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Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Two Heroes. By John von Daler

                When I came to New York in 1959 at the age of fourteen, one of the first things I wanted to do was to hear the New York #Philharmonic play at Carnegie Hall. We got tickets to a concert conducted by von #Karajan featuring Richard #Strauss' Ein Heldenleben.

                Even though my father was a great fan of Strauss, I had never before heard this work. But its grandiose self-glorification spoke to my teenage mentality and I found myself floundering in its fathoms of sound: the horns and lower strings touted war, the woodwinds clamored their traitorous infidelities and finally the solo violin, my instrument played exquisitely by John Corigliano, fought through these furious obstacles to open my ears onto a supernatural plane of sheer beauty.
                Strauss must be the quintessential composer for the emotions of a teenage boy. He was his own hero. His self-portrait contained everything I wanted to see in myself.               

                Here, years later, I return from a visit to #Amsterdam with the self-portraits of #Rembrandt still vividly in mind. How unheroic they are! What greatness of mind it must have taken to look into a mirror and recreate the pudgy cheeks, the moles, the wrinkles, the bulky nose, the tired eyes. Now at sixty-eight my definition of distinction has become something as simple as an artist daring to tell the truth. I still find Strauss' music incredibly beautiful, but it cannot beguile me into endorsing his world view, which I find spurious and overblown. To me Rembrandt is the greater hero.

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