Monday, April 29, 2013

Luisa, Luisa!

 Since my encounter with Luisa Tetrazzini I keep thinking of this Schubert song that ends with "Luisa."

It is "Der Jungling an der Quelle," or the Youth at the Brook. It is a song I love, about the young man who goes to the brook and sits and wants to forget all about this girl, this Luisa, who has done him wrong. But the leaves and the brook, all day they whisper her name. At the end of the song that is what you hear.

"Luisa! Luisa!"

The beautiful little sing-song-y song has been on my brain all day.

Now it can be on yours!

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Viva la diva

Only I could make Chicken Tetrazzini ... and then realize it was the death anniversary of Luisa Tetrazzini, the diva the dish was named after.

Seems like fate! A most fitting thing when it comes to opera.

See, she died April 28. I checked the calendar and sure enough.

Here is Luisa Tetrazzini singing with a recording of Caruso.

There is something so moving about that clip. Seeing her listening to Caruso singing ... then all of sudden makes up her mind to jump in.

She is said to have said in her later years: "I am old and fat but I am still Tetrazzini."

That is the spirit of a diva!

She lives on through her recordings, through her legend, and through Turkey Tetrazzini, or, in m case, Chicken Tetrazzini.

Try it and drink a toast to her.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Duke's flirtation

Speaking of the 10 Reasons to Play the Piano (actually more reasons, someone pointed out!) I got thinking about this thing I remembered reading that Duke Ellington had said. I actually got around to looking it up.

Here it is. I found it on Google Books. I found it in "Beyond Category: The Life and Genius of Duke Ellington," by John E. Hasse. I must have gotten this book out of the library back when I was 26 or 27 and in my Duke Ellington phase.

Whatever phase you are in the Duke knew what he was talking about!

"You know how it is," he said once. "You go home expecting to go right to bed. But then on the way, you go past the piano and there's a flirtation. It flirts with you. So you sit down and try a couple of chords and when you look up, it's 7 a.m."

I remembered that! The flirtation with the piano. That has stuck with me. When I pass my piano -- or try to walk past it -- I have often thought of what Duke Ellington said. This is funny, too: Just now, writing this up, I looked at Facebook and my friend Gary had written: "I could play the piano all night."

Another thing about the Duke, the book continues: "When he entered a room, he'd often head straight for the piano."

Wouldn't it be great to be in your living room and have Duke Ellington heading straight for your piano?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

'Silent Wagner'

 My friend Prof. G has hipped me to this movie on YouTube. It is from 1913 and it is called "Silent Wagner."

It was a biopic about Richard Wagner that came out in 1913! The movie was supposed to mark the centenary of his birth. As the professor points out, another way in which it was noteworthy was that it could well be the first full-length silent film. Everyone says that D.W. Griffiths' "Birth of a Nation" was the first long silent film but this one predates it by two years. It is 80 minutes long!

At first I thought it was a spoof. I was not watching closely and I was skipping around. And at the beginning they flash that silly quote by Mark Twain: "Wagner's music is really a lot better than it sounds," something like that. So that threw me off.

There are touches that are funny in this movie, I think. One scene in which Wagner is snubbed by Liszt made me laugh. You see Liszt going back to talking to his friends, kind of waving Wagner away.

From what I understand the filmmakers -- Carl Frohlich was the director -- wanted to use actual Wagner music for a soundtrack but the Wagner family wanted to charge too much. They engaged and Italian composer, Giuseppe Becce, and Becce happened to look like Wagner so wound up starring as him. I think Wagner would have gotten a kick out of that.

I am going to watch the whole movie and pronounce upon it. As the Prof. says, it is interesting in that it was made in an era when a lot of people still remembered Wagner and the world that Wagner knew. It gets points for authenticity because of that.

We must discuss. Meanwhile, watching the movie, I confess it is strange.

It is so silent!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

10 Excuses to Play the Piano

10 Excuses to play the piano:

1.) Someone is picking you up in five minutes.

2.) You are waiting for the oven to pre-heat.

3.) It's Saturday.

4.) It's Sunday, perfect for Mozart or Bach.

5.) You have bread dough rising, easily time for a Beethoven sonata.

6.) It's time to leave for work but ... the garbage men are blocking the driveway. You can play Mendelssohn's "Spring Song" while you wait for them to move on.

7.) What else do you do after dinner?

8.) What else do you do getting home from work?

9.) David Dubal says it keeps you sane.

10.) The weather outside is frightful, but the piano is so delightful.

11.) You will sip your beer/wine more slowly if you are playing a Chopin etude.

12.) The piano is there.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mass appeal

Unbelievably cool find on YouTube: an Easter Tridentine Mass narrated by Archbishop Fulton Sheen.

He explains all the chants and everything. And the vestments, and the rites. Everything. This was filmed in Chicago in 1941.

I was looking at the comments on this video a while ago, and someone wrote, "It kind of scares me."

It's supposed to, you know?

That organ you hear at about 6:12 could be an example of that. That is uncompromising organ playing!

Being a post-Vatican II baby I did not grow up with this Latin Tridentine Mass. But in high school I had to read James Joyce's "Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and I remember that book was shot through with all the old Catholic symbolism, and the deep beauty of the old Mass. It is amazing to think of the effect it must have had James Joyce for him to fill his book with it.

J.R.R. Tolkien was another writer who loved the Mass that Fulton Sheen is describing. I read how later in his life, when everything had gone to pot with guitars and everything, Tolkien couldn't stand it. He was a passionate Catholic and so he sweated it out, but every Sunday when he went to Mass, he insisted on making the responses in Latin, to his grandson's mortification. Haaahaa... my Uncle Bob used to do that too.

I think a lot remains to be written about the effect of the pre-Vatican II Mass on classical composers up through Gustav Mahler. It's funny, it is never written about. I think that is because most people don't know any more about the old rite, and most people in academia are not religious and don't care much about this kind of thing.

Anyway, the old Mass, with the old chants, and the old vestments, and the old ceremony. Fulton Sheen will walk you through it.