18 February 1992 (Autumnal mood, plans and projects, Carpe Diem, Adorno on recapitulation, ABA, Moore)


Dear Erik,

    Thanks for your letter. It's good to hear how well you're doing, and how active you are. My own way of life is falling into the sere, the yellow leaf in many respects. I'm sorry to say that September no longer seems so certain. Our elder son Richard reckons to be over here on holiday from Tokyo at about that time, and I wouldn't want to miss him. And I'm making rather poor progress with the Shakespeare book, and generally feeling even less adventurous and mobile than ever.

   But it will be lovely to see you again later on this year, by which time I might know more about Richard's plans. Enid won't be able to make it in any event: mid September is in the middle of her teaching term. And, let's face it, I didn't really relish Ischia all that much, apart from the good company. Everything's becoming a bit of an effort these days, and I ought to concentrate and specialise on one thing at a time: otherwise there's diffuseness and evaporation instead of the crystallisation and distillation I could once reckon on more readily.

     The moral is gather ye rosebuds, make ye recordings, etc, while ye may. As the great Italian poet counselled, carpe diem. I see with delight that you're brimming with plans and projects. The Wolf critiques, suitably selected, sounds a grand idea. Do you know the Henry Pleasant's English translation, on which I lent a hand here and there? And I'd love to be joined by you on the Jugendlieder, very appropriately. I hope there is indeed an Italian market. If so, it will have been created by you and Elio (to whom our warmest regards). I liked too the Adorno remark about the recapitulation's containing the 'memory of the development', and your application of that aperçu to the lied-cycle form. It's equally relevant, I'm sure, to the ostensibly simple ABA form, where A recurs the-same-but-different, as ti were pregnant by B. My students at the Guildhall tend to miss this interconnection so completely as to make A and B sound like two quite different and unrelated songs (as in Shumann's Widmung z. B.) so that the naive listener (and there are such) might wonder why A is recurring.

     I also enjoyed your remark about Moore's unobtrusive account of Erlkönig - as I've heard Geoffrey Parsons (a great master too) play the Wolf Kennst du das Land for Schwarzkopf.

      Well, more power to your elbow, dear boy, and farewell for now,

      Yours as ever, Eric