Friday, 4 January 2013

Ivan Hewett's refreshing new series

Intelligent new series in the Telegraph by Ivan Hewett. This could be good because he takes a very different approach to the banal superficiality we read elsewhere.  Hewett picks a single work, and explores how and why it's interesting. Writing in relative depth about shortish works is far more original than writing clichés. There are writers who can churn out material like machines, but unless they've digested what they're writing about in the first place, it's not a whole lot of use to anyone else. Hewett is the opposite. Perhaps his secret is to realize that articles are not ends in themselves but sparks that stimulate the reader to listen for himself. 

"Instant guides" to music are stupid because they spoonfeed .That's fine if readers want predigested pap.  But learning is often a random process. Hewett's articles emulate that natural learning curve. A reader might be drawn to something by sheer chance and go on to greater things. For example, Hewett's latest piece is about Robert Schumann's Mein schöner Stern! HERE. A reader could then listen to more Schumann, more song, more piano music.  It's a journey that will never end. As the saying goes, you can give a man a drink, but if you show him where and how to dig a well, he'll be nourished forever.

The earlier articles in this 50 part series focus on Stravinsky's Scherzo à la Russe and Scarlatti's Sonata in G minor K450. Obviously Hewett's choices are personal, because listening is a very personal adventure. There's far too much emphasis these days on listening in rigid little boxes, like the South Bank The Rest is Noise series which any school leaver could compile ("American composers" "French composers" etc) . Most conductors can compile intelligent programmes on their own. If  they're any good, programme makers know their repertoire and can find interesting ways of revealing new ideas. Look at the Wigmore Hall programmes this January, for example. The idea of a comprehensive survey of approved repertoire goes against the very concept of creativity. To quote from the Bible (Proverbs 11 v 25) "He who refreshes others will be refreshed".

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