Archive for June 15th, 2009


by Sam Juliano

With the melancholy strains of Beethoven’s “Pathetique Sonata” circulating the grand lobby of Avery Fisher Hall for a Sunday matinee classical concert, patrons were primed for an afternoon of somber listening from the visiting Texas Chorale as part of the “Distinguished Concerts Orchestra International” touring schedule.  The Sunday venue, dubbed “The Music of Haydn and Mozart” was conducted by the popular Brad Bouley with Cynthia Douglas as the featured soprano, Erin Elizabeth Smith as mezzo-soprano, Steven Sanders as tenor and Noel Bouley as bass.

     Haydn’s “Mass No. 9 in C major” actually dates from 1796 and the Napoleonic Wars.  Purportedly, while Haydn was writing the music, the invading French army reached the Austrian city of Graz.  In Vienna, there was said to be a general mobilization of the citizenry and a widespread sense of great urgency about the need to keep the French out of the capital.  In reaction to what was going on around him, Haydn gave this mass a martial air, with beating drums that have led to its being known as Paukenmesse (or Timpani Mass) and with blaring trumpets that bring the sounds of war to the prayer for piece in the sublime concluding section, the “Agnes Dei.”  The spirited Texas ensemble gave exalted readings of the Gloria (“Gloria in excelsis Deo”) and the powerful Benedictus (“lamb of God, that takest away the sins of the world, have mercy on us”)  The mass includes the lengthy “Credo” and the glorious “sanctus” and the choral group was rarely off-key and most effective at transcribing a Haydn work that is almost always overshadowed on concert lineups with his far more auspicious later works like his masterpiece The Creation (Die Schopfung).  While the mass is a rigidly constructed piece with perfect choral precision, it lacks the lyrical power and scope of Haydn’s greater choral works.  Still, it’s a work of considerable inspiration and compelling musical ardor, that no doubt commanded mesmerizing effect in churches. (more…)

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i claudius 1

by Allan Fish (sorry, couldn’t resist the title change)

(UK 1976 652m) DVD1/2

Old King Log

p  Martin Lisemore  d  Herbert Wise  w  Jack Pulman  novels  “I, Claudius” and “Claudius the God” by Robert Graves  m  Wilfrid Josephs  art  Tim Harvey

Derek Jacobi (Claudius), Siân Phillips (Livia), Brian Blessed (Augustus), George Baker (Tiberius), John Hurt (Caligula), Margaret Tyzack (Antonia), Patrick Stewart (Sejanus), Patricia Quinn (Livilla), David Robb (Germanicus), Fiona Walker (Agrippina), Beth Morris (Drusilla), Sheila White (Messalina), James Faulkner (Herod Agrippa), Kevin McNally (Castor), John Castle (Postumus), Frances White (Julia), Ian Ogilvy (Drusus), John Paul (Agrippa), Barbara Young (Agrippinilla), Christopher Biggins (Nero), Bernard Hepton (Pallas), John Cater (Narcissus), John Rhys Davies (Macro), Stratford Johns (Piso), Charles Kay (Gallus), Freda Dowie (The Sibyl/Caesonia), Ashley Knight (Young Claudius), Kevin Stoney (Thrasyllus), Donald Eccles (Pollio), Bernard Hill (Gratus), Charlotte Howard (Scylla), Esmond Knight (Domitius), Moira Redmond (Domitia),

There are few more beloved BBC serials in history than this immensely detailed adaptation of the two Claudian novels of Robert Graves.  In truth, the second novel is rather sparsely translated, forming barely 20% of the series at its finale, entirely missing out the massive section on the conquest of Britain and the subduing of Caractacus.  But no matter, for as an adaptation of the first book, one could hardly have done a better job than Jack Pulman.  For a long time it seemed as if Claudius would have the last laugh, for everyone recalled the disastrous aborted film of 1937 (pics at the bottom of the piece), with Charles Laughton, Alexander Korda and Josef Von Sternberg going together like oil, water and cement.  One mourns its never being completed, if only because of the décor and the promise of the performances of Laughton and Emlyn Williams from the surviving footage, but it was left to the Beeb to finally complete the job nearly forty years later. (more…)

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