x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

In their own words

Ahead of the 10th Al Ain Classics Festival, we take a look at Adach's Best of Abu Dhabi Classics 2009-2010 CD.

Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), described his difficulties achieving the ghostly effects characteristic of his First Symphony.
Gustav Mahler (1860-1911), described his difficulties achieving the ghostly effects characteristic of his First Symphony.

Almost everyone has an opinion on the classical masterpieces featured on Adach's Best of Abu Dhabi Classics 2009-10 CD, not least the composers themselves. Here is what they had to say.

In the March movement the instruments are disguised and go round dressed as strangers. Everything has to sound deadened and muffled, as if ghosts were parading past us. To ensure that in the canon each new entry comes over distinctly, with a surprising tone colour that draws attention to itself as it were - that caused me a real headache! Eventually I got the instrumentation right, so that it produced that weird, otherworldly effect- To his friend, the viola player Natalie Bauer-Lechner.

After copying it, I am not sure what you can do with a mere solo part. Of course, I would like you to make corrections; I had intended to leave you no excuse whatsoever - neither that the music is too good, nor that it isn't worth the trouble. Now, I would be satisfied if you write a letter to me or perhaps mark the music: difficult, awkward, impossible, etc. I have just started the fourth movement, so you can overrule the awkward passages at once. Letter to the violinist Joseph Joachim, August 1878.

The composer's intention has been to develop various episodes in the life of an artist, in so far as they lend themselves to musical treatment. As the work cannot rely on the assistance of speech, the plan of the instrumental drama needs to be set out in advance. The following programme must therefore be considered as the spoken text of an opera, which serves to introduce musical movements and to motivate their character and expression. Berlioz's programme notes, 1845.

These concertos [Nos 11, 12, and 13] are a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid. There are passages here and there from which the connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction; but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, though without knowing why- The golden mean of truth in all things is no longer either known or appreciated. In order to win applause one must write stuff which is so inane that a coachman could sing it, or so unintelligible that it pleases precisely because no sensible man can understand it. Letter to his father, December 28 1782.

Every character in the story had its own motif played each time by the same instrument. - Before each performance, the instruments were shown to the children and the themes played for them; during the performance, the children heard the themes repeated several times and learned to recognise the timbres of the different instruments. The text was read during the pauses in the music, which was disproportionately longer than the text - for me, the story was important only as a means of inducing the children to listen to the music. Soviet Diary 1927 and Other Writings.

In spite of the fact that various mistakes were made, which I could not prevent, the public nevertheless applauded the whole performance with enthusiasm - yet scribblers in Vienna will certainly not fail to send again the Musikalische Zeitung some wretched stuff directed against me. Letter to the publisher Breitkopf & Härtel, January 7, 1809, on the joint premieres of Symphonies 5 and 6.

There was quite a fuss at the time [1935-36] about our attempts to give Romeo & Juliet a happy ending in the last act, Romeo arrives a minute earlier, finds Juliet alive and everything ends well. The reasons for this bit of barbarism were purely choreographic: living people can dance, the dying cannot. 1941 autobiographical sketch for the publication Sovetskaya Muzyka (Soviet Music).

I have not actually used any of the [Native American] melodies. I have simply written original themes embodying the peculiarities of the Indian music, and, using these themes as subjects, have developed them with all the resources of modern rhythms, counterpoint, and orchestral colour. Article in the New York Herald, December 15, 1893.

To me there is something really fine in representing on stage this character outwardly so ugly and ridiculous, inwardly so impassioned and full of love- I tell you frankly that, good or bad, my music is not just written casually for any situation; I try to give it a character appropriate to the drama. Letter to Marzari, head of Teatro la Fenice.

Titian's Assumption of the Virgin in the great hall of the Doges [on a visit to Venice in 1861] made a most exalting impression on me, so that by this inspiration I found my old creative powers awakening within me with almost their original primordial power. I decided to write Die Meistersinger. Mein Leben, Richard Wagner.

In haste & joyful (Gosh! Man, I've got a tune in my head) . Letter to his publisher August Jaeger, January 1901.