Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Embarrassment at First Hearing

Schumann thus described his reaction on first hearing a Schubert symphony, I believe the so-called "great" C major.  He then goes on to tell of his lingering feelings and specific reactions to such things as Schubert's handling the instruments as if they were voices.

How refreshing.  Imagine: We are not necessarily supposed to have clear responses to what we hear on first hearing.  Let's accept the permission Schumann gives us to be taken off guard, surprised, given something to linger over and chew on rather than feel obliged to make up our minds on the spot. 

Ah, but the first caveat that comes to mind: What does that mean in relation to the sanctimonious environment of most new music audiences today?  Good question.

And the second issue: How does that apply to the tone of what passes for music criticism in so much of the press, which is mostly a rehash of the program notes and a lack of candor about the complexity of the act of listening. 

Less definition; more openness.