Magazine article Gramophone

FROM WHERE I SIT: If a Composer Can't Finish Their Own Works Should We Do It for Them

Magazine article Gramophone

FROM WHERE I SIT: If a Composer Can't Finish Their Own Works Should We Do It for Them

Article excerpt

Finishing the unfinished. With this month's cover feature on the mysteries and machinations surrounding Mozart's musical last will and testament the debate on whether or not, how or if, or to what extent we should be second guessing the greats is rekindled. Of course, the musically inquisitive will always want to venture into the realms of 'what might have been', however sketchy the road map, however sparse the clues. None of us like being left hanging on to the prospect of a masterwork in the making and more often than not the composer's inability to speak for himself is an enticement more than it is a discouragement.

Anthony Payne wanted to honour Elgar's legacy with his masterly 'elaboration' of the sketches for the Third Symphony and whether or not Elgar wanted anyone 'tinkering' with them--and, of course, there is a powerful argument for leaving well alone--Payne's composerly intuitions worked their way into the master's head and offered us one set of possibilities. Likewise Deryck Cooke with the extensive remains of Mahler's Tenth Symphony where the fully scored first two movements revealed a whole new direction in style that only the terminally unimaginative could resist exploring.

But where time simply ran out for Elgar and Mahler (and others) there were those for whom lofty aspiration reached an impasse and 'work in progress' was frustratingly halted despite all efforts to the contrary. Schubert's Eighth and Bruckner's Ninth were not left unfinished for want of trying, or indeed for want of time, but rather for want of inspiration. …

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