4 thoughts on “James Jolly and Rob remember Bernard Haitink: a podcast

  1. Russell Bertie

    Hello Rob!

    As I was listening to the Haitink podcast, I was struck again by how articulate you are. I was wondering, have you consciously worked on that skill, or was it acquired by extensive reading ? Also I’ve been wanting to ask you about Grigori Sokolov. Do you think he’s one of the greatest pianists alive ? Some of his performances have changed the way I listened to a piece. For example, Beethoven’s op.119.

    Thank you !


    1. That’s so incredibly kind of you Russell. To be truthful I can only tell what I don’t like about what I do so words of appreciation such as yours stand for a good deal. Have I worked on my ‘skill’? If I say that much of my reading is concerned with history, poetry and philosophy rather than with music maybe that explains why in terms of style and overall perspective what I write – and say – doesn’t necessarily resemble that of other critics. ‘Music in the stream life and thought generally’ maybe is the best way to put it. As to Sokolov, I had a long interview with him years ago in a cafe. I have the tape (which is very dim). He was interesting in that for him the music (which was always great) and its message were everything. No frills, no superficial thrills, jut the essence. I heard him live just once, at Wigmore Hall, and the sound he drew from the instrument was positively orchestral. He’s particularly fine in the Hammerklavier. Best wishes, as ever, Rob


      1. Russell Bertie

        Thank you for the response!

        I might be on the right track then. I like reading David Hume and William James for the sheer felicity of their prose style. From historians I am always amazed by the clarity of A.J.P Taylor’s writing. He rarely uses complex words, but the effect he elicits with the simplest means is remarkable. Occasionally I dip into a work of Nietzsche’s for its bracing quality. From my (alas) limited reading, I get the impression that even if a British author has reached an earth-shattering conclusion, he will express it in tones that wouldn’t jar in ‘polite society’. Therefore Continental writing (forgive the sweeping designation) often seems a bit unhinged to me. There are exceptions of course like D.H Lawrence. I’ve been reading his Twilight in Italy on and off. For half the time he theorizes, and is immensely dull. But when he describes the special way, he registers the impressions that are available to all of us, he arrests the progress of time. At times it resembles Debussy’s tone-painting, as in ‘Nuages’ or La Mer. To end with a Hume anecdote/retort that is annihilating in its succinctness, when Boswell questioned Hume about his disbelief in an afterlife, Hume reportedly said ‘It’s a most unreasonable fancy that we should exist forever’.

        Sorry if I rambled on, all the best!


  2. Thanks Bertie. ‘But when he describes the special way, he registers the impressions that are available to all of us, he arrests the progress of time.’ Beautifully put. It’s funny how a negative review can stimulate you to read the book under consideration. In the Wallace Stevens Journal there was a review of John Burnside’s ‘The Music of Time: Poetry in the Twentieth Century’ which was hardly an accolade. And yet the review was usefully indicative of the book’s scope which stimulated my curiosity. It’s a wonderful book, frequently touching on areas that I had already explored off my own bat, connecting them too. Re James I picked up a copy of the later works before I was confined to the house (wearing a suprapubic catheter) and have dipped in, having read parts of Varieties of Religious Experience previously. I love your closing Hume quote by the way. Very best as always, Rob.


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