Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Hitler had a Huberman record...

A report in today's Indy reveals that Adolf Hitler's personal record collection has turned up, in the hands of Alexandra Besymenski, the daughter of a Russian Red Army officer who looted Hitler's bunker in 1945.

And what's in it? Russian music like Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, Chaliapin singing Boris Godunov, a smattering of Jewish musicians like Bronislaw Huberman...(oh yes, and The Flying Dutchman in case you were wondering). While he was forbidding his troops to listen to anything that wasn't German, he was lapping up the stuff himself.

Many of the records are scratched, indicating they were played over and over again while the war that Hitler began cost millions of lives across Europe and the wider world.

"I think my father found it astonishing that millions of Jews and Russians had to die because of the ideology of Hitler and here he was all the time enjoying their art," said Alexandra.

Read the whole thing here...

Wanted: one brave director

So there she was: the radiant Renee Fleming, in a light green gown full of sparkles and trailing a shot-silk scarf, took the stage in the Albert Hall, voice floating through the stratospheres like a golden eagle (UPDATE: Intermezzo has a photo of her, in said dress). Her Berg Seven Early Songs (actually eight - an extra one had been orchestrated for her) were ideally expressive, dark-toned, that voice blending with the sympathetic BBC Phil as a strand of its fabric; and the first Korngold aria, from Die Kathrin, was sweet and touching.

But she was saving the best for last. With the first notes of the great aria 'Ich ging zu ihm' from Das Wunder der Heliane, something remarkable happened. Renee didn't only sing Heliane; she became her. The tragedy, the rapture, the transfiguration - it was all there. I think everyone in my group was moved to tears. The Telegraph today speaks of the aria's 'intense, jaw-dropping beauty'.

Most think Heliane can't be staged (bad libretto, pretentious, weird, etc etc) but I'm getting the feeling that this isn't so. Because the role could have been written for Renee. She has to sing the whole thing, in an opera house. Someone simply has to stage it for her. Isn't there a brave theatre out there that will take it on? And a very brave director? We're already looking forward to the UK concert premiere of the complete opera at the RFH on 21 November (Patricia Racette will sing Heliane there). Now, I think, there's hope.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Korngold latest

Korngold fans must tune in to tonight's Prom, at which Renee Fleming will be singing two marvellous and rarely heard arias from the operas Das Wunder der Heliane and Die Kathrin. They are utterly gorgeous and I reckon there couldn't be a better voice for them. For those with digital TV, the concert will be relayed on BBC4. Failing that, you can hear it live on Radio 3 and on the Listen Again facility for the week ahead.

La Fleming, incidentally, is to be interviewed during the interval and apparently we're being encouraged to ask her questions by email. But despite trawling all the relevant BBC sites, I can't find the appropriate email address (the words 'bbc', 'impenetrable' and 'typical' come to mind, in no particular order) (or maybe I've missed it...if anyone finds the link, please send it...).

Meanwhile, if you want to hear Korngold's chamber music in a live, intense and intimate Korngoldfest, come to Norfolk in September. Norfolk, East Anglia, UK, that is. More info about the West Norfolk Chamber Music Festival can be found at their music society's site, here.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Summer reading...

I've just heard that the redoubtable A.N. Wilson has written a novel about Winifred Wagner's relationship with Hitler. Entitled Winnie and Wolf, it's due for release on 16 August. Here's the synopsis from Amazon:

"Winnie and Wolf" is the story of the extraordinary relationship between Winifred Wagner and Adolf Hitler that took place during the years 1925-40, as seen through the eyes of the secretary at the Wagner house in Bayreuth. Winifred, an English girl, brought up in an orphanage in East Grinstead, married at the age of eighteen to the son of Germany's most controversial genius, is a passionate Germanophile, a Wagnerian dreamer, a Teutonic patriot. In the debacle of the post-Versailles world, the Wagner family hope for the coming, not of a warrior, a fearless Siegfried, but of a Parsifal, a mystic idealist, a redeemer-figure. In 1925, they meet their Parsifal - a wild-eyed Viennese opera-fanatic in a trilby hat, a mac and a badly fitting suit. Hitler has already made a name for himself in some sections of German society through rabble-rousing and street corner speeches. It is Winifred, though, who believes she can really see his poetry. Almost at once they drop formalities and call one another 'Du' rather than 'Sie'. She is Winnie and he is Wolf. Like Winnie, Hitler was an outsider. Like her, he was haunted by the impossibility of reconciling the pursuit of love and the pursuit of power; the ultimate inevitability, if you pursued power, of destruction. Both had known the humiliations of poverty. Both felt angry and excluded by society. Both found each other in an unusual kinship that expressed itself through a love of opera. In A.N. Wilson's most bold and ambitious novel yet, the world of the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany is brilliantly recreated, and forms the backdrop to this incredible bond, which ultimately reveals the remarkable capacity of human beings to deceive themselves.

That should keep us busy on the beach - there's no way I'm waiting for the paperback. Order your copy now...

Wilson has recently reviewed Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows for The Times and makes it sound positively Wagnerian. Dumbledore as Wotan, perhaps???

Friday, August 03, 2007

More about the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra

Thanks to 'Pamos' for the alert to this fascinating article by Ed Vuilliamy that appeared in The Observer last weekend. He's been to Venezuela to see the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra in action and meet some of its young players, whose aspirations and whole lives have been transformed by their involvement with music-making.