Highlights | Calendar | Music | Books | Concerts | Links | Education | Health
What's New | LaRouche | Spanish Pages | Poetry | Maps
Dialogue of Cultures
The Science of Music
Getting Brahms' Idea Across in
In early 2002, Lyndon H. LaRouche initiated an international dialogue among musicians and others, on the significance of this last work of Johannes Brahms, his "Four Serious Songs." This dialogue also involves working papers on the music, the context and the universal principles involved in this classical work.
To fully appreciate the importance of these immortal songs for today, one must hear them in the mind, and not just with the senses (ears). The brief remarks below stem from recent discussions about performances of this piece, which can assist the listener in hearing the music in the mind, such that Brahms's idea is communicated, thus ensuring that the art itself is not lost to future generations.
Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.
As I recall from nearly fifty years ago, Fischer-Dieskau's treatment of the transition across the rest, from "dieser drei" to "aber die Liebe," is not approached by any of the others, even including the Pitzinger who pauses too long over the rest. Otherwise, Fischer-Dieskau and Pitzinger are comparable, sharing the position of the absolute best. Marian Anderson's weakness is failing to leave enough room for the ideas which lie between the notes. Her speed in the Erlkoenig incurs similar problems; musically and artistically, in both the Brahms and Schubert, she is on the mark, and a truly amazing woman and artist, but I would prefer Schlusnus's Erlkoenig by a wide margin.
The essence of a truly artistic musical performance, as on the Classical dramatic stage, is to enrapture the soul, by moving the performance from the visible stage, to the stage of the audience's imagination. This apotheosis must occur in a hushed moment of silence immediately preceding the utterance of the first tone. The audience must hear the effect of the first sounded interval, rather than the accoustical event as such. The audience must be gripped by suspense, a grip which never lets go until after the last tone has faded into a heavenly distance of silence. The performer must, thus, convince the audience that "I am not my body, but my soul." This is emphatically required for this Brahms, in which Brahms' message is delivered on precisely that premise.
The object, however, is not imitation. The issue is the challenge of escaping from the prison of a shadow-world of heard sounds, to hear the substance of the musical idea. This may be accomplished only by the method of the Platonic dialectic, by the principle of hypothesis. To this end, Classical composition in the tradition of Bach's (Florentine bel canto) method of well-tempered counterpoint Keplerian counterpoint afford us the use of a double palette. The palette of the contrapuntal paradoxes specific to the bel canto singing voice, and the palette of the paradoxes expressed by the ironies, including crucial metaphors, of the subject being addressed musically. These two kinds of ironies, lie between the notes, as transcendental tones sung and heard only in the mind, and as ironies of the subject-matter being treated musically. Nothing better illustrates that doubled irony of great Classical composition, that the great religious music, from Bach's Passions, through Mozart, the later Haydn, Beethoven, Schubert, and Brahms.
To hear the substance sounded between the heard notes, a certain amount of space must be allowed for those paradoxical passing moments in which a change from the course of deductive schoolbook harmony intervenes. It is shaping the interval of the unheard, transcendental sound, as if "between the notes," which won me to undying admiration of Furtwaengler, in early 1946, and Fischer-Dieskau's performance of the Brahms in 1953.
Wer weiß, ob der Geist des Menschen
Darum sahe ich, daß nichts bessers ist,
Denn wer will ihn dahin bringen,
Da lobte ich die Toten,
O Tod, wie bitter bist du,
Und wenn ich weissagen könnte,
Und wenn ich alle meine Habe den Armen gäbe,
Wir sehen jetzt durch einen Spiegel
For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts,
Who knoweth the spirit of man
Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better,
for who shall bring him to see
Wherefore I praised the dead
O, death, how bitter you are,
4. I Corinthians 13:1-3, 12-13.
And though I have the gift of prophecy,
And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
For now we see through a glass,
The Schiller Institute
Thank you for supporting the Schiller Institute. Your membership and contributions enable us to publish FIDELIO Magazine, and to sponsor concerts, conferences, and other activities which represent critical interventions into the policy making and cultural life of the nation and the world.
Contributions and memberships are not tax-deductible.
Home | Search | About | Fidelio | Economy | Strategy | Justice | Conferences | Join