… should have a look at the reviews of Tuscan Whole Milk, 1 Gallon, 128 fl oz.

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Kissin versus the BBC

January 28, 2010

This site is so happily preoccupied with the three topics proclaimed in its masthead that even the three most fascinating subjects in the world — politics, sex, and religion — do not tempt it to deviate. But the position of music and musicians in society and influence of music and musicians on issues certainly are within its realm of interest. Thus the sudden thrusting of himself into a controversial political matter by Evgeny Kissin commands attention.

I well remember when a super-shy, retiring — even shrinking — Kissin emerged from the Soviet Union. I wrote the liner notes for his first three CDs that were recorded in the West and was at the twenty-first birthday party that RCA Victor Red Seal gave him, as well as other, similar occasions. In those days he wouldn’t say boo to a goose. Thus I am startled to see him speaking up against so mighty an entity as the British Broadcasting Corporation on an explosive issue and in forceful tone. Aside from the matter of his personal evolution, what is really compelling is the evident fact that he expects — and in this I think he’s correct — that he will be listened to, not because he is a known deep thinker or persuasive polemicist on this or any other political issue, but because he is an important musical performer. Any sequel to this will be interesting to watch.

Perhaps we can hope for a public debate between him and Daniel Barenboim? Dueling pianists indeed.

Hat-tip: Aleba Gartner

A Bumper Crop

January 24, 2010

Anthony Tommasini has an article in today’s New York Times about the coincidence of the Schumann and Chopin birth-bicentenaries falling in 2010. The link between them, as he tells us, was Schumann’s earnest championing of Chopin’s music. Since Schumann was a very influential writer on music, this was significant to the success of a Polish immigrant to Western Europe who rarely played in public. (Tommasini passes over the less affirmative fact that Chopin, in return, treated Schumann and his music with something like contempt.)

While the 2010 double anniversary deserves to be celebrated, and will be, I’m equally interested in the fact that so short a period of time as four years produced such a large helping of the most influential musicians of an era. A simple and selective list is striking:

1809 Mendelssohn
1810 Chopin
1810 Schumann
1811 Liszt
1813 Wagner

(Am I alone in often carelessly thinking of Liszt as being much older than Wagner — perhaps because Liszt’s daughter married a man who turns out to be about the same age as her father?)

And this is to deal only with some who are now considered composers of the very first rank. What about Félicien César David (1810 – 1876), Carl Otto Ehrenfried Nicolai (1810 – 1849), Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810 – 1876), Charles Louis Ambroise Thomas (1811 – 1896), Ferdinand Hiller (1811 – 1885), Sigismond Thalberg (1812 – 1871), Stephen Heller (1813 – 1888), or Charles-Henri Valentin Alkan (1813 – 1888)? They all made real marks on a music world very unlike our own, though the esteem in which they’ve been held has been markedly variable over the years.

Speaking of someone whose reputation was very high, then sank for a time, and is now perhaps more exalted than ever: one Giuseppe Fortunino Frencesco Verdi was born down in Italy in the same year as Wagner, showing that it must have been the air of those four years, not the soil, that yielded such an unexampled bounty.

Seal of Approval?

January 22, 2010

To mark the second anniversary of RogerEvansOnline, the Supreme Court of the United States used the word blog in an opinion for the first time:

Today, 30-second television ads may be the most effective way to convey a political message. Soon, however, it may be that Internet sources, such as blogs and social networking Web sites, will provide citizens with significant information about political candidates and issues. Yet, §441b would seem to ban a blog post expressly advocating the election or defeat of a candidate if that blog were created with corporate funds. The First Amendment does not permit Congress to make these categorical distinctions based on the corporate identity of the speaker and the content of the political speech.

– Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy

UPDATE – January 25: First the Supreme Court and now the Holy See: Benedict XVI used the word blog in a document yesterday:

… the latest generation of audiovisual resources (images, videos, animated features, blogs, websites) which, alongside traditional means, can open up broad new vistas for dialogue, evangelization and catechesis.

When two of the most tradition-bound institutions must consider blogs when they think of eternal verities, well, we’re not talking about mere trends here.

Name That Libretto

January 21, 2010

Tip of the hat to Kim Witman and her colleague Lorenzo da Ponte

On Avoiding This:

January 19, 2010

In a field not without its wise guys, Michael Kaiser is one of its wise men. I read him often and almost as often quote him — usually in his assertion that tough times call for better art, not merely less expensive art. His explications of this principle have become almost as famous as his legendary ability to turn around organizations in decline.

But, in a short piece in yesterday’s Huffington Post, he adds important nuance to this. Namely: don’t be so concerned with doing better next season that you neglect opportunites to salvage matters this season.