7. 6 January 1969 (Motifs in Schubert; Schumann as Wolf's mentor)
Dear Mr. Brown,
I felt that I must write straightaway to thank you for your agreeable letter and your generosity in sending me some notes (sic) of the work you hay done on motivic writing (I wish I could think of an apter term) in Schubert. I could not possibly have had a nicer New Years present. I hope one day to write something on the songs; I should in any event have set before myself in any such attempt the aim of coming as close as I could to your standards of perception and scholarship as the highest that any Schubertian could aim at. And now I have to add your selflessness in these matters, about which I have already heard much. Well, perhaps I had better desist lest I embarrass you unduly. Let me just add that after a brief (but moving) ceremony here you have just been canonised as St. Maurice (by the ordinary Christian part of which appellation I should propose in future to address you, if you see no objection); thus making de jure the previous de facto prescription of long usage, and in entire accordance with the requirement that only those are to be canonized whose personal daily life in music is lived not merely well but at an heroic level of integrity. Something tells me that in that respect also I’m going to find it rather difficult to emulate you. But I’ll try.
For a start, you put me a quandary by your embargo on acknowledgment. I would. be bound, would I not, at the very least, to acknowledge any drawings on “gold” which I have not myself personally experienced in the music? (the idea of gold or sun, was quite new to me until, that is, I read your Salve Regina article! Wasn’t it crown or throne as well there?) And for the rest might I not say that you too, etc, etc, which would a very minimum serve as corroborative detail to give artistic verisimilitude to an otherwise bald and unconvincing narrative, as Pooh Bah very justly observes.
I mean that if we both hear these things over the years-then perhaps that is in itself some prima facie evidence that we're not both off our respective onions? However, nothing will stop people like Martin Cooper from saying that it's all in the imagination.
Anyhow, would it be a nuisance if I were to consult you in due course about any further examples of these motifs, and any other motivic ideas that may occur to me in the Schubertian realm? (what a nice stage direction that phrase would make, if one could live up to it; like “Im Gebiete des Grals”) For example, do you hear the dominant as a question in Schubert, as in Schumann, with that special progression as in Trockne Blumen or the Schmidt Wanderer (at "wovon so nass" and "immer wo") as a rhetorical question? And would you have thought there was anything in the notion that the rhythm
is some sort of analogue for weakness or inertia, as e.g. at “regungslos” in Erlafsee or “ach, wie ist mein Arm so schwach” in D.S.M.? The former, incidentally, is as you say, also Brünnhilde's "war es so schmählich?", which I take it is also a rhetorical question meaning that it war'nt, really, all that schmählich. I expect there is a subconscious Wagner/Schubert association there; not the only one either.
I've been listening quite hard to Wagner recently in the interest of thinking a bit harder about the Wagner/Wolf relation, on which I expect you'll have plenty of ideas. However, I'm still unrepentantly of the view that Wolf's real mentor is Schumann! I wonder if you would care to read through a couple of additional chapters I'm doing for a book on Wolf; you know how much I'd value your view on this as on other matters.
But isn't there anything I could do for you? I seem to do so little. You know too, I hope, how very welcome you are to any help which (per impossible) I might be able to give. And I cherish, and reciprocate, the thought that you feel able to share ideas without the least constraint. In itself, that's a New Year honour for me. And I think I too can echo Collingwood’s splendid sentiments, properly understood, which you will know from his "Principles of Art": "Let every artist, and all such as write or speak on scientific or learned subjects, make a vow never to prosecute or lend himself to a prosecution under the law of copyright ..... Let all such as understand one another plagiarise each other's work like men. Let each borrow his friends' best ideas and try to improve on them. ... Or if he cannot improve on his friends' ideas, at least let him borrow them; it will do him good to try fitting them into works of his own, and it will be an advertisement for the creditor.”etc .
Well, it does seem at the moment a bit one–sided; but as I say you're always welcome to any of mine, such they are. And I hope to do better in time.
My own worry was whether I might not have discerned in your letter a hint of Prospero–like abjuration. Are you sure it's the right time to drown your book (on Schubert songs, that is)?
All the very best for the New Year.
P.S. It so happens that I've just heard from Faber & Faber asking whether I have in mind to do a book on Schubert songs! I'd like to try one day, when I'm shot of Schumann — in a year or so 's time. Perhaps Brahms can wait; I can't find much in him in the way of motifs and the like. But how wildly impossible it seems to me at the moment for any one person to write on the song-by-song translation commentary notes basis, plus introduction, which I favour. If the idea of some sort of collaboration, on some mutually convenient basis to be arranged, didn't entirely fill you with dismay, might we discuss it some time – say when you are next at the BM?