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Re: Bernard Berenson on symphonic music

Is the WTC that Gould used as background music in Fahrenheit 451 from his recording of the full WTC?   (I don't think so.)  If not, is the sound track available on CD?  Also, I wonder if anyone ever put together an "alternative" WTC by Gould, a selection of all the P & F not recorded for the package (I think it was for Columbia) that's now generally available?
One last query/rhetorical qustion: is there a better interpretation to be found anywhere of Beeth. PC 1 than Gould's with Golshman?  (Answer: NO, no one has ever recorded a more compelling version of that concerto; and Gould also gives us a 2nd and a 4th that is at the top of the heap!)
J Grant, Toronto
-----Original Message-----
From: Elmer Elevator <bobmer@javanet.com>
To: f_minor@email.rutgers.edu <f_minor@email.rutgers.edu>
Date: Tuesday, December 21, 1999 1:04 PM
Subject: Bernard Berenson on symphonic music

Hi all! Belated Hannukah, Merry Christmas, Ramadan Kereem, and a Great Millennium!

Recent threads about Beethoven tickled a memory neuron, and I thought I might pass along something -- admittedly a worrisome and troublesome something -- from Bernard Berenson's "Rumor and Reflection."

Berenson (1865 - 1959) was perhaps the best-known and most influential art historian, scholar and critic of his time, specializing in the Italian Renaissance. In 1900 he settled in his beloved Italy, outside Florence. It is difficult to understand how so brilliant, educated, well-connected and informed a person could have failed to see the handwriting on the wall as Italy and then Germany turned fascist, totalitarian and antisemitic, but Berenson, an American Jew, and by then a very old man, found himself trapped in Italy during World War II, hidden from the authorities by aristocratic friends. Though in no doubt about which side needed to win for humanity's sake, victory for the Allies was for him a bittersweet thing as he watched Allied bombers destroy much of the art and civilization he so cherished. "Rumor and Reflection" is his wartime diary from 1941 to 1944.

With nothing but time and dread on his hands, he turned his brilliant old mind to the puzzle of how so rich, beautiful and humanistic a culture as Germany could have transformed itself into such a nightmarish and destructive thing. By coincidence -- or not -- it is a Christmas posting.

Bob Merkin


from "Rumor and Reflection" by Bernard Berenson
Simon and Schuster, 1952

25 December 1943

I referred yesterday to the way abstraction can dehumanize one. I recall that in the last war I was wondering whether that was not the reason why Germans for the great part, as individuals so kindhearted and so ready to feel with others, can turn into mechanized executioners, as impersonal as a guillotine, the moment the Fatherland, the state, the army orders them to go against abstractions labeled French, English, Russian, etc., etc.

I have been tempted at times to ask whether this unusual readiness of Germans to submit to abstractions in every field, not of action alone but of thought as well, was not in part at least due to their indulging too much in symphonic, relatively timeless, music. Such music easily puts one into moods whence the concrete disappears almost entirely, where the mind is filled with exhalations that cannot be condensed into verbally statable concepts. It cannot remain unsatisfied; yet the vaguest abstractions suffice.

Wagner must have felt something of this danger, for he furnishes a verbal basis for the symphonic and undramatic intervals of his operas that keep the listeners tied town to the words of the libretto. Pious Wagnerians attend to it as closely as to the score. There is nothing of the sort to keep one from opiatic vagueness in the symphonies of a Beethoven, a Brahms, a Bruckner, and their foreign followers César Franck and Sibelius.