Friday, 29 March 2019

It ain't over...

 ... till the fa... (Come to think of it, why did the coiner of that adage assume that prima donnas (whose big song tended to end the show) had to be fat; Brünnhilde maybe, but not Tosca...) ...till the fat lady sings

My inbox caught a whiff of musical history  last week:

Liszt began work on an Italian opera in 1845. He started composing in 1850 but abandoned the project after completing the first act. The score — written largely in shorthand — was known to only a small number of Liszt scholars who concluded that it could never be performed because the material was incomplete and largely indecipherable. [HD as Shaw (??*) said, it was not so much weighed in the balance and found wanting as found difficult and not tried at all.]

David Trippett, Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Music at Cambridge University, saw it differently, and spent three years deciphering the forgotten 115-page manuscript, decoding Liszt’s notes and supplying a 20-bar finale. The result is the complete first act of Sardanapalo, Liszt’s only mature opera, based on Lord Byron’s Assyrian tragedy of 1821, Sardanapalus.

I'm not sure why this became newsworthy on 19 March 2019, as the same article goes on to say
Between April 2017 – July 2018 Dr Trippett orchestrated the opera according to Liszt’s cues...
HD: I DO hate this pleonastic use of "between" and  "–" , but don't let my bugbears interfere with your understanding of something that, admittedly, is perfectly clear. And while we're here, should that be sic – for clues?
...based on the scores on Liszt’s desk during the 1850s. 
In a post on The Conversation on 11 February 2019 Dr Trippett wrote
I am a musicologist and so my interest is primarily in musical sketches. These can pose challenges of presentation that scraps of poetry or incomplete drawings do not. However beguiling incomplete art may be, what are we to do with unfinished music?
And his answer to that question is implied by the title of the piece:

Editing unfinished music by a great composer is controversial – but sometimes it needs to be done

And as Colonel Pickering might have said "He did it".

Notes from a New Enterprise

When this was posted, 29 March was due to be a date that would live in infamy, but that's changed; though HMG's attitude to the revocation of Article 50 is implied by their choice of a date for a petition-inspired debate: April Fools' Day. And if you can't make sense of this paragraph you've had the good fortune to avoid the three years of unseemly wrangling that will perhaps come to be known as Cameron's Folly.

Anyway, that gives me 3 and a bit months to put my money where my mouth is. It's about 40 years since I did any serious translating, and we've all passed a lot of water since then.

So far I've made a start – chosen my author (Camões, in a nod to former glories ...
[last translation I did won the Camões Award, back in the days when arts funding was less pitiful than it is now; the award has been discontinued]. 
Not to be confused with the Camões Prize, first awarded in 1989 and awarded annually thereafter by the Portuguese Direcção-Geral do Livro e das Bibliotecas and the Brazilian Fundação Biblioteca Nacional. The Camões Award was made by the Luso-Brazilian Society, Canning House, and I submitted my entry in 1974.
...) and chosen my extract (the Rules say "translate a poem" but Os Lusíadas runs to nearly 300 pages in the original Portuguese; that's not the original original, which was first published in 1572). More anon, when the weather is less inviting...


Update: 2019.04.01.10:45 – Added footnote,  added to <inline_PS>, and added PPS.

Regardless of the date of this update, I really got it wrong; well, right era, wrong opinionated ideologue. It was Chesterton who wrote "The Christian ideal... [HD And if I'd remembered this bit of context I'd have had a better chance of placing the source.  Added to this, the Colonel Pickering thought brought Shaw to mind] ...has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried."

Stop Press. My entry for the Stephen Spender Prize has met choppy  waters (quite appropriately,  given  the poem's subject matter: voyages of discovery). The Conditions of entry call for "a commentary of not more than 300 words", and – given that  Os Lusíadas was published when Shakespeare was still  a schoolboy – there are single phrases in it that would be quite meaningless to a 21st century English  reader without more than 300 words of explanation.

Update: 2019.07.01.13:15 – Added PPPS

All is – if not well, exactly – at least settled. I chose another passage, less footnote-iferous, and submitted that. But the more interesting passage (discussed a few posts later than this one, with title Heaven, I'm in Heaven) wouldn't accept its suppression; so eventually I made a second submission (with a second entry fee – but hey, you're only old once).

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