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What are you reading, music or otherwise?


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Showing 426-450 of 588 posts in this discussion
Posted on 2 Jun 2012, 08:41:46 BST
I'm not sure whether the author's a musician or not, but I enjoyed Maynard Solomon's Mozart biog. I haven't read his Beethoven book but, on the basis of the one about Mozart, I wouldn't share John R's dislike of his writing style.

In reply to an earlier post on 2 Jun 2012, 14:41:58 BST
Edgar Self says:
Harry Callahan -- Thanks for suggesting Maynard Solomon's biography of Mozart, which others also recommend. I'll give it a try.

At the library yesterday I read Alex Ross's review of Count Harry Kessler's memoirs, in the April 21 "New Yorker". I'd never heard of Kessler (1868-1937), who knew everything and everybody, lent Rilke money and asked if he would be able to write in Duino, wrote the scenario for Richard Strauss's "Josephs-Legende" ballet, and gave Strauss and Hofmannsthal the idea for "Rosenkavalier" (according to him). Rodin, Mailliol, Verlaine, Bismarck were other chums. He was rich, born in France to a banker, and led an incredible life, served on the wrong side in the Great War, was later minister to Poland for the Weimar Republic, and disliked the Nazis, retreating to Mallorca and then France.

Posted on 12 Jun 2012, 19:29:04 BST
Last edited by the author on 12 Jun 2012, 21:58:26 BST
Bella says:
Memoirs of 19thC Irish tenor Michael Kelly. He has a lively style and gives fascinating insights into the musical life of the time - he mentions people from all over England flocking to join the chorus in the Messiah, not quite what all those cut-down authentic performances would have us believe! His references to Mozart (he was the first Don Curzio in Figaro) are often quoted, but in fact they are rather brief, and he doesn't really distinguish Figaro from other popular operas of the time; he praised it highly, but he praises other works (most of which have sunk without trace) with equal enthusiasm.

Posted on 12 Jun 2012, 21:55:06 BST
Edgar Self says:
That's a famous that I've never read, Bella, just quoted excerpts. I should order it or search at the library.

Listening to Wilhelm Kempff's stereo Op. 111, rather literal, especially the Arietta, but beautiful and unusual voicing, especially inner and left-hand. Not "spiritual" at all, a la Schnabel, Edwin Fischer, or Elly Ney. But he u9pholds the honour of the Kempf/Kempff Klan.

Posted on 20 Jun 2012, 18:06:32 BST
I picked up Harold C Schonberg's "Lives of the Great Composers" from my shelf to re-read it again after a few years. On reading the chapter on Berlioz I was moved to order Berlioz's memoirs from Amazon. I am about a third of the way through it now and it is a very enjoyable read. Berlioz was as good a writer as he was a composer, in fact he probably made more money from music criticism and reviewing than he did from composing. I can recommend this book to all serious music lovers (or should that be lovers of serious music?).

Posted on 20 Jun 2012, 19:54:22 BST
Edgar Self says:
Arrowsmith -- Your post will jog me to read Berlioz's memoirs, which I've missed all these years. They sound fascinating. He and Wagner were friends, at least early on, perhaps when Wagner was eking out a living singing in Paris choruses, but I think a little later than that.

Posted on 2 Jul 2012, 15:43:16 BST
Last edited by the author on 7 Jul 2012, 01:59:26 BST
Edgar Self says:
Many of us enjoyed Georg Tintner's Bruckner cycle on Naxos. "Out of Time: A Vexed Life" is an excellent and very revealing biography of Tintner, with many surprising details about how his Bruckner recordings were made, and his unhappy experiences with the New Zealand and Irish orchestras before getting down happily to work with the Scottish Nationals. The writer is Tintner's third wife, and widow, Tanya Tintner, married to him for 23 years. With many photographs, well and professionally written with great understanding into his musical, personal, and career problems.

Also reading Riccardo Muti's memoirs, just published in English translation. A very different career than Tintner's.

Posted on 8 Jul 2012, 09:41:25 BST
Sir Thomas Beecham - A Memoir by Neville Cardus. Elsewhere Piso said that NC writes ' engagingly, and not uncritically' about Beecham in his autobigraphy. This short memoir is written in the same spirit. Though dedicated to Lady Beecham and members of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and written as a friend he doesn't shirk from mentioning Beecham's failings as a man and a musician. This only a memoir, Cardus' memories of those parts of his life when he was most involved with Beecham, so it doesn't cover the whole career and no attempt is made rate Beecham in relation to his colleagues or assess his overall significance. Cardus is convinced, despite his reservations, that Beecham was a great conductor. Interestingly, he rates Beecham's greatest achievement to be the years of WWI that he spent conducting opera in Manchester, peformances he says he has never heard equalled.

In reply to an earlier post on 8 Jul 2012, 18:14:43 BST
Edgar Self says:
In a survey of Beecham's best recordings some years ago, a surprising number of respondents mentioned the National Anthem. On one broadcast he could be heard enjoining the orchestra to "make it good and vulgar." The "Times" reported "Mysterious Voice on Sir Thomas Beechams Broadcast." They knew very well whose voice it wa but forbore to say so.

Unrelated aside: we are re-reading Kenneth Clark's "Civilisation" and seeing again his BBC series of that title, one of the best things I've seen on television.

Posted on 9 Jul 2012, 10:08:56 BST
Piso: I am sure I have posted this before but on one occasion he started a concert with a tremendous roll on the side-drum, the audience stood for the National Anthem and he launched the orchestra into The Thieving Magpie Overture. This was the sort of levity, along with his famous after-concert speeches, that British audiences seemed to enjoy but was less well-received elsewhere.

The best performance of the National Anthem I ever heard was conducted by Eugen Jochum at the start of a Royal Philharmonic Society concert.

Posted on 9 Jul 2012, 17:46:29 BST
Edgar Self says:
Thanks, Geoffrey, I was trying to recall that very story but couldn't get the details straight. Beecham's antics still play very well in this quarter, although he played a terrible trick on the San Francisco Symphony's concertmaster (Jake Krachmalnick) the one time I saw him conduct.

The best performance of another National Anthem I've seen was Van Cliburn, playing Rachmaninoff's thunderous arrangement of "The Star-Spangled Banner" complete with Baptist revival walking octaves in the bass. I'm almost sure Cliburn played it standing up. We cetainly were. There's a piano-roll by Rachmaninoff himself.

At least two well-known pianists came to grief trying to play "God Save the Queen" to start their recitals. One of them had to compose his way out of the wreck.

Some of Beecham's concert remarks are heard on his BBC CDs, a few complete lectures, and his famous rehearsals of Haydn's "Military" symphony and, I think, "Abduction From the Seraglio".

Posted on 9 Jul 2012, 17:57:41 BST
Piso: Michael Kennedy says that Beecham's period in USA was the least sucessful of his career without saying why. Elsewhere I read that his antics didn't go down well with some US orchestras, whatever the audiences felt. Hyper-disciplined and used to terrifying tyrants like Toscanini, Reiner and Szell they didn't like his jokey manner. Beecham liked to pretend that rehearsals were just a matter of a quick run-through to identify any problems then the performance. In fact he meticulously prepared his performances and of course poached the best players.

Posted on 21 Jul 2012, 18:06:22 BST
Edgar Self says:
Biography of Fred Gaisberg, who was active as recording engineer and talent scout for Emile Berliner, G&T, HMV/EMI from 1897 to his deth in 1951. An American who went to England with his brother Will at age 24, recorded Caruso in Milano in 1902 for the princely sum of 100 pounds (Gaisberg was nearly fired until the profits soon clocked in at 12,000 pounds), Adelina Patti, Dame Nellie Melba, Chaliapine,
Harry Lauder, Peter Dawson, Titta Ruffo, Gigli and countless others.

It was Gaisberg who brough Elgar and young Menuhin together to record the violin concerto. He seems to have got along with everyone but Toscanini and Beecham. The former is not surprising. Many mentions of Sir Landon Ronald, Piero Coppola, and Carlo Sabaijno. Leoncavallo, Schnabel's Beethoven sonatas, &tc.

Posted on 25 Jul 2012, 12:31:57 BST
The Mahler Companion (ed Mitchell & Nicholson) - a weighty compilation of essays on various aspects of Mahler's life and music. Solti's Mahler 7 arrived today and I sense a mjor bout of Mahler madness coming on.

Posted on 30 Jul 2012, 11:06:00 BST
Have just read the Wikipedia article on Georg Tintner whose Naxos Bruckner cycle was my listening staple for several months towards the end of last year (2011), and which I now deem one of the central treasures of my collection. I had no idea that he was engaged in a six year battle with cancer over the period of the Bruckner cycle recordings (1995-98), nor that he would leap to his death from his eleventh storey apartment, in Halifax, a year after completing them (1999). Talk about adding pathos. I'm sure that this knowledge will add a whole new depth and gloss to the experience the next time I embark upon the cycle.

Posted on 30 Jul 2012, 16:33:23 BST
Last edited by the author on 30 Jul 2012, 20:26:48 BST
Edgar Self says:
Georg Tintner's new biography by his wife, a musical and journalist professional, adds many details, John ... "Out of Time, A Vexed Life". Indeed it may tell us more than we need or want to know, but the interest and poignance are palpable, with many details of his Bruckner recording sessions and others.

Posted on 30 Jul 2012, 19:29:36 BST
Last edited by the author on 30 Jul 2012, 19:30:15 BST
I've just finished the 'Snow' chapter of Thomas Mann's The Magic Mountain. So, basically, I'm 500 pages into my first reading of what is proving to be a profoundly moving, deeply felt work. Gasp-inducing moments, a vaulting architecture, ingenious use of motifs and stuffed with a lifetime's worth of ideas about the human condition. Unless he fluffs the next 200 pages (doubtful considering the masterly control on display until now), I may have to conclude: Thomas Mann is the measure of all things.

In reply to an earlier post on 30 Jul 2012, 20:24:59 BST
Edgar Self says:
I think you are attuned to The Magic Mountain", Noggin. "Snow" is a famous chapter, and there are some great ones ahead of you. I'll say no more, except that it's a favourite book, one that I had the good luck to read for the first tinme in hospital, just out of high-school, and have re-read every few years ever since. I envy you your first-time experience, and well remember how I devoured it with my eyes hanging out.

Some of Thomas Mann's sayings: "Only the exhaustive is truly interesting." Another: "Any word, even the most contradictious, maintains contact. It is silence that isolates."

Posted on 30 Jul 2012, 21:25:12 BST
Last edited by the author on 30 Jul 2012, 21:34:39 BST
Malx says:
"Any word, even the most contradictious, maintains contact. It is silence that isolates."

Piso, a lot of truth in that quotation, as I'm sure, many a family will confirm. Looks like I'll have to get my hands on a copy!

Noggin, which translation are you reading? The Lowe?

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Jul 2012, 09:25:02 BST
>>Yes, Malx, it's the Lowe version. It's a solid enough version with some rather antiquated words and quite a few typos, though it's pleasingly quaint and dated. I think I'd try another translation on a future re-reading, to see how that compares.

Vintage, the publisher, seem pretty shoddy to me. Not only have they clearly not bothered to amend the errors, they also offer nothing in the way of end notes for Latin idioms and the French section is untranslated. My French was good enough to work its way slowly through this bit, but this must be frustrating for non-French speakers!

Posted on 31 Jul 2012, 09:37:46 BST
Thropplenoggin: I found most The Magic Mountain a bit of a slow slog - there is so much to take in. However, there is an incident (yet to come for you) which energizes the book in a remarkable way and I could hardly put it down as it raced (relatively speaking) to the end.

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Jul 2012, 09:56:19 BST
>>Geoffrey, I don't know why it speaks to me so much. Sometimes it just feels like the right moment to be reading a certain book. I enjoy the discursive approach, how it drifts from topic to topic. I like the thumbnail sketches of the bit part and lead characters, how their defining traits become motifs (Marusja's orange-scented hankie, Joachim's bring his heels together militarily, etc.).

I like the huge overarching themes it tackles, the Big Questions, and that unlike, say, in Delillo, where such conversations always feel totally false and overtly fictional, thus killing the suspension of disbelief, Mann's set-up (time, place, social class) make such conversations much more convincing.

You have now whetted my appetite for this 'change in gear' - time to dip in once more!

In reply to an earlier post on 31 Jul 2012, 15:59:37 BST
Last edited by the author on 5 Aug 2012, 18:03:53 BST
Edgar Self says:
SPOILER'S ALERT: Good chapter coming up in Thomas Mann's "The Magic Mountain", Noggin , called "Fullness of Harmony", about that darling machanism the gramophone. Odd that a German novel is treanslatied into English with one chapter left in French, which I can't manage but found another translation of. Pretty much as I suspected.

The chapter that loses me, and has done so for decades, is "Of the City of God", the debates between the Italian humanist Luigi Settembrini and the Jewish Jesuit Leo Naphta. It's so far over my head I simply can't follow it but press on uncomprehendingly to the next, eyes blurring and brain empty.

Helen Lowe's translation is so vivid that whole passages are lodged in memory, some in every-day use. For instance, she found the perfect equivalent for "die Wonne des Gewoenlichkeit" in "Tonio Kroeger" ... "the bliss of the commonplace." Of course! Helen Lowe-Porter's translation of "The Magic Mountain" is imaginative, vivid, and poetic. Thomas Mann, whose English was worse than mine, also liked it. The errors, perhaps inevitable in translating a book of this length and depth, bother me not at all. I expect I'm blesedly unaware of most of them. Compared to other translations of European literature ... French, Italian, German, Norwegian, Russian ... I think she stands very high.

Later English translators of "The Magic Mountain" make much of her errors, but then proceed to their own with hers before them, altering a word here and there, often for the worse. Porter devoted her life to translating Mann, from his early to his late works. Only his latest had to be entrusted to others when age overtook her. Another case of the letter killing and the spirit giving life, which is another book.

Posted on 5 Aug 2012, 02:24:50 BST
JayJayDee says:
Must read a Gore Vidal book.
.....in the circs.

Any recommendations?

Posted on 5 Aug 2012, 10:34:44 BST
JJD: It depends what you want. He wrote a long series of historical novels charting the history of the USA through one family (more or less). 'Burr' is the first chronologically and an excellent read in its own right. In his comic/satirical mode 'Myra Breckenridge' is his best known work but you might give 'Kalki' or 'Duluth' a try. His two-part memoirs are excellent though acid-tinged when dealing with his mother. His collections of essays are a good read though can seem repetitive when he returns to the same subject (usually the failings of the US political class).
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