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August 3, 2020:

THE TROUBLE WITH SCHUMANN

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I am sitting here like so much tired fish, listening to a new set of the Schumann four symphonies plus extras.  As you know, I became interested in them thanks to Munch and Walter.  I’ve read all the wags who, throughout history have complained that Schumann was a talented composer but not a very good orchestrator.  I find these kinds of dissertations noxious for the most part, but the complaints all have to do with muddy orchestral sound and what they call “opaque”, whatever that means musically.  Having heard the re-orchestrations by Mahler, I think he is equally heavy in his versions.  But I’d read about a set with conductor John Eliot Gardiner, whose recording of The Planets I rather enjoyed.  His version of these is fascinating and rather enticing – he blames the criticisms on the huge symphony orchestras that play them now, so what he’s done is bring the orchestra down to the size it would have been in Schumann’s time, about sixty players.  And played on period instruments.  And with the violins and violas standing, which was the fashion back then.  So, having compared a bit these are indeed a lot more transparent orchestration-wise – very clean sounding, a lot of detail that comes out that doesn’t in Munch and Walter, which allows the tunes to be lighter and freer and Gardiner’s tempos are sprightly, too, which helps.  So, I am, in fact, loving this so far and the sound is absolutely superb.  And prior to that, I’d heard the Schumann cello concerto, which is lovely as played by Jacqueline Du Pre.  That disc also includes the piano concerto, but I have better versions of that wonderfully tuneful piece.  So, my education continues, Schumann-wise.  I have a set by Szell coming and I’m told that of all the full-size orchestra versions, he gets the most out of the symphonies, plus those are hybrid SACD CDs so they should sound great that way.  I think I’ll hunt down the early Leonard Bernstein recordings on Columbia on YouTube – I’m told they’re very good, too, and apparently he wrote at the top of one of the scores something like, “Who said Schumann couldn’t orchestrate?”  But this Gardiner set is to my liking, thus far and thus far it’s to my liking.

Yesterday turned out to not be a ME day at all.  I was up at ten-thirty after five-and-a-half hours of sleep.  I was in bed by one-thirty and could not fall asleep and didn’t until five in the morning.  At eleven, I had a lovelier than lovely telephonic conversation with one of our New York guest stars and all is well and well is all, plus it was really fun to catch up.  After that, I found that I needed to make a song switch, which I rarely do this late in the game, but the guest and I had been waffling about it early on so the guest was ready, willing, and able to do the switch and so that will happen.  Due to the switch, I then had to write a new commentary set-up to replace the one for the other song.  So, I did that.  Then I went to the mail place and picked up a couple of packages and, more importantly, the important envelope, which had indeed arrived on Saturday after I’d been there.

I came right home, ordered a Chinese chicken salad from Stanley’s, which arrived about thirty minutes later.  I ate it all up and it was, as always, excellently excellent.  I had a few more telephonic calls, did the last of the necessary Kritzerland show stuff that needed doing, and then I finally sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched a documentary on DVD that someone had sent to me, entitled The Little Red Truck, about a children’s theater in Missoula that’s been around for forty years, and sends out two-person teams with original children’s musicals, who go to towns and work with children who normally are not exposed to the arts.  They begin working on a Monday and on Saturday, the sixth day, they do two performances of the show.  It’s intense, the kids are usually undisciplined, and it was a fascinating documentary, which I found very moving, being my love of working with young people.  The movie follows, I think, four different teams. Some have it easier than others, there are frustrations, but in the end the kids come through and it’s usually an experience that will last their entire lives.  There are also some interview bits with J.K. Simmons, who got his start with the Missoula children’s theater.  And it seems that several working Broadway actors too part in this six-day program.  The reason it was sent to me I can’t discuss yet, but it’s interesting.  I have a personal NDA rule – not talking when there are No Definite Answers.

After that, I did a quick last-minute Gelson’s run to Gelson’s, where I got some stuff for the next three days, all calorie friendly.  I came home, had a bagel for my evening snack, and then it was Schumann-lite as done by Mr. John Elliot Gardiner.

Today, I’ll be up when I’m up, I’ll do whatever needs doing, I’ll bank and hope for no long lines because who wants to stand outside for fifteen minutes in 100-degree weather wearing a mask?  I’ll hopefully pick up some packages, and then I’ll eat, and begin all the final week preparations for our August 9 Kritzerland show on Facebook and YouTube Live.  I’m thinking about e-mailing Mr. John Kander to see if he’d like to watch, since he’s worked with so many in the cast.  Then at some point, I’ll watch, listen, and relax.

The rest of the week is more of the same – preparations for the show, and then I think we’ll do our one and only Facebook and YouTube Live test on Friday at 6:00 PDT and 9:00 EDT.  No song this time – I’ll just be answering questions and it will be very off the cuff, not that I actually have a cuff.  And then on Sunday we do our show and I’ll have those links for you in the Sunday notes.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, be up when I’m up, do whatever needs doing, bank, hopefully pick up packages, eat, and do preparations, after which I’ll watch, listen, and relax.  Today’s topic of discussion: Who are your all-time favorite child actors?  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, as I continue to try to understand the trouble with Schumann, which is a bit more complex than the trouble with Harry.

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