Back September 7.
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Back August 3.
On which note:
Back July 20.
Pluto shouldn’t really be there without Eris, Makemake, Haumea and Ceres, but he was part of the family from 1930 to 2006.
Back July 6.
Back June 22.
The Wagon Passes, from Elgar, Nursery Suite. Ulster Orchestra, Bryden Thomson.
Or, as Elgar actually wrote, The Waggon (Passes).
Vaughan Williams, 1954. Patrick Harrild, tuba; London Symphony Orchestra, Bryden Thomson.
Prelude: Allegro moderato
Romanza: Andante sostenuto
Finale: Rondo alla tedesca, allegro.
Odi et amo: quare id faciam, fortasse requiris.
nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior.
[Footnote: Catullus, Q. V.: Carmina, No. lxxxv.]
“I hate and I love. Perhaps you ask why.
I do not know, but I feel it happen and I am torn apart.”
A Study of History, Vol VIII, OUP, 1954
“Eschew a line of study in which the work done dies together with the worker.” [Footnote: “Fuggi quello studio del quale la resultante opera more insieme coll’ operante d’essa” – Leonardo da Vinci, in The Literary Works of Leonardo da Vinci, compiled and edited from the original MSS. by J. P. Richter, 2nd ed. (Oxford 1939, University Press, 2 vols.), vol. ii, p. 244, No. 1169.]
So don’t blog. There are no defences against the whims of providers and obsolescence of software.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
German ack-ack (anti-aircraft fire) audible during a performance of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto: Walter Gieseking, Grosses Berliner Rundfunk Orchester, Artur Rother. Saal No 1, Haus des Rundfunks (Reichsender Berlin), Berlin, January 23 1945.
This was the very day on which Russian troops crossed the Oder, and the day of the execution of Helmuth James Graf von Moltke.
You hear it at around 13:30 and 16:50 in the first movement and perhaps earlier. I am not sure that there is anything in the later movements. Can you also hear bombs? More below.
The performance was, we are told, a rehearsal and never broadcast. It is said to be the only complete wartime recording of any classical work in stereo.
Who was doing the bombing? Both dates were after the main raids of 1943-44. The USAAF had often bombed by day, the RAF by night. Was that the case here and do we know the time of day of the recording?
Is there a chance that this was directed at the Red Air Force as the Russians approached?
Related post: Bernstein, Barenboim, Ceauşescu.
Machiavelli consulting his Livy and Rousseau his Plutarch and De Gobineau his Sturlason and Hitler his Wagner were each led, by his respective literary or musical oracle, to the altar-steps of the same Abomination of Desolation: the Totalitarian Parochial State.
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939
Back April 7.
Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, Self-portrait in a straw hat, 1782, normally in the National Gallery, now in the Rubens exhibition at the Royal Academy (which is only 25% Rubens); she died in Paris in 1842; here are her memoirs
John Singer Sargent, Dr Pozzi at home, 1881, normally at the Armand Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, now in the Sargent exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery; Dr Pozzi was considered the father of French gynaecology; he was shot dead in Paris by a male patient in 1918; see doctorpozzi.com
The end of Stravinsky’s Apollon musagète. Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra, Yevgeny Mravinsky.
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Michael Kennedy is a great loss.
Interview by Ivan Hewett of the Telegraph in early 2014.
If you took any interest in Barbirolli, Boult, Britten, Elgar, the Hallé, Mahler, Manchester, Strauss, Vaughan Williams or Walton, Michael Kennedy was part of your life.
“I could never understand,” Henderson quotes him as saying on Elgar, “how people could not hear the unhappiness that was always there for me in his music. I never read about that Elgar, so I thought I’d better write a book myself.” Kennedy’s marvellous Portrait of Elgar was an advance on everything previously written. He needed to write the book. I needed to read it.
I recognise what the Telegraph tells us about, including even his waspishness. But the sting was mild. What does it take to be an artist’s friend? Whatever it is, Kennedy had it. He was a close friend of Vaughan Williams during VW’s last years. He knew Barbirolli equally well. He had the measure of them and was the appointed biographer of both. He was not only a critic, he was a full journalist, editor of the Manchester edition of the Daily Telegraph from 1960 until it closed in 1986. His strength as a friend may have been a weakness as a critic. “My biggest failing as a critic is that I like music too much.”
I seem to remember that he stopped reviewing for Gramophone circa 1990 because at the height of the CD era he was given one perfectly acceptable recording of Don Juan after another, about which there was nothing much more to say.
There was a steeliness and stature in Kennedy, despite the unassumingness. It wasn’t reflected glory. I don’t think people felt it because he had known great men.
I had the privilege of meeting him and his wife, Joyce, at a semi-private commemoration of Susana Walton in 2011. He made a point of introducing her. She was from Hull. He married her after his invalid first wife Eslyn died, just as RVW had married Ursula after his invalid wife Adeline died.
He expressed some doubts, in our short conversation, about Tippett’s music, and, to my surprise, hadn’t been aware that there was a CD of Karajan playing Walton’s first symphony live with the Orchestra della radiotelevisione Italiana, Rome (it isn’t a revelatory performance). He must have known from Richard Osborne’s Conversations with Karajan that Karajan had a certain regard for Walton. I bought another copy of the CD afterwards, intending to send it to him, but I never did. I have it still as a spare.
Telegraph obituary: “He would rail against critics of musical elitism, accusing them of failing to aspire to high standards. ‘I want things to be elitist,’ he told Michael Henderson in 2001. ‘These days it seems that people don’t want to put any effort into understanding something.’”
I have delivered a more waspish version of that occasionally. All people who love music want to share it, but to those who say “You mustn’t be intimidated”, I have snapped “But you should be intimidated. You should be scared out of your wits.”
I will quote Michael Kennedy in future posts. He died on the last day of the Strauss anniversary.
Telegraph, op cit: “He heard [the Hallé] for the last time in November, at a concert conducted by Elder. He was frail, effectively lame, but music always restored his spirits. A programme of Butterworth, Bax and (of course) Elgar was capped by a marvellous performance of Sibelius’s fifth symphony. ‘What a work!’ he said as he was helped to his feet afterwards. And with that simple expression of gratitude, a lifetime’s dedication to music reached its end.”
Bronze by Cecile Elstein
A reminder of how lucid he was. Antony (sic) Hopkins (obiit May 6 2014), was one of the great educators. He was a writer and broadcaster about Western classical music and a composer of operas, at least one ballet, and film scores. What people remember him for was the radio programme Talking about Music, on the BBC Third Programme and later Radio 3 and later Radio 4, from 1954 to ’92. It was syndicated, apparently, to 44 countries. There is somebody in Iran today who remembers him.
Beulah have released six of these talks as downloads at Beulah and iTunes: on Franck’s Symphonic Variations, Beethoven’s 5th, Elgar’s Enigma, Mozart’s Jupiter, Beethoven’s violin concerto, Rachmaninov’s second piano concerto. Here’s the Rachmaninov (whose middle movement was used in Brief Encounter):
On Beethoven’s 5th, from an old LP:
On Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto, via Radio 5, Singapore Broadcasting Corporation:
Date of the Beethoven symphony 1959, of other two not stated.
Back December 27.
Elgar, 1892, from Seven Lieder, published 1907. Poem by Francis Quarles (1592-1644) called Hos ego versiculos; also attributed to Simon Wastell (1560-1635) with the name The flesh profiteth nothing. August 4 2013, Dutch Music Barn, (dutchmusicbarn.com), Jacobine van Laar soprano, Marisa Thornton-Wood piano.
The piano clangs rather at the start (David Owen Norris is also manic here), but nicely enough sung.
Tchaikovsky, from The Nutcracker. 1892. Performers not stated.
Back November 27.
An idolization of Man by Man himself, which is patently ridiculous when the idol is some individual mannikin, may be more specious when the blasphemous worship is paid to some collective Leviathan. Yet the state-worship that a post-Christian Western Society commended as “patriotism” and the church-worship that it denigrated as “fanaticism” both turn as bitter on the palate as the hero-worship of an Alexander, Hitler, Caesar, or Napoleon.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
Muqaddamāt, de Slane’s translation (Paris 1863-8, Imprimerie Impériale, 3 vols.), vol ii, pp. 366-7; chapter headed: “He who possesses the capacity for practising some particular art very rarely manages to acquire another art perfectly […]”:
“A tailor, for instance, who possesses a capacity for sewing, who uses it with the greatest skill, who is really a master of his art, and who has made it part and parcel of himself, will be unable afterwards to acquire, to perfection, the art of being a cabinet-maker or a mason. If he did achieve this, that would mean that he did not yet possess, to perfection, the former capacity; it would mean that the dye of that capacity in him had not yet taken fast. Here is the explanation: it is that the capacities – being attributes of the Soul or colours which the Soul is apt to take – cannot overlay one another on the Soul and can only settle on the Soul one at a time. In order to acquire a capacity easily, and to be in a favourable condition for the reception of it, the Soul must be in the primitive state of its nature. Afterwards, when it takes the colour of this or that capacity, it departs from its primitive state; and, since the tincture which has now just been imparted to it is bound to have weakened in the Soul its aptitude for receiving another tincture, the Soul no longer has as much strength as before for acquiring a second faculty.”
A Study of History, Vol V, OUP, 1939 (footnote)
Giovanni Battista Moroni painted his noble tailor c 1565-70 in his native Albino. He worked only there and in Trent and Bergamo. An Ingres three centuries earlier.
Some have suggested that the tailor really was a nobleman. The greenish tinge to the face is in the original. He is wearing the very full, loose breeches known in English as galligaskins, which must have been ribbed or stuffed, and an undyed jacket.
National Gallery, London. Moroni at the RA, to January 25.
Vasari doesn’t mention Moroni in his Lives. Nor does Reynolds in his RA lectures. My great-grandfather, George Clausen, a Victorian who, like Reynolds, never mentioned Caravaggio, does mention him in his RA lectures. Moroni (like Velasquez, Lorenzo Lotto, Veronese, Frans Hals) followed the fine middle course which he himself tried to follow, between “the realism of externals” (bad painting in Clausen’s time) and “the realism of expression or character” (brought to a high level in their late works by Titian, Tintoretto, Rembrandt).
Below, Clausen’s portrait of Thomas Okey, Master of the Art Workers Guild in 1914, where one can perhaps see what he is aiming at. As in most of Moroni’s portraits, the background is grey. It has a fine sobriety. Clausen painted good portraits of craftsmen and family members (and, earlier, of rural workers) and a few dull ones of officials. Okey was from the East End and was helped by Toynbee Hall. He worked for thirty years not as a tailor, but as a basket-maker in Spitalfields, and rose to become, in 1919, when there was more social mobility than now, the first Professor of Italian at Cambridge.
Excuse cropping: best image I have.
Back October 31.
Would anyone go to a blockbuster still life exhibition? I would, even if by the end I longed to escape and hungered for a landscape or figure. It’s hard to find a book on still life, but it might be soothing to indulge oneself in something so limited. Still life, or it could equally be Roman Britain, the history of Australia, French tapestries or the Palliser novels.
Small differences would become important. And there’s a lost language of allegory and symbols to learn.
And seventeenth-century lemons, pomegranates, loaves and fish have more DNA, more layers of reality, than their etiolated supermarket descendants.
We rarely see a butcher (or butchery, as they call them in Africa), never mind abattoir. In the middle east, even urban families are about to start slaughtering animals in their own bathrooms for Eid al-Adha.
Jacopo da Empoli (1551-1640), Still Life (c 1625)
Luis Meléndez (1716-80), Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Melons, Bread, Jug and Bottle
Odilon Redon (1840-1916), Flowers (1903)
George Clausen (1852-1944), Michaelmas Daisies and Cornflowers in a Jug (1940), exuberant piece painted at the age of 88
The Chinese Pot (still life by Clausen, old post).
Top three: teacher, architect, doctor.
Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken,
Or like stout Cortez when, with eagle eyes,
He stared at the Pacific, and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise,
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
Keats, of course. From On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer. A Petrarchan sonnet written in iambic pentameters.
The planet was Uranus, identified by Hershel in 1781, the year of the Iron Bridge, before Keats was born, and the first to be added to the list since antiquity. It is visible to the naked eye, but had been thought to be a star.
The discovery of four moons of Jupiter by Galileo, and of five of Saturn, one by Huygens, four by Cassini, preceded Hershel’s discovery. Jupiter’s Ganymede and Callisto may just be visible with the naked eye.
Herschel went on, after a few years, to discover two Uranian moons, followed by two more of Saturn.
The first four asteroids were discovered during Keats’s boyhood. Three of them are at the extreme margin of visibility with the naked eye. The first was observed on the first day of the nineteenth century.
The first Europeans to see the east coast of the Pacific were members of Vasco Núñez de Balboa’s expedition. Wikipedia: “Keats had been reading William Robertson’s History of America and […] conflated two scenes there described: Balboa’s finding of the Pacific  and Cortés’s first view of the Valley of Mexico . The Balboa passage: ‘At length the Indians assured them, that from the top of the next mountain they should discover the ocean which was the object of their wishes. When, with infinite toil, they had climbed up the greater part of the steep ascent, Balboa commanded his men to halt, and advanced alone to the summit, that he might be the first who should enjoy a spectacle which he had so long desired. As soon as he beheld the South Sea [Mar del Sur] stretching in endless prospect below him, he fell on his knees, and lifting up his hands to Heaven, returned thanks to God, who had conducted him to a discovery so beneficial to his country, and so honourable to himself. His followers, observing his transports of joy, rushed forward to join in his wonder, exultation, and gratitude’ (Vol. III).”
“Keats’ generation was familiar enough with the polished literary translations of John Dryden and Alexander Pope, which gave Homer an urbane gloss similar to Virgil, but expressed in blank verse or heroic couplets. Chapman’s vigorous and earthy paraphrase (1616) was put before Keats by Charles Cowden Clarke, a friend from his days as a pupil at a boarding school in Enfield Town. They sat up together till daylight to read it: ‘Keats shouting with delight as some passage of especial energy struck his imagination. At ten o’clock the next morning, Mr. Clarke found the sonnet on his breakfast-table.’” No source given for the quotation.
The earlier lines:
“Much have I travell’d in the realms of gold,
And many goodly states and kingdoms seen;
Round many western islands have I been
Which bards in fealty to Apollo hold.
Oft of one wide expanse had I been told
That deep-browed Homer ruled as his demesne;
Yet did I never breathe its pure serene
Till I heard Chapman speak out loud and bold:”
Landscapes (old post).
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
Architectural style: a kind of postmodern neoclassical, esp one characterised by broken pediments, split gables and brightly coloured faux-balconies with X railings. Used in corporate headquarters from the London suburbs to Bangalore.
Andrew Cover, a friend of mine, coined this c 2000.
Back September 22.
Horn Trio, second movement. 2:58-3:32. Barenboim, Perlman, Clevenger.
Back September 6.