Saturday, November 26, 2011

MM Part 7: Fullness of Harmony.

Thomas Mann with a Polyhymnia gramophone

In his diary entry of february 10, 1920, Mann describes his own sessions with a new electric Gramophone at a friend's country house in Feldafing to which he withdrew in order to work on his novel. "The highlight of the visit : Richter's superlative Gramophone , which I put to continuous use, either alone  or with Katia and Richter. The Tannhäuser Ouverture, la Bohème. The finale of Aida ( an Italian Libestod ) Carusso, Battistini, Madame Melba, Titta Ruffo etc. A new theme for The Magic Mountain, a rich find both for it's intellectual possibilities and it's narrative value."

The great Stupor continues. After the “patience” fad, we switch to music. Music, if it has the effect of a drug, is politically suspect. You should remember that from the teachings of Settembrini…

Love for music fills the emotional gap which Clavdia has left. Hans listening to the music “filling time” should be therapeutic. The different operas, ballet themes and songs are carefully chosen by the narrator. They create a spark of an emotional memory in Hans and the reader and as such are a perfect resume of the story to which end we are coming. It is brilliantly done…. 

To entertain its guests the Berghof has invested in a German-made “Polyhymnia” music cabinet. Behrens gives a demonstration with a first record. What else could we expect but…

1.The ouverture of the opera “Orpheus in the Underworld” by Offenbach 

Hans too has travelled to the Underworld and has not been able to bring back his Clawdia…

“ Ach, Ich habe Sie verlohren”... I have lost you...


2. An Italian baritone singing from “ The Barber of Seville” by Rossini

Is that Settembrini we hear ? – eh il barbiere.( eh inginere ) Di Qualita, di Qualita!


3. An aria from La Traviata by Verdi

Beautiful Violetta is ill, has tuberculosis, but thinks she is healed, she is not…
She has no eyes for the younger Alfredo who declares her his love (Un di, felice, eterea – the day I met you )…in spite of the fact that she is with another older man.

Hans takes over the manipulation of the machine as soon as Behrens leaves.

4. The Barcarole from the “Les contes d’Hoffman” by Offenbach.

Hoffmann falls in love with Giuletta but his love is not returned…

HC has discovered a new passion, a new Love. He spends time with the machine till late at night, then from early in the morning.

5. „Blick ich umher in diesem edlen Kreise“ from Wagner’s Tannhauser

The ministrel Tannhauser, like Hans, is imprisoned on the enchanted Mountain Horselberg by his love for Venus
This is the Opera, Mann is most indebted to, although he never admits it...

6. « Da mi il braccio, mia piccina » from Puccini’s “La bohème »

Rodolfo is madly in love with Mimi. After some time Rodolfo wants to leave Mimi because of her flirtatious behavior. But the poor girl is terminally ill…

Hans appoints himself as caretaker of the musical cabinet and even takes the key.
The cabinet is described as a coffin, a temple, it is ghostly music…

Hans has favorite discs. The narrator lists them for us…All of them conclude with a reunion of Love in Death.

1. Aida…

Radames cannot forsake his love for the Barbarian girl Aida.
They are thrown and reunited in a tomb where they die in each other arms

Tu en questa tomba… the final scene

2. L’après midi d’un Faune by Claude Debussy

Reminiscent of Hans waking up on the bench near the mountain brook, those beautiful days he “played king”

3.Carmen by Bizet

Corporal Don Jose is ripped apart by his love for the beautiful gypsy woman and doing his duty. Here too Love ends with death

Here is ( gasp ) Elina Garanca in La Habanera…

4.Faust by Gounod

Valentin makes us think about our poor Joachim

Here is “avant de quitter ce lieu”

and we end with

5. Schubert’s Lindenbaum

Which was this world of forbidden love behind this enchanting song ?

It was Death…