"The nineteenth century, as we know it, is largely an invention of Balzac".
January 18, 2006 12:15 PM Subscribe
The Niagara Fortissimo. “Mahler was to conduct in Buffalo, New York, and we took advantage of the trip to visit Niagara Falls. We spent hours near and even under the roaring falls... and then with that roar still in his ears Mahler went to conduct Beethoven’s ‘Pastorale’. I was waiting for him as he stepped off the podium. ‘Endlich ein fortissimo!,’ he said, ‘At last a fortissimo!’” The fortissimo in question is Beethoven's, not Niagara's. The point, as Alma elaborates it in her memoirs, is that music can offer experiences more overpowering than Nature itself — a kind of extreme aestheticism that Oscar Wilde also propounded in "The Decay of Lying" when he said that most sunsets are attempts at second-rate Turners. More inside.
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