FictionForest

PART SEVEN : Chapter 5

Leo TolstoyAug 25, 2016'Command+D' Bookmark this page

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At the concert in the afternoon two
very interesting things were performed.  One
was a fantasia, King Lear; the other was a
quartette dedicated to the memory of Bach.  Both
were new and in the new style, and Levin was eager
to form an opinion of them.  After escorting his
sister-in-law to her stall, he stood against a column
and tried to listen as attentively and conscientiously
as possible.  He tried not to let his attention
be distracted, and not to spoil his impression by
looking at the conductor in a white tie, waving his
arms, which always disturbed his enjoyment of music
so much, or the ladies in bonnets, with strings carefully
tied over their ears, and all these people either
thinking of nothing at all or thinking of all sorts
of things except the music.  He tried to avoid
meeting musical connoisseurs or talkative acquaintances,
and stood looking at the floor straight before him,
listening.

But the more he listened to the fantasia
of King Lear the further he felt from forming any
definite opinion of it.  There was, as it were,
a continual beginning, a preparation of the musical
expression of some feeling, but it fell to pieces again
directly, breaking into new musical motives, or simply
nothing but the whims of the composer, exceedingly
complex but disconnected sounds.  And these fragmentary
musical expressions, though sometimes beautiful, were
disagreeable, because they were utterly unexpected
and not led up to by anything.  Gaiety and grief
and despair and tenderness and triumph followed one
another without any connection, like the emotions
of a madman.  And those emotions, like a madman’s,
sprang up quite unexpectedly.

During the whole of the performance
Levin felt like a deaf man watching people dancing,
and was in a state of complete bewilderment when the
fantasia was over, and felt a great weariness from
the fruitless strain on his attention.  Loud
applause resounded on all sides.  Everyone got
up, moved about, and began talking.  Anxious
to throw some light on his own perplexity from the
impressions of others, Levin began to walk about,
looking for connoisseurs, and was glad to see a well-known
musical amateur in conversation with Pestsov, whom
he knew.

“Marvelous!” Pestsov was
saying in his mellow bass.  “How are you,
Konstantin Dmitrievitch?  Particularly sculpturesque
and plastic, so to say, and richly colored is that
passage where you feel Cordelia’s approach,
where woman, das ewig Weibliche, enters into
conflict with fate.  Isn’t it?”

“You mean…what has Cordelia
to do with it?” Levin asked timidly, forgetting
that the fantasia was supposed to represent King Lear.

“Cordelia comes in…see here!”
said Pestsov, tapping his finger on the satiny surface
of the program he held in his hand and passing it
to Levin.

Only then Levin recollected the title
of the fantasia, and made haste to read in the Russian
translation the lines from Shakespeare that were printed
on the back of the program.

“You can’t follow it without
that,” said Pestsov, addressing Levin, as the
person he had been speaking to had gone away, and
he had no one to talk to.

In the entr’acte Levin
and Pestsov fell into an argument upon the merits
and defects of music of the Wagner school.  Levin
maintained that the mistake of Wagner and all his followers
lay in their trying to take music into the sphere
of another art, just as poetry goes wrong when it
tries to paint a face as the art of painting ought
to do, and as an instance of this mistake he cited
the sculptor who carved in marble certain poetic phantasms
flitting round the figure of the poet on the pedestal. 
“These phantoms were so far from being phantoms
that they were positively clinging on the ladder,”
said Levin.  The comparison pleased him, but
he could not remember whether he had not used the
same phrase before, and to Pestsov, too, and as he
said it he felt confused.

Pestsov maintained that art is one,
and that it can attain its highest manifestations
only by conjunction with all kinds of art.

The second piece that was performed
Levin could not hear.  Pestsov, who was standing
beside him, was talking to him almost all the time,
condemning the music for its excessive affected assumption
of simplicity, and comparing it with the simplicity
of the Pre-Raphaelites in painting.  As he went
out Levin met many more acquaintances, with whom he
talked of politics, of music, and of common acquaintances. 
Among others he met Count Bol, whom he had utterly
forgotten to call upon.

“Well, go at once then,”
Madame Lvova said, when he told her; “perhaps
they’ll not be at home, and then you can come
to the meeting to fetch me.  You’ll find
me still there.”

 

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