Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Hugo Wolf's death notice, and other treasures

I found this fascinating site you can waste hours and hours with. It is Roger Gross, Ltd! This site can make your work day go whooosh, right down the tubes.

Mr. Gross sells all kinds of musical memorabilia: signed photos, autographed programs, announcements, whatever.

Up above is a signed picture of Leonard Pennario. Writing this book I would have thought I had every picture of him that existed but I do not have that one. I love it. Look at his hands. I loved his hands.

Here is a great oddment: Brahms' funeral notice.

An elaborate Benjamin Britten autograph is going for $2,500. Britten wrote out part of "Peter Grimes." There is a photo of Britten attached. Interesting, you do not often see pictures of Old Benjamin Britten. You usually see Young Benjamin Britten.

It is fun to look through the site and play "The Price is Right" with yourself. Whose autograph is more expensive, Pennario's or Istomin's? The answer is Pennario (she said with satisfaction).

I think at $175 this elegantly autographed picture of Franz Lehar is a bargain.

I mean, think, you routinely shell out $175 for your water bill, your car repair, etc., and never think anything of it. Instead you could be owning an autographed picture of Lehar! You could put it up on your wall and look at it over coffee in the morning.

Pennario's picture is also going for $175. It is funny that with all the ever-shifting laws of supply and demand they are at the exact same level.

Here is something atmospheric: Hugo Wolf's death notice. If you were going to have the death notice for anyone that would be up near the top of your list. Look at that picture of him.

The Hugo Wolf death notice would run you $875 but it is priceless in my opinion.

The Johannes Brahms death notice, by the way, is $2,500.

I wonder what is the most expensive item on this site. I will have to go back and look, when I am not in such a hurry. Oh, look! Here is a signature by Beethoven and this has to be a contender.

BEETHOVEN, Ludwig von- STUPENDOUS large pencil signature on the verso of a letter written by his attorney Dr. Johann Baptist von Bach "You can keep the bow for the coming half year Otherwise, one might raise some objections. From 1st October, 1818 until 1st April, 1819. Under Beethoven's signature is written in German "presented as a souvenir to Mrs. Elizabeth Schmetzer by A. Schindler (Beethoven's friend and biographer Frankfurt a. Main in March 1855". This is on a sheet matted together with a noble stone print of Beethoven. Overall 14 1/2 x 19" It is EXTREMELY SELDOM that full signatures of Beethoven appear.
........................................... $19,750

When Beethoven's friend Schindler was involved you never know. Still I would imagine this signature has been verified.

Fascinating stuff. Unbelievable.

We could do many follow-ups on this site and I am thinking we should.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

'A bon viveur of the best kind'

I do not like to write about the newly departed two days in a row. We do not want to become the Obituary Web Log. (Although that would have a neat acronym, OWL.)

But I learned of the passing of the great Haydn and Mozart scholar H.C. Robbins Landon and it hit me like a ton of bricks. That is H.C. Robbins Landon up above. I learned of his death from the critic Norman Lebrecht's Web log. Norman Lebrecht is now my Facebook friend, to my delight and astonishment! But that is a whole other story.

I paid tribute to H.C. Robbins Landon a while back on the other Web log. Wow, that was over a year ago. I guess I was ahead of the curve.

"He was a bon viveur of the best kind." That is what my new friend Norman Lebrecht wrote to me on Twitter.

That is a wonderful thing to say about someone!

I grew up reading H. C. Robbins Landon's books but I only learned recently what an entertaining character he was. As I wrote on the other Web log, I loved reading interviews with him. He attacked his scholarly pursuits with such gritty humor and passion.

When he was telling of releasing the first recording of Haydn's "The Creation," he recalls seeing: "hard-bitten New York s.o.b.'s with tears streaming down their faces."

He also talked about how he found Haydn manuscripts. He said you would see bats flying out of these old castles in Dracula country and those would be the places that had Haydn manuscripts in the attic.

I think about that whenever I think about bats. Which is often because my husband is refurbishing this old house across from Buffalo's City Hall, a house we call Big Blue...

... and very often we see bats orbiting it. So when you think about it, I think about H.C. Robbins Landon quite a bit.

Norman Lebrecht always has the dirt, which I love, and I had not realized what he writes on his Web log, that H.C. Robbins Landon supposedly used to frolic naked in his pool with research assistants and guests. How sensational! When I was in California with Leonard Pennario we were in the hot tub together but we were not naked.

Anyway, I never met H.C. Robbins Landon but I am going to miss him.

You have to believe that right now Haydn is shaking his hand.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Goodbye, gospel man

It is funny, the people who cross your path. During the months I was out in California with Leonard Pennario, we went to Steinway Day, a gathering of Steinway dealers and artists. We sat at this table that included another pianist. His name was Larry.

I could not remember Larry's last name and I had never heard of him. But everything turns out to be written down somewhere and just this morning I was working on this one chapter of my book that deals with this Steinway Day event, which was quite the experience. And I found an old account of it I had typed up when I was back in California. And there was Larry's last name, Dalton.

Hmmm, I thought. I should call him sometime. He was sitting next to me at that dinner and I remembered how nice he had been, also that he respected Pennario so much. And this was a memorable evening we had shared. It might be interesting to get in touch with him and see what he remembered of it, see what his impressions were of Pennario, this great pianist who was then in his last days.

So I got on the Internet and I looked up Larry Dalton.

And I find Larry Dalton is dead!

I could not believe it. He was not that old! The obituary gave his age as 63. I thought he was younger than that, even, but 63 is not old.

It happened earlier this year and I guess it was sudden. Someone wrote that he was in excellent shape and his death came with absolutely no notice.

Dalton lived in Tulsa, Okla. I remember that from the dinner. Larry and I did a lot of gabbing while Pennario sat there disapprovingly. Pennario wanted me to focus on him. Well, he knew I loved him.

At one point we had a situation because Dalton asked Pennario for an autograph and there was a mix-up. I got mixed up and told Pennario that Dalton's first name was Jerry. In any case the autograph was made out to Jerry and there was a Jerry across the table who pocketed it. And when I tried to get Pennario to write out another autograph to Larry, not Jerry, he got all snarky about it. Well, the story did end happily with Dalton getting an autograph. I wonder where it is now.

Googling Larry Dalton just now I still wrote "Jerry," not "Larry." I could not believe that. I will never learn!

Larry Dalton was a gospel pianist and he was renowned in his field. His Web site puts it that he is a pianist "whose roots go back to revival meetings in Big Stone Gap, Virginia." I have never heard of Big Stone Gap, Va., but if you are that kind of a pianist that sounds like a good place to be from, I will say that. By the way it is strange how people's Web sites go on forever. Larry Dalton was probably the only person who could get in to edit his Web site so he will live on there forever, always in the present tense.

There are all kinds of tributes, mostly on Christian music sites. Here is a memorial someone put up on YouTube to Larry Dalton. It is kind of touching. I am a trad Catholic and my personal tastes run more to Mozart and Gregorian Chant. But I respect our American gospel tradition. There is nothing else in the world like it.

Here is Dalton rocking out to "Summertime."

And there I was at Steinway Day, sitting between these two dead pianists.

Life is short, you know?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

No angel

Wow, I had not realized Max Reger was such a baddie! Yesterday our good friend Prof. G wrote in his own inimitable way:

He was a wild man who ate, drank, did drugs, and composed, all at a tornadic rate. His excesses killed him at 43. He also fought with everybody and wrote some very scatalogical letters. You might have cringed from him if you had encountered him. He pilloried critics in his violin sonata, Op. 72 by composing motifs using the notes AFFE (ape in German) and SC (E flat), H (B natural), AFFE (sheep in German). I mention all this because his life makes zippy reading and his behavior reflects pre Great War German neurotic hysteria.

Ay yi yi!

Well, one thing I can say for Max Reger, he would have liked me.

I just know it!

Even if I have never met that type, I know that type.

As far as whether Max Reger was a devout Catholic, now I will have to double check that. It was one of those zillions of things I read somewhere, or thought I read somewhere. So thank you, Professor, for calling me on that.

We have covered interesting ground this week! Uncovering the dirt on first Carl Maria von Weber and now Max Reger.

I just looked up Max Reger on the site Instant Encore. Poor Max Reger! He did not have one fan! So I signed up as his fan.

I also found the Max Reger Foundation of America. The president of the group has a marvelous name, Inky Song. And two of the directors are Gunther Schuller and Milton Babbitt. Milton Babbitt a biggie in the Max Reger Foundation, I do not know why that surprises me but it does.

The Max Reger Foundation has a link to Max Reger High School in Amberg, Germany. How about that?

Continuing to wander the Internet, I found Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Jorg Demus performing a beautiful little Christmas song, under two minutes long, by Max Reger. What a lovely slide show, with a translation and everything.

What gentle, softly rocking rhythm on the piano.

And that last line: "Ganz sanft im Schlaf behueten." The roses protect that Baby Jesus in his sleep. I love the last three notes the singer sings.

Hmmm. Maybe Max Reger was devout after all! It would be strange to think that someone who was not could write such heartfelt sacred music.

Oh, look! Under the comments on the video, the person who created the video says the same thing.

She writes: "Changed my mind about Max Reger."

One song can do that.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Max factor

Max Reger is a polarizing composer. You either love him or you hate him and there is nothing in between.

The other day I was talking with a co-worker and we realized we were on opposite sides of the Max Reger chasm. Guess what side I was on?

You're right! I am a Reger lover!

That is a picture of Max Reger up above. Here is another picture of him.

They look exactly alike! It is not like Mozart where no two pictures look alike. You would know Max Reger if you ran into him on the other end of the world, that is for sure. All the pictures of him look exactly alike.

I am not sure why people do not like Reger but I can guess at a few things. He wrote for the organ, a not-hot instrument. He was a devout Catholic, big yawn to everybody but me. He was, face it, not good-looking. And his tastes can be, shall we say it, overblown.

But I love him!

One piece by Reger I love is his set of variations on Mozart's A Major Piano Sonata. His tastes are just so far afield from Mozart's! By the end, the thing is all billowing and overblown but I am sorry, I love it. There is just something sincere about it that calls to me. Here is a bit of it played exquisitely on two pianos. Wow, that sounds like fun! Anyone want to play that with me?

The other day I was listening to Max Reger's Maria Wiegenlied, or Mary's Cradle Song. It is perfect for Christmas. Here it is in a solo version but I just heard it on a new CD from Oxford, the Magdalen College. They sing the song all in unison and it is haunting. I love the twists and turns the key takes. And I love its simplicity. It is hard to write something simple. That is true in writing, too. I always have to remind myself that just because it is simple does not mean it is not good.

I just think that is first rate. What a beautiful song. Here it is sung by Renee Fleming in the Mainz Cathedral.

Max Reger uses that German carol "Joseph, lieber Joseph Mein" that Brahms uses in his "Geistliches Wiegenlied," or sacred lullaby, for mezzo soprano, viola and piano.

It is interesting how that song's gently rocking melody inspired both Brahms and Reger.

Both masters, I say.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Lift every voice and kvetch

There are all these music popularity contests these days and here is a dandy. NPR has been announcing a contest for the 50 Greatest Voices of the Century.

Their graphics are great even if they are kind of a pain to navigate. They throw the nominated singers' pictures at you and when you move the cursor over them, they jump out at you, along with their names. Then you click on them and hear their voices!

But you know what, these popularity contests, you can always see where they are headed. Right away, alarm bells go off in my mind because the greatest singer of the last century, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, has not even been nominated.

Which, I could nominate him, but then I do not want to subject him to voting and defeat by someone like John Lennon, you know? I have not checked to see if John Lennon is on the list but he probably is. I mean, the audience for this contest is just not such that it would vote in Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf is on the list. That is something anyway. She is on there only as "Elisabeth" but once you click on her you see it is Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. And you hear a little of her singing Schubert's "An Die Musik."

But what about Richard Tauber?

Nope, not there.

Among living singers I would nominate Thomas Hampson but he is not there either. Booooo.

The W's are particularly discouraging. Not only is there no Fritz Wunderlich ...

... which, just listen to the first note of that link I just posted, and ask how you could exclude him, but there is no Dinah Washington. No Muddy Waters. No Howlin' Wolf! That is a picture of Howlin Wolf at the top of this post. I am sorry but he deserves to be on this list.

Rage, rage.

Popularity contests never wind up going the way I want them to.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The truth about Carl Maria von Weber

Since yesterday we have become the official clearinghouse for all things Carl Maria von Weber. Up above is a picture of a statue of Weber on the Theaterplatz in Dresden.

Yesterday our friend Prof. G wrote:

Apparently Weber, like JoAnn Falletta, played the guitar, along with being a superb conductor and pianist. He was also a good linguist. I imagine you know the story of how Beethoven once played host to Weber in a generous way...even though Weber was sometimes critical of Beethoven's music. It's interesting to hear the foreshadowing of Wagner's sound world in Weber's music, seeing as Weber died before Beethoven and Schubert.

He adds:

I wonder how many of the fashionable set who looked down on him and his profession ever did anything worth remembering. Hoch und Prosit to bohemians!

To which we say, Jawohl!

One day we will all go together to Ulrich's and toast Carl Maria von Weber. Ulrich's is a Buffalo tavern that goes back almost to Weber's time.

Our friend who calls himself Paladino writes:

Weber's father used some money loaned to Carl Maria to settle his own debts. Unfortunately, the money had been loaned to C.M. but the Duke of that province for the purchase of horses, and once the caper was discovered C.M. ended up borrowing more money and got in too deep. He was briefly imprisoned (at some Inn), after which the police showed up early one morning and escorted the entire family to the frontier with an order of banishment. C.M. eventually unloaded his errant father elsewhere and went on to greater things -- eventually. I read another accounting of this somewhere, which I will try to unearth in days ahead.

You do that, Paladino!

We would like that unearthed!

I unearthed an Internet profile of Weber that yielded several goodies.

This sentence for one thing:

Court life at Stuttgart was uncongenial to him, though he yielded to its temptations.

All kinds of images come to mind!

The profile also explains how Weber was related to Mozart's wife, Constanze Weber. They were first cousins! Weber's father, Franz Anton, was the brother of Fridolin Weber. He was Constanze's father. Also the father of Josepha, Aloysia and Sophie. Anyone who has ever read a book about Mozart knows who Fridolin Weber was.

So that is explained.

You know what I think is funny? When you are researching someone like Carl Maria von Weber and Google throws these sites at you saying:

"Carl Maria von Weber News. Carl Maria von Weber Updates. Carl Maria von Weber photos. Latest scoop on Carl Maria von Weber."

Ha, ha! They think they are the source of 19th century gossip. But they are not.

We are!

Here is a picture of Weber looking like quite the dandy.

And here is music from "Oberon" played on the banjo. There is a tremendous introduction:

Playing legitimate "Classical" music on the banjo was in vogue in the 1890's, and my great-grandfather Hezekiah Urastus Anderton was not immune to its influence. He was friendly with the composer's grandson, Zebulon Von Weber, who supplanted his income by making moonshine. Hezekiah was so grateful for this steady source of rotgut that he dedicated this film short to him.

Isn't that classic?

That guy was having his little joke, but I will say this, making moonshine does sound like a Weber thing to do.

Your source for 19th century gossip

It is great when you hear something about a musician that has not been written down. This week I am thinking of doing some name dropping and sharing some juicy tidbits I have picked up.

To start with it is not every day you get fresh gossip about the composer Carl Maria von Weber.

This happened last year or something. There is this orchestra at my church called the Camerata di Sant' Antonio. And its conductor is a young-ish gentleman named Christopher Weber.

I called Chris Weber, whom I did not know, to do a little interview with him for The Buffalo News. And because my church and the orchestra are so Italian, I joked with him about his German name.

And it turned out he was a relative of Carl Maria von Weber!

I liked him for not bringing that up right away. He did not mention it until it came up. And I liked him even more for telling me a little story.

He said that family stories had it that Carl Maria was kind of the black sheep. Being a musician was considered kind of disreputable and bohemian back then.

And when Carl Maria would come visit, a joke would go around the family. They would say to each other, "Carl Maria is coming into town. Someone go get him some clothes."


That is a picture above of Carl Maria von Weber, no doubt wearing clothes his family lent him when he was in town.

Fresh gossip about Carl Maria von Weber.

You heard it here!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ulysses, David Finckel and me

The stuff on the Internet! How does anyone get any work done?

Every day I feel like Ulysses who had his men strap him to the mast of the ship so he would not be able to heed the call of the Sirens.

I got that right, don't I? My knowledge of mythology is not great and most of it comes only from Schubert songs. People in Schubert's era, they knew their mythology. We are so stupid in comparison.

Speaking of which, back to me and the Internet. I have written before about the site Instant Encore and it is the source of constant distractions.

Because every day in my email it seems there will be something. If you sign up as a fan of someone on Instant Encore, the site lets you know whenever something new about that person is posted.

Now, I understand this can turn into a problem. So I have signed up as a fan of only three people. One is JoAnn Falletta, the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. Because of my job as Buffalo music critic I like to know what is going on with her and what people are saying about her. Another person I signed up as a fan for is Leonard Pennario, because he was my buddy. But that is not too much of a problem because I am the only person in the world writing about him. I cannot believe the site even lists him!

The third person I signed up for is Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau because he is a singer I am just crazy about. Now there is my problem.

You throw something at me about Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, I will stop in my tracks and look!

And they have a way of doing this so it is irresistible. You get this note in your box. "New Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau video! WATCH NOW." That "Watch now" and all you have to do is click. Who can resist? Not I.

Today it is this cellist, David Finckel, taking apart Fischer-Dieskau's vibrato. I am serious.

Finckel is this intense and intellectual guy sitting at the piano and he has this gizmo that measures sound vibrato. And he turns and says to you, "Today we take apart the vibrato of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau in the Schubert song, 'Du Bist Die Ruh.'"

Now he's got me! This is a song I love!

Finckel, sitting there cradling his cello, plays the first lines, which of course are silken, seductive, beautiful. He listens, blinking, watching the screen. And I guess you can see the sound waves vibrating. I don't know. I forgot to watch. All I was doing was listening. And, I have to say, enjoying the idea of someone else listening along with me. That never happens!

And the time is passing.

I see this is "Talk 19: 'Du Bist Die Ruh.'" Now I am thinking, what about the other 18 lectures? They must all be out there!

Woe is me!

That is a picture up above of the cellist David Finckel who sabotaged my morning. He is posing with the pianist Wu Han. They have recorded with violinist Philip Setzer. He is from the Emerson Quartet. And I love to talk about my worst interviews of all time. The great Mr. Setzer was one of the best. He probably does not remember it. But it was!

However that is another story for another day.

How am I ever going to get my work done?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Hark, the herald

Hilariously crabby British Web log post about carol singing.

These British!

They would not last two seconds on our side of the pond.

Imagine, griping because a group of carolers is at your door singing "Silent Night." Here in Buffalo all we get is canned Christmas pop because anything else is considered politically incorrect. We are allowed "Feliz Navidad" because that is in Spanish and anything in Spanish is allowed. But it is this annoying song. At least the arrangement you always hear is annoying.

Another thing, try to organize a group of carolers. Just try. Every once in a while I think about it, because in my North Buffalo neighborhood you actually do see carolers, once in a while. But I usually think about it in July, when I do not have to consider the logistics.

The thing is, you would have to write out every verse and print it out so everyone gets a copy. Because I do not think most people can get through even the first verse of most Christmas songs. You would think they would be able to get through one verse of "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" but trust me, they can not!

Someone in the Wall Street Journal worried years ago that America is letting go of its wide popular knowledge of, say, campfire songs and Stephen Foster songs. I think it is true of Christmas carols too. This is certainly a trend to track.

So I marvel at these Brits, sighing because the carolers who come to their door do not sing "Jesus Christ The Apple Tree."

Poor babies.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Mysterious Mr. Masselos

It is funny, all these pianists I have never heard of! I was looking up Leonard Pennario's debut in this book called "American Chronicle: Seven Decades in American Life." For some reason they have his debut in 1939 which, neither he nor I could make sense of that.

Well, what the heck, we are lucky he is in there at all. Normally no books ever mention him!

But here is what I am getting at. Also listed as debuting in 1939 is this pianist William Masselos.

I have never heard of him!

That is a picture of William Masselos up above. Not a bad-looking gentleman except I wish I could find other pictures so we could get a couple of perspectives. Anyone can look good for one photo anyway.

Oh, look, here is another picture of him as part of the Alan Hohvaness Artistic Circle. Our man Masselos is in the back row, third from right. If you look carefully you can also see Merce Cunningham and John Cage.

Wikipedia says Masselos studied with two disciples of Clara Schumann at New York's Institute for Musical Art, now the Juilliard School. I had not known that Juilliard used to be called the Institute for Musical Art. Now I do.

Also I like the word "disciples" used in that context. Disciples of Clara Schumann!

Masselos was known as a champion of contemporary music and premiered Charles Ives' First Piano Sonata and Aaron Copland's Fantasy.

And how about this, he was born in Niagara Falls! His parents moved him to Colorado when he was a baby, but still. It's funny, any entry you see on this guy, in any listing, there it is: Born in Niagara Falls, N.Y. He died in 1992.

Here is Masselos on the organ playing Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

Now that we know who he is.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Land of the Laendler

There is this great video of these people who learned to dance the Laendler by watching "The Sound of Music." And here they are dancing it at a wedding.

Everyone is applauding and laughing!

What a world, where you can get out there on the dance floor and bump and grind and no one thinks anything of it, but you dance the little Laendler and everyone screams with laughter! It sure makes you think, I will say that.

Mozart and Schubert used to write music for the Laendler. Mozart generally called his "German dances." People who love "The Sound of Music" should explore these other Laendler.

And, perhaps, learn to dance it themselves!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Will the real Von Trapp please stand up

This is off my usual beaten track, my usual beaten track being Schubert and Hugo Wolf, but I have been listening to the soundtrack to the Broadway musical "The Sound of Music." It has Mary Martin and Theodore Bikel. There is some kind of anniversary. Fifty years or something. Who knows.

What I am realizing is I prefer Theodore Bikel to Christopher Plummer as Captain von Trapp.

Theodore Bikel owns that role!

There he is up above, with Maria and all the Kinder. Here he is with Maria.

Theodore Bikel loved playing Captain von Trapp. That is, ahem, what he told me. I interviewed him a few years ago. The down side of that is, I was really stressed out and out of it because I had three interviews scheduled that day. The interview with Theodore Bikel was the third, and it was so disastrous that it had a lasting effect on me: I instituted the Theodore Bikel Rule which I still follow. It is not to schedule more than one interview in one day.

But Theodore Bikel was gracious to me in spite of me not having done my homework. Not exactly "nice," but gracious.

One thing he told me was that once when they were all out eating, Richard Rodgers kept getting up and bowing whenever the sound system played one of his songs. He says Rodgers was bowing every five minutes.

Another thing was that Rodgers came up with "Edelweiss" at the absolute last minute. He felt the show needed that one song to anchor it. I read that the same thing happened with Andrew Lloyd Webber and "Evita." He felt it needed that special something. So at the last minute he wrote "Don't Cry For Me Argentina."

These signature songs, they were last-minute additions!

Anyway, Theodore Bikel further confided to me that "Edelweiss" was kind of a tough thing for him to swallow because being Jewish he had no great love for Austria, because of Austria's history of anti-Semitism. So it was goofy that at the last minute Richard Rodgers comes running up to him with this song.

Now whenever I hear this "Edelweiss" I keep thinking of my little heart-to-heart with Theodore Bikel. I still have it on tape somewhere. He also told me though that even though he had reservations about things like "Edelweiss," he loved playing Captain von Trapp, and he would have liked to have played it in the movie. Especially as the role went to Christopher Plummer who was vocal about not liking it.

Christopher Plummer ...

... what a snippy pain!

Theodore Bikel told me that the trouble was, he and Mary Martin were a kind of matched set. She was too old to play Maria in the movie so they had to get a new Maria. And that meant he had to go too.

That is too bad! Theodore Bikel would have been better in the movie than Plummer as Captain von Trapp. Bikel had that adorable German accent. He once played a Nazi in "The African Queen." And he looks good, too. Admit it.

Theodore Bikel owned that role.

He and Mary Martin sang this song "An Ordinary Couple" which was not in the movie. In the movie, Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer sang "Something Good."

"Something Good" is better.

But still.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Richard Strauss - "Allerseelen"

Today is All Souls' Day so here is a song I have loved since I was a teenager. So romantic!

There is nothing like early Richard Strauss.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Hugo Wolf

Today I was ranging around the Internet and came upon this photo of a monument in Graz, Austria -- I think -- to Hugo Wolf.

Hugo Wolf is a composer I love.

And I love his name in Italian. It is Ugo Wolf!

That is how the Italian photographer identified his photograph of the Austrian monument to Wolf.

Wolf seems to get bashed a lot because people consider his songs boring, or tough to take. I disagree. Maybe I am made for this stuff. I like Chekhov plays too and everyone is always trying to tell me they are boring. I remember once watching "Uncle Vanya" and thinking, this could go on all night and I would love it, watching various scenes unfold, listening in on various conversations.

One song of Wolf I love is "Verschwiegene Liebe." That piano! Hypnotic! A beautiful video too, with translation. There is this girl who loves Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and she does beautiful videos to go with his performances.

Not that she loves Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau more than I do. No one loves Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau more than I do.

Where was I? Hugo Wolf.

Wolf wrote beautiful religious songs that put people from Scriptures into a context that is very loving and human. He was sometimes inspired by paintings and it was as if he could take a picture and put you in it, so you can feel what the people felt and sense what they sensed. One Wolf song I love and keep going back to over the years is "Nun Wandre, Maria," about Mary on the way to Bethlehem. You can feel how tired she and St. Joseph are getting. Not to mention the donkey she is riding on! I bet the donkey is getting pretty tired too.

I can't find that song on YouTube. I looked and looked. Alas!

So here is "Schlafendes Jesuskind," or "sleeping Christ child." I love how the song ends, with a kind of tender question.

Once I visited Hugo Wolf's grave in Vienna. It is surprisingly erotic. Most people do not warrant a gravestone like this! Here is a picture.

Hugo Wolf wrote a song called "Anakreon's Grave." In the song you kind of stumble on the grave, you wonder whose it is and oh, it is Anakreon's.

Winter, summer and fall the happy poet enjoyed
Now finally this stone protects him from winter.

That is my own translation of the last few lines. Isn't it beautiful? The poem is by Goethe. The author Robert Gutman used that quote to preface his biography of Mozart.

This is such a beautiful thing to be doing on an autumn night.

Listening to Hugo Wolf.