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January 29, 2017:

THE SIBELIUS VAUDEVILLE SHOW

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I have had a most wacky last two hours listening to another Sibelius symphony cycle, this one from the late 1960s and early 1970s, originally released on the Melodyia label, conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. Now, I enjoyed his Rachmaninov second a whole bunch, so I was looking forward to hearing this set with the Moscow Radio Symphony Orchestra. The three Amazon reviews were all five stars. Well, nothing could have prepared me for this listening experience. As you know, I’ve gone through a bunch of sets of these symphonies and I definitely have my opinions on each. I haven’t liked a few that everyone raves about – such is life. I did see that there was a review online in a magazine, but without paying you can’t read the whole thing – but I saw enough to know that reviewer thought this set was one of the greatest travesties ever. The little bit I can access includes the following quotes: “CD from Hell” and “Make no mistake, Rozhdestvensky’s Sibelius symphony cycle is a crime against humanity, musically speaking.” So, is it? Well, at times, it is certainly the oddest Sibelius I’ve ever heard. I can’t really say any of his performances work, but there are a couple of moments where he’ll bring out a woodwind line that in other performances are buried and it was nice to hear that. And interestingly, in my favorite, the fifth, which is very poorly done, there’s a moment about six minutes in out of the eight minutes where the big tune appears again and I must say while he hammers it into the ground, in almost every other performance I really love that moment, too, is somewhat buried and you kind of want more of the tune in the blend.

The first symphony is, I have to say, like a vaudeville turn. The band is so strange, and the conducting just makes everything sound crass and really weird. The second is the one where he did bring out some nice wind lines, but otherwise it’s merely okay. The third was okay, as was the fourth, but certainly no better than okay and not within a country mile of any great performance. The fifth is another vaudeville turn – when he gets to the big tune in the beginning of the third movement, the way he conducts it is so ridiculous – it’s very clipped with no majesty or emotion or drama – I don’t think Mr. Sibelius quite had that in mind, nor do I think he wanted a listener to actually laugh during that section. The sixth and seventh are somewhat okay, too. How those Amazon reviewers gave this set is unknown to me – especially about the sound, which is occasionally distorted. I will say, the Russian brass playing is wild – not in a good way, but maybe that’s how they play. But I heard none of that in the Rachmaninov but that may not have been a Russian band. I’m glad I heard it, but oh man was it wacky.

Yesterday was quite a nice little day, save for the fact that the bulldozers are back two houses up the street, the fifth teardown in eight months. So, I was up at eight-thirty, with only seven hours of sleep. I did fall back asleep at some point for an hour. Once up, I answered e-mails and then had the Muse Margaret conversation. She liked several of my little tiny additions, mostly for character and color, and there were only a couple of things she thought we shouldn’t do. That took about thirty minutes, and then I entered all of those into the Word document, made a new PDF, sent it to the proofers, and I went to Staples to have two hard copies made. While they were being done, I went and had an omelet and a bagel. Then I picked up the hard copies and picked up one package, then came home. It was already about four o’clock, so I sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched a motion picture on Blu and Ray entitled Stanley and Iris, starring Jane Fonda and Robert De Niro, Martin Ritt’s final film. I’d never seen it before and I must say I quite enjoyed it. It’s a very sweet film with real scenes, actors who don’t mumble, a wonderful John Williams score and terrific direction from Mr. Ritt – the screenplay is also wonderful, by Harriet Frank Jr. and Irving Ravetch – they could really write, those two. The transfer was very nice. I also watched the first half of The Mad Magician starring Vincent Price, directed by John Brahm – it’s fun and I’ll write more about it in tomorrow’s notes.

After that, it was the Sibelius Vaudeville Show, a shower, and some popcorn.

Today, I’ll be up by ten, I’ll catch up on a few things, one of the proofers will stop by to get the hard copy of the book, and then I’m meeting Kay Cole at two-thirty, and then at three-thirty we’re both judging a singing contest. That will be over at six-thirty and then I’ll have to get some food – since I’m in Burbank I can probably just go to the Coral Café.

Tomorrow I lunch with David Wechter, then we have our second Kritzerland rehearsal and I’ll be doing a lot of detail work with the kids. Wednesday is our stumble-through and Thursday is our show. There’s a book fair on the weekend but I probably shan’t go. I may sup with a dealer friend, though.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, meet with Kay Cole, judge a singing contest, eat, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: It’s free-for-all day, the day in which you dear readers get to make with the topics and we all get to post about them. So, let’s have loads of lovely topics and loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, still reeling from the Sibelius Vaudeville Show.

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