Back April 22.
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At the Canadian lunch in London in 1933 at which Kipling proposed the toast (last post), the seconder was Chesterton. No film (or none that I am aware of), but here is a complete sound recording.
Is there a complete recording of Kipling? The YouTube poster and commenters wrongly assume that Chesterton is speaking in Canada. Also, he is not “introducing” Kipling.
He refers to the President of the Royal Society of Literature, Lord Crewe.
I like his phrase “our more fatigued society” about Britain compared with North America.
When he reads poetry, Chesterton’s voice sounds almost classless, but there is an occasional lower middle-class twang here. Kipling’s accent is that of the broad English educated class, of which the Oxford accent and the BBC accent were distinct offshoots.
Who even knew that there was film of Kipling, and with sound?
Full text here (the Kipling Society has the year wrong and contradicts itself as to the day), with a link to notes. It’s a subtle set of remarks and a fine tribute to Canada.
“Although the summer sunlight gild
Cloudy leafage of the sky,
Or wintry moonlight sink the field
In storm-scattered intricacy,
I cannot look thereon,
Responsibility so weighs me down.
Things said or done long years ago,
Or things I did not do or say
But thought that I might say or do,
Weigh me down, and not a day
But something is recalled,
My conscience or my vanity appalled.”
Yeats, from Vacillation, not in the collection called Responsibilities, but a later one, The Winding Stair.
Back April 3.
The first item, Schumann’s Manfred overture, in the event, reported on the front page of The New York Times on the following day, that launched Leonard Bernstein’s career. The CBS radio introduction tells us what we need to know (the words “American-born” are key); the heady wartime singing of The Star-Spangled Banner is moving (you can hear that they are winning), the Schumann thrilling:
Benjamin Britten, fourth of six Songs from the Chinese for voice and guitar, opus 58, 1957; texts from Arthur Waley, translator, Chinese Poems, 1946; Lu You, twelfth-century Southern Song; Peter Pears, Julian Bream, 1963:
“In the southern village the boy who minds the ox
With his naked feet stands on the ox’s back.
Through the hole in his coat the river wind blows;
Through his broken hat the mountain rain pours.
On the long dyke he seemed to be far away;
In the narrow lane suddenly we were face to face.
The boy is home and the ox is back in its stall;
And a dark smoke oozes through the thatched roof.”
Playlist for the cycle, same performers:
The Big Chariot, from The Book of Songs, eleventh to seventh centuries BC
The Old Lute, Po Chü-i, Tang
The Autumn Wind, Wu-ti, Han
Depression, Po Chü-i
Dance Song, from The Book of Songs.
Back March 10.
One part of BBC music that is still up to par most of the time is Building a Library (Radio 3). Jonathan Swain last Saturday on Vaughan Williams’s ninth symphony (a kind of continuation of his sixth, also in e minor) proved that. But they need to do some living or recent composers: composers if not specific works. What to buy by Ligeti, Xenakis?
Quartet movement: Allegro vivace 1952
String Quartet 1961 To Alexander Goehr
- 1982 To Oriel Glock (In Memoriam)
- 1987 Reconstructed from 1977 sketches
Naxos Quartets 2002-07
- To Ian Kellam
- To Eric Guest
- Children’s Games To Giuseppe Rebecchini
- Lighthouses of Orkney and Shetland To Thomas Daniel Schlee
- To Alexander Goehr
- Metafore sul Borromini To Archie Bevan on his eightieth birthday
- To Her Majesty The Queen on her eightieth birthday
- To Kathleen Ollerenshaw
- To the memory of Fausto Moroni
Blake Dreaming String quartet and baritone 2010 Commissioned by Nicholas and Judith Goodison
Concerto Accademico String orchestra and string quartet 2012 Commissioned by Regia Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna and Stuttgarter Kammerorchester
Why this? I’m trying to get to know them.
I am starting with the seventh because of its affinity, via Borromini, with the tenth symphony, whose premiere I attended the other day.
Am also trying to get to know the third symphony (1984), which was inspired in part by the churches of Brunelleschi.
The seventh has been criticised for being all slow movements, seven of them. That is its virtue. It is not overly Beethovenian, nor agitated and expressionist, nor minimalist, nor monotonous, nor funereal.
A big Roman work to parallel the seventh quartet and tenth symphony is the tone poem Roma Amor (1998), which I heard at the Proms several years ago.
This is all a way into Max that does not go via the Orkneys.
Back January 19.
Back December 28.
Brahms, Zwölf deutsche Volkslieder, WoO 35, no 9, Altes Volkslied. Amadeus-Chor, Nicol Matt. Words in a comment. Rembrandt, The Evangelist Matthew Inspired by the Angel, Louvre.
Back December 5.
Michael Tippett dedicated his Concerto for Orchestra to Britten on his fiftieth birthday (last post). Performed LSO, Colin Davis, Edinburgh Festival, August 28 1963.
When I listen to it now, the theory of a “great divide” in his music between the works before and after King Priam seems mistaken. The Concerto for Orchestra seems to me to grow naturally enough out of the Corelli Fantasia and the piano concerto.
LSO, Colin Davis (not, I think, the premiere):
Tippett himself (not Meirion Bowen, I think) made a successful setting of the first movement for wind band (no longer on YouTube), called Mosaic (not a very wind-bandy name).
Was the only known photograph of Britten and Tippett together taken at a Britten fiftieth birthday party? Britten dedicated his church parable Curlew River to Tippett in the following year.
The London Sinfonietta’s 1986 Britten-Tippett Festival should be repeated.
See Arnold Whittall, The Music of Britten and Tippett, Studies in Themes and Techniques, Cambridge University Press, 1990. And Ivan Hewett, Michael Tippett: a visionary in the shadow of his rival, Telegraph, October 19 2012.
Benjamin Britten was born on St Cecilia’s day a hundred years ago today.
Hymn to St Cecilia has words by Auden. Composed US, 1940-42. Text shown in clip. Kings College Choir, Sir David Willcocks.
His fiftieth birthday, fifty years ago today and the day of Kennedy’s assassination (last post), saw the publication of Tribute to Benjamin Britten on his Fiftieth Birthday, elegantly produced by Faber. Tributes by William Plomer, Imogen Holst, Ronald Duncan, Peter Pears, Yehudi Menuhin, EM Forster, Julian Bream, Aaron Copland, Francis Poulenc, Mstislav Rostropovich, George Malcolm, Kenneth Clark and others. Anthony Gishford, editor. 1963 was the year of the great Cello Symphony, of the Cantata misericordium, and of Nocturnal after John Dowland for guitar.
A conversation [...] took place in the nineteen-twenties between the Zaydi Imam Yahya of Sanʿa and a British envoy whose mission was to persuade the Imam to restore peacefully a portion of the British Aden Protectorate which he had occupied during the general War of 1914-18 and had refused to evacuate thereafter, notwithstanding the defeat of his Ottoman overlords. In a final interview with the Imam, after it had become apparent that the mission would not attain its object, the British envoy, wishing to give the conversation another turn, complimented the Imam upon the soldierly appearance of his new-model army. Seeing that the Imam took the compliment in good part, he went on:
“And I suppose you will be adopting other Western institutions as well?”
“I think not,” said the Imam with a smile.
“Oh, really? That interests me. And may I venture to ask your reasons?”
“Well, I don’t think I should like other Western institutions,” said the Imam.
“Indeed? And what institutions, for example?”
“Well, there are parliaments,” said the Imam. “I like to be the Government myself. I might find a parliament tiresome.”
“Why, as for that,” said the Englishman, “I can assure you that responsible parliamentary representative government is not an indispensable part of the apparatus of Western civilization. Look at Italy. She has given that up, and she is one of the great Western powers.”
“Well, then there is alcohol,” said the Imam, “I don’t want to see that introduced into my country, where at present it is happily almost unknown.”
“Very natural,” said the Englishman; “but, if it comes to that, I can assure you that alcohol is not an indispensable adjunct of Western civilization either. Look at America. She has given up that, and she too is one of the great Western powers.”
“Well, anyhow,” said the Imam, with another smile which seemed to intimate that the conversation was at an end, “I don’t like parliaments and alcohol and that kind of thing.”
The Englishman could not make out whether there was any suggestion of humour in the parting smile with which the last five words were uttered; but, however that might be, those words went to the heart of the matter and showed that the inquiry about possible further Western innovations at Sanʿa had been more pertinent than the Imam might have cared to admit. Those words indicated, in fact, that the Imam, viewing Western civilization from a great way off, saw it, in that distant perspective, as something one and indivisible and recognized certain features of it, which to a Westerner’s eye would appear to have nothing whatever to do with one another, as being organically related parts of that indivisible whole. Thus, on his own tacit admission, the Imam, in adopting the rudiments of the Western military technique, had introduced into the life of his people the thin end of a wedge which in time would inexorably cleave their close-compacted traditional Islamic civilization asunder. He had started a cultural revolution which would leave the Yamanites, in the end, with no alternative but to cover their nakedness with a complete ready-made outfit of Western clothes. If the Imam had met his Hindu contemporary Mr. Gandhi, that is what he would have been told, and such a prophecy would have been supported by what had happened already to other Islamic peoples who had exposed themselves to the insidious process of “Westernization” several generations earlier.
Toynbee’s distant perspectives are as dangerous as the Imam’s. The modern cultural interaction of the West with other societies was a subtler process than he acknowledges. He rarely examines its nuances. He had a rather superficial conception of what constituted modernity.
The Imam is, in Toynbeean terminology, a Zealot rather than a Herodian.
Britain in Yemen (old post).
Civilization on Trial, OUP, 1948
Back November 17.
This blog is seven years old today. Back November 4.
Back October 1.
Part of Minette, Canti e rimpianti amorosi per due chitarre, arranged from Henze’s music by Jürgen Ruck. Gil Fesch and Nuno Pinto, guitars. I could write about this cat’s pedigree, but I recommend the CD which had the whole arrangement and much more, where the players are Jürgen Ruck and Elena Casoli.
The old order changeth, yielding place to new,
And God fulfils Himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the World.
Tennyson: The Passing of Arthur.
The Passing of Arthur is one of the Idylls of the King.
A Study of History, Vol VII, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
Violin concerto 3, K 216. Menuhin and players, 1961. Ensemble not stated, perhaps Bath Festival Orchestra, June 14.
Alberto Ginastera of Argentina, Concerto per archi, Concerto for strings, Orchestre de Picardie, Edmon Colomer. Composed 1965, first performed Inter-American Festival, Caracas, May 14 1966, Philadelphia Orchestra, Eugene Ormandy.
“Onganía ordered repression of all forms of ‘immoralism’, proscribing miniskirts, long hair for boys, and all avant-garde artistic movements.” Wikipedia.
He banned Ginastera’s opera Bomarzo (1966-67).
Variazioni per i solisti
Ginastera’s Cantata para América Mágica (1960), for dramatic soprano and percussion, had been based on pre-Columbian legends.
“Rarely, rarely, comest thou,
Spirit of Delight!”
Shelley, from Invocation.
King’s College Choir. Last post refers. Text (in comment below): Alleluia sung before successive extracts from the funeral service of the Eastern Orthodox Church (modified) and from Hamlet.
Worlds on worlds are rolling ever
From creation to decay
Like the bubbles on a river
Sparkling, bursting, borne away.
Shelley, from verse drama Hellas. (Not from closing chorus beginning “The world’s great age begins anew,”.)
A Study of History, Vol I, OUP, 1934 (no footnote, only Shelley’s name mentioned)
Also An Historian’s Approach to Religion, OUP, 1956 (differently punctuated and with full citation)
Back August 5.
Mozart, K 313, Emmanuel Pahud, Haydn Ensemble Berlin, Salzburg, 2000. What is it with French and Swiss flautists?
… 1930, of anything or at least of music, must be that of Beethoven’s Archduke Trio with Thibaud, Casals and Cortot made on November 18-19 1928 in the Queen’s Hall, London. EMI, now out of copyright.
There may be some recent digital manipulation, but it was always exceptional. This may not even be the best rendering of it. Cortot comes off best, followed by Casals, followed by Thibaud. The balance is right and there is a spaciousness in the sound. The performance is wonderful.
The three of them look in another photograph like bohemians of thirty years earlier. Perhaps it is an earlier photograph. The fourth here is Fauré, who had died in 1924.
Advertising is a great blot on the free way of life. If people in the West would only say that it was an evil but a necessary evil in a free society, I wouldn’t mind so much. But when they say that advertising is a splendid thing in itself, and when they talk about maximum consumption of consumer goods to avoid unemployment, and so on, I feel that this is somehow sub-human.
With Philip Toynbee, Comparing Notes, A Dialogue across a Generation, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1963
Along the cool sequester’d Vale of Life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.
Thomas Gray, Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751). No citation. Tenour spelt thus here.
“Far from the madding crowd’s ignoble strife
Their sober wishes never learn’d to stray;
Along the cool sequester’d vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.”
A Study of History, Vol III, OUP, 1934
Mit hellem Sinne,
Und neue Lieder
[Footnote: Goethe: Faust, ll. 1622-6 [...].]
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939