Anna karenina, p.194
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       Anna Karenina, p.194

           graf Leo Tolstoy
 

  Chapter 5

  At the concert in the afternoon two very interesting things wereperformed. One was a fantasia, _King Lear;_ the other was a quartettededicated to the memory of Bach. Both were new and in the new style, andLevin was eager to form an opinion of them. After escorting hissister-in-law to her stall, he stood against a column and tried tolisten as attentively and conscientiously as possible. He tried not tolet his attention be distracted, and not to spoil his impression bylooking at the conductor in a white tie, waving his arms, which alwaysdisturbed his enjoyment of music so much, or the ladies in bonnets, withstrings carefully tied over their ears, and all these people eitherthinking of nothing at all or thinking of all sorts of things except themusic. He tried to avoid meeting musical connoisseurs or talkativeacquaintances, and stood looking at the floor straight before him,listening.

  But the more he listened to the fantasia of King Lear the further hefelt from forming any definite opinion of it. There was, as it were, acontinual beginning, a preparation of the musical expression of somefeeling, but it fell to pieces again directly, breaking into new musicalmotives, or simply nothing but the whims of the composer, exceedinglycomplex but disconnected sounds. And these fragmentary musicalexpressions, though sometimes beautiful, were disagreeable, because theywere utterly unexpected and not led up to by anything. Gaiety and griefand despair and tenderness and triumph followed one another without anyconnection, like the emotions of a madman. And those emotions, like amadman's, sprang up quite unexpectedly.

  During the whole of the performance Levin felt like a deaf man watchingpeople dancing, and was in a state of complete bewilderment when thefantasia was over, and felt a great weariness from the fruitless strainon his attention. Loud applause resounded on all sides. Everyone got up,moved about, and began talking. Anxious to throw some light on his ownperplexity from the impressions of others, Levin began to walk about,looking for connoisseurs, and was glad to see a well-known musicalamateur in conversation with Pestsov, whom he knew.

  "Marvelous!" Pestsov was saying in his mellow bass. "How are you,Konstantin Dmitrievitch? Particularly sculpturesque and plastic, so tosay, and richly colored is that passage where you feel Cordelia'sapproach, where woman, _das ewig Weibliche,_ enters into conflict withfate. Isn't it?"

  "You mean ... what has Cordelia to do with it?" Levin asked timidly,forgetting that the fantasia was supposed to represent King Lear.

  "Cordelia comes in ... see here!" said Pestsov, tapping his finger onthe satiny surface of the program he held in his hand and passing it toLevin.

  Only then Levin recollected the title of the fantasia, and made haste toread in the Russian translation the lines from Shakespeare that wereprinted on the back of the program.

  "You can't follow it without that," said Pestsov, addressing Levin, asthe person he had been speaking to had gone away, and he had no one totalk to.

  In the _entr'acte_ Levin and Pestsov fell into an argument upon themerits and defects of music of the Wagner school. Levin maintained thatthe mistake of Wagner and all his followers lay in their trying to takemusic into the sphere of another art, just as poetry goes wrong when ittries to paint a face as the art of painting ought to do, and as aninstance of this mistake he cited the sculptor who carved in marblecertain poetic phantasms flitting round the figure of the poet on thepedestal. "These phantoms were so far from being phantoms that they werepositively clinging on the ladder," said Levin. The comparison pleasedhim, but he could not remember whether he had not used the same phrasebefore, and to Pestsov, too, and as he said it he felt confused.

  Pestsov maintained that art is one, and that it can attain its highestmanifestations only by conjunction with all kinds of art.

  The second piece that was performed Levin could not hear. Pestsov, whowas standing beside him, was talking to him almost all the time,condemning the music for its excessive affected assumption ofsimplicity, and comparing it with the simplicity of the Pre-Raphaelitesin painting. As he went out Levin met many more acquaintances, with whomhe talked of politics, of music, and of common acquaintances. Amongothers he met Count Bol, whom he had utterly forgotten to call upon.

  "Well, go at once then," Madame Lvova said, when he told her; "perhapsthey'll not be at home, and then you can come to the meeting to fetchme. You'll find me still there."

 

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