Writing Music: Norman Lebrecht
Chair: Stephen Isserlis
In a lively and good-natured session, Norman Lebrecht, novelist and one of Britain's best known commentators on classical music, discussed with Steven Isserlis, renowned concert cellist and composer, the elusive relationship between the experience of music and the language employed to write about it.
Norman Lebrecht is the author of many books, including The Maestro Myth(1997) and Covent Garden: the Untold Story (2000). He writes a weekly column for the Evening Standard, and hosts Lebrecht Live on BBC Radio 3. His recent novel The Song of Names won the 2003 Whitbread First Novel Award.
Steven Isserlis is an eminent concert cellist and composer. In 1998 he was awarded a CBE in recognition of his services to music. He is the author ofWhy Beethoven Threw the Stew (2001)
“Conveying the matter of music is something which defeats us all. It defeats composers. Composers put down an approximation, a rough approximation of their idea, onto five lines on a sheet of paper and it then falls to interpreters like Steven to try and tell us what it was they really wanted to say, because the language of transition, the means by which composers...convey their ideas are extremely approximate and what we then have to rely upon is the mediation or the intermediation of an interpreter.”[Norman Lebrecht] “... in a way, I feel that you can’t touch music too much. It’s a plant that will shrivel if you start talking about it too much. It’s like laughter. If you try and analyse why something is funny, or beauty, say if I look at a beautiful woman and I can tell she’s beautiful and I can describe her eyes or whatever, that’s great. But then if I go into her bone structure and then the blood, then the beauty is lost. The same with laughter. The same with music, I think.”[Steven Isserlis]
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