Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Spirited organ variations on "Immortal, Invisble", a spiritual, and Beethoven's idea of reunion

Sunday, September 25, 2016, Trinity Presbyterian in Arlington offered a mix of most interesting music and items.

Organist Carol Feather Martin performed the Introduction Variations 1, 2, 3, and 10 on St. Denio by Hans Hielscher.  I wish she had simply played the entire work as a prelude (probably about 25 minutes).  The hymn is “Immortal. Invisible”, and the style reminds me of British composer Havegal Brian (although the composer is German).  The last variation ends with a tremendous C Major climax. But the work reminds me of a few comparable works that use hymns:  the last movement of Brian’s Symphony $3 in C# Minor (which also uses “Nearer My God to Thee” and works up to a tremendous climax on the Beethoven Fifth (and Mahler Fifth) four-note motto surrounding the hymns.  The second movement is rather like Vaughn Williams and the third movement is a pure Mahler scherzo, and the first movement is a set of variations with a piano obligato (like Bernstein’s “Age of Anxiety”).  I’m reminded of the tremendous orchestral epilogue for the 1944 film “A Canterbury Tale”, with materials built from “Onward Christian Soldiers

 and “Immortal, Invisible”, and again, the Beethoven 4-note motto.  Then there is the way Sir Arnold Bax mixes this material with “The Old Rugged Cross” to conclude his Fifth Symphony (also C# Minor) triumphantly, but very British.  And the “Immortal” theme occurs in the big tune that concludes Ernst Von Dohanyi’s first Piano Concerto (E Minor), no doubt an inspiration to Rachmaninoff.

Ms. Martin also performed an offertory on Wareham by Emma Lou Diemer.

The Chancel Choir performed a cappella a spiritual “Poor Man Lazrus” adapted by Jester Hairston.

Rev. Judith Fulp-Eickstaedt gave a sermon “Letters to a Young Disciple: About Money”.  This time, she asked for comments from the congregation (which been a practice at the nearby Clarendon Presbyterian Church under David Ensign).  Two people, including me, mentioned childlessness and not having dependents.  Financial security sets up a moral paradox:  one can afford to “refuse” unwanted intimacy from others based on any arbitrary conditions in the person’s mind.  When this gets too acceptable for the whole herd, well, someone like a candidate whose name was not mentioned can become a presidential candidate and get a lot of traction, and threaten to bring back fascism to replace the moral paradoxes of freedom.

I’ll close this post with Barenboim’s playing the third movement “The Return” from Beethoven’s 26th Piano Sonata, “Les Adieux” (the Goodbyes).  It’s a riddle, not too hard to solve by the sentient, especially fans of the early years of "Smallville".  .

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"Deadly Conservatism": well, even with liberalism, it sometimes has to get personal (sermon notes)

I don’t know if a church sermon normally would qualify as a stage media event for this blog, but I wanted to mention three sermons in August at the First Baptist Church of the City of Washington DC by Julie Pennington-Russell, “Deadly Conservatism”, “Deadly Liberalism”, and “Deadly Me-Ism”.

All three fit into Mel Gibson’s 2002 film “The Passion of the Christ”.  The “liberalism” was about the Sadducees , although the Catholic church regards the Sadducees as an established conservative orthodoxy among the Jews (source ).  The pastor here seemed to compare them to the “corrupt” liberal establishment, its ties to Wall Street, its willingness to allow corruption and conflict of interest, and willingness to sell out one of its own to save its leadership.  So much for Hillary?

“Me-ism”, though described in terms of Pilate, amounted to a description of Donald Trump without mentioning his name.

But the most interesting sermon was probably about “Conservatism”.  The Pharisees are the conservatives, although Pennington says the sermon is about conservatism, not good conservatives (like Andrew Sullivan).  Conservatism likes to build elaborate, fetish-like rules and beliefs around the periphery to protect the faith.  Sometimes it does appeal more to “the masses” in terms of rituals.

But the almost the first word of my short story in DADT-III  (“The Ocelot the Way He Is”, is Pharisee, who personally has the reputation for being known for much speaking – watching or spectating and criticizing others without walking in their shoes.  (link http://biblehub.com/matthew/6-7.htm ).   (Feb 19, 2012).  The Pharisees seem to represent wanting to keep their distance and an air of superiority for following rules – as did the Sadducees, when you get down to it.  Sometimes, in a “mind your own business” society, things still have to get personal (as in a youth speech back in 2012)

Friday, September 09, 2016

Kalinnikov's two symphonies, with the brazen ending of the First

In late 1968, as best I can recall, after finishing Army Basic and being home sometimes, I got familiar with the two symphonies of Russian composer Vasily Kalinnikov (1866-1901), whose life in mother Russia seems to have been tragically abbreviated.

There were recordings on the Melodiya Angel label at the time.

The Symphony #1 in G Minor is better known, and seems to even remind one of the “Winter Dreams” in the same key by Tchaikovsky. The symphony opens quickly with a straightforward folk-like theme and develops its materials in “piano sonata” fashion.  The second movement in E-flat is a nice little meditation on descending thirds  The scherzo is a romp in C Major (with a premonition of a similar movement in the Sibelius Symphony 1).  The finale is the best known of the composer’s statements, and is even transcribed for high school bands to play. While starting out with a rather perfunctory, trivial theme based on the first movement, introduces a majestic second subject, and the Maestoso conclusion is brazen and heroic, a tribute to the Mother Russia that has been lost (and that Putin pretends he can restore, if only he could increase the birth rate).  G Major is an unusual key for such conclusions, because it doesn’t sound thick enough.  The best other example of a similar concept in the key is the ending of Elgar’s Enigma Variations. YouTube link.

The Symphony #2 in A is all major (like “all man”), and sounds a little more like Rimsky-Korsakov and less like Tchaikovsky. The themes are even more cyclic and have even more folksy harmonies and mannerisms.  The slow movement in f# minor is a nice little lullaby that recalls the past, at least mine.  The finale has a slow introduction before becoming a bacchanal. The closing climax at the end mixes the relative minor F# minor with the submediant F Major in a somewhat predictable, perhaps trite fashion.  The effect is not as breathtaking as the end of the First Symphony.

I embedded this particular performance to show the picture of a fictitious alien city.  The arrangements of the taller buildings resembles that of Manhattan (with Brooklyn to the right) viewed from the South, but other things (like the huge moon) are totally alien.  I can imagine myself living in a community in the lower rise buildings in the “Brooklyn Heights” section to the right. It looks like there is a pneumatic subway among the tall buildings.

Maybe the solar system around Tabby’s Star, similar to our sun, 1450 light years away, possibly having a Dyson Sphere, has a planet with a big city like this.  I want a luxury hotel room there with Facebook access.

Wikipedia attribution link for p.d. diagram of Dyson sphere by Ed629.