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The Wonder and Joy of Music ... Comment

The late Bernard Levin described music as one of the foundations of his life, “opening windows on a realm of the spirit in such a way as to suggest that music’s true home is in that world rather than ours”. Levin’s enthusiasm for “life’s delights” is intrinsically bound with his desire to communicate the pleasure that music brought him, to others.

I still marvel at music and how listening to it makes me feel. At a concert I often picture an image, as an accompaniment to the performers that saw, blow and crash before me. I sometimes overlook bits, my mind wandering, shrouded in the overall experience. Though occasionally unobservant I rarely miss the fervour of those around me, who similarly, as Levin put it, “cross the chasm” between our world and the spiritual one.

Classical music commentators and enthusiasts will usually attend many concerts in any one year; they are part of a bubble that few members of the general public experience. Over the years seasoned reviewers are able to compare performances, pointing out differences and enthuse about the parts that reach them deepest. The important aspect is it is their opinion; others have every right to agree or disagree – though, as with open-heart surgery, I place greater value on an expert than the viewers of BBC TV’s Casualty.

Reviewers are not made equal. Other people may know more about a particular piece or have information about a musician that is unknown to the writer. To allow readers to supplement the review we have the Comment system that you can find at the bottom of each review, article or news item.

In recent weeks my attention has been drawn to certain annotations that stray away from this spirit – of adding to the review. I have received complaints that some remarks amount to personal vendettas; others that they detract from the critique, and therefore from Classical Source. Along with my editorial colleagues, as the final arbiter of such things, I remember Levin’s desire to communicate the wonder and joy of music. Passion is a complex emotion; one reviewer’s conviction may be anathema to someone else and conversations get heated when people are passionate.

Every Comment is monitored. While, at the moment, they are posted up automatically, this can be changed easily so that each one is approved by Classical Source management before being made available to the public. I don’t wish to curb interest and interaction but I would ask readers to not allow themselves to be antagonistic towards our writers or those others who leave remarks: please complement a review’s content but avoid the banal, superficial or downright rude.

You may have noticed that the latest-Comments summary has been removed from the front page. In so doing, it may have reduced some people’s excesses, but the benefit is serendipitous. It has been taken down in order to be fixed, as the title of a particular posting was not being displayed, making it difficult to know which stream is being referred to.

Finally, and returning to Levin, “though the child in a musical family, who is led gently by the hand into musical understanding, starts on his road to joy years before the one who has to take the first steps for himself, the self-taught music-lover has an intensity of rapture when the dam breaks that one who has been gradually familiarized with the effect of music cannot hope to experience.” Music is a broad church and there are many that attend concerts and read Classical Source whose metaphorical dam is just breaking. Music is a narcotic that can be uplifting, depressing, tragic and joyous; but unlike many drugs the sensation is guaranteed to increase the more that you consume. Make music your opiate of choice; marvel at the melody of Rachmaninov; revel in Webern’s cerebral creations and wonder at the wonder that is Mozart.

Chris Caspell
Managing Director
The Classical Source
8 November 2014


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