Thursday, December 08, 2011

A holiday gift idea for the Cassandras on your Christmas list

Noted in the ‘Gramophone Notes’ section of a British political magazine:

With Europe in its present state one should not be surprised by the plethora of Cassandras that have arisen; yet that the Columbia company should be found among them is rather astonishing. No doubt the Handel centenary (still dragging out its weary length) is mainly responsible for our being reminded that “The Lord is a Man of War” (Israel in Egypt); but was it a mere coincidence that the same company has also given us a new recording of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique?

For this work, written just over a hundred years ago under the influence of Alfred de Musset’s extraordinary translation of De Quincey’s “Opium-Eater,” is in fact a perfect picture of the European scene to-day, down to the Hell’s kitchen with which it ends—shrieks of the Sabbath and heavy undertone of the Dies Irae menacing us with an untimely end.

‘Gramophone notes’, The New Statesman and Nation, 20 April 1935, p. 564. 

I tend to find my 'shrieks of the Sabbath' and menaces of 'an untimely end' in various forms of extreme metal music, but this Berlioz guy sounds pretty heavy.

Perhaps he's worth a listen in these troubling times.

We'll definitely have to get our hands on a gramophone.

2 comments:

Geoff Coupe said...

Ah, Berlioz is definitely worth a listen. Far better than these heavy metal bands of which you speak...

John Carter Wood said...

Thanks for the tip, Geoff! Maybe Santa will send some high culture my way this Christmas.

But I wouldn't so quickly dismiss the grim joys to be had with the likes of Incantation, Candlemass or Hail of Bullets. Not everyone's cup of Hemlock, I know, but still....