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August 15, 2020:

THE PIED PIPER OF HAMELIN AND OTHER TALES

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I must write these here notes in a hurry for she of the Evil Eye will be here all too soon and therefore I must write like the wind and get to bed at a reasonable hour.  As I type, Grieg’s Peer Gynt suite is playing with Sir John at the helm.  And things just took a turn for the better, sound-wise, because with this album the next few albums are produced by the Mercury Living Presence team.  All the stereo albums from 1957 don’t sound great – just bad producing and engineering, with distortion in the loud bits.  The music making is mostly wonderful, but the sound gets to be a trial.  So, this current CD is leaps and bounds better.  Also, during the 1950s the Halle Orchestra was still getting its footing so the playing can be a bit, well, ragged.  I had no idea Barbirolli had recorded two of the Sibelius symphonies prior to his 1960s cycle, but he did – the first and the fifth.  The first is undone by the sound and frankly it’s not a great performance by the band.  But the fifth – instantly goes in the top rank of fifths, my favorite Sibelius symphony.  The sound is, thankfully, a bit better and only in the loudest bits does it get uncomfortable.  I know the 1960s recordings are all much better, sound-wise.  His Mahler fifth and sixth from that era are highly prized performances, but in 1958 we got a Mahler first that’s the weirdest performance of a Mahler symphony I’ve ever heard.  The first problem is it sounds nothing like Mahler.  I don’t know how that was achieved but not one note of it is in the Mahler sound world.  Whether it’s because the band couldn’t handle it or something else I know not, but I would not be listening to it ever again, when you have so many brilliant Mahler firsts, especially Bruno Walter and Kubelik and even Bernstein’s more, how shall we say, vaudeville version.  But what fun it is to hear all this music.

Yesterday was, of course, Friday, but it seemed like today, while today, well, I don’t know how today feels since it isn’t today as I’m writing these here notes.  You know, every time I hear this Greig Peer Gynt suite all I can think of is the TV movie with Van Johnson, all set to this music.  It was the weirdest thing, but I loved it when I was a kid, had the RCA soundtrack, and have it on DVD somewhere in, I’m sure, sub-optimal quality.  I’m not sure I have a CD of that version – I must check, and I’ll check YouTube, too.  I’ll bet someone’s put it on there.  See, and none of the loud bits, which are really loud, are distorted, thanks to producers who know what they’re doing.  What a pleasure.  I got maybe a little over six hours of sleep, got up, did whatever needed doing, got another track to send to a singer – only two to go now, I think – and I figured out what I wanted for food and ordered it – Paty’s – Trousdale sandwich with potato salad.  It arrived about forty minutes later and was really tasty, as was the potato salad.

I never went to the mail place or even left the house.  I just listened to music and did work on the computer.  I got another track and sent that off, and I was answering e-mails all the livelong day, too.  At some point, I finally sat on my couch like so much fish.

Last night, I watched Chris Marker’s brilliant short film, La Jetee.  I never tire of its perfect forty minutes, and the transfer from Criterion is really excellent.  I still think I even have it in 16mm – I really need to go through that stuff and perhaps sell whatever I have left.  First I watched it in French with subtitles, and then in English without – the English dub (it’s all narration) is wonderful and very close in performance and words to the French.  I then did what I always do, began the co-feature, Sans Soleil.  I think I must have watched the first twenty minutes of this film about fifteen times and I’ve never been able to get through it and last night was no different.  I did doze off for about forty minutes at some point, so that was good.

It was really hot – 98 degrees – so I had to have the air on sporadically, which I don’t like, but eighty-four in the house is insufferable.  Then I listened to more music, took a drive to get some air – too hot to walk even though it was nighttime.  And then more music, including the now playing Grieg pieces – currently the symphonic dances.  I never think of Grieg as a composer I like and yet I really like his music every time I hear it.  That said, I’m not sure I even have his famous piano concerto – I’ll have to check.

Today, I’ll be up by eight-thirty, I’ll be out of here by nine-fifteen.  I’ll probably see if I can breakfast somewhere, although if two weeks ago is anything to go by all the jernts I’d go to would probably be too crowded.  But I have to kill about two hours, so I’ll go to the mail place, maybe walk around for a while, maybe a mile or two, to get some exercise in.  Depending on whether I breakfast or not, I’m thinking today might be a Stanley’s Chinese chicken salad day or maybe a Gelson’s Caesar salad day – but salad is sounding good to me.  If I DO breakfast, then perhaps I’ll just buy a sandwich from somewhere or make a little salad.  We shall see.  Once home, I’m hoping we can get the final two tracks done so that will be one less thing to worry about, and then we have a Zoom meeting at four with our core cast for the opening number.  After that, I can then watch, listen, and relax.

Tomorrow must be a ME day from start to finish.  We’re still puzzling out how we’re going to do this download thing, which I’d like to start doing on Monday for those who are so inclined.  Then the week is all Kritzerland show stuff, and we’ll do our Zoom rehearsals towards the end of the week, I should think.  There are other things I need to do and do them I shall, and I don’t care who knows it.

Well, dear readers, I must take the day, I must do the things I do, I must, for example, be up early, do stuff for about two hours including hopefully picking up packages, perhaps breakfast if there’s anywhere I can actually find seating, have a Zoom meeting, hopefully get the final two tracks done, eat, then watch, listen, and relax. Today’s topic of discussion: What are your favorite short films, whether comic, dramatic, or documentary or animated?  Let’s have loads of lovely postings, shall we, whilst I hit the road to dreamland, where I shall probably dream of The Pied Piper of Hamelin with Van Johnson singing songs with music by Grieg and recalling that my very first actual public performance was the one time I ever went to sleepaway camp in the summer of 1961, where I gave an immortal performance in The Pied Piper of Hamelin, playing the leading role.  I wonder if any photographs exist?

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