Friday, February 13, 2009

Nature and then Art

Today the mail brought me a CD of Telemann concertos by the Berliner Barock Solisten (Berlin Baroque Soloists). Most of the concertos had never been recorded before. The Solisten resuscitated the music from manuscripts that had gathered dust for generations in a Darmstadt library. (This is just a figure of speech. Germans are probably very fastidious about dusting their manuscripts.)

The concertos, especially the violin concerto in A major that imitates the sound of pond frogs, are bright and appealing. The movements range in mood from wistful to joyous, and the Solisten maintain a light touch throughout.

The CD liner notes provide a succinct credo in Telemann's own words:

"In my opinion, the art of music consists in arousing all manner of emotions in people's souls by means of harmonic writing, and at the same time, by virtue of well-arranged and meaningful writing, in providing amusement for the mind of the connoisseur.... Art without nature reaches its value only amongst such connoisseurs, being an arduous business; but nature without art can please a whole number of people, including, not infrequently, connoisseurs; this demonstrates the superiority of the latter to the former. But the best solution is for nature to precede art, and for the two subsequently to be linked."

This strikes me as a very fine artistic credo. I appreciate how he contrasts the emotion of the soul with the amusement of the mind.

Our cynical age is too much governed by mind and too focused on artificial amusement, at the expense of natural human emotion.

Does the simple, heartfelt expression of a Wordsworth poem have any effect on modern souls?

My heart leaps up when I behold a rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So it is now, I am a man:
So be it when I shall grow old, or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.

William Wordsworth 1807