Posted by Martin Walker on May 6, 2014, 11:41 am
In his interesting review of this Beethoven CD Roger Blackburn says 'In any case, what do you do with one (Tempest) which was suggested by a notoriously unreliable source (Beethoven’s secretary, Schindler) on the basis of an alleged cryptic remark by a German whose ability to read Shakespearean English is unknown? Gorlatch’s comment in the notes sums it up: “Imagery doesn’t work for me via concrete internal pictures anyway – the narrative moment is far more important”.' |
There are one or two problems involved in these statements: first, the term 'a German' is used to indicate Beethoven in order to cast doubt on his acquaintance with Shakespeare. Now, by the 1820s there were a couple of translations available to German readers, namely Wieland, Schlegel and Voss - by 1771 the young Goethe was holding a speech at home in honour of the first German Shakespeare festival: Zum Schäkespears Tag. Many Germans believed that Shakespeare was essentially a German author, in any case he was extremely popular. The second problem is Roger Blackburn's assumption that associating the sonata with The Tempest is automatically based on imagery and not on narrative - Tovey seemed to see this differently, saying that 'with all the tragic power of its first movement the D minor Sonata is, like Prospero, almost as far beyond tragedy as it is beyond mere foul weather. It will do you no harm to think of Miranda at bars 31-38 of the slow movement... but people who want to identify Ariel and Caliban and the castaways, good and villainous, may as well confine their attention to the exploits of Scarlet Pimpernel when the Eroica or the C minor Symphony is being played'. Tovey is suggesting that Beethoven may have been alluding to some archetypal philosophical plot behind all the stage business, which would have been par for the course in educated German circles at that time, perhaps even today.