Thursday, June 08, 2017

An election on Schumann's birthday

It's Schumann's birthday. Here is Steven Isserlis, one of today's greatest Schumannians, in his Cello Concerto. The composer finished its proofreading six days before he threw himself into the Rhine.

There's a bitter irony that this Brexit-focused general election is on Schumann's birthday. It's hard to know what to do when it is so clear that our country, like Schumann, is on the point of cracking up, in many, many ways. Unless some kind of miracle takes place, it may not recover in our lifetimes.

Please go and vote today. Think of Mrs Pankhurst etc. Voting with brains intact is all we can actually do to try to better our own future.

Incidentally, I stumbled over a fascinating documentary that Steven made about Schumann back in the 1990s. Here's part 1. There's more.

The clinching image of Ghost Variations is the tipping from glory days to terminal struggle (Jelly d'Arányi), sanity to madness (Schumann), freedom to fascism and war (the world) - converging into the same cliff-edge moment. Yet the tipping point is not so easy to find: things happen so slowly, and we are so eager to think the best - the "don't worry, it'll be fine" mindset - that we don't realise what's really going on until it's too late... Schumann's Violin Concerto was the last orchestral work he completed before his suicide attempt and confinement in a mental hospital. It's a story for today and has become so tenfold since I began working on it six years ago.