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November 15, 2020:

FINDING DVDS

Bruce Kimmel Photograph bk's notes

Well, dear readers, I am sitting here like so much fish, listening to Mr. Leonard Bernstein do the symphonies of Mr. Jean Sibelius.  I’d nuked most of the complete sets out of iTunes and kept separate performances I liked and the full set of mono Anthony Collins along with the full set of John Barbirolli, which I really like but am not crazy about the sound.  I’d enjoyed the Bernstein the first time around, but it’s even better than I remembered and is probably right near the top of the best sets I’ve heard.  Part of that has to do with the Columbia stereo sound, which is amazing – their engineers really knew their stuff – the detail in these performances is incredible and, of course, you have the New York Philharmonic at the top of their considerable game.  There are many sets I really like and an equal number of well thought of sets that I can’t stand.  Of course, music is subjective and what “gets” to one person doesn’t necessarily “get” to another.  I’m baffled by people who like the Colin Davis and Simon Rattle sets – I can’t listen to them.  But this set is pretty well thought of by just about everyone except Lenny haters.  But this is Lenny when he was on fire and I can’t find a single thing to criticize.  Speaking of criticizing, the editor and reviewer for Classics Today now has a YouTube channel, where every day he posts a new video.  I have occasionally enjoyed reading his reviews and occasionally found him pedantic and pissy, not necessarily in that order.  I would never have pictured him the way he actually is.  I have to say that it’s very difficult to listen to him, with his high-pitched annoying voice, but some of the videos have been interesting.  He’ll do best cycles, best individual performances and pontificates about them and I find I agree with him only sporadically and, of course, I post on those pages about MY favorites.  If you want to check him out, David Hurwitz is his name.  He likes a lot of conductors I simply cannot stand, so I always take him with a large container of salt, and the few times when he’s really recommended stuff, I go find it on YouTube and I have not once agreed with his over-the-top assessment of whatever recording he’s going on about.  But he loves Szell, he loves this Bernstein Sibelius set and he hates Zubin Mehta, which I have to agree with him on.  And he seems to like Ormandy a lot, so he gets bonus points for that.  And I’ll just end this paragraph with this: the Sibelius second is absolutely amazing in every way and this performance is just aces, and I have a LOT of great seconds.

Yesterday was certainly a day, I think we can certainly say that without fear of contradiction.  Nothing really happened and I really kind of did not want to do any work – I did choose the second to last song and got that where it needed going and got a couple of tracks to singers and set up a Zoom rehearsal for today, but that was about it.  I got eight hours of sleep, never left the house, as there were no packages or mail to pick up.  I did answer e-mails, but mostly I relaxed.  I’d ordered food the night before – Stanley’s Chinese chicken salad, and that came at around two and was, as always, excellent.  I figure about 600 calories for it as the dressing is pretty light.

After that, I went out to the garage determined to find the damn DVDs I haven’t been able to find, and I’m happy to report I finally found them after going through many piles of discs.  One was the full three seasons of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour and one was the Jerome Robbins N.Y. Export – Op. Jazz, which I had a hankerin’ to see after hearing the Robert Prince music.  But in finding those, I also found a bunch of other stuff that I wanted to watch, so I brought in about fifteen DVDs in all.

The first thing I watched was one of the hour-long Hitchcock shows called The Lonely Hours, which I’d never seen.  It starred Nancy Kelly and Gena Rowlands and it was pretty good, actually.  Nancy Kelly would have just been getting ready to do the national tour of Virginia Woolf when this was shot.  Gena Rowlands looked absolutely gorgeous in this one.  But the reason I wanted to watch it was because one of the kids in the cast, playing Gena’s seven-year-old daughter – Annette Ferra, who, just eight years later would be playing Lolita in the musical Lolita, My Love, and who I’ll be doing an interview with in a couple of weeks.  She was seven, I’d guess, and very good.

After that, I watched Alfred Hitchcock’s Stage Fright. This is a film a lot of Hitch fans don’t think is top-drawer Hitch and I could not disagree more.  They think it because Hitchcock himself thought he made a bad mistake in it in the opening sequence flashback.  So, because they read it they just go along with it.  I’ve never found the opening flashback’s device to be a mistake at all and just about every 80s or 90s thriller has used a variation of it in one way or another, so Hitch was very ahead of his time in that regard.  But let’s be clear – the device was not new to him – maybe it was because of its use in a flashback, but the first person to actually use that kind of device and who raised quite a ruckus for doing so and who was accused of not playing fair, was Dame Agatha Christie in The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.  I’ve always loved Stage Fright – the dialogue is excellent and frequently very witty, the direction is great, and the cast is mostly fantastic, and that includes Jane Wyman, who gets knocked – I love her in it.  Marlene Dietrich is brilliant and very funny and, of course, sings the great The Laziest Girl in Town by Cole Porter.  Alistair Sim is droll and wonderful, as is Sybil Thorndyke, and Kay Walsh is also great. I’ve never loved Richard Todd but he’s very good in this.  The only weak link for me was Michael Wilding – I just find him an odd actor and his hairpiece is really irritating in its height.  The role would be better served with Michael Redgrave at the age he was in The Lady Vanishes.  The film has a good score by Leighton Lucas and I just enjoyed it all tremendously.  I hadn’t seen it in probably fifteen years.

After that, I listened to music, namely Bernstein doing Sibelius, which is still ongoing – now at symphony three.  I’m putting it back in iTunes and getting rid of two other cycles that I’ve heard enough.

Today, I’ll be up when I’m up, I have the Zoom rehearsal at one for thirty minutes, I’ll choose the final song, I’ll eat, most likely tuna sandwiches, and then I’ll do whatever needs doing, after which I’ll watch, listen, and relax.

This week is some Zoom rehearsals, working on Doug’s play in terms of planning the shoot and what I want to do with it, starting on project two, and doing whatever else comes up.

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, have a Zoom rehearsal, choose the final song, eat, then watch, listen, 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, happy to have found the DVDs I was looking for in the stacks and stacks that are out there.

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