Two Parodies for my brother Colin's birthday
From Volte-face: the diaries of Pierre Boulez
Saturday 13 February 1999
It is becoming difficult to maintain
my public persona in the light of my changed views. Can I confess this? Hard to admit
the falsity of what one has struggled all one's life to uphold, yet the truth has to be
faced. I suppose the real turning point was just over a year ago, when in London I chanced
to hear on the radio that revelatory piece. A melody of exquisite refinement, projected over
an orchestral accompaniment of magical transparency, with the delicate sounds of nature as
if overhead in the distance. It came to me like a bolt of lightning: this is music that makes
Webern totally irrelevant! What was this extraordinary work and who was the composer? The
announcer told me: In a Monastery Garden by Albert W. Ketèlbey. Since then my
life has been changed utterly.
Thursday 18 February
The BBC telephoned about a concert next year.
The usual boring suggestions: Berg Op.6, Webern Op.6 and 10, Erwartung. I was about
to tell them what I really wanted to conduct: Grofe's Grand Canyon Suite, Addinsell's
Warsaw Concerto, but couldn't quite bring myself to do it.
Sunday 21 February
Continuing my studies of the Lloyd symphonies. What
a genius he is. Feel by comparison I don't know the first thing about orchestration, or structure.
But in a year's time I may be confident enough to being a symphony of my own.
Ate some Shepherd's Pie and went to bed early with a Barbara Cartland novel. Her searing
romanticism satisfies my present mood. And she is such a stylist!
Friday 26 February
I remember now that Messiaen told me about Ketèlbey
some time in the early 1950s, said he owed everything to him. At the time, with the arrogance
of youth, I didn't take any notice; now it's obvious.
Ketèlbey himself was certainly influenced by the third piece of Webern's op.10, which
he saw in manuscript on a visit to Vienna in early 1914: In a Monastery Garden was begun
So there is a lineage: Webern-Ketèlbey-Massiaen-PB.
Wednesday 3 March
Letter from Sony, inviting me to record all the
Françaix orchestral works. How delighted I am to be able to make a small reparation for my
disregard of the great master during his lifetime.
Sunday 7 March
Am getting on well with my revision. The piece will have
to be renamed of course, but not so drastically: patience strong ist der dichter. It
should make quite an éclat.
From The Sibelius Diaries
17 January 1946
The Eighth Symphony is finally completed! Parcelled up score and Aino took it to post
office to send to Boston. Drank champagne and smoked five cigars.
Terrible misgivings about symphony. Aino rang up post office and fortunately was able to
retrieve score. Burnt it.
Cold. -25 Celsius. No alcohol in house. Went to Helsinki to buy some.
Back from Helsinki. Can't remember what I did there, but seem to have spent 30,000 marks.
Have also lost my coat and one shoe. Violent tremors. Went to bed. Depression - presentiments
Snow, wind. -35 degrees. Drank three bottles whisky. Went for walk but fell over on path.
Aino found me and locked me in bedroom. Depression.
Sunshine. 10 degrees. Went for walk. Saw nine swans - good omen. Worked on new symphony.
Godlike sounds, wonderful inspiration. You are a great man, Jean Sibelius.
Worked a little but got nowhere. Symphony is impossible, my life worthless. Hope end will
Blizzard, huge winds, -40 Celsius. Swan fell down chimney. Burnt symphony in stove.
Koussevitsky writes to tell me that he performed by Fourth only 78 times last year. Why am
I so neglected? Drank four bottles whisky and threw elk sandwich at Aino. Remorse,
Long talk with Aino. Agreed I must give up this life. Will definitely renounce alcohol and
Began new symphony. Aino cooked lemming stew. Such a dreadful taste I had to drink two bottles
vodka afterwards. So much for resolutions.
Springlike weather. Went for walk and saw ten swans - good omen. Worked well on symphony. Aino
made mushroom and larch bark soup.
Ill in bed. Aino ill too.
Worked all day, though still shaky.
Spring sunshine. Went for glorious walk. Worked all day in state of great exaltation.
Finished symphony. It is a work of genius, certainly.
Alcohol, deep depression. Symphony is terrible.
Snow. Burnt symphony. Began a new one.