Wednesday, May 12, 2010

This Titanic clash beats the latest one.

The Clash of the Titans (Original): An outstanding film made by Desmond Davis in 1981. The latest may be in 3D and fully decorated by computer graphics but the narration in this film is attractive and Laurence Olivier as Zeus makes this presentation an unforgettable one.I strongly recommend this fantasy classic. Ursula Andress is Aphrodite. Maggie Smith is Thetis. Harry Hamlin is Perseus. Burgess Meredith is Ammon and the beautiful Judi Bowker is Andromeda. The clash between Kraken and Medusa is awesome. Above all, Herbert Spencer's direction of Laurence Rosenthal's score of the film with the London Symphony players is simply magnificent particularly the Pegasus theme and the love theme of Perseus and Andromeda. A sure winner.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Haydn's Final London Symphony

I just finished hearing Haydn's London Symphony played by the Berlin Philharmonic under Sergiu Celibidache in 1950. Many people laugh at the tempi and call it lethargic but I enjoyed the performance thoroughly with Haydn taken at a lugubrious and spacious pace. The Berlin strings are superb even with the age of the recording. 'London' Symphony No. 104 in D Major is Haydn's final symphony. It is the last of the twelve 'London' symphonies. It was composed by Haydn while he was living in London. it was premiered at the King's Theatre on 4th May 1795. Haydn wrote: "I made 4000 gulden on this evening; such a thing is possible only in England." The work is scored for two flutes, two oboes, two clarinets in A Major, two bassoons, two french horns ( In D Major and G Major), two trumpets (in D Major), timpani and strings.
It is a magnificent work. Celibidache is superb in his historic reading.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Zany ... and yet the game is not afoot like Brett

Even in film making, there is such a thing as blasphemy and this film Sherlock Holmes) comes close to that borderline. Guy Ritchie has done this in bad taste. When you read Arthur Conan Doyle and his creation Sherlock Holmes, you place actors like Peter Cushing and the definitive Jeremy Brett. Neither Robert Downey Jr. nor Jude Law come across as Holmes and Watson. The story is gripping with Lord Blackwood and Professor Moriarty. Mark Strong has done a superb job as Lord Blackwood but the remaining cast falls by the wayside. Rachel McAdams is a disappointment. The only winner in the film is Hans Zimmer with an outstanding musical score. He has worked hard in vain on such a sorry project. The film is zany and yet the game is not afoot as with Jeremy Brett and the Granada television project. That is the definitive Holmes.. any time. At best, this is bad time pass!


Shostakovich wrote his tenth symphony in 1953. This was the year Stalin died. The work is in E Minor. The personal statement dimension is confirmed by Shostakovich's use of the initials DSCH (D, E Flat, C, B Natural in German notation) in the Allegretto movement. Robert Layton has written in the GRAMOPHONE, "few works give a deeper insight into the interior landscape of the Russian soul."
The first movement's tragic brooding and the third movement's melancholy define the symphony's mood. Against this mood, the whirlwind scherzo is set. The finale is a sprinting dash. An end to this symphony caused a critic to dub the symphony 'an optimistic tragedy.' The Allegro is a tribute to Stalin. Brutally, the music suggests banality of evil.
Karajan's reading with the Berliners is a great one, for me the definitive.He first conducted this symphony in Berlin in March 1959. In November 1966, he made his first recording of it. The Moscow performance which followed that in May 1969 was a sensation. Solomon Volkov, who wrote 'Testimony: The Memoirs of Shostakovich' says that the concert was a siege; tickets were impossible to get. Police, mounted and on foot, surrounded the theatre. Mariss Jansons was in the audience there and he recalled, "The Berlin Philharmonic played at 200 per cent. It was an unbelievable occasion." Shostakovich was also in the audience. He was so moved that he joined Karajan and the orchestra on stage after the performance.
The 1981 recording of the symphony came at a special time. In the wake of serious illness in 1976, Karajan returned to music with renewed intensity and Berlin, which he had guided for over a quarter of a century, was at the very peak of its powers. The performance as per Karajan was to some extent to share the idea of a struggle to survive in a world beset by menace. In the Allegro section of the finale, Shostakovich's incredibly quick metronome mark was now taken literally, something few orchestras could contemplate, let alone manage. Already in his 1966 recording, Karajan had shown that he had the measure of this symphony.
In the first movement, he gives an atmosphere described as unremitting and in the finale, the Berliners leave no doubt as to their virtuosity. The Berlin Philharmonic is beyond compare when it attacks the Allegro and the horn solo which introduces the Allegretto is hot. Karajan takes the climaxes more relentlessly than any other conductor. His account has the greatest impact. Karajan once told that he would have liked to be Dmitri Shostakovich had he been a composer.

Here is a Munich performance of Shostakovich Tenth by Sir Georg Solti

Monday, May 3, 2010

Dickens' Carol

No one talks about this book. No one talks about this movie. I will talk about both of them. I had read this book in my school days. Then I let it go. It came back to me last year when I was revising my nephew's English literature lessons for his tenth exam.The lesson had such an impact on me that I waited for Zemeckis' film to release last Christmas so that I could see it in 3D. Alas! I missed it because the film ran only for about a fortnight at the Imax in Hyderabad and I could not catch it thinking that it would run for a long time.
I strongly recommend that every person who loves a classic must read this book of Charles Dickens at least once in his lifetime. I finally got a pirated DVD version of this film and saw it at home and I would go a step further to say that any person who loves a classic must see this film.
Dickens wrote this magnum opus in 1843. What a century this nineteenth was! A classic composition. Even after 167 years, we marvel at this book and learn lessons from it. What more can I say about Charles Dickens? Personally, Oliver Twist is my favourite. Followed by this.
The film is directed by Robert Zemeckis and Jim Carrey is superlative as Ebenezer Scrooge. There have been umpteen versions of this film and none comes even close to this version. Though this is animated but it is more lively than livelier! Hats off to Zemeckis and Jim Carrey. This 3D film was made through the process of 'performance capture', a technique Zemeckis has previously used in his films, 'Polar Express' and 'Beowulf'.
Worldwide, this film has done business of 318 million dollars and in Hyderabad it has not even played for 318 people at the Imax. What a shame! I guess the people in Hyderabad have no spirit of celebration and sharing! All I know is I will not miss this in its re-run on Imax 3D.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The greatest of all Clarinet Concerti

Clarinet Concerto in A Major (K.622) written in 1791 is the last of the Mozart concerti and mainly the notes are written in the bass register, written for Basset Klarinett. Up until 1791, no one knew what the bass clarinet looked like and it came as a shock to see a long instrument with a bulbous bell on the end. This work shows the depth of Mozart's mature style. At the peak of his compositional abilities and just weeks before his death, Mozart composed this concerto. He wrote it specifically for his friend and fellow mason, Anton Stadler, a clarinettist, who owed him $25,000 equivalent of that time and never paid it back to him. As a result of this non payment, Mozart was hand to mouth in his last ailing days.
This recording by Bernstein with Peter Schmidl and the Wiener Philharmoniker is all eloquence and brilliance. I haven't heard a single bad recording of this concerto by any soloist or orchestra, be it a chamber or larger ensemble. Here, Peter Schmidl has an emotional relationship with Mozart right from the first note. Bernstein carries off Mozart with competence in this rendition of the greatest of all clarinet concerti along with a crisp performance of the twenty-fifth and the twenty-ninth symphonies.