Tuesday, August 24, 2010

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

A Simon & Garfunkel masterpiece.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Gingerbread Girl

This story by Stephen King is AAA. Very well written about a woman who has lost her daughter recently and takes up running obsessively, so much so that even her husband gets fed up of her. She leaves him and starts living in her father's beach shack at Vermillion Key. The story unfolds with how she runs into a neighbourhood psycho and how her running habit and strong legs come in handy to save her life. Some pages are brilliantly written, such as .. "when the front door slammed and Em knew he had really left, that abnormal brightness in the world started to turn gray and she realized she was on the verge of fainting. She could not afford to faint. If there was an afterlife and she eventually saw her father there, how could she explain to him that she had wasted her last minutes on earth in unconsciousness? He would be disappointed in her. Even if they met in heaven, standing ankle-deep in clouds while angels all around them played the music of the spheres (arranged for harp), he would be disappointed in her for wasting her only chance in a Victorian swoon." The story telling is well paced and makes you bite your lower lip with the frenetic tempo and taut suspense. Real good narration.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Mahler's Farewell

The conclusion of Mahler's Farewell Tenth.. One of the most beautiful strains of music ever penned. Philadelphia under Eugene Ormandy (1964).

This symphony was written in 1910. Mahler's final composition. I call it 'Farewell'. Mahler never managed to complete the orchestral drafts except the whole first movement and the first twenty eight measures of the third movement. The rest was in piano edit. The work was cut short by his premature death at the age of fifty from a streptococcal infection of the blood. Mahler saw it coming and right from the first measures of his Death Ninth Symphony, he is saying his goodbyes to the world and communicating with His Creator.
Mahler was obsessed with death throughout his life. He resigned from the Wiener Opern in 1907, his forty-seventh year. His elder daughter died that year in New York. He was slso diagnosed with a blood infection and a heart disease. he lived the remaining four years under the shadow of death. Yet he lived his life too. He planned a career in the New World where he was excited with his tenure as the conductor of the New York Philharmonic. But again in 1910, his emotional life sank in turmoil. He discovered that his wife Alma was having an affair with the architect Walter Gropius. He even went to consult Sigmund Freud in Holland. During this period, in a span of few weeks, he completed the blueprint for the tenth symphony. In the winter of 1910-11, he went back to a further revision of the already completed Death (Ninth) Symphony. So, the tenth remained a skeleton and he spoke of it as a 'work fully prepared in the sketch."
Most conductors perform the first movement Adagio alone. The English writer Derryck Cooke completed the first performing version(there is another by Remo Mazzetti, Jr. under the guidance of Leonard Slatkin). This is not the version that we hear nowadays as this was revised by Cooke and the final script came out; was performed first by Wyn Morris and the New Philharmonia in London on 15th October 1972.
Here is the first radio broadcast on my birthday in 1960 of Deryck Cooke's version played by the Philharmonia London under Berthold Goldschmidt. Cooke also had a short life like Mahler as he passed away in 57 years.Deryck Cooke never claimed that he was completing the symphony. Cooke says, "Mahler's music, even in its unperfected and unelaborated state, has such significance, strength and beauty, that it dwarfs into insignificance any uncertainties." When the first realisation of the tenth was broadcast in 1960, Alma Mahler created trouble and stayed future performances legally but after four years she gave permission (Ormandy/Philadelphia version) and when she heard the music for the first time, she was so moved by it that she removed her ban and gave the rights of performance to Cooke's transcript. The sketches of this symphony were written by Mahler at Toblach in the Italian Dolomites. The crisis in his life brought about a formidable masterpiece.