Monday, August 18, 2014

Beethoven's brother

One of the great, great portraits in music history.

If you were going to come up with the opposite of Ludwig van Beethoven surely it would be Johann van Beethoven, pictured above.

What, me worry?

There is a book waiting to be written about great artists and their brothers and sisters. Because lightning does not often strike the same family twice.

An uncompromising portrait of Ludwig, so we may compare and contrast.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Sixtus and Sixtus

Today is the Feast of St. Sixtus. That is he pictured above! And if you think the name Sixtus is cool you should see it in Latin. He was an early pope who was martyred and his name appears in the Roman Canon heard in the Tridentine Mass I attend and it appears as Xysti.


In the objective case, is my guess. It has been a while since my high school Latin classes.

With the "X" version I have no problem but when I see it "Sixtus" with an "S,"  I am sorry, all I can think of is Sixtus Beckmesser from Wagner's "Die Meistersinger."

May we present a very cool clip featuring Sir Thomas Allen? He follows in the footsteps of great comic Sixtus Beckmessers including, I am proud to say, Erich Kunz. And our Walther von Stolzing, Ben Heppner, follows in the footsteps of great big Walther von Stolzings.

I love when Sachs is singing his song about Eve in Paradise, and Walther whispers to Eva: "Why is your name in his song?"

And she says: "I've heard it before. It's not about me."


And later the idea of Eve in Paradise will work its way into Walther's Prize Song.

Anyway. I hope St. Sixtus had a sense of humor and does not mind this. The fact that his name appears on a fine Trappist ale...

.... suggests that he can take a joke.

Take it, Sir Thomas:

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A view of the Schubertiade

A nice anonymous person leaving a comment hipped me to a story in the Guardian about the Schubertiade. Remember, the Schubertiade, who got in touch under byzantine circumstances.

The story is by Alan Rusbridger. My favorite part (I will cut and paste):

I get to meet the figure who has run the Schubertiade since its earliest days, Gerd Nachbauer. A neat, shy, reserved man of few words, he speaks in German, translated by his press officer – called Schubert, of course. (Editor's note: Hahahahahahaaaaaa!)

It's evident that he feels he has a settled, successful formula and has no plans to change very much at all. The audiences – mainly German-speaking, but with a significant British contingent – keep coming back. He can attract more or less any musical luminary in the world. He has no subsidy, the sums add up. Schubert sells.

Contemporary music? It's not really to the audience's taste, he explains patiently: that's not why they come. Is there anyone he hasn't been able to draw to Schwarzenberg, or its twin centre in Hohenems? He silently searches his mental Rolodex for any large musical fish he's failed to land. Eventually one word: "Pollini."

Who needs Pollini. Also, good on the Schubertiade for sticking with Schubert and with tradition. I did read elsewhere in the story that "anything goes" as far as the music, other than contemporary, I like to think. They have Britten and Ives. Nothing against them but I say stick with Schubert. It is the Schubertiade. Everyone is always trying to get you to change things, you know?

You are not going to do better than a song like this tiny exquisite gem.

Rusbridger should not have brought his wife to the Schubertiade. All she wants to do is make him go on hikes. It is interesting though what he writes, that the Schubertiade has a lot of British fans. It is mostly German and British.

I also like the observation:

"Schubert sells!"

Monday, August 4, 2014

Mozart's wedding anniversary

Side-effect No. 1,468 that comes from being a classical music nerd is that you wake up on August 4 and think: Something happened today.

Ah! Mozart got married.

It is Mozart's wedding anniversary! And it was in 1782. I do not have to look it up! You may do the math and figure out what anniversary it is and if we should be giving him presents of tin, copper, aluminum, whatever.

Mozart and Constanze Weber were married Aug. 4, 1782 in St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna.

Mozart was so thankful that the wedding came about that he wrote his Mass in C Minor, known as "The Great."

 He did not entirely finish it but I can tell you, that is what happens when you are writing something for yourself and God and you do not have a deadline.

Constanze is often vilified because everyone is a little in love with Mozart but it is turning out that she was a good woman and a fine wife for Mozart, if you ask me. Heck, he seems to have loved her and there is no evidence that he ran around.

After he died she married the Danish ambassador, Georg Niklaus von Nissen.

We all know what Wolfgang and Constanze Mozart looked like. So above is a picture of them played by Stephen Haggard and Victoria Hopper in the 1935 movie "Whom the Gods Love." I read that book when I was a kid. It was in the library. I wish I had kept it. I do not think I will ever see it again.

Happy anniversary, Mozarts!