Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Venite adoremus!

This morning as part of the Tridentine Mass I go to, we got to sing "Adeste Fideles." That is a song I love. We learned it in Latin in high school and I never thought that knowledge would come in handy but it has!

Venite Adoremus, Dominum! They have those words carved over the doors of St. Gerard's, my old church. Dear St. Gerard's, so beautiful and huge and dignified.

Pavarotti sings it as it should be sung. Haha... I love how at the end of the video they freeze it with his mouth still open.

It is interesting how people have never been able quite to figure out the history of "Adeste Fideles." This site says that the words and the music were by this John Francis Wade, a Catholic Englishman born in 1711. If that is true he did a great job. What a wonderful hymn.

That is a helpful Web site but whoever writes it should learn how to use apostrophes. I am just saying. When I am reading something and the person does not know "its" from "it's" I tend to doubt that person's authority on anything.

Back to "Adeste" after my sermon. I am in the mood for tenors so here is the great John McCormack.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wassail, wassail

Somewhere the other day I read that a lot of the old Christmas carols were originally medieval and Renaissance dancing songs.

"Deck the Halls" was one. I looked it up. You can kind of hear it in how James Taylor plays it!

 I knew from personal experience in the medieval society, once upon a time, that "Ding Dong Merrily on High" was another. We did a dance to that tune. It was this medieval circle dance.

It is fun to think about how many Christmas carols are old, old, old.

Old as Lou Rawls, as a rapper once said in a rap number. My brother George heard that lyric and we have never forgotten it. When something is really old we say it is old as Lou Rawls.

"O Come O Come Emmanuel" is of course old as Lou Rawls.

And of course such chestnuts roasting on an open fire as "In Dulci Jubilo," a personal favorite of mine, and "O Tannenbaum." These are ancient German carols, definitely old as Lou Rawls.

English carols old as Lou Rawls would probably include Renaissance-y songs like "The Boar's Head Carol," which I love, and "The Holly and the Ivy." Holly and ivy are ancient symbols of Christmas and that is where we get the red and green. And of course there are the obvious old as Lou Rawls carols, like "The Coventry Carol." And another song I love, "Here We Come A Wassail-ing." I love any song about wassail.

Christmas carols are like candy bar brands.

Old as Lou Rawls!

Monday, December 17, 2012

A Beethoven fantasy

Yesterday we spoke of Charles Schulz and Beethoven. Since then there have been new developments.

No. 1, there is a God, and He posted "Copying Beethoven" on YouTube. That is a bad title, I have to say that. "Copying Beethoven." There has to be a better title out there. But oh well.

 I have only watched the first five minutes but I have to say, it looks kind of cool.

Outrageous, sure, there's certainly a lot of poetic license, kind of like "Mozart's Sister," but still.

Who wouldn't have wanted to have assisted Beethoven?

And who wouldn't want to have been there, you know, the first time they played the Ninth Symphony? That is what someone wrote in a comment on YouTube. He wrote: "I would give everything I have if only I could have been there."

Passion like that, it makes YouTube interesting.

Anyway, what a fantasy. I will watch it as soon as I have time.

Hahahaa... as soon as I have time.

That's a fantasy!

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Beethoven's birthday

The world did not observe Beethoven's birthday to my satisfaction.

I turned on the radio and there was not Beethoven playing.


Remember when Schroeder, in "Peanuts," would observe Beethoven's birthday?

You can read a nerdy article about that here. Kind of torques me off because here I am trying to scrounge enough time to finish my book and here is this guy who gets a year -- a year! -- to, ahem, research the "Peanuts" comic strips that mentioned Beethoven. I quote:

"Mr. Meredith spent more than a year identifying the compositions, gathering recordings and reinterpreting the strips; Jane O’Cain, the museum’s curator, researched (Charles) Schulz’s artistic process and music-listening habits."

Ay yi yi, why can't I be a museum curator?

Whoever this Mr. Meredith is, when a friend called him and asked him to lunch during the course of the year he researched and reinterpreted the strips, I do not think he had to say, "Uh, I'm afraid not, I'm busy."

That is one leisurely life!

How did I get onto this? I was going to talk about Beethoven's birthday.

I have never seen this movie but this looks like fun.

Friday, December 14, 2012

French twist

Today I was on Spotify putting together a Christmas playlist. I did not spend much time on it, just tossed together some Christmas songs I found appealing. But it made me think about something.

It made me realize that I am probably, zut alors, a little bit, just a tiny bit, French.

Because all my carols were German and French. And, I mean, my ancestors were German, just look at me. But I realized I had grown up with some of these French carols in addition to the German carols. The Italian carols, the Polish carols, I know nothing of them. It is as if there is this firewall. But part of my family comes from Elsass and so I know my German carols and my French carols.

French carols I love:

This video is also fun.

And my father always loved this one:

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Getting a handle on Handel

This evening my mom and I were lying around listening to Handel's "Messiah." And I got to thinking..

We like "Messiah" so much. But then again, we have heard it a thousand times.

Handel was a really good composer. A few weeks ago I was driving around listening to "Julius Caesar" ("Giulio Cesare," so cool, in Italian) and it did not matter I had no idea about the music or what was going on, I enjoyed listening to it. Every tune seemed to grab me.

So. The big question is: If I went around for a year listening to "Judas Maccabaeus," say ...

 ...and it got so I could sing the airs from "Judas Maccabaeus" the same way I can sing "Oh Thou That Tellest Good Tidings To Zion," would I wind up loving it as much as I love "Messiah"?

I might have to try and find out.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Memories of Dave Brubeck

I am sad that Dave Brubeck died. As I wrote on our Gusto Blog, he had a long and full life. But still.

I hate to lose these old guys!

On the Gusto Blog I wrote about how Brubeck wrote a Mass and performed it at our St. Joseph's University Church here in Buffalo. Brubeck started out as a Methodist, he told me, but he became a Catholic and he was into his faith. I liked that about him. That, and "In Your Own Sweet Way."

There was another story that I told to a friend on Facebook. It was too delicate to put on the Gusto Blog.

That was that I shook Brubeck's hand once and almost broke it!

He said "Ow."

I was so embarrassed!

What if I had broken Brubeck? It could have easily happened. My husband always tells me I have this loud German voice and strong German handshake.

By the way, not that anyone asked me, but Dec. 5 was also the day that Mozart died.

It is a day of musical death!

Let us hope things are better tomorrow.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The mellow cello fellow

Sitting around working on my Pennario project I got to thinking: God love Gregor Piatigorsky. He never took a bad picture!

Pennario loved him and his charm comes through in the pictures.

That profile.

Here Piatigorsky is with his wife Jacqueline whom Pennario adored.

Here is Piatigorsky making Heifetz smile.

Another of the two of them. On the left is the tremendous famous picture of Piatigorsky with that marvelous collar.

Classic, classic shot.

And one more smoky pic, obviously taken from the same photo session.

When I am satisfied with my Pennario book I want to come out with a book of photos of Piatigorsky.

Somebody has to!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Beyond 'Do, Re, Mi'

A couple more scales and then we move on to other things, I promise. But the subject of scales is just so cool. It is fun just fooling around with them in your head.

Howard says that scales are a hallmark of Richard Rodgers, pictured above. And sure enough!

In "The Blue Room" that scale shows up in the bridge: "We will drive on, keep alive on, just nothing but kisses..."

That is at about :42 in this stingy little preview video.

It is no accident Richard Rodgers wrote "Do Re Mi."

But "Do Re Mi" is another story.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Upscale playing

Yesterday we talked about scales going down and today is all about scales going up.

Mozart is our guy! He liked his ascending scales, did Mozart.

In the 22nd Piano Concerto you can hear that good old scale in the first movement, right about 4:34. It is a marvelous theme he makes out of those plain old eight notes.

Just singing the scale to myself I came up with another one, right off the bat. Mozart again! This time it is the great A Major Concerto, No. 23.

Wow, this music is full of scales. There are showers of them at 18:20 -- we are dealing with the last movement here. But the instance I was thinking of is at 19:45. Of course you can find them other places too, when the themes repeat.

This is a magical movement! The 23rd is definitely in the running for my favorite Mozart concerto. Rudolf Buchbinder could not look more square! But I like how he plays, strong and straightforward.

As are the scales.

Strong and straightforward!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Drama on a grand scale

Last night I saw "The Nutcracker" at Shea's. And at intermission, emboldened by a glass of wine, I mentioned to my friends how cool it is that the Grand Pas De Deux near the end of "The Nutcracker" is really just a simple scale, going down.

It is fun to play the game of what themes are just a scale. It is something you can think about while you are falling asleep.

I have two good examples of ascending scale but Blogger is defective when it comes to posting videos and I do not, alas, have all day. So they will have to wait till tomorrow. For now I have another descending scale. It is funny how a simple descending scale, nothing added, can sound so different from the pas de deux from "The Nutcracker."

It is "Joy to the World"!

There you go, Tchaikovsky and Handel.

A master knows how to work that scale!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Bargain Christmas bells

Last week I scored this great 3-record Christmas vinyl set. It is "The Bells of Bethlehem"!

Looking at it now on eBay I see a set priced at $15. Vinyl is generally not valuable and Christmas vinyl is even less so. You can pretty much get Christmas records for a song which is one of the many things I love about them.

Amazon has "The Bells of Bethlehem" starting at $4.10.

I beat that price. Mine cost me 25 cents. But "The Bells of Bethlehem" is a bargain at any price.

You get to hear a genuine 1950s Mass at Christ's birthplace in Bethlehem. The music is good but I love just hearing the Latin prayers in between.

Then you get Erich Kunz singing "O Tannenbaum" and "Joseph Lieber Joseph Mein" and other goodies. You know me, I like Erich Kunz.

There are a bunch of French carols, and "The Holly and the Ivy," sung by the Deller Consort. A goodly group of singers!

It is too early to be listening to this but I admit it, I have already been doing some guilty binge-ing on this set. Then on Thanksgiving my nieces and nephews were playing it. They are fascinated with vinyl.

As am I!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A new handle on Handel

Looking around for "Oh Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion," I found this Mozart's arrangement of "Messiah."

It is in German so you get thee up into the hohen Bergen instead of the high mountains. Also a lot of "auf." That is a great German word, "auf."

You also get these flutes. People try to tell you Mozart didn't like the flute, but he really likes his flutes in this case!

A couple of years ago when I studied this Mozart "Messiah" more closely, I was struck by the oomph of this chorus in this particular segment. This performance is good but the one I have on disc somewhere, it just about flies off the tracks.

A great thing to listen to and it is tremendously entertaining, the thought of Mozart improving on Handel. I wanted to post the Handel version just for comparison's sake but Blogger has this thing going on where it vaporizes your videos, so it is a big production, trying to post another video.

So just listen to this one.


Monday, November 19, 2012

Arise, go forth and conquer

 Unlike a lot of people I could name, I am not off this week.

And so, a song for a Monday morning... Schubert's "Der Schiffer." It needs no translation, really. It is about a guy on a ship who thrives on fighting the storm.

Up above it is sung by Gerald Finley, who is quickly becoming one of my top guys in the opera department. I am pounding out a review of his new disc of Schumann's "Dichterliebe" for work. Did I say pounding out? I meant working on. In any case, it got me thinking how great he is. He has that powerful voice and also he just has such feeling and humanity. Not every singer has that.

He sang that "Meistersinger" I loved, that had me up all night, remember? I laugh thinking of that because I remember at first I was miserable because I couldn't sleep and then watching that opera under those unusual circumstances became one of my most treasured musical memories.

Anyway, Schubert's "Der Schiffer." Finley goofs the lyrics in the first verse -- it's fun to hear him covering for himself. So we will cover for our own goofs as we enter another work week, rendered all the more hectic because of the holiday. No stopping for regrets.

A good song for a Monday morning!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Music from out of this world

My friend Ward asked on my last post that we listen to this chant from Chanticleer.

It is beautiful!

This is Palestrina's treatment of the chant that inspired Beethoven.

Or did it? I have been so scattered and I have so much work to do that I have trouble focusing. Even tonight I cannot listen properly. I have too much stuff to do for the office in the morning. The melody Palestrina uses does not exactly sound like Beethoven's melody. But still, this is fascinating.

Palestrina's music is always so beautiful. I always remember the first time I heard it, on the radio one night in the car. This is Palestrina, I thought. This has to be.

I love listening to Gregorian chant this time of year, when we are plunged into darkness every day at 5.

It is this mysterious and mystical time of year and the music goes with it so well. You think of things spiritual and timeless.

Thank you, Ward, for this chant!

Thank you Chanticleer!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Beethoven's new chant

Here is the new Pange Lingua arrangement by Beethoven that turned up recently.

Wow, it is slow!

That was my first thought. It depends on where you go to church, of course, but in my experience Gregorian chant is never this slow. I read somewhere, in an explanation of this arrangement, that chant was slower in Beethoven's day.

Everything was probably slower in Beethoven's day!

Anyway, to my ears, about the time you get to, oh, 1:20, it sounds pretty dirge-like.

I will have to listen to it multiple times so I adjust.

I will have to go back in time!

Speaking of which, you may read about the Pange Lingua here.

This little bit o' Beethoven would be more accurately described as Tantum Ergo Sacramentum which is part of the Pange Lingua.

Compare and contrast!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The man with the mustache

Today I was listening to Chanticleer, the men's chorus from the Bay Area, and I was thinking: Although I have seen this group live several times, I could not tell you what songs I heard.

But oh, I remember that one singer's mustache.

That I do remember!

And I was thinking, what brand recognition. You think of this chorus, Chanticleer, and you go, "Oh, I remember that group. That's the group with the guy with the Salvador Dali mustache."

In the video up above you see the stash at about 1:39.

And here at about 2:52. I am jumping the gun on Christmas!

Wow, they can sound like a chorus of girls, you know? Once in the paper I speculated on how they did that. I thought the bass voices held their thunder so the higher voices could soar. Sometimes I wonder if they overdo that effect.

Well, if they do, they have that one mustache, to compensate.

It is magnificent!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Baumgartner and Weingartner

As I wrote yesterday, the music nerd's life, it ain't no good life, but it's my life.

I cannot hear about daredevil Felix Baumgartner without thinking of the conductor Felix Weingartner.

Hahaha... today I am the only person Googling Felix Weingartner and not Felix Baumgartner! Baumgartner is tree gardener and Weingartner is wine, or I guess grape, gardener. This is my week for translating German names.

I notice that Felix Baumgartner was born in Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart. I caught myself talking about that at breakfast.

As I go through my life in free fall....

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Star of the sea

On my Pennario Web log today please join me in in exploring the cemetery at Our Lady Help of Christians! As I was writing about it I got thinking about Our Lady Help of Christians, the Star of the Sea.

The chapel was built by an immigrant whose ship was going down. He prayed to Our Lady the Star of the Sea, and she saved the ship, so it could be brought to Ireland and repaired. I personally would never have gotten on that ship again, but I guess he did, and he made it to Buffalo, where he built this beautiful chapel.

Above is "Ave Maris Stella," or "Hail Star of the Sea," by the medieval composer Guillaume Dufay. A group called Pomerium performs. I do not know what I like better, the words or the images.


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Valentina's Day

There is this powerhouse Ukrainian-born pianist, Valentina Lisitsa. This morning Howard and I were watching her play Liszt's "La Campanella." One of Howard's friends emailed him the clip.

That is some beautiful Liszt! And her hands and her manner are so relaxed. Darn, I am trying and trying to post it. Something is screwy this morning with my computer and it will not allow me to. Anyway, look it up on YouTube, Lisitsa, La Campanella.

We then watched Beethoven's "Appassionata." Pause for appreciation of my life: not only listening to the "Appassionata" before I have had my second cup of coffee, but having a husband who will listen to it too and discuss it.

I am one lucky gal!

Howard liked Lisitsa's "Appassionata" more than I did. While I admired the music's excitement I thought Lisitsa was kind of chilly and rough with it and could have done more to bring out the piece's beauties and subtleties. But I have big feelings for this music and a lot of requirements and many of these are very personal, so keep that in mind.

Howard said it was all worth it for the last 30 seconds of the last movement. My computer does seem to be letting me post this.

Of course, as he said, "The software is unbelievable."

Beethoven builds in a lot of thrill!

It is fun to read about Valentina Lisitsa. The names are wonderful. Valentina is a beautiful name, and Lisitsa sounds like Liszt. Her husband has the incredible name of Alexei Kuznetsoff. Together they entered the Murray Dranoff Two-Piano Competition. That is another great name, Dranoff.

This was an inspiring way to start the day!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Drama in the organ loft

At church today, in the organ loft, the wheels came off the choir. We were just goofing everything and I was not much help. I was at the Philharmonic last night and did not get much sleep and had no voice, zut alors.

After this "Ave Maria" we were supposed to be singing, it was awful.

"It sounds as if we never went over this!" Josephine hissed to us. Josephine is the organist.

We all just kind of stood there shamefully. I was especially embarrassed because I had gotten to church late, 8:35 a.m. instead of 8:25. And I had not gone over it!

But there was one moment when we had it together and that was "Concordi Laetitia."

I pick this chant up pretty easily. It is a hymn to the Blessed Mother but everyone knows it as "The Friendly Beasts."

Here is this children's choir from Philadelphia singing it.

When Christmas gets here and you sing, with gusto, "The Friendly Beasts," it is fun to know that the tune goes back so many hundreds of years. To the 13th century, I do believe.

Here is Garth Brooks. Hit it, Garth!

And a hilarious version featuring Brian Stokes Mitchell and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. The imitiation of the animals is great.

It took us hundreds of years to get this song exactly right.

Great things take time!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The hipster

Our friend Ari went up to Toronto last night to hear the jazz singer Mark Murphy and he took pictures.

Above is a blurry shot of him with Mark.

And here is a shot of the man himself taken by Ari in Toronto.

We have a kind of history with Mark Murphy. I always liked his records a lot and then he came to Buffalo a few years ago as a sort of artist in residence at Buffalo State College. Yikes, this must be 10 years ago we are talking about.

I got to go interview him and I remember just taking a moment to enjoy walking across campus with Mark Murphy, just the two of us, talking. Mark Murphy was wearing flip-flops. It was a beautiful day. Well, this is all right, I remember thinking. This is as things should be.

A few years ago, now this is maybe only 7 years we are talking, Mark Murphy gave a master class at my house. The word got around town and one singer showed up whom I did not even know. I opened the door and she was standing there and she shyly said: "I heard Mark Murphy was here giving a master class." And I said, "Come in."

That was my friend Laurie Bordonaro! Well, she is my friend now. We still laugh about that, how she came into the kitchen and I made her tea and she was nervous about singing for Mark Murphy.

Recently we were concerned for Mark Murphy's health but now I understand he is much better, that there was a problem with a medication or something. That is excellent news.

Here is some vintage hipster Mark Murphy blues. I really wanted his song "Miss You Mr. Mercer" but I could not find that on YouTube. But this is fun.

Hit it, Mr. Murphy!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Bravo, Roberto!

Gounod's "Faust" has been on my mind thanks to a production this weekend by Buffalo Opera Unlimited that I went to last night.

While studying up on the opera I fell in love with the performance above by Roberto Alagna.

Every once in a while you see something that just makes you think, "That's how it's done."

Alagna steps into that role of the young Faust so beautifully. His lovestruck smiles, the joy and wonder in his voice ... he really makes you love that character and wish the best for him.

He is so natural, so unhurried. Plus, just the quality of his voice, how controlled he is, the subtleties of his dynamics, the smooth bel canto tone.

Then at the end of the aria, how he puts on his top hat and strikes that pose, and the crowd goes wild.


Thursday, September 13, 2012


The cutting-edge music that heralded designer Jason Wu's new spring/summer fashion collection?

By the way let me say that I love it that it is time for the spring/summer clothes. That always gives me a boost this time of year.

But anyway. The music that touched off the show was, according to the Wall Street Journal ...

Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata.

You do not get to hear it in the video up above -- it features kind of edgy string music -- but the show began at 20 minutes past one in the afternoon (it was supposed to have begun at one) with, the Journal reported, Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata "pulsing from above."

Haha! You do not think of this music as "pulsing" exactly but you never know.

Beethoven would have gotten a kick out of this, being a fashion plate when he was younger. Edmund Morris talks about that in his book on Beethoven, about how Beethoven was concerned about clothes in his younger years. I liked that. You think of Mozart being concerned about clothes but not Beethoven.

Beethoven was also vain about his teeth. I think about that. I guess he was always wiping at them with a handkerchief which is what you did back then. When I was younger, that is. I think he gave that up when he got older. Not me! I am more vain about my teeth now than I was when I was in my 20s.

We listen and reflect and enjoy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Arthur Rubinstein speaks

 This is an interview I found with Arthur Rubinstein when he was 90. It is Arthur, not Artur! I have a letter signed by him and he wrote Arthur.

There is a lot of blah-blah-blah but the interview is cool.

"He has demonstrated a prodigious appetite for living.. for food... for friends... for family..."

That is for sure! Although having read "My Young Years" and "My Many Years," with all their sexcapades, I do not know if his family was always all that happy with him.

Look at those massive doors Rubinstein pushes open at about 1:13.

Look how dapper Rubinstein looks, how nicely he is dressed.

Leonard Pennario liked him. So that makes me like him. I have always liked Rubinstein anyway. You know what, this is funny, watching this interview, I kind of stop listening to him and just watch him. I like to look at him.

He brags about learning the Grieg concerto in three days. Pennario did that too. Well, Pennario learned it in six days but then he was only 12.

It is interesting what Rubinstein says about how the Grieg concerto was looked down on when he was a boy. I am fascinated by how music goes in and out of style.

I love looking at the inside of Rubinstein's house. It looks like one of the antique shops on Hertel near my house.

Anyway, fascinating footage.

Here is a Rubinstein performance I love. It is of the Brahms Intermezzo in C. I have heard other pianists play it and it sounds wooden. He makes it breathe like a summer day. After hearing him play it I had to learn it.

Play it, Arthur!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Condi at the keyboard

Being an, ahem, Republican, I caught some coverage of the Republican convention. Come on, why can't I say I am a Republican? I understand that Van Cliburn is a Republican and no one says boo to him.

Anyway what I am getting at is, they had an interview with Condoleezza Rice and she said she was practicing the piano a lot recently.

I always liked that Condi Rice played piano.

Especially because she gets it. I remember a long time ago, they interviewed her in Vogue magazine. The interviewer said something about, "It must be relaxing to play the piano."

And I always recall her clipped response:

"Playing Beethoven and Brahms is not relaxing."

Amen to that! That told me everything I need to know.

Here is Miss Rice playing Dvorak with an ensemble:

You should see the snotty comments on YouTube: "She is not a musician." Etc. It is all political. She is darned good. Our country could hold our collective head up with pride that we had a Secretary of State who could hold her own in a Dvorak quintet.

Here Condi is playing Brahms for the Queen of England.

How cool it was for us, having a Secretary of State who could travel around and play chamber music.

We are not going to get lucky like that any time again soon.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We check in with Stephen Hough

At the same time we worry about our old pianists it is a good idea to keep tabs on the younger ones, the musicians who, God willing, will be among us for a long time.

With which, I checked in to see how Stephen Hough is doing.

It has been too long since we got to look in on Stephen Hough's Web log in the Telegraph. I love it but my life is in such terrible disarray that I do not check it as often as I would like. Especially if you are at work, there is nothing like checking Stephen Hough's Web log and there is Hough in his hat, and something interesting he has written, complete with, I don't know, 550 comments.

So, that having been said...

What has Mr. Hough been up to?

Click, click, click....


There is an exploration of Debussy and Ravel.


There is "Becoming Jewish and Staying Catholic."

Reminds me, I am not the only Papist in the music biz!

That post is about how the Catholic Church has its roots in Judaism. I have not waded through all the comments but I would love to weigh in, if no one else has, about how going to the Tridentine mass I am reminded every Sunday of this ancient connection. We have the Prayers at the Foot of the Altar, this prayer sequence before Mass. It is one of my favorite parts of the Mass. And the prayers come from the ancient psalms.

"I will go unto the altar of God, to God who gives joy to my youth."

And there is this beautiful line about "Why art thou sad, O my soul, and why dost thou disquiet me?"

This is all in Latin, of course. Well, actually, if you poked your head into the church, you would hear nothing. Everyone is just kneeling there and it is silent. But it is going on all the same. Catholicism, a most mysterious religion!

I love these particular prayers because it reminds you of how far back everything goes, that the events in the Gospels were predicted by the prophets centuries before. That it goes WAY back.

You do not get these reminders in the new Mass in the, ahem, vernacular. The Prayers at the Foot of the Altar were lopped off.

Anyway, I wish I could comment all this, but I cannot because I do not have a Telegraph password and I cannot imagine the red tape involved with trying to work all that out.

And so...

No comment.

No comment, no comment, no comment!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The heart of Texas

I am depressed hearing that Van Cliburn is sick.

It looks pretty bad. People do not say someone is resting comfortably unless things are bad.

What is with this summer? First Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and then Marvin Hamlisch and now we have Van Cliburn to worry about. Now this, as Howard would say.

That is a strange trio, you know? Fischer-Dieskau and Hamlisch and Cliburn. All of them are like Leonard Pennario in that there is no one else with their last name. All unique and quality musicians, too. And all of them people I love.

I have been affectionate toward Van Cliburn since I entered his amateur competition and was at his house. That beautiful house, overlooking Fort Worth, Texas. Who would ever have thought Texas would be a pilgrimage destination for pianists? He was so nice at the competition and a few years later we discussed the idea that I would return and make my comeback.

He is a darling man. Graceful and courteous and generous. I got the idea that a long time ago he gave up the idea of having his own life and just kind of resigned himself to belonging to everyone.

Perhaps he will get better. Sometimes people do.

I will say my prayers and hope.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hip to be square

We spend a lot of time in church reading square notes! That music up above is the Gloria we are currently attempting at Mass. It is from the 11th century which is one big reason I love it.

On the other hand it is kind of a challenge and I have reason to believe that we have room for improvement. The last few lines are in particular a minefield. I always think of skiing. Especially the concluding "Amen," it reminds me of an Olympic slalom, all the twists and turns. And in the medieval notation with those square notes it is not immediately clear. Wait till you get to that part in the video. You will see!

I have loved getting into the Tridentine mass over the last four years. For one thing the musical aspect fascinates me. Sometimes I close my eyes and imagine myself in the 12th century. I love the ancient-ness of the rite.

Also I wonder about its influence over the great masters. One of these days (yeah, when?) I would love to re-read the letters of the Mozart family and look for references to what Mass was like for them. Did they sing Gregorian chant or were they singing only what was for them contemporary arrangements?

I do remember from reading the letters years ago that there was some discussion even back then about what music was pushing the envelope at Mass. Mozart liked to push the envelope.

Haha, say envelope and Mass in the same sentence and all I can picture is the collection basket!

Anyway, I wonder if Mozart ever sang this Gloria that we are struggling with.

I also wonder what Beethoven's Mass-going experiences were like. There is that similarity between the "Ode to Joy" opening and the Asperges chant that precedes the mass.

You have to figure whatever church music these great masters grew up with, it had to be a gigantic influence on them. Good thing they didn't grow up in the 1970s ... ha ha ha ha ha ha.

La la la la la la la.

Sunday musings....

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Merci, Muriel

There is a designer named Muriel Grateau and I salute her for what she says in this morning's Wall Street Journal. That is Madame Grateau pictured above. She is very Parisian and uncompromising!

"I don't listen to music when I work," she says. "Listening to music is an occupation in itself, and it would distract me too much to have it in the background."

That is what I think too.

There is this casual attitude everywhere toward music. I think it comes from having it instantly accessible on the radio, in the car, in stores, wherever you go. Also pop music drives the trend. Just the words they use. Tunes. Shuffle. My little brother George was laughing at the Shuffle concept. He said, these songs are so silly, so disposable, that it doesn't matter which one you hear when.

Sometimes you get terribly weird situations!

Once I was in a meeting, outside the office. I had my notebook on my lap. Something was distracting me and I did not know what. Then I realized it was very faint music, almost inaudible, trickling from a radio.

The music was so soft I could not make it out. But something in my subconscious was sure making it out because I kept focusing on it, even while I was listening to people talking and writing in my notebook. Whatever this trickle was, my mind could not tune it out.

All of a sudden, like a ghost, the music took shape and I heard what it was.

It was the slow movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony!

Trickling, ignored, from this radio!

That is why I do not like things like this programmed for 10 a.m., you know? Because people who do not know the difference will subject you to it. It drives me crazy.

And yes, like my new friend Muriel, I generally cannot listen to it while I work because I just end up sitting there. And that's as it should be.

Music should be celebrated, not used as wallpaper.

Merci, Muriel!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

It takes pretty cats

 I was listening just now to this little piece by Aaron Jay Kernis. There is something pretty about it, you know?

Why can't more, ahem, modern music be pretty?

It could be more than that if it liked. And I am not saying all good music has to be pretty.

But you have to be able to write pretty before you can do anything else. Know the rules before you break them, as they used to say.

As Lester Young ...

... said, it takes pretty cats to make pretty music.

Nice job, Mr. Kernis.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

'Please, I don't want to be happy'

There is this charming new video I found with David Dubal talking. We have gotten to like David Dubal on this Web log whether or not we agree with him on every little thing. Most of the important things we agree on.

There is nothing like Dubal giving you a pep talk.

"Go buy that piano! Don't whine and say, I'm too old. And if you need to because everything is so instant, well, I would say take one year to learn one page of a Two-Part Invention. Then why not take a year for the second? Take a third year to put it together."

Then his voice drops as he imitates a complainer.

"What, three years to do one minute of music?"

"Yes, that's right, that what I ask, that's what I demand of you. Because I demand us to survive. I want us to survive. Let's take a look at the reality of the world. We are uncreative today but consciously, where we do live, that's where we do live, including that wonderfully unknown language which is so vital called the dream."

There is other stuff in here that made me laugh out loud. But I do not want to give it all away. For now, no Dubal video is complete without him running down modern technology and this one has a great sequence confronting that issue.

"There is no silence and every day they are inventing new machines to make us more anxious. We can't do without the computer or the iPhone." Then he goes on to add generously that  if used properly "they can be as helpful as any household appliance."

But then he attacks the notion that machines are always supposed to make us happy.

"Please, I don't want to be happy, I want to be Franz Schubert."

Hahahaa! I love that. I got to talk with David Dubal on the phone a few weeks ago, a startling episode in my life because I read all his books but just never imagined I would ever be talking with him. But that is a whole other story. Meanwhile, I keep thinking about what he said, what I wrote about that one time, about "Play the piano daily and stay sane."

I try my best to follow that advice!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beethoven in my purse

 I have been walking around with a movie in my purse. It has been there a week and today the library just sent me a notice it is overdue.

It is too bad I cannot get around to watching it! Because this movie looks really interesting.

It is Abel Gance's "Beethoven"!

Perhaps the title is "Un Grand Amour." It is one or the other.

To be honest I had never heard of Abel Gance and it is only this minute that I realize this is an old movie, from the 1930s. The movie jacket made it look modern and I was in a hurry as usual and just borrowed it without really looking at it. It did say Abel Gance was famous for a movie on Napoleon but still I did not think it was odd that I had not heard of this filmmaker. There are plenty of filmmakers I had not heard of.

The excerpt from above looks promising. And here is an excerpt from the movie I found just now on YouTube.

The comments on the site are full of arguments about the accuracy of the clip and debates about which organ they are filming and where. Oh well. Why should a Beethoven from the 1930s be less accurate than a Beethoven from now? In the 1930s they were closer to him time-wise. And closer to his era.

Has anyone out there in Blog-O-Land seen this film? I am going to renew it online from the library and try to carve out the time to see it.

Perhaps this will be my lucky week!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Everybody sing!

One more Salve Regina post because today is the Feast of the Assumption. And then we return to our regular programming, I promise.

There are these kind of flash mob, choreographed videos you find on YouTube and above is one from the Philippines, apparently from a prison, where people sing and dance to the "Sister Act" gospel version of "Hail, Holy Queen."

It is funny, they do this hymn in gospel style and it really does not change all that much. It's just at a brisk tempo. And I have sung it places where it has been sung just as fast.

One thing, though, this kind of dance video seems to be kicking all over the Internet. I must be the only person who does not understand them. I do not know where to begin to ask questions.

Is this really a prison?

Is it really in the Philippines?

If so, what do they do, get permission to do this song and dance?

They just suggest it, and get some kind of choreographer to put it all together, and then the prison head honcho says, "OK, sure, go ahead"?

Is that what happens?

This same gang, it seems, also did Michael Jackson's "Thriller." Someone wrote in the comments section: "They're having more fun than I'm having on the outside."

Whatever, at the end of their "Hail, Holy Queen,"  it is so sweet how they all get down on their knees.

I can't help thinking the Blessed Mother gets a kick out of it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Salve Regina 2

After that depressing peek yesterday into "Dialogues of the Carmelites" it is time to brighten things up with another "Salve Regina."

This is the tremendous old hymn that goes:

Hail holy Queen, enthroned above/O Maria!
Hail mother of mercy, and of love/O Maria!
Triumph all ye cherubim!
Sing with us, ye seraphim!
Heaven and earth resound the hymn!
Salve Regina!

Go on, sing it loud, sing it proud. You know you want to!

This is a rockin' old German hymn that I have loved since I was a kid. Everyone does. It is so much fun to sing. It is too high at the end for everyone but you get through it anyway.

And now what everyone is waiting for, the scene from "Sister Act:"

Monday, August 13, 2012

Enchanting chanting

Yesterday at church we soared like eagles and attempted the Gregorian "Salve Regina." Well, I attempted it. Everyone else knew it better than I did.

Which did not stop me from singing two lines pretty much solo. Ha, ha! We hit a part where the women were supposed to sing a line separately from the men and that is what I sang. Unfortunately none of the other women really stepped up to the plate and so there was my voice, echoing through the church.

That was a funny feeling!

Especially since I really did not know what I was doing.

I sang the lines: "O clement, o pia." That is "O clement, o loving." You can hear it from about 1:30 to about 1:38. Please note, this is not our performance! These are singers from somewhere else in this recording.

After Mass the organist, Josephine, and I got talking and we agreed it is too bad that the average person no longer knows any of these chants. I mean, I did not know the "Salve Regina." I know the prayer because it is my favorite prayer. I love the words: "Hail, holy Queen, mother of mercy, our life, our sweetness and our hope." But I did not know the chant melody.

Imagine back when people knew all these chants off the top of their heads. You would know when Mahler worked one of them into a symphony, when Verdi or Puccini or Respighi quoted one. You would recognize it. But alas, no more.

There are various versions of the "Salve Regina." It is a famous prayer.

There is one horrifying instance in opera where you hear it. At the end of Poulenc's "Dialogues of the Carmelites" the nuns sing the "Salve Regina" as they go to the guillotine one by one. This opera was unfortunately based on a true story. There were these nuns who were martyered in the French Revolution. Their feast day is July 17. What savage days. What an awful thing the French Revolution was. A terrible time and a big blot on the history of France if you ask me.

That is a Metropolitan Opera production with Jessye Norman as the Mother Superior. She has such presence. If I were, God forbid, in that situation, I would want Jessye Norman as my Mother Superior, I will tell you that right now.

Anyway. Not a good thing to watch before bed, you know?

I think I will go back to the chant.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

One singular, sensational talent

I feel bad about losing Marvin Hamlisch. I liked him. We got to know him here in Buffalo when he was our pops conductor, I mean the Principal Pops Conductor for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. He was funny and he was nice.

They let me write this tribute in the paper. For the front page! I do not write for the front page very often.

And then I wrote this post for the paper's Gusto Blog. It is 8 classic Marvin Hamlisch stories I chronicled in the paper over the years. There are others but you have only so much time in the day to dig them all up. Wow, these stories are funny. I mean what he said was funny. I was laughing through my grief as I put them together.

I have a few opinions on Marvin Hamlisch that might be considered controversial. One is that I think he is greater than Stephen Sondheim. Sondheim's songs get on my nerves. They are too often opaque and overwrought. Hamlisch's songs do not get on my nerves.

Hamlisch is also a better songwriter than Andrew Lloyd Webber. Look at "Don't Cry For Me, Argentina." The melody shoots its bolt at the beginning and then peters out. Whereas Hamlisch's "What I Did For Love" just builds gracefully and gradually.

"A Chorus Line" owes more to Marvin Hamlisch than to anyone else involved. If those songs had not been good, that show would have been nothing, I do declare.

There! I have had my say.

When I was at the radio station with Marvin Hamlisch on that day I wrote about in my story in The Buffalo News, I remember he was free with his opinions. He was preoccupied with the jazz the station was playing that day. He was critical. "Too much," he said. And: "Too busy."

He knew what was good.

I will miss him!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Thoughts for a hot night

Who can sleep on these still and torpid nights? Here is something to divert you.

Go and get a big wine or water goblet.

Fill it with ice cubes.

Then pour in white wine to cover. You will probably need about five tablespoons of white wine.

Next, sit down and click here.

It appears to be the complete correspondence between Johannes Brahms, pictured above, and his friend Elisabeth von Herzogenberg ...

.... and her husband, the composer Heinrich von Herzogenberg. It is luxuriantly long and you may enjoy browsing it as you sip your chilled and watery white wine.

Elisabeth von Herzogenberg was a close friend of Brahms when he was older, which is why we used a picture up above of the old and bearded Brahms rather than the Clint Eastwood Brahms pictures ...

... we usually like printing.

I remember reading in Jan Swafford's book about Brahms, which I allude to quite a bit, that she was effervescent and charming and she had a slight stoop which somehow rendered her even more charming. I hope I remember the part right about the stoop. I have two copies of that book and I cannot find either one, can you believe that?

The more you love a book the more likely you are to lose it or ruin it.

Another thing about Elisabeth von Herzogenberg: She kept a sharp and protective eye on Brahms' compositions and he took her opinion seriously. Which, I question why he did that. Elisabeth loved and championed the music of Heinrich von Herzogenberg, her husband ...

and, I mean, it is better than anything I have written, that is for sure, but much as I respect Heinrich von Herzogenberg (and love his look) his music is nothing next to Johannes Brahms. That makes me question her judgment.

One other thing about Elisabeth. I seem to remember although now I cannot check the book to make sure (But I think I remember it right):

I seem to recall that she got Brahms to destroy a song or two because she judged to be inferior the poets who had written the words.


As if every song Schubert wrote were written to a great poem. He wrote some of his best songs to very pedestrian poetry. So what?

So now we are missing these Brahms songs because their words were inferior.

Thanks a heap, Elisabeth von Herzogenberg!

Oh well.

Maybe I need another five tablespoons of white wine.

Who cares about the Brahms/Herzogenberg correspondence, anyway?

We are better off on a hot night just listening to this.

Friday, July 27, 2012

My favorite quote in music history

"Pepi and Beethoven, what's going to come of  it?"

That was Therese von Brunswick writing to her sister Charlotte. They are worried about that Beethoven and their sister Josephine, nicknamed "Pepi" and pictured above, are becoming an item. Beethoven is showing up at Josephine's house every day and staying for hours.

With which, another quote: "This is getting dangerous. Beethoven is here almost every day."

You may read of those quotes here although you may find them many places.

In Buffalo we have Brunswick Boulevard.

But anyway.

Pepi and Beethoven.

What's going to come of it?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The walking blues

While I was walking yesterday I thought about how I would get back into the, ahem, Music Critic Web log saddle. And I thought about how great musicians have found solace and inspiration in walking.

In a big biography of Robert Schumann by John Worthen I read that Schumann took long walks. When his daughter Marie was little she became his walking companion and they would walk for hours every day. Imagine being the grown-up Marie and remembering that years later, how you would walk with your father who was Robert Schumann. There is something so touching about that.

Beethoven's long walks were legendary, as illustrated by the picture up above. There are lots of other pictures like that! He used to look unkempt and was unmindful of the world around him and once he was detained because they thought he was a vagrant.

Johannes Brahms enjoyed the occasional Spaziergang which is German for walk.

What about T-Bone Walker?

Going back to the 19th century, I wonder if walking had something to do with inspiring some of the great music we have from that era. I wonder if that music could have come out of our current era, when it is so hard to find silence in which to concentrate.

Beethoven could walk down a road and not hear boom cars, you know?

Even when I go walking in Delaware Park, it is usually so noisy that I have to put in ear buds and listen to something just in defense.

Sometimes I would like to walk in silence but the silence that Schumann and Beethoven knew is just not there.

Hard luck, as the British would put it, for composers these days.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Great Cesare's ghost

 Normally I am not one for death anniversaries but just now here I was, reading up on Cesare Siepi, and I found he died on this day, just a couple of years ago.

It has been two years since Mr. Siepi left us!

Siepi was said to be one of the great Don Giovannis of his day and if there is something better that can be said about a person I know not what that could be.

Unless you say it, as one commenter did on the video:

"Si, el mejor Don Giovanni!"

He always performed with the greatest conductors and above he is singing the Champagne Aria with Wilhelm Furtwangler, with whom we have been earlier preoccupied.

In 1955 he made a great recording of "Don Giovanni" with Josef Krips that is still regarded as pretty much unsurpassed. The scene at the end where the Commandatore drags him down to hell is supposed to be more terrifying than in any other version EVER. I say "supposed to be" because although I have read all about it I am still waiting for the right time to listen to it. You cannot just listen to it any old day, you know? Someone might interrupt you.

Also I sort of wish I could watch the whole opera. It is cheating to watch that scene by itself.

As I wait for the correct moment, it is fun to watch him seducing poor little Zerlina in "La Ci Darem La Mano." Poor Zerlina, she does not stand a chance, who does?

It is strange to read in the British obituary that for his last 25 years, Cesare Siepi had lived a reclusive life in Atlanta, Ga. Twenty-five years is a long time for an opera singer to live a reclusive life.

It seems he had a long marriage, to Louellen Sibley, a dancer at the Met. My guess is she was the Georgia connection. That name Louellen, it sounds like a Southern belle.

Imagine being a dancer at the Met and picking up with Cesare Siepi. I wonder if it was like the video up above!

Whatever, it must have been fun.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A mini-masterpiece

I was thinking this summer I will allow myself the pleasure of exploring the music of Johannes Brahms. Brahms goes with summer, you know? And somehow in summer my schedule seems lighter even though it is not. Perhaps it is because the days are longer.

There is this song "Therese."

Now that I think of it again it might be a good song for people like our friend Solange who was commenting recently that she did not "get it" when it comes to Lieder. "Therese" is such a beautiful and sad song with its own miniature drama. It is about an older woman and a lovesick boy.

Ever since I heard it for the first time it has made me think of Strauss' "Der Rosenkavalier," about the Marschallin and Octavian. This is a recent song in my life, by the way. We do not go back to when I was a teenager. I loved it right away and right away it made me think of the Marschallin's music. The Marschallin almost quotes this melody, the woman's last few words.

Sure enough recently I read in some commentary someone saying that same thing. I think it was in the liner notes of this CD I was listening to. My CD features Angelika Kirchschlager and Graham Johnson and it is not on YouTube but here is Dorothea Roeschmann with Graham Johnson. Graham Johnson was the one affirming my Theresa/Marschallin connection. His liner notes are always wonderful so I feel honored that I had the same thought that he did.

Here is that song I love, "Therese."

Another version, this one an old one by the great Lotte Lehmann. She takes a different approach.

The song is brief so we may print the whole poem:

Du milchjunger Knabe, wie schaust du mich an? 
Was haben deine Augen für eine Frage getan! 
Alle Ratsherrn in der Stadt und alle Weisen der Welt 
Bleiben stumm auf die Frage, die deine Augen gestellt! 
Eine Meermuschel liegt auf dem Schrank meiner Bas': 
Da halte dein Ohr d'ran, dann hörst du etwas! 

You milk-young boy, why do you look at me so?
What a question your eyes have asked!

All the councilmen in the town and all the wisemen in the world
Would be struck dumb by the question that your eyes have posed!

A seashell lies upon my cousin's cupboard;
Press your ear to it; then you'll hear something!

I got that translation from The Lied, Art Song and Choral Text Archive. A most useful site!

This song comes from a set of six Brahms songs that I love. Another song from that set, "The Sleepwalker," we will have to explore that too at some point soon. Meanwhile there is a discussion of this set on Classical Archives that says that calls "Therese" uneven and says that Brahms was not altogether happy with it. I cannot believe he was not happy with it. I think it is wonderful.

Perhaps for Brahms it struck a  little too close to home.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Enchanting chanting

Just to immortalize my incompetence, this is the chant I goofed up today at mass.

I could not sleep last night and so I got in late to church. It was lucky I got there at all! I just rolled out of bed and went in. With bedhead! This was one of those mornings when you thank God for mantillas. But anyway I missed the choir rehearsal. And I goofed up this beautiful chant.

Today was the feast of the Precious Blood. You would not know that if you are not a Rad-Trad as I am. Rad-Trad stands for radical traditionalist.

When I wandered in -- late, as I said -- I saw the priest in his red vestments and I thought, this must be a big feast day. As indeed it was.

When I was a kid there was a Precious Blood school and we always giggled about it. Some kid you knew would be a student at Precious Blood. And the Christ the King -- that was the school I went to, Christ the King -- the Christ the King Badgers would play the basketball team from Precious Blood.

That and Fourteen Holy Helpers were the schools we giggled about.

We did not want to be irreverent! OK, well, sure, we did. But still, the names were just so awkward.

There is nothing awkward though about that chant. Aside from my uneducated singing today, of course.

That chant is beautiful!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

'Blossom Time'

One comment the other day got me thinking about "Blossom Time," this old movie about Schubert, which I had never seen. I picked up the vinyl record and it is somewhere, so that is a start.

I found this clip of Richard Tauber singing songs from the movie and I was thinking, that is funny, he looks a little like Schubert.

Now I find out he was cast as Schubert!

That is funny! Talk about making Schubert truly superhuman. Not only does he write this heart-stopping music but he has Richard Tauber's voice.

I mean, I do not think so.

Sorry Charlie.

When Schubert's songs were being performed and he was there, I believe he was playing the piano and not singing. There is that famous account of how he said the accompaniment to "Erlkonig" was too tough for him.

Richard Tauber was my father's favorite singer. He sent his record of Tauber's "Schoene Muellerin" back to the shop because it had a scratch or something, and he never got it back, and he never got over it. They sent him Heinrich Schlusnus' recording instead. I always remember my dad griping about that. Nothing against Schlusnus but he was not Tauber.

Here is Tauber singing "Horch, horch, die Lerch." That title is great in German, you know? Instead of  "Hark, hark, the lark" it is "Horch, horch, die Lerch." English and German are related in hilarious ways.

 I have Web-logged about Tauber before so now I should just stop.

Besides which people are telling me that all I do is write about dead people which is not good for ratings. I should stop writing about dead people and write about living people.


Hmmm. I cannot believe I cannot find that movie "Blossom Time" anywhere on YouTube. This is the closest I can come. I am not used to having to deny myself like this. I am accustomed to instant gratification. Remember the movie about Brahms and Schumann?

"Blossom Time" must be out there somewhere, free.

It must be!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cosima on Twitter

I get a kick out of @CosimaWagner on Twitter.

R reflects on his facial features, which he cannot reconcile with his talents.

R had a very bad night, horrid dreams, congestions, an error of diet no doubt the cause. He does not drink his waters.

The gray weather makes R indignant, and when he sends for champagne at lunch, he says all that is left to do is either drink or grumble.

In the evening R says, "I have drunk too much beer, and then I become quarrelsome and overly touchy, like R. Schumann."

By now you get the joke. So funny, in the midst of all the other flotsam and jetsam on Twitter  -- look, there I am all of a sudden sounding like R.

I like the Schumann reference. Once I read a really funny story about how Schumann and Wagner were out on a boat together with some friends. Schumann never said a word while Wagner talked all the time.

Later Schumann complained to a friend he could not get a word in edgewise.

And Wagner complained to a friend that Schumann never said a word and that it was exhausting to have to do all the talking, all the time.

Hahahahahaaa! We have this charming story through two different letters. They appeared, if I remember correctly, in a book called "Wagner Remembered."

Anyway, back to my Twitter friend, @CosimaWagner. She is pretty good about Tweeting. She weighs in about once a day which is more than I can say about most other people including myself.

I look forward to her next missive!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Stormy Monday

We have this discussion going on about Lieder, because my new friend Solange is saying that some of them make her sleepy. Such as Schubert's "Du Bist Die Ruh," which I posted the other day trying to convince her of the greatness of this art form.

I was thinking she might enjoy some Action Lieder. Where things happen!

Like this spooky number by Hugo Wolf, up above.

A tremendous morbid number for an onerous Monday morning!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Following the Lieder

A dear and interesting person named Solange writes on a post last week about Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau:

No question DFD had a wonderful voice, but frankly I just don't "get" lieder. They always seem to be mooning over love and swanning around forests and fields and whatnot and I just want to say, "Oh go soak your head." I remain to be convinced.

That is Solange pictured above, writing her opinion out carefully and sincerely for us to read! Solange, we thank you for your honesty, not to mention wit. You cracked me up!

I wrote something flip in reply like, "Oh, Solange, I will convince you." 

But now I am not sure how I can.

I just always loved Lieder. I liked Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau first, but then my brother Tony gave me this German lieder collection, the Seraphim Guide to German Lieder, that featured Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and I took to it right away, no matter who was singing them.

Thinking about it now, I think liking or not liking Lieder is like liking or not liking opera, or symphonies. I mean, you are going to like some better than others. But there is a world out there.

Yes, a lot of them are about love. That's life.

A lot of them are about forests and fields. That is a German thing, you are going to get that, yes.

But what is not to love?

For starters this tender song by Schubert:

Here it is sung beautifully by the Frenchman Gerard Souzay.

I regret that neither of these videos has a translation but the gist is, the singer is inviting the beloved in to see his heart and what lies inside it. He talks about opening the gate and shutting it quietly behind you. That is in the second verse.

It is flowery but you could say Shakespeare is flowery too. Love and tenderness and floweriness are a big part of being human.

Say I.

What say you, mysterious Solange out there in Blog-O-Land?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Living largo

 One thing I love about Facebook is how people share music. And every once in a while, not often but sometimes, something hits you at the right time.

Like this link shared by my friend Tim Ecker. Tim loves the era of the 78s and the old singers. It is funny because he is only something like 22.

I think on this Web log we have discussed how what you listen to first thing in the morning can color your whole day. Jussi Bjorling singing Handel's "Ombra mai fu" sure lends dignity to Monday and to the work week.

It is so Largo!

Listen to the first syllable, how his voice grows. He just lets the word billow out.

It must have felt great.

Dear Jussi, one of my favorite tenors. He radiates such exhilaration!

And George Frederick Handel, the voice of an era when music was music.

 Lending drama and dignity to this cloudy Monday.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

More Strauss by moonlight

I cannot stop observing Strauss' birthday. It is like in the Catholic Church when we have a big feast day, like Easter or Pentecost or Christmas, there is an Octave of it. It means that for a week you just stop and think about it.

Perhaps I will do that for Strauss.

There is this clip from "Rosenkavalier" I watched last night.

It has Anneliese Rothenberger as Sophie. I never knew what she looked like. Always loved her singing.

The great Erich Kunz has a cameo as Herr von Faninal, her father. Of course I am partial to him having the same name. But he is so charming. It is not just me. Look at the spin he puts on his one famous little line about "That's what they do, young people." He is so humorous, so human. Dear Uncle Erich. Superb.

And Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, the Marschallin, following him. So blindingly beautiful. And her famous "Ja, ja," in answer to Erich Kunz. So much hinges on those two syllables. They are a pivotal line in opera. A soprano can do so many things with them.

Look at how she gives Octavian a look on her way out. And how he responds to it. How he kisses her hand and does not want to let it go.

Something is going on there.

Then the beautiful ending. Warning: Watch this carefully because you should not watch it twice. This is already listening like a pig, just listening to the ending of this opera. You do not want to do that too often.


You know what, I am going to go out on a limb here and say: Greatest composer of the 20th century. I know he was born in the 1800s, and he wrote his first pieces in the 1800s. But in the 20th century I do not think anyone topped him. Not even Mahler, and trust me, I love Mahler like my life. I do not think anyone topped Strauss.

Strauss, who was not even out for greatness.

Terry Teachout at the Wall Street Journal did this column a while ago, that sometimes you are great by not trying to be great. And that people trying to be great failed, because they got too tangled up in their ambitions. I think I linked to it at the time.

Anyway there is something touching about Strauss and how he did not strive for greatness, and achieved it anyway. I read that he was confused by how Mahler always wanted to be redeemed. Strauss said something like, "When I sit down at my desk, I don't think about redemption. What did Mahler mean?"

Come to think of it, when it comes down to it, I do not know how you choose between those two men, those two artists. They are too different. It is the proverbial apples and oranges. And I love them both in different ways. I think they may have been made to go through history together. I think God might be looking down on them smiling.

But anyway, Richard Strauss.