Sunday, 3 April 2011

For crying out loud

Watching a Rossini (that's him above) opera during an idle moment this afternoon, I was reminded that he only wept three times in his whole life.

Once when an early opera of his failed.

Once when he heard Paganini play.

And once when a truffled turkey fell into the water during a river picnic.


The last time I wept was when watching a biopic about Brahms. As a solitary old man he was not very good at looking after himself. At a particularly poignant moment, when one of his most deeply-felt slow movements was playing in the background, he was shown struggling to open a tin of pressed tongue. The patent opener (this would have been in the 1890s) broke, leaving a small hole through which he was reduced to scraping out pathetically small shreds of this really rather nasty meat with the wrong end of a teaspoon. The notion that this elderly, lonely man, creator of such very beautiful things, should be reduced to this . . . well, although not usually that emotional, something gave way and I could not hold back the tears.


moreidlethoughts said...

I felt much the same when I watched that Warren Mitchell docu-drama, in which Brahms/Mitchell ate pet food.

Dave said...

I am left wondering whether it is Charlotte, Emily or Anne's tongues in that tin.

Christopher said...

MIT: Now, you've got me wondering if it wasn't the docudrama you mention, but dubbed into French...but I don't remember pet-food. All the same, desperately moving.

Dave: Better them than Branwell's, whose tongue was rather coarse, as I understand. The family name was originally Prunty, which wouldn't have sold tinned tongues in jelly as it might have sounded more like the unappealing condition you could pick from eating them. I expect trade picked up no end when the Rev. Patrick Prunty changed his name to Brontë in honour of Nelson's then recent ennoblement at the hands of the King of Naples.

Vicus Scurra said...

Sad that any human being is reduced to eating "tongues in jelly".
Since we are being 'new men' here, I have to confess to being unable to watch a performance of Beethoven's 9th without getting emotional.

letouttoplay said...

I conclude that food is an emotional subject for musicians.

Actually I think the sight of any hungry old person struggling with a broken tin would make me want to cry.

Sarah said...

I cried this morning when reading this poem by RS Thomas in the Sunday (now Monday) Times.

We met
under a shower
of bird-notes.
Fifty years passed,
love's moment
in a world in
servitude to time.
She was young;
I kissed with my eyes
closed and opened
them on her wrinkles.
`Come,' said death,
choosing her as his
partner for
the last dance, And she,
who in life
had done everything
with a bird's grace,
opened her bill now
for the shedding
of one sigh no
heavier than a feather.

Rosie said...

That's really beautiful.

Christopher said...

Beautiful indeed, Sah. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Tongue "...this really rather nasty meat..."?

Au contraire! It's divine. Where would French Kissing be without it - let alone French Letters to tell the tale later?