Friday, October 29, 2004

Unheard melodies...

Apologies for rather quiet week for blogging, or lack of... It's a busy time of year, however, for CD issues and consequently for reviews. An extraordinary number of new releases come out around now in order to be In Time For Christmas. And Christmas has a lot to answer for. That's another story, however. Meanwhile, I've been extremely taken with the latest CD by the Swiss/French flautist Emmanuel Pahud, which is a disc for all seasons.

The disc includes, however, only one original piece for flute and piano, Widor's Suite Op.43. The rest is Franck and Strauss - their violin sonatas, transcribed for the flute. I've often been wary of such inter-instrument transfers, but here it not only makes perfect sense but sounds phenomenal. Violinists might even be jealous, especially as Pahud plays the Strauss Sonata with all the passion of one of Strauss's amazing soprano heroines - the breathing and phrasing are pure opera. I've never been convinced by the Strauss as a violin sonata, but here, in Pahud's own transcription, it seems to take off as never before. Eat your heart out, Marie-Therese.

In the light of this, I've begun to think that over-fussiness about instruments being 'correct' or 'original' can lead to missed opportunities and a general narrowness of outlook. Bach, after all, could write exactly the same piece for one single violin as for full orchestra, choir and organ (best known as the opening movement of the E major partita). And anyone who has heard Myra Hess or Dinu Lipatti playing the former's piano transcription of 'Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring' would be likely to take it to a desert island for a reminder of the meaning of life.

But isn't all music a transcription to a certain extent - a transcription, for the composer, of what he or she hears inside and has, somehow, to get out?...Who knows whether what reached Brahms's manuscript paper was exactly what he had imagined, or whether something was lost in translation from mind to hand? However amazing music sounds to us, perhaps it would have sounded less good to the composer compared to the first concept of the sound inside his/her head? As Keats said, 'Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter...'