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Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo is back from his most recent travels safe and sound and has some choice vignettes about them to relay to you friends of the decanter in the near future.  First, however, I must do a bit of gratuitous Proud Papa-ing.*

As regular friends of the decanter know, teh Middle Gel is a chorister at the Washington National Cathedral, now in the middle of her third year and her first as a senior chorister.

Last night saw the debut of the Cathedral Choir at Carnegie Hall in New York.  Today’s NYTimes gives this review.   First, the players:

For these works, Mr. [Julian] Wachner, who is also a composer, assembled some 300 performers: the excellent Choir of Trinity Wall Street; the Trinity Youth Chorus; the Washington Chorus, an award-winning ensemble that Mr. Wachner also directs; the Boy and Girl Choristers of Washington National Cathedral Choir; and Novus NY, the Trinity Wall Street’s contemporary music orchestra, its ranks fortified for this demanding concert with extra players.

 The pertinent meat re the choral work goes thusly:

For sheer terror in music, however, not much matches the most intense moments of [Alberto] Ginastera’s passion, which put all the evening’s performers onstage. Like the Bach passions, this one has a solo Evangelist who tells the story, not in recitative, as Bach does, but in Gregorian chant. (Thomas McCargar sang the Evangelist here, along with Geoffrey Silver as Pilate and Judas, and Scott Allen Jarrett as Jesus.)

Those who know Ginastera, who died in 1983 at 67, only from his earlier South American nationalist style work may be stunned to hear this passion, essentially a 12-tone score of gnashing dissonance and multilayered complexity. Yet much of the harmonic language sounds lushly chromatic, in an Expressionist vein. The piece’s most audacious element is its shrieking cinematic realism. Sometimes the choirs speak and sputter the lines; sometimes the music breaks into free-for-all bouts of hysteria.

Mr. Wachner led a viscerally dramatic performance. With this concert he signaled that next year, the centennial of Ginastera, Trinity Wall Street will present an extensive survey of the composer’s works. Adventure and ambition go hand in hand at Trinity Wall Street.

For what it’s worth, teh Middle Gel, who is, after all, ol’ Robbo’s child, despised the piece, which they also performed last week at a gala at the OAS for the strategic benefit of exposure to Big Shots at the Kennedy Center and the Washington Performing Arts Society.  Although I would much rayther see her take the Emma Kirkby route, and have long thought that she was born to sing Susanna, all I could do was to remind her that Show-Biz often demands the performing of personally distasteful works and to point out that there are very, very few 15 year olds (or anyone else for that matter) who can boast that they’ve played Carnegie Hall.

Anyhoo, as noted, ol’ Robbo is one seriously proud papa.

 

* I hope that regular friends of the decanter will know by now that ol’ Robbo does not stick on side and that his enthusiasms for the successes of his progeny are genuinely heart-felt.

UPDATE:  Teh Gel, who reads this blog even before the pixels dry, came in just now to correct me on one point:  Teh Choristers did not perform this Carnegie Hall piece at the OAS last week, but instead served up some Mendelssohn there.   Sounds to me like the OAS johnnies caught themselves a break!

I play this myself from time to time (indeed, I played the whole suite just now), well enough to enjoy it but of course nowhere near performance level.

I’ve long thought of this as Bach’s “Psycho Girlfriend” gigue because the development of the chromatic theme through its logical progressions produces such bizarre twists and turns.

(Yes, ol’ Robbo had a few psycho girlfriends back in the day, so he knows what he’s talking about.  His two biggest fan bases seem to be cats and crazy people.)

Portrait of Mozart by brother-in-law Joseph Lange around 1783, said by Constanze to be the best likeness of her husband.

Portrait of Mozart by brother-in-law Joseph Lange around 1783, said by Constanze to be the best likeness of her husband.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As many of you probably know, yesterday was the anniversary of the birth, in 1756, of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Last week, as part of its month-long celebration of Mozart’s birth, the local classickal station chose as its CD “pick of the week” a recording that included a performance of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C Major, K. 503, various movements of which received multiple plays during the course of the week.

This made ol’ Robbo smile because of a certain passage in Patrick O’Brian’s The Letter of Marque.  (WARNING: If you are not an aficionado of the Jack Aubrey/Stephen Maturin canon, the rest of this post won’t make much sense to you.  I can only suggest that you drop whatever else you’re doing and go start in on these books right now.  Right. Now.)  In it, Jack and Stephen are talking in the cabin of the Surprise when Jack suddenly breaks his train of thought about other matters and exclaims, “….Surely that is not the “Marseillaise” you are picking out?”

Stephen had his ‘cello between his knees and for some time now he had been very quietly stroking two or three phrases with variations upon them – a half-conscious playing that interrupted neither his talk nor his listening. ‘It is not,’ he said. ‘It is, or rather it is meant to be, the Mozart piece that was no doubt lurking somewhere in the Frenchman’s mind when he wrote it.  Yet something eludes me…..”

‘Stephen,’ cried Jack. ‘Not another note, I beg.  I have it exactly, if only it don’t fly away.’ He whipped the cloth off his violin-case, tuned roughly, and swept straight into the true line.  After a while, Stephen joined him, and when they were thoroughly satisfied they stopped, tuned very exactly, passed the rosin to and fro and so returned to the direct statement, to variations upon it, inversions, embroideries, first one setting out a flight of improvisations while the other filled in and then the other doing the same, playing on and on until a lee-lurch half-flung Stephen from his seat, so that his ‘cello gave a dismal screech.

I smiled because the Mozart to which Stephen referred was, in fact, one of the secondary themes of the first movement of this particular concerto.  I give it you here.  The orchestra first states it in the minor at about 1:34, then repeats in the major at 1:42 and 1:48.  The piano gets in on the act at 6:53 and makes a full, triumphant statement of the theme at 7:32.  It never really goes away for the rest of the movement.  Enjoy!

You must admit that it is quite engaging, and readily capable of earwig-like lurking once installed in one’s head.  (And before anybody starts pointing out the differences between this theme and that of the “Marseillaise”, bear in mind that Stephen specifically states that the former is “lurking” in the Frenchman’s mind.  It’s an influence, not a direct match.)

I must confess that there are times, when reading O’Brian’s magnum opus, that I am not altogether sure he really knows what he’s talking about when it comes to musick.   But this one is a safe and pleasant bet.

 

*A reference to another literary work.  10 points for spotting it and The Mothe is disqualified from playing because it would be a gimme for her.

 

Well, fellow port swillers, as I type this post teh Middle Gel is off at her school’s Winter Formal (or “WinFo” as teh kids seem to call it), hopefully having a grand time.  I only got to see her for a second earlier this evening – Mrs. R had her out getting her hair and face done and she only had, literally, five minutes to dash back into Port Swiller Manor, throw on her dress and dash out again – but she looked grand.

Fortunately, through a horse-trade too complicated to explain here, Mrs. R is tasked with tonight’s chauffeuring duties, so ol’ Robbo finds himself sitting in front of his Mac, a glass of the Laphroaig 10 y.o. at his side and a set of trio sonatas by Johann Baptist Georg Neruda (1707-1780) on the ol’ CD player.

If this isn’t Blog Nirvana for a traditionally-minded fellah on the eve of hitting the big 5-0, I’ll be damned if I know what is.

Anyhoo, some observations:

♦   We’ve had the Mac on which I’m typing this post for a couple years now and I say again: I. Hate. Apple.  For reasons completely incomprehensible to me, whenever I touch the mouse I enter into a zone of random chances that the screen is going to enlarge or shrink or shift left or right or vanish altogether, usually with absolutely no hope of getting back to where I started without losing what it was I was doing.  Damn that.  Technology should be absolutely clear and deliberate, not vague and anticipatory.  This is how SkyNet is going to kill us all.

♦   Yet another story today on a familiar theme:  Multi-billionaire who gave a lecture about American’s ‘needing to have less things and live a smaller existence’ owns a staggering FIVE mansions… including the nation’s most expensive home.  Of course.  As the Puppy-Blender likes to say, when the people who tell us there’s a crisis start acing like there’s a crisis, I will, perhaps, start to listen.

♦   Yes, it’s properly “fewer things” instead of “less things”.  However, pointing out such sloppy errors these days probably constitutes “grammarian micro-aggression” and therefor constitutes a hate crime.

♦  Speaking of which (the GloBull Warming bullet, not the grammar-Nazi one), go check out this link at Ace’s.  Yes, indeed.

♦  Ol’ Robbo made himself get on the elliptical this afternoon for the first time in quite a while.  45 minutes, 3.25 miles, 400+ calories.  I’m afraid that I’ve got rayther flabby in the last year or two – both physically and mentally –  and have decided to use my impending milestone birthday as a reason to get back in the game.  I must say that the endorphin rush, first acquired back in my college varsity days, feels mighty good.

♦  Good friend of the decanter Diane mentions that she recently has cleaned up her own blogroll.  This reminds me that, really, I ought to do the same here, as many entries on the port swiller lists have gone dark or moved.  It’s hard, though.  In part, Robbo hates change and will cling to old clothes, old shoes, old books and old blog friends long after they have fallen apart, and doesn’t like to accept the fact that they’ve done so.  Indeed, there’s a specific, individual reason why I linked to most of these blogs in the first place, and I am frankly saddened to see each of them end.  In part, also, I’m also too damn lazy to fiddle with the workings.

♦  On the other side, I again remind those two or three of you who gather here that if you think there are other blogs out there that might tickle the port swiller fancy, you are invited to send them along.  Always more room on the ol’ blogroll for them, and we welcome as many voices as care to chime in.

♦  Maybe it’s just an age thing, but despite the fact that we have not had all that bad a winter so far in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, ol’ Robbo pines for spring this year much more than he can remember doing so in the past.  On the other hand, another Alberta Clipper is set to hit the area tomorrow night and into Monday.  Ol’ Robbo is not so trenchant in his desire for warmer weather that he wouldn’t mind a delay or closing on his birthday….

Yes, I am kinda shallow.

 Welp, it’s getting latish, so I should wrap this up and go check my, ah, firepower.  Just in case Middle Gel’s date did not adhere to the standards one would expect of a young gentleman.  You know:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Ol’ Robbo was idling around the innertoobs this soggy Saturday morning when his eye fell on this article over at the Telegraph: Warriors Suffered From Post-Traumatic Stress ‘3,000 Years Ago’.  The lead:

Warriors in ancient Iraq more than 3,000 years ago could have been the first people to suffer from post-traumatic stress, researchers have found.

It has long been believed that the first account of PTSD was in 490 BC following the Marathon Wars between the Greeks and the Persians.

The understanding was based on Herodotus’ account of the Athenian spear carrier Epizelus who began to suffer from mutism after the conflict.

But researchers at Anglia Ruskin University have now discovered texts that suggest PTSD could have existed as far back as 1300 BC.

[snip]

Prof Jamie Hacker Hughes, director of Anglia Ruskin’s Veterans and Families Institute, said the texts references conflicts in the same region as the current Gulf Wars.

He said: “This paper, and the research on which it is based, demonstrates that post traumatic psychological symptoms of battle were evident in ancient Mesopotamia.

“Well before the Greek and Roman eras, before the time of Abraham and the biblical Kings, David and Solomon, and contemporarily with the time of the Pharaohs.”

“Especially significant is that this evidence comes from the area known as the cradle of civilisation and, of course, the site of much recent conflict including the recent Gulf and Iraq Wars in which many British service personnel were involved.”

Now, I’ve never served in uniform, much less combat, but I have studied history and human nature.  My first reaction to the story was, “Well, duh.”  But that last little bit got me wondering.  Why, exactly, is it “especially significant” that this evidence comes from the “cradle of civilization”?  Is the suggestion that such stress is a by-product of psychological developments associated with such civilization and, by implication, that it has not been experienced by, say, hunter-gatherer savages populating other parts of the world?  Because that would be an interesting idea, if rayther daringly politically incorrect.  UPDATE: Or, now that I think about it more, what about civilizations parallel to the one which rose in Mesopotamia?  Is there any evidence of PTSD in warriors among, say, the Aztecs or the Incas?

On the other hand, is it just an excuse to adopt an arched eyebrow and an ironic smirk while saying “cradle of civilization” when discussing Iraq?

I don’t know.

UPDATE: Oh, why not?  Like I say, soggy Saturday.  Enjoy!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Whenever the Middle Gel starts griping about how tired she is, which is fairly often, I recommend that she take up drinking coffee (as I did when I got to high school myself).  She replies that she never will, and then goes on to start throwing facts and figures about caffeine addiction and misallocation of take-home income at me, arguing that I, in fact, ought to stop drinking it.

Riiiiiiiight…[Insert Bill Bixby, “Mr. McGee, don’t make me angry.  You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” line here.]

I usually end the debate by adopting a James Earl Jones voice and saying, “Come to the Dark Side.  It is your destiny!”

We went through all this again this morning while waiting for school to open, so I decided that it was high time to dig out “Die Katze läßt das Mausen nicht”  from J.S. Bach’s “Coffee Cantata”, BWV 211.  What I say is, if it was good enough for ol’ Johann Sebastian, it’s good enough for a young whippersnapper who ought to be doing her homework instead of cruising Dad’s blog.

Die Katze lässt das Mausen nicht,
Cats do not leave mice alone,
die Jungfern bleiben Coffeeschwestern.
and maidens remain coffee addicts.
Die Mutter liebt den Coffeebrauch,
The mother loves this coffee custom,
die Großmama trank solchen auch,
the grandmother did the same,
wer will nun auf die Töchter lästern!
who can then blame the daughter!

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Last evening the boys and girls down the Cathedral put on their annual Lessons and Carols Festivus and this year the thing was live streamed and YooToobed.  Teh Middle Gel and her crew do their stuff starting at about 51:30.  She is in the second row, third from the right.  (Co-incidentally, the soloist was a classmate of teh Eldest Gel in middle school at Robbo’s parish.)

I put this up here mainly for the benefit of the Mothe, who lives too far away to see teh Gel in action in person, but I have to confess that I also am motivated by my immense pride in what she is doing.  I can only ask your indulgence and hope that, at least amongst the longer-standing friends of the decanter, you understand the combination of my intense love of musick and my sincere delight in my offsprings’ achievements that compels me, and do not come away with the impression that ol’ Robbo is simply sticking on side.

(For what it’s worth, BTW, I’m told that none of the choir particularly liked the piece they sang.  But that’s showbiz.)

cathedral choirGreetings, my fellow port swillers!

As I mentioned in one of the posts below, this past weekend Mrs. R and I went down the Washington National Cathedral to hear its combined choirs (including the Middle Gel, in her first year as a senior chorister) and orchestra serve up Handel’s Messiah.  Oddly enough, although I have heard the piece many, many times in various recordings and have seen live performances of parts of it, this was the first time I’d seen it live all the way through.

Well, it was glorious.  No other word.  Canon Michael McCarthy, who helmed the thing, is a veteran of John Eliot Gardiner’s Monteverdi Choir and of The Sixteen and knows his period performance stuff from soup to nuts, and it definitely showed in the snappy tempi, the crisp sound and the subtlety and intimacy that can be found even in such a big piece.  (My introduction to Messiah was an old record of a performance from some time in the early 60’s by some big Irish orchestra and choir that the Old Gentleman would play for us every Christmas season.  It was a super-sized dirge compared to this and other more recent historically-informed recordings and performances.)  Of the professional soloists, I didn’t care all that much for the soprano but the other three were quite solid.  And the professional men – who take the counter-tenor, tenor and bass parts of the choruses – were as reliable as they always are.  (They regularly sing with the girls for Sunday services and weekday Evensong.)

But the focus for me, of course, was on the boys and girls who handled the soprano part of the choruses and on the Middle Gel in particular.

We sat four rows back from the stage and on the Gel’s side, so I could see her quite clearly behind the bassist.  And I was enchanted.

I had already noticed this fall that, after a couple years’ experience at the Cathedral, the Gel was really beginning to step up, to transition from just getting through without audibly screwing up to really beginning to make her presence felt.  Her performance here did nothing but confirm this impression to me.  She positively radiated confidence and engagement, and I could distinctly pick out her voice more than once.  And on top of all that, she was obviously enjoying herself.  Indeed, at the end of many of the choruses, our eyes would lock, I would nod and she would grin.

All in all, a wonderful thing.

On a somewhat unexpectedly bittersweet note, from time to time during the performance I found myself regretting that the Old Gentleman didn’t live long enough to see his grand-daughter blossoming in this way.  (Friends from the old Llama days** may recall that he commented there under the tag “O.F.” and that he had much to say on musickal topics.)  I get most of my own musickal talent from him and I’m sure that a substantial part of that flowed down to the Gel.  I’m sure he would have been beside himself with pride in her, as was I.

Oh, and to give you an idea of how much I enjoyed it?  The performance ran about three hours altogether.  To me, it felt more like around twenty minutes.  That’s how much.

 

*  I hope that friends of the decanter know ol’ Robbo well enough to understand that this post has nothing to do with pretentious, inside-the-Imperial-Beltway-Bubble sticking on side, but is solely concerned with musick in general and teh Gel’s achievements therein in particular.   Pretentious? Moi?

**  I see that Pixy has returned the old Llama Butchers Moo Knew site to the primordial ooze and therefore that all that was written there is gone.  Same deal with the earlier Blogsplat version.  Pity.  I had often thought of printing out each entry and all its attached comments for the sake of posterity.

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I think I might have seen this one before, but it still makes me laugh:

st nick

I love these memes.  Why not use the tools available to wrestle back images co-opted by the popular culture?

And speaking of the holidays, Mrs. Robbo and I are off later today to the Cathedral to hear the Middle Gel and her mates sing Handel’s Messiah.  Watch this space for my review.

UPDATE:  Sigh…..Have I mentioned lately what it is like to live in a house with three teenaged daughters, especially for someone like ol’ Robbo who values peace, calm and order very highly?

Yes, it’s an open question whether my liver is going to last until we can get them all packed off to college.  And after breaking up an apocalyptic cat-fight over a pair of shoes a while ago (shoes, for all love!), my thought on this Feast of St. Nicholas was RELEASE THE KRAMPUS!

krampus and NicholasWho?

In Germanic countries, St. Nicholas is accompanied by Krampus, an evil spirit or little devil, usually dressed in fur or black with a long tail, and carries a rattling chain, birch branches and a big black bag. In Holland Sinterklass or Sinterklaus leaves from Spain on a boat, accompanied by Black Peter (Piet), his Moor servant. Peter wears animal skins or the traditional medieval Moorish colorful clothing. M December 5, St. Nicholas Eve, is known in some rural areas of Austria as “Krampus Day.” Children and adults go to the village square to throw snowballs and try to chase off Krampus. Other Krampuses lie in wait, rattling their chains and threatening to carry off naughty children in their black bags, or to punish them with their birch branches. All this is done in fun; Krampus’ main purpose is remind the children to be good.

Yes, carrot and stick.  But of course, by today’s standards of raising the precious little snowflakes, it’s almost a hate crime to even hint to them that their bad behavior might have, well, bad consequences.

Grrrrr….

 

 

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

And so it begins.  Every year come the day after Thanksgiving,  the local classickal station begins firing up its rotation of Christmas “holiday” musick.

They start mildly enough, slipping the odd carol or tune in just before the top or bottom of the hour nooz blurb from Nihilist Propaganda Radio, but in short order the mix becomes more and more “seasonally” oriented.  By Christmas Eve itself, the theme has taken over completely.  Of course by then, when, you know, Christmas actually starts, one is utterly sick of the stuff.

Along those lines, Ol’ Robbo likes to play a masochistic little game with himself this time of year, seeing just how long he can go on listening to endless repetitions of “Deck the Halls” and “The Holly and The Ivy” plus pure abominations like “If Bach Had Written ‘Jingle Bells'” before he starts frantically clawing through his drawer for a screwdriver with which to puncture his own eardrums.

I usually hold out until about a week before Christmas itself.  At that point, unable to stand any more “I Wonder As I Wander” and “The Dreidel Song”, I start listening exclusively to CDs until it’s all over.

Which it is, with the suddenness of the Last Trump.  Come December 26, again, the second day of the actual twelve day celebration, not a single note of “holiday” musick will you hear on the station.

Which in a way is a relief, but is infuriating because of why it’s such a relief.

Sigh.

Speaking of which, this year I am going to try more than ever to use the word “X-mas” whenever I am discussing the warped, secularized, bowdlerized, hyper-consumerist “holiday” that most people “celebrate” these days and reserve the word “Christmas” for its proper place.  I’m sure lots of folks won’t understand me but I don’t care.

 

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