I have been neglecting this blog for the last several weeks, for which I’m apologetic. But it was necessary, as I was working on some program note writing for both the Billings Symphony and my employer the Reno Chamber Orchestra. If you’re in need of information on Johannes Brahms’s German Requiem or the Symphonie fantastique by Berlioz, I’m now your guy. While such note writing is enjoyable, it is pretty time consuming, requiring a fair amount of research – both on the composition being discussed and on the life and times of the composer – as well as actually listening to the music, several times. All in all, though, it was a worthwhile experience. And it forced me to think about and listen to some great music, which can’t be all bad. Comparing, for instance, the approaches to the German Requiem of conductors as diverse as Otto Klemperer and John Eliot Gardiner really illustrated how much interpretive room there is in this music. Short verdict: while I admired the choral work and intimacy of the Gardiner recording, I much preferred the slower tempos and more monumental sound (and, frankly, the modern instruments) of the Klemperer.
In the meantime, as I prepare some new stuff, here are a couple of interesting links.
A new documentary on Leo Tolstoy is going to feature some film made of the writer during the last two years of his life that has been stored away, unseen, for over 100 years.
Click here for a very interesting New York Times review by Sonia Kolesnikov-Jessop of the exhibition “Sumatra: Isle of Gold,” on display through November 7 at the Asian Civilizations Museum in Singapore. The exhibition deals in part with the remarkable range of cultures and peoples that have had an influence on Sumatra’s history and art over the centuries. Of course, you’d have to go to Singapore to see the exhibition, but there is more information and a few images of pieces from the exhibition at the Museum’s website.
Finally, “Blue K, Custodian of the Cinematheque” at the MUBI forum posted this a couple of weeks ago, apparently a recent photo of Setsuko Hara. I really hope this is her; if so, it would be the only photograph I’ve ever seen of her from the years after her retirement from films in 1963. She looks happy and well…