||This old house was only a few blocks from the state Capitol in Madison,
Wisconsin. All the neighborhood cats lived in the basement during the
winter. The house has long since been torn down, but in 1972 there were
AR2ax speakers in the front room, and a lot of good music was heard there.
| || || ||1||2||3||4|
In the 21st century I am just as opinionated as ever,
and I now have an outlet. I shall pontificate here about anything
that catches my fancy; I hope I will not make too great a fool
of myself. You may comment yea or nay about anything on the
site; I may quote you here, or I may not. Send brickbats etc.
March 26, 2013Is God happy? One hopes so.
Leszek Kolakowski was a historian of ideas who was a Communist when he was young, but eventually got kicked out of academia in Poland because he could not swallow the lies. His critiques of Soviet Marxism were actually posted on bulletin boards at the University of Warsaw and published in a Polish periodical in 1956-7, and by 1968 he had started another career in English-speaking countries. One of his most important works was Main Currents of Marxism (1978), a three-volume demolition. He is still a hero in Poland today.
He died in 2009; his daughter has put together a collection of his essays called Is God Happy?, which was reviewed recently in the Wall Street Journal by Barton Swaim. Several of the essays are concerned with the fact that so many Western intellectuals subscribed to the Marxist pie in the sky when the evidence of its failure was all around them. When I was a kid in the 1950s I didn't know anything about economics, but I knew that people in Russia had to stand in line to buy toothpaste and toilet paper; as Kolakowski put it, the Soviet Union was "a state that produces superb jet planes and lousy shoes", and to this day I do not believe that Communism was ever a domestic threat in the United States. Everybody except a few crackpots knew better than that. It is a mystery, though, that some of the crackpots were people who certainly should have known better.
Kolakowski's "What Is Socialism?" (1956) was treasured by the Polish underground; "Genocide And Ideology" (1977) compares Soviet Communism and German Nazism. In "Totalitarianism and the Virtue of the Lie" (1983), Swaim writes,
[Kolakowski] recalled hearing a guide at the Hermitage in Leningrad dismiss the art of Matisse and Cézanne as bourgeois degeneracy in 1950. In 1957, he heard the same guide praise them as masters. The party's needs had changed, but the guide wasn't stupid -- he knew the truth.
A few days later Bret Stephens quoted Kolakowski in his column:
Even in the best of conditions, the process of forgery cannot be completed: it requires a large number of forgers who must understand the distinction between what is genuine and what is faked...The rulers of totalitarian countries...wish to be truthfully informed, but time and again, inevitably, they fall prey to their own lies...
In other words, eventually they can't keep their lies straight, like a man who is cheating on several women at once, and Stephens makes the point that the same thing is true of China today.
Kolakowski saw through the lies; then in later years he indulged in theological speculation, which is not my cup of tea. I don't bother God, and God doesn't bother me. I may as well throw down my gauntlet here: it seems to me that religions began to be invented in prehistoric times for the purpose of explaining the Universe; nowadays we know a great deal about the Universe, enough to know that we do not know everything, and indeed that we shall never know everything. I do not believe in any of the supernatural stuff. The only possible definition of "God" must be "that which we do not know". One of Kolakowski's essays is called "Is God Happy?" Swaim's brief discussion of some theological issues makes my eyes glaze over (not his fault). Even Swaim wonders why Kolakowski's daughter named the book after this short essay, but he finally decides it makes sense:
As a boy, Leszek Kolakowski saw Jews rounded up in Nazi-occupied Poland; as an adult he winessed the dominance of a brutal and fraudulant ideology; and in middle age he saw many of his fellow intellectuals defend that ideology at every opportunity. In such a world, where is there room for happiness?
To this my only response can be: almost everywhere. Before the industrial revolution, life for most people was "nasty, brutish and short", but even then, throughout time and in the most deprived of societies, people made art; they lived, laughed and loved. The defeat of Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany, and now the collapse of Communism, may not have been the end of history, but were certainly the end of an epoch in human affairs: no nation today seriously believes that its leader is a god. No nation today hopes to conquer the world. The human population of the earth is larger than ever before, yet a larger portion of it has a rising standard of living than ever before. As terrible as our problems may be today, most people are not in danger of being blown to bits by religious fascists. Most people, even in Detroit or in downtown Allentown, are not being shot or stabbed.
I could complain, and I have complained, about growing up in a certain time and place. Today our society is loaded with filth and trash; not so long ago, you could not say the word "pregnant" on television: now you can get pregnant on television. Yet I would not wish the pendulum to swing back to a time when everything important was a secret. I knew a girl named Beverly when I was a young teenager (no, not you, Bish, a different Beverly) who had a lovely complexion, and a smile every time I saw her. On a certain occasion she puzzled me (I will give no details). Many years later, suddenly recalling this curious incident, I realized that she had offered me an opportunity to find out if the rest of her skin was as beautiful as that on her face: horny as any other adolescent, I was yet too repressed to know what was being offered; and looking back, I can only laugh (an important component of happiness is the understanding that most things are basically funny). Beverly was a girl with a "bad reputation", in the context of the small-town USA of 50 or 60 years ago; looking back, again, I knew several such, and all of them spoke to me with smiles, without sides, without agendas. They may have been the least screwed-up people in the town. Perhaps they were happy.
It took me many years to begin to educate myself, and the process will never be complete; but unlike poor Sir Henry, in an obscure novel by Robert Nathan, I have glimpsed some truths while I am still alive. In London I saw and heard Lorin Maazel (not my favorite conductor) leading the Philharmonia in Mahler's 2nd symphony, and he seemed to have the big band in the palm of his hand, and they seemed to enjoy it; a climax in the first movement started with silence and raised the roof. That orchestra seemed to have rediscovered its joy in playing music; many years later, in Austin Texas, Kevin Noe and the much younger University of Texas orchestra in the same symphony was audibly discovering this joy. Also in Austin, I heard Lauren Zachry-Reynolds singing Vivaldi, among other things, and Julie Whittington McCoy sing a song by Vaughan Williams: they were both sopranos, and I don't care much for sopranos as a rule; but they did not scream or screech: they each had beautiful vocal color, and they each exhibited what I can only describe as musical intelligence: I forgot what kind of music I was listening to. In Des Moines I was there when guitarist John Pizzarelli sat in with a bunch of locals at a private function after a concert and tore the place up. I heard Alexandre Pirojenko, a young Russian pianist touring in the USA, play some early Schumann etudes, and again, I was not a fan of big Romantic piano music, but I heard the Schumann I knew and loved from the piano concerto and from Kinderszenen; I do not know if I will ever hear Pirojenko again, but I shall never forget him. In the Lehigh Valley I have heard Agnès Maurer play the viola. In Bethlehem I heard the Pacifica Quartet play Beethoven in such a way that I had an out-of-body experience.
This is leaving out all the gardens, all the places, all the sunsets, all the conversations with friends, all the smiling babies. I have been alive; I have loved life. What else is there? Nothing. There are philosophers who allege that since it all ends in death, we may as well never have been born. What a load of rubbish.
My fiftieth year had come and gone,
I sat, a solitary man,
In a crowded London shop,
An open book and empty cup
On the marble table-top.
While on the shop and street I gazed
My body of a sudden blazed;
And twenty minutes more or less
It seemed, so great my happiness,
That I was blessèd and could bless.
-- From “Vacillations”, by W.B. Yeats
And from an American:
I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.
-- From “Tea at the Palaz of Hoon”, by Wallace Stevens
I have been there; I have quivered with the simple joy of being alive. I have a daughter who knows who Fats Waller was. I have an old sweetheart who adores Fletcher Henderson. I have a son who digs the Metronome All Stars. Best of all, I have a talented, wonderfully kind and happy wife, my Ethne, who is all I ever wanted, and who puts up with me no matter how much I contemplate my navel. No philosopher, no theologian can discourage me.
Jascha Horenstein said that the saddest thing about dying would be never to hear Das Lied von der Erde again. Sadder still would be never to have heard it at all.
I wish I could just live until I die, but there have to be signposts on the road: Mortality is the price of entrance to the ball park, said James Lee Burke's grumpy sheriff. I have had a kidney stone; then something like a transient ischemic attack, which led to the discovery of a lazy thyroid; then a hernia; tomorrow I go to the hospital to have my prostate out. My prostate, dear friend for lo these many years; I must say goodbye, and then I shall be good until the next signpost. But meanwhile there is the light:
The sun may set and rise,
But we, contrariwise,
Sleep after our short light
One everlasting night.
--Catullus, trans. Walter Raleigh
Ah, but what a light!
March 17, 2013I read the news today oboy
University of California at Riverside philosophy professor John Martin Fischer has won a $5 million grant to study immortality, from Philadelphia's John Templeton Foundation. Templeton was a mutual fund manager who died in 2008; no thumping has been heard from under the table as far as I know. The news item, from Larry Gordon at Tribune Newspapers, says that immortality is "probably unknowable". I love that "probably". I am racking my brain trying to think of a subject that I can nominate for my own study that might appeal to some foundation. Unfortunately a very rich and very nice old lady in the Allentown area who gave large amounts of money to scam artists passed away recently before I had heard about her.
Gary James of East Allen Township writes that people are giving up their landlines and relying solely on their cellphones because over 90% of landline calls are now nuisance calls. That was my experience when I briefly had a Verizon landline a year or so ago. When I had only had the line for a few days a very nice woman called me from California to ask me to donate to the Democratic party; she knew my name and that I had supported the party in the past, but she was astonished when I told her that she had cold-called a brand-new number. We had a nice chat.
But now I am getting nuisance calls on my cellphone. Yesterday some guy called from Florida to try to sell me a mortgage. They always know my name and they always start out with "How are you today?", which is a dead giveaway that you might as well hang up. Yesterday I said "I'm fine. Who are you and what do you want?" He was very well-spoken, sounded like a radio announcer from the days when announcers sounded like professionals; he said "That's nice!" and I thought he was being snarky in response to my bad manners, but then he went into his spiel. I am getting nuisance calls on my cellphone from robots.
I don't agree with Jonah Goldberg very often, but I do today. There is no point in not building the Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas. It will keep the energy and the profits in North America, and if we do not build it, the Canadians will sell the oil to the Chinese, and the ships carrying the oil will be a greater threat to the earth than the pipeline. We are on the verge of being energy independent; why are we dragging our feet?
I fail to see what is wrong with eating horsemeat. Certain politicians are currying favor with squeamish voters by backing legislation prohibiting the slaughter of horses for human consumption, or shipping them across a border for that purpose. And if you have a surplus horse on your hands, is it okay to make petfood out of it? Apparently not:
"Horse slaughter is inherently inhumane," the Humane Society said in a statement.
I wonder if they polled cows on that.
Stephen F. Knott, professor of national security affairs at the United States Naval War College, has written an article on the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq to point out that it was not Bush's war, but America's war, and he is quite right. Ten years ago I was working in the basement of the Texas state capital building, and my dear friend Charlene Ansley was vehemently opposed to the war, but I was not. Saddam Hussein was a monster; why not take him down? I watched our troops rolling across the desert as though watching reality TV. Little did I know that we were invading without enough troops, without enough armor, and without any planning. Little did I know that we would uncover arms caches without enough manpower to guard them, destroy them or move them, so that terrorists could just help themselves; and that we would make one stupid mistake after another, such as ordering the Iraqi army to stand down, throwing hundreds of thousands of armed men out of work. Nor did I know much about the country: that we would touch off a civil war in which tens of thousands of innocent Iraqis died. But scariest of all is the fact that Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and 28 top Democrats in the United States Senate were just as ignorant as I was.
Then of course the adminstration was wiling to lie (about uranium yellowcake in Nigeria) and play dirty tricks (Valerie Plame, anyone?) to avoid admitting any mistake. And the cost of the war has led to the economic problems we have today (politicians like starting wars, but they don't like paying for them), and the costs will continue for generations: the disability payments to veterans of the First World War only peaked in the 1960s, and those of the Second World War in the 1980s.
I think Charlene ought to be president.
March 14, 2013How we live now
My favorite newspaper opined the other day about the fate of Private First Class Bradley Manning, the kid who leaked thousands of documents which were then published by WikiLeaks. He was "alienated by what he saw in Iraq", we are told, after we had invaded a country that was not a threat to us, and done so without enough troops, without enough armor, without any planning... The Wall Street Journal goes on:
America keeps too many secrets, and much more that government does should be transparent and declassified. But that is not a decision for a Private First Class to make.
Okay, so whose decision is it? I would have thought this had been settled by Daniel Ellsberg many years ago. But before I had read that far I was falling on the floor laughing:
Idealists in a hurry are an old story and the source of much human misery. If he really wanted to change the world, the young private could have run for Congress or started a blog.
Idealists are an endangered species. The public rates Congress, somebody said on TV, lower than a root canal. And I have a blog, and I'm not changing the world. Actually what I'm writing here is an excuse for not blogging very much. I don't blog more because there's nothing to comment on; it's all too bizarre. The mayor of New York wants to ban huge buckets of soda pop; a court strikes him down: I saw slobby adolescents sucking up those tubs of poison in the shopping mall where I used to work; I don't know why they do it or what is going to stop them. Two guys are suing Budweiser because the alcohol content in the mass-produced product is allegedly not as advertised: the fact that it tastes like horse pee apparently doesn't matter. Commentary on this stuff isn't possible.
Reading a newspaper only allows me to feel effortlessly superior, and that's kind of sad, really. It's not what I want.
March 5, 2013Then and now
Back in the 1960s in Kenosha I ran into a woman I had known since junior high school. April was divorced and had two or three kids, and I had small children, so we hung out a little. I still have a snapshot of all the kids playing in the back of my Rambler American station wagon.
Some department store, I think it was Sears & Roebuck, foolishly sent April one of those newfangled charge cards. She had very little income, and lost no time in maxing out the card, and that year at least, her kids went to school wearing new clothes. I'm quite sure that Sears never saw a dime. (Credit rating? What credit rating?) Those were the days.
Fifty years later, in countries such as Indonesia, credit cards are exploding. A few years ago, Eric Bellman writes in the Wall Street Journal, 28-year-old Rusmani didn't know what a credit card was. Now she has 13 of them and has to have two wallets to carry them all. "Maybe the banks think I'm rich," she says. They pester her to take their card, and with various cards she gets discounts on pizza, gasoline and groceries, and free coffee and free movie tickets, and so on. She figures that if she spends $100 a month using the cards she gets nearly 40% off what she's buying.
But the number of credit cards in Indonesia has jumped 60% in the last five years, and the authorities are worried, bringing in legislation that will only allow Rusmani to hold two cards, as long as she earns less than $1000 a month. She's not bothered, as long as she can keep the ones that give the biggest discounts: "If I don't get a discount then there is no reason to use a card." No doubt she is a sensible woman, but it will be interesting to see if what we used to call the Third World makes the same mistakes the West has already made.
March 3, 2013Commonplace book
Profundity must be concealed. Where? On the surface.
--Hugo von Hofmannsthal
March 1, 2013This paperless thing has gone too far
A hilarious series of "really, really short films" on YouTube are really commercials for the paper industry. In one of them, a man is talking on the phone to a woman in a call center about a router he has just purchased.
"I'm having trouble connecting to the Internet," he says, noting that there was no manual in the box. The woman replies, in a bored, lazy tone, "You have to download the PDF from the Web site." He is incredulous. "So... you want me to get on the Internet to download a PDF from your website so I can get on the Internet?" he asks. She answers, "That's correct, sir."
She then asks, "Have I provided you with satisfactory service?"
February 24, 2013Schubert's Great C Major Symphony
I purchased a download of three pieces played by Sir Thomas Beecham and his Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. These are broadcast recordings from the mid-1950s, which were not available commercially. Wagner's Rienzi overture I won't listen to again; it's too long, repetitious and pompous ("early Wagner" is a signpost meaning "avoid"). Beecham was a champion of Delius's music, and his "In A Summer Garden" is gorgeous; if you like Delius, and I do (how much the opposite of the Wagner piece!) you will not want to be without this, and the playing of Beecham's Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is exquisite, including such stars as Jack Brymer on clarinet. But I was after Beecham's recording of the Schubert "Great" C Major symphony alone.
It used to be called the 7th, and now there is a movement afoot to renumber it the 10th, which is pointless; Schubert left several symphonies unfinished, so how do you count them all? The C Major was his last, of unusual ("Heavenly") length for its time; Schubert never heard it, and it was almost lost. I won't tell you how many recordings I have of it; that would be embarrassing. I imprinted on Josef Kripps (1958), still wonderful. Hamilton Harty did a fine one in 1928, available in an excellent transfer from Pristine in France. My vinyl copy of William Steinberg's RCA studio recording from 1969 is autographed (by the conductor, not Schubert), and I treasure my (very rare!) Horenstein. But Beecham's belongs up there with the best.
He played it 16 times in his career, we are told, and it's a shame EMI never recorded it in the studio, but the sound here is more than adequate. He starts on the slow side, but all the tempi are related so that it all makes perfect sense; there is no jerking the music around to show you who's boss. But having said that, Beecham was certainly the boss: he seems to have added some drumbeats, or at least some extra emphasis, and this works too. His musical instincts were always at the service of the composer, and in this performance the great C Major sings to heaven.
February 20, 2013A curate's egg
The curate was an assistant to a parish priest in the Anglican church, and he wasn't paid much. He couldn't afford to throw away food, so his breakfast egg might be "good in parts". The song from South Pacific says "You can't fix an egg when it ain't quite good", which is probably a more realistic attitude to eggs past their sell-by date. But the concept of the curate's egg can often be applied to a musical performance, or to a book.
New Orleans Jazz: A Revised History, by R. Collins (Vantage Press, 1996) is strap-lined "The development of American music from the origin to the big bands", but the development from old New Orleans to "dixieland" through Chicago Style to the Swing Era is strained, to say the least (as well as leaving out a lot of American music). There is no information about the author, but the book is described as "the first revision of jazz history since the 'standard' version was first proposed in the 1930s." There is no indication which was the old "standard" version; the concept of it is a straw man for Mr. Collins to strike down.
Furthermore, Collins, whoever he is or was, does not really like jazz very much. A "jazz band [he writes] is an imitator band, one that primarily tries to copy the sounds, usually from recordings, made by bands composed of musicians." He writes about the original front line of violin, clarinet and cornet (as in Buddy Bolden's band) being able to play "three tunes at once", but seems able to use the phrase "collective improvisation" only with reluctance. He writes about "beautiful ornamentation" but refuses to define it as improvisation. Throughout he refuses to allow that an "ear player" might be able to improvise beautiful ornamentation, equating improvisation with "faking": "Even some performers capable of reading music take a perverse pride in being able to produce the utmost nonsense from a musical instrument."
Against all the evidence he insists that "cross-rhythms and polyrhythms...did not exist in African music". He writes about "The 'second line' of street dancers which traditionally followed the brass band parade": in fact, they preceded it. He desperately needs hierarchies: there are six levels of skill among musicians; when he gets to his sketchy chapter on big bands, he says there were three kinds: sweet, mechanical, and swing. Nowhere does he define "mechanical".
One of our leading jazz researchers writes, "I think there is a whole subculture of New Orleans fans and researchers who don't mingle with the rest of the world." Yet despite all this, much of the Collins book is fun to read and even valuable, because a great deal of research has been done on music in New Orleans and the places and circumstances in which it was played, going all the way back to the early 18th century. There are excerpts from interviews and old newspaper articles; some of this is a social history as much as a musical one. There are many illustrations, not very well reproduced. Certain myths are exploded (again). You just have to be careful to avoid certain parts of the egg.
February 20, 2013Oh, Clive
Clive James was interviewed in a recent issue of Time magazine. I'm a fan of his; he always made me laugh writing about television in the Observer years ago, and he is a valuable observer of most things, though he doen't know as much about music as the thinks he does.
He came a cropper when he was asked if he was a fan of Downton Abbey. No, of course not, he said; we in Britain have had those upstairs/downstairs melodramas for decades. He misses the point. The vast majority of television is just light entertainment, and there's nothing wrong with that, and the British do it better than anybody. Clive James probably doesn't waste much time watching TV, and that's okay too; neither do I. But the fact is that the writing, the casting, the acting, the sets, costumes etc on Downton Abbey is as good as television gets. It's worth watching just for Maggie Smith.
Lemme have a slump once in a while, okay Clive?
February 20, 2013Unhuman interest
A human interest story in a newspaper. A young man was born with only one kidney, and that one isn't working too well; he just got married, and his bride is compatible, and she gave him a kidney. That's very nice, innit.
But on their first date, they had gone to the movies, and they chattered all he way through the film, and when the couple behind them tried to shush them, he said to them, "It's our first date, so cut us a little slack." And this was reported in the newspaper as part of the human interest.
If I had been there I might have slapped the jerk upside the head. Whether his companion was a bride-to-be with two good kidneys or a chippie he picked up in the street, the other couple did not pay up to ten bucks each (that's how much I paid to see Quartet last night) to listen to them get to know each other.
February 15, 2013Points
Hope you had a nice Valentine's Day. A newspaper said that Valentine's Day is now an $18.6 billion industry. Any country that has that much money to throw around can't be doing too badly.
I bought Ethne an orchid.
A letter-writer in the Wall Street Journal:
Certainly a non-citizen who commits warlike acts against our country is subject to military retaliation, but to apply the same policy to a U.S. citizen without some kind of impartial review is the highest degree of injustice.
I'm afraid I fail to see why a U.S. citizen who commits warlike acts against the U.S. should not expect retaliation in kind. Expecting an "impartial review" while innocents are murdered is carrying American exceptionalism to an absurd degree.
I guess nothing happened yesterday. The endless news on TV was about a cruise ship where the toilets had stopped working.
The first opinion page in Thursday's WSJ was a strange one. Karl Rove's blather was at the bottom; I didn't read it. Daniel Henninger at the top was a useless and transparent diatribe against Obama, which ended "Barack Obama is indeed in sync with the public will". That means Mr Henninger is seriously outnumbered.
The piece in the center of the page was by Martin Peretz, who used to own The New Republic, or TNR as we old-timers refer to it, and was its editor-in-chief for over 35 years. He has sold the paper, and evidently regrets it. He says it "has abandoned its liberal but heterodox tradition and embraced a leftist outlook as predictable as that of Mother Jones or The Nation." Among the "giants" in the paper's history he names Edmund Wilson, as they always do; Wilson has always been a hero of mine, and I like to recall that when he first became associated with TNR he thought that only Socialism could save the world.
What Mr Peretz doesn't like in the current edition of TNR is an article by Sam Tanenhaus called "Original Sin", or "Why the GOP is and will continue to be the party of white people", which makes the case that the interpretation of the Constitution that today's right follows is that invented by John C. Calhoun, with its emphasis on states' rights and proposing "nullification", that is, the right of any state to ignore any federal law it doesn't like. Calhoun of course wished to protect, defend and extend the institution of slavery.
What was that about the foo bird?
Here's a clipping on my desk from two weekends ago: among the doom and gloom of the editorial pages in the WSJ, the big headline on the front page on February 2-3 was "Economy Drives Market Rally". That's what I like about this newspaper.
February 15, 2013This is how it is
The best reason to listen to old records, and the way to tell the real stuff from the revivals and the retreads:
If a cat is taking risks at a moment, years later you can still hear the edge in it.
--Don Byron, quoted by Bill Kirchner
February 15, 2013Commonplace book
...seldom, very seldom does complete truth belong to any human disclosure; seldom can it happen that something is not a little disguised, a little mistaken.
February 11, 2013Joel Lazar and the Symphony of the Potomac
On Sunday February 10 it was my pleasure to attend a concert in Silver Spring, Maryland, to hear Joel Lazar conduct Schubert's Unfinished and Bruckner's 4th. The Cultural Arts Center at Montgomery College was really a civic experience: an attractive modern building with an excellent acoustic, and a wonderfully friendly audience of all ages. The orchestra was known for nearly 40 years as the Jewish Community Center Symphony Orchestra, playing in Rockville, Maryland; in 2008 the name changed to the Symphony of the Potomac. Joel has been with them for quite a few years, but I have not been able to hear them (and him) until now.
I first met Joel nearly 40 years ago in North London, not long after Jascha Horenstein had died. I did not see him again for another 20 years or so, until I had leased Horenstein's Mahler 4th from EMI and put it out on CD, whereupon he got in touch wanting a copy, and was delighted to discover that we had already met. Since then we have had lunch a couple of times, but now that I have moved to the Lehigh Valley I am within striking distance of Washington DC, a city I love, and its suburbs, and I have finally been able to hear this seasoned conductor do his thing.
Joel is best known to a lot of us music fans as having been Horenstein's assistant for the last few years of his life (the only assistant Horenstein ever took on, as far as I know), but Joel has had a lot more experience since then, conducting several European orchestras, and all over the USA. He was described as "one of the best musicians around" in Leon Fleisher's recent memoir (a marvelous book called My Nine Lives): "one of the most musically text-oriented conductors...really one of the most erudite musicians on the scene...sympathetic, not arrogant and simply a joy to work with".
The concert began with a beautifully full sound from the cello section in the Schubert, and I was delighted later, in the third movement of the Bruckner, to hear the underpinning of the splendid French horns by the tuba, adding "bottom" I had never noticed on recordings. The orchestra is of course mostly a volunteer outfit, so I was not surprised to hear some insecurity here and there; the strings were split left and right and the second violins in particular had a little difficulty with legato bits. All the more gratifying then that throughout both symphonies, when the orchestra played tutti it had a big, rich, warm sound full of lovely color, and that furthermore, climaxes were reached as required without strain, and phrases started and especially ended with remarkable accuracy. It was clear to me that the tradition Joel is carrying on from his mentors, no doubt especially Horenstein, is the ability to get a band to play above itself, and to communicate the sheer joy to be found in music-making.
It's between three and four hours each way to Silver Spring from Allentown, but I'll be going again.
February 9, 2013You think?
A 30-year-old Montgomery County man, Flint Andrew Staton, was stalking his estranged wife, the Morning Call reported today. He had non-contact orders against him, but she complained that he was following her to work.
After pulling him over, officers discovered that he was wearing illegal body armor under his clothing and had with him a mask, three large knives and a stungun.
While searching Staton's sedan later in the week, police found a .40 caliber handgun, 10 rounds of ammunition and brass knuckles, court papers say.
Sgt. Timothy Hoats said, "I think he's dangerous."