Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Seize The Moment

Late tomorrow afternoon, Andrew and I will fly to Dallas. We will spend Thanksgiving in Dallas at the home of my aunt and uncle, whom Andrew has met four times. Andrew met my aunt and uncle over the last two Christmas holidays as well as at the high school graduations of my sister and brother.

My brother will not have to travel for Thanksgiving. He attends university in Dallas, so he will already be in town.

My sister will fly to Dallas from Nashville, while my parents will drive to Dallas from Oklahoma.

Andrew and I will be the last to arrive, but no one need worry about traveling to the airport to retrieve us because Andrew has insisted upon our renting a car so that a vehicle will be available to us “as necessary”. I interpret “as necessary” as signifying “we will have a means of escape if our sanity is threatened”.

We will fly nonstop to Dallas, but our return trip on Sunday will involve a change of plane at Washington Dulles—as well as one segment on an Airbus 320, an airplane Andrew calls not Airbus but Deathbus owing to its unfortunate safety record. In its short lifespan, the Airbus 320 has experienced over 20 “cabin breaches” involving the deaths of more than 600 persons. We hope not to be fresh additions to that grim total.

Sunday was Andrew’s birthday. To celebrate, we drove up to Lowell to attend a Merrimack Repertory Theatre presentation of “Heroes”, Tom Stoppard’s translation of a recent French play by Gerald Sibleyras.

“Heroes”, set in 1959, is a tale of three World War I veterans bristling at their confinements in a retirement home. A very short play (ninety minutes, no intermission), “Heroes” is also a very slight play. It is not particularly amusing, not particularly charming, and certainly not dramatic in the least. The play’s message—seize the moment—offered the profundity of a greeting-card sentiment.

“Heroes” might prove magical in a magical production, but the play did not amount to much in the Merrimack presentation (which was based upon the New York production from earlier this year and involved much the same cast).

Andrew and I have only two items on our calendar between now and Christmas. While in Dallas, we will attend a Texas Ballet Theater performance of “The Nutcracker” at the new Winspear Opera House. After we return to Boston, we will hear Christoph Dohnanyi (whom I have never heard) lead the Boston Symphony in music of Bartok, Martinu and Dvorak.

For me, the month of December will be devoted to my term exams, which will conclude on the 18th, followed by the holidays.

The morning after my exams end, Andrew and I will fly to Minneapolis, where we will remain for more than two weeks. We will not return to Boston until January 3.

I am pleased that we have sixteen days at our disposal for the holidays this year. Last year, we had only eight days for the holidays, and eight days were not enough (plus we split those eight days, 50/50, between Oklahoma and Minnesota, and it seemed as if we were always on the move).

I look forward to sixteen days in Minnesota.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


Thursday will be my birthday. I shall be 26 years old.

To celebrate, Andrew and I will attend a Boston Symphony concert to be conducted by Bernard Haitink. It will be my first concert lead by the Dutch master.

Before the concert, we will eat hamburgers at a Ruby Tuesday outlet (an odd birthday dinner, I know, but my choice—I like Ruby Tuesday hamburgers, and Andrew and I have not eaten hamburgers in ages, and I have a powerful taste for a good hamburger with lettuce, onion, tomato and bacon).

I am a very lucky guy. Everyone important to me is very good to me.

I can’t ask for anything more than that.

Friday, November 13, 2009


The photograph below: Wilhelm Furtwangler and the Berlin Philharmonic in Berlin’s Alte Philharmonie in 1930. The Alte Philharmonie was home of the Berlin Philharmonic from the late 19th Century until the hall’s 1944 destruction by Allied bombs.

The photograph below: Furtwangler and the Berlin Philharmonic in the Alte Philharmonie in 1938.

The photograph below: Furtwangler and the Berlin Philharmonic in Berlin’s Funkhaus in 1947.

Andrew, a fervent Furtwangler admirer, has read practically every word published—in English and in German—on the subject of Furtwangler. Andrew can site every composition Furtwangler performed, including even the order in which the great conductor took works into his repertory. Andrew knows where Furtwangler performed (and where he did not), with what artists and orchestras Furtwangler performed (and those he did not), and in which theaters Furtwangler appeared (and those he did not).

Andrew’s father, also a great Furtwangler admirer, met Furtwangler’s widow, Elisabeth, several times. In fact, Andrew’s father corresponded with Elisabeth for several years and, in the process, learned many remarkable things about Furtwangler and Furtwangler’s family, friends and associates (including Furtwangler’s offspring, legitimate and otherwise).

Does the public know, for instance, that Elisabeth Furtwangler was a close personal friend of Frau Jodl, widow of General Jodl (the same General Jodl executed at Nuremberg in 1946 for war crimes)?

I rather doubt it.

Fifty-five years after her husband’s death, Elisabeth, now 99, lives on, still occupying the family home near Geneva—the very house in which the great conductor died on November 30, 1954.


Even in November 1938, after five years of anti-Semitic legislation and persecution, they still owned, according to the Times correspondent in Berlin, something like a third of the real property in the Reich.

British Historian Arthur Bryant (1899-1985)

Only through acknowledgement of the erasure and void of Jewish life can the history of Berlin and Europe have a human future.

Polish-born American architect Daniel Libeskind (born 1946)

In Berlin, I especially enjoyed the orchestral concerts, and I attended a large number of them. I formed the acquaintance of a good many musicians, several of whom spoke of my playing in high terms.

American author, poet, musician and diplomat James Weldon Johnson (1871-1938)

When I went back to visit my native Berlin after World War II, I noticed that the only thing I really remembered from my childhood Berlin days was the shoe store.

Berlin-born American composer and conductor Lukas Foss (1922-2009)


On Sunday, Andrew and I will hear the Berlin Philharmonic. It will be my first Berlin Philharmonic concert.

I am very excited.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sparkle And Verve

There’s something about a reinvigorated national rail service that’s magic. Now, I’m not saying that Amtrak is truly coming back. But our national train line seems to have a sparkle and verve it didn’t have for the past few years, now that a rail-friendly federal administration is in office.

Sascha Segan, in a November 3, 2009, article about Amtrak on www.frommers.com.


It would be impossible to make up this kind of nonsense. Only a total moron would be capable of writing something so purely and spectacularly idiotic.

It is frightening to think that there are people as dumb as Sascha Segan out there.