Time we caught up with a little music.
Have you been paying attention to the controversy surrounding the New York Philharmonic's recent concerts in North Korea? This is more than a music story, really; it's all about global politics and propaganda, and perhaps appeasement of a dictatorship. Or is that giving away too much of my own opinion? At any rate, Terry Teachout, who has been a harsh critic of the Philharmonic's tour, weighs in at The Wall Street Journal with this excellent piece talking about everything that was wrong with this idea. In particular, I enjoyed this quote:
We just went out and did our thing," Mr. Maazel told reporters, "and we began to feel this warmth coming back. . . . I think it's going to do a great deal." Bunk. All it proves is that apparatchiks can be sentimental, too, a fact that the Wagner-loving Adolf Hitler proved long ago.
Well put. Keep reading the piece for more. I recall during Nixon's visits to the Soviet Union and China that it was said only he, with his staunch anti-Communist credentials, could have made such a trip without having been accused of selling out. I hardly think the New York Philharmonic can make such a claim.
What did Bach look like? CNN tells you. All quite interesting, I'm sure, but does it bring Bach to life in a way that his music fails? I don't think so. "It only shows his facial appearance," said the anthropologist in charge of the project. "I wish it could give us some sense of what was going on inside of his head, but it can't." I suppose we should be grateful that science admits they can't quite accomplish everything. Yet.
The great Italian tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano died yesterday at the age of 86. I mention this not only in tribute to his great talent - if you don't own the legendary recording of Tosca in which Di Stefano plays Cavaradossi to Maria Callas' Tosca and Tito Gobbi's Scarpia, you really should - but because he's someone you should know about. Rudolf Bing, the major domo of the Met in the 50s and 60s, said that Di Stefano's was "the most beautiful sound he had heard come out of a human throat." Pavarotti modeled himself after Di Stefano. His parings with Callas were always worth looking forward to - they recorded ten operas together. A short career perhaps, only about 20 years, but a worthy one nonetheless. R.I.P.