Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Horrible Warning

If you can’t be a good example, then you’ll just have to serve as a horrible warning.

Author Catherine Aird


There but for the grace of God . . .

Why would anyone proudly post such a revolting photograph of himself? It boggles the mind and perplexes the soul.

The appalling person in the photograph embodies, in countless ways he could never possibly comprehend, the crud underbelly of America.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Tweet, Tweet, Tweet

Now that my bar exam is over, Andrew shall have to find some new subject about which to tweet.

I had hoped I might receive a nice gift to celebrate my completion of the Minnesota Bar Exam, but my hopes were to be dashed.

My preferred gift was a Kaiser Wilhelm nut dish, issued in 1913 to mark the 25th anniversary of Kaiser Wilhelm’s ascension to the Hohenzollern throne.

Every household should have at least one Kaiser Wilhelm nut dish—and a matching pair, if possible.

Made of the finest Dresden china with fine pierced trim, the Kaiser Wilhelm nut dish depicts the Kaiser and Kaiserin and German national eagle, all portrayed in vibrant if not radiant color.

For weeks, I had been dropping countless hints about my wish for a Kaiser Wilhelm nut dish . . . but no one presented me with a Kaiser Wilhelm nut dish yesterday.

I’ll have to carry on somehow without one—and try to contain my bitter disappointment.

Perhaps a trip to Britain next week will help me cope with my woe.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Albert Speer Testing The Panzer IV

German Armaments Minister Albert Speer testing a variant of the Panzer IV during World War II.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Were Serious People Ever Listening?

Public Policy Polling, a Democrat firm, said that if he ran for president today he'd lose, that his job numbers are "worse than they appear," and that he continues to have real trouble with undecided voters.

And if you've watched him lately, you know why. When he speaks on the debt negotiations, he is not only extremely boring, with airy and bromidic language—really they are soul-killing, his talking points—but he never seems to be playing it straight. He always seems to be finagling, playing the angles in some higher game that only he gets. In 2½ years, he has reached the point that took George W. Bush five years to reach: People aren't listening anymore.

Peggy Noonan, writing in today’s Wall Street Journal

Thursday, July 21, 2011


American GIs in Britain during World War II.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lodz 1942

Deportation of Jewish inhabitants of Lodz, Poland, in 1942.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

And Yet Another Updated List

Since I last updated this list in July of last year, Andrew and I have attended another eleven orchestra concerts.

The concerts are listed below.


The Handel And Haydn Society
Symphony Hall

Harry Christophers, Conductor
Rachel Podger, Violin

Mozart: Serenade No. 13 (“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”)
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 5
Mozart: Overture And March From “Mitridate”
Mozart: Symphony No. 38 (“Prague”)


The Handel And Haydn Society
Symphony Hall

Bernard Labadie, Conductor
Robert Levin, Piano

Haydn: Symphony No. 83 (“Hen”)
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4
Haydn: Symphony No. 94 (“Surprise”)


Boston Symphony
Symphony Hall

Christian Zacharias, Conductor And Soloist

Haydn: Symphony No. 80
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 15
Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 16
Haydn: Symphony No. 95


Boston Symphony
Symphony Hall

Kurt Masur, Conductor
Nelson Freire, Piano

Schumann: Symphony No. 1 (“Spring”)
Schumann: Piano Concerto
Schumann: Symphony No. 4


Boston Symphony
Symphony Hall

Christoph Dohnanyi, Conductor
Arabella Steinbacher, Violin

Ligeti: Double Concerto For Flute, Oboe And Orchestra
Mozart: Violin Concerto No. 4
Dvorak: Symphony No. 7


The Handel And Haydn Society
Symphony Hall

Harry Christophers, Conductor

Handel: Israel In Egypt


Akademie Fur Alte Musik, Berlin
Jordan Hall

Telemann: Overture (Suite) In F Major
Bach: Brandenburg Concerto No. 5
Bach: Violin Concerto No. 2
Handel: Concerto Grosso, Op. 6, No. 2
Telemann: Concerto In E Minor For Recorder And Flute


Saint Petersburg Philharmonic
Symphony Hall

Yuri Temirkanov, Conductor
Alisa Weilerstein, Cello

Rimsky-Korsakov: Russian Easter Overture
Shostakovich: Cello Concerto No. 1
Brahms: Symphony No. 4


Boston Symphony
Symphony Hall

Charles Dutoit, Conductor
Bernarda Fink, Mezzo Soprano
Jean-Paul Fouchecourt, Tenor
Laurent Naouri, Baritone
Tanglewood Festival Chorus

Berlioz: Romeo And Juliet


Minnesota Orchestra
Orchestra Hall

Osmo Vanska, Conductor
Yevgeny Sudbin, Piano

Kernis: Concerto With Echoes
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 3
Sibelius: Symphony No. 2


Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra
Ordway Center
Saint Paul

Thomas Zehetmair, Conductor And Soloist
Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra Chorale

Schubert: Offertory In B Flat Major, D. 963
Hartmann: Concerto Funebre
Haydn: Mass No. 14 (“Harmoniemesse”)


None of the concerts was remarkable, or particularly memorable.

Three performances were a cut above everything else we heard: Kurt Masur’s performance of Schumann’s Symphony No. 1 with the Boston Symphony; Christoph Dohnanyi’s performance of Dvorak’s Symphony No. 7 with the Boston Symphony; and Yuri Temirkanov’s performance of Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 with the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic.

The Temirkanov/Saint Petersburg Brahms Fourth was the fifth time Andrew and I have heard the work together. We had previously heard Brahms Fourths performed by Riccardo Chailly and the Leipzig Gewandhaus, Neville Marriner and the Minnesota Orchestra, Fabio Luisi and the Dresden Staatskapelle, and Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic.

Five other works I heard with Andrew for the second time last season: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, which we had heard performed by Alfred Brendel and Osmo Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra; Haydn’s Symphony No. 94, which we had heard performed by Roberto Abbado and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Mozart’s Serenade No. 13, which we had heard performed by Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra; Mozart’s Symphony No. 38, which we had heard performed by Colin Davis and the Boston Symphony; and Schumann’s Piano Concerto, which we had heard performed by Maurizio Pollini and James Levine and the Boston Symphony.


American orchestral programming is extremely conservative. I find it interesting, and a little odd, that American orchestras, by and large, avoid performances of High Modernism. American orchestras tend to prefer “accessible” music, such as the featureless and watered-down Aaron Kernis composition Andrew and I had to endure last month. Why would an American orchestra program third-rate “accessible” music by Kernis when it has yet to present the output of Elliott Carter and Henri Dutilleux and Witold Lutoslawski? Such orchestras do not have their priorities straight—and may, with justification, be accused of “dumbing down” their mission.

Apparently it was not always such. Andrew’s father says that American orchestras, as a general rule, stopped programming High Modernism around 1980, coincident with the rise of a new generation of American tonal composers trained in the 1970s, a generation that rejected the academic rigidity of serial writing. Alas, the post-1970 generations of American tonal composers threw out the baby with the bathwater—they have produced no worthwhile and no lasting music. They have produced works that are insipid, even feeble. Their music lacks intellectual content.

We live in a period similar to the time known as The Galant: the complexities of The Baroque Age having been rejected and The Classical Period still awaiting its birth, The Galant was characterized by pleasant yet vapid surface, with no underlying content. The music of The Galant has disappeared—which is precisely what will happen to today’s American art music.


Over the next year, Andrew and I will probably hear only two orchestras, the two local ensembles. Touring orchestras do not appear in the Twin Cities because there is no local organization that sponsors visiting orchestras.

The schedules for both the Minnesota Orchestra and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra are fairly interesting for next season, although the Minnesota Orchestra desperately needs to upgrade its roster of guest conductors.

The Minnesota Orchestra is sitting on a giant endowment, but it stubbornly refuses to open its checkbook and engage first-rate guest conductors, preferring instead to hire low-cost journeymen. There is not a single major figure on next year’s roster of conductors. Next season’s Minnesota Orchestra guest conductors: James Gaffigan, Sarah Hicks, Kristjan Jarvi, Courtney Lewis, Andrew Litton, Carlo Rizzi, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Robert Spano, Gilbert Varga and Mark Wigglesworth.

The list is a provincial one.

Apparently it was not always such. Andrew’s father says that the Minnesota Orchestra’s roster of guest conductors was exceptional in decades past, but that the guest roster has been in a state of nonstop deterioration for at least twenty-five years. I cannot see much further deterioration, if only because next season’s guest roster is about as bad as it can get, short of engaging Orchestra Hall janitors.

I have no idea how many Minnesota Orchestra and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra concerts Andrew and I will hear next season. Ten Minnesota Orchestra programs carry some appeal, and eighteen Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra programs have some allure—but it is likely that we shall attend only a fraction of those numbers.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Balanchine And Farrell

George Balanchine rehearsing Suzanne Farrell.

Andrew’s parents say that Farrell was the greatest ballerina they ever witnessed. They insist that Farrell made famed Russian ballerinas such as Maya Plisetskaya look one-dimensional.

While Andrew was in law school, he met Farrell. Andrew says that Farrell, at the time, looked like any other unremarkable middle-aged woman. In fact, Andrew says, he could scarcely believe that the woman he was briefly talking to was the great Farrell.


Ballet? Why should you talk about it? Look at it and go home.

George Balanchine

Friday, July 8, 2011

Yet Another Updated List

Since I last updated this list in July of last year, Andrew and I have attended another eight ballet performances, five by New York City Ballet and three by Boston Ballet.

The performances are listed below in the order we attended them.


New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York

Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet [Johannes Brahms-Arnold Schoenberg/George Balanchine]
Glass Pieces [Philip Glass/Jerome Robbins]
Stars And Stripes [John Philip Sousa-Hershy Kay/George Balanchine]


New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York

Chaconne [Christoph Willibald Gluck/George Balanchine]
Concerto Barocco [Johann Sebastian Bach/George Balanchine]
Tarentella [Louis Moreau Gottschalk/George Balanchine]
Glass Pieces [Philip Glass/Jerome Robbins]


Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House

La Bayadere [Ludwig Minkus/Marius Petipa-Florence Clerc]


New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York

Walpurgisnacht Ballet [Charles Gounod/George Balanchine]
Dances At A Gathering [Frederic Chopin/Jerome Robbins]
Concerto DSCH [Dmitri Shostakovich/Alexei Ratmansky]


New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York

Walpurgisnacht Ballet [Charles Gounod/George Balanchine]
Duo Concertant [Igor Stravinsky/George Balanchine]
The Four Temperaments [Paul Hindemith/George Balanchine]
Cortege Hongrois [Alexander Glazunov/George Balanchine]


New York City Ballet
New York State Theater
New York

Mozartiana [Peter Illich Tchaikovsky/George Balanchine]
The Prodigal Son [Sergei Prokofiev/George Balanchine]
Stars And Stripes [John Philip Sousa-Hershy Kay/George Balanchine]


Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House

A Midsummer Night’s Dream [Felix Mendelssohn/George Balanchine]


Boston Ballet
Boston Opera House

Divertimento No. 15 [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart/George Balanchine]
Afternoon Of A Faun [Claude Debussy/Jerome Robbins]
Antique Epigraphs [Claude Debussy/Jerome Robbins]
Symphony In Three Movements [Igor Stravinsky/George Balanchine]


Other than “La Bayadere”, all ballet performances we attended last season were built around the works of George Balanchine. In the last five years, I have developed a distinct regard for the work of Balanchine, surely the finest choreographer who ever lived.

Some of the works I had already experienced: “Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet”; “Concerto DSCH”; “Mozartiana”; “The Prodigal Son”; and “The Four Temperaments”, a ballet I had seen three times prior to this year’s fourth encounter.

The other works were all new to me. I enjoyed expanding my knowledge of the Balanchine canon. Now back in Minneapolis, I regret that Andrew and I shall have few opportunities to see Balanchine ballets performed.

For us, ballet performances will be few and far between for the next year. Scottish Ballet, The Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Houston Ballet will visit the Twin Cities next season—and that’s it (although several modern dance troupes will also visit Minneapolis during their annual nationwide tours).

In addition, next month we shall see the Mariinsky Ballet perform “Swan Lake” and “La Bayadere” at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. We look forward to the Mariinsky performances very much.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011


Diksmude, Belgium, in the early months of World War I.

By war's end, the town had been obliterated.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Another Updated List

The list of opera performances Andrew and I attended over the last year is, once again, a very short one. Andrew and I attended only two opera performances since I last updated this list in July of last year:

Ludwig Von Beethoven’s “Fidelio”, performed by Opera Boston

Giacomo Puccini’s “Tosca”, performed by Boston Lyric Opera

Opera is a dying art form—and, further, it appears to have entered its decadent phase. Most opera performances I have experienced have tended more to destroy the works rather than illuminate them. This phenomenon suggests that neither organizations presenting opera performances nor persons attending opera performances maintain confidence in the continued validity of the art form. The situation will not change until a genius composer arises, and transforms and regenerates the art form. No such figure is on the horizon.

In any case, it is a matter of indifference to me. I have never experienced a thrilling opera performance, and I do not expect to anytime soon. Opera is an art form not well-practiced in the current age.

Andrew and I have earmarked two upcoming Minnesota Opera presentations as of some interest to us: Mozart’s “Cosi Fan Tutte” and Massenet’s “Werther”. It is possible that we may also attempt to catch Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly”. The other two Minnesota Opera productions scheduled for next season—Donizetti’s “Lucia Di Lammermoor” and a new opera about the Christmas truce between British soldiers and German soldiers in 1914—elicit no interest from us.

I actually rather enjoyed the performances of “Fidelio” and “Tosca” we attended last year. I enjoyed “Fidelio” and “Tosca”, not because of the productions or performances, which were not good, but because the works themselves were so strong. I can envision thrilling productions and performances of both operas—and both operas certainly come alive on disc if not in the theater (at least under current conditions prevailing in the world’s opera houses).

Sunday, July 3, 2011

One Of The Most Striking Images Of The Great War

This remarkable World War I photograph from the very earliest weeks of the conflagration shows a German shell bursting against Reims Cathedral on September 20, 1914. The photograph provides one of the most striking images captured by the camera on any front during more than four years of The Great War.

Before the conflict was over, Reims Cathedral was largely destroyed.

With American funds, the cathedral was rebuilt from 1919 to 1938. One year after reconstruction had been completed, war between Germany and France was renewed.

The cathedral was damaged but not destroyed in World War II. Repairs were completed by 1962.

Reims Cathedral’s stained glass lost in World War I is still being replaced to this very day. Indeed, a new series of stained glass windows at Reims Cathedral was unveiled early this morning in France.

Updating My Lists

The month of July has arrived—which signifies that it is time for me to update my lists!

Over the last twelve months, Andrew and I attended twelve theater performances. The performances are listed below in the order in which we attended them.


The William Finn-Rachel Sheinkin musical, “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee”, at The Lyric Stage Company, Boston

William Inge’s “Bus Stop”, at The Huntington Theatre Company, Boston

George Bernard Shaw’s “Mrs. Warren’s Profession”, at American Airlines Theatre, New York

Michael Frayn’s “Alphabetical Order”, at The Harold Clurman Theatre, New York

Arthur Kopit’s “Wings”, at Second Stage Theatre, New York

David Edgar’s Dickens adaptation, “The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby”, at The Lyric Stage Company, Boston

Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance Of Being Earnest”, at American Airlines Theatre, New York

Willy Russell’s “Educating Rita”, at The Huntington Theatre Company, Boston

Joseph Kesselring’s “Arsenic And Old Lace”, at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis

The Stephen Sondheim-Burt Shrevelove-Larry Gelbart musical, “A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum”, at Jungle Theater, Minneapolis

The Frank Loesser-Jo Swerling-Abe Burrows musical, “Guys And Dolls”, performed by The 5th Avenue Theater of Seattle, at The Ordway Center, Saint Paul

Yasmina Reza’s “God Of Carnage”, at The Guthrie Theater, Minneapolis


During our three years in Boston, our rate of theatergoing slowed to a trickle. Boston is simply not a theater town, and Andrew and I found very little Boston theater to be of interest. Of the twelve performances we caught over the past year, four performances were in New York and four performances have been here in Minneapolis just in the last four weeks. Only four performances occurred in Boston, and we caught two of those four Boston performances—the first two items on my list—on the very same day.

However, the most memorable theater performance from the last year was a Boston production, “The Life And Adventures Of Nicholas Nickleby”, a presentation of The Lyric Stage Company.

Nothing else was especially gripping, although I thoroughly enjoyed Brian Bedford’s portrayal of Lady Bracknell in an otherwise unremarkable “The Importance Of Being Earnest” in New York.

In terms of sheer quality, the two Guthrie Theater productions were head and shoulders above anything else on the list, including the New York presentations, although I was not fond of either play we saw in a Guthrie production.

None of the twelve plays or musicals on my current list has appeared on my previous lists.

When I last updated my theater list almost one year ago, I noted that Andrew and I had attended seventy-nine theater performances since early 2006. With the addition of twelve new performances, the total is now ninety-one.

Our rate of theatergoing is sure to pick up over the next year. We have counted twenty-six Twin Cities productions of some interest to us scheduled for the 2011-2012 season, although it is very unlikely that we shall be able to find time to attend all twenty-six productions. In addition, we intend to catch five theater performances in London in August.

One of the advantages of living in the Twin Cities is that Minneapolis/Saint Paul is America’s top theater town after New York—as well as home of America’s largest and finest and most important theater company.

A thriving theater culture is one of the things that makes the Twin Cities unique.

Tyrone Guthrie knew what he was doing when he selected the Twin Cities as home of his great enterprise.

From the mighty Guthrie, a thousand flowers have blossomed.

Friday, July 1, 2011

For Independence Day

George Caleb Bingham (1811-1879)
The Jolly Flatboatmen
The Manoogian Collection

Oil On Canvas
38 1/8 Inches by 48 1/2 Inches