The "sunset glow" suffusing the work of all these great orchestral interpreters also enriched the late creations of celebrated composers. Beethoven (The Late Quartets), Bach (The Art of the Fugue), Mozart (The Requiem), Mahler (The Ninth and Tenth Symphonies), Bruckner (The Ninth Symphony), Bartok (Third Piano Concerto) — all forged eloquently elegiac masterpieces in the shadow of failing health and impending death.
In most fields of endeavor, even geniuses face declining powers in the final phase of existence: Leo Tolstoy wrote no big novels afterAnna Karenina (completed 33 years before his death), and the immortal Shakespeare finished The Tempest, the last play definitively acknowledged as his work, at least six years before he died at 52).
Only in music, the most spiritual of all arts, has old age conferred frequent advantages, often bringing new richness, depth and even grandeur to the artistry of both composers and performers. Most of us spend the first third of our lives ignoring death, the second third denying it and the final third struggling against it. That struggle can shine through in musical expression with a nobility that trumps youthful impetuosity.
June 07, 2010
Interesting Michael Medved USA Today column on the imperishability of music: