fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
...pay attention. Eugene Concert Choir will perform the Bruckner E Minor Mass at Carnegie Hall, Isaac Stern Auditorium on Sunday, March 31st at 8 pm. My friend [profile] tekalynn says: "This is a first for us, and we are excited. I can't be there myself, but I'm crossing my fingers for a great performance."
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
Before World War One was won, there was a long and grim period during which Germans and Austrians, having destroyed Russia, threw everything they had against Italy, France and Britain, hoping to destroy them in turn. After a catastrophic defeat on the river Isonzo, called the battle of Caporetto, the remains of the Italian Army retreated to the river Piave and the huge mountain Monte Grappa, and stopped there, resolute to hold that line or die trying. A Neapolitan popular musician, E.A.Mario, wrote the song that spoke for those men, "The Legend of the Piave," which immediately became a kind of second national anthem:


(The singer is Mario himself.)

25 years later, the glory and purpose of the Piave and Mt.Grappa had mutated into an abyss of disgrace, treachery and beggary. Italy was shattered, occupied by enemy armies, and starving. Having entered the war on the wrong side through a mean and disgusting calculation of advantages, it had to break out of one disastrous alliance without being able to expect any sympathy from the other side.
The city of Naples rebelled against occupying German forces on September 28, 1943. After four days of ferocious fighting, the Germans were forced to withdraw, and the Allies walked into Italy's largest city without having to fire a shot. However, Naples, at the centre of a war zone and a devastated economy, soon found itself close to starvation, while full of comparatively well-paid American and allied troops. I’m sure you can see what came next. There was not much violence of any sort – except for a Moroccan unit that made itself notorious across Italy – but plenty of what one might call commercial exchange.
The daughters of middle-class families, clean, elegant, polite and pretty, were very popular with servicemen. Also, they had no colour prejudice – before the war, Italian colonists in Ethiopia had infuriated Mussolini, who was a genuine racist, by associating happily with local girls – and I have the impression that black American servicemen were delighted with the opportunity to buy the “services” of these segnorine. The whole matter was terribly painful to the girls and their families, and as the situation improved they did their best to pretend it never happened; but they were not allowed to. These well-brought-up young ladies did not have the “professional habits” which allow regular prostitutes to avoid pregnancies, and when the inevitable baby boom took place, many of the children turned out to be of an unexpected colour. I don’t think anything much happened – people just wanted to get the whole thing over with, and Naples is a seaport and has always been full of people of every sort anyway – but, this still being Naples, they wrote a song about it.



And what is the punch-line? That the author of the music was the very same E.A.Mario again.
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At least, I see her as a friend. Congratulations to the beautiful, learned and brave [livejournal.com profile] helixaspersa!

fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
For those who don't follow English football: ten years ago, the small South London team Wimbledon FC, a.k.a. "the Dons", suffered from a Dodgers-type deal. Its Norwegian owners, who bought it during a period of amazing success capped by the unlikeliest FA Cup win in the history of the game, had been deliberately running it into the ground, and their reason to do so became clear when they declared that London had already quite enough football teams, and that the only viable future for the team was to move to the large but football-deprived new town of Milton Keynes, sixty miles due north.

Well, that sort of thing could, I suppose be good enough for Americans, but, for Britons, it will never do. The old Dons' furious fans got together and set up a new club - Wimbledon AFC. They found a field, found the players, built a stadium, and started rising from the lowest little local leagues. A couple of years ago they entered the professional national leagues; and now, at last, they have the Milton Keynes abomination within reach. Personally I have been waiting for this day since I first heard of Wimbledon AFC, and I hope they win by at least four goals. Here is the proper soundtrack for this epic event: "Yes, vengeance, dreadful vengeance!"

Courage

Nov. 22nd, 2012 11:34 pm
fpb: (Athena of Pireus)
As a rule, I don't have much time for those artists who remained in countries ruled by criminal tyrannies and made their peace with their usurping governments. But in the case of Zoltan Kodaly, Hungarian composer and educator, I shall make an exception. An anecdote from The New York Times, 4 November 1961:

Mr. Kodaly was recently invited by the Communist officialdom to address an assembly of factory workers. The spare, 79-year-old composer accepted the invitation. He arrived at the factory carrying a battered briefcase. Officials asked Mr. Kodaly what he was going to tell the workers. He replied curtly that this concerned only him.

The composer mounted the rostrum, opened his briefcase and withdrew an old book. It was the Bible. His opening remarks were to the effect that he was not much of a hand at writing speeches and that he proposed to read what someone else had written. Mr. Kodaly then proceeded to read from the New Testament about brotherly love.
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For anyone who loves classical music (except Norman Lebrecht), this is by a professional player in a minor American band, who, unlike many of his fellow professional musicians, has not been embittered and has not forgotten why he got into music in the first place. An enthusiast about music and a pleasant, amusing personality, not afraid of forthright opinions, but also with the ear and insight of a professional orchestral player, this comes pretty close to being the last word on the musical side of one of my heroes.
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...that was to be come Avenging and Bright in a few years. Listen and enjoy:
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A well known and frequently debated fact about Maria Callas is that, a few years into her swift rise to worldwide fame, she went on a savage diet that swiftly turned her from a pudgy if vocally athletic young soprano into a svelte and stylish woman. Many people, however, feel that this undermined her voice in the long run and contributed to the comparative shortness of her career, and maybe even to her surprisingly early death. (Although singers do tend to die earlier than most; think of Jussi Bjoerling and Enrico Caruso.)

I have a little theory about this. Maria's first husband, the Milanese businessman Giovanni Battista Meneghini, said that Maria was sterile, incapable of conceiving. She could not have children. I would not be surprised if her discovery of this came shortly before the famous diet. Maria Callas at her best, on stage, did not just sing. And I am not speaking of acting in the technical sense, either, although she was born to master a stage like a queen. It was something more. She projected, radiated femininity and charm. Callas, objectively, did not have a beautiful face: her rather low forehead and enormous nose would have combined, in a normal woman, to make her look plain. But nobody, nobody, who had seen her sing, could possibly call her plain, The impression give was consistently that of extraordinary beauty. In fact - this is my theory - I think you might say that she lived out her nature as a woman on stage. Feminine by nature, she was denied the natural result of being a woman. But she had something else: that amazing gift that everyone, beginning with her harridan of a mother, had noticed since she was a child. And into her music, or rather into her singing - which included her stage presence, her physical presence - she poured the whole of her womanhood. If she could not be a mother, she could be a woman - Woman herself in her million forms - in front of the whole world. She could give the world an experience, an image, of the feminine, that would stand, to everyone, for absolute artistic truth. She might not be a mother, but she could be a goddess.

Look at her as Carmen. Carmen, understand, is bad news. She's the kind of girl who ruins lives, including her own. She is often played as a slut, or at least as a heavy, threatening femme fatale. That is NOT what Maria Callas does with her:

This is a Carmen who would seduce a saint - as indeed, in the opera, she pretty much does. She is smiling, continuously sweet, feminine, not brutally carnal - one feels, at first, more like hugging her, and perhaps kissing her on the cheek, than jumping on her; and that is the secret. Of course, from time to time you can see the claws ("et si je t'aime, prends garde a toi!"), and the whole performance has an underlying sensuality and muscularity that hints at hidden danger. But the conception is not only extraordinarily subtle, it is true to life. The kind of woman who would seduce and ruin a man would look and act exactly like this.
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I always found the Welsh national anthem beautiful. But it never brought tears to my eyes until I heard it sung by Shirley Bassey, who brings a quality of passionate nostalgia to it that makes it not only grand but also affecting. A wonderful performance, even for the Land of Song.
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1) - in Italy


2) - in the USA


3) - In the UK


What can I say? there was some good music being played when I was born.
http://www.youtube.com/embed/G2va5AG92B0
www.youtube.com

W-O-W!!

Jan. 16th, 2012 08:49 pm
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This is the best yet Beethoven song adaptation I have heard, and I've heard a few!
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I would start listing the things I love about it, but I don't think I could do it well enough.
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I just cannot express in words how much this particular piece, especially the sung bits, delights me. Inexpressible, wonderful pleasure.
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A few things about 2011 have been good - such as my days in Canterbury and the lovely people I met. But I doubt many of us will be sad to see the back of it. A better year to everyone, and a question - what if the greatest musician who ever lived had rewritten the loveliest friendship song known to man?

Something like this might happen... 8-)
fpb: (Default)
To anyone who was there, GHOST TOWN by The Specials is a depressing but unforgettable picture of the apocalyptic feeling brought about by the mass unemployment of 1978-1985. It definitely is nothing to do with ghosts.


But that did not prevent it from some idiot on Strictly using it for a Hallowe'en song.

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