Winter finally arrives. For days repeatedly I’ve been listening to Mendelssohn’s Piano Trio No. 1, music that lightens and warms up the chilly dark night. Whether this is a better choice than going to one of the numerous Messiah concerts in the city is hard to say. But I’m allergic to festivity anyway.

Mendelssohn and Handel are both Germans, yet both possess a distinct trait of Englishness. It’s hard to say what exactly it is. Probably, it’s an effortless balance between the intimate and the magnificent, the sentimental and the visionary, the private and the public.

As anything in the art of music, this Englishness is the ideal, not the reality. Reality is always unbalanced – history is able to proceed precisely because of this unbalance, the personal manifestation of which could be seen in people’s miens. Many a time you see individuals of shallow character with perfectly dignified appearances and manners, or individuals of depth with confused and panic bearings. This is true now as this is true then.

George Gissing wrote in the last turn-of-the-century: “So striking is the difference of manner between class and class that the hasty observer might well imagine a corresponding and radical difference of mind and character. In Russia, I suppose, the social extremities are seen to be pretty far apart, but, with that possible exception, I should think no European country can show such a gap as yawns to the eye between the English gentleman and the English boor. The boor, of course, is the multitude; the boor impresses himself upon the traveler. When relieved from his presence, on can be just to him; one can remember that his virtues … are the same, to a great extent, as those of well-bred of man. He does not represent – though seeming to do so – a nation apart. To understand this multitude you must get below its insufferable manners, and learn that very fine civic qualities can consist with a personal bearing almost wholly repellent.”

Speaking of Russia, I still haven’t finish Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, a very awkward novel about the new and totally confused middle-class and urbanites.

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