Mercury is retrograde, but friends, we’re in luck: It’s another column by Tim Goeglein!
The blare of rap music has probably dulled our summer senses to the beautiful. A church friend once said to me, almost wistfully, “I sometimes think the culture of our country is ill. Where is beauty?” It was a poignant question.
Yes, yes it is. I regret to say, however, that from this promising opening — which swerves into a tantalizing paragraph of rue and regret for “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” — Tim bogs down in a defense of the recently deceased composer Gian Carlo Menotti:
He had high and immutable standards. His life showed that, as Flannery O’Connor said, sometimes you have to push back against the culture as hard as it pushes against you. That is, as a talented young artist with standards, he had to be willing to make his contribution whether there was anyone waiting to give him an award for excellence or not. The public loved and relished his music; the critics, ever in search of “the new,” did not approve.
Yes, I see how winning the Pulitzer Prize and New York Drama Critics Circle Award in the same year might lead a man to think the critics had it in for him:
Menotti’s operas – there are 25 – achieved a high degree of popularity, for which he was punished with condescension. He was deemed too old-fashioned. In fact, in 1971, Menotti wrote a letter to the New York Times in which he said, “I hardly know of another artist who has been more consistently damned by critics … The insults that most of my operas had to endure through the years.”
Menotti himself had to endure the insult of a Kennedy Center Honor in 1984.
But if you can stick with it, Tim delivers:
Despite the criticism, he never surrendered the role of beauty. We can now hear one of his strongest expressions of it in his masterpiece, Missa: O Pulchritudo, released on a recording for the first time earlier this year. My first reaction upon hearing it was: What kind of cultural prejudice kept this remarkable piece on ice for 25 years?
This may be the most beautiful music Menotti composed. Beauty is actually its theme, and one of the most tender passages is thus: “O Beauty, ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved You.” The piece was dedicated to God, echoing Bach’s credo “soli Deo Gloria,” dedicating every piece of music he ever wrote to the glory of God.
So now we see what kind of cultural prejudice: Menotti was too religious. Critics hate that.
One hopes and prays that Menotti gained a similar reception, though he seems to have had a modest understanding of himself.
Despite his persecution by the MSM.
He once said, “I do not know my own worth – I’m not Bach, but I like to think I’m not Offenbach either!” Very clever, very humbling. Indeed, Offenbach could not have written a Mass like Menotti’s. Beauty wins out in the end; excellence lasts. Why? Because God is beautiful, and he embodies an excellence and radiance pre-eminent that brings a glimpse of the eternal into our temporal lives.
Take that, Lennon and McCartney!
ADDED: If he wanted the approval of critics, he could have just come out of the closet. You know how liberal critics love a queer.