Thursday, August 7, 2014

Music and Prose: Holding Back


It's been on my mind lately—what I've thought but haven't said, what I've written and removed.

And I've thought about the lack of it—when I've said too much, or clung, shamefully, to too many words.

I've always been lured by understatement, suggestion, what is left unsaid.  And I've been spellbound by the tense spaces between notes and words, phrases and action.

Listen to Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's and Christa Ludwig's exquisitely controlled performances of Mozart's "Porgi Amor" from Marriage of Figaro, and Brahms's "Sapphische Ode".  Both artists exercise tremendous restraint, rein in their instruments to highlight the music's subtlety and spare, quiet beauty.  They understand that when they hold back, the audience listens...

...and sometimes, they forget to breathe....

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  1. Dear Barbara, it is very like you to prefer understatement. It is a quality which I admire in life and in literature. Actually it is what attracted me to the work of Barbara Pym and that is why I decided to write my PhD dissertation about her. Restraint is also very hekpful for life and art, I wish it was exercised more in my part of the world. Thank you for this beautiful passage.

    1. Dear Orna—
      Thank you for your kind words. I keep hoping....
      Thinking of you often. :-)

  2. Two splendid performances. Thank you! Restraint. The suggestion of more behind what is shown. You can feel it in a good stage actor's performance. Underplaying a scene can give it more power, since the suggestion of "more" triggers the audience's imagination.

    1. This is so true, Katia—and beautifully said. Thank you! :-)