Friday, 24 April 2009

Charles Villiers Stanford & Alfred, Lord Tennyson: A Definition of Poetry.

"Poetry is like shot silk with many glancing colours, and every reader must find his own interpretation according to his ability, and according to his sympathy with the poet"

I was recently browsing in Charles Villiers Stanford’s Pages from an Unwritten Diary and came across this fine, if perhaps a little patronising, definition of poetical appreciation that the composer had recalled had been written by Tennyson. It was quoted originally in Hallam Tennyson’s memoir of the poet. It is an excellent definition that is also applicable to music. It is worth quoting, and I have provided the context from the composer’s 'diary'.


“Another great artist, Wieniawski [1], paid his last visit to Leipzig when I was there. He had grown very unwieldy, and the disproportion between the sizes of the player and his violin must have recalled memories of Spohr to those who knew that master. But his skill and artistry were unabated. He played the Beethoven Concerto in a wholly individual way. The reading was quite as true to the composer in its style as Joachim's ; and exemplified how Tennyson's dictum, that "poetry is like shot silk with many glancing colours, and every reader must find his own interpretation according to his ability, and according to his sympathy with the poet," can apply with the same force to music. If Joachim's [2] effects were like flames, Wieniawski's were like sparks. The brilliancy of the Finale could not have been excelled. It was Beethoven in an unbuttoned mood but none the less Beethoven”.


[1] Joseph Wieniawski was a violinist and composer who was born in Lublin, Poland on 10 July 1835. . “His singular playing manner, with its unconventional bowing grip, was imbued with an intense vibrato and extraordinary technical prowess”. He died in 31 March 1880 in Moscow.

[2] Joseph Joachim was a Hungarian violinist. He was born in June 28, 1831, at Kittsee, near Pressburg, Austria-Hungary and died on August 15 1907 in Berlin He was best remembered for superb, confidant technique and his interpretations of works of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven.

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