Traduzione di Rosamond Ley. Il curatore di questo sito, avendo acquistato a Londra l'intero Archivio di Rosamond Ley, detiene il Copyright su tutto quel che l'allieva di Busoni ha scritto sul suo Maestro.

Zürich, January 1920

Dear Herr Paul Bekker,

I have read your article "Impotence or Potency" with interest and sympathy, and for much that is said I am heartily indebted to you. Even if Pfitzner cannot awaken my interest and sympathy to the same extent - and indeed he does not wish to do so - yet I cannot quite overcome the fear that there is some misunderstanding between him and what he attacks; not only do I believe that all of us whose intentions are honest strive for the best and utmost possible perfection in music - a common starting-point which should abolish all antagonism - but I believe further that there are certainly dissimilarities in the compositions of today, that is to say dissimilarities in talent! But not chasms separating them; I believe they are more alike than we suppose or will allow ourselves to believe. (Dissimilarity in the attitude of mind is another thing altogether. . . .)
At all times there were - must have been - artists who clung to the last tradition and others who sought to free themselves from it. This twilight condition seems to me to be the stable one; dawn and the full light of day are considerations of perspective for historians who gather them together and gladly arrive at results.

The appearance also of isolated experiments which stand out as caricature is a usual concomitant of evolution; the strange, ape-like forward-springing gestures of those who stand for something; either defiance or rebellion, satire or foolishness. This type has appeared again in greater numbers during the last fifteen years and it strikes one all the more forcibly after the standstill of the 'eighties which remains quite isolated in the history of art. Unfortunately it coincided with my own youth. Exaggeration, with which the beginner today already makes his first appearance, is becoming general and portends the end of such a period; and the next step is that which inclines towards Young Classicism (which opposition is bound to stimulate).
By "Young Classicism" I mean the mastery, the sifting and the turning to account of all the gains of previous experiments and their inclusion in strong and beautiful forms.
This art will be old and new at the same time at first. We are steering in that direction, luckily, consciously or unconsciously, willingly or unwillingly.
But this art, in order to arise intact in its newness, so that it will mean a genuine result to the historian, will be founded on many hypotheses which today are not yet fully apprehended. I feel the idea of Oneness in music as one of the most important of these as yet uncomprehended truths.
I mean the idea that music is music, in and for itself, and nothing else, and that it is not split up into different classes: apart from cases where words, title, situations and meanings which are brought in entirely from outside, obviously put it into different catagories. There is no music which is Church music in itself, but only absolute music to which sacred words are put or which is performed in church. If you change the text, the music apparently changes also. If you take the text away altogether, there remains (illusorily) a symphonic movement; join words to a movement from a string quartet and an operatic scena grows out of it. If you play the first movement of the "Eroica" Symphony to an American-Indian film, the music will appear so changed that you will not recognise it. For this reason you should not use the terms "instrumental music" and the "true symphonic composer" which you let fall in your article about chamber symphonies. I do not permit myself to criticise you but I am under the impression that by using these words you surely place yourself nearer to Pfitzner than you intend.
With "Young Classicism" I include the definite departure from what is thematic and the return to melody again as the ruler of all voices and all emotions (not in the sense of a pleasing motive) and as the bearer of the idea and the begetter of harmony, in short, the most highly developed (not the most complicated) polyphony.
A third point not less important, is the casting off of what is "sensuous" and the renunciation of subjectivity (the road to objectivity, which means the author standing back from his work, a purifying road, a hard way, a trial of fire and water) and the re-conquest of serenity (serenitas). Neither Beethoven's wry smile nor Zarathustra's "liberating laugh" but the smile of wisdom, of divinity and absolute music. Not profundity, and personal feeling and metaphysics, but Music which is absolute, distilled, and never under a mask of figures and ideas which are borrowed from other spheres.
Human sentiment, but not human affairs, and this, too, expressed within the limits of what is artistic.
The measurements of what is artistic do not refer only to proportions, to the boundaries of what is beautiful and the preservation of taste, they mean above all not assigning to art tasks which lie outside its nature. Description in music, for instance.
This is what I think. Can this, to return to what was first said, can this opinion be contested by honest people? Do I not much rather hold out my hands to universal understanding? Is it possible that these theories could be considered injurious and dangerous on the one side and as retrograde and compromising on the other side? I entrust them to you.

F. B.

My dear boy,** already more than two years ago, as you know, I threw the expression "Young Classicism" into the world and prophesied popularity for it. For me there is something strange about it, for today the expression is circulated and there is nobody who knows who coined it. So it is said at times that Busoni also follows the "Young Classicism"...! It is not necessary to be a prophet to imagine it. After a seriously large number of experiments from the original "Secessionists" to the "Anti-Secessionists" and finally, after the manner of crowds, to separate groups getting further apart, the necessity for a comprehensive certainty in style must be met.
But, as with everything else, I was misunderstood about this also, for the masses look upon Classicism as upon something turning back. This is confirmed in painting by the rehabilitation of Ingres for instance who, a Master himself, is a terrible example of dead forms (the impression made by this opinion is intended to be sharp).
My idea is (this is feeling, personal necessity rather than constructed principle) that Young Classicism signifies completion in a double sense; completion as perfection and completion as a close. The conclusion of previous experiments.

* This letter to Paul Bekker was a personal one which arose out of the controversy between Pfitzner and Busoni. It was first published in the Frankfurter Zeitung, 7th February 1920, and then reprinted in the Busoni number of Anbruch, 1921.

** From a letter to his son Raffaello, 18th June 1921.