Monday, November 11, 2019

The Chopin etude in the snow

Looking out the front window tonight with all the snow, I thought of this video I made some years (!) ago, of Leonard Pennario playing Chopin's famous Etude in E.

I had just bought this antique stereo. It had come to me under unusual circumstances.. I had answered an ad from these people selling it, and I got lost on the way to their house. And when I was lost I thought: Wouldn't it be odd if they had a Pennario record on the stereo?

And sure enough, they did!

They had the Chopin waltzes and I recognized them when I walked in. I could not believe my ears. Well, I wrote about it on this blog so I should just link to it. But it is a memory I kind of like, you know? Walking in there hearing this waltz, thinking... I think it is.. I think it is ... it can't be... I think it is...

That was the way I was thinking then. He had just died and I was sad. And I had sort of been through the emotional wringer. You cannot just go through something like what I did and be yourself again immediately afterwards. It takes a while to come back

Anyway, so that is the stereo in the video. And I played Pennario's own copy of the record with this beautiful Chopin etude. It was the one and only video I ever put on YouTube. I will have to teach myself to do it all over again.

I loved the winter background in the video. The snow, the cars, the bus.

Looking in on it now I realize I have not been good at tracking the comments. One gentleman wrote, "One of the greatest performances ever." I agree!

Pennario is underrated. If you just listen, and forget about anything negative you might have heard, you hear it. Just the first notes of this Etude, the sound is different from anyone else I have ever heard. It has such sorrow and soul.

Got to get back to this project, you know? Gotta wind it up.

Maybe now I can.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Wolfgang Wagner's "Meistersinger"

The other day on my other Web log I mentioned that while I was getting my nerve up for my first art show, I listened to "Die Meistersinger."

This was the performance I tuned into!

Actually I watched it, too. I was putting things into frames and mats and stuff and I could kind of keep track of what was going on. Even though this performance had no subtitles.

This performance is in two parts and above is part 1. It is from Bayreuth. I will keep this quick because I do not want to go on for two hours the way I did the time I discussed that "Meistersinger" from Glyndebourne. I will just say there were certain things I loved about this production and one of these days I will let it eat my day again.

There is one thing about this production that was the Most Cool.

That is that at the end, in the final moments of the opera, a white-haired man reaches out humorously to both Beckmesser and Sachs and makes them shake hands.

That man, that peacemaker, was Richard Wagner's grandson, Wolfgang Wagner.

Here is Act 3 in case you need it.

It is the sweetest thing. One gentleman wrote in the comments: "There are so many things that make this the best Meistersinger I've ever heard and see, but the final handshake reconciliation is the final touch of human greatness. I'll always want to see that ending, and will see it whether it is present or not."


Not only that but Beckmesser is the great Hermann Prey. Let me tell you one thing, when he flubs the Prize Song, it does not sound that bad. Because Hermann Prey could sing the leaflet you get with your gas bill and you would sit there entranced because, I mean, he is Hermann Prey. Also Prey has great acting skills. He makes the part human. When the Master Singers parade in, you see him just looking kind of befuddled, following along. So funny.

Anyway, that is enchanting, just enchanting, that touch at the end. Wolfgang Wagner, it turns out, was in charge of this production.

And now I have new respect for him, because I loved this production.

That fat fanciful tree, perfect. The treehouse balcony beneath the leaves. In Act 2 when they get together for the song contest, I got tears in my eyes. Someone in the comments said, "It's like a painting come to life." I second that.

I love medieval productions of "Meistersinger." You can set it in the 19th century, maybe -- it seems that the Glyndebourne production did that, though I will have to check. But the thing is, "Meistersinger" is supposed to be about the 1500s. It is arranged around that. It has guilds and banners and references to Walther von der Vogelweide.

I saw one production -- well, I mean, the DVD was sent to me, I did not watch it -- but it was set in a boardroom with guys in suits. For the love of God as my friend Michelle would say.

Back to this Bayreuth performance. I liked Bernd Weikl as Sachs. He is on the young side for the part as was Gerald Finley in the British production I liked so well. Maybe I like my Hans Sachses on the young side.

This production is odd in that Walther von Stolzing is actually older than Sachs, I mean if you go by the singers. Walther von Stolzing is Siegfried Jerusalem who is a year or two older than Weikl.

That proves a bit problematic, I have to say. There is that sweet interlude when Eva comes in complaining to Sachs that her shoe pinches, and you kind of sense that she is a little sweet on him. Ordinarily you would figure, well, Walther is more her age. Not so in this case! So why does she not go for Sachs? That is the question!

Weikl's Sachs seems conflicted when he is handed the crown at the end. Indeed in real life he is conflicted. He wrote something recently saying "Meistersinger" should be banned in Germany. Again.. For the love of God as my friend Michelle would say.

One last thought and then I sit down and shut up as my dad always told me to.

Everyone who suggests that "Meistersinger" is anti-Semitic... what about that the big symbol of the Master Singers is the medal of King David? King David was Jewish. He wrote the psalms.


OK, enough for now.

Perhaps later I'll revisit this.