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!