Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Music at the Limits

Edward Said was one of the more interesting intellectual figures of the last century to attempt to seriously engage Western classical music.

And so it was with no small interest that I read that a collection of essays from the last 20 years of his life has been published.

On balance I think the TLS reviewer gets it just about right:

"To admire Glenn Gould – or indeed Alfred Brendel or Maurizio Pollini, two other pianists whom Said singles out – is not unusual, and it could perhaps be claimed that Said’s views tend to be rather Establishment ones: he writes a wholly adulatory article about Boulez, for example, without any mention of Boulez’s Jesuitical dogmaticism or his musical narrow-mindedness. Similarly, Said seems too respectful of Adorno: he makes good use of some of Adorno’s more insightful observations but also quotes a number of his tiresomely prejudicial opinions about composers he disapproved of, without criticism. But as with Boulez, it is always stimulating to disagree with Said, and reading the last essay in this book, appropriately about late Beethoven, which Said felt to be more about the opening up of new horizons than reaching conclusions, makes one sadly aware of just what a loss his premature death has been."

No comments: