18 September 1990 (Waxes and waves in creativity, Fischer-Dieskau, Lamb and light music)


Dear Erik,

      it was good to hear from you. Thanks for the postcards too: lovely to have both news and views.

      I'm in the train today, en route for Nostalgia (a dream of a country) revisiting my youth (a distant land, well evoked by the Brahms-Groth setting). If you see any signs of shakiness in the lines it's British Rail's fault not mine. So, at least, I hope.

      You sound a little alarmed or at any rate perplexed by your fallow or dormant phase word-or tone-wise. But we Wolfians really know, don't we? (better than the rest) that any kind of creativity, being no less a natural phenomenon then the moon or tides or the precession of the equinoxes, necessarily waxes and waves, in a dialectical mechanism of positive and negative feed back.

      Never were days yet called two

      but one night went betwixt (Anon? Elizabethan, anyhow)

and the brighter the day the darker the night in comparison. Indeed, the sign might even be encouraging: the need for a prolonged resting period could be interpreted as a tribute to the excellence of the preceding performance. Conversely the longer the couched tiger takes in preparing itself to spring, the more dazzingly effective is the ensuing pounce, the more devastated the prey. Certain things remain unchanged though, with any luck: appetites of all kinds, abilities (such as playing the piano, tennis, etc.) and in my own case letter writing (if not yours!). That's perhaps because all these are externalising or exteriorising activities entailing outward projection and centrifugal forces. Meanwhile the heart soul or spirit (Geist ist vielleicht le mot juste) is free to come and go (though 'free' is not quite so giusto) according to its own personal plan or programme. All this is a laborious and no doubt otiose way of saying never mind about your phases; they're part of you, and ought to feel privileged to be so. I well remember at your age getting very glum and gloomy on the same account, and being told by an older friend (the fabulously rich Henri Lazard: with whom I was ganz famillionär) 'ne force pas ta nature'. He was a very brilliant bacteriologist who saw everything from the point of view of the bacterium. Once when I caught a cold he chided me for making my virus ill.

      I've also had some good advice from Gerald Moore, who would have loved to write his own foreword ('Always keep your name before the public, dear boy'). I'm sorry that Barenboim wasn't a Daniel come to judgement. He's probably still the kind of Wunderkind that's only serious about playing (which is what makes him good master-classes).

      I fear that DFD may be at the other extreme, whit that German seriousness about everything which makes some things impossible for them to understand. The only time I've ever made a native German laugh was by coining the word Unterhaltungsmusikwissenschaft, because he knew there couldn't possibly be such a thing. Bu there is, as exemplified by my good friend Andrew Lamb, who knows it all. Hum a bar of unfamiliar Strauss (Johann Sohn) and he instantly says something like 'that's Opus 300 - an early work'. Under his tutelage I'm on a musical diet of Wiener Schlagsahne. It's Suppé-time in Surrey. Draussen in Sanderstead blüht schon der Flieder. A great recent joy has been the Schwarzkopf disc with In chambre séparéeSei nicht bös and the implausible-sounding Nuns' chorus from Casanova. I hear that Elizabeth is hale and heathy: she will long outlive me, and I shall never come into my Wolfian inheritance from Walter Legge. 'Over my dead body', as she no doubt observed. I'll be a best a plague - the Salzburg museum, as late owner or donor: which will puzzle the public. Which reminds me that I once saw an ancient Greek torso mystifyingly labelled 'Legs de Mme Rotschild'.

      Yes, I've heard DFD in concert too, this April: entirely marvellous, I agree, and encouraging too - he's even older than I am. It's grand to hear too that your father, who is I 'm sure much younger, is continuing to receive proper recognition. No one in Europe has done more for the Lied - often, I'm sure, in unpropitious circumstances. You must be a special joy to him. And really by my own standards you seem to be amazingly active, and by any standard deservedly successfull. My son Jeremy is also doing well, and being handsomely rewarded for work he loves. That's happiness. Long may you both continue and prosper.

      I'm producing the usual succession of Shakespeare articles and reviews, and angling for a book contribution on that subject. I've also got back into music to some extent: book review, revising my Grove Hanslick article, some talking and teaching at Aldeburgh, the Guildhall, etc. And before long there'll be the new Gruner (brochure enclosed): I'll be chairman next year, in BEn Luxon's absence. The best of good fortune: warmest regards to you and yours, as ever,