1. I have started reading a book recommended by my sister, Barbara: Beethoven for a Later Age, a memoir by the Takács quartet’s first violinist, Edward Dusinberre of his experiences with the quartet. The book begins with Dusinberre’s recollections of his audition with the other three members of the quartet, all much older, all Hungarians, and all having played together for a long time. As Dusinberre tells it, he was a very nervous twenty-four year old, fresh out of Conservatory. His account focuses in great detail on the details of the music that had been chosen for the audition, in this case Beethoven’s Opus 59 number 3, the third Razumovsky. As it happens, I have played this quartet [see my June 5, 2016 post], but at a very low level of technical competence. Reading Dusinberre’s thoughts about the subtle interplay of the instruments and the musicians gives me some small sense of the chasm between my playing and theirs. I had thought the differences were mostly technical. The chapter is something of a revelation.
2. Yesterday, prodded by curiosity, I did a quick check of the file drawers in which I keep materials, in chronological order, from every course, tutorial, section, and discussion group I have taught over the past sixty-one years. I discovered that between 1960 and 1992, I taught the First Critique fourteen times – I then transferred to an Afro-American Studies Department and turned my attention to other things. On twelve of those occasions, I used the system of required weekly Kant Summaries that I learned from my teacher and predecessor at Harvard, Clarence Irving Lewis, and twice I did not. In late August, when I launch my videotaped lectures on the Critique, I shall of course not be able even to require that participants read the text, let alone write Kant Summaries, and once the lectures go into the Cloud via YouTube, there is no way at all to know who will be viewing them or what, if anything, they will read as an accompaniment to the viewing experience. I plan simply to assume that viewers are reading the text as they watch. I cannot imagine how else to teach so difficult a book.