Joseph Horovitz

Posted on January 26th, 2010 by


 Joseph Horovitz-‘Dybbuk Melody’

PSS-Violin (Stradivari 1698-Joachim)

outtake-2010 (Engineer-Jonathan Haskell -Astounding Sounds)


Tuesday December 7th 2010… an inspiring morning with Horovitz yesterday. We talked about his time as an art student at the Ruskin School, of his conversations with Isaiah Berlin and Ernst Gombrich, study with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and most excitingly of all, his powerful sense of a dialectic between the form of a piece and the emergence of a dramatic structure. Perhaps most movingly of all, he talked at length of the creation of his 5th Quartet, dedicated to Gombrich, which was premiered by the Amadeus Quartet in the Raphael Room at the V & A in 1969. He spoke about how, as an exile from Vienna, writing for a fundamentally Viennese ensemble and Gombrich himself, the work itself started to to tell a story of what it was he had lost, of leaving home. Here he is, though, describing Boulanger as a teacher:

So she said to me: Your music has many notes, it’s very…busy. I think that you should write something-thin. So I thought about it, and suggested the oboe-Yes, a good idea, but the piano, the piano should have very few notes. So I wrote the new piece -my Sonatina-and took it to her. She looked it over. The oboe melody, that she liked, but pointed to the piano part: See, you’ve used this chord, this one here, you have repeated it, many times….and it is completely the wrong chord. At this, she rolled up the sleeve of her left arm-we were sitting at her piano, she rolled up her sleeve, and banged her forearm down on the low keys of the piano: You hear that? That is a completely random chord, but I tell you, that has a greater chance of having the right notes than the chord which you have chosen! I think of that often-that was how she taught-what a lesson. [JH in conversation with PSS 6-12-10 London]