Old Man and his Grandson (detail) ~ 1490
Musée du Louvre
Night of 21st-22nd July 1941
Similarities between Germany and Italy—Dante and Luther—Delightful Italian towns—Rome and Paris.
Luther had the merit of rising against the Pope and the organisation of the Church. It was the first of the great revolutions.
And thanks to his translation of the Bible, Luther replaced our dialects by the great German language! It’s remarkable to observe the resemblances between the evolution of Germany and that of Italy. The creators of the language, Dante and Luther, rose against the oecumenical desires of the papacy. Each of the two nations was led to unity, against the dynastic interests, by one man. They achieved their unity against the will of the Pope.
The Italian people’s musical sense, its liking for harmonious proportions, the beauty of its race! The Renaissance was the dawn of a new era, in which Aryan man found himself anew. There’s also our own past on Italian soil. A man who is indifferent to history is a man without hearing, without sight.
Such a man can live, of course—but what a life? The magic of Florence and Rome, of Ravenna, Siena, Perugia! Tuscany and Umbria, how lovely they are! The smallest palazzo in Florence or Rome is worth more than all Windsor Castle. If the English destroy anything in Florence or Rome, it will be a crime.
I’ve seen Rome and Paris, and I must say that Paris, with the exception of the Arc de Triomphe, has nothing on the scale of the Coliseum, or the Castle of San Angelo, or St. Peter’s. These monuments, which are the product of a collective effort, have ceased to be on the scale of the individual. There’s something queer about the Paris buildings, whether it’s those bull’s-eye windows, so badly proportioned, or those gables that obliterate whole façades. If I compare the Pantheon in Rome with the Pantheon in Paris, what a poor building—and what sculptures! What I saw in Paris has disappeared from my memory: Rome really seized hold of me.
Naples, apart from the castle, might be anywhere in South America. But there’s always the courtyard of the royal palace. What nobility of proportions!
My dearest wish would be to be able to wander about in Italy as an unknown painter.
Night of the 22nd-23rd July 1941
Steps towards a durable understanding between Germany and Britain—Dearth of philosophic and artistic sense of the British.
I believe that the end of this war will mark the beginning of a durable friendship with England. But first we must give her the k.o.—for only so can we live at peace with her, and the Englishman can only respect someone who has first knocked him out. The memory of 1918 must be obliterated.
D. asked the Fuehrer whether Germany was fortified against the dangers of over-easy living, which were threatening to be the ruin of England.
Yes, and that’s why I pay attention to the arts. Amongst the English, culture, like sport, is a privilege of good society. Just imagine, in no country is Shakespeare so badly acted as in England. They love music, but their love is not returned! Besides, they have no thinker of genius. What does the National Gallery mean there, to the mass of the people? It’s like their social reform. It wasn’t called for, like German reform, by the needs of conscience, but solely by reasons of State.
At Bayreuth one meets more Frenchmen than Englishmen. Quote me the example of a single theatre in England where work is done that compares with the work we do in hundreds of theatres.
But I’ve met a lot of Englishmen and Englishwomen whom I respect. Let’s not think too much about those whom we know, with whom we’ve had those deceptive official dealings—they’re not men. Despite everything, it’s only with the people that we can associate.
Before I was born my mother used to practice El Orador (YouTube audio here): a piece for piano composed by my father.
Throughout her pregnancy I happened to be a couple of inches from the piano’s keys, in embryonic state! My mother once told me that while practicing that piece I moved vigorously in her womb. I have this music amalgamated to my soul…
El Orador (The Orator) is a fantasia for piano that my father composed in 1952 and was performed for the first time by María Teresa Rodríguez, and then by my mother (photo above) in 1958, in private gatherings, after I was born.
Father Vértiz, a Catholic priest with eloquent oratory power had inspired the music of my father. According to my parents, the priest’s sermons were like a parable: they initiated in adages and after crescendos culminated in a violent rhetoric that captivated the faithful.