July 29th, 2005

little review

Poem for Friday

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Thursday was quieter than Wednesday, at least in that I did not go out but ate leftovers and did stuff that needed to be done at home until I had to pick up the kids from camp. Watched "The Corbomite Maneuver" for reviewing, found that it had dated more than other recently-watched original Star Trek episodes (it was only the third made, Uhura's still wearing gold) but there are still lovely moments in it -- any story with snark between Kirk and McCoy is a keeper, and Spock gets in that adorable moment asking Kirk how come he always asks for Spock's opinion before going ahead and doing what he was going to do anyway. apaulled came home from work early after an emergency dentist appointment to have a filling repaired, so we ate an early dinner and went out early in the evening.

We took the kids to hear Beethoven's Ninth Symphony performed by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra in the gorgeous new music center at Strathmore Hall, where we have been for small events but not to see a symphony (older daytime photos here). Younger son can play the melody of "Ode to Joy" on the violin and older son has been singing in his school chorus, so we had promised to take them at some point to what's probably the most famous piece of Western music in the world. We got a treat -- something I had not known to expect -- because they opened with Beethoven's "Calm Sea and Prosperous Voyage," which I have never heard performed and although I cannot understand the lines by Goethe, it's quite obvious that the "calm sea" is actually stagnant and creepy while the quick rocky pace of the second part represents the prosperous journey. The program notes said that the choral conclusion contains seeds of the Ninth Symphony's finale and I see what they mean, although the dark notes don't creep back in the way the minor key themes recur at points in "Ode to Joy."

Though I have heard the Ninth Symphony performed live several times by some of the best orchestras in the US (the NSO, the CSO and now the BSO), the definitive performance for me will always be one I heard on the radio and simulcast on TV -- Leonard Bernstein conducting in Berlin after the Berlin Wall fell, substituting "Freiheit" ("freedom") for "Freude" ("joy"). I remember sitting in my in-laws' old living room in their house in Connecticut (it was Christmas week) with tears running down my face, same as when the Wall went down the month before; it was like watching something surreal, something I had never expected to see during my childhood where they made movies like The Day After in which World War III began with East Germany invading West.

There is occasionally some Jewish distress about Beethoven and the Ninth Symphony, which was beloved of the Nazis and sometimes played in concentration camps; I have met people from Israel who simply cannot listen to it because of the associations, same as Wagner. But guest conductor Jeffrey Kahane pointed out that any use the Nazis made of the music or any implication that the ode to joy is apolotical is in direct opposition to Schiller's words and the use Beethoven made of them. He underlines "Alle Menschen werden Brüder" repeatedly with musical notes repeated by the various instruments, then the chorus sings it over and over, as if, to quote Kahane, "Beethoven is asking, 'What part of 'all the people' don't you understand?'"


The walkway between the music center and the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station, which has rainbow-colored lights that can't be seen in this daytime photo but are lovely at night, sort of the like the rainbow lights in the United Airlines terminal in O'Hare Airport.


And on a shallow note of squee, the symphony was giving out free CDs to celebrate their move to Strathmore with Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Ravel short pieces that I love, plus Bernstein's Mambo from West Side Story. (My father's former law firm represented the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in DC in my youth, so I was very spoiled music-wise, as they used to get free tickets whenever a performance wasn't sold out; one night, for instance, my parents gave me a pair of tickets to the NSO, thinking I was going to get Rostropovich conducting Elgar, and instead the NSO had Bernstein as guest conductor of his own music, including Candide, Kaddish and the fanfare he wrote for JFK.) And the gift shop at Strathmore had Shakespeare action figures! And Beethoven as well. Hee! I love being able to fangirl Shakespeare. The only thing I bought myself on my honeymoon with our wedding money was a little pewter statue of Shakespeare in Stratford, Ontario. I had intended to carry it for good luck when I defended my dissertation. Funny how things work out. *g*