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.


Monday, June 11, 2012

Strauss by moonlight

I get in under the wire to observe Richard Strauss' birthday. Here I love Richard Strauss and write about him all the time and yet I am going around all day, la la la la la, without realizing June 11 is his birthday.

I just cannot retain a lot of people's birthdays. I have too much going on in my life.

Es tut mir leid, Herr Doktor Strauss. That means I am sorry. I remember that from German class.

That is a picture up above of Strauss that I love, where he has an Afro and looks like a rocker.

There is so much of Strauss I love. I love anything by Strauss. Here is the "Moonlight Music" from "Capriccio." I first heard this on piano because being a nerd when I was a teenager, I had a vinyl copy of "Kraemerspiegel," this song cycle it was originally from. I loved it right away without knowing this part of it was famous and he had reused it later. I used to play it all the time.

This is what I love about having a Web log! It is all about me!


 Here is a Richard Strauss song I love, "Heimliche Aufforderung." Only the Germans could come up with a romantic song like this, so sensual, so seductive, and call it "Heimliche Aufforderung." I am telling you.

No one can sing this song like Nicolai Gedda. This is the greatest.

"And weave the splendor of roses into your hair ... Oh, come, you wonderful, longed-for night!!"

I will never forget listening to that when I was 17.

Let's try Jonas Kaufmann.


Close ... but no cigar. You must be Nicolai Gedda to sing this song, I am sorry. Other singers need not apply.

The great, great Nicolai Gedda is still among us. He was born in 1925 and his birthday is a month from today.

We must remember to observe it! We should all get together and get Nicolai Gedda trending on Twitter and on Yahoo.

Meanwhile, a toast to Richard Strauss.

What smoldering music he wrote.

Friday, June 8, 2012

A trip back in time

Perhaps it was the post I wrote the other day but I have been hit with an attack of Victoriana.

I am sometimes amazed at the historic videos I find on YouTube. You get to see long-dead people walking around. And the films seem to get older and older. I am half expecting them one of these days to turn up rare footage of, oh, Franz Josef Haydn. It would be some brief, grainy thing you would study and study, freezing the frame, drinking it in, what the master is wearing, what his face looked like. Honest, it would not surprise me.

Meanwhile here is what I found and loved: Sir Edward Elgar conducting his "Pomp and Circumstance" March.

"Good morning, gentlemen. Very glad to see you all." That is what Elgar says after being helped off with his coat and ascending the podium.

So sweet, so understated, so British. So moving.

This big, white-haired man, with that stentorian mustache.

The performance is in honor of the opening in 1931 of EMI's Abbey Road studios in London.

The video unfortunately cuts out a lot of the march but you get to hear the stately main theme. I wrote a Web log post at work about it, how thrillingly Elgar handles it. We can learn a lot from what he does. It appears he continued, in his modest way, to revel in his beautiful, expansive creation. Bravo, Sir Edward!

That video led me to this one. Someone combined Elgar conducting his First Symphony with footage -- who knew it existed? -- of Queen Victoria's funeral in 1901.

Alas, I see you have to watch it on YouTube. Well, I would suggest watching it anyway. That is some mustache Elgar had when he was young! If you thought it was something in that video up above, it was nothing next to what it had been in earlier years.

The person who put that video together did a beautiful job. You see a bunch of still photographs, and then when the film footage starts it is as if the people come to life. Very moving, the crowds lining the streets, the horse-drawn hearse bearing Queen Victoria. A woman born in 1819.

Here is a mini-documentary that shows more film. They have a voice talking over it -- I prefer Elgar, you know? -- but still, fascinating.

 Watch for the kings on horseback following the hearse. You see the hearse and then a group of uniformed guards and then these two stately men riding side by side. They are the chief mourners. The one on the right is King Edward VII, Queen Victoria's son, and riding by his side is Kaiser Wilhelm II, Victoria's grandson.

These famous figures, long dead.

A different world!

Here is rare footage of the living Queen Victoria.

Watch for the reaction of the crowds. You can tell when the Queen is drawing near because they all start going crazy.


Tuesday, June 5, 2012

We are not amused

We sniff with disapproval on the music associated with Queen Elizabeth II's Jubilee.

Elton John and Paul McCartney, indeed.

We would prefer Sir Edward Elgar.

That music brings a bygone era to life, is what I love about it. What we love about it! Today I am using the royal We. You sense the fuss and excitement and then suddenly it broadens into this thrilling march.

There is also George Frederick Handel.

Or I will offer my earworm of today, "Jupiter" from Gustav Holst's "The Planets." I heard that at the Mass I went to Sunday and I could not get it out of my mind. They made the noble melody into a hymn which I sang with gusto. But after that I was stuck with it!

Listen to that. That sounds good, even after a couple of days on my brain. Why not use that instead of Paul McCartney and whoever?

Why didn't anyone call me?

The Royalty has their brand to consider.

Do not bow to the times!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The truth about Beethoven

I have been thinking about Mozart ever since yesterday when I wrote about the "Alleluia" from "Exsultate Jubilate" and also since I answered an impassioned comment on this post on Mozart some time ago.

I was thinking about Mozart and Beethoven.

You know what kills me, how experts are always telling us that Beethoven worshiped Handel, but make no mention of Mozart. Or how -- they love this -- Beethoven said that he considered Cherubini the greatest composer of the age.

Yeah, well, whatever.

I will tell you whom Beethoven considered the greatest composer of the age, beyond a doubt.


"But Mary, how do you know?"

Did he write about it? Not that I know of.

Did he come to me in a dream and whisper it to me as I lay sleeping?


But here is how I know.

Beethoven considered Mozart the greatest composer of his age because how could he not.

Beethoven was not stupid.

There was nobody who could half measure up to Mozart. Mozart's music must have haunted Beethoven every step of the way. It must have felt like chains on his ankles, this genius who had come before him. If he did not talk about it that could have been why. If you are a proud person, which Beethoven was, it is hard to talk about something that haunts you, that frightens you, that intimidates you and humbles you.

Imagine coming after Mozart. Someone who set the bar so incredibly high. And with no apparent effort. Someone who, your reason tells you, must come along only once in a million years. That piece my anonymous correspondent mentioned...

Or the 24th piano concerto, in C minor? We do have Beethoven's reaction to this piece on record. He said to a friend, "We will never be able to do anything like this."

Such a long shadow this little man cast. It can not have been easy for Beethoven.

But surely it was true.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Alleluia chorus

Today I had to go to a modern Mass which, I usually go to the Tridentine Mass, so that is a switch for me and a not welcome one. However, there was a nice touch: For the Alleluia before the Gospel, they used the melody from the Alleluia from Mozart's "Exsultate, Jubilate."

It is not as if you got to hear the whole thing, but still, that is music I love. I love just being reminded of it.

To be reminded of a time when the Catholic Church produced decent music!

Here is a performance of the "Alleluia" from a church in Colorado.

Wow, a Catholic church, too! It was Christmas Eve -- they say that in the description -- but still, to have an actual orchestra, and an orchestra that good! That orchestra sounds terrific to me.

Oh, but darned if, at the end of the performance, you do not get applause and whoops and all kinds of hooting and hollering. Catholics, we just cannot get it right as far as music goes. Just cannot. At the Mass I went to today, they kept stopping things to applaud. Plus, after Communion this kids' choir gets up with a guitar and some woman steps up to the mic and says, "Please be seated." This is the middle of Mass. Don't tell me what to do, you know?

Where was I? Oh yes, the Mozart "Alleluia."

Here is our Western New York diva Renee Fleming. She has the right masterful touch for this sort of thing and I like the joy she puts across. I can only imagine how it must feel to sing that last Alleluia, when it hits that high note. It must feel great!

You really owe it to yourself to hear the piece in context which is at the end of "Exsultate Jubilate," which Mozart wrote at 17. It's all on YouTube sung by various singers but meanwhile here is beautiful Kathleen Battle to get you started.

That gown!! Exquisite. If I believed in reincarnation I would wish to come back to earth as a wonderful soprano.

Singing Mozart's "Alleluia!"