The Main Stream of Music and Other Essays

The Main Stream of Music and Other Essays

The Main Stream of Music and Other Essays

The Main Stream of Music and Other Essays

Excerpt

'It was one of my naïve undergraduate ambitions to make a contribution to aesthetic philosophy by a systematic review of music.' So writes Donald Francis Tovey in the lecture printed on pp. 160- 182 of this book. He continues: 'Forty years on, I come to you with empty hands.' That is not a wholly true statement. That 'systematic review' which he discussed with the writer and others over so many years was, indeed, never written. But despite the fact that only one of his books was (so to say) durchcomponirt, Tovey was in practice a voluminous writer. He wrote when occasion called him, and in that busy life of practical music-making, of playing, conducting, and lecturing, occasion called him very frequently. The philosophy expressed in those sixteen volumes that stand massively on our shelves may not be 'systematic' nor expressed in the form of argued review, but it is consistent, of the widest possible reference, developed, and positive. It has the added advantage of being expressed in a prose that it is a pleasure to read for its own artistry.

In this volume, a companion to the other sixteen, are gathered the larger part of Donald Tovey's writings that have not already been garnered into sheaves. Completeness has been neither aimed at nor attained. Of the few deliberate omissions, one essay (a contribution to a volume long out of print) was not thought suitable for inclusion: of the first series of Cramb lectures, no complete copy has yet been found, and, if it were, the difficulty would arise in reprinting the lectures that they were copiously illustrated at the piano. For the same reason, the broadcast scripts cannot be sensibly reproduced. Only those who knew Tovey personally are aware of how readily and continuously he illustrated his seemingly incessant flow of talk with passages at the piano. I was not present in person at Lady Margaret Hall on 4 June 1934, when he gave the Philip Maurice Deneke Lecture, but I am as certain as if I were hearing it now that he sang 'the text of that Sweelinck Psalm' (see p. 177 of this volume) 'to its proper tune of the "Old Hundredth" '. But though the rigours of print and its metal must to some extent clip the eagle's wings, I venture to express the opinion that he 'soars the morning clouds above' at an altitude unattained by contemporary writers on music.

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