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Vol. XV

THE GRAMOPHONE Incorporating VOX, THE RADf 0 CRITIC and BROADCAST REVIEW

EdIted by

COMPTON MACKENZIE and CHRISTOPHER STONE

T.I.phon. Gerrard 2136, 2137

Telelraml Parmaxto. I\ath. London

JUNE 1937

No. 169

EDITORIAL

I WAS a little disappointed with the essays comparing composers with writers. In too many cases co'm­ petitors sought for parallels in social circumstances rather than in <esthetic aims. No competitor thought of comparing Brahms and Milton. Yet here there is a remarkable <esthetic parallel, although the lives and circumstances and historical settings of these two great creative artists were so utterly different. They were both great eclectic decadents. Both worked toward the close of periods of unusual creative prodigality, and both had no hesitation in making use of and in every case improving upon the work of their immediate predecessors. Milton pillaged the Elizabethan and Jacobean dramatists. Brahms pillaged his musical predecessors of the romantic movement. Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and others provided the inspiration for many melodies which Brahms enriched in using them for his own purposes. Unfortunately I have mislaid a list of echoes I hav~ detected in the music of Brahms, but several have been ment ioned in the course of THE GRAMOPHONE'S life. Paradise Lost and the shorter poems of Milton are full of echoes from Beaumont and Fletcher, Heywood, Ford, and the rest of them. Long before Milton, Virgil by his use of Homer and Theocritus had shown what a great poet could do with his predecessors, but Virgil was borrowing from the Greek for his own Latin , whereas Milton was as ready to use his English predecessors as his Latin and Italian predecessors. Tennyson was another pillager, but on the whole he did not improve on the material he took and most of his echoes are fainter than the original. The echoes of Milton and Brahms improved on the original voice, just as sometimes the reflection of a landscape in a lake is lovelier than the !andscape reflected. The greatness of Milton and Brahms is shown by the fact that nobody has been able to advance any farther on their lines. Keats had a shot at an English epic in the grand style, but magnificent though , that fragment Hyperion is, he was right to lay i t aside unfinished, because he recognized that he could hope to write nothing in that style to surpass Milton.

One parallel between a composer and a poet which may be justifiably sustained is that between Mendelssohn and Tennyson, and to Mr. John Freestone, of

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" Maisonette," Ashenground Road, Hayward's Heath, Sussex, I award the prize for the following essay:

MENDELSSOHN AND TENNYSON With but little hesitation I have chosen Mendelssohn and Tennyson for my comparison. This because both are so very typical of the age in which they lived.

Curiously enough, they were born in the same year, and furthermore both were lucky in having no financial worries during their periods of development. Recognition came early to both, and both were probably overestimated during their lives.

Tennyson was a wonderful descriptive writer, but his works show a slight effeminacy, and he could never" sound the final depths" of human emotion. All of these criticisms apply equally well to Mendelssohn. Probably in both cases this was due to their comfortable lives and comparatively pampered upbringing.

Both were masters of technique and could write with the greatest fluency. Tennyson's verses flow on without any apparent effort, and probably this facility was the cause of his missing the highest flights of his art. Mendelssohn wrote with the same ease, but never quite reached the heights augured by his early work-The Midsummer N ight's Dream Overture.

Both were products of the Romantic movement and were exceedingly versatile, and could adapt themselves to and reproduce almost any style with equal success, but neither showed an y great originality, being content to perfect the forms handed on to them .

Neither was successful in drama- Mendelssohn wisely avoided opera, and Tennyson 's plays are now virtually dead.

Both were highly conventional in their private lives , and were in a sense religious. Owing to over-popularity during the last century they a re at present held in som e disfavour, but time will find its own niche for them, and they will perhaps be regarded as fine writers, capable of giving us intense pleasure by their lyrical beauty, but incapable of moving our very souls, as the greatest writers can do.

Mr. Freestone might have added that both Mendelssohn and Tennyson made a particular appeal to the emotions of Queen Victoria, aI1d that both men were probably influenced by their own looks. Mendelssohn was the beau ideal of a composer as Tennyson was the beau ideal of a poet.

Mr. John de Klerk, of 30 Victoria Couf't Flats, Queen Victoria Street, Capetown, submitted an