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Friday, 5 October 2012


Tuesday, October 5th., London.

To wake up at midnight, after an hours sleep, with a headache, slight but certainly indicative of the coming attack; to hear the clock strike, every note drilling a separate hole into your skull; to spend the rest of the night uneasily between sleeping and waking, always turning over the pillow, and tormented intermittently by idiotic nightmares, crowded with action, which fatigue the brain: this is a disturbed liver. Towards morning comes the hope, caused by the irregularity of the pain, that the headache will pass away on getting up. But it never does so. Then one comes downstairs, eyes as it were in red-hot sockets, and gulps some effervescing saline. One rises from breakfast with a mouth full of reminiscences - butter, cocoa, porridge, and the headache remains. One walks to the office in the fresh autumn air; the headache remains. Towards noon, one seeks the last remedy, a draught which weakens the action of the heart. It is effective, and after half an hour's somnolence, one recovers, half-dazed, but without the headache. The impulse to work is alive again, and one accomplishes an hour. But after lunch and dinner one has a consciousness that a new headache is lying in wait, and, one's resolve worn away by the constant sense of fatigue in the eyes and of rapid pulsation round the back of the head, one weakly lapses into idleness, trusting that tomorrow will be different.

I found myself at the Wagner Promenade concert. It seems to me that Henry J. Wood lacks the repose and reticence of a great conductor. He continually endeavours to express the music to his band in curves of the arm, sudden contractions of all the muscles, frowns and smiles. If such procedure is to be effective, it can only be effective at rehearsal. At the performance the conductor, knowing what the band can do, and the band knowing what the conductor desires, gestures should be unnecessary. At the performance the band needs, not an interpretation of the music, but merely control and reminders.

Sir Henry Joseph Wood,  (1869 – 1944) was an English conductor best known for his association with London's annual series of promenade concerts, known as the Proms. He conducted them for nearly half a century, introducing hundreds of new works to British audiences. After his death, the concerts were officially renamed in his honour as the "Henry Wood Promenade Concerts", although they continued to be generally referred to as "the Proms". Born in modest circumstances to parents who encouraged his musical talent, Wood started his career as an organist. During his studies at the Royal Academy of Music, he came under the influence of the voice teacher Manuel Garcia and became his accompanist. After similar work for Richard D'Oyly Carte's opera companies on the works of Arthur Sullivan and others, Wood became the conductor of a small operatic touring company. He was soon engaged by the larger Carl Rosa Opera Company. One notable event in his operatic career was conducting the British premiere of Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in 1892. From the mid-1890s until his death, Wood focused on concert conducting. He was engaged by the impresario Robert Newman to conduct a series of promenade concerts at the Queen's Hall, offering a mixture of classical and popular music at low prices. The series was successful, and Wood conducted annual promenade series until his death in 1944. By the 1920s, Wood had steered the repertoire entirely to classical music. When the Queen's Hall was destroyed by bombing in 1941, the Proms moved to the Royal Albert Hall. He had an enormous influence on the musical life of Britain over his long career: he and Newman greatly improved access to classical music, and Wood raised the standard of orchestral playing and nurtured the taste of the public, presenting a vast repertoire of music spanning four centuries.

Steindl, the pianist aged 6 or 7, played a Schubert Impromptu (No. 4) and Raff's "Fabian". He is not more than 7, and has the pale face and the vast skull of the typical precocious genius. He runs onto the platform, takes his seat, and then stares down at the audience with calm reproachful expression. Then he turns to his father for the signal to begin. He is not lost in his performance, but rather (as it were) preoccupied with something else, seldom looking at the keyboard and constantly directing upon the audience that reproachful stare. During the performance his father exchanged looks of pride and pleasure with members of the orchestra, every man in which followed the child's movements with a sort of paternal wistfulness. At the end, when Steindl stood bowing and bobbing to the applause, my body shook and my eyes filled with tears, in spite of myself.

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