Saturday, March 30, 2013

Blood Diamond This account by Edward Zwick leaves a profound impact. Realistically, there cannot be a stop to the Blood Diamonds or to the torture and human slavery that has become entrenched in the African mining and processing life. Rich guys with stars in their eyes give these stones to their girlfriends. A diamond is much sought after; but, there is more bad than good that is mixed in their polish. A diamond has become the bane of so many people's lives in Africa. The United Nations has defined a conflict diamond as one that originates from areas controlled by factions who are opposed to the internationally recognized governments. Conflict diamonds come out of areas at war or engrossed in armed conflicts. Fifteen per cent of the diamonds from the conflict zones are sold to the United States and the money is used to buy weapons for the RUF, a guerilla unit that governs all the mines in the conflict areas. Edward Zwick has taken Sierra Leone of 1999 as his locale and spun a tale that involves a Mende fisherman, Solomon Vandy, who hides a big pink while working as a slave in the mines when his family is taken captive by the Republic United Front guerillas. His relationship with a South African mercenary, Danny Archer, forms the principal part of the tale. Whenever a diamond is found, it brings with it inevitable death as Zwick tries to tell us. The G8 countries have collectively raped Africa out of its rubber, gold, oil and diamonds. The film also invites its audience to look into the Kimberley Process of January 2003 when forty nations signed a pact to look into the evils behind the conflict diamonds. What comes out brilliantly in this film are the scenes of human torture in the sweltering heat among the diamond mines and how a mercenary and a journalist, Maddy Bowen, help the fisherman reunite with his family. Leonardo di Caprio, Djimon Hounsou, Jennifer Connelly and Arnold Vosloo shine in this film. This is one of the best I have seen in recent years. I will rate it AAAA. Certain dialogues from the film cnnot escape you. Archer to Maddy: `For the record, I would like to be kissed first before I am f***ed'; `God definitely is not interested in Africa; He left Africa along time ago.'`This is TIA (this is Africa) magic!Solomon Vandy (to his son):`You are Mende and a good boy;do not learn what those brutes taught you;you have to walk to school to learn English; it is important for you to become a doctor.'Maddy to Archer: `You don't care about his(Solomon's) family; you are using him for the stone.'Edward Zwick has made a profound statement with this film. Djimon Hounsou is superb as Solomon Vandy. What can I say about Jennifer Connelly? I would fall in love with her ten times over and in whichever age. Leonardo di Caprio is outstanding as Danny Archer. He has gone under the skin of the role with his Rhodesian accent mastered to perfection and with nuances suggestive of a mercenary who has been brought up in ruthless and cut-throat circumstances. Ever since I saw him as Jack Dawson in `Titanic', I have been impressed with his performances. With films like Beach, Romeo and Juliet, Man in the Iron Mask, Gangs of New York, the Departed,Catch me if you Can, Aviator, Shutter Island, Inception, J. Edgar and Django Unchained. The juries behind Oscars and Golden Globes have been ungrateful in recognizing his skills. They have acted as imbeciles in ignoring his talent and not giving him due recognition. I feel that he deserved at least an Oscar so far. He leaves a haunting impression on you in Blood Diamond.

Sunday, March 24, 2013


Robert Schumann 's only opera. It was performed in June 1850 at Leipzig. The story is based on Genevieve of Brabant , the wife of the Count Siegfried who goes on the Crusades against the saracens in Europe in the eighth century. The plot has some similarities with Wagner's Lohengrin days. The story opens with Hidulfus, the Bishop of Trier, who summons the Christian knights to Martel's crusade against the saracens in Europe. Count Siegfried answers the call and leaves behind Genevieve, his wife, who faces many travails during his absence and is helped by a deaf and mute boy until Siegfried returns.This performance by Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Arnold Schoenberg Choir is the definitive one.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rubinstein Playing Schumann's Concerto in 1947

This is an absolute gem as documented by Life Magazine. God Bless YouTube for such an archive retrieval.. The beautiful A Minor Piano Concerto of Robert Schumann played by Artur Rubinsein with the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra and William Steinberg. This 1947 recording has to be the definitive version of this piano concerto as I have not heard a better version going backwards. The next best is Wilhelm Backhaus with Leipzig and Clemens Krauss.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

The Volcanic Reception of Le Sacre du Printemps

Le Sacre du Printemps is probably the most influential composition written in the twentieth century. This ballet has caused much controversy in the world of dance and music ever since it came on the scene in 1913. It was premiered in Paris and , I feel, it was wrong on Stravinsky's part to open this ballet in Paris. It turned a French audience into an excited and frustrated irate mob. They were highly disturbed after its premier performance. It was almost in the running for sparking the First World War that was just a year's throw away. Stravinsky worked on this ballet at his estate, Oustiloug, in Russia. He used many folk songs in this ballet; from the lot that he had compiled in his notebook. The audience jeered at the revolutionary opening measures of this ballet. Now, when we look back, it is a spark from a genius. This is the definitive performance of this ballet by Pierre Boulez. It took place in Paris in 2002. Boulez has also given a stunning account earlier of Le Sacre with Cleveland Orchestra in 1976.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

The Tale of Czar Sultan

This is an orchestral gem by Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov. The Tale of Tsar Saltan ncludes the ever popular Flight of the Bumble Bee. It is an opera written in four acts with a prologue and seven scenes. It is based on a poem written by Aleksandr Pushkin. Rotterdam Philharmonic David Zinman

Burgmuller : D Major Symphony No. 2

This D Major Symphony of Norbert Burgmuller was not complete when he met his untimely end in a spa in Aachen where he drowned as a result of an epileptic seizure. Only two movements of the symphony had been completed. Robert Schumann completed the third movement from the sketches and then published the symphony posthumously.