28 March 2002 (Fischer-Dieskau in Acquasparta, RSII, closure)


Dear Erik,

     Many thanks for the Housman choruses (in the tradition of Wolf himself). Mentor is right; but alas I never met him ('alas' even though he's said to have been rather difficult to get on with; his conversation, I gather, was confined to port and the Navy). He did say however, of his own tim in Cambridge, that he thought it was an asylum in every sense of the word. Anyhow, it's good of you to say that I was your mentor; but you've far outgrown any influence I might have had. Besides, it's not just twelve tones that leave me baffled ‑ music just means to me the nineteeth century, especially its song‑writing.

      Which reminds me that as I may have mentioned, Walter Legge kindly bequeathed to me Wolf's Handexemplare of the Italienische and Spanische Liederbücher poems, with some eigenhändig notes about which verses by Heyse and/or Geibel were due to be set; when I died (a contingency not all that remote) the books also would pass on ‑ to the Salzburg Mozarteum. But I had a letter from Elizabeth Schwarzkopf some time ago saying that she'd quite forgotten these items were willed to me, and she'd in fact given them to Fischer‑Dieskau. Of course I replied saying that they were best‑qualified to have them; and their discs were on my machine as part of the recent Wolf birthday celebrations. It's grand to hear that the maestro himself is to hold a master‑class at Acquasparta in August. You and Elio (to whom regards) have certainly put the Liedo (sic) on the map.

      You're good enough to enquire about my own writing; well, the sequel to The Real Shakespeare advances, if at all, very slowly, like wading uphill through glue. That's because that sequel is (like the book on Brahms songs) the rather laborious work of a rather old man, whose wife is in a residential care home. But I'm much encouraged by the information that The Real Shakespeare itself is to be translated, even though la voce del cantor/ non è più quella, into (of all languages) Italian, by Besa Editrice [project was never realized, ED].

      I still reckon that your own book on Goethe should be published in English, in your own translation, with my help as (and if) necessary. If you do have a failing, as they say, it's modesty. Why not try Yale U.P.? Write to Robert Baldock at 23 Pond Street, London NW3 2PM. They might be pleased to widen their Italian Connection. And either of us could surely write a better book on Houman than Iris Murdoch's wretched husband John Bayley.

      But really I've applied the closure; I've been talking this very day to a representative of Travis & Emery, my favourite music dealers (Valerie Emery née Travis, who died four years ago, was a special friend of mine, and her father was a commandant of Bletchley Park, wartime home of cryptography). They're coming to see me after Easter. I've been inspired by an advertisement I once saw, which read 'Clergyman about to retire wishes to dispose of entire theological library'. But first, at Easter, I get a visit from Jeremy, who might want one or two items, and will in any event get his mother's piano (a Blüthner grand) as a wedding gift.    

      Thanks again; love, as ever, Yours,