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Breaking with tradition, Myaskovsky's friends saw in the New Year at his apartment rather than at Pavel Lamm's because he was still unwell. His lengthy illness the previous summer marked the onset of an accelerating decline in his health. From 1946 onwards, his diary entries make increasingly frequent allusions to persistent fatigue and indispositions that kept him housebound and hindered his work. He extricated himself from most of his teaching commitments, preferring to save his energies for composing, though he continued to act as consultant to the state music publisher and to sit on the Stalin Prize committee. Ideas for new creative projects were slow to take shape, so he turned to a less demanding task – fulfilling a request from the legislature of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (the largest of the USSR's fifteen republics) to write an entry for a competition to compose its new anthem. Work advanced fitfully: he struggled to come up with anything interesting in response to Stepan Shchipachyov's wooden verses. The other participants evidently experienced even more acute difficulty, as his was the only entry to make it past the first round. A flurry of revision and re-composition ensued before the second round, which saw the sixty-eight submissions whittled down to eight, Myaskovsky's still amongst them. The conductor Nikolay Golovanov contacted him at the start of March to propose further ‘improvements’ to his anthem before the final round in April – ‘which all came down to turning it into something commonplace’, as he noted sourly in his diary. In the end, his efforts went for nothing: the jury was unenthusiastic about his score. The other finalists included Asafiev, whose anthem he found distastefully saccharine, and Shostakovich, whose entry he considered the best, if somewhat bland.
On completing the first version of the anthem, he returned to the sketches he had made the previous year for two works, one of which would become the Sinfonietta in A minor for string orchestra, op. 68, and other, the Twenty-Fifth Symphony in D-flat major, op. 69; but finding himself unable to make much headway with either, he spent ten days revising settings of the symbolist poet Zinaida Hippius that he had made between 1904 and 1908, fashioning a new op. 4 from twelve previously published songs and a further six that had remained in manuscript.
Back in Paris Bizet found that his mother's health was not critical, but she was frail and lived less than a year longer, dying on 8 September 1861. He also found that his neighbourhood was being torn apart by the rebuilding of Paris led by Baron Haussmann, Préfet de la Seine. The musicians’ ghetto of narrow streets north of the Opéra was never the same again after the broad new Rue Lafayette drove a swath straight as an arrow down from the stations, the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l’Est, to the huge new opera house now under construction at the head of the (new) Avenue de l’Opéra.
He went back to living with his parents in the Rue Laval and found the adjustment to life back in Paris very difficult. Ernest Reyer recalled:
On his return from Italy he passed through a period of wild energy, irritated by the slightest little incident. He would take up the challenge in defence of something or someone without the slightest provocation. He could be could be teased or disarmed with a few calming words, which he always listened to. Later he would laugh about those fits of temper and confess that in those violent jabs, which, fortunately, were usually wide of the mark, there was nothing but youthful exuberance and hot air.
He was permitted to spend the fourth year of the Prix de Rome in Paris, so he had a modest income at least until the end of 1861. According to Marmontel he taught piano, harmony and singing at this time, but there are no details of this. His most pressing obligation was his third submission for the Prix de Rome, which he presented in October 1860. It consisted of two movements of the symphony he had been contemplating on his travels, and an overture entitled La chasse d’Ossian, now lost, which was in all probability a version of the symphony's first movement. The submission, as a whole, was well received by the Academy in its report, but there is no evidence that he composed any more music until June 1862 when he embarked on the comic opera La guzla de l’émir. What he was certainly doing was transcribing operas for the publisher Choudens.
If Myaskovsky hoped that conditions might improve sufficiently to permit his return to civilian life before too long, he was to be disappointed. As it transpired, he would have to remain in the armed forces for three further years – a period that proved the most turbulent in the country's history.
In the months following the October Revolution, Lenin's grip on power remained tenuous. The Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social-Democratic Workers’ Party (renamed the Russian Communist Party [Bolsheviks] in 1918) had at most two hundred thousand members and its support was essentially confined to the major industrial centres of European Russia. Having seized power, it refused to share it with other socialist parties, but won less than a quarter of the votes in the national elections to the new Constituent Assembly held in November 1917. Lenin responded by dissolving the assembly after its first session, effectively instituting single-party rule. Although he promptly sued for peace with the Central Powers, the conclusion of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk on 3 March 1918 exacerbated rather than alleviated domestic tensions. The punitive terms imposed by the Germans, which forced Russia to cede a quarter of the former territories of its empire (including the Baltic states, Belorussia, and Ukraine – populous regions with fertile agricultural land and important concentrations of industry and natural resources) were widely regarded as unacceptably humiliating. Members of the army high command objected to Russia's withdrawal from the war as a dishonourable betrayal of its commitments to the Allies. General Mikhail Alekseyev, who had been instrumental in persuading Nicholas II to abdicate, set up a volunteer army in the southern Don region with the aim of resuming hostilities against Germany: it quickly grew into a formidable fighting force. Disparate factions antagonistic to the Bolsheviks – including monarchists, local separatist movements, and other left-wing parties – formed similar forces in Siberia and elsewhere. These so-called ‘White’ armies initially received significant supplies of men and matériel from the Allied powers, which were eager for conflict to resume on the eastern front and divert German troops from the western one. In the face of hardening opposition, the Bolsheviks resorted to repression to consolidate their dominance. Russia swiftly descended into a chaotic civil war during which millions met violent deaths or perished from starvation and disease.
MUSIC HISTORY SINCE 1789 is a series of footnotes to Beethoven, and in some respects this book simply adds to their number. The chapters that follow offer a new theory of music historiography, one that builds on antagonistic interpretations of Beethoven, and then instantiate this critically and analytically grounded historical theory in a sequence of essays on Beethoven.
It is a truth universally acknowledged by concertgoers and listeners at home that Beethoven's music was a significant event in the history of human art, comparable to the work of Homer, Dante, or Shakespeare. It may surprise such people, whose views must be taken to be overwhelmingly the majority, democratic view on classical music, that many musicologists would consider their Ludwigolatry ‘problematic’, ‘Eurocentric’, ‘tediously canonical’, and ‘elitist’. As a member of the band of elite consumers of classical music, there is a considerable irony, as well as an abundant lack of humility, in the fact that so much as one musicologist could hold such jaundiced views of the general population, but this is the world we inhabit. The author of a recent study, Beethoven: The Relentless Revolutionary, who has (from one musicological perspective) the brazen gall to argue for a political as well as a musical revolutionary quality – i.e. an anti-elitist, progressive quality – to Beethoven's music writes apologetically, ‘as must surely be evident by now, I am not a musicologist’, and while ‘I hope this study will be of interest to music professionals, I have presented my perspective on Beethoven so as to be accessible to lay readers’ (Clubbe 2019, xviii). Such is the anxiety this discipline of musicology causes among the scholarly population.
I am utterly at ease with calling artists like Beethoven ‘geniuses’, and enjoying with the rest of classical-music-loving humanity the ‘transcendent’ experience that his and other composers’ music can bring. Such reprobate behaviour befits my station as a low-born scion of a family in which only three men (I am the third) who have lived since the premiere of the ‘Eroica’ Symphony were not coal or tin miners.
SHORTLY BEFORE THE RECAPITULATION in the first movement of Beethoven's Violin Sonata in A major, op. 47, the so-called ‘Kreutzer’ Sonata, the pianist plays a pp chord of G– (see Example 6.1).
This chord (bb. 324–5) barely merits a mention in two recent analyses of the movement, one that appears in a broader study of musical ‘becoming’ by Janet Schmalfeldt (Schmalfeldt 2011, chapter 4) and one by David Damschroder which is written in conscious dialogue with hers (Damschroder 2016, chapter 10). Both are worth examining in detail. Although she explains what it leads to, Schmalfeldt says nothing about the pp G– chord itself:
Beethoven … [gives] the violinist a sequential repetition of the pianist's cadenza, here prolonging the dominant of the subdominant (iv) – that is, the dominant of the very harmony with which the exposition eccentrically began. The violinist's sequence in turn motivates a full-fledged statement (at mm. 326–35) of the main theme's first phrase, but now in D minor; this is of course the ‘wrong’ key for a conventional recapitulation, but the right key, the subdominant, for a false recapitulation in this movement. A great advantage of this maneuver is that it lands the phrase on an F-major chord at m. 334 – one more opportunity to reinforce the role of F♮ as a pivotal tone in this movement. The semitone with which the false recapitulation began – A–B♭ – then serves (at mm. 336–40) as the impetus for the move toward the true home-key recapitulation; but note that the chord on F (at mm. 340–43) plays the penultimate role in this modulation (Schmalfeldt 2011, 103).
Schmalfeldt is so keen to describe the gesture which establishes a false recapitulation, and its conversion to a true recapitulation, that she fails to mention the G– chord which is strangely interposed between the dominant she highlights and the tonic that it indicates. Her point is well made that D– is the ‘right key … for a false recapitulation in this movement’, because the exposition's P theme starts on that chord, which (as she has already noted earlier in her analysis) is prepared at length in the preceding slow introduction.
On January 11th Bizet reports that he has been ‘absorbing the delights of Rome’. Now in his second year he was getting to know the city and its surroundings much better. In 1875 one of his obituarists wrote: ‘After an evening's work he loved to wake his fellow scholars at the Villa and drag them off on long excursions into the country. He adored isolation. He liked precipitous climbs. He would often be seen walking around the top of the Colosseum along loose stones untrodden by human feet since the time of Titus and Vespasian.’
Bizet to his mother
J.J. [= 7 Jan?] Rome, 1859
Our greetings crossed, so I got yours at just about the time you got mine. May all our wishes be granted, then we’ll have nothing to complain about. You give me good news of your health, for both of you, for which I’m delighted. Let's hope the year continues the same.
Our increase is now definite. It's for 360 francs a year, that's a franc a day. It's not much, but it's enough. Now I’ll be able to do some travelling. My excellent and much-regretted friend Vaudremer left yesterday. He’ll be in Paris by the end of January. You’ll get a visit from him in three weeks. I’ve written to Hector, to Albert, to John, to M. Houdart, and I’ll write to Marmontel so that he gets my letter on his name-day. I’ll write to L’Épine too. He's someone I tremendously like in every respect. The way his mind works, his artistic tastes and marvellous musical gifts make me always want to be with him. So tell Papa I’ll soon do what he asks.
Mme Guillemin has recently had a serious setback. I’m worried about the winter, since the end is evidently near. It's a great calamity because she was an adorable woman. M. and Mme Chevreux have aged ten years since I met them; it's an enormous blow for them, the like of which I have never known.
I still have no news from Gounod and the Zimmerman family. I’m waiting for Faust. If it's a success, Gounod immediately takes first place. Let's hope so! As for Hector, I say again, I am completely confident of his success.