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In a postie about Tweeting (and just as an aside, while I have been dragooned into Facebook Nation, there’s no way I move on to Twitter as well), our Maximum Leader asks the following question:

Does liking the music of Khachaturian make me a Communist?

The answer is yes.

Carry on.

Douthat on the Papacy:

Conventional wisdom holds that respect [for the Pope] is increasingly misplaced, and that the papacy is increasingly a millstone around Roman Catholicism’s neck. If it weren’t for the reactionaries in the Vatican, the argument runs, priests might have been permitted to marry, forestalling the sex abuse crisis. Birth control, gay relationships, divorce and remarriage might have been blessed, bringing lapsed Catholics back into the fold. Theological dissent would have been allowed to flourish, creating a more welcoming environment for religious seekers.

And yet none of these assumptions have any real evidence to back them up. Yes, sex abuse has been devastating to the church. But as Newsweek noted earlier this year, there’s no data suggesting that celibate priests commit abuse at higher rates than the population as a whole, or that married men are less prone to pedophilia. (The real problem was the hierarchy’s fear of scandal, which led to endless cover-ups and enabled serial predation.)

And yes, the church’s exclusive theological claims and stringent moral message don’t go over well in a multicultural, sexually liberated society. But the example of Catholicism’s rivals suggests that the church might well be much worse off if it had simply refashioned itself to fit the prevailing values of the age. That’s what the denominations of mainline Protestantism have done, across the last four decades — and instead of gaining members, they’ve dwindled into irrelevance.

The Vatican of Benedict and John Paul II, by contrast, has striven to maintain continuity with Christian tradition, even at the risk of seeming reactionary and out of touch. This has cost the church its once-privileged place in the Western establishment, and earned it the scorn of fashionable opinion. But continuity, not swift and perhaps foolhardy adaptation, has always been the papacy’s purpose, and the secret of its lasting strength.

I think there’s much to this.

This morning I heard a trio sonata on the radio by a fellah named Johann Baptist Georg Neruda that was so delightful to listen to that I looked it up on the playlist and bought the CD.

Neruda, with whose musick I have not had any other experience, apparently was a  Bohemian born round about 1710, who eventually wound up in Dresden, where he died about 1780.   That would make him roughly contemporaneous with the sons of J.S. Bach.  The Rococo has never represented much more to me than pleasant, lightweight noise, but sometimes that’s just what one wants.

The group that performs on this CD, the Parnassi Musici, apparently make a practice of hunting up and recording lesser known early composers.  (This CD seems to be the very first recording of Neruda’s trio sonatas.)  I have often said that one of the greatest benefits of the Period Instrument Movement has been the resurrection of musick of this sort, musick which sounds absolutely horrid when played in the heavy-handed, big orchestra manner prevalent for most of the 19th and 20th Centuries, but which springs into breathtaking bloom like the desert after the rains when played the way it was meant to be.

Looking forward to it.

UPDATE: Per request, here’s a short snippet of the 3rd movement of the Trio Sonata No. 6 in D major (the one I heard this morning.)  I think it gives some idea.  You can sample other tracks over at Barnes & Noble (where I should have looked, as the CD is $4 cheaper than at the devil’s website.)

UPDATE DEUX: Well, now.  Listened to the CD over the weekend.  There are four trio sonatas plus a concerto for violin and oboe.   At least as far as the trio sonatas went (and I’ve always been a sucker for trio sonatas), my initial impression from what I heard on the radio was hemi-demi-semi-confirmed.  There were some very pretty passages and plenty of evidence of compositional competance.  However, I found that there was not much, well, meat to the things, no real inventiveness or imagination.  Every time I thought a passage was building up to say something really witty, it wound up keeping mum.  This was even truer of the concerto, which frankly left me unimpressed.  It isn’t that I thought the musick bad, it’s just that I found it not all that worthy of serious attention.  In short, it seems to me to be (dare I say it?) good background musick.

The performances, however, were exquisite.   I’d very much like to hear this group getting its teeth into something weightier.

All in all, I certainly wouldn’t call the CD a waste of money, but it’s probably going to be one that I don’t listen to all that often.


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September 2010