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In which I continue to seek part time employment as the ruler of the world.

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Wednesday April 22 2009

You wait for weeks for a classical music posting here at BrianMicklethwait DotCom (and I know you do), and then two show up in two days.

I’ve just been listening to an eighties Hyperion recording of Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, and in the sleevenotes I encountered this piece of verse, by Bernstein himself:

Of time to think as a pure musician
and ponder the art of composition.
Four hours on end I brooded and mused
on materiae musicae, used and abused;
On aspects of unconventionality,
Over the death in our time of tonality,
Over the fads of Dada and Chance,
The serial strictures, the dearth of romance,
“Perspective in Music” the new terminology,
Physiomathematomusicology;
Pieces called “Cycles” and “Sines” and “Parameters” -
Titles too beat for these homely tetrameters;
Pieces for nattering, clucking sopranos
With squadrons of vibraphones, fleets of pianos
played with the forearms, the fists and the palms
- And then I came up with the Chichester Psalms.
These psalms are a simple and modest affair,
Tonal and tuneful and somewhat square,
Certain to sicken a stout John Cager
With its tonics and triads in E flat major.
But there it stands the result of my pondering,
Two long months of avant-garde wandering -
My youngest child, old-fashioned and sweet.
And he stands on his own two tonal feet.

Such is the magic of Google that I didn’t have to type in all of this myself.  I just had to type the first line into Google, and there it was.

Recently BBC4 showed a programme about Andre Previn, who seemed to possess every talent that Bernstein possessed except for the ability to write great tunes.  Everyone loved Previn, including five lovely and lovable wives.  He wrote Hollywood film scores of great renown, and conducted them himself, superbly, when absurdly young.  Singers loved to sing for him.  Oscar Petersen played jazz piano along with him.  Morecombe and Wise did a great comedy sketch with him.  His lovely violinist wife thought he was terrific.  Vladimir Ashkenazy said hugely admiring things about his conducting, which is indeed very fine, just as Bernstein’s was.  Like Bernstein, he also played the piano superbly.  Liek Bernstein, he excelled as a populariser of classical music on TV.  But: no tunes.  Had there been any great Previn tunes, we would have heard them.

He didn’t seem that bothered about it, or about anything really, aside from a brief and unhappy time bossing the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  He preferred the LSO.  In LA, he was a side-show, outshone by Hollywood, and hated it.  In London he was Hollywood.  By any other reckoning aside from making great tunes, Previn has had a superb life.

Nor, so far as I am aware, are there any amusing Previn verses.