In Search of Wagner

The sentimental Marat

(By Theodor Adorno) (written 1937-38) (Rodney Livingstone translation) (2005) Whilst Adorno (1903 – 1969) was a thinker of wide learning and deep perception, here he is defeated by Wagner, as well as by his own Frankfurter-Marxist dogma and drab obsession with the dialectical. He’d love to dismiss RW as repulsive, dangerous, tin-eared, a Jew-baiter and Jew-hater, formless and, worst of all, bourgeois; yet a kind of intellectual honesty keeps creeping-back in to Adorno’s highly profound skull that undermines all of his grumbling. Wagner is not only sui generis; he is unimpeachable; Adorno’s brilliant attacks, often highly personal, fail utterly, proving…

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Remembering Toscanini

March 25, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, MUSIC |

Toscanini by Giacomo Grosso

Arthur Toscanini (March 25, 1867 – January 16, 1957) Naturally, they hissed at him at La Scala.  But Arturo had the last laugh, recognised in his lifetime as the greatest conductor in the world, selector’s choice for launching the best operas on offer. After spurning Mussolini and Hitler, he concentrated on playing for people who were primarily interested in art rather than power: “Liberty, in my opinion, is the only orthodoxy within the limits of which art may express itself and flourish freely-liberty that is the best of all things in the life of man, if it is all one…

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The Brandenburg Concertos

March 24, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, MUSIC |

24 March 1721 – J. S. Bach presented six concerti grossi, his Concertos, styled after Vivaldi, which he had adapted to several instruments, to Christian Ludwig, the Margave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, along with a rather grovelling dedication: “…begging Your Highness most humbly not to judge their imperfection with the rigor of that discriminating and sensitive taste, which everyone knows Him to have for musical works, but rather to take into benign Consideration the profound respect and the most humble obedience which I thus attempt to show Him.” Precise in form, mathematical in logical structure, they are a revelation to anyone with an ear encountering…

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One of the Famous Five

March 18, 2018 | Posted by Peter Jakobsen | Classical Music, MUSIC |

Rimsky-Korsakov by Ilya Repin

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, 18 March 1844 to 21 June, 1908 R-K is placed with the so-called ‘Mighty Five’ Russian Composers – Modeste Mussorgsky, Mily Balakirev, Alexander Borodin and César Cui. Neither hidebound by convention nor restrained by the strictures of an academy, they created an original and inventive ‘Russian’ sound. Mussorgsky is regarded as the best, and while Borodin is often ranked second, The Varnished Culture disagrees: “It is regrettable, perhaps, that many today know Rimsky-Korsakov mainly for the ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee’, an orchestral interlude from the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan, which was written as the century…

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Venetian Voices

Photo by Jörg Bittner (Unna)

(by Christine V. Courtney) (2017) Venice is of a set, in that it is a Great City, but it is also sui generis, a brilliant bauble set amid a swamp, a rococo castle in the air, an ornate pagoda floating on water. Venice and its inhabitants, whether citizens or arrivistes, spell romance on a myriad levels, and pose a historical jigsaw of massive scope and complexity, so it makes sense to wander its narrow streets and sail its intricate waterways clutching some sort of evocative Baedeker.  Our favourite Venetian history is the massive Folio tome (merging two volumes) by John Julius Norwich…

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