palpable; one scents it in, for example, “Vienna, my Heart,” one of his loveliest offerings.  The city, the suburbs, and the lower-Austrian wine-country are lovingly summoned up in the truest sense of the word.  In the hitherto unpublished poems, which hail from all manner of sources, his bow is bent by folksong and by everything from broadside ballads to hymns and odes.  The glimpse into the workshop of eloquence that is afforded here is deeply distressing and at the same time deeply exhilarating.  Occasional verses are juxtaposed with attestations of a poetic gift of pure, unalloyed gold.  In the critical essays one comes across the passage in which he says of Hans Leifheln, a genuine talent who died at an early age, “His is art of the highest merit.  For only where the individual human being is visible, as in the work of this singular, canonically marginal figure, can any spell truly work its magic.”
It would appear that this edition is expected to be completed sometime next year.  The onionskin version is a joy to read, even if one rather wishes the editors had not prepared it with such nitpicking solicitousness.  Copious annotations, whether penciled in by the reader or inked in by the printer, are of scant value at any time of day.  Nonetheless the edition is a meritorious achievement.  This colossally chancy undertaking, the publication of Weinheber’s work in its entirety now, nine full years after his death, has been brought off with aplomb and deserves high praise.  We may look forward to the final volume (the letters) with trepidation and delight—quiescently conspicuous delight.


[1] Editors’ note:  First published in the Müncher Merkur, 16 February 1955, above Thomas Bernhard’s signature.

Translation unauthorized but Copyright ©2013 by Douglas Robertson

Source: Der Wahrheit auf der Spur.  Reden, Leserbriefe, Interviews, Feuilletons.  Herausgegeben von  Wolfram Bayer, Raimund Fellingerund und Martin Huber [Stalking the Truth.  Speeches, Open Letters, Interviews, Newspaper Articles.  Edited by Wolfram Bayer et al.](Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 2011).

Gould versus Rosen

About three weeks ago as of this writing (May 11, 2013), I learned, via a Google search to see what he had been up to lately, of the death of Charles Rosen some four months earlier, on December 8 of last year.  The fact that I had to wait so long to hear such news, and had to come upon them in such a fashion—that I did not have them bumptiously thrust into my ears after the manner of, say, the news of the death of that guy from the Beastie Boys (which I recall forming the immediate post-jingle contents of a certain 2010 or 2011 afternoon’s All Things Considered)—constitutes the principal impetus of the present essay.  Whether that fact has a right to constitute that impetus is, to say the least, debatable.  For I certainly cannot aver in good faith that the news of the death of Glenn Gould were bumptiously thrust into my ears at any point at all, and certainly not on Gould’s death date of October 4, 1982.  No: I learned of Gould’s death at the earliest in spring of 1983, with the arrival in my family’s mailbox of that year’s Funk and Wagnall’s Encyclopedia yearbook, in whose obituary section it (the death) was announced.  Before that day I had never heard of Glenn Gould (or, let it be said, Charles Rosen), although I most certainly had heard of the likes of Leonard Bernstein, Eugene Ormandy, and even Gould’s (and Rosen’s) fellow pianist-cum-near exact contemporary, Gary Graffman.  I apologize for all the name-dropping, and for starting off on such a flamboyantly autobiographical note, which are both really just by way of by way of calibrating the scales as precisely as possible in advance, of taking as little as possible for granted vis-à-vis the duo or diptych upon which I am about to expound.  You see, DGR, when all is dead and son, at the day of the end, when the downs are chips, when shove is come at by push, fame is a front-bottomishly difficult quality to gauge or maysure.   Yes, as I learned some years ago via You-Tube, Glenn Gould’s death may have made nationwide television news on October 4, 1982, but the nation whose width was and is in question was (and is) Canada, a country of (then) no more than twenty million souls; one imagines that the death of any Canadian musician of any international stature would have secured him or her such a posthumous mention.  And while one assumes Glenn Gould’s recording sales figures handily outstripped Charles Rosen’s, one likewise assumes that the Beastie Boys’ sales figures were something in the neighborhood of Gould’s to the power of Rosen’s.  Such that to assert as I would like to do, and to devote several thousand words in defense of such an assertion, that Rosen deserves to be regarded in the same light as Gould, that the amount and kind of attention devoted to him looks like outright neglect when juxtaposed with the amount and kind of attention devoted to Gould, cannot but in the so-called grand scheme of things smack of petulance (or, perhaps, given that the person whose reputation I would thus boost is deceased and neither a friend nor a relation, something much more perverse and less laudable than petulance).

In a way I now find myself in the much the same sort of anomalous position I found myself in four years ago when trying to drum up enthusiasm for Haydn on the back of a complaint about the to-my-mind excessive praise lavished on Mozart, with the difference that I admire the lavishee every bit as much as I do the neglectee.  (“Still on that old Mozart-bashing kick of yours, eh?  How very Gouldian of you.”  Indeed, but more on that in its proper place.)  But in a way my position is very different, because whereas in taking up the cudgels in defense of Papa Haitch I was aligning myself with an established (albeit minority) faction, in that Haydn and Mozart had (and have) always gone together like peanut butter and jelly or Abbot and Costello, such that no matter how little you admired one of them, you could not say word one about the other without mentioning him (if only and as if, indeed, by way of scraping a P&J sandwich clean of the offending half of the filling, or splicing all the Abbotian or Costellan bits out of A&C Meet Frankenstein); whereas Rosen and Gould have never been mentioned together in any of the scores if not hundreds of essays I have read on one or the other of them.  To be sure, it would surprise me very much if I turned out to be the only person who had ever thought it worthwhile to juxtapose Gould and Rosen, but it would surprise me even more if I suddenly discovered a massive trove of Plutarchian literature on Gould versus Rosen dating back to the early 1950s.  So perhaps what is really peeving me and impelling me to write is not so much that Charles Rosen’s death was not covered by the meejia in a fashion that I could not manage to overlook as that this death did not release the torrent of comparisons to Gould that I had always regarded as Rosen’s due but whose absence I had always (at least so it now seems) attributed to the sort of reticence that keeps (or should keep) a municipality from renaming a street or a building after its most illustrious athlete before his retirement.  According to that NPR TV critic with an Italian last name whose proper spelling I cannot be bothered to look up, Patrick Stewart, one of the half-dozen greatest male interpreters of Shakespeare since Olivier, is resigned to being called “second captain of the Enterprise” in the headlines of all his obituaries.  Whether Charles Rosen, one of the half-dozen greatest male North American pianists since the invention of the Hammerklavier, was while alive resigned to being hailed with parallel necrological monotony as “the author of The Classical Style,” I do not know.  But if he wasn’t—well, SITS, at least one coffin in a certain presumptively Manhattanite presumptively (orthodox?) Jewish cemetery will be stuck in spin cycle for some time to come.  Immediate posterity has seen fit to remember Rosen first and foremost as a writer and a scholar, and more specifically as a writer about and scholar of the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven.  But is that such a bad thing?  Did I not myself first encounter Rosen as a scholar, and, indeed, as the author of that selfsame obituary-superscribing book?  Ought I not, as a man of the pen, to consider scholar or writer a nobler honorific than pianist, an occupational specifier that by default seems to designate a verbally illiterate Musikant, a figure whose self-absorbed intellectual incuriosity is second in proverbiality only to that of the OED-enshrined (or, rather, -stigmatized) prima donna?  Would Glenn Gould himself not perhaps have given this or that unmentionable organ to have been memorialized principally as the mere author of Arnold Schoenberg: A Perspective rather than as “a brilliant but wildly eccentric pianist”?  Well, perhaps.  But in a way, these demurrals simply add fuel to my (f)ire, the actual site and nature of which I am only now beginning to descry.  I think my main beef with the as-yet-slender dossier of Rosen career retrospectives considered in juxtaposition with their by-now voluminous Gouldian counterparts, is that by default they have allowed a handful of trivial biographical divergences to continue to trump a far greater number of biographical convergences, and thereby to continue to obscure and in fact completely obliterate all recognition of these two men’s shared and perhaps singular (“singular”=“unique” in churlspeak, by the way) achievement.  It is difficult to specify this achievement without immediately conjuring up a string of names apparently falsifying its singularity, but here goes: both Gould and Rosen managed to impart to non-musicians an understanding of music from the point of view of a performer-cum-listener of penetrating technical insight who was also a man of the world—a musician whose insight was no less penetratively actuated by history, literature, philosophy, cinema, geography, pure unfettered flaneurie, and gosh knows what else; an understanding that was accordingly from soup to nuts impervious to all charges of being prey to such boffinish-cum-monkish vices as “sterility,” “aridity,” and “hermeticism.”  “But what about Leonard Bernstein?” you ask, conveniently sparing me a great deal of work by adducing as your first counterexample the counterexample that subsumes and excels all other counterexamples.  Well, in the first place (I answer), Leonard Bernstein, although trained as a pianist, practiced mainly as a conductor.  This meant that his “instrument” could be put to effective illustrative use only remotely, and at a considerable cost in man-hours, studio-time, wear-and-tear on cameras, videotaping machines, and so on.  Many of Bernstein’s lecture-concerts have indeed been published as book-chapters, but to appreciate them in their entirety one really must watch the videos from which they are derived, which inevitably means spectating on a highly stage-managed full-fledged performance by a complete, eighty player-strong symphony orchestra—an exercise that certainly requires no prefatory “Don’t try this at home” warning.   Consequently, Bernstein seldom gives one a sense of music as something that needs to be perceived first albeit not foremost visually, as notes on paper, or that needs to be played in the most direct, tactile, so-called hands-on sense.  Both Gould and Rosen, by contrast, were pianists by calling and lifelong practice. (Gould’s single late-life foray into conducting scarcely counts as a deviation.)  This meant that in person they could illustrate a point about a certain passage of music by simply playing it all on their respective lonesomes, with their own two hands; and in print by quoting a passage that the reader himself or herself might very well be able to play on his or her lonesome, with his or her own two hands.  It is a piquant paradox about the piano—nestpah?—that it is at once the most autocratic and the most democratic of musical instruments?  On the one hand, in virtue of its ranges of pitch and volume, both unequalled by those of any other single pre-electronic age instrument, it facilitates and encourages the sort of peremptory, monomaniacal, self-indulgent grandstanding already glancingly referred to in this essay; on the other hand, in virtue of these selfsame qualities plus its ease of actuation it facilitates and encourages the most humble, unobtrusive, amateurish, and enlightening sort of music-making. “There is nothing, I think,” said Dr. Johnson, “in which the power of art is shown so much as in playing on the fiddle.  In all other things we can do something at first.  Any man will forge a bar of iron, if you give him a hammer; not as well as a smith, but tolerably.  A man will saw a piece of wood, and make a box, though a clumsy one; but give him a fiddle and a fiddle-stick, and he can do nothing” (Life, Monday, 19 April 1773).   Johnson’s observation on the impossibility of intuitively becoming a competent violinist, let alone a virtuoso one, is as accurate now as when he made it; whereas the competent playing of a keyboard instrument would have made a worthy addition to his catalogue of universally performable tasks.  Any man will bash out a tune, if you give him a harpsichord or pianoforte; not as well as Glenn Gould or Charles Rosen, but tolerably.  A man will plunk out a piece of music on a keyboard, and make a melody, though a clumsy one.  With the violin, a thousand geometric proportions, bodily attitudes, and habits of touch must be mastered before one can make the blasted thing produce a single bearable tone.  An attempt at an F5 fingered one millimeter shy or ahead of the first mark in first position, or bowed with one minute of superfluous or indigent bow-hair or elbow-arc, or one micro-newton too many or too few of wrist-pressure will result in a sound more akin to a spontaneous burst of electronic feedback than to the controlled, sustained, ever-so-gently undulating sonic thread that the listener expects to be spun out with industrial inexorability from every violin.  On the piano, all this preliminary attitudinizing, these elaborate teeing-up procedurals, have been seen to in advance, by the designers and builders of the instrument.  At a single note’s resolution, the totally unschooled would-be piano player is virtually guaranteed a good swing, and guaranteed to get a hole in one.  He has only to depress any one of the (modern) clavier’s 88 keys with as much or as little force as he cares to apply, to produce a tone that not even the most experienced blindfolded connoisseur of the instrument and of its master-players will manage categorically to exclude from the digital profile (a.k.a. the fingerprint file) of any given virtuoso—be she or he Annie Fischer or Vladimir Horowitz or Mitsuko Uchida or, yes, Glenn Gould or Charles Rosen.  And even should such a blundering sub-tyro venture beyond that first keystroke, should he or she begin to strike keys in succession or in simultaneous combination, the odds are that after no more than ten minutes of hyperchromatic blundering he or she will manage to produce a common cadential C-major chord, or an arpeggiated version thereof, that will likewise be unpigeonholeable as the handiwork of an amateur.  And finally, and most significantly, if this selfsame blundering sub-tyro has received even the most rudimentary training in score-reading—on, say, the level that is provided (or used to be provided) in American elementary schools; the level at which one learns the relative pitch and rhythm values of notes and the manner of arranging them on a staff—he will, with sufficient practice (yes, even completely unassisted practice) manage to produce some effective realization of any passage of written music that is placed before him.  By this point, of course, his technical inferiority to the great piano virtuosos will have long since become glaringly apparent, but no matter—for he will have acquired a sufficiently capacious understanding of the passage to compare it fruitfully to and with other passages.  And provided that the passage in question exploits however feebly the piano’s multidimensionality–provided that the passage is not, a la, say, the typical violin part, confined to a single melodic line—the knowledge the sub-tyro has acquired in studying it will be applicable to music written for virtually any other instrument or combination of instruments.   So in being pianists, and in drawing heavily if not quite prevailingly from the literature written for their instrument, both Gould and Rosen took their readers with them in a manner and to an extent unattainable by those who employed instruments other than the piano as didactic aids.

This talk of didacticism conveniently brings me abreast of my second point of contrast between Gould-cum-Rosen and Bernstein.  It is certainly true that Gould and Rosen comported themselves didactically in their writings and media appearances.  But neither of them ever seemed to see himself as a teacher in quite the sense that Bernstein did.  Bernstein, you see, thought he should be devoting the bulk of his public extra-official energies to bringing the good word about great music to the same demographic as was serviced by the Pre K-to-Grade 5  schoolmarm—viz. prepubescent children; accordingly he spent an awful lot of time explaining the very basics of music in very basic terms.  Now don’t get me wrong, DGR: I have no wish to impugn or call into question the worthwhileness of old LB’s pedagogic mission, to which I certainly owe a good chunk of my own germinative enthusiasm for so-called classical or serious music; indeed, I have no wish even to aver that a semi-saber toothed oldster steeped for three decades or more in the classical repertoire and the secondary literature thereon has little to learn from LB the male schoolmarm—for indeed, not more than six months ago, I picked up from one of LB’s Young People’s Concerts a definition of so-called classical or serious music that superseded and put paid to every other such definition I had ever heard: “Classical music,” LB intoned, to a fifteen-hundred strong Carnegie Hall-swelling mob of restless, nose-picking, seat-watering tots, in that inimitable baritone of his (richly burnished and popcorn-stucco’d by a 500-a day [insert most carcinogenic brand and make of 1950s cigarette here] habit), “in contrast to jazz, pop, and folk, is music that has to be played exactly as it is written.”  But to reach this epiphanic formula I had to sit through many an hour of instruction that I had effectively already sat through in my own tot-dom, couched in a showroom stock of allusions and anecdotage better attuned to my parents’ childhood selves than to my own.  With Rosen and Gould, by contrast, I have never had to waste any time sitting uncomfortably (and unprepossessingly) crammed into the grade-schooler’s chairdesk.  To be sure, chez eux I may occasionally have had to sit through a few minutes of a sort of musicological analogue to the flight attendant’s briefing on emergency exits–a run-through of Composer X’s familiar biography here, a one two punch-paced account of the well-known basic differences in technique between Composer X and Composer Y—but these episodes have always been preliminary or peripheral to a central argument that is always (yes, like the life of a repo man and almost every work in  the oeuvre of Joseph Haydn) full of surprises.  And what this consistent discovery of novelty by the present semi-saber toothed writer most signally proves is that unlike Bernstein, neither Gould nor Rosen, despite his didactic bent, and despite his deliberate targeting of non-musicians, conceived of himself as a popularizer.  Neither of them was interested in publicly saying something just because it was true and deserved to be more widely known.  No: Gould and Rosen would commit something to the public eye or ear only if it had not as far as they knew already been committed thereunto by somebody else, ever and full-stop.  To be sure, their work often built upon the work of others (to whom they always graciously acknowledged their debt), but it always added something new, a Gouldian or Rosenian postulate or theorem, to the established corpus of meta-musical thought.  Thus the broad argument of Rosen’s Classical Style is much indebted both to Guido Adler’s notion of obbligato accompaniment and Heinrich Schenker’s theory of deep harmonic structure, but it does not simply uncritically adopt either of them.  Rather, it fuses them, synthesizes them, by way of showing that first-movement sonata form as perfected by Haydn and expounded by Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven was neither based principally on contrasting themes (as received, nineteenth century-derived opinion would have it) nor reducible (as Schenker would have it) to a single, gigantic cadence; that the melodic and harmonic structures of this form rather grew into and out of each other thanks to the newly privileged opposition between the tonic (or root degree) and dominant (or fifth degree) of the scale (this part came from Schenker) and the new exchangeability of melodic and accompanying figures (this part came from Adler).

Yet despite all these parallel writerly interests and virtues, Gould and Rosen have seldom—and indeed never as far as I know—been mentioned in the same breath.  It is as if in the public imagination they occupy two complementary yet mutually exclusive halves of a single being, the ideal pianist-cum-scholar, with Gould being thought of as an ideal, thoroughly professionalized pianist with only half-baked, autodidactic leanings towards scholarship, and Rosen as an ideal, thoroughly professionalized scholar with only dilettantish skills and accomplishments as a pianist.  But neither characterization stands up to serious scrutiny.  As pianists, both men owed pretty much their entire formation to their first teachers.  Gould appended to his studies with Guarrero a degree from the Royal Conservatory of Music, whereas Rosen’s formal musical training ended with his lessons with Rosenthal: as a college undergraduate he did not take a single music course, and in graduate school he studied French literature.  So in terms of sheer academic qualification to write about music Gould had more than a slight edge over Rosen.  Moreover, whereas Gould’s career as a writer about music began almost as early in life as his career as a performer, Rosen did not publish a single line of music criticism until he had been pianizing publicly for nearly two decades.  Even moreover, by Rosen’s own account, his career as a writer about music began as a casual and humble outgrowth of his pianizing métier: being dissatisfied with the liner notes on one of his Chopin recordings, he resolved to replace them with some less objectionable ones of his own.  The favorable reception of these elicited commissions for more liner notes, for reviews, and eventually for the full-fledged book that ended up being The Classical Style.  Now, The Classical Style, in clocking or weighing in at 533 pages, is a hefty enough volume, and only one of a half-dozen of comparable length in Charles Rosen’s authorially sanctioned English prose oeuvre.  In marked contrast the only full-fledged book in Glenn Gould’s authorially sanctioned English prose oeuvre, Arnold Schoenberg: A Perspective, is a book only in the sense of having once been printed (in its initial publication by the University of Cincinnati Press) in bound sheets between solid covers: as republished in the Glenn Gould Reader it occupies a single chapter of a mere seventeen pages.  Now, whether the comparative slenderness of AS: a P is owing to the publishers’ neglect of Gould or to an aversion to longer-form genres on his own part, I do not know.  The biographers, as near as I can remember, are silent on this question: they seem to go on and on ad nauseam about Gould’s mania for writing without ever mentioning the B-word in connection with it.  At any rate, Gould’s baseline qualifications for writing about music were no more flimsy than Rosen’s, and The Glenn Gould Reader itself clocks or weighs in at 476 pages—very nearly as long as The Classical Style.  What is more, as TGGR’s editor, Tim Page, informs us, TGGR is only a “selection” of Gould’s writings.  Finally, in dying in 1982, a full thirty years before Rosen (who, it should be remembered, was five years his senior) Gould simply did not have nearly as much time at his disposal for the spreading of his authorial wings.  Prima facie (a.k.a. prima vista or at first blush) the most derogatory thing one can get away with saying about Gould the author is that he never proved himself a master of large forms, that he was, to reapply Rosen’s faintly damnatory attributive epithet for Joseph Haydn, a “medium-scale” writer.  But having done this one must also remember that Rosen himself only occasionally proved himself a master of large forms, that the majority of his published books are not proper monographs or surveys but compilations of lectures and essays, or, more properly, articles—the majority of these having been written for The New York Review of Books.  And speaking of the NYRB, one mustn’t discount the possibility that the unignorable divergences in authorial idiom, voice, comportment, habitus, and so on, between Gould and Rosen were dictated to a significant extent by correspondingly strident divergences in the venues for which they were most accustomed to write.  The NYRB is, as its name suggests, a dedicated forum for the discussion of newly published books (even if the novice may be forgiven for initially mistaking one of its numbers for the catalogue of an academic publishers’ trade fair or of an exhibition of the work of some wearisomely repetitious fairground caricaturist).  Its official remit is to distinguish between books that are worth reading and those that are not; its unofficial (and more important) one is to spare its readers the trouble of cracking the spines of books of either sort.  Towards the fulfillment of this second mission, it grants its contributors vast fiefdoms of column-inchage unobtainable in any other newsstand periodical, be it glossy, tabloid, or broadsheet.  The NYRB contributor is under absolutely no pressure or obligation to make a flashy, zippy entrance; to skip steps one and three; to safeguard the durability of his welcome in ten words or fewer.  He can start out from a vantage point of Olympian irrelevance to the down-to-earth or Mississippian impertinence to the mainstream; the reader will forgive him with abundant if not quite limitless patience, knowing full well as he does from the three or four blocks of italics, rounded brackets, and dollar sign-prefixed and “pp.”-postfixed numbers brazenly yet not greedily stealing into the upper third of the article’s first page that the writer will eventually have to get around to discussing Stephen Greenblatt’s, Niall Fergusson’s, and Benedict Anderson’s respective and interpenetrating takes on the Age of Exploration, or Louis Menand’s, Stanley Fish’s, and Robert Cockfuck’s on the Gilded Age’s checkered romance with the gold standard.  Of course by that same three-or-four-block token, the NYRB reviewer is categorically debarred from truly letting his hair down.  He cannot start off writing just any old thing in any old tone in any old register.  He must make sure that however many gigaparsecs away from his assigned subjects he has begun, the course he subsequently takes ultimately brings him into contact with those subjects with recurring comet-like inexorability.  For all his dawdling, he is the ruthlessly Fordian antithesis of the truly free-spirited reviewer of the golden age of the feuilleton, of Balzac’s Lucien de Rubempré, who in the review of a play-performance devoted ten times as much space to the leading lady’s legs as to her acting.

If he, the NYRB reviewer, also sounds like the ruthlessly Fordian antithesis of Glenn Gould the writer, who in his puckish digressiveness seems in turn to come across as something of a disciple or descendant of Lucien de Rubempré—well, that ultimately may be as little owing to Gould’s inalienable free-spiritedness as to any given NYRB reviewer (including Charles Rosen)’s inalienable shackled-spiritedness.  You see, Gould, like Rosen, had a particular mass-circulation periodical as his public sounding-board of choice or habit.  This periodical was called High FidelityHigh Fidelity was (and I suppose perhaps still is) a generically altogether patchier stuffed animal than the New York Review of Books.  It catered to two overlapping but by no means coextensive readerships—viz., the owners and would-be purchasers of expensive electronic sound-reproducing equipment and the lovers of recorded classical music.  The first readership it catered to principally in glossy Playboy-esque photo-spreads of the latest high-end amplifiers, loudspeakers, and turntables; the second in pithy, New Yorker-esque capsule reviews of the latest offerings on vinyl by the likes of Karajan, Marriner, Pavarotti, and (yes) Gould and Rosen.  The balance of the magazine’s content was intended, as one would expect, to bridge the gap between the non classical music-loving audiophiles and the non-audiophile classical music buffs—partly, as one would expect, by addressing topics that would be of equal interest to both Venn diagram-outliers, but also by bringing in topics that would seem to be equally remote from, equally alien to their respective interests.  Do you catch, DGR?  The idea was for some po-faced classical music buff to come across a debate between, say, Zubin Mehta and Seiji Ozawa on, say, the hot-button issue of fox-hunting, and ejaculate to himself, whilst administering a corroborative fillip to his monocle, “’Pon my soul!  A debate on fox-hunting in the pages of High Fidelity.  I suppose it’s ‘anything goes,’ as they say, in this mag. I reckon I might as well cock a shufti at that supplemental gatefold on Bang and Olufson’s and Harman Kardon’s latest Richter 9-impervious Plattenspielers.”  To such a deliberately quasi-anarchic format, you doubtless now expect me to add, Gould’s unslakeable thirst for the banally arcane and the sublimely recondite—the exposed and hidden byways of high and low culture alike—along with his irrepressible proclivity for good old-fashioned clowning-around, was ideally suited.  But I shall do no such thing.  For given that the just-mentioned thirst and proclivity developed in tandem with Gould’s career as a High Fidelity contributor, it is not quite beyond the pale of improbability that they were engendered or at least nurtured by HF itself, or at least that in indulging them Gould was as much pandering to the magazine’s format as exploiting it.  Not that I would for a moment wish to be thought to intimate that Gould did not sincerely and wholeheartedly enjoy all the clowning and byway-snooping—the self-interviews, funny costumes, and silly voices; the phony time-capsule, the mock-autobiography in the style of Artur Rubenstein, the mock-hagiography of Petula Clark, and so on—but that I would for an eon like to be taken to intimate that these episodes are hardly representative of Gould’s habitus, tone, modus operandi, or ethos vis-à-vis the explication of musical phenomena.  Truth to tell, when Gould was encouraged—as in the Schoenberg Perspective—simply to expatiate at length on a given musicological topic, he would invariably do just that clearly, deliberately, and conscientiously—not without wit and humor, to be sure, but also without any red-nosed, trouser-dropping antics.   Or, to tell it another way: Gould’s authorial approach and persona were in fact not radically dissimilar from Charles Rosen’s.  Complementarily, although Rosen has not (as far as I know) bequeathed to posterity any red-nosed, trouser-dropping antic-ridden essays of his own, one should not assume that he was any less inclined to such antics than was Gould.  For Rosen assuredly was no bigoted defender of any kind of hard-and-fast distinction between high (or “elite”) and low (or “popular”) culture.  His table talk reportedly was as likely to center on sitcoms (Taxi, Cheers, and Absolutely Fabulous being his favorites) as on sonatas; and in The Romantic Generation he doughtily (if rather backhandedly) defended the schlock composer biopics of Ken Russell as “noble trash.” 

Indeed, one of the mainstays of his perspective on culture is that the aesthetic categories of greatness, tastefulness, and “high”-ness are capable of being combined with and alienated from each other in unpredictable and historically specific ways.  In glaringly favorable contrast to the common garden variety prole-humping cultural Whig, who would have us surrender to the remorseless simplicity of the historico-evaluative conveyor-belt, according to which the “low,” mean, tasteless cultural trash of the past is alchemically transformed into the “high,” great, tasteful cultural gold of the present (and the “low,” mean, tasteless cultural trash of the present is transformed into the “high,” great, tasteful cultural gold of the future [such that Hamlet and Great Expectations simply were the Big Brother and Jersey Shore of their day and Big Brother and Jersey Shore simply will be the Hamlet and Great Expectations of tomorrow]), Rosen argued that neither genuine progress in the arts nor genuine expression of artistic genius could ever be guaranteed to coincide with movement in a determined direction on either the social scale or the scale of aesthetic merit.  In some senses (Rosen argued) the classical style of Haydn and Mozart did indeed participate in a kind of popularization of serious music, infusing the high genres of opera, symphony, concerto, and divertimento with an abundance of folk-derived melodies, rhythms, and harmonies and producing what may with some legitimacy be described as the first pop hits—compositions that were at least partly known and ardently loved by large populations who had never seen them in print or heard them performed live (Mozart’s Don Giovanni famously supplied the mobility of Prague with hours of whistling material).  But in other, and ultimately more significant senses (Rosen argued), the classical style had been a refining, complicating, civilizing, “elitifying” force, one that banished the bracingly anarchic chord progressions characteristic of the likes of such mid-eighteenth century titans as C. P. E. Bach, and substituted for them a large-scale sense of harmonic structure that was both more logical and much harder for the average listener to comprehend.  Yes (RA’d), taken in isolation Haydn’s and Mozart’s tunes may have been the most accessible in the history of music thereunto, but the compositions to which they contributed were hardly fan fare for the common man.  By a similar token (RA’d), Felix Mendelssohn was perhaps the greatest musical genius the world has yet known—if by genius one means a precocious combination of fertility of invention and mastery of the technical means of expression.  Certainly by this measure he blew Mozart away: nothing produced at the same age by Wolfgang Amadeus is anywhere near the equal of the sixteen-year-old Mendelssohn’s string octet or Midsummer Night’s Dream overture.  What is more, there was nothing callow, superficial, or otherwise stereotypically youthful about the young Mendelssohn’s compositional métier: it arose out of a comprehensive and searching acquaintance with the musical literature of the preceding century, from the early Bach to the late Beethoven.  And yet aside from the two works already mentioned plus a symphony or two and an overture, the entire triple-digitally abundant Mendelssohnian compositional corpus is basically dispensable.  “In what sense?”  In the sense that nobody is seriously going to argue that Mendelssohn’s string quartets are the equals of Beethoven’s or that Mendelssohn’s Elijah is the equal of the St. Matthew Passion.  “So I suppose his is a classic case of a child prodigy burning out in his ripe-old early twenties.”  Not at all: for Mendelssohn’s late works are much more ambitious and no less fecund in ideas than his early ones.  Mendelssohn’s case (argues Rosen) is the admittedly not particularly classic one of a genius (whether young or old is immaterial) hamstrung by the necessity of expressing himself through a collection of styles that have run their courses.  His principal models for chamber composition, the late quartets of Beethoven, were not amenable to productive imitation; their formal idiosyncrasies testified to the moribundity of the stylistic sub-tradition that had engendered them.  His principal models for his religious vocal compositions, the great sacred choral oeuvre of J. S. Bach, hailed from a pre-French revolutionary Christendom whose prevailing attitude toward the Almighty was one of terror, terror of a pitch that no merely secular power could then dream of eliciting.  The Christians of Mendelssohn’s day, on the other hand, being sufficiently terrified by the instruments of man—from the guillotine to the locomotive—sought in religion and the very notion of the divine mainly a source of consolation.  Consequently, when Mendelssohn imported the solemnly peremptory gestural repertoire of Bach’s sacred compositions into his own fundamentally ecumenical religious works, the result was what Rosen very aptly describes as religious kitsch, a kind of pseudo-sacred art that allows the listener to enjoy the feeling of being religious in the old sense without committing him to the exigencies of a particular creed.  Bach is like an authentic fire-and-brimstone eighteenth-century Protestant preacher a la Jonathan Edwards: when he enjoins you to behold Christ as a bridegroom and a lamb, it is with an implied postscript of “and if you can’t or won’t you’re going straight to hell.”  Mendelssohn is more like a liberal high church Anglican vicar who sticks to the archaic grammar and phraseology of the Authorized Version and the original Book of Common Prayer, while basically always preaching variations on “All are Welcome” and “Just be thyself.”  So in short, Mendelssohn’s very mastery of the musical language of the great tradition effectively debarred him from fulfilling that tradition by moving it forward.  Quasi-paradoxically, that fulfillment was to be achieved by composers with a much shakier command of the tradition—by Schumann, and by Berlioz.  Schumann excelled principally in the unprestigious genres of the song and the piano miniature; in the traditional large-form instrumental genres—e.g. symphony and string quartet—he was if not quite a washout at least a very slow study.  But by exploiting in his short pieces the newer pianos’ capacity to draw out notes practically ad infinitum via the magic of the sustain pedal, Schumann developed an entirely new and lastingly influential way of treating voice-leading and rhythm.  In Schumann’s piano works, for the first time in the history of music, the accented beat or main voice of a given measure could be supplied by a note that had not even been initially sounded in that measure, that may indeed have been first struck many measures earlier.  As for Berlioz, Rosen points out that he was a downright hack—proficient at playing no musical instrument and ignorant of some of the most elementary and virtually indispensable rules of counterpoint.  And yet through his imaginative instrumentation he endowed the symphony orchestra with the capacity for tone-painting that was to be its hallmark through the remainder of the nineteenth century.  The sound of the post-Berlioz orchestra was the sound of classical music for the vast majority of the twentieth-century listening public, and the programmatic symphonies, overtures, tone poems, and movie scores that were written for that orchestra were that public’s favorite concert works.

If there is one quality in virtue of lacking which Gould may be accounted Rosen’s inferior as a writer on music, it is the sense of historical mediation that imbues and guides all of the arguments I have summarized in the preceding paragraph.  In Gould’s view, one element of music outranked all others as both a locus of interest and a touchstone of aesthetic merit, and that element was counterpoint.  “All of the music that really interests me—not just some of it, but all of it,” he told Tim Page in 1982, “is contrapuntal in nature.”  And of all the possible manifestations of counterpoint the only one that seemed to count qua counterpoint for him was the fugue.  This did not mean that he prized only works that called themselves fugues, because, as the fugue is not quite a genre in the same quasi-straitened sense as a classical sonata or symphony, there are plenty of non-fugues that are chock full of more or less punctilious fugue-like part-writing (notably the development sections of most classical sonatas and symphonies, a substantial minority of which Gould was proud to listen to or perform).  But it did mean that he effectively had no use for entire periods of music history in which most composers were not habitually writing pieces dominated by simultaneous arithmetically interrelated fully hummable melodies—notably, the gaping, 175-year-wide chasm separating the death of Bach from the maturity of Schoenberg.   The Cocytus, the era horribila, of his disdain was comprised by the thirty-something year period between Beethoven’s Great Fugue and Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde, a period for which he sportingly enough confessed to have a “blind spot,” a period that corresponds with uncanny tidiness to the period covered by Charles Rosen’s Romantic Generation.  The catalogue of composers treated at length in that book reads like a veritable rogues’ gallery of personae Gouldo non gratae: Mendelssohn, Chopin, Schumann, Meyerbeer, Liszt, Verdi—as far as Gould was concerned, the collected corpora of these luminaries might as well have consisted of three-chord rock or synth-pop tunes as symphonies, chamber works, solo sonatas, and operas.  And as for proper counterpoint’s reemergence in the music dramas of Wagner’s maturity—why, it was presumably owing to some epiphanic coup de foudre vouchsafed to Dickie W. alone by Johann Sebastian’s ghost.  The thought that Wagnerian counterpoint might have been merely a refinement or elaboration of the contrapuntal practice of W.’s immediate predecessors either never crossed Gould’s mind or was so unpalatable to him that he could never bring himself to entertain it publicly.  What was more, Gould seemed to have a second blind spot—this one unacknowledged—for music written after the second golden age of counterpoint, for anything postdating the first wave of modernism and the death of Schoenberg.  His abhorrence of minimalism—he said it “drove him up the wall”—was by his criterion understandable (and, incidentally, shared with Rosen), for the tirelessly iterated unvoiced chords of Philip Glass et al. are genuinely devoid of contrapuntal substance.  But his patent lack of enthusiasm for the music of the two most eminent and stalwart standard-bearers of post Schoenbergian modernism, Pierre Boulez and Elliott Carter is rather more bemusing.  Carter receives a mere duo of passing mentions in The Glenn Gould Reader.  The first of these occurs in a brilliantly one-upping survey of the “career” of Peter Schickele’s creation P.D.Q. Bach, wherein he pretends to descry in the fictitious compoer’s use of rhythmic “‘incompatibility’” as ‘“a structural element in the composition”’ a prolepsis of Elliott Carter’s theory of metrical modulation” (428).  Now, metrical modulation is to Elliott Carter pretty much exactly what stream of consciousness is to James Joyce—a signature technique that one learns of within minutes of learning the name of its inventor, and well in advance of becoming acquainted with his works.  The second Carterian mention occurs in Gould’s prefatory remarks to a catalogue of his own would-be contributions to a by-then-no-longer-existing Canadian version of Desert Island Disks: “there’s always the chap who, under cross-examination, will confess undying affection for The Art of the Fugue or the Elliott Carter string quartets but, when left to his own devices and with microphone removed, would in fact select The Pines of Rome and “Starlight Favorites at the Hollywood Bowl” (437).   Here Carter functions simply as a synecdoche for ultra-highbrow music (in highly suggestive tandem with a peak in the Bachian alps that Gould never quite finished scaling, in that he recorded only excerpts of it).  To Boulez Gould devoted a New Republic article remarkable both for its touching loyalty to Schoenberg in the face of its subject’s self-aggrandizing crowing over AS’s death and for its utter barrenness of commentary on Boulez’s works.  Now whatever faults one may plausibly allege to espy in the compositions of Carter and Boulez, an absence of “the simultaneous proliferation of ideas—a.k.a. Gould’s definition of  “counterpoint at its best”—is certainly not among them.  It is difficult to think of a single measure of, say, Le Marteau sans maître or Carter’s Third Quartet, in which more than three things, let alone one, are not going on at the same time.  But in neither work are these simultaneously occurring things quite melodies in the sense that the subject of a Bach fugue is, or even motifs in the sense that a tone row subset-cum-rhythmic figure is in one of Schoenberg’s mature twelve-tone compositions.  Rather, they are events—dilations, accelerations, amplifications, and contractions of other successions of notes that have already been heard or are yet to be heard.  They pursue the logic of Bachian counterpoint, to be sure, but not—as Schoenberg did—by merely iterating it under a new harmonic dispensation but by expanding it into an extra dimension, the dimension of time (or, perhaps more accurately “meta-time,” in the light of the implied temporal outspooling of all traditionally annotated music).   For Gould the prodigal “simultaneous proliferation of ideas” in the spatial register that was “counterpoint at its best” had to be subordinated to a tight-fisted dearth of ideas in the temporal register, to “firm beats,” to “a sense of rhythmic continuity” that Carter’s and Boulez’s idioms had deliberately forsaken.

So far, I admit, at least on the scholarly front it looks like a score of Rosen 2 and Gould nil.  But this referee’s call depends on a rulebook in which the more is from an epistemological point of view inevitably the merrier, in which a blind spot can only take the form of a failure to appreciate the merits of a given compositional corpus.  But surely the over-appreciation of such a corpus amounts to a blind spot in its own right.  Yesterday, en route through Rosen’s latest—and hence last—collection of essays, Freedom and the Arts, immediately after finishing a characteristically delightful and insightful meditation on the notion of canonicity under cover of a review of new editions of the works of J. J. Rousseau, Bettina von Arnim, and the Marquis de Sade, I was bemusedly dismayed to bump into the title page of Part Two, entitled “Mostly Mozart.”  Of course, from the book’s table of contents I had already learned that it contained such a section, but I had somehow self-protectively managed to forget that it turned up so early.  And why did I need to avail myself of such a cheap feint?   Could it perchance have been because I despised Mozart?  No.  In fact I have always liked and occasionally even loved Mozart.  My dismay and my need for self-protection spring rather from my otherwise unshakeable faith in Rosen as a guy—perhaps the only such guy even recently alive—who gets both the small and the big pictures, or—even more specifically, appreciates how the small picture builds up into the big.  Time and again Rosen has devoted huge chunks of prose to the works of Mozart.  And time and again I have failed to discern the worthwhileness of the devotion.  The Classical Style bills itself as a history of the development of music in and through the works of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, but the narrative it traces would survive largely intact if Mozart were eliminated from it entirely.  One is solidly convinced by Rosen’s accounts of Haydn’s establishment of the main instrumental genres of string quartet, keyboard sonata, and symphony; and of Beethoven’s expansion of these genres to the utmost dimensions they were capable of within the tonic-dominant harmonic schema, but one cannot quite see how Mozart’s (admittedly indisputable) mastery of the tangential genres of string quintet, comic opera, and keyboard concerto contributed indispensably to either phenomenon.  That Mozart’s greatest operas evince a sophistication of harmonic architecture not even attempted in Haydn’s patchwork entertainments for the Eszterháza stage every listener who has thrilled to Figaro and slept through L’incontro improvviso will readily believe.  But that the symphonic masterpieces of Haydn’s later years, together with the whole of Beethoven’s oeuvre, would have been impossible without Figaro, Don Giovanni, & co.—well, that’s a rather hefty sack of Mozartkugeln to have to swallow.  That the composition of a string quintet entails certain technical problems not attending the composition of a string quartet, problems that Haydn did not master but that Mozart did, we may readily gather from the anecdote about Haydn’s way of handling a request for an opus in this genre, viz. by adding a blank staff to one of his quartet scores and ordering the requestor to ask Mozart to fill it; and the a fortiority of the piano concerto’s presentation of the same sorts of problems, as well as the Haydn-to-Mozart success ratios thereunto, require no illustrative anecdote—the mere juxtaposition of the entirety of FJH’s puny and partly apocryphal  klavierkonzertistic output with any one of the last ten Mozart concertos is more than sufficiently eloquent.  But Rosen never even tries to argue that these problems are problems of the sort whose more or less successful treatment can separate a masterpiece from a piece of hackwork–viz., problems of formal organization.  Granted, Mozart’s C major string quintet, K 515, is a masterpiece, but is Haydn’s C major string quartet, op. 76 no. 3, any less of one merely because it lacks a second viola part?  The closest thing to a genuine Mozartian formal innovation identified by Rosen is the “tonal mass,” a sort of harmonic analogue to the frat boy’s Zen or cool alcohol buzz, a capacity for maintaining the listener’s interest over long stretches without changing key.  And to be sure it is true that the individual movements of Mozart’s post-juvenilian sonata-form works are on average about a third longer than their Haydnian counterparts, and that they owe their comparative longevity to a less restless treatment of key, to a tendency to let melodies have their long, loping way within their specific diatonic compasses, rather than cane-hooking them offstage every ten measures to make way for their differently keyed successors.  But (as the actress said to the bishop) is longer always better?  I personally find the more elevated harmonic metabolism of a typical Haydn sonata-form movement quite bracing, and the depressed tortoise-esque one of a typical Mozart sonata-form movement a bit of a snoozefest.  Mind you, when Mozart is melodically on in one of these sonata-form movements, there is no beating him, and during these moments one is hesitant to trade the composition immediately at ear for a wilderness of Haydnian alternatives.  But one’s rapture does not often survive the specific occurrence of the melody, and rarely survives the movement.  Why?  Because the ensuing material is not up to the same level as the melody or is inadequately integrated with it.   A good example of such a “There was a falling off!”-provoking movement (disclosure: I have complained of this elsewhere) is the first one of the so-called Dissonance quartet, where a first subject of indescribably ethereal—nay, aeronautical sweetness (if “aeronautical sweetness” sounds almost like an oxymoron, well it should, for the choon’s ability to soar and sigh with equal grace is precisely what makes it miraculous) is succeeded by a smart-ass little second subject in triplets, engaging enough on its own, but far too puny to serve as headliner after the warm-up act that was the first subject.  Not that even at this point all hope is lost for the redemption of the movement, for in the development Mozart could always explain to us—as Haydn almost invariably would do—what the second subject has to do with the first.  Instead, in typical Mozartian fashion, Mozart devotes the development to a fugato treatment of a single figure from the first subject.  Finally, in the recapitulation, after running through the first subject in its entirety virtually unaltered (and thereby wringing most of its gracefulness out of it and, indeed, making it seem slightly creepy) he has the galled huevos to reintroduce the smart-ass theme, completely unaltered, thereby making it sound twice as insufferably smirky as the first time round.  Oh, sure, besotted Mozartomanes (and here I am not thinking of Charles Rosen, although I am sure he did tender this judgment at some point in his long and overly Mozartophilic life) will try to tell you that the smart-ass theme has been rendered “almost heart-Ginsuingly poignant by all that has happened in the intervening XX measures (no, those aren’t Roman numerals, but place-holders for my ignorance of the number of measures between the first and second appearances of the second subject, a number which I assume is much larger than nine and slightly smaller than one hundred), but they are eff-issimo of the old ess, because in point of fact effectively nothing has happened in those selfsame measures.  In short, this is a movement whose sell-by date elapses at the two-fifths mark, a movement that effectively serves as a place-holder or kipping-out spot for a single admittedly marvelous tune.  Not, as I have already implied, that there are not entire Mozart-penned movements that make it to the finish line without curdling, or even in a very, very few cases, put to shame their most obvious Haydn-penned comparandum.  The best (and, I stress, practically only) example of such a movement is the first one of the string quartet in D minor K. 421, from the so-called Haydn set (i.e., the set of six quartets dedicated by Mozart to Haydn).  This movement is obviously inspired by, nay, modeled on, its counterpart in Haydn’s Op. 9 D minor quartet, and as a finished product it is to that model what the actual, seaworthy U.S.S. Famousaircraftcarrier is to a mantelpiece-ready bottled Cutty Sark.  Here, none of the cavils I voiced in connection with the first movement of the “Dissonance” are voiceable: the second subject, while unmistakably different in character (i.e., in rhythmic and harmonic gait) from its predecessor, does not upstage it; it presents the listener with a different side of the lugubriousness of the first subject rather than with a different emotional habitus altogether.  And the development, while patently nowhere nearly as American Indian-esquely exhaustive of thematic material as an average Haydn first movement, does not content itself with sequential treatment of a portion of the first subject; rather (not wholly unlike the earlier Haydn of the so-called Sturm und Drang period {though not of op. 9}), it divagates into new material whose relatedness (yes, a heart-Ginsuing relatedness) to the exposition is elusive but palpable.  In the recapitulation there are few surprises, but unlike in the “Dissonance,” the intrinsic dignity of the second subject (abetted by the obligatory change to the minor mode) keeps it from spoiling the Empfindugnsgeist.  But the real piece de grace, the real coup de resistance, comes in the coda, when, after another divagationary episode, this one suggestive more of a ruminative, flaneurish cast of mind, the triplet-heavy figure from the close of the exposition comes dashing back in like a footpad in the Bois pouncing on the aforementioned episode and makes short work of it in a steep crescendo riding o’er the back of not four but three self-statements.  Do you see the dramatic force of this move, DGR?  One was not expecting the entrance of the expo-closer at all; and when it did arrive in defiance of one’s expectations, one immediately began bracing oneself for it to finish off the movement in the familiar statement-plus-three-iterations; hence when it supplies only two iterations one feels that the movement has come to an end a full measure too early.  Pretty heart cum gut-wrenching stuff, what-what?  But the rest of K. 421—its three later movements—is a mixture of the forgettable and the unendurable.  The forgettable bit is the two middle movements, and unendurable bit is the finale, a seemingly never-ending set of what must be the least varied variations in the chamber music repertoire.  Seriously, Jude, WAM practically might as well have postscripted the first statement of the theme with two dots bearing a superscript of, say, 800 or even 1,000.  Such monotonous poverty of invention following (admittedly very distantly) on the heels of such copiousness thereof as was witnessed in the first movement is downright demoralizing.  But one expects to be demoralized by the extra-operatic Mozart, who tends to treat his instrumental compositions more like medleys or suites (of the movie-soundtrack type, not the baroque solo-instrumental type) than like proper, self-contained, intra-connected aesthetic entities.  I realize that I am on empirically shaky ground here, that the late eighteenth-century symphony or string quartet is not so obviously formally unified a genre, as, say, the late eighteenth-century novel; that the only way of proving that a late-eighteenth century symphony or string quartet is formally heterogeneous is to demonstrate the irrationality of its key relations, and memory urges me to take for granted that in The Classical Style the key relations of every composition penned by Mozart from the age of seventeen onwards are conclusively shown to be as rational as Mr. Spock on truth serum.  Be that as it may, or, rather, must, Mozart’s instrumental corpus abounds in works that simply do not gel for me in a way that almost all of Haydn’s symphonies and string quartets and piano sonatas and piano trios—even the most marginal and supposedly minor ones--do.  Just take as an example of such Haydnian gellage the B minor string quartet from Haydn’s op. 64, a piece that, let it be said, more than cancels the debt incurred in K. 421 by borrowing at least as heavily from that work as it borrowed from his own Op. 9, no. 4.  Its first movement is admittedly not the equal of that of K. 421.  Like that movement it begins and ends in the minor mode (yes, Hans Keller, despite its brilliant “progressively tonal” first measure in apparent F major), and hence officially is tragic rather than comic.  But in point of fact its mood is, as they say, all over the map, ranging from the highly tragic to the broadly comic, to the neurotically panicked to finally, in its last measures, the defiantly sarcastic.  And it is this sarcastic note that proves the quartet’s unifying linchpin, for by taking it up again at the beginning of the finale—a sonata and not a set a variations—Haydn paves his way to a non-tragic, and indeed a properly comic (major-key) ending; for the transition to good-natured laughter is more easily made from spiteful laughter than from the totally unrelated medium of non-joyful tears.

“Something too much of this.”  But not very much too much of it, because, although I have indeed put a good square foot or two of typage between the present noun-phrase and my most recent mention of Rosen, I believe that it is really only through an admittedly tedious circumstantial comparison of certain works of Haydn and Mozart and their attendant respective phenomenal manifestations in one’s own psyche of the sort that I have just essayed that one can even begin to instill the ghost of a conviction that one has not simply missed the main points of Rosen’s argument valorizing Mozart at Haydn’s expense; the conviction that one has not simply “denied” Rosen’s  “major”; the conviction that one really has seen all the sights that Rosen has pointed out in the Mozartian Landschaft and acknowledged them not to be mirages, and yet respectfully continues to regard Haydn as the superior composer; and thence to instilling the logically consequent conviction that Glenn Gould was not simply shooting off his mouth or talking through his ass, let alone performing some kind of two part invention-esque canon involving both orifices, when he called Mozart (albeit not in so many words) “a lousy composer,” or said that WAM had died too late rather than too soon, or that he was basically a composer for the theater.  When you come right down to it, Rosen’s preference of Mozart to Haydn must be seen as emanating from Mozart’s undeniable superiority to FJH as a melodist.  Mozart’s (fairly) successful accommodation of his loping melodic gifts to a style—Haydn’s style—better suited to the outworking of short motivic units, was indeed an impressive achievement, but it is perverse to elevate, as Rosen did, even the best examples of this accommodation above such supreme, unaccommodating exertions of the style on its native aliment as Haydn’s last two-dozen or so symphonies and string quartets.  (In any case, if the apotheosis of the long melody is what you really prize, surely your man is Schubert, a titanic figure who oddly yet unsurprisingly falls between the cracks of Rosen’s two magna opera.  Not that there are not quite a number of references to FS in both books, but that in neither of them does he get an official chapter to himself, and that in each of them he is used mainly as a foil to the falling or rising generation.  In the later pages of The Classical Style, Schubert figures as a kind of proto-Mendelssohn, failing to wring a single specimen of Beethovenian sublimity out of dozens of slavish imitations of the master’s idiom, while in the earlier pages of The Romantic Generation he figures as a kind of belated poor man’s Beethoven, obdurately clinging to the old four-square secco classical phrasing and articulation for all his love of such proto-Romantic devices as unelaborated iteration.)

The lesson of Rosen’s overestimation of Mozart is that one can sometimes take historical mediation too far.  Yes, Gould’s categorical poo-pooing of the high Romantic epoch and the entire oeuvre of Mozart left him blind (or deaf) to the merits and beauties of much great music.  But the cardinal article in the creed of all serious professional non-pop musicians and students of music born since, say, Johannes Brahms attained legal drinking age, has been “Bach is best”; and Rosen himself renewed his subscription to this creed when he remarked, “Bach is the only first-rate composer”; and such being the case, anybody who rejects any music for not being sufficiently Bachian perforce cannot be a complete loon and indeed must be on some version of the right track.  It is all very well to defend Composer X (or indeed Driftwood Artist or Finger-Painter X) against charges of not doing P on the grounds that he was not even trying to do P and was really only interested in doing Y, but in the so-called final analysis such a feint merely postpones the posing of the uncomfortable but ineluctable question “Is Y really as important a thing even to try to do as P?”  One sees how ineluctable this question is most glaringly in Rosen’s NYRB-hosted hatchet-job on the mighty twentieth-century Gesamtgeist (and Gould hero) Theodor Adorno.  In Adorno’s view, as expounded in his Philosophy of Modern (or, in the newer translation, New) Music, of the two most illustrious composers of the twentieth century, Arnold Schoenberg and Igor Stravinsky, Schoenberg alone carried the great post-Bachian tradition of Western music forward by continuing to work with motifs that were both new (in that they did not remind you of something you had already heard) and amenable to development in combination with other motifs, and thereby heroically maintained the individual’s power of expression qua individual in face of ever-increasing standardization in the arts as in all other domains of human life.  Stravinsky, on the other hand, according to Adorno, was regressive vis-à-vis the GWCT; his compositional technique marked a step backward in that it worked with motifs that were shamelessly evocative of what had come before (this was called “neoclassicism” then; today, we would call it “retro”) and then refused to combine them with other motifs, preferring instead to repeat them.  To the totalitarian forces of standardization, Adorno’s Stravinsky simply said, like the Kaiser in the old Austrian joke, “If yah wanna piece o’ me, help y’self.”  He was all for his own annihilation as an expressive entity, because he believed that by his day the expressive individual was already dead and buried.  For Rosen, this précis of the twentieth-century musical landscape is but the product of so much blinkered “cultural racism” (i.e., ethnocentrism) and analogizing run amuck.  He supposes that Adorno did not care for Stravinsky, just as he did not care for Debussy, simply because Stravinsky was not a German (or, more properly, an Austro-German) and did not do things auf die deutsche Art; and that simply because they lack corporeal arms and legs it is absurd to think of musical ideas as surrogates for human agency.  But Rosen’s defense of Stravinsky is weak, amounting to a concession of Adorno’s major—“Adorno was right about Stravinsky’s motifs: they do not have the dynamic charge of the German motif”—followed by an assertion—“These motifs, which Adorno considered dead, were an invention of genius that revolutionized music”—whose empirical validity, as near as I can see, boils down to this: that an awful lot of twentieth-century composers imitated Stravinsky.  (Cf. the contemporaneous pandemic hypermoronism “The Beatles revolutionized music.”)  But this unignorable empirical SOA leaves unanswered the more exigent aesthetic question whether the bulk of music composed under Stravinsky’s influence has been any damned good or not.  I should have thought that in the light of the fact that no twentieth-century composer has been more deeply, shamelessly, and transparently indebted to The Rite of Spring than the godawful dark prince of minimalism, Philip Glass, Rosen would have been inclined to answer this question in the negative.  But perhaps Rosen was too much a musician of his own generation to recognize these affinities, or at any rate to feel them.  In the mid-twentieth century, Stravinsky’s full equality with Schoenberg, if not outright superiority to him, was an idée reçue among musicians and audiences alike; to assert then (as Glenn Gould was one of the few to dare to do) that Stravinsky’s music was boring or uninventive was thought as boorish as saying that Einstein was not really a very important scientist.  But the scene of listening here in the early twenty-first century suggests that Adorno has been largely vindicated.  By this I do not mean that performances and in-print recordings of the big Stravinsky orchestral blockbusters—The Firebird, The Rite, and Petrouchka—seem to be any fewer than they were fifty years ago, but that performances and in-print recordings of Pierrot Lunaire and Moses and Aron now seem to be substantially more numerous than performances and in-print recordings of The Rake’s Progress and Dumbarton Oaks.  Schoenberg is now the composer that fans of Brahms and Mahler turn to in order to find out “what happened next” in the history of music, to which every one of his compositions and every stage of his career are seen to contribute, whereas the later works of Stravinsky are mostly ignored because they are not seen as contributing to that history.   And would-be popularizers of Schoenberg no longer bother trying to push his pupil Alban Berg as a kind of gateway drug delivering the “warm, expressive, romantic side of twelve-tone music,” because they can now safely assume that Schoenberg will be received as sufficiently “warm, expressive, and romantic” on his own.  This is a development that Charles Rosen, who repeatedly eulogized Schoenberg’s music as “the most expressive ever written” should have welcomed and indeed presumably did welcome to the extent that he was aware of it.  But he seems to have been either unable or unwilling acknowledge that the efflorescence of Schoenberg’s reputation would have to coincide with the eclipse of Stravinsky’s.

It behooves me before moving on to the matter of Gould’s and Rosen’s relative merits as pianists to acknowledge that some sort of general section-outrounding summary of their relative merits as writer-scholars would ordinarily be in order at this point.  But because—at least so it seems to me—the writerly-scholarly habitus of each of them is so intimately bound up with his pianistic habitus, I think it would be wiser to press on and save all the summarizing for the end.  So, then, to fire the first salvo/make the first incision on/in the comparative pianistic front: it is tempting to dismiss the whole question of which of the two, Gould or Rosen, was the superior pianist by means of the old apples-versus-oranges ploy, by saying that “as they specialized in two completely mutually alienable repertoirial bailiwicks, there is no way in which the merits and demerits of the one can be fruitfully compared with or to those of the other.”  But alas and in fact the proverbial even-most-cursory-glance at the two discographies reveals an incredibly extensive amount of overlap (doubtless an equally proverbial butcher’s at the less readily accessible concert schedules would reveal even more, as young Gould the part-time concertizer was considerably less picky about what he played than middle-aged Gould the full-time recorder): Bach, Beethoven, Debussy, Haydn, Mozart, Liszt, Schoenberg, Ravel, and Webern were all composers of whose works Rosen and Gould each committed at least one to vinyl.  The real, ineluctable, and in many ways fatal obstacle to a proper comparative appraisal of Gould and Rosen qua pianists is Rosen’s lack of anything like the sort of dedicated, carte blanche-granting patronage of a record label that Gould enjoyed with CBS from his signing onwards and indeed continues to enjoy over thirty years after his death.  Mind you: Rosen’s recording career got off in 1951 to a start that was in some respects even more auspicious than Gould’s 1955 recording of the Goldberg Variations, namely the first-ever recording of the complete Debussy etudes.  And for nearly two full decades, from 1960 to 1978 or thenabouts, Glenn and Rosen were recordcompanymates, each of them being affiliated with a CBS label (Columbia in Gould’s case, Epic in Rosen’s).  But at some point in the late 1970s, CBS ceased to find Rosen commercially viable and dropped him, leaving him to record the balance of his discography with the (comparatively) boutique Elektra (hence Atlantic?) subsidiary Nonesuch, along with obscure proper indies such as Bridge.  (Whether Rosen’s decline was a direct function of Gould’s success, and an indirect function of the young Gould’s superior media-geneticity, is a question that I am neither qualified nor stoked enough to ponder, superficially though it may smack no more of paparazzo-ish inside-dopesterism than does a certain question I have already pondered at some length—viz., the whole one about the respective literary compositional effects of High Fidelity and the NYRB.  The nearest approach to such ponderage I ought or care to make is by observing that none of the few comments of Rosen on Gould that I have come across can reasonably be construed as emanating from personal resentment either brazenly expressed or tactfully suppressed.)  In the 1990s a few—I think exactly five—of Rosen’s CBS recordings were kept in the CD racks under the aegis of Sony’s budget Great Performances and Essential Classics imprints; the rest were abandoned to the  merciless vagaries of the used LP market.  The upshot of all this Rosenian discographic ill fortune is that even the most ardent non vinyl-gourmandizing Rosen fan (e.g., the present writer) finds himself in a position not radically dissimilar to that of Marcellous, viz. that of “having read lots of things Rosen has written, but never heard anything he has played.”  But in my case I think the slim three or four hours more than nothing that I have heard (discounting at least as much crackly talk-show chat-interspersed Youtubage and illustrative excerpts from the so-called companion CDs to The Romantic Generation and Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas) are of a sufficiently salient and exemplary character to allow me to hazard a not completely reckless comparative appraisal of Gould and Rosen als Klavierkünstler, much as we can assume we have a pretty good grasp of the comparative merits and defects of Euripides and Sophocles even though a much higher proportion of E’s plays survive, inasmuch as the play singled out by Aristotle as a particularly fine example of the genre of tragedy—namely, Oedipus Rex—happens to be one of the Sophocles plays that have come down to us.  These three or four hours are comprised by Rosen’s recordings of the Goldberg Variations and the last six piano sonatas of Beethoven.  The cornerstone or key (in the cryptographic sense) or legend (in the cartographic sense) or Rome (in the omniviatic sense) of the whole comparison is Rosen’s Goldbergs, recorded for CBS in 1967.  By any sane measure it is both a splendid and a conscientious recording.  Although evidently the issue of a modern grand piano, it makes no audible use of any pedals, and its application of interpretative dynamics is both sparing and discreet, being confined to the offsetting of subsidiary passages in some of the longer variations—the effect is like that of having the volume on one’s amplifier suddenly reduced from, say, level 7 to level 5-and-three-fifths.  The record’s mammoth 75:50 duration obviously cannot be owing entirely to its punctilious inclusion of all repeats, and indeed on the whole Rosen does tend to favor rather slow tempos, notably in the Aria and Variations 15 (the Canon on the 5th ) and 25; not that he does not occasionally (e.g., in Variation 17), opt for a faster-than-average tempo, but that in these cases the thinner contrapuntal density and greater conventionality of the material seem to warrant such celerity, in that it shows the more involved and idiosyncratic episodes to better effect.  Rosen’s Goldbergs appeared in 1969, almost exactly halfway between Gould’s two versions (released in 1955 and 1982, respectively).  In talking over the second version with Tim Page, Gould explained that he had decided to re-record the Goldbergs mainly because he found the first version “too fast for comfort,” the work of a “speed demon.”  In general, he added, he now found that as both a performer and a listener he required a certain slow-paced “deliberation” or “deliberateness” in all performances of contrapuntal music, “the only music that really interested” him, because at faster tempos the “essential equality” of the voices, “the simultaneous proliferation of ideas” that was “counterpoint at its best” (yes, I did quote parts of this earlier) tended to be less comprehensible.  But in passages of lesser contrapuntal interest, passages where the ideas did not proliferate, he felt free to allow his speed-demonish tendencies to reassert themselves.  Thus, he thought himself within his rights to play Variation 17 twice as fast as the arithmetic of his rhythmic schema for the Goldbergs as a whole required, because that variation was merely “an empty, skittish collection of scales and arpeggios” rather than “a sober, proper thing like a fugue or a canon.”  While Gould officially outed himself as a selective sluggard only with the second Goldberg set, in practice he had been taking things slow for years, as is evident in all his later Bach recordings—of The English and French Suites, The Well-Tempered Clavier, the Two and Three-Part Inventions, and so on.  “By ‘later Bach recordings,’ I gather you mean recordings released after 1967.”  Why, I suppose I do.  At exactly what are you driving?  “Why, at the eye-burstingly obvious conclusion that according to you, Gould ‘ripped’ his entire late performing style ‘off’ from Rosen.”  Now, that is not at all what I believe or wish to be taken to believe.  I merely wish, rather, to register the empirically indisputable fact that Rosen arrived at the “slower is better” approach to pianizing before Gould, and that inasmuch as pioneering or trailblazing is among the virtues we prize most in our so-called artists, by a certain measure, Rosen may with some justice be regarded as a superior pianist to Gould.  “I see.  But an interesting corollary of this heterodox appraisal is that it obliges you to write off the entire pre-1967 Gould catalogue, the first recording of the Goldbergs very much included.”  As I am on the whole more or less content to do.  The 1955 Goldbergs has never been a favorite of mine, and I suspect that minimalism did not drive Gould up half as high a wall as I am forced to scale every time I hear or even reflect on his 1956 recordings of the last three Beethoven sonatas, opp. 109-111.  The finale of his op. 109 in particular is something much worse than a travesty.  In flagrant disregard of Beethoven’s numerous indications of changes in tempo, Gould delivers the entire movement, barring the initial and final statements of its theme (which are rendered with almost exaggerated sluggishness), in a uniform prestissimo.  Seriously, DGR: I defy you the first time you hear it not to verify that you have not somehow accidentally set your playback device to fast-forward.   Unsurprisingly, this recording is barely half the length of Rosen’s eminently sensitive and impeccably well-paced rendition of the corresponding movement.  Here again is an instance whereby according to a certain narrow but eminently respectable criterion Rosen may be accounted Gould’s superior.  According to established critical consensus, Beethoven’s opp. 109-111, along with his Diabelli Variations, constitute the pinnacle of the repertoire for solo piano (note that I write piano and not keyboard, thereby exempting opp. 109-111. from invidious comparisons with the Well-Tempered Clavier and the Goldberg Variations).  It therefore follows that a pianist who has proved himself equal to these works is in a certain sense superior to a pianist who has not.   “But surely this non-equal-to proving on Gould’s part is a mere technicality.  Surely one is entitled to assume that if the later, slowpokish Gould had recorded opp. 109-111, each of his renditions would have compared favorably with or even surpassed Rosen’s.”  Surely on the evidence of the later, slowpokish Gould’s only recording of a Beethoven sonata of comparable heft to opp. 109-111, namely a wooden, anemic rendering of op. 106, the so-called Hammerklavier, one is not entitled to make such an assumption.  In any case, whatever Gould may have been capable of, he must now be judged by what audiographic documentation proves him to have been capable of; and barring perhaps some bootleg live concert recording (which, in perforce hailing from Gould’s “speed-demon” period, is unlikely to offer a radically different reading from the official CBS/Sony releases), no such documentation exists of Gould’s mastery of opp. 109-111.  By this same token, though-stroke-of course, even if one regards Rosen’s Goldbergs as superior to both of Gould’s versions, one must acknowledge Gould to be the superior Bachian, in virtue of the sheer volume of top-shelf Bach he recorded in his later, slowpokish, years.   Thus the question whether Gould or Rosen was the superior keyboardist tout court may simply be interchangeable with the question whether Bach or Beethoven is the superior composer.  If it really is to come down to such interchangeability, Rosen himself, Mr. “Bach is the only first-rate composer,” would be obliged to throw in the towel in favor of Gould.   But in fact it does not quite come down to such interchangeability—at least not quite yet.  For there is one more topic to be tackled in the Gouldian/Rosenian comparative-performative register, and that is the topic of hermeneutic fidelity or authenticity—in other words, the topic of the extent to which the performer is obliged both/either to adhere to the letter of the musical score, or to approximate as closely as possible a performance that would have been practicable at the time of the work’s composition.  I briefly touched on this topic in complaining of Gould’s tempos in op. 109.  In Gould’s apparent view—I say “apparent” because most of our evidence for this view comes from his recordings rather than from explicit statements—the horizon of license permitted to performers was practically unlimited: they should feel free to ignore virtually everything on the page but the pitch and relative durational values of the notes (and for all I know not even these were off-limits—but at the moment I cannot actually think of an example of such Gouldian ignoration).  What Rosen thought of such willful libertinage we may gather from a delightful but frustratingly brief account of a meeting with Gould centering on Rosen’s audition of Gould’s brand-new, fresh-off-the capstan recording of the first movement of Mozart’s sonata in F major, K. 332:

His Mozart recordings were deliberately among his most willful, and very eccentrically he executed the opening theme staccato except for its last appearance.  When I asked him why he played the theme legato this time, he grinned and replied disarmingly, “Well, I thought I should do it right once.”  (Mozart actually wrote this phrase with detached two-note slurs. [i.e., a succession of legato pairs that were to be played staccato in relation to each other (DR)]) (403).

The tactically understated clincher of this passage is its final, parenthesized sentence: Even when Gould purported to be playing with letter-perfect fidelity, it stewingly intimates, he could not resist having his own way at the expense of the score.  But it would be wrong to infer from this passage that Rosen’s exasperation with Gould’s approach to K. 332 arose from anything like arch fuddy-duddyish HIP-sterism, or even a mildly fuddy-duddyish insistence that the composer’s instructions, insofar as they are intelligible, must be followed to the letter.  For Rosen knew or, rather—for I would not be taken as equating fuddy-duddyish HIPsters with flat-earthers out of hand—believed that the forces by which the works of the ancients were customarily executed in their day did not always correspond to those desired by their composers, and that these composers’ instructions to the performer were often adjusted accordingly.  The most famous examples of such accommodation—or at any rate the ones most often cited by Rosen—occur in certain sonatas by Beethoven, in which either the score indicates a note that could not yet be played at the date of the work’s composition, or the voice-leading implies a note that does not actually appear in the score (i.e., in deference to the limited compasses of existing instruments).  In such cases the performer pretty much owes it to the composer to play the piece on a modern instrument, and to play the unplayable note and fill in the missing one.  But beyond this Rosen believed that there were pieces whose ideal realization surpassed even what the composer had been capable of imagining, pieces vis-à-vis which the performer was within his rights to countermand even instructions that one had no reason to believe did not correspond to the composer’s express intentions.  An example of such a piece, Rosen argued, was the first movement of the final piano sonata of Franz Schubert, whose blanket tempo direction of Molto moderato was self-evidently more than a scoche too brisk for the twentieth-century concert hall.  If the twentieth-century pianist, performing to an audience of two-thousand people, was to convey to any portion of such an audience the almost unbearable intimacy of the movement’s argument, he would have to impose this intimacy on them by playing the movement much slower than Molto moderato; perhaps even justifiably opting, as Sviatoslav Richter did, for a Molto adagio that stretched its modest dozen-odd pages into a thirty-five minute paint-drying session  rivaled in durée if not longueur only by the first movement of Mahler’s or Bruckner’s Ninth as conducted by some legendary sluggard like Klemperer or Giulini.  At what latitudinal line, then, did Rosen’s willingness to indulge interpretative license stop?  Why, quite simply at whatever line past which the music would seem in some respect inferior—less interesting, less significant, or less coherent—than it would via a more scrupulous attitude to the letter of the score.  In Rosen’s view, Richter had crossed this line when he applied his slow-motion approach to a much less weighty Schubert sonata than the B-flat major, namely the G major—which when liberally larded with extra-long rests sounded gratuitously pompous rather than seasonably serious.  So, self-evidently, had Gould, in his treatment of the expressive indications in Mozart’s K. 332, which drew unwarranted and nonsensical attention to the last appearance of the opening theme qua theme merely for the sake of gratifying a perverse whim, the whim of supposedly “doing it right for once.”  But lest one should wrongly assume that Gould believed in principle that virtually anything went in interpretative realizations I must dip once more into the 1981 Goldbergs interview to extract a tidbit that suggests that Gould’s most deeply (or at least most lately) held views on performative license were not after all much more liberal than Rosen’s:   

The art of the fugue [is] music that works astonishingly well with a harpsichord, an organ, a string quartet, a string orchestra, he [i.e., Bach] didn’t specify [actually, according to Rosen, he did!]—it works astonishingly well with a saxophone quartet….I think all the evidence suggests that Bach didn’t give a hoot about specific sonority, or even volume.  But I think he did care to an almost fanatic degree about the integrity of his structures.  I think he would have been delighted by any sound that was born out of a respect for the abstract necessity of those structures, and appalled—amused, maybe, but appalled—by any sound that was born out of the notion that by glossing over those structures it could improve upon them in some way.

First just let me note some characteristics of the rhetoric in the bits describing Bach’s conjectural attitudes—on the one hand, vis-a-vis sonority and volume we have a formula—namely, “didn’t give a hoot”—that is expressive of the extremity of cavalier indifference, the very same sort of indifference liberally bestowed by Gould on the phrasing indications of Mozart’s piano sonatas; on the other hand, vis-à-vis the “integrity” of B.’s “structures,” we have “caring to an almost fanatic degree” and “appalled,” language expressive of the most passionate emotional investment.  Clearly, in Gould’s view some kinds of liberties scarcely count as liberties at all, while others surpass criminality and border on barbarity and sacrilege.  The scarcely countworthy liberties are fairly easy to identify: “sonority” is obviously the choice of instrument(s) (e.g., solo piano versus saxophone quartet), and “volume” is probably equatable with the number of performers.  (Just before the passage quoted Gould remarks that Bach probably did not care whether the B minor mass was sung by 50 or 500 people.  But it is remotely possible that under the rubric of “volume” Gould also included dynamics.)  But the identity of the quasi-barbaric and sacrilegious ones is as yet mysterious and inscrutable—at least to the reader of this passage on its lonesome.  What exactly are musical “structures,” and how exactly does one go about well-nigh banausically and blasphemously “glossing over” them?  For an answer to that question, we must, I am deeply afraid, return to the quotation box, to a snippet from Gould’s review of Walter Carlos’s Switched-on Bach:

It’s the sounds which recall no particular experience that underline what I take to be Carlos’s prime motivation—a utilization of the available technology to actualize previously idealized aspects of the world of Bach.  Now this may well be just the sort of argument Stokowski would use to justify his orchestral inflation of the organ works, and even Anton Webern would probably have claimed he was seeking a contemporary look for Bach as he set about pointillistically dissembling [sic?] A Musical Offering’s last fugue.  But Stokowski’s indulgences simply celebrate the English vesper service postlude circa 1900, while Webern’s Viennese pontifications make all the hair-splitting, beard-stroking Freudian analysis that ever led to a faulty diagnosis (433).

Switched-on Bach was—as I may as well explain for the benefit of the uninitiated-cum-can’t be arsed—was an LP recording of a small number of famous Bach pieces as arranged for the Moog synthesizer, with some specific and unvarying Moog timbre doing duty for each part or voice in each of the scores.  Of Leopold Stokowski’s Bach transcriptions I know only the famous one of the D minor Toccata and Fugue from Disney’s Fantasia (plus a modified version thereof featuring an organ obbligato part—I mention it only because it shows contra Gould that LS was not completely and invariably heedless of JSB’s instructions), and how in “inflating” this work Stokowski adulterated it any more than Gould himself did the prelude to Wagner’s Meistersinger in reducing it to a piano arrangement, I fail to see (i.e., to have heard).  For this failure, though, perhaps my utter ignorance of the late-Victorian Anglican liturgy is entirely to blame.  (But only perhaps: Gould himself, after all, was not an Anglican but a Scottish-Canadian Presbyterian.)  But I think I have a pretty good handle on what Gould is getting at when he says that Anton Webern “pointillistically dissembled” the final fugue from A Musical Offering.  Webern’s orchestration of this piece (officially known not as the final fugue but rather as the Ricercar for Six Voices) gives the naïve listener the impression that he was trying to do with it what Benjamin Britten would later do with Purcell’s Rondeau from Abdelazer in the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra—only in six minutes rather than thirty.  Rather than allocating the subjects and their various transformations to specific instruments or combinations of instruments en bloc, Webern parcels out segments of subjects, sub-subjects, that are often of minuscule length; such that one will often hear the likes of, say, a two note-figure on the flute followed by another two notes on the combined French horns.  Sometimes the second figure will simply correspond to a continuation of the line (i.e., voice) adumbrated by the first one, at other times it will come across as an echo of or answer to the first figure in one of the other voices.  In the minuteness of the figures one sees whence Gould derives his analogy to pointillistic painting, as well, perhaps—i.e., if he misconstrued “dissembling” simply as a “sa”-free alternative to its longer near-homonym—as his designation of the orchestration as an act of “dissembling.”  For to “pointillize” either a pictorial or a musical composition is obviously in a certain way to take it apart, to break its relatively compact number of relatively long lines into a relatively large number of relatively small dots.  And when one considers that “to break down” is one of the chief senses of “to analyze,” one can easily see how Gould came to introduce “analysis” into his description.  (The introduction of Freud thereinto I take to be merely an opportunistic cheap shot exploiting W.’s and F.’s contemporaneous wienerhood [one that has afforded me an opportunity to make an even cheaper shot via the most Freudianized word in current English.])   But in what sense is this analysis a “misdiagnosis,” and in what sense does it “dissemble” in the proper, dictionary- defined sense?  Presumably it does so by promulgating the notion that Bach’s six-voice fugue is actually a six dozen-voiced entity to whose argument every instrumental timbre in the modern symphony orchestra makes a substantial contribution.  To put the contrast another way: Bach’s fugue as written builds or constructs itself as every six-voiced fugue must do, one story at a time, and into a permanent (for the work’s duration) six-story building; whereas Webern’s orchestration, in oscillating several times between thinner and thicker textures before rising in its final measures to a full-fledged tutti, presents the fugue as an architectural work in a state of constant revision—now rising to the height of an apartment block, now sinking to the level of a humble bungalow, before eventually assuming and settling on the vertical magnitude of a full-fledged skyscraper.  For Gould this is an absolute, non-Luigian, non Nuria Schoenberg-affianced nono.  The essential “structures” of a musical work for him are its finite and mutually inimplicable vocal subdivisions: multiply or diminish the number of these subdivisions and you are damaging the integrity of the music.  By all means (says Gould): arrange The Art of Fugue or A Musical Offering for a collection of instruments that were not invented until long after Bach’s death, but make sure that there is only one such instrument (or a group thereof playing in unison) per voice, lest you engender phantom voices in certain episodes (and thereby unjustly magnify their importance) and conjure away real voices in others (and thereby unjustly diminish their importance).  “But wasn’t it precisely such a distortion of the relative importance of episodes that you said Rosen implied was the chief sin of Gould’s interpretation of K. 332?”  Indeed it was.  “Why, then, was Gould incapable of appreciating that what was bad for the Bachian goose was equally bad for the Mozartian gander (or, to put it in more Gould friendly terms, ‘that what was necessary to the Bachian gander was likewise necessary to the Mozartian goose’)?”  Because he was incapable of imagining that two episodes that were very close to each other melodically and harmonically could differ from each other in any way that was worth emphasizing or downplaying, in any way that bore any “structural” significance.  Perhaps even beyond or beneath counterpoint, the quality that Gould prized most of all in music was discursiveness, the setting down and forth of an attempt at a logical argument, a quality that depended entirely on relations of pitch and rhythm (although according to such a conception even rhythm is really only the handmaiden of pitch); accordingly, his notion of “structural” interference encompassed only such performative or transcriptive acts as occluded or enhanced the significance of a given pitch or rhythm.  But in addition to its discursive dimension, music, just like discursive speech or prose, has a gestural dimension that can (and to a lesser or greater degree always does) play a load-bearing part in the structure of a composition.  In written and printed scores, this dimension is addressed via virtually every sort of mark that can appear above or below the stem or base of a note, and by tempo indications, as well as indications of pedaling and dynamics (ff, pp, <, >, etc.).  Granted: in the music of Bach, this dimension is less elaborately addressed than it is in that of his later eighteenth-century successors, but it is certainly present, notably in the very sorts of indications that Gould ran so roughshodly over in K. 332—viz. staccato-izing dots and legato-izing slurs.  Therefore, to the not insignificant extent he acknowledged such gestural indications in his playing of Bach, he should have acknowledged them in his playing of Mozart, for the sake of wringing out of such discursively impoverished music every microgram of structural interest it possessed.  But because Gould viewed all gestural elements as mere expugnable, superficial embellishments, the notion of such out-wringing presumably never occurred to him.  Granted, though, because Gould’s Mozart cycle was conceived from the outset as an exercise in making WAM look bad, K. 332 is not an ideal illustration of Gould’s apparent obliviousness of the structural significance of gestural elements: we cannot, after all, be sure that in the case of this sonata Gould was not aware of such significance and was not simply deliberately disregarding it.  A better such illustration is his recording of a piece that, as he held its composer in very high regard, we may safely assume he was trying to show to its best advantage.  I am referring to his recording of Haydn’s C major sonata, Hob. XVI:50.  The first movement of this sonata is perhaps most remarkable for what may be termed a double recapitulation: rather than being merely restated once in its final section (or, as is not uncommon in Haydn, restated and then immediately elaborated), the movement’s principal theme comes around for an exquisite second full restatement pianissimo with echoing octaves and an expressive indication of open pedal (in English), most likely a direction to keep the sustain pedal depressed without interruption.  When this indication is followed (as, for example, by Emmanuel Ax in his late-80s CBS version), there is a proto-impressionistic smudging of the theme, as the point where the initial sounding of each note leaves off and its octaval echo begins becomes virtually impossible to distinguish; and when juxtaposed with a passage of such delicate, shimmering (I shan’t use the ‘d” word [i.e., d**ph*n**s]) softness, the long-postponed forte re-entry of the bravura final theme is doubly triumphant.  When the indication is ignored (as in Gould’s recording) the effect of the octave echoes is still striking, but not so striking that a listener accustomed to more letter-perfect renditions will not wonder whether he is not after all listening to the earlier, more nearly verbatim restatement, or, failing that, feel that the movement has gone on a tad too long.  So here, in Gould’s version of XVI:50, we have an apodictic example of non-observation of gestural elements that is clearly not an instance of interpretative sabotage and that does indeed result in a “glossing over,” and hence a vitiation, of one of the work’s significant structures.  And on the evidence of this example one can at last arrive at a fair and complete appraisal of Gould’s and Rosen’s relative merits both as pianists and as exegetes-cum-philosophers of music.  First of all, then, Gould’s lack of appreciation of gestural structurality is a genuine and serious flaw—he might perhaps have termed it “a blind spot” himself—in which his merit as an interpreter in both senses (those of the interpreter qua performer and the interpreter qua verbal analyst) is implicated; such that for recorded performances of and written reflections on music in which gestural elements are closer to dominant than recessive, one is better advised to turn to Rosen, who can be counted upon to give these elements their due—even while giving proportionately condign treatment to discursive elements.  (I append this “even while” phrase by way of emphasizing that Rosen was certainly no romantic pianist of the old school, hell-bent on milking every last ounce of rubato-driven expressiveness out of every measure whatever the score might say.  Indeed, one of the chief complaints leveled at his performances of Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, et al. was that they were too “dry” and insufficiently “passionate”—the very sorts of complaints that tended to be leveled at Gould’s infrequent performances of the same repertoire.)  On the other hand, as tempting as it may be, one cannot with justice simply erect two partitions, one at the year 1750, the other at the year 1860 (or thereabouts), and declare the intervening space a Gould free-cum-Rosen rich zone.  For there is no denying that Gould’s a-gestural approach can work wonders with some if not quite  much of late eighteenth through middle nineteenth-century repertoire, particularly when the deadpanness is coupled with his already-noted predilection for slower tempos.  Take his recordings of two other Haydn sonatas: XVI: 48 in C major and XVI: 51 in D major.  The first movement of XVI: 48 is marked Andante con espressione, and in Emmanuel Ax’s safely sub-moderato version, it is seven minutes and 40 seconds in length.  Gould’s version, on the other hand, runs to a gargantuan 12:52, nearly twice as long, an increase owing to his ratcheting of andante down to an impossibly slow largo or perhaps even a grave.  When I first heard this version I literally felt like laughing and figuratively actually did so.  I found it genuinely comical, like one of those sketch show bits where the actors mimic a slow-motion instant video replay in so-called real time.  But by and by I came to be able to listen to it with a perfectly straight face, and eventually I even came to prefer it to the more accurately tempo’d Ax version.  I have come to see how it makes XVI: 48.i into an instance of one of Haydn’s patented and virtually unique achievements, the “genuinely reposeful adagio”; as well as into something properly unique among such adagios—viz., one that inaugurates the piece in question rather than following up a more agitated first-movement allegro or second-movement minuet.  (Many early Haydn pieces—notably several of the symphonies—begin with adagios, but being first-movement sonata form-esque in structure these adagios do not even aspire to being reposeful.)  In the case of XVI: 51, it is the finale that benefits from the slow and detached Gouldian treatment.  Its tempo marking is presto, and when it is played at the rapid-clip pace denoted by that marking (as, for instance, in Rudolf Buchbinder’s recording of it), one hardly notices it: it whizzes by in a bagatellish minute-and-a-half that at its most evocative suggests a kind of rushed trial run for the proto-Prokofievian opening movement of XVI:34, whose first subject its second subject superficially resembles.  But in Gould’s moderato con moto al massimo reading it comes across as almost stately, with the major-moded first subject now making a much stronger impression and the formerly undanceably fast ¾ meter now stolidly tapping out intimations of the dance crazes of later decades.  Indeed, I cannot forbear observing that this version of XVI:51 reminds one of nothing so strongly as the prevailingly dancey piano miniature cycles of Schumann—an observation that doubtless would have made Gould wince and might even have driven him to re-record the movement prestissimo.  On the other hand, the fact that something by Haydn performed in a ruthlessly un-gestural manner can sound Schumannesque suggests that the Schumannian innovations so prized by Rosen—including, signally, RS’s above-mentioned exploitation of the sustain pedal, are less central to Schumann’s idiom and modus operandi than both Rosen and Gould would like to suppose—that Schumann was a more discursive and less gestural composer than he is cracked up to be (by Gould, Rosen, and others).  And the same could be said of all the other great romantic composers.  Essentially, between the two of them, Rosen and Gould encapsulate the basic aporia of western serious music.  (In principle I prefer to call it “serious western music,” but that syntactical variant unignorably suggests music that has been composed as the soundtrack of a cowboys-and-Indians movie, most likely to accompany such scenes as that of the lead good guy’s funeral.)   The aporia amounts to this: that while the gestural elements introduced in the late eighteenth century made music more subtly and capaciously expressive and added to it a new register of structural complexity, they did so only at the cost of disrupting and attenuating the formerly hegemonic and more intrinsically complex—or, rather “complexifiable”—discursive register.  A symphony or string quartet by Haydn—or, indeed, by any of his disciples from Mozart right on up to Mahler and Bartók—breathes in a way that a Bach fugue never bothers to do, partly through its more elaborate expressive indications, partly through its ever-shifting relations among principal and subsidiary voices (the above-mentioned obbligato accompaniment), and partly (perhaps even mostly) through its infinitely more liberal yet infinitely more judicious placement of silent passages, of rests.   There are various ways of extending the metaphor of breathing by way of more fully capturing the innovation: one can say that in the works of Haydn et seq. we have the sense for the first time of watching a real human being moving about the world, or of listening to someone tell us a story, or of watching a play, or of reading a novel.  None of these conceits is entirely commensurate with its object, but all of them are accurate in implying some impediment to or incompatibility with the kind of work performed to a turn by a Bach fugue.  Neither an ambulating human being nor a story nor a play nor a novel presents an argument anywhere nearly as straightforwardly or uninterruptedly as does a mathematical proof or (more contestably) a philosophical treatise or indeed a fugue: all of them are constantly engaged in activities that bear no obvious relation to their ostensible purposes (such purposes as going to the fridge for a can of orangeade, relating the history of a man named Jed, portraying the travails of two star-crossed lovers, and the like), and all of them pause along the way to engage in additional seemingly non-purposive activities, activities indeed whose purposiveness one will have to make a case for, often not without a certain amount of Jesuitical (or casuistic) ingenuity.  One will have to attempt to excuse the orangeade-seeker’s side-trip to the utility room, the play’s inclusion of comic episodes having nothing to do with the lovers, the novel or story’s unseemly dwelling on the unorthodox sexuality of Jed’s banker’s secretary—ideally by somehow showing that these apparent excrescences highlight the importance of the main purpose through their contrast with it, but at a pinch by showing that the main purpose is not the main purpose after all, and that the excrescences are  after all the main purpose.  But the Heraclean exegetic labor required to tidy up these mare’s nests of impertinences is all worth it—at least so the champions of such activities and productions aver—because in their unruly complexity they testify to the wonderfully exuberant fecundity (or the wonderfully fecund exuberance) of “what it means to be alive and/or human,” as mathematical proofs and philosophical treatises do not.  This averral may very well be true, or it may very well be bullshit.  Or it may be true and yet not to one’s taste; one may be interested in other phenomena than the exuberance and fecundity of human or even non-human life.  In either case, one must surely be forgiven for retiring into the colder but hermeneutically less dodgy realm of mathematical or philosophical speculation and demonstration, at least for a spell.  So anyway: vis-à-vis this horribly but necessarily quasi-Snovian caricaturistic schema, music may be seen as having reached its first (and perhaps, some would argue, last) great apogee either with Bach or with Beethoven, with the composer who took the discursive register as far as it could go on its own, or the composer who brought the gestural register into its most eloquent relation with the discursive register.  And there is really no possibility of having it both ways on this subject: one must choose sides, as one must in spectating on a so-called subway series between two athletic teams in the same metropolis; which does not mean that there do not exist music-lovers who are equally passionately devoted to Bach and to Beethoven, but that such music-lovers are never simultaneously devoted to one or the other, and that as their passion for the one rises, their passion for the other cannot help receding; that whenever they find themselves reveling in the discursive involutions of Bach, they needs must find themselves simultaneously bidding the gestural articulations of Beethoven to perform the biologically impossible act, and vice versa.  I suspect that at bottom both Gould and Rosen were music-lovers of this intrinsically ambivalent type, or more specifically (and in-common-ly) Bach fans with pronounced Beethoven-fannish tendencies.  Why, then, is this ambivalence so differently and unevenly reflected in their performances and writings?  Why does Gould present himself as the stalwart champion of Bach who seems to feel obliged to construe every pre-or-post Bachian composition he admires as a prolepsis of or homage to JSB?  And why does Rosen feel obliged time and again to make the case for the greatness of not only Beethoven, but of such patently sub-Beethovenian gesture-maniacs as Chopin and Liszt?  At the risk of coming across as something of a “cultural racist”—nay, of a veritable cultural Uncle Tom—I will dare to hazard that both of these distortions are attributable to the two men’s respective enthrallments to two characteristically American—or, rather, and more broadly—Anglo-Saxon) intellectual habituses, namely dogmatic realism and pluralism.  Now, far be it from me, DGR, categorically to impugn or belittle either of these habituses, for I am as ready as the staunchest Tea Partier or UK Independence Party member to aver with a perfectly straight face (yes, the very same one that I sport while listening to the first movement of Gould’s version of Hob. XVI: 48) that the obdurate embodiment of one or the other of them saved continental Europe from Nazism, or brought down the Berlin Wall, or what have you.  (I am indeed even willing to concede that when self-reflectively converted into ethoses they may possess a certain philosophical validity; I concede, in other words, that there are cases in which dogmatically maintaining (a la Gould) that a club is a club and a diamond a diamond and there’s an end on’t, or pluralistically maintaining (a la Rosen) that there is always room for one more, will bring one closer to the truth than will other ethoses.) And at least equally far be it from me to hold up Hegelian idealism or any of its offshoots as a model for one’s understanding of the human world and its cursus  and Schicksal; for I am equally ready as the staunchest above-mentioneds (at least that presumptively tiny minority of them who have heard of Hegel, Marx, et al.) to aver that the scourges of Nazism and totalitarian Communism would never have come into being, let alone overwhelmed the best part of Europe, had HI itself (note the sequence, DGR—Hit) not come into being beforehand.  But in the case of the history of music, it seems to me that the only way of making any damn(ed) sense atoll of it is through the [your favorite optical device qua metaphorical vehicle here] of some sort of broadly Hegelian W************g, an it-to-me-seeming to which the aura of for-everybody-being might just stand a chance of being imparted if only the reader will reflect that (in Charles Rosen’s words) “the central [musical] tradition [is] indeed German” (Rosen, Arnold Schoenberg, p. 71).  What I meantersay in drawing attention to this centrality is that in our musical outlook we “Westerners” (and once again I am not thinking of the principals in a cowboys-and-Indians movie) are all basically Germans (just as in our literary outlook we are all basically Englishmen and Russians and in our culinary outlook we are all basically Frenchmen), and that accordingly it makes much more sense to try to make sense of the stages and elements of the German musical tradition that put us off by considering them in the light of those stages and elements of that tradition that do the opposite of put us off, than by considering them in the strategically flattering or unflattering light of some other tradition or pseudo-tradition.  This second, less rational, alternative is one that both Gould and Rosen are guilty of availing themselves of—Gould through his championing of such minor non-German contrapuntalists as William Byrd and Orlando Gibbons, Rosen through his championing of the self-consciously non-developmental and (equally self-consciously!) non-German Debussy and Stravinsky.  And ultimately, in the final analysis, at the end of the &c., it seems to me that only Theodor Adorno—the Adorno whom Rosen (on the whole) reviled and Gould idolized in apparent ignorance of the bulk of his oeuvre (the only Adorno work mentioned by title by any of Gould’s biographers is Prisms, in which is included the essay “Bach Defended against his Devotees,” from which the otherwise Adorno-uninitiated reader would be bound to conclude that JSB was A’s favorite composer)—has seriously bothered to try to work out what was lost and gained in the transition from Bach to Beethoven.  On the one hand, Adorno writes (in the above- parenthesized “Bach Defended”), “Anyone who has returned to Beethoven after prolongued [sic (presumably one or both of the translators, Samuel and Shierry Weber, rather than TWA himself, is to blame)], intensive study of Bach sometimes feels as though he were confronted by a kind of decorative light music, which only the culture-cliché [one again suspects that something is homographically identical to the title of a much-feted Sophia Coppola movie, and conjectures that the ‘culture cliché’ is personifiable as an Alistair Cooke-ish bloke in a leather armchair solemnly holding forth on what might with equal probability be Hamlet or some period bodice-ripper published last Tuesday] could consider ‘profound’” (Prisms, p. 141).   On the other hand, Adorno writes, “It is only when we use the criterion of truth content—the emancipation of the Subject from myth and the reconciliation of both—that Beethoven emerges as the more advanced composer [i.e., as the unquoted context makes clear, of a specific pair of composers, Beethoven and Bach].  This criterion outweighs all others in importance.”  The entity that Larkinesque residual piety alone prohibits one terming the elephant or two-hundred pound gorilla of these two quotations is undoubtedly (though not necessarily “of course”) God.  From a purely technical point of view, says Adorno, Beethoven’s music comes across as a precipitous falling off from Bach.  Technically speaking (implies Adorno), there is simply no contest between the first movement of the C minor fifth symphony and the C minor prelude and fugue from either of the two books of The Well-Tempered Clavier: the prelude and fugue win hands down, as they say.  But Bach’s contrapuntal mastery is inseparable from his enslavement, his lack of “emancipation,” from the God-myth.  (This enslavement is, incidentally, the corollary or flipside of Bach’s above-mentioned ability to inspire genuine religious awe in contrast to mere kitschy Mendelssohnian religious pseudo-awe.)  True, Bach’s God was in some respects a very modern God, and was certainly not the medieval Aristotlean God of Aquinas, for Bach’s eighteenth-century Pietism, “like all forms of restoration, absorbed the forces of the very Enlightenment that it opposed.  The subject which hopes to attain grace by becoming absorbed in itself through reflected ‘inwardness’ has already escaped dogmatic order and is on its own, autonomous in the choice of heteronomy” (Prisms, p. 136).  In other words, Bach and his fellow Pietists did not simply unquestioningly accept the “dogmatic” assertion of God’s hegemony like a passel of gaping pre-reformation peasants; rather, they arrived at their faith after long and laborious “autonomous” introspection—introspection encouraged by the successes of enlightenment humanism, with its impressive track record of revelations both secular and sacred vouchsafed to individual men and women going it alone.  For all that, the position at which they ultimately arrived was one of “heteronomy,” of ceding sovereignty of their wills to an alien power, of rendering back unto God what had originally been his but that for a spell had been their own.  And in Bach’s music this cession is expressed by the very mastery of contrapuntal logic for which he is so admired as an individual genius.  The Well-Tempered Clavier indeed demonstrates Bach’s peerlessness as a composer, his superiority to all other composers who have preceded him, but it does not express or assert this peerlessness.  What it asserts, rather, is something to the effect of “this is the way the world that God created is; it is a world in which individual pitches do not have specific personalities, a world in which a first-rate fugue can be composed in any key, and played on any keyboard instrument without producing jarring discords.  This is a world that I have discovered, not created.  I fully expect you, the listener or performer, to be impressed by my ingenuity and penetration as a discoverer, but all credit for the thing discovered belongs to God alone.”  Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, on the other hand, does assert and express Beethoven’s peerlessness as a composer, his superiority to all preceding composers (including J. S. Bach), without consistently even attempting to demonstrate it.  Why?  Because such a thoroughgoing demonstration—perforce a demonstration of contrapuntal mastery a la JSB—would merely duplicate JSB’s assertion of his willing obeisance to God.  And so Beethoven asserts his independence of, his emancipation from  God, not as one might expect, by doing something daringly and flamboyantly original, but rather by forbearing to demonstrate his mastery, and simply declaring his bare presence with a gesture, by clinging tenaciously to, and banging away obsessively (not unlike Khrushchev with his shoe at the U.N.) at a most unoriginal four-note motif describing a simple minor third, a motif that has of course become the most famous of all musical motifs, and that functions in the argument of the first movement of the fifth precisely by refusing to allow itself to be immediately and permanently absorbed into a longer melodic unit—for example, the first subject of a fugue.  But “emancipation” from myth is of course according to Adorno only half of Beethoven’s “truth content,” the other half consisting in his “reconciliation” therewith.  But in which episode or episodes of the first movement of the Fifth is this “reconciliation” effected?  Why, in those episodes in which Beethoven temporarily relinquishes his gavel-hold on the motif and allows it to follow a more familiar Bach-esque cursus; for example, that bit very early on in the movement, in measures 6 through 21, when after merely two statements of the motif in two different pitch-classes (G-E-flat and F-D), it is briefly treated as a miniature sequence, and undergoes several of the common contrapuntal (in other words, not un-fugue-like) transformations (contraction, dilation, elaboration,  retrograde inversion, and liquidation)—only to be restated yet again in its original form (transposed upwards a minor third from its last appearance, so that it describes a non-mode specific cadence on the subdominant or tonic-substitute, F), at which point the reconciliation party is temporarily over.  And time and again throughout this movement we see this pattern repeated: the Lord giveth and taketh away from man in the form of Beethoven by letting him assert himself motto-esquely and homophonically, and forcing him to conform to the rules of contrapuntal extension and distribution, and Beethoven qua man giveth and taketh away from the Lord by complementary means.  But even this oscillatory pattern does not describe the entire psychotheolontological picture or structure of the first movement of the fifth.  For what to our wondering ears should appear during the recapitulation, immediately before the restatement of the second great statement of the four-note motto, the one describing a cadence on the dominant (G major), but a compact, yet, for all that, extremely incongruously florid cadenza on the oboe, a cadenza bearing no discernable relation to the thematic material of any other part of the movement.  This cadenza, in virtue of its baroque operatic quirkiness and its solitariness in both the motivic and timbral registers, would seem to be acknowledging the legitimacy of all the reservations the listener has so far accumulated on the matter of the motto-theme qua assertion of subjective autonomy.  “You may think,” says the cadenza, “that you are breaking away from the great contrapuntal-cum-theistic tradition and feeling your autonomous subjective oats in hammering away ad nauseam at this two-pitch, four-note motif, but what you are really doing is regressing back into some sort of animistic pre-theistic (and hence pre-pre-subjective) condition in which repetition is everything (proleptic shades of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring).  I, on the other hand, although hailing from a time long before Johann Sebastian Bach (namely the period of the early baroque, the early-to-mid seventeenth century), with its more intimate ties to the human voice, am the real subjective deal.”  But then, of course, this little cadenza does not get the last word; the recapitulation picks up precisely at the point where it was interrupted—and yet the protractedness of the ensuing coda with its heavy reliance on old-school contrapuntal technique does rather give the lie to the conclusion that simple, repetitive, antitheistic assertion wins out in the end.

In short, Adorno seems to be assuring us, Beethoven is a heck of a lot more philosophically complicated than Bach, and “by this criterion” trumps him.  But it is practically impossible to be certain that this is what Adorno is assuring us, inasmuch as his oeuvre is depressingly underpopulated by detailed analyses of particular compositions, and is utterly barren of any such analysis of any work by Beethoven, let alone of the first movement of the fifth. (In his essay “On Popular Music” he does devote a hundred or so words to the fifth’s scherzo, but this is a far less complicated movement, and a hundred or so words are obviously not the thousand or so one wishes for.)  Certainly Adorno never attempted anything at the super-fine grained measure-by-measure resolution that one takes for granted in the writings of Gould and Rosen, as exampled (for example) in the following paragraph on Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 50, No. 6 in D major (the so-called “Frog” quartet):

No tonic is defined by the first measure; we start on an unexplained, unharmonized, and therefore ambiguous E. If a dissonance is a note that requires resolution, then the E, standing in by itself, is dissonant although we are only aware of its dissonance after it has disappeared; surprise will, however, keep it ringing in our ears long enough to realize that we have been fooled.  The line then descends to the E below, and we resolve it with the cadence II-V-I.  The diminuendo is the wittiest stroke of all and the tonic chord, when it arrives, does so unassumingly.  The good humor of this opening is boundless (The Classical Style, p. 128).   

The above sentences on the first movement on Beethoven’s Fifth are my own eighth-hearted super-supine layman’s attempt to bring Adornonian insights to bear at the just-exampled Rosenian and Gouldian level (with perhaps a dash of Hans Keller-esque Devil-may-care imperiousness thrown in).  I certainly would have put more work into it had the god-awful law of diminishing returns—a sort of hideous, watercress-coiffed Loch-Ness monster-esque beastie—not reared its head all the more stroppily and peremptorily the more deeply I plumbed the score.  Yes, I have learned much from Gould and Rosen; but I am surely far from cut out to apply what I have learned from them in a thorough and systematic way to the fresh soup-to-nuts independent study of a work.  Most signally, I suppose, I lack Gould’s and Rosen’s ability—an ability I assume they share(d) with most other fully trained pianists—instantly to expand or contract a score written for any size or sort of ensemble, from a sonata for unaccompanied cello to a symphony for the full-blown late-Romantic orchestra of R. Strauss and Mahler, into its essential voices, into the precise enumeration and apportionment of keystrokes required for the score’s realization (timbral considerations aside) on a piano.  Just to figure out which chord is being delineated by an orchestral tutti, I actually have to start at the top of the page and write down the letter corresponding to every note on every staff-line or space from the piccolo’s highest to the double-basses’ lowest, and cross out all the repetitions once I am finished.  (And don’t even get me started on transposing instruments.)  Proceeding in such an exquisitely laborious fashion I require an entire week (not counting tea and wee breaks) to plot the harmonic schema of a single sonata-form movement.  Clearly what this world now needs (along with a good five-cent cigar) is a music-scholar who has mastered both the work of Adorno and the art of piano-playing; and—what is even more important—has thoroughly familiarized himself with the critical corpora of Gould and Rosen, so that he is aware of just how high the bar of wit, urbanity, breadth of knowledge, and attentiveness to the actualities of composition and performance has already been set for writers on music.  Ten or perhaps even five years ago I would not have thought it at all likely that such a figure would ever emerge.  But now that I see that the formerly mutually immiscible milieus of classical music performance (wherein philosophy of any sort was largely unknown) and theory-gourmandizing hipsterism (wherein classical music of any sort was largely unknown and Adorno was habitually conscripted in the defense of certain forms of pop music) are beginning to merge, I am more sanguine.  One hopes that now that Schoenberg has at last taken his rightful place as a modern classic, the young pianists and string players who love performing his works are taking an interest in the writings of his foremost champion and will wish to build on them; complementarily, one hopes that now that it is no longer good form among young intellectuals to be ignorant of serious music, the writings of this new generation of performer-critics will find a large and receptive readership.