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haydn oxfordRecently I received a new CD from teh Devil’s website of Haydn’s Symphonies Nos. 91 and 92 (the “Oxford”), performed by the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Rene Jacobs.  These renditions, on period instruments of course, are easily the fastest and most energetic I have ever heard in my life.  Puts old Papa in a completely new perspective.

Regular friends of the decanter know that Robbo spends a lot of pixels here bemoaning the wretched state of our decaying civilization.  One crumb of comfort, however, is the enormous advancement in musickal scholarship and performance technique made just since my misspent yoot.   I still remember very well all those records and tapes of Baroque and Classickal pieces being served up in a style more appropriate to Brahms or Saint-Saens – heavy, lugubrious, stiff.   I can well see how somebody who only ever heard Bach performed this way would reach the conclusion that he was simply mathematickal and boring.  I can also see how Haydn got the reputation for writing clunky “barnyard” minuets.

But since, oh, the mid-80’s or so, what an absolutely delightful proliferation of clean, sharp, vibrant performances!  In the earlies, it was just a few groups such as The Academy of Ancient Musick, the English Consort and The English Baroque Soloists.  These days, there are so many of them that I can’t keep track:  The above-mentioned Freiburg Baroque; Ton Koopman’s Amsterdam Baroque; Reinhard Goebel’s Musica Antiqua Köln  (I hated Telemann when I was a kid – it wasn’t until I heard their renditions that I understood what I had been missing); Parnassi Musici; The Brook Street Band; Cafe Zimmermann…..the list goes on and on.

Further, the growing number of specialized period instrument groups and the growing number of recording available from them would indicate to me, at least, that there is a market out there which appreciates this change as much as I do.

Anyhoo, if you are a fan of ol’ Papa who shares my period instrument enthusiasm, I think you’d like these performances.



Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening while languidly channel surfing, as he does from time to time, ol’ Robbo stumbled across an airing of Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.

Regular friends of the decanter are well aware of my general loathing for screen adaptations of books, especially beloved ones.  You probably recall my many diatribes against the whole LOTR franchise, for example.   I have commented negatively here from time to time about the Jeeves and Wooster teevee series.  And of course, when M&C:TFSOTW first came out, in my guise as a llamabutcher I savaged it based just on what I saw from the trailers and in the reviews.  (Lest you think I’m simply a blanket-condemning crank, I will say that I approve of the Merchant-Ivory adaptation of A Room With A View and I think the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes stories were just about pitch-perfect.  I’d add that I like David Suchet’s Poirot, but I haven’t read enough Christie to judge how faithful it is to the original.)

Nonetheless, I happened to be in a fairly benevolent mood, so I said to myself, “Self, why don’t you try actually watching this thing with an open mind and see how it goes.”

Well, my benevolence lasted approximately fifteen minutes, after which I sprouted fangs and fur and started slavering and baying at the moon.   Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG, WRONG, WRONG!

Every single detail of this dog big and small – from the horrid miscasting of Jack and Stephen and the cannibalized story-lines, through the hack dialogue and  right down to the mish-mash of Corelli and Ralph Vaughn Bloody Williams in the soundtrack –  bespeaks a writing team that spent about thirty seconds scanning the Cliff’s Notes and figured it had done sufficient research.

Some people have suggested that I ought to try and enjoy the movie just as a movie and forget its literary antecedents.  Uh-uh.  If you appropriate a book you have a moral as well as an artistic obligation to be as faithful as possible not only to its details but also to its overall tone and spirit.  Don’t like such restrictions?  Then write your own goddam story.

But the people who mystify me are those who profess to love both the books and the movie.   How can this be when there are so many glaring differences?  How can they condone the violence done to the one by the other?  Just what the heck are they smoking, anyway?  Sometimes I imagine such people simply are so grateful for any kind of screen version that they’ll willingly overlook even obvious abuses.  In personal relationships, there’s a psychological term for that sort of thing.   I think it’s just as unhealthy here.




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October 2013