What do the great Italian opera composer Giuseppe Verdi, one-time presidential candidate Lyndon H. LaRouche and the former first violinist of the famous Amadeus Quartet have in common? Not much, it would seem, other than an ardent desire to return music to the tuning used by composers a couple of centuries ago.
Music theory makes for strange bedfellows and last night's recital at George Washington University's Lisner Auditorium, performed by violinist Norbert Brainin and pianist Guenter Ludwig, was a strange affair. The issue Verdi once argued -- the same one LaRouche, Brainin and others argue today -- is that the middle C we have known and loved for 200 years is too high.
A great deal of literature written by LaRouche was handed out before the recital explaining why a lower pitch had a closer affinity to God-given values. But based on the slender musical evidence offered in this "correctly" low-key recital, it is hard to be convinced the issue's worth so much fuss.
In truth, the performances were as dull as dishwater. Mozart's Violin Sonata in E-flat, K. 481, should have shone with bright simplicity, but it didn't. Brahms's Violin Sonata in A, Op. 100, was considerably more invigorating, but the Andante Tranquillo with its lowered pitch sounded more like a viola sonata.
Brainin's comparison of the accepted pitch with the "LaRouche" pitch was inconclusive. While he played the "Saraband and Double" from Bach's First Partita for Solo Violin both ways, he inadvertently played the accepted pitch version better.
Had the sponsors contented themselves with just promoting good music rather than polemic, we might all have been a little happier.