Felsenmusick - The Weblog of Daniel Felsenfeld
The Web Log of a Certain Daniel Felsenfeld: Composer, critic, avid reader, aspiring
bon vivant, capricorn, shadowy figure, advice for the lovelorn

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Reading, Listening

Happy New Year to all, and now I suppose it is back to work--to life, to moneymaking, to composing, and to blogging--for the lot of us.

Through the holidays I have been immersed in William Vollmann's epically serious novel Europe Central, whose high moral tone and unimpeachably deep research not only earned him a National Book Award (long overdue), but also ratcheted up my already towering enthusiasm for his work. He's a gloriously beuatiful monster, a force and fluke of nature, and for those of you who've not read him, I advise you to do it. Either start smaller--The Atlas or The Rainbow Stories--or plunge directly into his brilliant six-volume essay on violence Rising Up and Rising Down, which, though not for the faint of heart, will be remembered as one of the most important books of the late 20th Century. Vollmann is our century's Melville, Balzac, Zola and Tolstoy rolled into a single, courageous one.

I've also read Harold Bloom's Jesus and Yaweh: The Names Divine and Paul Auster's newest offering The Brooklyn Follies. The former is essential, prototypical Bloom, a non-sectarian exploration of both Jesus and God not as spiritual icons but as literary figures, brilliantly assembled (though hardly easy to read--though in his case, ease of reading is not always a plus); the latter is pretty typical Auster--neat twists, wild, difficult-to-fathom coincidences, poetic pangyrics to the strange underlayers of Brooklyn--though closing with what comes off (to me, anyway) as the most blatant and slightly ghoulish misuse of 9-11 I've come accross. It's only in the final 'graph, though, so read on, especially if you are a fan.

One thing I am particularly enthusiastic about this week is that tonight I will see the Met's dank, tall, ugly-but-large DeChirico-ish production of Wozzeck for the second time (of three). I adore this opera, and find this production just gloomy enough to be haunting, and Levine has such a handle on Berg's music that he is able to bring out the vast beauties contained in a score that many find simply ugly, but which in fact runs the gamut from chilling to ugly to lush and verdant to spare to heartbreaking, sometimes within the confines of a single passage. More on this later, but when I saw it on the 31st I was knocked pretty much sideways, as I was in 2001, when I went to every performance. One of the most thrilling moments I've ever had in the theatre is the way Levine forces his orchestral hand on the gripping, terrifying long tone that happens in the interlude after Wozzeck murders Marie. It sends a chill even to think on it...

(As I type, I am listening to Karl Bohm's 1971 live performance on Opera d' Oro, and loving that too--how could you not adore this lurid, deviant opera??)

I also must give credit to Anne Sophie Mutter for her recording of the entirety of Mozart's violin concertos on DG. I had the fantastic opportunity to see her do these pieces live in Lucerne a few years ago (including being joined by Yuri Bashmet on the multitude-containing Sinfonia Concertante, also featured on the record) and was completely enamored of Ms. Mutter and her approach. There's a chamber-music-like quality to her approach, which is (I grant you) cold enough to lay bare the music clearly, but warm in a completely different, non-Slavic sort of way--similar to the quiet intensity with which I've heard her play the Four Seasons. If you like your Mozart schmaltzy, this is not for you; if, on the other hand, you prefer a more subdued, less cantankerous performance, run don't walk: this is a recording for the ages.

Now, to Wozzeck, but first a happy, resolute, productive new year to all out there.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday, Danny! Hope you have the best of days tomorrow.

Love always, Angela

10:11 AM  

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