Which music keeps me busy at the moment and appears essential to me? First of all, I currently have the gift of staying in the middle of the wilderness of West Wales. There is nobody around me and nature and the spring comfort and strengthen me. The birds which have newly returned from Africa know nothing about this pandemic which afflicts mankind – they simply cross all European borders without being hindered. The flowers raise their heads as usual. The bluebells put their hands on their hips and shake their beautiful curls in the cold air of springtime. A promise of summer and soon brighter times – I hope. Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps is the piece of music which comes to my mind. The insistent rhythms of April and May – the compelling order of nature. Bring them together with the unsettling frustrations of the modern world, the industrial world, and feel the uncomfortable friction with the old pastoral traditions and beliefs … which, however, are quickly disappearing……harbingers of the coming, catastrophic European conflicts …. This all is in the music of the Sacre du printemps. Even more so, if you think about the terrible Spanish flu pandemic … a forerunner of what we are currently experiencing. You can hear the stuttering engines of struggle: humans fighting for physical and economic survival.
Here, deep in the wilderness of Wales, I feel something similar. Our world of music – the great, splendid engine of opera, ballet and classical music- has come to a halt with a shudder. We have to restart and power this engine after the pandemic is over – to fight for the return of values which are close to our hearts and which we held before. I assume this fight will be a hard one as it will be difficult for all of us … but when we want to have such beauty, when we want to see music as a part of our world, we have to fight for it.
KS Sir Simon Keenlyside