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WayneThis evening, instead of watching the Nats game (which they won!), I popped in a John Wayne flick.

And as I watched, I was reminded again of what I am sure most of you would consider an extremely wide shot, casting-wise: namely that difficuties of accent and culchah aside, the Duke was far closer to the idea of Jack Aubrey than Russell Crowe or any other fellah currently swimming around Hollywood.

I’m far too tired to tackle the subject properly at the moment, but I know that I’m right.  And I promise Kathy that among the items I take with me on hols will be a couple of volumes of the Aubrey/Maturin series and a highlighter, the better to proceed with the smackdown I promised her.

Oh, and speaking of such things, I mentioned this little question to the Mothe the other day.  Her immediate observation was that the trouble with Crowe playing Jack is that Crowe is no gentleman.  (Wayne, by contrast, very much was.)  Have to say that I believe the Mater got it in one.

More later, including what exactly I mean by “gentleman” and why the concept is so important to understanding the character of Jack Aubrey.

PapaIn a review of a spate of books issued in connection with the 200th anniversary of the death of Franz Joseph Haydn, Andrew Clark serves up a solid smackdown of the impulse to re-package historickal figures to fit modern sensibilities of the proper figgah of the Romantic artiste:

How do you reassess or repackage a composer about whom virtually everything is known, who wrote no opera of note and whose copious output of keyboard sonatas, string quartets and classical symphonies seems over-cultivated for our sensation-hungry age?

In the literary field the technique for exploiting the composer anniversary has become almost formulaic. You issue a new master biography, claiming to make all sorts of revelations that will overturn the neat personality-portrait bequeathed us by posterity. Hand-in-hand with this revisionism comes a raft of musicological discoveries whose importance is inevitably exaggerated, and an exposé of the composer’s sex life, which will be portrayed as more active – preferably with illicit overtones – than has hitherto been known. The composer should also be revealed as someone who shamelessly plagiarised his contemporaries, but did so with such crafty discernment that he ended up on top.

Of course, with Papa Haydn, this is utterly impossible.  Perhaps those who wish to make his musick more “relevant” to modern sensibilities ought to consider inserting zombies somewhere.  This seems to be the current trend.

One small quibble with the essay (of which I suggest you read the rest):  Clark describes Haydn thus:

[T]he very personification of Enlightenment man: rational, scholarly, tolerant, socially and intellectually progressive, albeit tinged with the Catholic traditions of the 18th-century Habsburg empire.

Friends, I tell you truly: Since swimming the Tiber meself, I have gotten very sensitive to this kind of back-handed Proddy jab, this notion that to be “rational, scholarly and tolerant” is somehow inconsistent with being Catholic.  I also take issue with Clark’s use of the word “tinged”, as if Haydn had been left scarred by the smallpox.  In addition to its negative connotations, it’s also a false description of his faith: Papa was, in fact, very Catholic, in the best tradition of the Faith – kind, good-hearted, orthodox and sincere. 

Another quibble: Clark says this about Haydn’s musick:

His place in the pantheon may be assured but even ardent admirers would not put him on a par with Mozart and Beethoven, younger contemporaries he knew well.

His music, though beautifully melodious and impeccably constructed, lacks the former’s sublime effortlessness and the latter’s defiant romanticism. Unlike them, there was nothing remotely fatalistic or mysterious about his profile. He was no Wunderkind. He was employed for 48 of his 77 years by the wealthy Esterházys, a Hungarian aristocratic family, and he lived and died a Kapellmeister – a word that has condescending overtones, signifying a dutiful role in the order of things, always subservient to a patron or institution.

Oh, I would put Hayn in the same rank, and so would Mozart and Beethoven themselves, both of whom practically worshipped Haydn.  In the first place, without Haydn’s virtually single-handed pioneering of the Classical style, and his invention of the symphony and the string quartet, neither Mozart nor Beethoven would have produced what they did.  In the second place,  Haydn did display a “defiant Romanticism” of a sort during his sturm und drang period.  We forget that one thing Papa had over both Gangerl and Ludwig Van was that he lived an awful lot longer than either of them.  We mostly remember him now for the musick of his mature years.  Do not forget what Haydn was doing in his 30’s or 40’s when comparing him to the others.  Besides, comparing the sensibilities of the 1770’s, 80’s and 90’s (Haydn’s mature period) with those of the early 19th Century is an exercise in apples and oranges.  Finally, I would point out that Bach was a Kappelmeister (or worse), too.  You tell me how that belittles his musickal output.

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