A Fan Writes.
I first encountered Stephen Johnson one happy afternoon several years ago. I was in a long queue waiting to dump my rubbish at the municipal tip. I switched on Radio 3 and someone was talking about Sibelius on a programme called ‘Discovering Music’. I was riveted and suddenly became anxious that I was getting near to the head of the queue and would soon have to break off listening. So I drove past the beckoning silos and re-joined the queue at the back, greatly relieved to discover that it was now very long and I could hear out the programme to the end. Since then, I have listened to Stephen many times, with enormous pleasure, and a deepened understanding of music.
What gripped me on that first encounter was an extraordinary combination of an intense and illuminating passion for the meaning and significance of the music, and a deep engagement with the craft and vision of the composer. For someone who is besotted by classical music but has little or no musicological knowledge, this was a revelation. I was transported into the heart of the music and the mind of the human being who created it – the problems he had created for himself, why he had done so and how he solved them. Listening to Stephen, I was reminded how in truly great music authenticity of emotion and technical brilliance are as inseparable as the recto and verso of a sheet of paper.
In the years since that first occasion, I have never missed an opportunity to listen to Stephen, a truly great communicator, who always adds something to the experience of listening even to works (such as Beethoven symphonies) with which I have known for half a century. "
Ray Tallis (Physician, clinical neuroscientist and philosopher)