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My new incarnation as somebody organised has now lasted a whole three days, and I hope that this is a permanent change, for it is a definite improvement. The structure of the environment when employed by somebody else is conducive to work, for, Facebook, Twitter and Twitbook apart, there is little to distract. As somebody self-employed, however, the oft-quoted idea is that one has to be a harsh boss, unforgiving of missed deadlines and a late arrival into the office. I would class myself neither as harsh boss nor perfect worker, but the employer in me has been pleased with the employee over recent days.

In fairly short order yesterday I managed to break the back of Ar Hyd y Nos , forging the main structure of the work and ascertaining who will be singing where. It is not going to be my most advanced piece in terms of musical language, but I hope, once again, that it will be appropriate for the task at hand. Were this an arrangement for, say, the Arditti Quartet (that would be fun!), then it would be very different, but for a non-professional choir singing in Welsh to an audience aiming to be pleased rather than shocked then the target is substantially different. Of All Persons And Estates is already on the menu, so the poor audience will have quite enough modernism to deal with.

I also continued to put together my material for the Liebermann talk next week, listening repeatedly and intently to his Quintet for Piano and Strings. Now that I am becoming more familiar with this piece I have a much better idea of how it is put together, and there are many areas I admire. Mr. Liebermann himself has also been in touch to clarify a couple of points, and has some interesting views on his own work.

Once that is done I need to return to Beethoven’s Fidelio, also for a talk next week. Although this work comes attached by the hip to the word “problematic”, I do not find it so, and see it as a hugely relevant opera. It does not take a genius to work out that the notion of the political prisoner has not disappeared since Beethoven’s day. Of course, the music is always going to be more difficult to approach than that in the Mozart-Da Ponte operas, but it bears all the worthy grittiness one associates with Ludwig. I used to take a class which contained one or two quite vocal and good natured anti-Beethovenians, but the Mir ist so wunderbar quartet had them astonished at its beauty. For me, though, the most moving moment of the opera is when the prisoners are released from their cells and allowed to see the outside world for the first time since whenever.

The Prisoners' Chorus - still relevant

Beethoven’s own cell was not physical, but he knew isolation keenly, intently and with no possibility of parole from his deafness. That moment when the prisoners sing always makes me shiver, and maybe part of Fidelio‘s perceived difficulty comes from the fact that it is not light entertainment, but political statement, and maybe that is why it took him so long to be satisfied with it.

I have to say that I am delighted with my rate of work over the past few days, so my thanks are due to the friend who suggested this new method to me, to the extent that I am substantially ahead of where I ever imagined I might be at this point of the year, and sharply focused in the knowledge that I do have the capacity and the ability not only to get things done, but also to delineate free time. Allied to this is the knowledge that I have so far stuck to all the resolutions I made for the new year, some of them quite ambitious. Having faffed around for quite a while over the past few weeks it feels good to be forging ahead in a relatively convincing and effective fashion.

I am so far ahead with my writing that I am sorely tempted to bring my last choral piece (Peace, My Heart) out of its temporary exile in order to get it finished well before deadline, but I know that I need to let it sit alone for a week or so before I go back to it. In the early stage of a new piece, in this case Ar Hyd y Nos, it can be very tempting to find something else to do, especially when trying to find the best solution from a number of different choices. Once a work is on the correct track everything becomes much more clear, but it is important to work through this stage as effectively as possible, so I know that I have to stick with it.

Work-wise I have nothing of note to do over the next couple of days, thanks to the January lull, but the arrival of a few more spits and spots of employment here and there mean that my finances are not as dire as they seemed only a couple of days ago. In my new and hopefully permanent approach to work I am seeing these days not merely as a chance to take some time off, but as an opportunity to work ahead, cleanly and effectively, and still have time for a couple of sessions of Carcassonne or Dominion or whatever. If this enthusiasm lasts until the end of the month I might even manage to get my tax return in early as well. Then I really will know whether I am on the financial straight and narrow.