I remember saying to a friend after the second of two War Requiems at the Proms in quite short order (a heartbreakingly beautiful and emotionally draining, even at times terrifying, performance under Kurt Masur) that the way things were going, perhaps the BBC should make it an annual event.
Like the annual Beethoven Ninth. People, it seemed to me then, needed a reminder of what it is all like. What it does to people.
So I suppose there was a terrible inevitability in yet another war beginning almost while the RPO was playing Vaughan Williams’ “War Symphony”. If music could only affect politicians’ hearts as much as composers can affect their listeners’. If only they would listen to, and comprehend, either of those pieces. Then, perhaps, just perhaps, one day we may put an end to war?
Before the end of this season, who knows what other beasts will go slouching towards Bethlehem? Or, in words from another genre of music altogether, am I forever going to be crying despairingly “War? What is it good for?”
I shall need the uplift of many of the coming Proms programmes, now, I think. For I am of a generation that foolishly thought we could put an end to war. And yet I have known people who have died, and worse, been ‘disappeared’ in wars. I have known people who have been dispossessed and tortured in them and yet somehow have retained their humanity, have even been able to listen to the War Requiem.
I have even fought to save people from illegal imprisonment and subsequent murder in a civil war. And failed. But I am still proud of that hope I shared once with many others. It just seems such a long time ago, tonight. I once rang the 'Peace Bell' in Kyoto. Perhaps I should have tried to make it ring louder than I did.
(I think, perhaps, that what I feel was what was so lacking in tonight's Vaughan Williams Sixth. I had no patience, felt no commitment to listen to it to the end. Perhaps I'll return to it, listen to the repeat. But, then, perhaps I will play myself either the War Requiem or La Grande Messe des Morts instead.)
I heard, after I wrote this, an American 'thinktanker' saying "Russia is seeking 'regime change' in Georgia, which is clearly illegal under international law." Well, well. Fancy that. I laughed until I cried. Or the other way round.
And to those readers who may want to tell me music has nothing to do with politics, that has never really been true, from the Greek Chorus through the Norse Sagas and Anglo-Saxon epics, La Battaglia, Beethoven's Eroica (or Wellington's Victory) to the Death of Klinghoffer, and the songs of the Palestinian Intifada, now, has it?