Forget all those non-words like diversity, multiculturalism, equal opportunity, the right to [fill in the blank], sexism … and so forth ad nauseam. They denote nothing, but they all connote the same thing: mediocrity is god who will smite any infidel.
You can see the high priests of this god everywhere, and you’re welcome to choose your own field by way of proof. My today’s choice is music, if only to let Dave off the hook this once.
In the last few days I couldn’t help hearing two typical performances on Radio 3, accompanied by equally typical commentary. In one, Murray Perahia, the patron saint of giftless pianists, played the last movement of the Emperor Concerto as if dead set on proving that it’s possible to convey Beethoven’s genius by just playing all the notes in the right sequence. In the other, Mitsuka Uchida communicated to the world her startling discovery that Mozart wrote his Sonata in A not when he was 27, but some time after his death. A quick reminder: we’re supposed to be moved, not bored, to tears.
I don’t know if you follow music, but these two are regarded these days as ineffable talents, the ultimate exponents of their art. Sure enough, Radio 3 announcers, whose giggly voices have the same effect on me as the word ‘culture’ had on Dr Goebbels, intoned a few sweet nothings to that effect.
At the same time, one of them described Glenn Gould, arguably the greatest instrumentalist ever, as a pianist ‘who divides opinion’. That much is true: the opinion is divided between those who understand musical performance and those who don’t. In general, on the rare occasions those same announcers introduce a truly great musician of the past, they have to make inanely condescending remarks implying that the art of performance has moved on since that time, but here’s a little something of curiosity value.