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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Listening



If there were ever a Bravo TV show called Classical Music CD Hoarders I could easily be the star, only because lately I can't see my phone of the filthy, sticky, coffee ringed desktop for the piles of CD awaiting...what? This must be ADD-a compulsion to listen to all of these, and to keep adding to the pile through trips to a down the hall immense CD library. OK, its part of my job to be "up" on this stuff. It's actually part of my job to blog CD reviews as well, as to at least pretend to know what I'm talking about. In the past few days I've done some rather eclectic listening. It's true, I've had to multi -task, but here's a sample of today's listening:

Handel: FARAMONDO, an opera from 1738 that went unperformed for 260 years. Now its coming to Ohio state, with performances later this month. I'm putting it on the air May 15 and have been asked to do pre- curtain talks for it the OSU production, which will be the American staged premiere. I know Handel and I know some Handel operas, but only today I've made some headway to the first Act of Faramondo. Its a plot to defeat Jerry Springer, as is most baroque opera-with gorgeous music. Thank God-I guess-there's only one recording, and that only one year old-of music by Handel!-so I don't feel compelled to wade through comparisons.

Tchaikovsky: Symphony 4, Philadelphia Orchestra, cond. Riccardo Muti. I suggest you not read heavy-in all senses- biographies of Tchaikovsky on the StairMaster. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I have a Doctorate in Music and I'm supposed to be right at home with pages and pages (and pages) of musical analysis of ALL of this composer's music. (I skip over those pages, nearly all of them to get to the juicy personal bits, which are actually very depressing, all the while StairMaster-ing away) But the author went on so enthusiastically about the 4th symphony--I'm only up to 1877-that I wanted to hear it again. I'm glad I did.

Joseph Schwantner: AFTERTONES OF INFINITY JS is coming in to do some interviews. He's in town for the local premiere of his new work, Chasing the Light. I like what I've seen of him on youtube, and he sounds like a nice guy over the phone. No recording yet of Chasing the Light, so I went through what we have. Lots of flute. Not very good for me or my nerves, but Aftertone of Infinity makes we want to know more about Schwantner and his music.

Tchaikovsky: LITURGY OF ST JOHN CHRYSOSTOM seem above, with the reference to the StairMaster.

Wagner: DIE MEISTERSINGER. God forgive me, I just don't get it. I really try. I listened to Act I because I'm airing the whole opera-over TWO Saturdays, and its being performed in Cincinnati this summer. I'll be going. Why not? It's so seldom given and I need to get with the Wagner message (I love Lohengrin, Parsifal and Tannhauser)

BENITA VALENTE, soprano, Schubert, Handel, Obradors, Brahms, Wolf. Gorgeous. Wonderful. Perfect. Beautiful. Thank God.

STILL ON THE PILE

Rimsky-Korsakov: The Tsar's Bride...I want to get into some Russian opera. Tchaikovsky's The Maid of Orleans, too.

Brahms: Piano concerto 1--CSO performances next week, the last of the season. I'm doing the talks. Gotta bone up. I'm listening to Peter Serkin, who is playing it here.

Bartok: Concerto for Orchestra...see above. REALLY bone up. Have one of the Karajan Berlin Phil recordings (How many did he do? Twelve? Thirteen?) This will be fun to talk up, playing up the Koussevitsky connection..
OH and today I ordered from AMAZON "Carmen" with Anna Moffo and Franco Corelli (I know, I know. Horrified fascination) "Fidelio" with Gwyneth Jones, James King and Karl Bohm -I wore out the LPS I had as a kid-and Joyce Di Donato's Salute to Isabella Colbran. And the new Orhpee et Euridice with Juan Diego Florez is already here...somewhere.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Hans Fallada: Every Man Dies Alone


This remarkable, disturbing, upsetting book puts you right down in the middle of Nazi Germany and in an almost unforgiving way it keeps you there. Every word of that horrible time rings true in this novel, more than any documentary film or Hollywood treatment or grainy footage of marching soldiers and little men with big salutes ever could. I'll say little else except to recommend this book, and to offer an excerpt:

In the course of his morning walk, which lasted from ten to eleven, Dr. Reichardt would sing to himself. Generally he confined himself to humming softly, because a lot of the warders wouldn't allow it, and Quangel got used to listening to his humming. Whatever his poor opinion of music, he did notice its effect on him. Sometimes it made him feel strong and brave enough to endure any fate, and then Reichardt would say "Beethoven". Sometimes it made him feel bafflingly lighthearted and cheerful, which he had never been in his life, and then Reichardt would say, "Mozart", and Quangel would forget all about his worries. And sometimes the sounds emanating from the doctor were dark and heavy,and Quangel would feel a pain in the chest, and it would be as though he was a little boy again siting in church with his mother, with something grand, the whole of life ahead of him, and then Reichardt would say, "Johann Sebastian Bach."

--pp.426-427, Every Man Dies Alone by Hans Fallada