Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Miracle of Genius and Old Age - Here's to Tony Bennett and Menahem Pressler !

The power that  the modality of genius lends to a mortal who utilizes music to prove a point  is best proven, to me, by attaining old age and remaining at world-class level at the same time.
No better examples are available than the careers of a singer in the world of pop music, and a piano player in the art of Classical music; namely, Tony Bennett and Menahem Pressler.
Simply listen to Bennett sing with Lady Ga-Ga, and hear Pressler play Mozart.
Bennett  melds into the style of Lady Ga-Ga, despite the reality that he is 60 years older than her.
And listen to him wrap his sense of musical story-telling around the shapes of the likes of Elton John and Stevie Wonder.
Then be reminded that Menahem Pressler escaped Hitler's Kristallnacht in 1938, and has been enthralling the world  ever since with his patrician readings of the Masters.
And I remind you that they are not products of Memory - they are Now...
Bennett celebrated his 90th birthday recently, and is releasing the latest of his  recordings.
Pressler will tell you of  a recent bit of surgery on his heart by  a surgeon  who demolished a premise that this kind of surgery should never even be considered on a man approaching his mid-nineties.
Pick up their latest recordings - what a gift to us!! Consider the combination of empirical and eclectic powers that these two performers possess.
Up until this period,  I had long considered that the legendary pianist  Artur Rubinstein was, for me,  the  paradigmatic example of longevity and genius  - after all, how many great pianists performed the music of Chopin  over twice as long as the life span of the composer? Rubinstein retired at age 89, after performing for years with failing eyesight and hearing, without divulging this information to his loving audiences. I adore his story of personal courage.
Fortunately, both Bennett and Pressler continue to enhance our world of escape, and my hope is that this miracle can go on...
By the way, the paintings of Tony Bennett  are on display  non-stop in various locations throughout the world.


Friday, December 16, 2016

The Death of a Giant, and the Final Concert Arranged by a Leading Nazi Before the End of World War Two - On the Same Day...

It was April 12th, 1945 in  Warm Springs, Georgia.  A beautiful  and bucolic dawn introduced this day.
A frail, tired man began this day in a chair downstairs in the lovely cottage he would visit from time to time. A brief period  before,  he had just returned from  the Yalta Conference, his final meeting with Stalin and Churchill, who derisively described Yalta as "the Riviera of Hades."
After  undergoing some activity, he put  a  hand to his head and said "I have a terrific headache."
In a few minutes this  man was dead. The  frail, tired man was, of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the leader of the Crusade against  the threat of a New Dark Age - sadly, he failed by less than a month to be  witness to the promulgation of the   historic victory he had fought to achieve.
On the very same day, in a cold concert hall in a battered Berlin, with the Russian military approaching from the East,  a final concert in that hall was performed by the Berlin Philharmonic. This concert was arranged by none other than Albert Speer, the gifted architect and one of the Nazi hierarchy - music of Beethoven, Bruckner and Wagner was performed. Imagine, if possible, a concert given in a city almost completely  destroyed by years of Allied bombing.  Even though it was April, it was a cold, gray day, and this select audience sat in the cold with collars up to ward off discomfort while listening  to what was to become one of the final expressions of a culture which gave the world so much; a culture which was driven insane by a monstrous agenda created by a man who thought  that he could become an artist.
For those of you who have not seen some of the water color art  of Adolf Hitler, do look at a few of them; then ask "what if this man had had sufficient gifts to follow through with his painting and taken a different path, what kind of twentieth century would we have had?"
At any rate, April 12th, 1945 was a rather interesting day, wouldn't you say?


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

How Artistic Collectivity Can Converge Upon One Subject...

The subject: Reinhard Heydrich.
The artistic cast of characters:
Karl Hajos - a  Hungarian composer
Douglas Sirk -a movie director
Emil Hlobil - a Czech composer
Bohuslav Martinu - a Czech composer
Edna St. Vincent Millay - an American poet

The subject, one Reinhard Heydrich,became, arguably, the most efficient and pure form of Hitler's Nazism  under the tyrant's regime. His ascendancy, especially after directing the proceedings at the Wansee Conference, which dealt with and gave birth to the Final Solution, cast him to the top of the Hitler hierarchy within a  brief period. Hitler himself thought of Heydrich as the most potent form of Nazi activism. Had he survived, and the Nazi movement were to continue, this man could well have been chosen by Hitler to be  his successor.
Heydrich, however, was assassinated in 1942 by Czech patriots having  been flown in from England.
Hitler was beside himself, and personally ordered, in retribution, the extirpation of a village located in one of the provinces Heydrich was Protector of, named Lidice.
Lidice became one of the great tragedies coming out of World War Two - all men over fifteen were executed by the German troops assigned to  enter this village. Most of the women and children were sent  to Germany, facing a fate still pretty much unknown. Some women and children were indeed murdered within the village.  The final act was for the village to be razed to the ground, leaving veritably no viable trace of the community.
In the years following the war, various artists have come forth to bring their imagery forward in order to keep the memory of Lidice alive. Both Karl Hajos and Emile Hlobil,  rather well-known within their milieu,  have written short compositions depicting the horror of this act. I believe that some of the music may   be on YouTube, even though these men are quite unknown to most of us.
The composer Bohuslav Martinu, an internationally recognized composer, also wrote a musical memorial to Lidice's   fate. The music is available.
Douglas Sirk was a movie director who left Germany to escape the oncoming threat of Hitlerism , and was well-known in Germany. He had actually met a young Heydrich some years before he came to the West, and described Heydrich as a rather "edgy" young man.  Sirk directed one of a number of movies made about Heydrich over the years after the war; his movie being released in 1943.
The  eminent American poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who had won a Pulitzer Prize for her poetry during the '20's, wrote an extended form of Poetry titled "The Murder of Lidice," which received  much recognition after its writing; of course, the work can be found.
Other artists have also created their interpretations of the event, to be sure, and those of you who have any interest in pursuing the results will find other material.
The final twist is pure irony:
Reinhard Heydrich was an accomplished violinist, coming from a family of distinguished musicians, one of whom founded the  Halle  Conservatory of Music...