Neville Marriner

Remembering Neville Marriner By R.J. Stove

Few conductors are loved. It could be as well, for music’s sake, that most conductors are loathed. Any impressive level of attendance at their obsequies readily calls to mind the witticism—attributed both to George Jessel and to Red Skelton—regarding the crowds at a universally abhorred Hollywood tycoon’s funeral: “Well, it proves what they always say. Give the people what they want, and they’ll come out for it.”

So how do we explain not merely the respect but the sincere affection that greeted the death, earlier this month, of the 92-year-old Neville Marriner (Sir Neville from 1985)? Mere British chauvinism cannot be a factor. After all, the obituary tributes on the radio networks of Paris, Rome, and Berlin (to say nothing of major American cities) appear to have been as kindly as anything broadcast or printed in London.

It cannot have been Marriner’s Guinness World Records achievement in having made more classical recordings—600 or so—than any other conductor, with the sole exception of Herbert von Karajan. No such sense of public bereavement marked Karajan’s 1989 demise. Nor can any particular media panache on Marriner’s part have been operating. He gave no more interviews than any other world-famous podium figure, and far fewer than most.


How to make sense of music in the age of streaming By Ben Ratliff

It may be the most simple yet complex question you’ll be asked today: how do you listen to music? Beyond the basic decisions about headphones versus speakers, streaming versus CD, just how do you decide what to listen to?

You could follow the breadcrumb trail laid down by a streaming service’s playlist algorithms, or the recommendations of a friend or work colleague. You might, as old-fashioned as it sounds, go with something you heard on the radio, or listen to an artist’s album from start to finish. You might just press play and see where it leads you. In the age of Spotify and such services, there are myriad ways to jump into the endless, ceaseless pool of music available.

Ben Ratliff has been writing about music for the New York Times for the last 20 years and he has a well-tuned sense of how his own listening experience goes. You’ll find a taste of that in Every Song Ever: Twenty Ways to Listen to Music Now, his new book about how to access music now that all the potential barriers for listeners are gone.


When You Listen to Music, You’re Never Alone by Daniel A. Gross

Silent disco, Felten added, is just one of many activities that are “atomizing” our society. “What a shame to turn the concert hall or dance club into another such lonely crowd,” he wrote. “These venues should be super—not anti—social.” Headphones may silence our city streets, runs the argument, but they also silence our social connections. To paraphrase those seminal pop philosophers from Athens, Georgia, the B-52s, we’re all living in our own private Idahos.

That, anyway, has been a refrain in sociological circles since Thomas Edison invented the phonograph in the 19th century. Critics complained that the social fabric was being shredded when, rather than gathering in ballrooms to dance to Johann Strauss, we listened to recordings in our living rooms.

But recent looks at the evolution and neurology of music suggest we are not waltzing by ourselves. Musical experiences are inherently social, scientists tell us, even when they happen in private. When we listen alone, we feel together.


The Sound of Silence – Jean Sibelius and the symphony that never was By Sudip Bose

From 1904 until his death in 1957, the composer Jean Sibelius lived some 20 miles north of Helsinki, in a rural villa built of timber and stone on the shores of Lake Tuusula. He called the house Ainola, after his wife, Aino. Surrounded by fields and birch forests, it befitted the isolation of Sibelius’s later years, when Finland’s most revered musician became a withdrawn, reclusive figure. From about 1933 onward, he published no music of any significance, nothing but a few trifles and arrangements. Yet he continued to wage a turbulent artistic struggle with himself as he attempted, over the course of several years, to write his Eighth Symphony.

Sometime in the 1940s, the struggle was seemingly lost. One day, Sibelius carried a laundry basket filled with his manuscripts into the dining room at Ainola and began feeding the pages into the raging fire in the stove. Aino, who would recall the event after her husband’s death, could confirm the identity of only one of the pieces her husband burned—the early Karelia Suite—but it is now considered a certainty that the Eighth Symphony was destroyed as well. Afterward, a strange calm descended upon the composer. His mood lightened. He appeared strangely optimistic, no longer depressed, as if the fire had brought on some magnificent catharsis.

The gestation of the symphony may have been long and troubled, but Sibelius had, at various times, referred to his manuscript as “brilliant,” “a great work in the making,” a piece that would have been “the reckoning of [his] whole existence.” For so long, he had had but one desire: to finish the piece before drifting off “to the final silence.” Why, then, did Sibelius destroy such a highly anticipated and promising work? This remains one of the most perplexing questions in all of music history.