One of the joys of summer is reading. I regularly appropriate whatever my daughter is reading over Christmas. Last year it was Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s disturbing account of her life and the clash of cultures she has had to deal with along the way. It was a deeply disturbing book. This year the clash of cultures was no less evident in Barack Obama’s Dreams from my Father. He delivers fascinating insight into coming to terms with bridging cultures within his own family as well as his nation. To read such a treatise in the knowledge the man is now President of the USA delivers both hope and fear. Hope because the qualities and intellect displayed must be rare indeed in a politician, let alone a US President. But fear, on the other hand, that a man who thinks so deeply about issues and can admit readily to there being no absolute way, may not be tough enough to have success driving his political machine in necessary but often unpopular directions. Good luck America!
A touch of music writing then appeared, by way of gifts, on the lectern: The Cello Suites by Eric Siblin and Piano Lessons by Anna Goldsworthy.
I had hesitated to buy the former myself. Not having dipped into it, I thought it may be a heavy read. This notwithstanding my having wrestled with some of the suites myself. But, in fact, the blending of stories of J S Bach and family with Pablo Casals, together with a bit of Siblin and some homespun musicology, worked extremely well and brought many a smile to my face.
Stylistically, Anna Goldsworthy’s autobiographical work troubled me for a bit, possibly because Siblin’s style was well crafted in a journalistic sense and so was easy to read. But after the first couple of chapters I got used to the different rythms and language and found it a delight. A mother “smelling of sherry”. Had Adelaide not changed from the city I knew in the nineteen fifties, when “sherry parties” were common? A teacher, well portrayed, who demanded not the notes, but the music. A teacher, too, who is realistic about competitions. Indeed “music is not a sport”. And, above all, an author with the courage to be frank about her fears and failures, and to acknowledge characteristics which lesser individuals might prefer to edit or enhance. The story of the premiere performance of the Seraphim Trio was better than Fawlty Towers.
Do conservatoria of music still not promote chamber music as a respectable career? (Outside of Melbourne this may well still be true. When did the Sydney Con last produce a good young quartet? And don’t say “Orava” since they are hardly a product of the Con’s Ensemble Studies Unit).
If I were to meet Ms Goldsworthy, I think my words would be “thank you for writing this book”. Many a music student will gain great insight from its reading.
Now, instead of asking for suggestions for further reading, I guess it is time for me to get back to practising the G Major Prelude. If I work hard enough I might be able to move on to the Allemande in the second quarter!