50. 26 January 2003 (Allegra, Pozzoli, Rosenbaum, Jeremy and Italy)


My dear Erik,

Allegra sounds a very cheerful and charming person, as her name implies. And of course she’s still very young to be a musician in her own right, despite her inheritance on both sides. But you'd better have our Pozzoli (by separate post) all the same; the alternative is for all my poor wife's teaching material to be given to our local church as jumble, which (for two reasons). I'm rather reluctant to arrange. Also, it was her birthday recently, and I can't get on with The Real Shakespeare Part Two (though Part One is to be translated into Italian). Meanwhile my other friend who lives in Italy (near Assisi) is active, though even older than I am, on behalf of Shakespeare; and I'm having my brains (such as they are) picked by yet another person who, like me, has grave difficulties with the usual 'bad Quarto’ and ‘memorial reconstruction’ lore. So does Ron Rosenbaum, author of Explaining Hitler, who paid me (did I tell you?) the considerable compliment of thinking that our minds worked in the same way, which earned him lunch in my club and such hospitality as I could provide at my home here. He said his publishers were keen for him to write something for the New Yorker - which he has now done. It just shows the advantages of producing a best‑seller first, which presumably you haven't done yet. Despite all your efforts, and those of your esteemed father (to whom my best regards) Italy is still not universally regarded as the home of the Lied. But it's the spiritual home of many of us, including my younger son Jeremy. who married a charming girl from New York (née Jean Gottlieb, like Mozart) and spent Christmas in and around Rome. He has various books in him, including one on Poulenc, but no discernible outlet ‑ Yale is, I'm told, accountant‑led, which I fear nowadays means that they're interested mainly in money.

      In fact, you're one of the few people I know who isn't. And your affinity with Housman (don't I recall a setting of Fragment of an English Opera?) has always struck me as especially attractive. O si sic omnes! I cry, about the English composers whose work I know well, such as Robin Holloway. As to settable Housman poems, I can at least tell you those that seemed to me settable in my youth, assuming you have the right editions, namely ASL V, XIII, LVIII, LXIII; LP V, VI, XLI; MP XVIII. But that was a long time ago, and I've met up since then with a Housman aficionado, C. W. Orr, whose settings I much admire (like yours), as well as Graham Johnson, whose pianism (again like yours) impresses me. Among the few books I still own is my annotated Housman, to the contents of which you're entirely welcome.

All love,

Yours ever,