Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Krips boys

Today my mom had a record sitting on her record player and it was Henry Krips.

I had never heard of Henry Krips!

He is the brother of Josef Krips who was the music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in the 1950s. Henry Krips wrote waltzes and that was what was on my mother's record.

"They're nice waltzes," my mom said. As if, they're just OK.

Henry Krips made his fortune in Australia, I have since read.

The picture on the Seraphim album above is kind of flattering but good looks do not appear to have run in that family. In the picture on the back cover Henry Krips does not look nearly as good.

Henry Krips' son Henry leads some band called Wagons. That is he in the middle.

He looks like a genial chap!

I have to say though: I do not know what Henry Krips would have thought of this...

... but being from Buffalo, where Josef Krips is a name still known around town, I know what Josef Krips would have thought of it.

Not very much.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sweet singing in the choir

As I was writing on my Leonard Pennario Web log, a friend and I were sitting around the other night drinking wine and listening to the Roger Wagner Chorale.

There is Richard Wagner and then there is Roger Wagner.

And about Roger Wagner, do not knock the Roger Wagner Chorale until you try it.

I am affectionate toward Capitol Records artists because of Leonard Pennario, who made history as the chief classical pianist for Capitol in the 1950s. When Christmas comes I love the lush Hollywood scorings by Carmen Dragon. On the Pennario Web log today I posted "Deck the Halls." As one comment writer on the video said, "The most bombastic version of this song you will ever hear."

Miraculously, just recently, some other Carmen Dragon fan out there besides me has been posting new --well, new to YouTube -- Carmen Dragon Christmas recordings. His "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" is a classic.

Bombastic, but at the same time tasteful. It will not irritate you. Carmen Dragon had that certain something.

So did Roger Wagner. His Roger Wagner Chorale's Christmas carols are so of their era, but they somehow stop short of becoming annoying. They are inventive and shining.

As luck would have it there are Roger Wagner Chorale Christmas songs also recently posted on YouTube.

This "O Tannenbaum" is sure to go viral!

I looked up Roger Wagner because I knew nothing about him other than that I have a picture of Pennario with him. Roger Wagner was from France. I did not know that! He seems to have been super-Catholic. The pope made him a Knight Commander in the Order of St. Gregory. Also the Roger Wagner Chorale made an important 1951 recording of a piece I love, Palestrina's "Pope Marcellus Mass."

He was also music director at a couple of Catholic churches. Imagine that, Roger Wagner as your music director! That sure does not happen much now. After Vatican II, Catholic church music fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down. Haha! That is a phrase of my ex-housemate Severin and I had to borrow it.

Roger Wagner's daughter Jeannine leads the current Roger Wagner Chorale.


That is so great.

Even with scratches and pops!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Live from the 9th century

It is Advent and so I am hitting the Gregorian chant. The "Rorate Caeli" is a chant I love.

It is haunting, that the Nativity was foretold in the strange and poetic words of Isaiah.

This is strange but I never thought about any of this before I started going to the Tridentine Mass ...

(cool video) ...

...just about, yikes, four years ago. How time flies! Now I have this new feeling about going through the seasons. I never knew the "Rorate Caeli" before but now when I hear it, it gives me the feeling of this time of year. Just like other chants and melodies now mean other times of year to me. Music I never knew before.

We also got to sing "O Come, O Come Emmanuel." I was thinking how old that song is! And most people know it. It is actually hard to find a version not sung by a rock or pop singer.

Most sources say that the hymn dates to the 12th century. However. However! The jacket to my record of the Roger Wagner Chorale says that hymn dates to the 9th century!

To the 800s! Imagine! You could go back in time to the year 850 and go into a cathedral and be able to sing "O Come O Come Emmanuel." "Veni Veni Emmanuel," that is. It is advised to learn the hymn in Latin because you never know when you might inadvertently wind up in the year 850.

So here, as a public service:

Veni, veni Emmanuel;
Captivum solve Israel,
Qui gemit in exilio,
Privatus Dei Filio.

Gaude! Gaude! Emmanuel,
Nascetur pro te, Israel!

Veni, veni, O Oriens;
Solare nos adveniens,
Noctis depelle nebulas,
Dirasque noctis tenebras.

Veni, Clavis Davidica!
Regna reclude caelica; 
Fac iter tutum superum,
Et claude vias inferum.

Veni, veni Adonai!
Qui populo in Sinai,
Legem dedisti vertice,
In maiestate gloriae.

If Mannheim Steamroller can do it so can we.

An incredible hymn. Timeless!

The Advent season has officially begun.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Turkey Day

It is great when you run into a piano performance that makes you laugh out loud. This is one.

Someone, I unfortunately forget who, posted this on Twitter a few weeks ago and I watched it and loved it and made Howard listen to it and Howard got a big kick out of it too.

"He's a monster," he said.

Fazil Say is a Turkish pianist and it is great how he views Mozart's "Turkish March" with such apparent affection. My friend the soprano Sebnem Mekinulov who has sung with the Turkish National Opera tells me that in Turkey there is also great affection for Mozart's "The Abduction From the Seraglio."

You would not think so, you know? Mozart's "Turkish" music reflected a craze in Germany at the time and politically correct people would say that this music reflected a Eurocentric view. But the Turks clearly know better.

Here is a fine glimpse of "The Abduction From the Seraglio" -- complete with translation -- from Turkey.

Ha, ha! I love at about 2:05 when the drama flies off the tracks. That is so Mozart! That sort of thing is always happening in "The Magic Flute."

Back to the Turkish March. I especially like what Fazil Say does with the bridge, how he turns it into something like the "Maple Leaf Rag." Listen to me, using jazz language. Bridge.

Lots of fun.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

'The saddest music ever written'

Author Thomas Larson calls the Barber Adagio the saddest music ever written. That is a big claim to make but heck, it never hurts to make big claims.

A Facebook friend posted it and I had to listen. Larson makes a good point that that the mood "is rarely found and held in a piece of music." "Held" being the relevant word here. It is true that Barber does not lift that mood. Or change it, for that matter. As Larson says, "It dies of its own exhaustion." Then he says something about how we feel glad that it does.

That is the truth!

It is interesting to me to hear about this piece. I have heard it a million times and actually I would be happy if I never heard it again, you know? I mean, I feel I know it now.

One thing, they say it is the quintessential music to play at funeral services. I have never heard it at a funeral.

On the site where I found this, the comments have turned into a discussion of the saddest rock songs ever written. In classical music I think the competition is much more keen. I nominate a lot of Schubert. Or the slow movement of Mozart's Clarinet Concerto.

With that music it is harder to say what gets you. To put your finger on it. This is funny, my mom and I were just talking about this piece last night and I was thinking how the clarinet was new when Mozart wrote this piece, and he sensed the instrument's bittersweet nature and built on that. He does the same thing in his Clarinet Quintet. Beyond that, I think the music creates a kind of conflict in you. It's sad but in a way it is not. So it pushes you and pulls you.

I mean, this song by Schubert ...

... it's a beautiful melody, a kind of sprightly piano part, a prettiness ... what is it?

Or a Chopin waltz, simply and beautifully played.

Pennario gets me thinking of this Schumann.

That piece kills me!

The slow movement of Mozart's "Jupiter" Symphony also kills me. Lots of Mahler ... and Richard Strauss ... and Beethoven ... and Brahms of course ... and Wagner, and even Bach. I could go on and on. We all could.

It is fun to think about the saddest music ever written!

Strange as it sounds.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

'They tend to freak out'

Rene Pape, pictured above in an undignified shot that I love, is this bass I like. And yesterday I was listening to his new Wagner CD. It has him singing "Wotan's Farewell" from "Die Walkure."

I can not listen to that music without thinking of two things I know I have written about. One was the time when my sister and I saw the opera in Toronto and both of us wept all through the last scene. We had a sodden Kleenex we were passing back and forth. It was pathetic! 

The other was when I tuned in to a radio broadcast. I had to pull over for the ending. This is not something you can drive through! I pulled over and I stayed there as the singers took their bows. And as he described the scene, the announcer began to weep. I will never forget that!

Anyway, yesterday I happened on this interview with Mr. Pape. Pape talks about his influences who include George London, Hans Hotter and Theo Adam. Hans Hotter is a singer I love.

Pape is asked if audiences for Wagner differ from other audiences.

"Wagner audiences are special, I think," he says. "It's their music -- but in a positive way. It's a passion. Everyone feels extended -- musically and physically -- after five hours or whatever of a Wagner performance. So people tend to -- how should I put it -- well, freak out at the end."


I guess I am Exhibit A!

The other main thing I got from that interview is that Pape has a dachshund named Wotan.


Monday, November 14, 2011

Stopping by woods on a snowy evening

On my Leonard Pennario Web log today I allowed myself to gloat over that Leonard was just included in the new Penguin Guide to the 1000 Finest Classical Recordings.

He was listed along with the cellist Gregor Piatigorsky for an album that, originally released on vinyl, looked like this:

My gloating led me to this site where someone is kind enough to share Piatigorsky's autobiography, "Cellist," chapter by chapter.

Unfortunately it does not seem to go up as far as the years when Piatigorsky and Pennario were collaborating, though I have not had time to take a good look. I also could not get the photo gallery to work.

But as I hopefully clicked on Chapter 30 I found this classic, pardon the expression, story:

Once, in a small town in Ontario, there was a party after the concert. I brought my cello and was still wearing full dress.

After being given a cooky and tea I apologetically told the hostess that I must leave soon because my train departed at an early hour the next day. She said that she would help me disappear unnoticed and that a car would be waiting for me in front of the house.

It was a dark and cold night, and the snow was deep. As I walked out of the house, I saw a car with motor running and, grateful for such promptness and consideration, I put my cello in the back seat and settled myself in the front next to the driver, who was a woman, she had a hat covering half of her face.

"It's so nice of you," I greeted her, but before I could tell her the name of my hotel the car sharply shot away and with unexpected gusto, rattling, and skidding sped along the deserted street. The car coughed and jerked and it moved away from the road and brushed into a snowbank, bounced off, and headed into another one. Stunned, I did not utter a word.

Soon there was no road at all, and I saw the car sliding downward toward a forest. My silent and unperturbed lady drove the car straight into the woods, where it finally stopped, sunk in the snow. Only then did I see the face of my driver. Really it was not a face, but a huge grin that covered everything that originally might have been a human face. Mute as before, she got out of the car and crawled under it.

Bewildered, but elegant in white tie and patent-leather shoes, I stood there not knowing what to do. After several vain attempts to communicate with her, I left the lady and my cello and rushed up the hill toward the road to look for help.

Soon I saw a truck coming. I stopped it and explained my predicament to the driver. He was willing to help and said that with his chains and other equipment he hoped that he could pull the car up onto the road. We gently dragged the woman out from under the car, and with her peacefully at my side the truck driver towed us to the hotel.

As I entered the lobby, I saw the anxious hostess and a number of her guests. I was told that the lady was a mental patient. Related to the hostess, she had attended the concert and came to the party with her nurse and doctor, from whom she managed to escape.

Since that ride I am much more careful, and only if a lady driver is pretty will I entrust myself into her care for a journey in the dark.

Ha, ha! I love musicians telling strange stories and that one is a gem. The way he tells it! The car shooting away with unexpected gusto. Then, how she calmly drives into the woods.

Dear Gregor Piatigorsky. No wonder Leonard loved him.

I am looking forward to combing through the rest of this book!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Finding Mozart wanting

It is fun once in a while to see something from a totally different perspective from yours.

I just had that experience with the church music of Mozart.

I love Mozart's church music. Just today I heard the famous Alleluia from "Exultate, Jubilate." I love that piece, the joyous faith that shines through it.

Once I wrote about how much I love the "Coronation" Mass.

And then of course, the Requiem.

Then I see this write-up in this Catholic encyclopedia site.

They generally praise Mozart, calling him one of the greatest geniuses of history. They sum up his childhood, his works, his operas. Then ...

Mozart's individuality was of an exquisitely delicate, tender, and noble character. His operas, "Don Juan", "The Magic Flute", "The Marriage of Figaro", "Cosi fan tutte", "La Clemenza di Tito", on account of their melodic beauty and truth of expression, have as strong a hold upon the affections of the musical public today as they did at the end of the eighteenth century. His instrumental works continue to delightmusicians the world over. As a composer for the Church, however, he does not, even artistically, reach the high level he maintained in other fields. In his day the music of the ChurchGregorian chant, was practically ignored in Germany, and sadly neglected in other countries. Mozart had but little knowledge of the masters of the sixteenth century, and consequently his style of writing for the Church could not have been influenced by them. The proper of the Mass, which brings singers and congregation in intimate touch with the liturgyof the particular day, was rarely sung. The fifteen masses, litanies, offertories, his great "Requiem", as well as many smaller settings, most of them written for soli, chorus, and orchestra, in the identical style of his secular works, do not reflect the spirit of the universal Church, but rather the subjective conception and mood of the composer and the Josephinist spirit of the age. What Mozart, with his Raphaelesque imagination and temperament, would have been for church music had he lived at a different time and in different surroundings, or risenabove his own, can easily be imagined.


(This is me again, though the type is still changed.)

It is funny, some talking head out there regretting that Mozart did not live up to his potential as a Catholic composer.

You have to respect someone coming from completely another viewpoint like that! Even though I do not quite agree with it. I have wondered about Gregorian chant, about how much Mozart and Beethoven knew of Gregorian chant. I have had my hunches but I have not had time to research it. Perhaps this answers that question!

But you know what, in light of the music I grew up with, it seems unfair to find Mozart's Church music wanting. To say it does not reflect the "Universal Church."

I suppose "Table of Plenty" reflects the Universal Church. Because we still hear that all the time, you know?

I grew up with "Blowin' in the Wind" played at Mass.

It is funny, no one criticizes this stuff, but oh, they throw the book at Mozart.