Wednesday, April 26, 2017

concert review: Murray Perahia

Another recital by one of my favorite pianists since I first encountered him when he was an obscure student some 45 years ago. I last heard him three years back, also at Davies, in a program much like this one.

Three medium-weight works by heavyweight composers: a French Suite by Bach, a set of Schubert Impromptus, and a stray but dark-toned Rondo by Mozart. Plus one very heavyweight work, Beethoven's final Sonata, Op. 111.

Perahia played them all with feeling and authority. Considering that the last time I heard Schubert's Impromptus they were played with no feeling whatever, it increased my appreciation for what a truly great pianist can bring to a work.

No encore. After applause brought him out yet again even after the house lights had gone up, Perahia put his hand to his heart to express his appreciation, and then went offstage again. I expect he felt that after you've given Beethoven's final words, there's nothing more to be said.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

concert review: Dover Quartet

This is the string quartet that won the Banff competition the time before I went, and the video embedded at the bottom of my review (of the finale of a different Beethoven quartet than the one they played this time) is the same video I embedded at the bottom of my post last year saying "I'm going" to the competition because "I want to hear more people who can play like this."

And I did; and I see from the bio in the program book that the winners of that iteration, the Rolston Quartet, will be teaming up with the Dovers to play Mendelssohn's Octet in Montreal in June. That should be good, and not just because I believe that whenever two string quartets appear on the same program, they should be required by law to play the Mendelssohn Octet.

I have heard the Dovers myself before now: they re-appeared for an alumni concert at last year's Banff, and I caught them last fall in San Francisco playing Dvorak's "American" Quartet, not a gnarly enough work to catch this group at its best. This concert, though ... this one was tough stuff. I reported the pre-concert lecturer (well-meaning, but it's really about time for him to retire) mentioning that one of his community-class students had asked him in puzzlement at the Shostakovich, "How do you listen to music like this?" I didn't give the lecturer's frustrating answer, "Just listen." Isn't it obvious from the question that the student needs his or her hand held a little more than that? I'd find a more lyrical recording of the piece - there are some - and point out the melodies and what the composer does with them. Once you absorb that, you can hear it in a tougher performance, and use it as a base to grasp what the tougher one adds to it. I don't have that much trouble with Shostakovich (any listener who finds the Second baffling will be absolutely dumbstruck by the late quartets), but that's how I learned my way around late Beethoven. I was astonished the first time I heard a performance of Op. 132 (the piece played here) that brought out the curvaceous beauty of the work: I'd never heard that before. But now that I've found it, I can always hear it.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

workshop review: theatricality and the string quartet

They said it was a workshop, rather than a concert. It lasted about an hour, and was held in the Bing Studio, a small cubical space tucked away in the basement of Stanford's Bing Concert Hall. I went because some of the music was by Caroline Shaw, a composer with a good claim for a space on my list of top ten living ones.

The music was for vocalist and string quartet, a medium that's attracted Arnold Schoenberg and Laurie Anderson, a quaint pair, but not many others. The singer was an avant-garde soprano named Majel Connery, and the quartet was the St. Lawrence, Stanford's resident artists, who are always up for strange collaborations. The theatrical part was delivered by enlisting a "daring ... unconventional" (it says here) opera director named Christopher Alden.

I rather liked the music, two works commissioned for the occasion. Shaw's piece, Contriving the Chimes, sets excerpts from a notebook kept by Isaac Newton at the age of 19 listing his sins. ("Contriving the chimes" was one of them, though nobody seems to know what it means.) Connery chanted, yelled, and occasionally sang over hyponotically fragmented motifs from the strings. That lasted about 15 minutes. The other piece, August is also cruel by Doug Bailliett, is about twice as long. It's a song cycle inspired by Schumann's Dichterliebe. Most of the texts (by the composer) are varied declarations of love, often frustrated. Both instrumentally and vocally it was far more expressionist than the Shaw, with occasionally campy vocal styles and a lot of overripe harmonies.

If not always the most attractive, the music seemed interesting, and it honestly presented itself. The staging, however, was pretentious and full of itself.

It looked like this: the quartet played on a platform in one corner of the room. They were dressed in black from neck to ankle, and barefoot. So was the singer. She walked, crouched, rolled, and otherwise carried on while singing from a runway that extended diagonally across the room from the platform. The audience were mostly seated at café tables scattered around the room.

Suspended around the length of the runway at various heights, hung from strings tied to the rafters, were a couple dozen apples. (Isaac Newton - apples - get it? In the post-concert discussion, the opera director was actually proud of coming up with this infantile connection.) The apples played an increasing role as the performance went on. During a moment of anguish near the end of the Shaw, the singer vigorously batted all the apples, which went swinging around the room. Those seated near them ducked. One apple actually went flying, as it accidentally came loose from its string and landed smack on the table immediately behind me. Fortunately it hit no one; had it hit me, I would have been a lot less forgiving than was the startled man who had an apple explode in his face.

During the Bailliett, the singer cut down all the (remaining) apples and stuffed them in a suitcase, which she then stabbed with the scissors. What the thinking was behind this action, I couldn't say.

The composers get a solid B. The performers get an A for effort. The direction gets an R for "Remedial training needed." The most concise evaluation I can give of this event is that my old friend V. would have liked it; and if you knew her, that'll tell you what this felt like.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

wickedly funny

Not everybody shares my sense of humor, but I hope some of you will be amused by this. I got it from the blog of Mark Evanier.

First, in order for this to work, you have to be familiar with the stage musical Wicked and the song "Popular". If you're not (as I wasn't), watch this decent-quality clip from the first stage production a couple of times to get to know the song. It's pretty funny already.

This is from the schoolgirl backstory in Act 1 of Wicked. Glinda, future Good Witch of the South (Kristin Chenoweth, in the Emma Woodhouse part), expresses her eagerness to perform a makeover on her homely roommate Elphaba, future Wicked Witch of the West (Idina Menzel, in the Harriet Smith part).

OK? Now watch this clip from a recent Actor's Fund Tribute to Stephen Schwartz, the composer and lyricist of Wicked (also Pippin, Godspell, etc). Tenor and comedian Jason Graae comes on not just to sing "Popular" in the presence of its composer, but to sing it to its composer, just as Glinda had sung it to Elphaba. Only ... even funnier. Brace yourselves: this is wicked.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

concert review: Stanford

Sometimes I've gone to Stanford for senior recitals. Some singer or instrumentalist will sing or play some pieces. This one, however, was a conductor's senior recital. Diego Hernandez led a pickup student orchestra and chorus in the Fauré Requiem and just the orchestra in Milhaud's La création du monde. He was able to cram in enough expressive gestures in a mostly straightforwardly time-beating style to generate attractively lyrical propulsive performances from good musicians, impressively light and airy despite some heavy orchestration in both works, and even more impressively considering that the concert was held in the outstandingly damp and echoing acoustics of the Stanford Memorial Church.

This fortuitously followed a lecture, in a class hall halfway across campus - but it's a large campus - by musicologist Beth E. Levy from UC Davis, based on her book Frontier figures: American music and the mythology of the American West. She discussed works like the "Indianist" music of Arthur Farwell, taking Native melodies and embedding them in European harmonic practice, the "open Midwestern prairie" school of music, focusing on a Carl Sandburg setting by the protean Lukas Foss, and a brief consideration of the "cowboy" music of Roy Harris and Aaron Copland. I liked Levy's ability to ground emotional and cultural impressions by citing specific musical techniques. Interesting, and I'll have to read the book.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

a cluster of holidays

Being an interfaith family gives us a double ration of holidays.

Saturday, while B. was at church, I went for Pesach seder with the family of friends who've kindly taken me and some other assorted individuals in for a number of years. It was a subdued occasion. Our hostess was ill and hid out in her room for fear of contagion; didn't see her at all. Her husband, who does the cooking in that family anyway, took care of all the hosting duties. Some other customary attendees also weren't there through illness. Our usual seder leader, the hostess' mother, had lost most of her voice from an allergy attack, and one of the other guests took over. She did very well, but then she is, as I now recall, a former radio announcer.

Easter with B.'s family was larger and livelier, and full of people of all ages, down to younger than the children at seder. The house seemed full of a thundering horde of 3-year-old girls, who only slowed down on an offer to have their toenails painted. As an eldest child myself, I gave B's eldest sister advice on how to respond to digs at her age from her obnoxious little brother. Meanwhile, the pug was interested in anything you were standing up to eat from the appetizer table, even if it was prawns with cocktail sauce. After a while I retreated to the porch to read.

Both meals featured lamb as the main dish, and to both I brought the same, or nearly the same, contribution. Having recently discovered that my roasted broccoli dish will travel and still tastes good after a couple hours at room temperature, I've started taking that to events, except that for the seder I left out the parmesan cheese, to make it more compatible with our vague obeisance to the laws of kashrut. At Easter, B's sister-in-law M. (the family's most potent cook) was fascinated, quizzed me closely on the ingredients, and left me with instructions to bring it when she hosts Christmas. Will do.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

concert review: Redwood Symphony

This review marks the only Redwood Symphony concert this season I was able to get to. No, my complaint about the unhappy small child didn't get in it.

Nor did my astonishment at a lapse in the conductor's pre-concert talk. Lou Harrison's symphony contains a movement consisting of three sub-movements, "A Reel in Honor of Henry Cowell," "A Waltz for Evelyn Hinrichsen," and "An Estampie for Susan Summerfield," and while he did explain what an estampie is (a medieval dance, a term Harrison was fond of resurrecting), when he was asked who the three honorees were, he apologized for not knowing. I'm not surprised he didn't know Hinrichsen (Harrison's publisher) or Summerfield (a keyboard exponent of his music) - both of whom I had to look up myself - but Henry Cowell? An equally renowned composer, Harrison's teacher and mentor. I would have expected the conductor to know him offhand.

The other astonishment is that it took the cancellation of another work to get the Harrison on. It's his centenary next month: how can you not have planned to honor it, when as a composer he's so much up your alley? Other people are, though I don't know if I'll get to any of these. Most in the area conflict with other things I'm doing, and while I like Harrison's music and have always enjoyed hearing it, I'm not as moved to seek it out as I am for Cowell's.

Friday, April 14, 2017

items impersonal

1. Science fiction isn't supposed to predict the future, but I get a kick when journalism does. I found two examples in The New Yorker's new 1960s decade collection. One is in a 1965 profile of Marshall McLuhan. Among the wacky things that McLuhan has said, it reports, is that he has "predicted a happy day when everyone will have his own portable computer to cope with the dreary business of digesting information." Well, that happened.

The other is an interview that I'm astonished I'd never seen reference to before. It's of Brian Epstein, in New York in late 1963 on his scouting trip to make arrangements for the upcoming visit of what the article austerely calls "a group of pop singers called the Beatles" ("the origin of the name is obscure," it adds). Although nobody in America has yet heard of this group, they seem to be very popular in Europe. Epstein concludes the interview by saying, "I think that America is ready for the Beatles. When they come, they will hit this country for six." I don't know what that expression means, but I can guess, and that happened too.

2. A lot of my friends are posting papers at academia.edu. I have a reading account, but I've resisted the temptation to contribute to it myself, and the e-mail I recently got explains why. It says that 143 papers on academia.edu mention my name and then offers a link to "View Your Mentions." Only that's not what the link does. It takes me to a page where I can upgrade my membership. That's not what it says, of course. But any button on that page that says "Get Started" or "View Your Mentions" gives me the same popup where I can pay $99/year for the privilege of seeing what it just told me I could see without bothering to mention this charge.

It says it can find things Google Scholar can't. Maybe so, but as most of the mentions of my name on Google Scholar actually just mean that my last name - which is not unique, and is used by at least 3 other scholars, one of them much more prolific than I - and my first name, which is quite common, appear somewhere in the same paper. And I'm not paying $99 to find out if this is the same.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Tolkien Studies 14: an announcement

On behalf of myself and my co-editors, Michael D.C. Drout and Verlyn Flieger, here are the expected contents of volume 14 of the journal Tolkien Studies: An Annual Scholarly Review. All of the works are now in the hands of our publisher, West Virginia University Press, and the volume is scheduled to be published in softcover and on Project MUSE later this year. - David Bratman, co-editor

Tolkien Studies 14 (2017)
  • H.L. Spencer, "The Mystical Philosophy of J.R.R. Tolkien and Sir Israel Gollancz: Monsters and Critics"

  • Christopher Gilson, "His Breath Was Taken Away: Tolkien, Barfield, and Elvish Diction"

  • Kathy Cawsey, "Could Gollum Be Singing a Sonnet? The Poetic Project of The Lord of the Rings"

  • Eleanor R. Simpson, "The Evolution of J.R.R. Tolkien's Portrayal of Nature: Foreshadowing Anti-speciesism"

  • Leonard Neidorf, "J.R.R. Tolkien's The Fall of Arthur: Creation from Literary Criticism"

  • Jeffrey J. MacLeod and Anna Smol, "Visualizing the Word: Tolkien as Artist and Writer"
**
Notes and Documents
  • Paul Tankard, "'Akin to my own inspiration': Mary Fairburn and the Art of Middle-earth"

  • J. Silk, "A Note on the Sindarin Translation of the Name Daisy"

  • Giovanni Costabile, "Stolen Pears, Unripe Apples: The Misuse of Fruits as a Symbol of Original Sin in Tolkien's The New Shadow and Augustine of Hippo's Confessions"
**
Book Reviews
  • A Secret Vice: Tolkien on Invented Languages, by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Dimitra Fimi and Andrew Higgins, reviewed by Arden R. Smith

  • The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Verlyn Flieger; and The Lay of Aotrou and Itroun, by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Aleksandar Mikić with the assistance of Elizabeth Currie, reviewed by Dimitra Fimi

  • The Feanorian Alphabet, Part 1; Quenya Verb Structure, by J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Christopher Gilson and Arden R. Smith, reviewed by Nelson Goering

  • Approaches to Teaching Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Other Works, edited by Leslie A. Donovan, reviewed by Diana Pavlac Glyer

  • Laughter in Middle-earth: Humour in and around the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien, edited by Thomas Honegger and Maureen F. Mann, reviewed by David Bratman
**
  • David Bratman, Edith L. Crowe, Jason Fisher, John Wm. Houghton, John Magoun, Robin Anne Reid, "The Year's Work in Tolkien Studies 2014"

  • David Bratman, "Bibliography (In English) for 2015"

Monday, April 10, 2017

and then it turned out ...

... that installing the Bluetooth software disabled Outlook.

Outlook is an important program for me. I maintain all my e-mails on it.

Amazingly, however, repeatedly insisting to Windows that I wanted to start Outlook anyway eventually reversed the polarity and caused Outlook to disable Bluetooth instead.

However, since I was done with Bluetooth and hope never to have to use it again until the next time I buy a new cell phone and have to upload a ringtone when there's no other way to do it, that satisfies me.

I refuse to use wireless accessories on my computer, and this gives me another reason why.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

nightmare in blue

One nuisance of getting a new cell phone is that if you want your own choice of ringtone you have to upload it from scratch again. There's no way to pass it over.

In previous iterations, I think I was able to send the ringtone directly from the site I got it from to my phone. But this time, I was told on the website to save the file and upload it to my phone. Also, the tutorials on the phone's website say that the only way to get files on or off the phone is via Bluetooth, using the phone to connect with the other device which also has Bluetooth.

Bluetooth. Great. I didn't have Bluetooth on my computer. Neither did B. As of yesterday morning, I knew exactly two things about Bluetooth:

1. It's some sort of wireless communication protocol.
2. It's named for an ancient king of Denmark.

Now I know a lot more, including why it's named for an ancient king of Denmark, but first I had to learn it. I read the Wikipedia article, which amazingly was helpful. Then I set out to find some Bluetooth.

I didn't have Bluetooth.
B. didn't have Bluetooth.
The phone repair store didn't have Bluetooth.
The AT&T store didn't have Bluetooth.
Nobody had Bluetooth. Why does the phone require it, then?

The last told me I could buy a Bluetooth device at the computer store for maybe $10. If I hadn't already read on the Wikipedia article about the existence of Bluetooth transmitters that plug into computer USB ports, I wouldn't have had any idea what the guy was talking about, but I did, so I went.

After some trouble finding it, including sending a phalanx of employees around looking for the guy who ran that department, I bought a Bluetooth USB Dongle. I thought that was a slang word, but that's what they're actually called.

The guy said it was plug and play. It wasn't. It came with an installation disk. The disk was 3.25 inch instead of 4.75 inch, so I had to figure out how to get my computer's CD-ROM reader to take one of those without it falling through the hole in the middle.

The installation process gave me some cryptic error messages, but seemed to work. I had to correlate the Dongle's manual with the phone's online tutorials, and found that neither set of instructions bore more than the remotest resemblance to the actual processes, either of getting the phone and the Dongle to recognize each other, or of then designating the ringtone file on my computer and getting it transferred. Only years of experience trying various tricks on recalcitrant computers enabled me to get past the various error messages, failure messages, and lack of options where the instructions told me options should be, and complete the process.

All to put a ringtone on a phone. Good gravy.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

some news

1. To my amazement, when my anti-virus program finally expired today, I was able to re-load and register it with the help of only one quick call to customer support. I'd thought my renewal had been canceled, but somehow I now have it for four years instead of the offered two.

2. On my trip to the wildflowers, my cell phone died. Not exactly: it was still on, I could still make calls on it, but the screen was totally dead. I took it to a repair shop and they said it could actually be fixed, for $90. I judged that, since I could buy a new one for $50 (I'm still sticking with clamshell dumb phones), I'd be willing to go through the hassle of learning a new model.

The one that the AT&T store is selling these days is from a company called LG, which they claim stands for "Life's Good." Yeah, well, it would be better if your cell phone weren't so irritating for its lack of options, like one to silence the on/off tone without also silencing the ringtone. And boy did I struggle to write my first text message on the thing, because instead of putting in what you type it changes it to what it thinks you mean, and it's always wrong. At one point it thought that "home" was "gooe" and asked me to add that to the dictionary, so I had to inform it that "home" is a word. Then I lost the whole message while trying to figure out how to put a period at the end of it.

3. Review later, but this will probably not go in it, so:
Dear parents, When you take your small son to the symphony, even if you dress him up for the occasion, if he spends the whole concert squirming, rattling his program, whispering in your ears, and so bugfck restless that he chews up the end of his tie, then he is bored and he is not appreciating the music. I don't blame him - I wouldn't have gotten much out of such advanced stuff as this when I was his age, either - but please put him, and yourselves, and me - the innocent bystander you chose to sit right in front of at this open-seating concert - out of our collective miseries and let him play outside or something.

Friday, April 7, 2017

wildflower alliance

I used a slight pause in my usual schedule of reading and computer-sitting to take advantage of the fact that I live in California. I spent yesterday on a wildflower-sighting expedition. After the heavy rains of last winter, this is becoming a spectacular spring for them, and I thought it about time I took something more than a desultory look.

The peak has been moving slowly northward with the sun, and this week it was reported to have reached Carrizo Plain, a place I'd long wanted to return to. Located high up in the coastal mountains some distance south of here (basically, you drive up the Salinas Valley and then turn left), in the deep countryside some 50 miles from any actual towns, Carrizo Plain is a rift valley generated by the San Andreas Fault (oh, relax: we're used to earthquake-related geology around here). It's a national monument (BLM variety, not NPS) with a small visitor center, which wasn't yet true when I was last there.

After an early lunch in Morro Bay, a small coastal town with a huge rock and lots of great seafood restaurants, I drove up into the mountains. At first I saw mostly little clusters of orange California poppies, the state flower, by the roadside; then these gave way to various yellow and blue flowers. Soon I could see that the green hills - themselves a temporary phenomenon; 9 months of the year the grass is brown - held splashes of yellow so intense as to be visible half a mile, then - as the vistas broadened - 3 or 4 miles, then even ten miles off.

In the plain itself, the wildflower carpets - mostly different species than I'd seen earlier on - were sometimes so thick as to eradicate the green. Flowers were even growing in the alkali flats. There were a fair number of people around, even on a weekday, taking photos or just looking.

When I reported to B., she was more interested in the fauna. I saw a wild turkey, lots of crows, and a couple lizards darting into the underbrush: larger, darker-colored, and more broadly built than the tiny brown fence lizards we have at home. Many visitors brought their dogs to see the flowers, including one giant black poodle the size of a Great Dane.

The plain is actually closer to the Central Valley than to the coast highways, so when I left at 4:30 I just headed east, down the precipitous slopes into the low valley, and for dinner sought out the rather good Indian restaurant that improbably sprouted up at the I-5 Buttonwillow exit some years back. From there, a straight marathon run back home.

Photos, we have a few: just of the flowers, mostly. The colors, though, were ever so much more vivid in person.

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This one shows the ground carpet effect, a little of the alkali, and a distant view of yellow splashes on the hillside.

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A closer view of a hillside splash.

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What the splash flowers look like close up.

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This was the most common flower on the plain. From a distance, they look yellow and black, but close up it appears that the black is an illusion.

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But it's not a monoculture.

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A typical human sight: people taking photos of family members sitting in the flower beds. From their ages when I saw them closer up, this seems to have been a teenage boy taking a photo of his mother, with Dad looking on. (Yes, that's an actual lake - another seasonal rarity in the desert - in the background.)

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A different mix of flowers in a field some 30 miles to the west. (At Shell Creek, for anyone who cares about the geography.)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

additional items

1. As a Honda owner, I got an e-mail a while back inviting me to test-drive their hydrogen fuel-cell car, the Clarity. I went to this a few weeks ago. Fuel-cell technology is old; the trick was making one small enough and reliable enough to use in a car. They seem to have done this, and the car is fun to drive. It's also surprisingly inexpensive to lease (no outright sales), as they're trying to build up the numbers so as to encourage the building of infrastructure, i.e. fueling stations. So far there are stations around California from Sacramento and Truckee to San Diego, which with a 350-mile range is enough to get you around most of the state except the far north and the eastern deserts. I went to this out of curiosity, but if I were looking for a new car, I'd consider this, except for one thing: they only have a luxury model, which I don't want.

2. Hugo finalists came out yesterday. There are still a few Puppies disfiguring the ballot, but not many, and the Puppy-inspired drop in female finalists has been entirely reversed: out of 24 fiction candidates, 17 are by women: 71%, the highest ever. Looks like we won the war on this front.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

items

1. Much talk of Mike Pence's rule of never being alone with a woman not his wife. Assorted thoughts: 1) does that apply to his daughters? his mother? (I don't know if she's still alive, but according to Wikipedia she lived at least long enough to witness his conversion to evangelicalism, of which as a Catholic she did not approve.) 2) At least it's better than Trump's rule of grabbing them by the ... 3) I thought conservative Christians disapproved of Sharia law, but whatever. 4) Is the purpose to avoid the appearance of impropriety, or fear of Glenn Close's character in Fatal Attraction, or - most likely - the self-loathing of men who (like the protagonist of Melanie Jeschke's Christian romance novel Inklings) fear female sexuality because they're men and they can't help themselves?

2. I'm saving this link to a recipe for creamy lemon pasta.

3. Yevgeny Yevtushenko died. Aside from Shostakovich's fabulously creepy setting of his poem "Babi Yar", I think of him mostly from Kingsley Amis's account of meeting him in Cambridge in 1962, at which Yevtushenko confessed his admiration of Kipling ("Isn't he an imperialist?" He gave a brief shout of laughter. "Oh yes. But ... good.") and recited from a Russian translation of same which, according to Amis, sounded like this:
Boots, boots, boots, boots, koussevitsky borodin
Boots, boots, boots, boots, dostoievsky gospodin
4. I'm really going to have to go to the library so I can finish reading this article.

5. Popped down to Lyric Theatre to catch their production of Gilbert and Sullivan's Princess Ida. This was marketed as a feminist show and used to promote a fund-raiser for girls' education; did they not see the third act? Regardless of the deflating ending, this was a good production with an especially fine turn by Elana Cowen as the imperious Lady Blanche.

6. I like the anti-virus program that the shop installed in my new computer a year ago, but I strongly and emphatically dislike the protocol for renewing my subscription, which caught me in a hellhole of endless loops and disputable charges which not even a friendly human in customer service, when I finally found a phone number for one, could get me out of. It keeps warning me I need to renew, and when I click on the link, keeps telling me I already have (which I did, or I think I did). It expires in 3 more days, and if it turns out it hasn't renewed, I'm taking it back to the shop, having the program removed, and replaced with the different one they're selling this year.

7. An occasional visit to File 770 (down at the moment, so no links) showed a piece on a huge and expensive library-market reprint volume of Tolkien studies from Routledge, with comments by Tolkien scholars Douglas A. Anderson that they hadn't sought permission, either from him or his publishers, for his contributions, and from Robin Anne Reid that she hadn't even heard of this set.

Well, that may be their experiences, but mine is that I was contacted by editor Stuart Lee (whose existing reputation in Tolkien studies is very good) a couple years ago to offer my comments on a prospective list of contents, and then again by him for permission to include two of my own essays. This was followed not two months ago by an e-mail from an in-house editor at Routledge to confirm formal permission for my pieces, adding that they'd already contacted the publishers of same.

Maybe I received this favor because I was a contributor to Stuart's previous Tolkien collection (original rather than reprint material, different publisher, expensive but more widely distributed), while Doug and Robin were not. But I should also add that news about the Routledge volume has made it into the grapevine.

As Wayne Hammond and Christina Scull say therein, and Robin observes as well, this is a rather unnecessary set as any libraries that can afford or would want it probably already have everything in it in their original publications, and is mostly intended to cadge money out of unwary collection development librarians. No doubt true, but I see no reason to attempt to disfigure the project by refusing my passive participation.

8. Speaking of Tolkien publications, the very last piece for this year's edition of Tolkien Studies has just come in formatted from my co-editor for my final review before it goes off to the publisher, so I'd best get on that now.

Monday, April 3, 2017

photographic proof

Before the funeral: the family (me, my brothers, my father's relatives by marriage).

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I'm seated at right. Next to me is my stepmother, then my younger brother, then my stepmother's sister. Standing behind are the sister's family (ex-husband, daughter, son-in-law, son [also married, with a small child, but they're at home in Australia]), and at the far right my middle brother.

Me and a bunch of rocks.

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Sunday, April 2, 2017

concert review: Danish National Symphony Orchestra

Usually a visiting foreign orchestra brings out the expatriate/immigrant community in force, literally waving flags. I've been to concert halls full of Venezuelans, even Kazakhs. But apparently there are no Danes around here, because only about half an audience, and that an everyday one, turned up at Davies for this largely blonde orchestra and its Italian conductor, Fabio Luisi.

Too bad, because it was a good show. No Danish classical concert would be complete without a piece by national icon Carl Nielsen, and here it was his curtain-raising show-stopper, the Helios Overture, in which the sun rises, crosses the sky in a blaze of glory (Nielsen wrote this on a vacation in Greece, and couldn't get over how sunny it was down there), and sets, all in 12 minutes.

Wagner's Wesendonk Songs. Local favorite Deborah Voigt has a regal soprano, but even in quiet music Wagner's orchestra does his singers no favors, and as far as the lyrics were concerned it came out like this:
mumblemumblemumbleLOUDmumblemumble
And a bounding, eager, excited Beethoven Eroica, an outstandingly dynamic performance.

Judging from the conversations I heard on the way out, everybody in the audience recognized the schmaltzy encore, but nobody knew what it was. "Was that de Falla?" No, it wasn't de Falla. "Was it The Merry Widow?" It wasn't The Merry Widow. It was, in fact, that hoary pops favorite Jalousie "Tango Tzigane", and the reason the Danish National Orchestra chose such an unlikely-seeming piece for its encore is because, in fact, its composer was Danish. Yes, he was.

As the last ovation died away, something happened that I'd never seen before. Virtually all the members of the orchestra hugged their stand partner.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

concert review: Oakland Symphony

Gabriela Lena Frank, Concertino Cusqueño. Her orchestral works are even more colorful than her string quartets.

Anton Bruckner, Te Deum. This devout Catholic composer for some reason nearly gave up writing large-scale sacred music in his maturity; this is one of the few. Typical Bruckner orchestral noodling overlaid with vocal lines. Great chorus work, and outstanding principal soloists in powerful soprano Hope Briggs and well-textured tenor Amitai Pati.

Antonín Dvořák, Symphony from the New World. Closest existing work to the Platonic ideal of a symphony, this unsurprisingly had won an audience poll for what to play. Impressively deliberate performance of the introduction and slow movement, broad and stately in the finale.

Very good show. Glad that B. could accompany me to this, as it was a special occasion for me.