Friday, October 28, 2011

Cold comfort

Buffalo got its first frost today. I saw it when I went out to get the papers.

Then when I went inside and opened the papers what did I read about was the Beethoven frost bed! That is it pictured above.

That is my life, a series of strange coincidences.

The frost bed is on display at Miami's Art Museum. What this one guy did was, he -- let me quote the Wall Street Journal.

"Inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven's death during a snowstorm in 1827, Florida-based artist Enrique Martinez Celays has created 'Schneebett' ('Snow-bed') -- a series of rooms, one of which, refrigerated, contains a bronze bed blanketed with a thick layer of frost.

"Outside 'Schneebett,' a video performance of one of Beethoven's late quartets is playing. Inside the initial corridor, a compression system and cooling tower buzz loudly. the sonic clash is intentional: 'Not only was Beethoven deaf toward the end of his life, but his head was ringing,' yet he composed until the end, says Mr. Martinez Celaya, who sculpts, paints, photographs and writes. The piece was first shown in 2004 in Berlin."

I like any sign that Beethoven is remembered or thought of -- any way, anytime, anywhere.

A Miami paper, or Web log, or something -- the reason I wonder is, it misspells "Nietzsche" -- interviews the artist here. I like the artist. He seems to like Beethoven.

I wonder if this installation made it into "Beethoven in America," this book I was just reading about. It tracks Beethoven's image in America. Of course, this work of art was in Berlin first.

I am looking at this book, which is by Michael Broyles.

"Most importantly, this book is addressed to anyone who wonders how this man reached the pinnacle of American cultural recognition and what it is exactly he represents," he writes.

It looks kind of interesting but it is not exactly addressed to me. I do not wonder about stuff like that, I have to say. I have never wondered how Beethoven reached the pinnacle of American cultural recognition and what it is exactly he represents.

I just listen to him.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Ivan the Terrible

On my other Web log today I got gabbing about this story by Turgenev, "The Song of Triumphant Love." I got thinking about it the other day because Halloween is coming up.

That story is the scariest story I think I have ever read.

You can read it in its entirety by clicking on the link. I recommend it! Well, maybe I should not recommend it.

As I wrote on my other Web log I was so scared that the night after I read it I could not sleep and was too scared even to get out of bed.

What got me reading that story was a CD that matched the story up with music that appeared to go with it, some of it by the singer and composer Pauline Viardot, who for a while was mixed up with Turgenev, although I have not gotten around to researching the details. Oh, look, the English critic Jessica Duchen has written a book apparently about the two of them, "Songs of Triumphant Love."

Maybe this is a romance I should read about!

I wonder if it was as frightening as that story!

This being the wonderful age of the Internet you can peek at excerpts of the book here. Now I am not sure if it is a novel set in the present day, affected somehow by, God forbid, that story "The Song of Triumphant Love." Whatever it is, it looks like an interesting project.

There is also a ballet, "The Song of Triumphant Love."

Not sure I would want to see it!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Benedict, Bruckner and beer

Remember a while ago when we talked about Pope Benedict XVI and his knowledge of music?

His Holiness is at it again!

Just the other day he listened to a performance of Beethoven's Ninth and Bruckner's "Te Deum." That is Bruckner up above in an old photograph I like. After listening to the piece Benedict got up and talked. Here is the transcript from the Vatican that was sent to me. I am lucky! Whenever anything happens in the Vatican someone buzzes me, I will have you know.

VATICAN CITY, 22 OCT 2011 (VIS) - This evening in the Vatican's Paul VI Hall, the Bavarian State Opera gave a concert in honour of Benedict XVI. The programme included the Ninth Symphony and the "Te Deum" by Anton Bruckner, played by the Bavarian State Orchestra and the "Audi Jugendchorakademie", conducted respectively by Kent Nagano and Martin Steidler.

At the end of the performance the Pope rose to thank the musicians. Listening to Bruckner's music, he said, "is like finding oneself in a great cathedral, surrounded by its imposing structures which arouse emotion and lift us to the heights. There is however an element that lies at the foundations of Bruckner's music, both the symphonic and the sacred: the simple, solid, genuine faith he conserved throughout his life".

"The great conductor Bruno Walter used to say that 'Mahler always sought after God, while Bruckner had found Him'. The symphony we have just heard has a very specific title: 'Dem lieben Gott' (To the Beloved God), almost as if he wished to dedicate and entrust the last and most mature fruit of his art to the One in Whom he had always believed, the One Who had become his only true interlocutor in the last stage of his life", the Holy Father said.

"Bruckner asked this beloved God to let him enter His mystery, ... to let him praise the Lord in heaven as he had on earth with his music. 'Te Deum laudamus, Te Dominum confitemur'; this great work we have just heard - written at one sitting then reworked over fifteen years as if reconsidering how better to thank and praise God - sums up the faith of this great musician", Pope Benedict concluded. "It is also a reminder for us to open our horizons and think of eternal life, not so as to escape the present, though burdened with problems and difficulties, but to experience it more intensely, bringing a little light, hope and love into the reality in which we live."

A pope who knows about Mahler and Bruckner and Bruno Walter, how cool is that?

I would love to sit down with him and music-minded friends like Norman Lebrecht and Prof. G who comments on this Web log, and others who care about this kind of thing. All of us with a couple of pitchers of beer and what a round table that would be.

Wow, I had better watch what I say. A long time ago, just fooling around on the Web log, I wrote that it would be fun to have a beer with Norman Lebrecht and lo and behold, it happened.

All of us having a beer with the Pope could happen!

Here is Bruckner's "Te Deum" with Jessye Norman and Samuel Ramey, the Chicago Symphony conducted by Daniel Barenboim.

Quite a piece. Bravo, performers!

Bravo, Pope Benedict!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The prince of passion

This morning on my way to church I tuned into the classical station, and this outrageous piece poured out at me. It was intriguing at first, and I liked it. Then this chorus came in, and it was just too much.

"Oh, no," I said. And I turned the radio off.

Then after a few minutes I turned it back on.

The piece was still iffy but then it seemed I was making out something I knew. It was the old "Crusader's Hymn," this German medieval hymn I know from church.

Anyone who will include the "Crusader's Hymn" in a piece gets my vote!

So I stayed tuned in. I got to church and I had to get out of the car but I waited through the piece's ending, which was outrageous. The whole piece was just, I don't know, overblown? But I liked it too. I was drawn to it.

What was it? I found out. It was "St. Elizabeth" by Franz Liszt.

Liszt!! Of course! Today is his 200th birthday.

There was supposed to be a Google Doodle. Here is a picture I found of it, complete with cool photograph of Liszt.

I guess they got it in Europe and I was kind of excited about seeing it today. But I guess it is not on our continent. That Google Doodle of Franz Liszt, they regulate it like crack cocaine over here. Boo to Google. That is what I wrote on Twitter. Booooo.

They have no problems making Doodles to honor the guy who made up the Muppets and this woman who drew pictures for Disney -- that one was the other day -- but today, Google is Liszt-less.


The "St. Elizabeth" -- or "St. Elisabeth," I guess it would be in German -- I found at least a piano version of it on YouTube. That sweet thrilling old hymn I love starts at 2:10.

I like Franz Liszt. I love how you can see him in photographs. The camera, reaching into the past, showing us what Liszt looked like!

And his music. It sounds as if he had a spirit too big for his body.

You can see why Wagner admired him. Here was a guy whose philosophy, it seems to me, could be summed up as "Why stop here?"

Wandering the 'Net I see that Alex Ross from The New Yorker has written a neat Web log post about Liszt's "Christus" and Wagner's "Parsifal." This is funny, you always think of Liszt as a lot older than Wagner because Wagner married Liszt's daughter, Cosima. But Liszt was born in 1811 and Wagner was born in 1813.

No celebration of the artistry of Franz Liszt is complete without Leonard Pennario.

Franz Liszt's birthday is a wonderful birthday to celebrate.

Doodle or no doodle.