Charles Rosen - History Quotes
6 Sourced Quotes
Here, in the last pages of the "Abegg" Variations, Schumann plays the motto theme A-B-E-G-G (B in German notation is the English Bb) not by sounding the last four notes but by taking them away, one by one, from, the chord of Bb-E-G. This is the first time in history that a melody is signified not by the attack but by the release of a series of notes. The motto, however, ends with a repeated final G. If the motto is played by releasing each successive note, we are faced with a paradox: when the G is released once on the piano, it is no longer there to be released again-the motto is not only unplayable as conceived but unimaginable. Schumann signifies as much by another paradox: he adds accents to the sustained notes.
Mendelssohn was the greatest child prodigy the history of Western music has ever known. Not even Mozart or Chopin before the age of nineteen could equal the mastery that Mendelssohn already possessed when he was only sixteen. Most astonishing is the nature of Mendelssohn's precocious talent: not only a gift for lyrical melodic lines and delicate, transparent textures, but, above all, a control of large-scale structure unsurpassed by any composer of his generation.
I do not mean that it is not worthwhile to attempt a revision of the canon or that no success is possible. A few valuable minor changes have been made to our sense of the basic material of the history of music, and other alterations are still waiting to take hold. Gesualdo has not displaced Monteverdi or Palestrina but has won a permanent place; on the other hand, the attempt to convince us that Telemann is a major composer appears to have been abandoned. Alkan has not had the breakthrough his admirers had hoped for. Attacks on Tchaikovsky have not had much success in removing his music from the repertory; his credit with performers has not changed a bit.
Mathematicians tells us that it is easy to invent mathematical theorems which are true, but that it is hard to find interesting ones. In analyzing music or writing its history, we meet the same difficulty, and it is compounded by another. For whom is it interesting? To paraphrase a famous remark of Barnett Newman, musicology is for musicians what ornithology is for the birds.