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Musicology - noises in the Schöneberg house

Musicology – noises in the Schöneberg house

His wife put a clean horn on Schoenberg! And not only that: she cheated on him with the painter of all things, with whom Schoenberg wanted to perfect his own art. And then there was a struggle resembling a Strindberg play, and then the painter Richard Gerstel hanged himself. Along the way, in addition to making noise and standing still, Schoenberg also composed.

This is what the lesbian Ethel Smith, that is, the author, did, and she was very excited when she met Claude Debussy. Claude Debussy was bedridden when he wasn’t eating with Ethel Smith, and he was also composing.

Well so what! – In this story, all these neurotics, adulterers of women, overestimate themselves, underestimate themselves, family members, family destroyers, planners and devil know their other main jobs, part-time composers.

entertainment book

Author and musician Volker Hagedorn wrote a wonderful family history of the clan to which Johann Sebastian Bach belonged in The World of Bach, and best of all he portrayed the French capital as a composer’s city in The Voice of Paris. . This book is a masterpiece. His new book “The Flames: A European Musical Story 1900-1918” is not. There are several reasons for this, and they are all part of the same reason: the author’s joy in telling stories.

And he can tell stories, Volker Hagedorn. It is brilliantly written. The 348 pages of the text read like a light novel. Each of the Simenon films places higher demands on the reader. One secretly wonders if Hagedorn invented the non-fiction entertainment genre.

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Hagedorn chooses this narrative approach on purpose. This was already revealed by the subtitle “European Musical Story”.

But it is in the nature of stories that they need interesting characters who find themselves in unusual situations worth telling. The natural character of brushing teeth only provides material for one of the navel narratives in German-speaking literature.

As a rule, composers do not represent incredibly sexy characters in novels unless they kill his wife and her lover, as Carlo Gesualdo did, or at least drive them crazy like Hans Roth.

If the story is about authors, of all things, the author must inevitably choose the heroes about whom there is something to tell – but they are not necessarily the most musically significant. So Hagedorn chose Ethel Smith as the main character in his book. As a reader, one cannot avoid asking what the installation on a mid-level composer is all about.

But that is precisely the result of this damned love of storytelling: Hagedorn wants to have a woman as the main character, and the more musically important Lili Boulanger, whose biography (1893-1918) roughly corresponds to the era described in the book, gives episodes only from the point of view of A purely autobiographical consideration is a minor character when Hegedorn puts her in the spotlight. Women’s rights and prison have more entertainment value than dying away from Crohn’s disease, no matter how high musically Boulanger’s “Psaume 24” album is above Smith’s “The Prison.”

What does the book want?

Hagedorn proceeds accordingly with other composers: he writes almost always with reference to flair, scandal, relationship or marital crisis, and, of course, an encounter with Ethel Smith. He invents dialogues (or takes them from letters), drenches in huge amounts of specialized literature, sheds light on niches (who knows the future opera “Triumph over the Sun” – it is a pity that Hagedorn canceled the name of the composer Mikhail Matgoshin ), he explains his sources meticulously.

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The one thing you won’t learn from the book is that the music itself is allegedly the lead actress, but it remains intangible. Schoenberg might sound like Sati and Debussy like Mahler. Or does Hagedorn want to trace the attitude toward the lives of composers more than their music? That would also be legitimate.

Perhaps the whole problem lies in the title and the book should have been called an enthusiast – an Ethel Smyth novel.