Joined: Dec. 5 2008
From: New Jersey USA
Looking out on a grey late December afternoon upon a soft, snow-covered landscape. White-accented trees looming out of a soft fog as the afternoon light slowly fades. 'Tis the season that evokes things Russian, and my ongoing re-reading of War and Peace heightened the effect. I put the hallowed old Rachmaninoff Second Piano Concerto on the system, and sank back as the familiar textures enveloped me. People can say what they will about old Sergei, but the first classical LP I ever bought was the Rach 2 way back when, and, unlike some other classical warhorses, I never tire of it, or any of Rachmaninoff for that matter. The British music mag The Gramophone polled classical music lovers for years, and the Rach 2 always came away as the most popular piano concerto, year after year, and maybe the most popular anything--I don't remember.
This time of the year the spirit calls out for Tchaikovsky, for the Nutcracker, the Piano Concerto, the Violin Concerto, Swan Lake, for Rach 3, the Rhapsody, the three symphonies.... Forget about Vladimir Putin and the endless bad Karma of the Russians for a while, and just enjoy music that even classical snobs really like (when no one else is around)!
Looking out on a grey late December afternoon upon a soft, snow-covered landscape. White-accented trees looming out of a soft fog as the afternoon light slowly fades. 'Tis the season that evokes things Russian, and my ongoing re-reading of War and Peace heightened the effect.
A very evocative piece of writing, Runner. I get the same "Russian" effect looking out my window this (Tuesday) morning in Washington, DC, with the grey sky and falling snow suggesting Tolstoy. I hope you had a fire going in your fireplace as I do, as it adds to the overall effect, particularly if you have Rachmaninoff on the system. One can imagine one's self at Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy's estate, where he wrote both "War and Peace" and my favorite "Anna Karenina."
And the end of the fight is a tombstone white, With the name of the late deceased, And the epitaph drear, "A fool lies here, Who tried to hustle the East."
I appreciate the replies! Castelat wonderfully marries the music to the winter scene. Gerundino, I think of the winter scenes from Doctor Zhivago; nobody did winter like David Lean. Bill, news of the death of Petya Rostov has just reached the family.....
One of the most evocative books on Russian art, literature, culture (much of it as seen through rose-colored glasses) is a 1982 big paperback, Land of the Firebird, Touchstone/Simon and Schuster, by Suzanne Massie, a dedicated Russophile. Almost compulsive reading. A Spaniard I knew (a Galician, not an Andalusian) told me that there was a close spiritual bond between the Russian and the Spanish soul.
Rachmaninoff: Almost always listed among the 5 greatest pianists of all time. Yet here was a man who began his career as a performing virtuoso at the ripe old age of 45. In his last years living in Los Angeles, one of his regular guests for dinner and then music was Vladimir Horowitz; the two then-living finest pianists would sit down at two pianos and spend the evening delighting one another with their shared art (doubtless including the 2-piano version of Rachaninoff's Symphonic Dances, a marvel to hear).
This evening I find myself insomniac in the absence of my partner Lorna. She is on a work trip to Idaho and has reported temperatures of minus fifteen centigrade and that everything is 'very pretty'.
As may have been noticed I am very critical of the modern world and perhaps I would have been happier in a cabin in the Russian tundra howling my frustrations at the moon rather than posting on the foro..... or em maybe not.
But the old world and the new have maybe more in common than just the potential for quaint snowscapes. Rachmaninov was never more impressed with a pianist than he was with the inestimable Art Tatum. And the light spirit of American show tunes leavens the weight of late romantic harmony in his music in a way which clearly distinguishes him from Strauss and Tchaikovsky.
There was even something Californian about him before he left Russia. He was cured of artistic block by a hypnotist.
Ok so I am gonna hypnotise myself to sleep now. I'll close my eyes and count snowdrops.
Mark: Christmas and Handel--yes, that is also a strong link: the English (or Anglo-German) winter holiday association. Joy to the World, indeed!
Russian music: I first became aware of classical music in the early 1950s, when there still was a faint friendly afterglow of our Western alliance with the Russians against Hitler, despite the rising tide of Cold War tension. And so, Russian music remained a staple of the repertory--Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Khachaturian (the memory of William Kapell's bravura performance of the Piano Concerto still resonated), Shostakovich were all to be heard with regularity, along with the older generations of Russian composers. My mother had a fair amount of the music on 78s, and passed along the afición to me. With the decay of the audience for classical music, and the retreat by the shrinking numbers of orchestras back into the certainties of Brahms symphonies (which symphonies I love), it is a rare day indeed to hear something like the astonishing Prokofiev 2nd Piano Concerto, the first movement of which makes my head explode several times over. Were I a billionaire, I'd consider funding an orchestra with which to lure the Young back into classical music via the fabulous repertory of first half of the 20th Century music--non-Serial--that has been left to us by the Russians, by Bela Bartok, Villa-Lobos, Respighi. Maybe a concert could begin with ; that would get the young audience's attention. Buddha, this should wake you up!
Another View of Winter, courtesy of Ezra Pound----
Winter is icumen in, Lhude sing Goddamm, Raineth drop and staineth slop, And how the wind doth ramm! Sing: Goddamm. Skiddeth bus and sloppeth us, An ague hath my ham. Freezeth river, turneth liver, Damm you; Sing: Goddamm. Goddamm, Goddamm, 'tis why I am, Goddamm, So 'gainst the winter's balm. Sing Goddamm, damm, sing goddamm. Sing goddamm, sing goddamm, DAMM.