Mahler performances were rare in Vienna in those days because Mahler's city had already been contaminated by the acolytes of Adolf Hitler. By their reckoning, Mahler's music was loathsome — a product of "Jewish decadence." To put Mahler's music on the program was therefore a political act. It was to protest and deny the hateful faith that blazed across the border from Germany. That much I understood quite clearly, even as a boy. The New Yorker's Alex Ross reprints Hans Fantel's New York Times 1989 essay on Bruno Walter's 1938 performance of Mahler's Ninth Symphony -- the last performance of the Vienna Philharmonic before Hitler invaded Austria.
For all the hoo-ha about Callas first bringing real acting to the operatic stage, one has only to view the footage of Risë Stevens legendary 1952 “Carmen” to see what kind of Method she brought to the Met. Stevens was the definitive gypsy wanton, and her performance has it all— fire, ice, and that impossible balance between elegance and sluttiness. Her technique is superb—licking her fingers before extinguishing the candles in what will be her death chamber, then flicking off the wax; flinging her unwanted lover’s ring at him, spitting out a contemptuous “Tiens!”. The Metropolitan Opera Guild honors the Bronx-born singer, now 92. More inside.
Music is nothing. Sound could become music. The end must be in the beginning, and the beginning in the end. I am here because I am not here. Music lives in the eternal now. Music is the now becoming now. What I learned from Sergiu Celibidache, by Markand Thakar. More inside.
San Carlo of the Symphony. Il Maestro Carlo Maria Giulini, orchestra conductor who passed away Tuesday at 91 "had an almost uncanny ability to transform the sound of an orchestra, any orchestra, into a dark and intense glow, which became his trademark over the years". "We have lost one of the greatest musicians of our time," says Esa-Pekka Salonen (.pdf), music director of the LA Philharmonic. Giulini has been called "the last humanist", a gentle man beloved by his orchestras, so humble in his approach to music that, always feeling the necessity to "fathom" each new work, it wasn't until the 1960s that he finally felt ready to conduct Bach, or the symphonies of Mozart and Beethoven. This from a man who, at the beginning of his career (as a viola player) had played under Richard Strauss. "I had the great privilege to be a member of an orchestra," Giulini said in 1982. "I still belong to the body of the orchestra. When I hear the phrase, 'The orchestra is an instrument,' I get mad. It's a group of human beings who play instruments." More inside.