Friday, April 02, 2004

Get a grip, Gustav

I can't help wondering whether there's something wrong with me. The rest of the Royal Festival Hall goes nuts over Mahler, Bruckner and Shostakovich symphonies. And I sit there wondering what to cook for dinner tomorrow, daydreaming about being forcibly confined for as long as this in better surroundings (the Sanctuary/beach in south of France/leisurely dinner at Gavroche) - or simply wishing that dear old Gustav could get a grip.

Why, why, WHY did these self-indulgent egomaniacs have to write symphonies that go on for 80 minutes with no relief to the overwhelming gloom? Were they sadists? Or cry-babies? Listen, Gussy, everyone's got problems. If you didn't know what you were getting into when you married Almschi...well, you were probably the only man in Vienna who didn't. You have only yourself to blame.

Actually, I can deal with Gus on a good day - at least he had a heart, which is more than can be said for Bruckner, who bores me to tears. Shostakovich isn't exactly heartless, but usually induces inclination to throw self off Waterloo Bridge - bad idea, no future in it.

Schubert could encapsulate the sort of emotion that the symphonic dinosaurs were after in a three-minute song. What did Anton B write that could even begin to compare with Schwanengesang? And did Gus ever create a view of the human condition more intensely touching than Schubert's String Quintet? I don't believe so.

Also, the more I think about it, the more I prefer French stuff once we get past about 1865. One of my best musical moments in the past month was attending the dress rehearsal of Verdi's 'Simon Boccanegra' at the Royal Opera House. Lots of doges, intrigues, mixed-up identities, oompahs and fight scenes. And as the curtain went down, someone's mobile went off - playing the twinkletoes finale of Saint-Saens's Carnival of the Animals. If that didn't put things in perspective, nothing could.