By Joseph Horowitz
Arguing that the previous can turn out instructive and inspirational, Horowitz revisits 4 incredible personalitiesHenry Higginson, Laura Langford, Henry Krehbiel and Charles Iveswhose missionary paintings within the realm of tradition signaled a trust within the basic decency of civilized human nature, within the universality of ethical values, and in development towards a nation of peace and love.
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Extra info for Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle
According to conventional wisdom, the genteel values Krehbiel upheld should have condemned him to an ineffectual sidelines role. In fact, he was tirelessly proactive: no other American music critic has impacted more tangibly on the musical life he observed and inhabited. A Krehbiel—or Higginson, or Langford, or Ives—bears no surface resemblance to a Mahler, Klimt, or Freud. But the Gilded Age and genteel tradition, while not irrelevant, only half explain them. To locate American fin-de-siècle signposts of an intense high culture in vigorous transition requires a considered act of recalibration: the extremes of finde-siècle decadence and revolt must be trimmed.
Higginson’s inseparable playmates included Charlie Lowell (“as bright as I was stupid”), with whom he skated and played pranks. He might go to church to hear cousin Thomas Wentworth Higginson—“Colonel” versus “Major” Henry Higginson, even though Henry had also in wartime advanced to the rank of colonel—preach an antislavery sermon. He might visit Dr. Holmes’s Pittsfield farm on the banks of the Housatonic. Higginson’s mother was herself a Lee. She died of tuberculosis in 1849 when Henry—the second of five siblings—was fifteen.
Besides the concerts, there will be a public rehearsal on one afternoon of every week, with single tickets at twenty-five cents, and no reserved seats. ” Both as the condition and result of success the sympathy of the public is asked. L. Higginson The simplicity of this utterance was belied by its boldness. ” Far more typical were opera and theater orchestras whose members occasionally offered symphonic programs. And nowhere, at any time, was an orchestra of comparable stature and longevity as single-handedly shaped and supported as Higginson’s would be.
Moral Fire: Musical Portraits from America's Fin de Siècle by Joseph Horowitz