Sunday Salon 12-15-13

Time: 10:30 Sunday morning, a little later than I usually work on my Salon. I slept in, so sue me!

Place: At my main computer, still surrounded by remnants of old computers I want to get rid of.

Consuming: Just finished a nice bowl of cereal. Now it’s back to coffee.

Reading: I have just about finished Roger Lipsey’s excellent The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art. I’m sure I’ll be doing a review for the blog pretty soon. After I’m done with that, I will be turning to reading related to my upcoming trip to southeast Asia (less than two months away now!) My next books will be Michael Coe’s Angkor and the Khmer Civilization and Buddhism: A History by Noble Ross Reat. As a little end-of-day reading I’m continuing to enjoy Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do.

Watching: The only film I watched this week was one that I’d already seen several times. But it happened to appear on Turner Classic Movies (the one television channel I think I could not live without), and I couldn’t resist watching again: the outstanding Sullivan’s Travels (1941), written and directed by Preston Sturges, and starring Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake. Seldom has there been such a neatly crafted film, that turns from comedy to drama and back again so effortlessly that you hardly even notice. Once again related to my trip, I am also watching, and reading the accompanying book, Foundations of Eastern Civilization from The Great Courses.

Listening: I’m still plugging away at writing program notes for January’s concert by the Reno Philharmonic, and so have been listening to things like the Ancient Airs and Dances Suite No. 2 by Respighi and the Fourth Symphony by Brahms. One other CD that I must call attention to because it is so good is the most recent effort by the chamber ensemble eighth blackbird, meanwhile – a great selection of very vivid and colorful music.

Pondering: Last week I was pondering how much I needed to start making lists of tasks in order to be more productive. This week, after a couple of very productive days, I’m pondering how good of an idea that was. Also, I read today of the death of Peter O’Toole, one of the greatest actors of our time, and I was remembering back to when I saw him on stage in London, around thirty years ago now, in Shaw’s Pygmalion. He was almost certainly drunk, and even came close to falling over a couple of times. But he was also fabulously funny and energetic. How much fun that evening was, and how much charisma O’Toole had… If I had the time to spare, I’d watch Lawrence of Arabia or My Favorite Year again today.

Blogging: Not much recently, but several things are in the works.

Anticipating: Getting into the holiday spirit, because it certainly hasn’t happened yet!

Gratuitous Video of the Week: A few days ago, in an online forum I take part in occasionally, the subject of Vivaldi came up. And I chimed in with what is probably my favorite Vivaldi work, the Concerto in C major, RV 558 “con molti stromenti.” I posted a link to a YouTube video of a nice complete performance of the Concerto. But, honestly, much more to my taste is this performance of the Concerto’s first movement by Fabio Biondi and Europa Galante. Vivaldi came up with a truly peculiar ensemble for this work – pairs of mandolins, theorbos (relative of the lute), recorders, trumpets, chalumeaux (a single reed woodwind not unlike a clarinet), and violins in tromba marina (take note of the aluminum foil the two lead violins have on their instruments, adding a little “buzz” to their sound to imitate the sound of this obsolete string instrument), along with cello, strings and continuo. These diverse, extravagant colors are used by Vivaldi in a really marvelous way. Biondi is known for his fairly extreme interpretations of Baroque era music. But in this case, his approach to color, dynamics and tempo – his basic tempo for this movement is faster than any other I’ve come across, and he slows down and speeds up in fairly unusual ways – really suits this zany, tuneful, wonderful music. It’s a whole lot of fun. Enjoy!

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6 thoughts on “Sunday Salon 12-15-13

  1. The lawsuit papers are in the mail. 😉

    I’m sitting here listening to the Vivaldi piece while I write and while it’s a bit more brisk than I usually like on a Sunday afternoon (our local NPR station plays operas on Sunday afternoons and even that’s too much), my wife and I both are enjoying it. Very nice.

    The holiday spirit hasn’t hit here either, especially with the unexpected death of a young man in our neighborhood which has been weighing heavily on us this weekend. However, this music is helping brighten our spirits anyway. Thanks.

    • I always wonder how, or perhaps if, those who experience tragedies around the holidays can find their way out of that dark frame of mind to some kind of appreciation of the season. Hope your holidays brighten!

    • I have a couple of videos that I usually watch around this time or year to get into something resembling a holiday spirit: the movie “The Shop Around the Corner,” a great old film with Jimmy Stewart, and a DVD called “Christmas in Rome,” with music from the Renaissance and Baroque performed at various cool Rome venues. Hope you and I both find some holiday inspiration!

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