This morning dawned unseasonably bright, warm and sunny, as have several days here recently. After breakfast I lay in bed reading the ‘Literary Review’. There is a new book, by the singer Ian Bostridge, called ‘Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession’. ‘Oh, good,’ I thought; ‘a book about that beautiful and, in the proper sense of the word, tragic work ‘Die Winterreise’. I shall almost certainly get it, but let’s just see what the reviewer (Rupert Christiansen) has to say.’
My Christmas smile started to drop as I read ‘This is emphatically not a narrow musicological monograph’…’engage the non-specialist reader’ …’nicely unbuttoned, unhectoring style that won’t deter the uninitiated’… and more of the same pap.
It is painfully clear that the reviewer, and presumably the author, regard all these as virtues, and think we should too. What is the point of all these ‘accessible’ books that make no intellectual, literary, or indeed musical demands of the reader? Why don’t Messrs Christiansen and Bostridge just say ‘Hi guys and gals! Forget boring, difficult old Schubert! Check out the ‘Easy Listening’ section and get your self some nice, soothing Mantovani!’
In case anyone’s interested, here anyway (not very well reproduced I fear) is the first page of ‘Die Winterreise’:
The Philistines are upon us, but Happy Christmas anyway.