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Telerrams; Parmaxto. Rath London

Vol. XVI

MARCH 1939

No. 190

BEFORE I enlarge upon the Chamber Music CompeĀ­ t i t ion let me hasten to point out that Mozart's String Quintet in G Minor (K5 I 6) has nothing whatever to do with the Serenade Eine Kleine Nacht Musik which is in the key of G Major and numbered K52S . I hope readers will not have wasted too many stamps on writing to point out this slip in our list of works last month. When I say that 136 works of chamber music were mentioned in the course of this competition I am sure our careful analvst of the entries will be forgiven. These entries we~e received from all over the world, and a competition like this helps one to realise more gratefully than ever what a sublime international language of appeasement music is. I wish H.R.H. the Duke of Windsor could be persuaded to assume the presidency and direction of that great international music society which was planned and so nearly became an accomplished fact some three years ago. I believe that once upon a t ime he was willing to accept the position, and i t is tragic that the plan of forming such a society has 'apparently been dropped; The fact that the world is distracted politically and commercially makes i t aU the more imperative that such a society should be formed. Music can effect what apparently l i terature at the moment is incapable of effecting, for music is incapable of playing any part in that dissemination of lies which is the foulest characteristic of our t ime. From the guilt of propaganda not on behalf of truth but of what seems expediency no nation can be absolved. When we remember that the genius even of a Shakespeare was smirched by deliberate propaganda we ~an appreciate the more truly divine influence of musIC.

And in no other form does music reveal so wonderfully its impersonal and universal character as in chamber music. I t is still a teasing regret to me that comparatively so small a proportion of readers of our paper should have taken advantage of what their gramophone can provide most perfectly. A competition on the subject of chamber music will never elicit more than a quarter of the entries eliciteC: by a competltlon dealing with orchestral or vocal music. The obstinate prejudice persists that chamber music demands the rarified musical appreciation known as "highbrow." I f that word had retained the meaning~ for which i t was coined in America, round about J91O, i t would have been an invaluable word, for i t was coined originally to define a deliberate attitude of superiority toward works of art. I t was intended to imply a snobbish kind of aesthetic exclusiveness and a self-conscious complacency. Unfortunately when i t was brought across the Atlantic to this country (and I penitently believe that I was one of the first travellers to secure common currency for i t over here ) i t soon lost its original meaning and became a phrase for any piece of music of which the listener could not hum the last bar as soon as he had heard the first, or for any piece of poetry of which the rhyme and the reason were not immediately obvious to a variety audience.

The wireless critics of the Press have succeeded for the great bulk of their popular audience in attaching such a contemptuous meaning to the word "highbrow" that by now even if one of their readers does enjoy a piece of music with an opus number or key attached he is afraid to admit i t lest he should be considered a highbrow. For a long t ime these blind chatterboxes, leading the blind, were able to frighten their public even of orchestral music, but orchestral music has gradually asserted itself and the sound of delirious cheering which greets the end of a symphony at Queen's Hall must have convinced thousands of listeners that, highbrow or not, a symphony seems . able to say a hell of a lot to a hell of a lot of people. , , Chamber music, being what i t is, provides no cheers to suggest its ability to beguile the man in the street. Occasionally some tepid applause may be heard at the end of a quartet played at a lunch-hour concert of chamber music in the provinces, but for the most part i t gets nothing more than an announcer's brief epitaph. And the impression left on any members of the Philistine public who hear i t by tuning in to National when they wanted to hear Regional, or