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Archive for January 23rd, 2012

The Choral Art Society of New Jersey outside of Westfield church

by Sam Juliano

Felix Mendelssohn’s Paulus, first performed in 1836, is the first of the composer’s two oratorios, and the more popular during his lifetime.  The later work Elijah has since eclipsed Paulus in popularity by some distance, but Paulus remains a major intrigue for choral groups and conductors looking to further scrutinize the work of one of music’s greatest melodists.  Indeed, musicologists periodically make a spirited case for it, arguing that it was central to the revival of the German oratorio tradition in the early 19th century.  There can be little doubt that Paulus is a kind of outgrowth of the composer’s celebrated 1829 revival of J.S. Bach’s “St. Matthew Passion” in Berlin.  The opening of the oratorio is modeled on Bach with a preponderance of chorales, fugues, and inflamed crowd scenes.  Mendelssohn’s indebtedness and reverence for Bach (and for Handel) manifests itself in the recitatives and in the contrapuntal rigor of some of the choruses. The first half, comprising 22 sections and dealing with Paul’s conversion from Judaism to Christianity is the more dramatic -it has been suggested that Mendelssohn’s decision to employ a four-part women’s choir to voice the words of Jesus was controversial – but it is still highly effective.  The second half deals mainly with Paul’s ministry in a general sense, opting to leave out the more dramatic narratives from the book of Acts that could have transformed the work into something far more compelling.

Still, if “Paulus” is never as inspiring and consistent as “Elijah” it is still genuinely powerful and moving at junctures.  The Choral Art Society of New Jersey, a distinguished ensemble entering their fiftieth year of operation, have followed up their own staging and orchestration of “Elijah” from a few years ago with a performance of “Paulus” at the beautiful Presbyterian Church in Westfield on a blustery Saturday evening, January 21st, under the baton of CAS musical director James S. Little, who is serving his fourteenth and final year in that capacity. (more…)

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Re-viewings of 'The Artist' have elevated it to the #2 position, from #8, where it was previously placed in Top Ten of the Year presentation from two weeks ago

by Sam Juliano

The NYC area was blanketed with several inches of snow early Saturday morning, but rising temperatures that purportedly will hit around 51 today will surely melt the ramnants of the first appearance of the white stuff since that freak and destructive Halloween storm.  Anyway, the same snow path dropped even more on our friends in and around the Windy City.

As I write this ‘Diary’ lead-in the Giants and 49ers game is still almost five hours away.  Lucille and I were invited to a friend’s home up in Montvale, New Jersey to watch the game, so I will revise thios post accordingly late tonight before publihing it with a parenthesis.  (Flash!!!!  Giants win!!!  Giants win!!!  Giants win!!!  They beat the 49ers 20-17 in overtime to land a spot in the Super Bowl!!!)  Best Wishes to our dear friend Dee Dee, who may well be headed west in the upcing days for the annual ‘Noir Festival’ at the Castro in San Francisco.  Allan Fish’s year-by-year voting countdown continued yesterday with the ‘best of 1922.’  Everyone is encouraged to participate if they have a decent knowledge of this period.

Perhaps the biggest problem with presenting a ‘finalized’ annual list of the ‘best’ films is that there is really never any finality to it at all.  I noted in my own introduction that numereical listings are subject to change of hearts in days or even hours of a ‘final’ proclamation, and re-viewings and further pondering can often have one regretting a published listing that has been usurped by re-evaluation.  Such is the case with the list I published two weeks.  One film, The Artist, which I have seen several times running now (and continue to be ravished by the soundtrack CD every day now) deserves in fact to be in a much higher placement than the #8 it was listed as in the original publishing.  I could have just let things be, and saved myself the probable grief I will now face from some who believe a change of heart for whatever reason undermines the original presentation, but I have honestly fallen head over heels over The Artist, and need to be honest with myself and my list, even if the entire idea of a Top Ten flies in the face of sanity in the first place.  Thinking about the film more and more, seeing Jim Clark’s extraordinary review, engaging in spirited e mail discussions and hearing Ludovic Bource’s score rergularly have all collaborated to make me realize that I love this film as much as I do any other this year, and though numbers within the Top 10 can be interchanged at any time, I still want to make a symbolic statement here with the change.  I was questioned by some friends about the possibility of some thinking I might want to be seen as wanting to ‘stand with the critics’ who championed this film in droves this year.  My resounding answer is that over the last five years, I have only embraced a single film of the five top critics’ film of each year, and that was a #9 placement for There Will Be Blood.  This has nothing to do with critics, it has to do with my increasing passionate fervor for this film.   I added another film to the Top 10 as well to make for a #10 tie (my regular way of doing the lists until this year) so that the wonderful Poetry can now be part of the Top 10, as it should be.  I will make the proper changes on the original post over the course of the next fews days. I also added We Need To Know About Kevin to the ‘Runners-Up’ list.  Anyway, here is the new (and yes final on pain of torture) Top Ten for 2011: (more…)

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