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Bach 

And finally the highest initiation appears, the tragic Moloch and tyrant: Bach! Bach is boring! Objective. Abstract. Monotonous.
Mathematical. Sublime. Cosmic. Cubic. Bach is boring! —This is how the worst of heresies sounds, which can deprive one of respect in the musical world.
Take a close look at the priests of Bach’s mass, look them in the eyes: obduracy, concentration in abstraction, severity, just like the one that offered the bodies of young children to the gods.
Diary, 1960 [Trans. Vallee]


Mozart 

The riddle of ‘light’ in Mozart. Gide is quite right when he says that the drama in Mozart’s music, illuminated by intelligence, spirit, stops being dramatic. The kind of splendor found in the first allegro of the Jupiter symphony is the crowning glory of this internal process. Radiance conquers and reigns supreme. But in him, as in Leonardo da Vinci, I see an element of perversity, a kind of illegal retreating from life—Mozart’s and Leonardo’s smile (especially in his sketches) have this same characteristic, it is as if they wanted a forbidden amusement, as if they wanted to play and delight even in that which is forbidden, even in that which gives pain ... a delicate but roguish game, sly, an archintelligent sensuality ... but even the very juxtaposition ‘intelligent sensuality’ is sinful... . Is the ascending and descending scale in Don Giovanni not a strange joke, which pokes fun at hell? The high registers of Mozart sometimes assail me like something forbidden, like sin.
Diary, 1961 [Trans. Vallee]


Chopin 

The reverse of Mozart would be Chopin—for here the affirmation of weakness, delicacy, executed with rare determination and stubbornness, results in strength and the capacity to look at life without flinching.
He ‘insists so much on what is his,’ he wants to be who he is so absolutely that this makes him really exist—makes him unrelenting and, as a phenomenon, invincible. Thus, in self-confirmation, Chopin’s despairing, lost, morbid romanticism, subjected to the forces of the world like a reed to wind, transforms itself into a severe classicism, into discipline, into mastery of matter, into the will to rule. How moving and sublime his heroism is when seen this way, and how declamatory, rhetorical, and paltry when one looks at it from a ‘patriotic’ perspective‘. I will cling most strongly to what is weakest in me’—his work seems to shout.
Diary, 1961 [Trans. Vallee]


Beethoven 

Quartets! Sixteen quartets! It is one thing to dip occasionally into one of them, in passing, and another to step into the building, to immerse oneself, to wander from hall to hall, wander in the galleries, take in the vaults, examine the architecture, uncover the inscriptions and frescoes ... with a finger to one’s lips. Form! Form! It is not him I look for, the building is not full of him, but his form, which I get to know in the course of this gradual self-composition of adventures, changes, acquisitions—similar to creatures human and nonhuman from ancient fairy tales. […]
Certainly, if not for that elegant sound of four stringed instruments, if not for that polyphonic quartet refinement, thanks to which all music that passes between these four instruments undergoes an inordinately subtle transformation, I would not have gone crazy about Beethoven so unexpectedly.
Diary, 1960 [Trans. Vallee]