27 January 1993 (Stirb und werde, Nye, Fischer-Dieskau's partners)


Dear Erik,

   Just off for a convivial lunch to celebrate Mozart's birthday. Thanks for your letter. You sound much better, which is good to hear. Remember that our depressions can and should be put to effective use, as springboards or stepping stones. The evidence is found in other depressives, such as gloomy old Tennyson: even he thought that

man may rise on stepping stones
of their dead selves to higher things.

It may also be part of what Goethe had in mind when he wrote

und solange du nicht hast 
dieses - stirb und werde -
bist du nur ein trüber Gast
auf des dunklen Erde.

   I note that both quotations deal with dying and death. On this theory the Christian message takes a new and more practical turn, with resurrection from the depressive phase. And indeed there is much textual warranty for inferring that Jesus wasn't basically a very cheerful chap. We're told that he wept but I don't recall that he ever laughed.

   Anyhow, it's good to know that you're back in the creative business. Keats is topical here; graham is devising a Keats-Schubert song-programme, with poetry readings by nice Jill Belcon, widow of the excellent poet and critic Cecil Day Lewis. The tripartite novella project you mentions sounds grand. I have a special interest in the aesthetic of factual fiction (?faction), and have just been reviewing Robert Nye's Mrs Shakespeare, rather austerely. I think that irony has to be based on truth and knowledge. That's very old fashioned, of course, but then, so am I.

   I was quite impressed by Höll as FD's partner (a bit too much the junior partner, perhaps) but otherwise know little of him except for a CD of Manuel Venegas etc with piano, which is authentic enough, no doubt. I'll try to catch up with Perahia, whom I admire, and not just um des Reimes willen. And I still shirk Schoeck, apart from some of the Mörike-Lieder. I'll get to know the Notturno as soon as I can, deinetwegen. Nor have I seen or heard Ben Luxon lately; we're next due to meet on March 3-4 for a preliminary Gruner sift, with Ian Partridge as the third adjudicator.

   For the rest I keep busy, teaching a so called advanced lieder class at the Guildhall and getting on with Shakespeare. Before long I hope to have some further pieces in print. Meanwhile I'm doing some work on Schumann, correcting page proofs for the third (Faber paperback) edition - mainly a matter of adding Umfang u. Tonart to conform with Wolf. Also translating some of the Musikalische Haus- und Lebensregeln for a Graham concert. Have you ever come across Bernhard Shaw's Advice to Young Musicians, by the way? It was

    'Don't take Schumann's'

    A great music critic, and funny too. Farewell for now,

    Love as ever, Eric