I've had a mild exchange of views with our friend Norman Lebrecht over at his blog, Slipped Disc. He responded to a comment in Fiona Maddocks's review of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra which seems to have had something to do with the imbalance between non-observant Jewish members of the orchestra and Ramadan-fasting Muslim members and how this is not right, or something, and you have to be religious to know what Mahler was all about, and therefore perform him well, or similar. Personally I can't help feeling that fasting for any religious festival has as much to do with playing music well as confiscating my nail scissors at Brisbane Airport in 2002 had to do with preventing a repeat of 9/11.
While I wouldn't dispute for a moment Norman's point that much great music was inspired by a quest for God etc, I think you'll find that most orchestral musicians are too busy learning the notes to worry much about what inspired the work - that is a luxury for the chattering classes - and besides, they are obliged to perform the conductor's interpretation as opposed to their own. And they can still get a spiritual kick out of giving a good performance no matter what their, er, standpoint.
So I thought that today either we can get ourselves into a terrible stew here over how it is not 'cool' to be an atheist but actually the only sensible position in a mad, mad world, or we can watch Simon's Cat and have a good laugh instead. I decided that would be more fun, so here he is. Enjoy.
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
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