Whoa, do I ever feel crappy this morning. I've got my annual early spring bronchial crud that is accompanied by a slight temperature and draginess. There's also a interesting wheezing component to this that keeps me awake at night. The pattern is that I feel awful all morning, then start to feel about normal in the afternoon and early evening, then drag again just before I go to bed.
And that was today's organ recital. Did you enjoy it?
I'm almost done with a neat documentary, The Art of the Steal (2009), about how moneyed interests and multi-million dollar charitable trusts in Philadelphia more or less legally swindled a small art school (the Barnes Foundation) in nearby Marion, PA out of an art collection worth 25-50 billion dollars. Well, that's the take of the filmmakers, anyway - and they make a convincing case for themselves.
Professional art world types - museum curators, art critics, academics, collectors and appraisers - are not like you and I. They're kind of weird. For instance, at one point a woman is describing moving a Van Gogh piece. She takes it off the wall, becomes overcome by emotion, gently sets it down somewhere and then cries her heart out. There were a number of places in the first twenty minutes or so, where the Barnes collection is being described in rapturous terms, where I found myself rolling my eyes and thinking, "Oh, get a hold of yourself!" But once you get past that and watch the political types do their thing - power plays, glad handing, inserting themselves - it gets interesting. Good doc.
I also watched a nice concert DVD of a favorite piece of music, Bela Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra (1943), one of the undisputed musical masterworks of the Twentieth Century and one of Bartok's last works. I was first made aware of it by 1973 a quadraphonic recording of it by Pierre Boulez and the New York Philharmonic. In that, the orchestra was spread about the conductor in a fashion calculated to show off four channel "surround sound" techniques. The concert DVD I watched was filmed in a Lisbon cathedral, with the orchestra set up in the conventional way. The mix, however, was in DTS, and so there was all sorts of reverberant sounds coming from the rear channels... it was nice to hear that whole quadraphonic recording thing finally done right!
I have a gripe about the video production, however. At the beginning of the fifth movement, there's a horn call and then the strings start playing a furious passage of sixteenth notes - it's very stirring to hear and see. But where was the camera during this part? Up in the rafters, showing the ledge of a balcony. Boo! Who wants to see that? We want to see the string players playing their little hearts out! (You can watch a decent performance of the fifth movement here - and you should. It's one of the most glorious noises composed in the 20th century.)
Boulez made had an interesting comment about this movement. He said that Bartok, living in New York, had a respect for the major American orchestras, who, under the likes of Stokowski and Mitropolous, had achived a virtuosity rare in Europe. The difficult pattern of notes were written for the American orchestras, whom Bartok knew could play them well. That's right: a Frenchman said that in the 1940's, major American orchestras were better than the European ones!
Oh, check out the clever computer animation done by the Nostradamus Channel (aka The History Channel) for the Ford's Theatre Museum. Video here. It breaths new life into those rather stodgy old engravings we've seen countless times before in Civil War books.
And that's all the text I can generate at the present time. Excuse me while I reach for a Kleenex.
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