Tuesday 20 December 2022

"Let no such man be trusted..." What do You think of Weber's Bassoon Concerto?

The man that hath no music in himself, Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds, Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils; The motions of his spirit are dull as night, And his affections dark as Erebus. Let no such man be trusted

From The Merchant of Venice by Shakespeare

I don't think it quite true that the man with no musical appreciation is intrinsically untrustworthy. We are all entitled to a blind-spot or two (mine include sculpture and ballet). 

It would be more accurate to my experience to assume that among those who do profess an affection for music - and in particular for classical music - there is a certain type who cannot be trusted. 

How may this untrustworthy type of 'music lover' be detected? 

There happens to be a "test piece" - the reaction to which can be used to pick-out the treasonous species of classical music maven.  

This was discovered by the novelist Kingsley Amis. I seem to recall that he stated somewhere, on the basis - I understand - of extensive research; that anyone who said he did not like Weber's Bassoon Concerto, was the kind of slimy and pretentious individual that ought to be be avoided if possible, and shunned if not.

I think this is probably correct. It is not necessary that one should actively like Weber's Opus 75 (and certainly not required that it should be a favourite piece*); but a Man who claimed to dis-like it, clearly has something rather seriously wrong with his attitude to the world. 

How do you respond? 

No pressure...

* The Bassoon concerto is not even my favourite concerto by Weber! - that would be his first clarinet concerto (F Minor, Opus 73) - which I regard as the equal of Mozart's for the same instrument. 


Jack said...

I like it. It's rousing like Beethoven but more lighthearted; reminds me of the 8th symphony. Lots of childlike humour. It's good music-as-entertainment. Classical music got a bit bloated and self-important post-Beethoven; he really introduced an element of seriousness that wasn't there before, not even in Mass settings or classical period symphonies. Bach and Mozart are regarded now as geniuses on par with Beethoven, but Beethoven himself seems the first to be truly conscious of himself as a 'genius'.

Anonymous said...

What struck me immediately was a sense of unpretentiousness and joyousness. Perhaps there are various reasons a person could have for disliking it, but I suspect that someone who can't laugh at himself will be irritated by it.


Bruce Charlton said...

@Jack - Weber was one of Tolkien's favourites; described as a composer "of whom I have always been extremely fond" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mgU2wLCuGv0 . I have long felt (even before I knew of Tolkien's liking) that Der Freischutz is a rather Tolkienian sort of opera.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Joel - Amis was probably getting at those modernists and radicals who had an artificial and decadent revulsion directed against art-works that are immediately appealing.

I would add that there is a basic healthiness and decency that comes through Weber's music, which is rather rare among classical composers. It may therefore be an element of perversion or value-inversion that would cause the Bassoon Concerto to be rejected.

The Continental Op said...

When I was learning to play piano I always enjoyed the Weber pieces.

a_probst said...

I'd like to have seen Dennis Brain try to play that with a segment of garden hose.

Seriously, I played this link through a phone's tinny speaker which can make this style of music sound overly busy. But it won me over quickly. No pressure needed.

ben said...

"It is not necessary that one should actively like Weber's Opus 75"

This is me. Doesn't do much for me one way or another. I mean there's nothing wrong with it exactly but it's no All I Want For Christmas Is You.

william arthurs said...

From memory, Philip Larkin said that when he and his wartime undergraduate buddy Kingsley Amis got together to listen to imported jazz records, they would tap their toes and nod their heads, and would then decide whether a track was "good" or "bad". This suggests the primacy of the immediate, with the development of a richer critical vocabulary an optional later stage. Compare also (again from memory) what K.A. says about old-fashioned science-fiction in New Maps of Hell, that even though deficient in most of the qualities that we should expect of fiction (eg. characterisation, dialogue that one can imagine being spoken...), the best science fiction has, he says, an appeal of its own. Again the immediate appeal without any rationale.

But once we have described the appeal (the playful, ludic quality) of this concerto, then we can better understand what underlies the dislike.

Now when I saw the word "dislike" I immediately thought of that news story from a few years ago in which it was reported that playing classical music at railway stations drives yobs away because they viscerally "loathe" it. If they played Led Zeppelin's "Trampled Underfoot" at my station in the morning, it would put me in a better mood to battle my way through all the suburban straphangers milling around aimlessly.

Nicholas Fulford said...

The first movement is light and pleasant - a little bobby in some places and is amusing - in a jaunty fashion. The strings remind me of Beethoven in a general way, and I am having trouble nailing down a specific work, so this is more of an impression.

The second movement strikes me as a darker in tone and reflective and almost pensive, and yet there is playfulness in the extended solo bassoon portion, and it resolves peacefully.

The third movement is lighter and faster than the second, and there is a nice back and forth between the strings and bassoon. Nice build towards the end with a satisfying conclusion..

I wouldn't call it a favourite, but it is enjoyable.