Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bach, Karl Richter, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Tod. Consummatum est.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 - 1750)

Johann Sebastian Bach: Cantata BMV 4, Christ Lag in Todes Banden (Christ Lay in Death's Bonds) conducted by Karl Richter.

Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (b. 1925)

This is Versus V, "Hier ist das Rechte Osterlamm", with the great Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as soloist. I have mentioned this in class many times over the years. Watch the score and listen at three minutes and three seconds to about 3 minutes and ten seconds. You will hear Fischer-Dieskau, in glorious voice, sing the word "tod[e]" ("death"), and as he holds that whole note over two measures and a beat, the orchestra plays a chord at the beginning of the second measure of the held note, making the shape of a cross with the score.

This is one of the greatest glories of the human legacy. Please listen and watch the score. I hope you enjoy, and very much so.

East Meets West...Once Again, in Cambridge

The Rachmaninoff Vespers performed by the Choir of Kings College, Cambridge. Number 5, Nyne Otpushchaeshi (Nunc Dimittis). This is one of the most beautiful compositions I have ever heard.

The numbering is confusing. There is an un-numbered introductory piece, which calls the chorus to worship. What follows are 15 canticles (a "canticle" is a song or chant with Biblical text--not from the Psalms--that forms part of a church service). So, the 5th canticle is the 6th track on the CD. The recording linked above is the 5th canticle. It is also Rachmaninoff's personal favorite, and he specified that he wanted that particular piece sung at his own funeral.

Please listen and enjoy.

Contemporary U.S. Composer, John Adams

I'd like to introduce a contemporary U.S. composer, John Adams. I have enjoyed his compositions very much over the years, particularly the instrumental parts of his opera, Nixon in China.

This is a link to a recording on Youtube of "The Chairman Dances: Foxtrot for Orchestra" from Nixon in China. I have very special and personal associations with this recording in particular, and hope that others will enjoy it, too.

The album I particularly enjoy is of the San Francisco Symphony conducted by Edo de Waart from 1987. Originally I had this on LP, and I also have it on CD. This album was the first CD I ever gave my daughter, when she was very little, her first-ever recording. (So, we have three copies of this recording, the only album for which we have three copies.)

An early success by John Adams is the lovely composition called Shaker Loops. It is a composition only for strings in four movements. It can be played by ensembles of any size from a string septet to full orchestra.
I. Shaking and Trembling.
II. Hymning Slews.
III. Loops and Verses. (The link has the last two movements in one Youtube post.)
IV. A Final Shaking.

John Adams won the Pulizter Prize in 2003 for his composition, On the Transmigration of Souls, to commemorate the attacks of 9/11. (Don't be surprised. The sound of New York City noise, what sounds like a tape loop or sound sample of a diggery-doo, footsteps and voices at the beginning are part of the composition.) This is the complete New York City Philharmonic recording that won many awards in 2005 in three parts: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. There is also a Youtube video of a part of a Dutch TV broadcast of a performance conducted by Edo de Waarts. This is haunting, lovely, lovely music.

[A great book that harmonizes with this music is Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin, one of my all-time favorite novels; I consider it the masterpiece of the English novel of our time.]

A more recent composition by John Adams is his opera Doctor Atomic, about the physicist Robert Oppenheimer and the Manhattan Project. Adams later adapted the opera into a symphony, too. Here is "Batter My Heart", an aria from the opera Doctor Atomic.

Thank You

I would like to thank everyone who joined me at the reading from James Joyce's Ulysses at Swift Hibernian Lounge last night. I hope that everyone who attended enjoyed the event.

I did.

I know that some photos were taken....If anyone would like to, I'd appreciate it you posted them here for us all to remember the adventure by!

Renewing Old Friendships: Juno and Avos

This is a poem by Bret Harte (1836 - 1902), a writer from the U.S. The romantic story of Concepcion Arguello and Nikolai Rezanov has been told by several American writers, and more famously, in recent times by the Russian poet Andrei Voznesensky who wrote the libretto for the Russian rock opera Juno and Avos, the music for which was composed by Alexey Rybnikov. Bret Harte's poem centers on Concepcion Arguello, whereas Juno and Avos centers around Rezanov. All of the versions of the story describe Concepcion's love, which lasted to the end of her days, though she never saw him again. The stories are very different. One version says that she might actually never have known of his death...waiting for him until her death 51 years later. Another version says that she found out a year later, but decided to be celibate for the rest of her life. In either case, a very romantic story, that seems to be historically borne out.




Looking seaward, o'er the sand-hills stands the fortress, old and quaint,
By the San Francisco friars lifted to their patron saint,—

Sponsor to that wondrous city, now apostate to the creed,
On whose youthful walls the Padre saw the angel's golden reed;

All its trophies long since scattered, all its blazon brushed away;
And the flag that flies above it but a triumph of to-day.

Never scar of siege or battle challenges the wandering eye,
Never breach of warlike onset holds the curious passer-by;

Only one sweet human fancy interweaves its threads of gold
With the plain and homespun present, and a love that ne'er grows old;

Only one thing holds its crumbling walls above the meaner dust,—
Listen to the simple story of a woman's love and trust.


Count von Resanoff, the Russian, envoy of the mighty Czar,
Stood beside the deep embrasures, where the brazen cannon are.

He with grave provincial magnates long had held serene debate
On the Treaty of Alliance and the high affairs of state;

He from grave provincial magnates oft had turned to talk apart
With the Commandante's daughter on the questions of the heart,

Until points of gravest import yielded slowly one by one,
And by Love was consummated what Diplomacy begun;

Till beside the deep embrasures, where the brazen cannon are,
He received the twofold contract for approval of the Czar;

Till beside the brazen cannon the betrothed bade adieu,
And from sallyport and gateway north the Russian eagles flew.


Long beside the deep embrasures, where the brazen cannon are,
Did they wait the promised bridegroom and the answer of the Czar;

Day by day on wall and bastion beat the hollow, empty breeze,—
Day by day the sunlight glittered on the vacant, smiling seas:

Week by week the near hills whitened in their dusty leather cloaks,—
Week by week the far hills darkened from the fringing plain of oaks;

Till the rains came, and far breaking, on the fierce southwester tost,
Dashed the whole long coast with color, and then vanished and were lost.

So each year the seasons shifted,—wet and warm and drear and dry
Half a year of clouds and flowers, half a year of dust and sky.

Still it brought no ship nor message,—brought no tidings, ill or meet,
For the statesmanlike Commander, for the daughter fair and sweet.

Yet she heard the varying message, voiceless to all ears beside:
"He will come," the flowers whispered; "Come no more," the dry hills sighed.

Still she found him with the waters lifted by the morning breeze,—
Still she lost him with the folding of the great white-tented seas;

Until hollows chased the dimples from her cheeks of olive brown,
And at times a swift, shy moisture dragged the long sweet lashes down;

Or the small mouth curved and quivered as for some denied caress,
And the fair young brow was knitted in an infantine distress.

Then the grim Commander, pacing where the brazen cannon are,
Comforted the maid with proverbs, wisdom gathered from afar;

Bits of ancient observation by his fathers garnered, each
As a pebble worn and polished in the current of his speech:

"'Those who wait the coming rider travel twice as far as he;'
'Tired wench and coming butter never did in time agree;'

"'He that getteth himself honey, though a clown, he shall have flies;'
'In the end God grinds the miller;' 'In the dark the mole has eyes;'

"'He whose father is Alcalde of his trial hath no fear,'—
And be sure the Count has reasons that will make his conduct clear."

Then the voice sententious faltered, and the wisdom it would teach
Lost itself in fondest trifles of his soft Castilian speech;

And on "Concha" "Conchitita," and "Conchita" he would dwell
With the fond reiteration which the Spaniard knows so well.

So with proverbs and caresses, half in faith and half in doubt,
Every day some hope was kindled, flickered, faded, and went out.


Yearly, down the hillside sweeping, came the stately cavalcade,
Bringing revel to vaquero, joy and comfort to each maid;

Bringing days of formal visit, social feast and rustic sport,
Of bull-baiting on the plaza, of love-making in the court.

Vainly then at Concha's lattice, vainly as the idle wind,
Rose the thin high Spanish tenor that bespoke the youth too kind;

Vainly, leaning from their saddles, caballeros, bold and fleet,
Plucked for her the buried chicken from beneath their mustang's feet;

So in vain the barren hillsides with their gay serapes blazed,—
Blazed and vanished in the dust-cloud that their flying hoofs had raised.

Then the drum called from the rampart, and once more, with patient mien,
The Commander and his daughter each took up the dull routine,—

Each took up the petty duties of a life apart and lone,
Till the slow years wrought a music in its dreary monotone.


Forty years on wall and bastion swept the hollow idle breeze,
Since the Russian eagle fluttered from the California seas;

Forty years on wall and bastion wrought its slow but sure decay,
And St. George's cross was lifted in the port of Monterey;

And the citadel was lighted, and the hall was gayly drest,
All to honor Sir George Simpson, famous traveler and guest.

Far and near the people gathered to the costly banquet set,
And exchanged congratulations with the English baronet;

Till, the formal speeches ended, and amidst the laugh and wine,
Some one spoke of Concha's lover,—heedless of the warning sign.

Quickly then cried Sir George Simpson: "Speak no ill of him, I pray!
He is dead. He died, poor fellow, forty years ago this day,—

"Died while speeding home to Russia, falling from a fractious horse.
Left a sweetheart, too, they tell me. Married, I suppose, of course!

"Lives she yet?" A deathlike silence fell on banquet, guests, and hall,
And a trembling figure rising fixed the awestruck gaze of all.

Two black eyes in darkened orbits gleamed beneath the nun's white hood;
Black serge hid the wasted figure, bowed and stricken where it stood.

"Lives she yet?" Sir George repeated. All were hushed as Concha drew
Closer yet her nun's attire. "Senor, pardon, she died, too!"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Bloomsday 2011!

James Joyce (1882 - 1941)

At 11:30 AM, the day's activities start at Ulysses Folk House on Stone Street in lower Manhattan, near South Ferry:

Then, starting at noon, the day's greatest event, the 30th Annual Bloomsday on Broadway:
30th Annual Bloomsday on Broadway: "Thu, Jun 16 at 12 pm — On Thursday, June 16th, 2011, we celebrate the 30th annual BLOOMSDAY ON BROADWAY James Joyce ULYSSES marathon, staged by Isaiah Sheffer. It will involve over 100 actors, including some leading stars of stage and screen, and will last over twelve hours, from noon until Molly Bloom's final 'Yes!' sometime after midnight. Since the events of June 16, 1904, described in the 18 episodes of ULYSSES also happen on a Thursday, this anniversary will sample ALL 18 EPISODES, giving beginning readers of ULYSSES a sampling of the diverse styles employed by James Joyce, and giving experienced Joyceans a very satisfying literary feast."

Molly Bloom (photos: Louie Correia)
Radio Bloomsday 2011 on WBAI:
This year's Radio Bloomsday will be broadcast live from 7 pm to 2 am on Thursday, June 16, 2011 on the Pacifica Radio Network, wbai 99.5 FM in New York City, KPFK 90.7 in Los Angeles and online at www.wbai.org anywhere in the world. Artists interpret James Joyce's Ulysses.

This year's broadcast includes artist from New York, Los Angeles, Dublin, and London. Performers for this year's Radio Bloomsday include Anne Enright, Wallace Shawn, Roma Downey, Jerry Stiller, Alec Baldwin, Paul Muldoon, Conn Horgan, Marie-Louise Bowe, Charles Busch, Paul Dooley, Marc Maron, Bob Odenkirk, Marc Singer, John O'Callaghan, Jaason Simmons, Brian O'Doherty, Aaron Beall, Con Horgan, Amy Stiller, T. Ryder Smith, Kate Valk, Jim Fletcher, Janet Coleman, David Dozer, and many more.

Radio Bloomsday is written and directed by Caraid O'Brien, who also performs the complete Molly Bloom monologue. The Artistic Director is Janet Coleman. Larry Josephson and The Radio Foundation is the producer. Mark Torres of The Pacifica Archives recorded actors in Los Angeles for this broadcast.

Email us at radiobloomsday@gmail.com
Follow molly on Twitter @mollyinbed
or Radio Bloomsday on Facebook

[You can listen to some of last year's readings on Radio Bloomsday on WBAI HERE.]

And, last of all, on Saturday, June 18, 2011, the final Bloomsday event of 2011:

The second annual Bloomsday in Brooklyn event will be in Park Slope, and will start at 2:00 PM at an Irish pub called the Black Sheep Pub, at 428 Bergen Street in Brooklyn. Their phone number is (718) 638-1109. The nearest train is the Bergen Street Station of the 2, 3, 4 trains.