XI.2,1934 Mr. W.D. Dunham Washington and Los Angeles Street Los Angeles
Dear Mr. Dunham;
I have a Ford Black Dx 34 Sedan bought from you and have to ask you about some things. At first; It happened today that the cooling system was without water, so that we saw the steam coming out and when we went to the next garage and he opened, boiling water was in. It is astonishing for, the day before the car came to you, we had filled gasoline and the garagist looked at the cooling system. Then, as before said the, car was in your service department, and surely, you should have seen it, if no water should have been in. Yesterday and the day before yesterday the car was not used and stood in our garage which is locked by a reliable lock. And nevertheless: nearly no water was in the cooler. The garagist told as the car is in order and he could not understand how this is possible. As our garage is locked, it is an enigma and the only solution thinkable is, that somebody took out the water, when the car was not in our garage. I ask you to examine kindly this case, which is not without danger. Secondly; As before said, we bought gasoline the 26th of october for the fuel gauge showed only a few above zero. After filling eleven gallons it was full. But when the car came back from the lubrication it showed only one half. And today, though we had driven only about 50 miles, it showed a quarter. III. You gave me keys for all the doors, but they dont shut, for there is no lock!! I hope you know, that my check went already to the Credit Company. Looking forward with much interest to your kind answer, I am
Some recordings of Strauss's Alpine Symphony ranked...yes this is how I've spent the last twenty-four hours. In the words of Comic Book Guy - I've wasted my life...:
Staatskapelle Dresden/Rudolf Kempe (As close to perfect as performances get. Every note feels inevitable - except for that stupid vibrating 1st trumpet.)
London Symphony/Bernard Haitink (Just came out. Only a master can challenge Kempe. Haitink has reached that age when some conductors seem to know exactly what to do - and he seems to do very little, but everything goes right.)
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra/Mariss Jansons (Luxuriates too much, but truly wonderful playing along with a deeply moving - and yes, slow - interpretation from Jansons)
WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne/Semyon Bychkov (The other end from Jansons. A propulsive, dramatic performance with a scrappy little-known ensemble fearless of getting their hands dirty.)
Staatskapelle Dresden/Fabio Luisi (No other performers dig into the weird sounds with the same relish. But for all its fine moments, Luisi seems to treat it more virtuoso showpiece than as a human statement.)
Bavarian Radio Symphony/Georg Solti (The recording of choice for anybody who doesn't take this piece particularly seriously. Solti doesn't understand the piece. Too fast and much too brutal, but it's undeniably impressive as hell.)
5. Vienna Philharmonic/Dimitri Mitropoulos
6. Staatskapelle Dresden/Karl Bohm (Quite sympathetic, insightful pacing from Karl Bohm and characterful playing from the Dresdeners. But messy execution and synthetic mono sound does it in.)
Berlin Philharmonic/Herbert von Karajan (I feel dirty listing this anywhere but bad. Like a Kubrick movie, the mastery can never be questioned, but to what purpose? It's cold, humorless, bombastic, sometimes boring.)
Vienna Philharmonic/Christian Thielemann (conductorial douchebag has some ideas. A performance that occasionally spellbinds but can't bother to keep focus for anything with a smaller than ear-splitting decibel level.)
The seemingly indestructable Placido Domingo was rushed the hospital with abdominal pains yesterday. He's 69, and still pursuing a schedule that would easily punish someone half his age. The miracle is that nothing like this has happened yet. But if this is the end for Domingo, he can rest easy knowing that no tenor ever had a career quite like this. After 126 roles and 49 years of almost non-stop performances, all you can say that Domingo is one of the very few opera singers who rank not only as great singers but great artists in their own rights.
(Gia nella notte densa, the great love duet from Act I of Otello. Upon seeing Domingo's Otello, Sir Laurence Olivier commented that he never saw a better Othello in the theater. Kiri Te Kanawa is Desdemona and Georg Solti's in the pit of the Royal Opera in London.)
('The greatest opera recording ever.' Otello and Iago vow revenge at the end of Act II of Verdi's Otello.)
Caruso and Ruffo in their primes. The year was 1915, World War I was raging on two fronts, and the 120-year-long Golden Age of Italian Opera finally was winding down with Puccini's lush fourth-chords. The tabloid supremacy of opera singers, once the world's biggest celebrities, were suddenly challenged by a newly emergent artform that synthesized all the arts even more seemlessly than opera did: the movies. But even at that historical period, Enrico Caruso and Titta Ruffo were names as well known as Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd.
That fantastic newfangled invention, the gramophone, could spread music like wildfire. Until 1900, if you wanted to hear music in your home you had to make it yourself. Yet suddenly homes around the world were filled with the strains of Caruso, Paderewski, Fritz Kreisler, Al Jolson and Irving Berlin.
Instrumentalists had a hard time with playing into a horn, but what amazes even today is the fidelity with which the microphone captured great voices. It's nearly impossible to understand the appeal of a Paderewski (or at least was until the digital piano roll recreations) but the appeal of Caruso and Ruffo and Ponselle and all their contemporaries registers just as clearly today as they ever did. It's unfair to repeat the old mantra that 'opera singers get worse with every generation.' But I don't think it's unfair to say that there are certain things opera singers do worse today. Nobody sings Verdi like this anymore...perhaps nobody ever will and maybe if they did, the greatness of opera would have an easier time being explained to the public.
(Rosa Ponselle sings 'Un Bel Di Vedremo' in 1919. The great opera conductor Tulio Serafin once said he only heard three 'miracles' of opera: Caruso, Ruffo, and Ponselle.)
Bob Costas: Alpine Skier Dow Travers is the Cayman Islands' sole representative and the country's first ever representative at a Winter Olympiad. He comes to the Olympics also by way of Boarding School, training in Switzerland, summers in Aspen, Colorado and studies at Brown University. And in spite of this life of hardship he manages to represent his country with distinction.
As VOW is doing a (not terrible, if I do say so myself) arrangement of A Change Is Gonna Come, I'm reprinting this article and the clips in total full. Copyright be damned because we're going to write the next chapter in the evolution of this song:
I remember looking through a friend’s Rolling Stone as a freshman in college. It was the issue that touted the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. Being a list fiend and a music geek, I devoured the list, skimming through 500 - 101. The top 100 was what I really cared about. Hell, the Top 25 was I all I really cared about. I wanted to make sure I had every one in my music library so I could make my own iTunes playlist based on the Rolling Stone list.
There were a few songs I didn’t have, so I bought them on iTunes to complete my playlist. However, there was one song I didn’t own that I was completely blown away by and that was #12, Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come”. For some odd reason, I had NEVER heard the song until 2005, when the list came out. The first time I did hear it, in my stuffy college dorm room, I was nearly moved to tears. Since then, the song seems to have become a staple of American cultural literacy. President Obama even referred to the song directly in a speech after he was elected as President of the United States in 2008, saying “It’s been a long time coming, but tonight, change has come to America.”
Below are various versions of the song, in chronological order. First, Sam Cooke’s original recording, released after his death in 1964. Otis Redding included the song as “Change Gonna Come” on his 1965 album Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul. In 1971, Chicago underground soul legend Baby Huey recorded his version of the song that was released posthumously in 1971 on The Baby Huey Story: The Living Legend.
Skip ahead to the ‘90s. Spike Lee used Cooke’s original version during a powerful montage scene for his 1992 biopic Malcolm X. The song starts at 4:41 in the movie clip below. Lauryn Hill covered the song with the Fugees in the mid-‘90s. I don’t know the exact year on this one though. Nas used his own rendition of the song as part of the intro for his 1996 album It Was Written. Soul man Al Green also sang a live version of the song in 1996, for the opening of the Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1998, Patti Labelle released the song as part of an album called Live! One Night Only.
The singer Seal released his “A Change is Gonna Come” as a single from his 2008 album, Soul. This version has the most YouTube hits of them all. Wayne Brady also covered the tune in 2008 and his version earned him a Grammy nomination in the Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance category. Lastly, two other renditions of the song were heard in 2008… The Arcade Fire performed the song live as part of a benefit concert for Barack Obama, and Adam Lambert famously belted the tune on his American Idol finale.
I’ve concluded the video medley by returning to a Barack Obama montage edited to the music of Same Cooke’s original “A Change Is Gonna Come”.
The Sam Cooke original
Montage from Malcolm X (starting at 4:45)
...I think I know what the next video in this will be....
Josh: please tell me you've seen The Seventh Seal me: of course Josh: WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED? me: lol LOL Josh: I just finished it I don't get it! I don't even know what I just saw I think I love it but I don't even know what the hell just happened so I can't be sure
"There are those rare moments when musicians together touch something sweeter than they've ever found before in rehearsal or performance, beyond the merely collaborative or technically proficient, when their expression becomes as easy and graceful as friendship or love. This is when they give us a glimpse of what we might be, of our best selves, and of an impossible world in which you give everything you have to others, but lose nothing of yourself. Out in the real world there exists detailed plans, visionary projects for peaceable realms, all conflicts resolved, happiness for everyone, for ever - mirages for which people are prepared to die and kill. Christ's kingdom on earth, the workers' paradise, the ideal Islamic state. But only in music, and only on rare occasions, does the curtain actually lift on this dream of community, and it's tantalizingly conjured, before fading away with the last notes."
My political opinions are probably a bit too mild and boring to find somebody like Matthew Yglesias as brilliant as so many other failed wonks of my generation do. But that being said, this is cathartic.
An article from The Guardian about the galvanizing effect Glee is having on singing all around America. It's not just show choirs. Glee is the best thing to happen to choruses across America since Robert Shaw. Whatever your opinion of the show (and mine is mostly positive), it appeals to any musical person who might have forgotten how much richer her or his life was when participating in music. Whatever our day-to-day concerns, I defy anyone to find a person whose life was not made infinitely richer with the consistent presence of music. Time and again, as a conductor, a singer, a violinist or a composer, I've met people whose exposure to music helps them not only to forget their day-to-day worries but also to remember their better selves. A cliche observation no doubt, but no less true for having been said so often. Yes, sometimes being involved in music is about as much fun as shoveling shit uphill, but when it's better than that, it's thousands of times better.
A strangely moving article by Terry Teachout in the Journal yesterday. I can't claim to have either seen or read Don Juan in Hell (until I found it on Napster, listening now), but there is something wonderful about the experience he describes. I believe as much as I do anything in life that hundreds of millions are waiting to recapture precisely this sort of experience. Our public will always be waiting for us to show them everything we have, but first we must engage them.
1. The anti-abortion ad at the beginning was extremely mild. Even so, it's a potential prelude for stronger things to come and quite scary. Also, I have about as much stomach for offensive content as anyone in the universe, but it was REALLY ugly of CBS to air the man-thong ad right after the anti-abortion ad. The double standard against the gay dating ad was bad enough, but that seemed as though it was sending a message about what content is less welcome.
2. Watching old rockers at half-time gets sadder every year. Pete Townshend should have lost his right to do the guitar wheel when he reached Social Security age.
3. I really haven't been paying more attention than to say that the Saints have been lucky to stay as in the game as they are after playing so badly. That being said: GEAUX SAINTS!
Whatever. The truth is I barely care about football anyway, and I still hate the Colts enough to consider not watching the game on general principle. I'll probably watch tonight, but the proud Baltimorean in me (it exists....somewhere...) says that even the possibility of watching the Colts win the Super Bowl again is one indignity too many and unlike Baseball, I don't care enough about the sport to watch my hometown get humiliated year after year.
And that's another thing....I know I'm supposed to hate the Steelers, and I guess that insofar as I care about football at all I feel intense dislike whenever I meet a chauvanistic Steelers fan (we've had a few in the chorus over time...all of whom I dearly loved Sean:). But I'm rather ashamed at the gentility with which Ravens fans treat the Colts. I'll never forget journeying up to Baltimore for the Ravens-Colts playoff in '06 to watch in a Fells Point bar. That was the year the Colts won everything, so the experience was depressing enough without what happened next. As we boarded the Baltimore metro back to my parent's house (I'm nearly the only Baltimorean I know who grew up within walking distance of the Baltimore metro) there were a bunch of Colts fans in our train-car who were quite drunk and unhesitant to point out to those around them that Indianapolis just beat us with the team they stole from us. Other Baltimore fans in that car, being the class act among sports fans they've always been, turned the other cheek and did everything they could to make polite conversation with these obnoxious midwesterners. As always when it comes to Baltimore sports, the experience left me with curious mixture of pride and humiliation.
A generally wonderful profile of Valery Gergiev, our era's most exciting conductor, from The Guardian - a slight bit of critic hero-worshipping, but enough new stuff to make it worth it. Talks in depth about Gergiev's rehearsal methods in ways I've never seen. h/t Intermezzo
Some depressing though not unexpected news from Dresden today. Fabio Luisi announced his immediate resignation from the Staatskapelle Dresden two years ahead of his contract's expiration. In two years he will be replaced by self-appointed conducting Übermensch, Christian Thielemann.
(Luisi directs the opening to The Alpine Symphony. Tough to believe that Strauss had any other sound in mind for this piece than the one this orchestra makes.)
A while back, I wrote about Thielemann various imbroglios and particularly about the depressing news that Thielemann will be taking over the world's most individual sounding orchestra. Here's an excerpt from that piece so that you can understand how important this orchestra is to music history: The Staatskapelle Dresden was founded in 1548. It was not only described by Richard Strauss as the world's greatest orchestra, it was also described by Beethoven as the world's greatest orchestra. Going back through its history, its music directors have included such luminaries as Bernard Haitink, Herbert Blomstedt, Kurt Sanderling, Rudolf Kempe, Karl Bohm, Fritz Busch, Fritz Reiner, Wagner (!), Weber (!!), Hasse (!!!), and Heinrich Schutz (!!!!). It has given the world premieres of untold dozens of works music-lovers still love today. But the greatest peak of its history was probably on Christmas Day 1845 when a young composer named Richard Wagner conducted what amounted to a second premiere of Beethoven's 9th Symphony that established it to the world as the masterpiece we still know.
(The third movement of Beethoven 9, a piece which they've performed every Christmas for the last 165 years.)
The Staatskapelle Dresden is more than an orchestra, it is a symbol to the World of the gift German culture gives. The Allies may have bombed Germany's most beautiful city past recognition, but so long as the Staatskapelle Dresden remains the city retains its most important link to its history. Erich Honecker realized this as well as anyone, and during the Communist years a steady parade of great western conductors were allowed behind the iron curtain to conduct in Dresden so that the orchestra could maintain its greatness even under dictatorship.
(The Vienna Symphony. Luisi's 'other' orchestra. This one has only been around since 1900...)
Fabio Luisi is a fine conductor who will get any number of chances to prove himself again in the future. In two years he will take over the Zurich Opera and perhaps even more to the point, he is more and more a fixture of the Met Opera's guest conductor roster. With James Levine looking more and more frail these days, who knows?
1. Purim medley arrangements to be completed for the KR resumed rehearsal (probably Thursday night)...I fraggin' hate medleys..
2. Choral arrangement of Bach's Air on the G-String (..as played in your sister's wedding) from the Orchestral Suite #3. Oh, and the text will be the 23rd Psalm. Oh, and the text will be in German. Oh, and have to figure out if Bach read from the Luther Bible or the Zurich Bible.
4. Other arrangements to hopefully work on in the next few days: Come Sunday by Duke Ellington, The End of the World by Skeeter Davis, Hippopotamus Song by Flanders and Swann, Andante Festivo by Jean Sibelius (to be done to the Hebrew text El Maleh Rachamim for Yom HaShoah)...there are a lot more but that's enough for now.
The aformentioned song mentioned in the aforementioned website appears almost all the way down the first page. One must scroll down to a streaming option in order to hear it. Though by the time you read this aforementioned addendum the aforementioned song may have scrolled to the second page of this aforementioned website.
The miracles of youtube never cease. Here's the broadcast of Otto Klemperer and the Los Angeles Philharmonic giving the 1934 premiere of Schoenberg's orchestration of the Brahms g-minor Piano Quartet. The famous story that accompanies this is that one old lady was heard to say to another "Wow. That Schoenberg is so melodious. I have no idea what the fuss was over!"
I've loved this piece since I first heard it in college, for a time more than I loved Brahms (what an idiot I was...). The piece is ten times more uninhibited than anything Brahms ever wrote. It has a kind of in-your-face vulgarity that belies the idea that Schoenberg was a humorless composer. An orchestration like this flies in the face of Brahmsian restraint, and yet on its own terms it works nearly as perfectly as anything in Brahms.
Here's a much more modern performance of it if you can't take the sound. Sir Simon Rattle leading the Berlin Philharmonic. One day Sir Simon will merit a much longer post, I remain a die-hard fan. There are conductors for just about every composer who do them as well or better than Sir Simon. But before Rattle no conductor of such eminence had the guts to put literally music of any style on the same program....and he's pretty awesome at the other parts of conducting too...just listen here. A totally different performance that's easily ol-man-Klemp's equal.