Brian Micklethwait's Blog
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- “In order to comply with Google’s regulations …”
- Blue wind
- Don’t judge a new technology by its first stumbling steps
- Me trying to tell Norman Foster and Richard Rogers apart
- I think I may at last have found myself a sofa
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Category archive: Classical music
Tomorrow evening the 2014 BAFTA Awards shindig will be happening, at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Roger Hewland, proprietor of Gramex (Records and CDs), Lower Marsh, told me this afternoon that BAFTA is paying the ROH three quarters of a million quid for this privilege. Where RH picked this titbit up, I do not know, but it sounds a lot, doesn’t it?
Below is a picture that I recently took myself of the ROH. If you google for pictures of the ROH, you mostly get either interiors, or else the big Parthenon-like front entrance. But when I was at that Rooftop Bar I recently visited, I took this snap of the ROH:
What strikes me is how modern it looks. It’s just a big box. The decoration is no more than a gesture. I know, I know, that’s because nobody can see this bit, this being before the age of buildings taller than this, from which people can look down. But even so, you can see architectural modernism all present and correct, just waiting to emerge.
I have my favourite bloggers. Mick Hartley, 6k and David Thompson being my most regular visitees. Two of these three (see those two links) often put up clips of their favourite bits of music, which I pretty much always ignore. Often, when confronted by other people’s favourite musical snippets, I already have music playing, on my separate music box which is nothing to do with my computer and which therefore works when I most need it, which is when my computer is not working.
I tend not to do stick up bits of my favourite sort of music, which is classical. Partly I’m lazy and am not very clever about putting up Youtube clips here. But I could put up lots of links (one follows below) to classical stuff. But, I tend not to. There are enough reasons for people to strike this blog off their weekly-read list or whatever, without me putting them off even more with bits of classical music.
Now, first off, I have no problem with bloggers posting whatever they like. Their gaff their rules. I put whatever I like (as in like to put) here, and they can put whatever they like to put at their places. But, am I the only one who almost always ignores music at other people’s blogs? Most of us like lots of random bits of pop music, old and new. In my case, there’s also a ton of classical classics I like a lot, and others also have their favourite genres that they know all about, adore some of and like a huge proportion of.
I mention this because, entirely for my own selfish reasons, I particularly want to be able to remind myself of this clip of someone called Yulianna Avdeeva playing Chopin, particularly well to my ear. And maybe that’s it. Bloggers use their blogs as personal filing cabinets, just as I do. They put up bits of music because they want always to be able to get hold of that bit quickly, and now they know they can. The readers can just wait for the next posting, and pick up where they left off. (That link, by the way, is to a bit of classical music at a blog that specialises in classical music. Quite often I do play the clips she features, because her kind of music is my kind of music. What I’m on about here is musical clips at blogs which are mostly about non-musical things.)
I think another point being made with these bits of music is the point I make with my occasional Friday cat blogging, which is that a lot of the appeal of blogging in particular and life in general is pure enjoyment. And music, perhaps more than any other art, and especially when no words are involved or in the case of the more upbeat and silly pop tracks, is all about pure enjoyment.
By the way, when I started writing this, I thought that David Thompson also featured occasional pop snippets. So I went looking for his latest pop snippet, but found that actually he does not do this, or not lately, hence no link to any music at his blog in the second sentence of this posting. But I did find this talk, by Greg Lukianoff, about the growing menace of the I-Am-Offended industry on American campuses. Quite long, but recommended.
SInce I started on this posting, Mick Hartley stuck up another pop clip. Again, I have not listened, and probably won’t ever.
I like this, from David Byrne:
I’m not saying that the artist doesn’t put their feelings into it, or any part of their biography, but that there’s a lot of constraints and considerations and templates that they work with – unconscious decisions or constraints put upon them that guide what they’re going to do.
Otherwise, why didn’t people in the 14th century start writing full-blown operas with giant orchestras and whatever? These things just weren’t available to them. Our imaginations are constrained by all these other things — which is a good thing. There’s kind of a process of evolution that goes on where the creative part of you adapts to whatever circumstances are available to you. And if you decide you want to make pop songs, or whatever, there’s a format. You can push the boundaries pretty far, but it’s still a recognized thing. And if you’re going to do something at Lincoln Center, there’s a pretty prescribed set of things you are going to do. You can push that form, but kind of from inside the genre. So I guess I’m saying that a lot of creative decisions are kind of made for us, and the trick is then working creatively within those constraints.
Happy is the artist whose inner inclinations happen to fit perfectly with the artistic forms he is offered, with audiences as they are - or as he can easily make them.
And, happy is the artist whose artistic wishes are in alignment with his artistic talents.
It is constantly said that “if Mozart had been alive today” he would have done this or that, and in all cases: a lot. But maybe he would have done nothing. Maybe he would have turned away from music-making nowadays in disgust and contempt, or maybe just frustration that it could not be what he wanted it to be. We can never know.
There being there.
I think the fact that she likes finding quotes elsewhere is closely related to the fact that there are quotes to be found aplenty in her own stuff. I’m not saying I agree with all these, although I do quite a lot. It’s more the fact that something is said that lots of people, maybe including me and maybe not, are have surely thought, often without having ever having put it into words. Then when it is put into words, you go: yes.
Personally, I have this fantasy that the Internet becomes conscious and she turns out to be a lot like me and starts putting people in time out.
And, yes, lately mostly what I have been doing is “sharing” stuff but I refuse to share anything that contains the words “share if” even if I agree with it.
Generally people who have blogs are people who have something to say. Now I’m not bragging on myself here but on the many excellent blogs out there, some very popular, some unknown and ignored. They say blogs are out. Blogs are so last decade. But we’re still here cranking out words for our half-dozen loyal readers and we’ll still be here when Facebook is out and the next social media sensation is in because we have something to say. We may desperately wish someone was listening but the fact that they’re not will not stop us.
I have a wonderful husband. Ladies, I swear I am not making this up. My husband actually told me to buy new shoes.
So lyrics don’t really mean all that much to me anyway. I prefer music without any words at all. Or with words in a language I don’t understand. Especially Latin. It’s all about the music.
One’s opinions are not always consistent with one’s values. We all think they are and if someone points out the inconsistencies we will perform the most incredible logical and ideological gymnastics in order to avoid seeing these inconsistencies.
I hate when I have to sign something. My signature never looks the same twice so I’m always a little worried that someone is going to have a problem with it.
I feel sorry for people who are so afraid of being un-cool or unsophisticated that they can’t just enjoy beautiful things.
So today I have plenty of time for some good blogging. Um … well … I’m drawing a blank. Other than this nonsense that you just read I don’t have anything right now that I want to say. There might be a cat picture later.
I find I am very loyal to the earliest blogs I just happened to tune into, and this was one of the first.
Can someone explain why some items for sale on Amazon have hugely inflated prices attached to them?
Here, for example, is a CD of the Brahms Violin Concerto, played by Pinchas Zukerman. Someone is asking £339 pounds for it, new. I have this CD, and Zukerman plays the piece very well, I think. But he does not play it £339 well. So, what’s happening here? This kind of thing seems to happen quite a lot.
Surely, nobody is ever going to pay £339. Are they? Maybe they are, in some stupid way, and that explains it.
Or is there some automatic increase going on here, and has someone forgotten about it, and just let the price climb and climb?
Comments explaining, or even just guessing the way I have, would be most welcome.
Yesterday evening I attended the talk organised by Libertarian Home, in the City, given by Steve Davies. I sat right at the front, and took photos:
On the left, Simon Gibbs of Libertarian Home photographs, on the right, Steve Davies. Here we see Davies taking time out from talking about the history of individualism in Britain, to describe the best way to play the opening chords of Tchaikovsky’s First Piano Concerto.
Finally. Well, yes, fair comment, but I had and I have my reasons.
One of the reasons there have been so many inanimate objects in these wedding photos so far is that I got there so very, very early. And it was such a lovely day, and such a lovely place. What was I supposed to do? Not take photos of stuff?
But another reason for the relative absence of people in these photos is that just shoving random wedding photos of people at a wedding and its immediate aftermath onto the internet raises the question of just how public a wedding is. Is it the business of the entire world? Not really. Not necessarily. (Think of the arguments that rage about who may and may not photograph celebrity weddings. These arguments are not only about money.)
So, are weddings entirely private? Again, not really.
A wedding is certainly not just about the Bride and the Groom. They are of course central to everything, and in modern, self-scripted weddings, we guests are often included in the proceedings by being told that we are “sharing” this “special day”. But I think more is involved than us merely sharing a basically personal ceremony. What these two people, and typically also their two families, are doing is proclaiming to one and to all that, as of now, things are different. The Bride and the Groom are no longer separate individuals in quite the way they were before this day. They are now, in whatever way they want to do this, a couple. Still two individuals of course, but also in it together. And they are not just saying this to each other. They are saying it to … everyone. We are now living a different life. Back us up, people. Don’t hit on either of us during marital rough patches. Help us to live this new life we are embarking on, rather than expecting us to behave like the singles we used to be. If you are a long time friend of hers, but don’t much care for him, make the effort to change that, and meanwhile, keep your grumbles about him to yourself.
In the past, holding weddings in public was even more important, because only if you had lots of witnesses could most of those directly concerned be entirely sure that the wedding had even happened. Public ceremonies, a marriage ceremony being only one such, were public ceremonies in order that everyone could then agree that they had happened, on that day, in that place, and that this or that, these or those promises had indeed been exchanged. In pre-literate times, public ceremonies were the nearest thing most people had to a collective record of events. They weren’t merely the principal form of public propaganda (although there definitely were that too); they were the public record.
As the old Church of England marriage ceremony puts it, right at the very start of the event:
Dearly beloved, we are gathered together here in the sight of God, and in the face of this congregation, to join together this Man and this Woman in holy Matrimony; …
God, this congregation, this Man, this Woman. The congregation is no afterthought.
But exactly who, at a wedding these days, are the members of this congregation? In the internet age, is the congregation the entire world? Hardly. Yes, families and friends gather together to tell each other, and then to pass the word on to all their families and friends, that, as of now, they’re a couple and we will all help them to be a couple and to stay a couple. But what of total strangers on the other side of the world? Do you want random bods in faraway places to be told all about this event, and all about who was present at it, what they were wearing, and about how drunk they all got? Maybe you will be delighted to be telling absolutely anyone who cares all about it. But, maybe you will not.
So, in this next clutch of photos I have once again downplayed the individual portrait aspect of things, and concentrated on the kind of generic wedding-ness of the event. Ceremonial niceties, beautiful or quirky fashion statements, food, sunshine, music making, distant shots of brideness and groomness. But individual, recognisable faces? Once again, hardly any.
For me, the fact that, in my pictures of my fellow amateur wedding photographers, faces are so often hidden behind cameras is a feature rather than a bug, when it comes to showing my snaps, at least in theory, potentially, to total strangers. That’s basically why there are more photos in that collection than there are in this one.
Let me add another point on the anonymity front, relating to the sticking up of photos of people on a blog. Let me put it thus: I have quite a few subjects which I instruct Google to email me about whenever anyone mentions them on the big old www. One of these subjects is “face recognition”. I get a lot of emails from Google about that, often involving Google itself.
By now, the name and face of the Groom is not much of a secret to any friends of mine or of his or of both who care, what with him explicitly name-checking a couple of us guests for a couple of our photos (in this piece), my one being one of the sign photos I took beforehand. I did take quite a lot of portraits of people at the event itself, of course I did. But they will be thrown into the photographic bran tub that the Bride and Groom will presumably trawl through about once every decade, without casual internet passers-by seeing them. I may even have the odd trawl through them myself in the years to come. But as for the rest of you, you will have to make do with snaps like this:
As you can see, this is not just the ceremony itself. It is also the reception.
In 2.1 we see the Bride putting a ring on the Groom. And in 1.2 we see us guests passing … something along between us, but I already forget what it was. This was in accordance with some kind of Hindu ceremony that the Groom had read about on the internet and, if I recall what the Bride’s Mum said, we (i.e. regular Hindus) never do. So the Groom, no sort of Hindu himself, had invented an entire Hindu wedding tradition. Outstanding.
I particularly enjoyed the bit later on in the day (see 3.2) where the Bride and Groom, surrounded by musicians, were photoed together, at the far end of the lawn from the rest of us. I got no really good photos of this, but what I saw reminded me somewhat of this famous Jack Vettriano painting, of people dancing on the beach, attended not by musicians but by umbrella holders. I thought there were musicians involved in that picture, but I now reckon I was combining in my mind that painting with this one. Ah, it seems that the man with the umbrella was singing. So music was involved.
Setting Vettriano aside, one of the musicians told me that although they had performed at many weddings, they had never, ever been asked to do anything like that before. So it was a slightly special day for them also. Excellent.
It is now Monday afternoon, but the end of my Thursday Odyssey is hardly yet in site.
My next stop was at Gramex, where second hand classical CDs are on sale, in particular abundance during the last week or two, as it happens.
The BBC is making a big fuss of LPs just now. Fair enough. LPs had a huge influence on the music being created at the time. Pop music was transformed, for a while, by the album, as was Pop Art, the album cover being a new arena for graphic fun and games of all kinds. Remember all those concept albums?
I just about do, but for me, Pop etc. was a parallel universe. I never disliked it, in fact I admired and admire it very much, and I like occasional pop tracks hugely. Pop is hugely better than recent “classical”, classical being basically a museum now. But despite all that, then as now, I still preferred and prefer classical, and for all but a few vinyl-obsessed classicists, the LP was never more than a means of reproduction, a window to look out at the classical garden, and a very ropey one at that what with all the clicks and scratches, particularly during your favourite bits. Classical music was a going concern long before recordings of any kind existed, and classical LP graphics never amounted to much more than pictures of the musicians, fancy ye-olde typography and/or kitschy chocolate box type landscapes. So when classical LPs were replaced by classical CDs, little was lost and a universe of distraction-free clarity was gained. CDs, certainly classical CDs, after a brief interlude of euphoric demand-driven bonanza profits, quickly got cheaper than LPs if you knew anything about how to buy them, on account of them being so much cheaper to make and distribute.
At first, people thought CDs would eventually disintegrate, but actually what was disintegrating was the CD players. CDs last for ever, provided you are minimally careful. Certainly mine all have, the only problem CDs being the ones that were scratched when I bought them. Crucial to the cheapness of CDs is that you can buy them second hand with reasonable confidence. On Amazon, sellers are terrified of a bad rating, and in shops, you can search out scratches for yourself. Often a shop will let you buy and try, and return if it is too much of a mess. Often what looks like a mess plays just fine. (The trick is to realise that scratches often don’t matter, provided they point towards the middle, as it were. The ones that go with the groove, sideways, because they seriously interrupt the one stream of digital stuff, are the killers.)
So for me, classical CDs were love at first sound. I keep wondering if I may soon stop buying them, but the sort I continue to buy, second-hand at Gramex or (more recently) from Amazon, continue to drift downwards in price.
Here is what I bought at Gramex on Thursday:
I paid only eight quid for those. And the one on the left is a double, which I have been looking for cheap for quite a while. Look for them on Amazon, here and here, and you discover (today anyway) that you would have to pay more like thirty quid for those. Plus, there is no postage to pay if you buy them in Gramex, like there is with Amazon. The cheaper the stuff you like to buy, the more that matters.
Which, along with the exercise I get from going there, is why I keep returning to Gramex. Boss Roger Hewland knows exactly what he is doing. He knows all about Amazon, and regularly checks prices there so as to go below them. He buys big collections for about one quid per CD, often within a minute of looking at them. He then piles them high, sells them cheap, and turns over his stock fast. He knows that getting four quid for something he sells in two days is a better deal for him than getting a tenner, but a month later. And he charges more like one quid for less desirable CDs, just to get rid of them and to make it worthwhile for his regulars to keep on visiting.
More and more regular shops won’t or can’t think like this, and in the face of online selling are just folding their tents, to be replaced by gift shops, restaurants and coffee shops. The latter two being what I did next.
First I went to Marie’s Thai Restaurant, a minute away along Lower Marsh from Gramex, and had my regular chicken and cashoo nuts with rice and a glass of orange juice, and then killed some more time in a Cafe Nero, while continuing to read about Tamerlane, in a book I recently bought for four quid in a remainder shop. He was born. He deceived. He tortured. He slaughtered. He conquered. He died. His vast empire immediately fell apart amidst further slaughter. What a pointless monster. Read about all that and tell me there’s no such thing as progress.
Coffee shops do puzzle me a bit, though. How to do they pay their rent? The morning and lunchtime rushes I suppose, which I avoid.
When journeying across the river to Vauxhall, as I often do, I now tend to take the bus, in fact I have been doing this ever since I got my Old Git Pass.
Which means that I have tended to miss out on shots like these:
The circumstance which caused me to shun the bus, despite the extreme coldness of the weather, was all the drama to do with the – see immediately below - cranes.
The Shard one reminds me that I have been watching a lot of Wagner on DVD lately, specifically Gotterdamerung (add double dots to taste). Operas like Gotterdamerung bring out the worst in European stage directors and stage designers. They tend to set the thing, not in the mythic world indicated by Wagner, but in a modern aircraft hanger, space station, hydro-electric power station, typically rather run-down or collapsing.
The architectural clutter in the foreground is provided by a piece of New Brutalism that is now being demolished. Reinforced concrete sometimes looks at its most dramatic when they are trying to remove it. It really puts up a fight, doesn’t it?
Indeed. My own happy new year was delayed by illness. During New Year’s Eve and for a lot of today, I was ill (which meant that I had to pass on all this). But then, late this afternoon, quite suddenly, I switched from being definitely ill, to recovering. I am not fully recovered, still having the remains of a head ache. But I am nevertheless in that state of post-illness contentment that comes from knowing that I definitely am recovering.
So, I am now having a happy new year, and I hope that my small band of regular readers having been having a happy new year also.
I am now listening to this (that’s YouTube sound only) over the top version of the Blue Danube on the piano, played by the wonderful Ben Grosvenor, on the radio. Lovely, albeit mad. (Lovely because mad.) Later I will record the Vienna New Year’s Day concert from off of the telly, with its superb music and its vomit-inducingly kitsch-ridden ballet dancing. The visuals being because I like to watch conductors and orchestras at work. I can just not watch the balletic ghastliness.
Well here I am watching England v Scotland in the Rugby World Cup, and so far it’s been almost all Scotland, maybe because it’s raining and they love that. Only after about half an hour have England started to do anything. Parks has landed two tricky penalties into the wind, with the second one being adjudicated with the help of television. A first, apparently. And until just now, Wilkinson was on 0 and 3. 0 and 3. Wilkinson. It’s now 1 and 4, with Scotland leading 6-3, but if England can’t rely on Wilkinson, then as all their enemies (i.e. the rest of the world) say, what do they have?
The scrum seems to be a perpetual bore, with all this “touch” pause “pause” pause “engage” nonsense from the ref, which (a) seems to go on for ever, and which (b) still falls to pieces. However, this time, it is only the England scrum that is falling to pieces.
Drop goal from Dan Parks, and at half time it’s England 3 Scotland 9. Where was Parks and his drop goaling when Scotland were playing Argentina? Can England pull themselves together and win this? My understanding is that if they don’t win, they’ll be in the strong, otherwise Northern Hemisphere half of the draw, and after losing to Scotland won’t frighten anyone there, except themselves.
If Scotland win, but without the bonus point from winning by eight points (or whatever it is) or more, they won’t go through at all. So at least England might take Scotland with them into nowhere land.
They’re showing the England scrum giving away penalties. Not pretty. It’s all looking very much like Rugby is Only A Game.
There’s just been a great tackle by Tui … langi? Followed by some England attacking down the left. Better. But Scotland are doing well at the line-out. England back on the attack. If they can keep hold of the ball they look a threat.
Another scrum, more grief for England.
When the weather is wet, rugby is more of a lottery. Here in England we are having a first burst of truly hot (as well as cloudless) weather of the entire year so far. Hot weather is left wing. Have you noticed that?
England have just won a Scotland scrum! England attack. England knock-on. Too many England errors. But, another England turn over at the scrum. Better. Wilkinson misses a drop goal. He’s the weak link. I’ll say it again. Wilkinson is the weak link. Is this his last England game? Nevertheless, England as a whole look stronger. If they could just score a try. Not this time, England give it away and Scotland attack. Scotland nearly score! Scotland penalty, it’s good. Scotland need to win by “8 points or more” and now lead by 9.
Until today I was happy with England’s progress, and may yet be, if they can win this. Hey, Wilkinson puts over a drop goal! Scotland back needing more points. As I was saying, I was happy with England. Everyone moaned about their early wins, but at least they were wins. Argentina are hellishly difficult to beat, and England beat them.
Lots of displacement activity from me, rearranging CDs in CD shelves. Another penalty success from Wilkinson! England look threatening now. England 9 Scotland 12. If England can just scramble a win here, I’ll be back defending them.
What happens if it ends in a draw?
Another Wilkinson penalty attempt. Just short.
The England scrum seems to be working better now. The reason I’m unclear about the details of this game is that another of my displacement activities just now is listening to CD Review, where they’re comparing all the Bruckner 8s.
Penalty to England. If this goes over, it becomes 12 all, with minutes left. If it stays like that, then, according to my calculations, England will win the group. But, England go to the corner.
Ashton scores on the right! England ahead! “You can only feel sympathy for Scotland!” Well, I can think of a few other feelings I can feel. Hah!!! Toby Flood gave the scoring pass, a big miss-out looper. He seems to have made a difference.
No swallow diving by Ashton this time. Flood nails the conversion. Flood is looking very good. 16-12. That conversion means Scotland have to score a try, and, well, until now, Scotland haven’t done tries. We’re past the 80 minutes mark, the next stoppage does it. England win!
I have lots of recordings of Bruckner 8, but none of three the BBC has just recommended. Bugger.
So, it’s official. England are now the Germany of the rugby World Cup. They look rubbish in early games. But then the prettier teams knock each other out, and hey presto, a month later England are still in it. That’s what happened last time. I hope that happens again.
Apparently Tonga beat France. Hah!! (All the pool results so far are to be found here.) Looks like if Tonga could only have beaten Canada also, that would have meant France being out of it. I think. Antoine Clarke (pronounced Claire for the duration) won’t be happy.
Today I had a bizarre and rather troubling experience. I listened to a recording I had made of a single orchestral piece, performed at some point in a broadcast concert earlier this summer. My recording began, not with an announcement of what the piece was and who was playing it, but with the beginning of the performance itself. As it began, I was wondering what it was, what with the sound file being called 09081930.MP2 rather than anything more informative. That says when it was recorded (Aug 9 at 7.30pm), but not what it is.
I continued to listen to the piece. It was totally familiar, but what the hell was it? I knew I knew it, but I … did not know its name! Every note was familiar. I knew exactly what was coming next. I knew how it would end. I knew it, I knew it, I knew it. But, I did not know it.
Even more irritating was that, presumably because I obviously knew it, my recording of the piece ended with a snatch of truncated applause, rather than any further announcement of what it was and who had been playing it. What the hell was it?
After much further research of a silliness that I need not bother you with, I finally found my way to the programme of the event I had been recording. And all was revealed. Finlandia.
Finlandia, by Sibelius.
Finlandia!!!! This is one of the most famous pieces of classical music ever written, just about at the pinnacle of the classical pop chart. And what’s more, I don’t just know this piece, and I haven’t just known it for half a century, possessing an increasing number of recordings of it as the decades have passed. I fXXXing played in it when I was at Marlborough. I played the flute, and Finlandia has lots for the flutes to do, and I did it, week after week, and then finally at the end of term concert. Not long after that I got a recording of the piece (along with the Sibelius Violin Concerto - also wonderful) by Herbert Von Karajan, to hear how it should really sound, and listened to it over and over again with huge pleasure. Yet, until I had consulted that concert programme, I could not remember the name of the piece, or who had written it.
I’ve had experiences like this before, such as not recognising the Beethoven Violin Concerto when hearing Beethoven’s own version of it for piano and orchestra, or not recognising some famous pop tune, that I also knew I knew, when someone sang it. But this was truly bizarre.
This is not the end, but it now feels a lot like the beginning of the end.
I’m reading what I think will prove to be a terrific book, about The Fall of the Roman Empire by Peter Heather. Here is some of what Heather says about the massacre of the lost legions of Varus in 9 AD (pp. 46-47):
The massacre was the work of a coalition of Germanic warriors marshalled by one Arminius, a chieftain of the Cherusci, a small tribe living between the River Ems and the River Weser in what is now northern Germany. The ancient Roman sources describing the defeat were rediscovered and passed into broader circulation among Latin scholars in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, and from that point on Arminius, generally known as Hermann (’the German’) - the delatinized version of his name - became a symbol of German nationhood. Between 1676 and 1910 an extraordinary seventy-six operas were composed to celebrate his exploits, and in the nineteenth century a huge monument was constructed in his honour near the small city of Detmold in the middle of what is today called the Teutoburger Wald. The foundation stone was laid in 1841, and the monument was finally dedicated in 1875, four years after Bismarck’s defeat of France had united much of the Cerman-speaking world of north-central Europe behind the Prussian monarchy. The 28-metre copper statue of Hermann is mounted on top of a stone base of similar height, which itself sits on top of a 400-metre hill. The edifice was a reminder that the triumph of modem German unification had its counterpart in the Roman era.
The Hermann monument is actually in the wrong place. The name Teutoburger Wald was first coined for the forested area around Detmold in the seventeenth century, as people began to conjecture where the ancient battle might have taken place. Thanks to some extraordinary finds, part of the actual battlefield has now been identified about 70 kilometres to the north. ...
On the right there is the monument.
I regularly read in books about classical music that opera was central to rise of nationalism in Germany, and also in Italy. But that really drives that point home, I think.
Incoming email from and about Beachcombing’s Bizarre History Blog, which “tries to apply serious academic standards to the bizarre in history”, speculating that I might like it. I do.
I have waited until today before linking to this blog, on account of the fact that Beachcombing has a thing about cats.
Under that cat-egory (ha!) you will find a posting that began as an account of alleged dastardly behaviour by Johannes Brahms towards cats, and mutated into a posting about Richard Wagner’s dastardly invention of the original story. Brahms did not torture and murder cats for sport. Wagner, who had musical differences with Brahms, and who was an utter shit, made the story up.
I love the music of Brahms. Wagner also wrote excellent music (I think), especially (I also think) if you can screen out the often horribly ugly singing which is so often attached to that music, and he was a vicious anti-semite. But falsely accusing someone of cat-slaughter really takes the biscuit.
The twentieth century Russian composer Dimitri Shostakovich was much photographed, but I have never seen that photo of him before. It is on the cover of the latest (numbers 1 and 3) in the Naxos series of Shostakovich symphonies being recorded by the RLPO and Vasily Petrenko. Well, this CD has two covers. There’s an outer cardboard cover, bright blue, with a picture of Petrenko on it. And then there’s the regular cover, on the sleeve notes, inside the regular plastic CD case, which is where this photo is to be seen. Acccording the back of the CD, it is entitled: “Two days before the completion of the First Symphony, 28th June, 1925”. He looks chubbier than in all the later photos.
I don’t believe this photo has ever been used before on a CD or a record. Which is surprising. There’s a whole internet cat subculture, that will surely now spread the word of this CD. I got my copy yesterday, for even less than the usual Naxos bargain basement price, but have not listened to it yet. If it’s as good as people are saying, it’s good.
I have, on the other hand, listened to another recent Shostakovich CD, this time of his First Violin Concerto, done by Lisa Batiashvili. Outstanding. I especially like the contribution made by the conductor, Esa-Pekka Salonen. I heard Salonen drain all the excitement out of Beethoven’s Ninth at a Prom some years back, which was quite an achievement. But this time around, his icy perfectionism is perfect casting. And I also, not long back, finally found a cheap-enough-to-buy box of the Fitzwilliam Quartet’s complete Shostakovich string quartets. Outstanding again, and done with a similar icy perfection.