Item 13 - Letter from Donald Tovey to R. C. Trevelyan

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TRER/7/13

Title

Letter from Donald Tovey to R. C. Trevelyan

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  • 31 Aug 1908 [postmark] (Creation)

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1 item: letter with envelope.

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S.Y. Zingara, 'floating in the neighbourhood of Skye, where it rains angoras and terriers'. - Hopes that Trevelyan and 'Mrs. Poet' are well, and that [their son] Paul is recovering. Has almost finished a 'declamatory sketch' of the first act [of "The Bride of Dionysus"]. Sets out the plan describing musical themes in some detail. Mentions some alterations he would like made at various points throughout the opera. Thinks the length is 'practical but formidable' but that it would be a 'great mistake' to cut it.

His theories about 'the possibilities of musical form in modern opera are vastly enlarged and changed': believes that much 'Wagnerism', such as 'the abnormal exaggeration of every pause in Wagner's sentences' will one day seem archaic. Wagner's 'business-technique' no longer impresses Tovey and he now feels, 'candidly' that he can do 'far better himself', in part because he has much better material. However, Tovey is 'driven to despair' by much of Wagner's music - he lists numerous examples - which can make him feel that the only point for him to write music is to amuse himself. Yet he thinks 'the musical patchiness of Wagner is an archaism' and 'the [Richard] Straussian development of the unmusical side of Wagner's technique is... the vilest humbug ever foisted on ignorant journalists by a cad'. Refuses to have anything more to do with 'modern tendencies' in musical drama; ready to learn many things from Debussy about timbre but cares nothing for the 'new doctrines & practices' from any other point of view.

Is visiting the Speyers around the 6 September and asks if they could meet there, or whether he could visit the Shiffolds after that or they could meet at the Dakyns' house over the Haslemere concert. Wants to run through what he's done on the piano, and would be very glad if Elizabeth Trevelyan could hear it.

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Red pencil annotations indicating passages of interest

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