Beauty of soul, truth in art

In an age like ours, confined to the surface of things, “beauty” inevitably comes to be thought of primarily as beauty of appearance rather than beauty of character or mind (or ”soul”). Thus, contemporary performing values stress smoothness, homogeneity, and glamour at the expense of all other qualities — despite the fact that these other qualities compose seventy-five percent of art, which is great, when it is great, not because it is beautiful but because it is true. Composers like Mussorgsky, Mahler, Berg, Britten, and Shostakovich — for whom the articulacy of sound is so critical as to teeter perpetually on the verge of speech — can be utterly obliterated by performers and critics whose interest is in beauty rather than truth, form rather than being, the score rather than the mind behind it.

Ian MacDonald, The New Shostakovich, p. 259.

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