Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A freebie to cheer us up

Deutsche Grammophon is paying tribute to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau by playing what appears to be a limitless selection of his songs on their little Internet radio.

I have not yet had the opportunity to explore this windfall in depth but it does look as if you get all of Schumann's "Dichterliebe," then all Schubert's "Die Schoene Muellerin," and then this gigantic set of Wolf's "Morike Lieder," and it goes from there. I do not want to see yet how many albums are included. I want to be surprised.

Tempting, you know, about midnight tonight, to settle in and sit for hours, listening and sipping whiskey.

At work tomorrow, or at school, as the case may be, someone will notice that you are out of it.

And you will truthfully explain, "I could not sleep because I was upset over losing Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau."

The DG tribute cheers me up a little because I have to say, the radio tributes to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau were not what I hoped and expected. I mean, for years, dreading his going, I at least assumed that when he did, the music world would grind to a halt. That did not happen. Even on Twitter, the classical music nerds I run with were mostly twittering about other things.

You would think the Schubert Club would have set up a 24-hour grief hot line where we could call and discuss our feelings. But no.

I guess people get forgotten, you know? People grow old, they fall off the merry-go-round. It makes me feel a little better about Leonard Pennario who, it used to confound me, how he could have fallen off the music world's radar. Now I see, it happens. I read somewhere that Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau himself worried about it, said he thought he was forgotten among the younger generations. Perhaps "worried" is not the right world. Probably knowing him as I do (listen to me!) he simply said it reflectively and philosophically.

Whatever, at least we get to listen to him on Deutsche Grammophon.

Deutsche Grammophon, danke!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bach on fire

No Pentecost Sunday is complete without listening to Johann Sebastian Bach's "O Ewiges Feuer, O Ursprung der Liebe." Oh everlasting fire, oh wellspring of love."

I am guessing at the "Ursprung" exact translation but you can sense it, you know? Ur = original, as in urtext. And "sprung."

Anyway, this cantata, I have loved it since I was a teenager. I got into Bach cantatas as a result of my love for Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and this cantata jumped out at me immediately. Seriously, I remember how I put the needle on the record and then I just stood back! It is a great chorus, with its fanfares and unexpected blasts and then the chorus' melody rising and dipping and swirling like a roller coaster.

Then the aria that follows is beautiful too. It is almost like a beautiful folk song in parts.

It is funny, I was reflecting at Mass today, most Catholics say "Holy Spirit" and I guess that is the best translation you can have for "Spiritus Sanctus." However when I was growing up the old people said "Holy Ghost." Which I love because it is close to the German "Heiliger Geist."

Whether you prefer "Holy Spirit" or "Holy Ghost," you owe it to yourself to make time in your day for Bach.

O Ewiges Feuer!

O Ursprung der Liebe!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Sweet 'Song of Love'

Should anyone else feel like frittering away a Saturday morning, join me in continuing to enjoy "Song of Love." Come on, do it. It is a holiday weekend.

I love this movie!!

There is this scene up above with Brahms and Clara Schumann. They are at the premiere of his First Symphony, and then they take off to have fun. And then there is this scene when Brahms proposes to Clara.

It is such a sad scene! I am not giving anything away. We all know how this story comes out.

These are good actors. And the Brahms actor he has dark hair, but otherwise he looks like Brahms. His face, his hair. Who is this guy? I keep looking up his name and forgetting it. Let me look it up again. ... Robert Walker. Wow, he died young, just 31 years old, a few years after this movie. No wonder I had not heard of him.

"Clara, you are endlessly young. What does age matter when the years don't touch you?"

Meanwhile there is this strolling violinist playing that beautiful Brahms waltz. You hear this waltz all the time but there is such deep love in it, especially that middle part.

Then the violinist changes his tune. Here is where I love YouTube. I love the comments. Somebody writes about this video: "I bet poor Brahms wanted to strangle that violinist..." Hahahaaa.

An odd thing, I am reading up on this Robert Walker. I wanted to know why he died so young. He starred in Hitchcock's "Strangers on a Train." I love old movies and have seen far more of them than the average person has, but I have big gaps in my knowledge, so I had not known that.

Walker was born in Utah and he was a devout Mormon. You do not hear of too many Mormon movie stars. His life seems to have been very unhappy. His parents divorced when he was little and then he was divorced from his first wife, Jennifer Jones, because she left him for David Selznick. I remember Leonard Pennario explaining that situation to me. He was friends with Jennifer Jones but he felt bad about the divorce because, he told me, she had two kids with her first husband. So this is the first husband, our Johannes Brahms in "Song of Love."

Speaking of this movie, Walker responded badly to the stresses in his life and and it seems he became an alcoholic with psychiatric disorders which is why he died so young.

Sounds a lot like Robert Schumann, you know?

Maybe he was miscast.

Anyway. Poor Brahms, poor Clara, poor Robert Schumann, poor Robert Walker. But a good movie all the same. So many roads to explore when it comes to "Song of Love." So many discussions! Also there is a lot of good piano in it which I understand was courtesy of Arthur Rubinstein.

The whole movie is up on YouTube in 10-minute segments.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Crowded house

 Very cool old movie I found myself watching late last night about Robert and Clara Schumann, and Johannes Brahms. I think the whole thing is up on YouTube but I have only watched some of it.

In this clip you can see the Schumanns approached by the 20-year-old Johannes Brahms who comes up and knocks on their door.

I think whoever that actor is who played Schumann sort of captured his oddness. The actor who plays Brahms, he really should have been blond. There is no excuse for having a dark-haired guy playing Brahms. But his face sort of looks like the pictures you see of Brahms when he was young and I like his kind of moon-faced expression. I think he gets the expressions right.

Katharine Hepburn as Clara, got to love it!

The movie has all these sort of sitcom scenes but something prevents it from becoming annoying. At least so far! As I say I have only watched a bit of it.

I get such a kick out of these old movies. I think a movie like this one -- "Song of Love" is the name of it, by the way -- works better in some ways than the movies about musicians we get now. The old movies were not trying so hard.

Also, "Song of Love" does not skimp on the music. They must have known that the audience back then, which was 1947, could sit through an uncut performance of a Schumann or Brahms piano piece. Movies now really goof with that. You get a movie that is supposed to be about a musician but the one thing the movie never does is let you listen, you know?

I cannot wait to watch the rest of this movie. It will be my reward at the end of the day.

I will share my thoughts, unsolicited.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Of ghosts and goodbyes

Who is knocking at my door?

German folk poetry is very haunted and weird. That is one reason the songs in "Des Knaben Wunderhorn" make such good songs.

Mahler's "Where the Beautiful Trumpets Sound" is one of the best. It is about a soldier who comes back from war but he is dead, he is a ghost.

German poetry was full of this kind of thing, with all their wars. That is why I am here! I had a great-grandfather in the Franco-Prussian War. My ancestors left Germany in the middle of the 19th century because of all the wars.

I love Mahler's song because he is so subtle about it. He does not hit you over the head that the soldier is a ghost. You have to pick it up when you hear the ghost's sing-songy song. It starts at 1:30. You know what, the first time I heard this, I was in the car, sitting at a stoplight. The voice of the ghost came on and I just started to cry. That was how directly it hit me. I did not even have the text to follow. You just knew it was something supernatural.

There is this song by Steeleye Span that I also think about, "The Wife of Usher's Well." The sons come back and they are dead.

Three sons came home to Usher's Well, their hats were made of bark....

These folk songs, there are so many ghosts in them and so many goodbyes.

We should return to this subject in November, when the nights are long.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Maurice Sendak and Mozart

I felt bad to hear of Maurice Sendak's death. I will miss him!

We were both Mozart fans.

Little has been said about this in the obituaries I have read. So it is up to me AS USUAL to point this out: Maurice Sendak loved Mozart and worked him into a few of his books. You had to look closely but he would be there.

Above is a Maurice Sendak nursery poster you can buy for $14.89 of Mozart walking in the garden. I know the portrait he modeled his Mozart off of. It is the Doris Stock portrait.

Not the most flattering picture! But more realistic than other Mozart portraits I have seen.

They put a Maurice Sendak picture of Mozart on the cover of an edition I had of the Wolfgang Hildesheimer biography.

And here is Sendak's picture of Mozart writing "The Magic Flute."

You can tell by this picture that Maurice was hard-core as far as being a Mozart fan. Those are the Three Boys approaching him. The Three Boys are out of the opera. And Sendak clearly knew that Mozart had written the opera in a little hut. They sort of confined him there so he would get it done.

There are other pictures of Mozart in Sendak's books. I cannot think which ones off the top of my head. You must seek them out. Sometimes you have to look carefully.

I hear that Mozart was Maurice Sendak's favorite composer and looking at the pictures, I believe it.

I hope that in the afterlife they get to meet!