The sole purpose of art is infinite

E. T. A. Hoffmann wrote in 1813 that instrumental music

is the most romantic of all the arts  – one might almost say, the only genuinely romantic one – for its sole subject is the infinite.  The lyre of Orpheus opened the portals of Orcus – music discloses to man an unknown realm, a world that has nothing in common with the external sensual world that surrounds him, a world which he leaves behind him all definite feelings to surrender himself to an inexpressible language.

Oliver Strunck, ed. Source Readings in Music History (New York, 1950), pp. 775-76.  Cited in : Plantinga, Leon (1984) Romantic Music.  New York: Norton, p.14.


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A little ahead … or a little behind
Samuel Sebastian Wesley received great reviews for his conding at Gloucester’s annual Three Choir Festivals in 1865. An critic in The Musical Times wrote in the October issue: We have said nothing of the orchestra during these performances, for in truth the perfect manner in which the whole of the instrumental portions of the works […]
Lord, Heal My Soul – Psalm 40 (41)
TITLE: Lord, Heal My Soul TEXT: Psalm 40 (41): 2-5, 13-14. R. v.5 COMPOSER: Greg Smith INSTRUMENTATION: SATB and piano SAMPLE:  
Liszt on Beethoven
Liszt on Beethoven’s music, in a letter to Wilhelm von Lenz in 1852: To us musicians the work of Beethoven parallels the pillars of smoke and fire which led the Israelites through the desert, a pillar of smoke to lead us by day, and a pillar of fire to light the night, so that we […]
Easy Street
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The forgotten aspect of music
“One of things that’s been forgotten in music for a long time is the ability to be nakedly emotional”. David Lang, composer Cited in “When Opera Is New and Unproved”, Anne Midgette, The Washington Post, 7 September 2008.
Form your own interpretation
I have often made the point in masterclasses that students should not listen to lots of recordings of a piece they are learning. I’m always a little horrified when I hear a student say, “My teacher told me to learn the Chopin G minor Ballade, so I went to the library and took out eight […]
Do everything promptly
“During a very busy life I have often been asked, How did you manage to do it all? The answer is very simple. It is because I did everything promptly.  Procastination … is fatal.” Richard Tangye (1833-1903), British manufacter of engines and other heavy equipment. Thomas Sharper Knowlson, The Art of Success, London: F. Warne […]
It’s two-four … It’s three-four
Chopin had a free sense of rhythm.  In 1842, Chopin was giving a lessen to Wilhem von Lenz when Meyerbeer walked in.  The Mazurka (op. 33 no. 3) was being played.  von Lenz recounts: Meyerbeer had seated himself; Chopin let me play on. “That is two-four time,” said Meyerbeer. For reply, Chopin made me repeat, […]
Baudelaire on inspiration
“Inspiration is merely the reward for working every day!” – Charles Baudelaire (French poet).  According to Roland-Manuel, Ravel would often recite this phrase.  Source: Nichols, Roger (1987) Ravel Remembered.  London: Faber & Faber, p. 143.
The role of the arts in society
The Eighteenth Weimar Classicists’ (e.g., Goethe, Shiller) conception of art expanded past the arts themselves, but also embraced all elements of society.  John Armstrong states: The aim of art is to ennoble us, to make us whole and balanced; then we can engage maturely and sensibly  in political processes.  The aim of their “classical art” […]