Just Nathan

A musical offering, in parts
September 02, 2005
The M6 goes to Amsterdam

Oh weh! How I wish we'd been at last night's Mahler 6 prom. It was a revelation, even on the radio.

Mariss Jansons, the new music director of the Concertgebouw orchestra performed Mahler's 'tragic' 6th symphony. The hammer blows of the fourth movement - however anticipate - made me jump out of my skin as they foretell the win tragedies that Mahler himself was soon to face: his daughter's death and the diagnosis of his own fatal heart condition.

In contrast with the Cleveland SO / Möst performance that we attended on Tuesday, this M6 seemed to weave the powerful yet supple resources of the orchestra into an ever shifting tapestry of rich emotions. As the symphony winds its way to an inexorable conclusion, I am caught in its flow, trapped in its vice.

The Andante movement was played second, followed by the Scherzo third. The luxury of listening whilst sitting in my living room prompted me to reread David Matthews' essay in the Mitchell / Nicholson Mahler Companion, where he makes a strong case for preservation of the 'original' order (Scherzo / Andante). As a side issue, this essay is the weakest in the Companion for me as Matthews limits his discussion to the two well-known disputes about M6 (the order of the inner movements and Mahler's removal of the third hammer blow in the fourth movement). I guess this unevenness in style allows the individuality of the essayists to shine through.

I went to bed with the hammer blows of fate thudding around me.

Posted by nathan at 06:15 AM | Comments (0)


August 30, 2005
Mahler on Prozac

A dismal journey on Scumline Trains via Liverpool Street saw us at the Proms this evening for a performance of Mahler's 3rd Symphony. The Cleveland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Franz Welser-Möst.

The first movement was very odd and quite offputting - the Cleveland SO has a clarity of tone, and precision especially in the brass and woodwind, but not the richness or dynamic range of the VPO or Concertgebouw. But Möst kept bringing the action to a full stop - and I mean a full stop - after each 'episode' within the movement. This meant that the movement lost momentum and instead of sweeping to that great, vibrant cliamx a third of the way through the movement, it seemed like an isolated peak, rather than part of a range of emotional experiences.

I felt however that the lyrical tones worked best from the third movement onwards and started to enjoy the performance at that stage. The mezzo-soprano soloist Yvonne Naef was excellent. The CSO seemed best to work in lightly-textured melodic mode and found the joy in nature of Mahler's great work, but not the densely woven arras of conflicting desires and struggle that lies behind the programme.

But compare all of this with the performance of M3 at the Proms 3 years ago, with the Concertgebouw. It should have been conducted by Chailly (heaven!) but he was unwell, so Eliahu Inbal stepped in for him. That was a sublime performance that had me breaking out in goosepimples throughout! Others commented on the flaws in that performance but it was redolent with tension and melody that made me wish that Möst had laid off the Prozac this morning.

What a stunning contrast in the interpretation of Mahler by different orchestras and conductors. There's no such thing as an 'adequate' M3.

There's a decent review in the Times.

Posted by nathan at 11:21 PM | Comments (0)


June 11, 2003
Royal cock-up

My Proms tickets haven't arrived. But my credit card has been debited with a different amount than that shown on the confirmation email.

So I thought I'd call the number given on the confirmation.

After twenty minutes holding, I was told that I was dealing with the wrong office and should call another company. I dialled and after another ten minutes holding, was told that I should send my request by email.

A day later, I received an email informing me that the volume of emails was too great, so that emails will not be answered. I was welcome to call the box office.

I hope the music's better.

Posted by nathan at 11:37 PM | Comments (0)


May 19, 2003
Time to Promenade

For that most select band of "Where's JustNathan" stalkers, here are the Proms I've booked for this season:

Prom 15, 29th July
R Strauss: Elektra
London Voices, BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Donald Runnicles conducting with Gabrielle Schnaut as Elektra

Prom 20, 2nd August
HK Gruber: Dancing in the Dark (UK premiere)
Prokofiev: Piano Concerton No. 3 in C+
Tchaikowsky: Symphony No. 5 in E- (who'd have guessed it?)
Nelson Goerner (piano)
BBC Philharmonic, conducted by HK Gruber and Vassily Sinaisky

Prom 30, 10th August
Poulenc: La voix humaine
Stravinsky: Perséphone
Felicity Lott (soprano), Paul Groves (tenor)
Trinity Boy's Choir, Cantate Youth Choir, BBC Symphony Chorus, BBC Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Andrew Davis

Prom 31, 11th August
R Strauss: Tod und Verklärung
Mahler: Rückert-Lieder
Prokofiev: Alexander Nevsky cantata
Ekaterina Gubanova (mezzo-soprano), Detlef Roth (baritone)
London Philharmonic Choir, Crouch End Festival Chorus, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Daniele Gatti

Prom 37, 15th August
Mozart: Symphony No. 40 in G-
Brahms: Ein Deutsches Requiem
Miah Persson (soprano), Peter Mattei (baritone)
Swedish Radio Choir, Eric ericson Chamber Choir, Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Manfred Honeck

Prom 49, 26th August
Mahler: Symphony No. 6 in A-
European Union Youth Orchestra, conducted by Bernard Haitink

Prom 54, 30th August
Mendelssohn: Violin Concerto in E-
Mahler: Symphony No. 1 in D+
Gil Shaham (violin), Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Mariss Jansons

Prom 69, 10th September
Prokofiev: The Stone Flower (excerpts)
Beethoven: Piano Concerto No. 4 in G+
Mahler: Symphony No. 4 in G+
Christian Blackshaw (piano), Rebecca Evans (soprano)
BBC Philharmonic, conducted by Gianandrea Noseda

Anybody want to join me?

Posted by nathan at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)


April 19, 2003
Shopping and sleeping

The day worked out rather differently than expected. Alfred's friend from Toronto didn't turn up (upsetting for Alfred, who hadn't seen him for ten years). We made for the hotel gym and then trawled around the Theater District in an unsuccessful pursuit of tickets for some more shows. I could feel it was turning out to be one of those days. But hey - the sun was shining and we're in New York!

Brunch filled us up for the day with ribs, chips and cole slaw - after which we cruised around Bloomingdales for ages. It's a sign of the times that I would tolerate three hours of shopping.

We were still too full to eat a proper supper, so bagels and smoothies were just right before an evening in Midtown (not what you expected, eh)? Languor, boredom or both made me unaccountably tired this evening and definitely not ready to face the bar we'd planned to visit in Chelsea. That'll just have to wait until I catch up with some holiday rest. I felt very old-mannish being in bed by 1 am without having been out, but I had to give in to my exhaustion.

I bought another copy of Ricercar, this time orchestrated by Webern and played by the Münchener Kammerorchester with Christoph Poppen

Posted by nathan at 01:43 AM | Comments (0)


April 18, 2003
Teutonic artfest

Today was German day. We traipsed back to the Upper East Side to visit the Neue Galerie on East 86th Street. What a pleasure it turned out to be (and how disappointing that the museum shop left me with no memorabilia. The highlights were portraits by Christian Schad in "Christian Schad and the Neue Sachlichkeit" and a room full of Gustav Klimt sketches and early paintings. Delicious. One room had several handsome clocks from early twentieth century restaurants and shops.

portrait by Christian Schad

But this was a mere amuse guelle to the main course of the day. I approach a live production of Parsifal with some "fear and awe". I'm intimidated by the scale of the work, some guilt at dragging Alfred along and the likelihood that I'll fall asleep during the performance. There. Most Wagner fans wouldn't admit that. But Parsifal is an opera both grand in its ambitions and very ponderous in its illustration of the central messages of purity, purpose and redemption. The sacred nature of the opera was underlined by its performance on Good Friday.

This production, my first experience at the Met, was delectable. Placido Domingo sang the title role, accompanied by an outstanding Rene Pape as Gurmenanz, Linda Watson as Kundry and Falk Struckmann as Amfortas. Valery Gergiev conducted the orchestra. This strength in depth made for a memorable evening. Three features distinguished the experience from earlier Parsifals. First, the lavish and entrancing set, which seduced the audience into a world where the Grail shines and magic castles exist. Second, the famous singers - Domingo and Pape were outstanding. Third, and less fortunate, was the poor audience behaviour. Inappropriate applause at the end of each act tarnished the gravitas of this most solemn work of Wagner's oeuvre.

As to the work itself, after listening through my recording four times in anticipation, I am inclined to leave this grand but slothlike myth alone for a little while.

Posted by nathan at 01:33 AM | Comments (0)


March 22, 2003
Matthew Passion

I went to a performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion at St John's College this evening. It was sung by a local choir, in which Robin and Yvonne are leading lights.

I last saw this piece performed at the Royal Festival Hall a couple of years ago. The orchestra and chorus was led by Andras Schiff. It was so long, so opaque and so dreary that I was put off the music. The story is urgent and dramatic - today's performance carried some of that feeling.

Chapel at St. John's College

The setting was superb. I was quite enclosed in a high wooden pew, able to look through the gap at the performers in front of me. Looking around the chapel, I faced the magnificent new organ and the frieze of Christ and his disciples on the ceiling. The piece was far too long - and for me that's its downfall - it loses impact and urgency in favour of stateliness and grandeur of the set pieces. Nevertheless, it was an interesting evening in a near-perfect setting.

Posted by nathan at 11:29 PM | Comments (0)


February 16, 2003
Blake's Heaven

I listened to Jane Siberry's album Love is Everything with Alistair yesterday. I'd heard the name, but never the music - very Kate Bush in style. It was autobiographical programme music with an introspective, mystical tone.

The booklet accompanying the CD set puzzled me. Pages of biographical detail and no lyrics (they're on the web site). And, buried in the text, a quote from Blake "Exuberance is Beauty".

William Blake: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (1790-93). Proverbs of Hell

The head Sublime, the heart Pathos, the genitals Beauty
the hands & feet Proportion.
As the air to a bird or the sea to a fish, so is contempt
to the contemptible.
The crow wish'd every thing was black, the owl, that every thing was white.
Exuberance is Beauty.
If the lion was advised by the fox. he would be cunning.
Improvent makes strait roads, but the crooked roads
without Improvement, are roads of Genius.
Sooner murder an infant in its cradle than nurse unacted desires
Where man is not nature is barren.
Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believ'd
Enough! or Too much

I've never studied Blake, so found this very opaque. Checking on the Internet, I can only find random references by people who have chosen the quote simply because it links the words exuberance and beauty, not to derive benefit from the meaning of Blake's words.

Reading around this, Blake seems to value nature as worthless without humanity. He seems to be firmly on the classical side of the ‘great divide’. He looks for a uniting force between intelligence and art – the impulses within us are holy and good. Man's drive to intelligent expression and love are not the result of the Fall, but of a creative force (a God) acting to make nature purposeful through the intelligence of mankind. Man’s exuberant expression of wonder at the natural world is thus essentially and necessarily beautiful, as it must lead to the fusion of intellect and nature. Art is the gateway to paradise, and creation the divine will to form man within nature.

I think I'd better read some more about Blake. Tough luck, doing Science A-levels.

For an alternative approach to the exegesis of this text, look for these words of wisdom.

Posted by nathan at 04:10 PM | Comments (0)


January 11, 2003
Dragon martinis

We had a dragon martini at the Sanderson last weekend. Great refreshing taste - a mixture of gin, sake, strawberry eau de vie and lychee juice, garnished with a fresh lychee stuffed with a raspberry. Does anybody have a recipe, as we're finding it hard to recreate the right mixture?

Today has been a bit dull, as I've spent many hours working on a spreadsheet. All I have to show for it is - a spreadsheet. Isn't work fun? Scary thinking about taking on an office and all those extra overheads in April.

I see that the Scottish Opera production of Siegfried is on BBC4 tomorrow.

Posted by nathan at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)


January 04, 2003
Dim sum and italian opera

Lunch with Cosmo and a chat about "things" (see my entries of a few days ago). Fascinating and disappointing to see how scarred he is by having been let down by the family around him. My blazé comment "blood's thicker than water" was met with a quizzical response. And I now understand why.

After lobster and crab with a rather pleasant Verdicchio at Randall and Aubin in Soho, La Traviata was our evening's entertainment at the Royal Opera House. A pleasant production, with even but not outstanding singers spoiled just a little by the unnecessary inclusion of a second interval. This made it into a rather heavier evening than Traviata deserves. Paulo Gavanelli made an excellent Germont.

Posted by nathan at 10:54 PM | Comments (0)


December 25, 2002
Ending our holiday on a high note

Back to the Olympiazentrum where the BMW museum was open. It was interesting to see old versions of PEW. The forward-looking elements of the exhibition (those concentrating on intelligent cars and traffic management initiatives) were rather disappointing, compared with the much criticised Ford zone in the Millennium Dome. Concepts such as satellite navigation were displayed as future developments. I suspect that this part of the museum should be updated with a conceptual display more befitting BMW's image.

We saw Die Zauberflöte at the Bayerische Staatsoper in the cold Christmas evening. Excellent performances by Diana Damrau as the Königen der Nacht and Aga Mikolaj as Tamina. The production was atmospheric and employed excellent scenery and costumes designed for the 1978 première.

Heather Connolly as the Queen of the Night in another production

The highest voice of all is the coloratura soprano (inaccurately named, in that coloratura literally means rapid passages, trills, and ornamentation). A genuine coloratura has an unmistakable light, birdlike quality to her voice. She often sounds much like a flute or piccolo, and these instruments often are given music to accompany her. Two of Mozart's most famous operatic roles were written because his sister-in-law, Josefa Weber Hofer, was a coloratura, and she sang the parts of the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute and Constanze in The Abduction. A number of operatic roles call for high sopranos with voices of great flexibility which can trill, sing scales with the utmost rapidity, and make wide jumps, but do not go to the astronomical heights (F or F sharp, two and a half octaves above middle C) of Mozart's coloratura or Zerbinetta in Richard Strauss' Ariadne. Some of these roles, with top notes of an E flat or an E natural, are Lucia in Donizetti's Lucia, Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto, and Norma in Bellini's Norma ( 1831). The flutter of the vocal cords in high registers demands constant practice (presumably a soprano high C gives off about 1,025 vibrations per second). A coloratura must be a slave to vocal exercises that keep her voice in tip-top condition to prevent the vocal cords from thickening.

The lyric soprano is the embodiment of the high, bright, clear female voice. Susanna in Figaro and Mimi in Bohème are examples. This is the voice of young womanhood or of the youthful heroine. When the role is quasi-comic, the description soubrette (French for "cunning," "shrewd") is often applied. Another term used is spinto (Italian for "pushed" or "urged"), which signifies a soprano whose tones have greater brilliance and carrying power than the usual Iyric soprano. Many Verdi heroines are in this group: Leonora in Il trovatore, Elisabetta in Don Carlos (1867; 1884), Leonora in La forza del destino.

Last in the soprano group is the dramatic soprano. This voice is rarer because it often takes on the heavier and darker hue of a mezzo or a contralto but is still a genuine soprano with a high range and ringing sound. It is generally a big voice with very full medium and low tones. The voice may not develop fully until the late 20s or early 30s although it is embryonically present earlier. Two of the most famous dramatic soprano roles in opera are Brunnhilde in Wagner's Ring and Isolde in Tristan und Isolde. Leonora in Beethoven's Fidelio also is a dramatic soprano.


Posted by nathan at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)


December 16, 2002
Choose Life

We saw Sophie's Choice at the Royal Opera House this evening. It's dreadful to admit that I'll remember it more for its length than its music. It could easily have been cut by over an hour and gained momentum.

It was nevertheless an exciting occurence, to be one of the first people in the world to hear a new work (I know it wasn't the first night). The music was captivating and had strong teutonic echoes (Schoenberg I think) and the singers were excellent. Unlike the ENO, I could hear every word, in English, clearly.

Supper at Cafe Lazeez was excellent, although our early start meant a limited bar menu.

Posted by nathan at 11:48 PM | Comments (0)


December 15, 2002

Shopping in Paul Smith today yielded shirts and trousers for the two of us (Alfred now has a birthday present!). We had supper at Joy King Lau near Leicester Square and then took the tube to Waterloo to see Bernard Haitink conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra in Mahler's Second Symphony.

A friend was singing in the London Philharmonic Choir and had very kindly given us the tickets. Overall it was a fascinating performance, somewhat overwhelming in parts. It confirmed my concerns about the second symphony - such an uneven piece. Mahler seems to have thrown too many ideas, too much light and shade, too many conflicting emotions into this hotch-potch. When I compare it with the third, that moved me beyond this earth at the Proms, I could not find fault with the conductor or the orchestra, it's the sheer unconvincing opacity of the piece.

And yet, sitting on the tube on the way back to North London, I hear strains of Des Knaben Wunderhorn in the clatter of the carriages.

Just like all Mahler, I'll learn to understand it one day.

Posted by nathan at 10:02 PM | Comments (0)


December 10, 2002
The Siegfried Show

Imagine a hero, brought up in the woods by a dwarfish smith.

Imagine a dragon, slumbering in his cave as he guards the Niebelungen hoard.

Imagine a Wanderer in the woods, who knows he cannot interfere to prevent the inevitable downfall of his godly race, but cannot avoid a last futile attempt to block the hero's path.

Imagine a maiden warrior, who sleeps on a mountaintop, encircled by fire, at the mercy of the hero who can pass through the flames and waken her.

Imagine a dwarf, consumed by loathing, watching the dragon with sleepless malice.

Imagine the Earth Mother, disturbed from her sleep, bewildered by the events of the world above.

A sword, a ring, Loge's fire.

Imagine the Barbican, filled with enthusiasts, watching Paul Daniel with eagerness. A hush falls, his baton is raised and four hours of magic is weaved before our eyes.

I was in Neidhohle this evening.

John Graham-Hall as Mime was especially good and Robert Hayward as the Wanderer continues to impress. Stephen O'Mara looked the part as Siegfried, but his voice was unconvincing. Kathleen Broderick as Brünnhilde is foxy but just not my idea of the part.

Eleven months to Götterdämmerung.

Posted by nathan at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)


November 29, 2002
Changed title

I've just edited today's entry as it was a whinge about NTL broadband and computers generally, and I'm trying to be less grumbly.

I listened to the second act of Siegfried again today in preparation for the ENO / Barbican performance in a couple of weeks.

Posted by nathan at 11:41 PM | Comments (0)


November 24, 2002
In Neidhohle

More coughs and congestion this morning, but a pleasant lie in before returning to Cambridge. Hopefully I'll shake off this cold soon - I'm so intolerant of things like colds.

I've now listened through the first two acts of Siegfried with the libretto. It's so differently scored and paced from the other three operas in the cycle that it has been a pleasure to return to its charms. I've been trying to understand three key scenes; the death of Fafner, the Wanderer's motive for seeking to block Siegfried's path to Brunnhilde and his descent to seek Erda's advice at the commencement of the third act.

Mum and Dad came to Cambridge this evening - both seemed tired, but we had a pleasant meal (Alfred baked cod which was delicious) and watched Ice Age (yes again) on DVD.

Posted by nathan at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)


November 21, 2002
Answers to nothing

High upon a hillside, a preacher tells his story to a crowd
He tells the same old story, a thousand times he's read that story loud.
He wants to give the answers but his words are only
Answers to nothing

Lying in my bedroom, a man comes on my TV with a grin
He tells me to believe him, he said that I should put my faith in him
He says he has the answers, but his words are only
Answers to nothing

Hear the chosen leaders say we can't stay sitting on the fence
Believe the stuff they feed us, they're buying guns and bombs for our defence
They think this is the answer, but their thoughts are only
Answers to nothing.

Where is all the friendship, how can all the comradeship be done
What of all the teachings, what of all the things that we learned when we were young
It doesn't bear the asking 'cos the answers given were
answers to nothing.

Midge Ure: Answers to nothing, 1988

Posted by nathan at 07:49 PM | Comments (0)


November 20, 2002
Thanks to Walther von der Vogelweide

Meistersinger made for a tremendous evening. It was most enjoyable viewed as an ensemble piece, with no outstanding singers, but many competent performances. As a spectacle, it worked very well indeed, and Mark Wigglesworth conjured a good performance from the orchestra.

There were a couple of excellent articles in the programme, both derived from the Cambridge Opera Handbook.

Only the end of the third act leaves a strange taste in my mouth.

OK then

Walther von der Vogelweide

Posted by nathan at 11:56 PM | Comments (0)


November 19, 2002
Locker Inspection

The Iraqis have accepted last week's UN resolution and the timetable for weapons inspection.

Why can't I trust our leaders? The grinning vicar of St. Albion's and the unelected President seem determined to provoke a war. Have we learned nothing from the experiences of the twentieth century?

Wahn! Wahn! Überall Wahn!

Madness! Madness, Everywhere madness! Wherever I look searchingly in city and world chronicles, to seek out the reason why, until they draw blood, people torment and flay each other in useless, foolish anger!

Hans Sachs, Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, Act 3. Translation Peter Branscombe

Posted by nathan at 07:16 PM | Comments (2)


November 13, 2002
Preparing for Meistersinger

One of the benefits of being without Radio 4 is that I can listen to Meistersinger on my CD Walkman in preparation for next week.

Posted by nathan at 08:12 PM | Comments (0)


November 03, 2002
Well I've never done that before

Walkyrie was on yesterday (Saturday 2nd November)

Oh well. Anybody fancy a ticket for yesterday's performance?

Credit Dark Horse Comics

The Walkyrie Brünnhilde joins Wotan on the peak

We watched a super film Ice Age on DVD. It was a really good laugh.

Posted by nathan at 04:06 PM | Comments (0)


November 02, 2002
Rain, rain, go away

I've been sitting at home working for part of the day and scanning more photographs in to (eventually) be uploaded to my gallery. I wanted to go for a walk to clear my head after yesterday, but the rain has been persistent and heavier through the course of the day.

Walkyrie tomorrow at the Barbican / ENO. When I saw this production at ENO in January, I was very disappointed (except for the excellent Orla Boylan as a lumbering and fearful Sieglinde). Kathleen Broderick, dressed in tight black leather from head to toe was an unusually foxy but unconvincing Brünnhilde. Oh well, I'll stop carping and go with an open mind.

In preparation, I have listened through my Solti and Furtwängler recordings with the libretto and completed reading the excellent cartoon Ring (book 1) by P Craig Russell. Buy it.

Credit: Dark Horse Comics

The sword, and the blasphemous union of Siegmund and Sieglinde

Posted by nathan at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)


October 24, 2002
Smoking shoes

There was a great review of the production of Wozzeck that I saw last week in today’s Time Out:

“As simple soldier, medical guinea-pig and moonlighting servant, Matthias Goerne combines Warren Clarke’s lumbering bearishness with Tim Spall’s ungainly pathos. Goerne also brings a Lieder singer’s phrasing and tonal beauty to Berg’s … expressionist masterpiece”

(Martin Hoyle, Time Out no 1679 23.10.02)

On a different note, we finished watching Porterhouse Blue on DVD. My favourite scene is still the one where the chaplain's shoe is smoking as he is sleeping too near to the grate. Instead of rescuing him, the Senior Tutor asks a butler to move him. It was a change to have cause for a hearty laugh.

Posted by nathan at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)


October 23, 2002
The saga of Jenny

I found her CV on the Cambridge Network web site at 20:30 yesterday evening, called her, arranged an interview this morning, took up her references at lunch time and offered her a job by 15:30.

This song is about a rather different Jenny :

Saga of Jenny

(Music by Kurt Weill, lyrics by Ira Gershwin; from the musical Lady in the Dark, 1940)

Jenny made her mind up when she was three
She herself was going to trim the Christmas tree
Christmas Eve she lit the candles, tossed the tapers away
Little Jenny was an orphan on Christmas day

Poor Jenny, bright as a penny
Her equal would be hard to find
She lost one dad and mother, a sister and a brother,
But she would make up her mind

Jenny made her mind up when she was twelve
That into foreign languages she would delve
But at seventeen to Vassar, it was quite a blow
That in twenty-seven languages she couldn't say no
Poor Jenny, bright as a penny
Her equal would be hard to find
To Jenny I'm beholden, her heart was big and golden
But she would make up her mind

Jenny made her mind up at twenty-two
To get herself a husband was the thing to do
She got herself all dolled up in her satins and furs
And she got herself a husband--but he wasn't hers

Poor Jenny, bright as a penny
Her equal would be hard to find
Deserved a bed of roses, but history discloses
That she would make up her mind

Jenny made her mind up at fifty-one
She would write her memoirs before she was done
The very day her book was published, history relates,
There were wives who shot their husbands in some thirty-three states

Jenny made her mind up at seventy-five
She would live to be the oldest woman alive
But gin and rum and destiny play funny tricks,
And poor Jenny kicked the bucket at seventy-six
Jenny points a moral with which you cannot quarrel,
Makes a lot of common sense--
Jenny and her saga prove that you're gaga
If you don't keep sitting on the fence

Jenny and her story point the way to glory
To all man and womankind
Anyone with vision comes to this decision--
Don't make up your mind

Posted by nathan at 10:40 PM | Comments (0)


October 21, 2002
Better yet than memories

I was near tears as the gods rode, uncaring over the rainbow bridge into Valhalla’s empty halls, whilst the Rheinmaidens pleaded for the return of their gold. It was a superb performance, and so much better without the staging. The Barbican is so much more comfortable than the Coliseum. The orchestra comes across better on stage than in a pit.

I travelled back via north London and had supper with Mum and Dad. It’s a pleasure to see them so busy, although Dad was looking tired. Sunday evenings can be like that.

We had a long project meeting for our new client in Cambridge during the day. But will he sign up? I think we can do a good job for him.

Posted by nathan at 08:27 PM | Comments (0)


October 20, 2002
Weia! Waga! Woge, du Welle!

So what do you think is on my mind today?

From Scene 1: Rheingold

Nur wer der Minne Macht entsagt,
nur wer der Liebe Lust verjagt,
nur der erzielt sich den Zauber,
zum Reif zu zwingen das Gold.


Das Licht lösch' ich euch aus;
entreisse dem Riff das Gold,
schmeide den rächenden Ring;
denn hör' es die Flut: so verfluch' ich die Liebe!

I've been listening to my Solti recording to remind myself of the details, from the opening triad chord, which gives such a benign and melodious commencement to seventeen hours of pleasure (or hell, depending on one's viewpoint) to the march over the rainbow bridge to the spurious haven of Valhalla.

I found these illustrations by Arthur Rackham, from around 1910:

The Rheinmaidens tease Alberich

Loge, Wotan and Alberich as a serpent

The Rheinmaidens plead fruitlessly with Wotan to recover their gold

Posted by nathan at 12:08 PM | Comments (0)


October 15, 2002
Just don't mention the war...

I spent part of the day on a rainswept railway platform in Hemel Hempstead. Please don't ask me how I got there.

We had an excellent meal at Zilli Fish Too in Covent Garden. I can't recommend the place highly enough. That is a rare statement, given my record with restaurants. Friendly, efficient service and excellent food. Reasonable value, especially with a Tastecard, which is itself one of London's better inventions (waits for horrified contradictory voices off). Please note, I really did say friendly, efficient service - and yes, this is England.

We were away in time to ascend to the Amphitheatre of Covent Garden to see Alban Berg's Wozzeck. Amazing. Shocking. Futurist. I was too stunned at the end to do more than clap, it was an outstanding experience. Matthias Goerne was all I remembered - a thoroughbred actor with a commanding voice. Even the production, my least favourite aspect of British opera, was challenging and interesting in its own right. Pity about the lighting, which was incorrectly judged for the set and unkind to a few weathered faces. The story is of a man's humiliation, despair and, finally, the deathly consequences of his descent to madness. Not a cheerful tale, I grant you, but a memorable one nonetheless. From the programme.... "Wozzeck, a poor man, a worker, is forced to submit to the sadistic and humiliating demands of his superiors. Already subject to hallucinations, he finally loses the balance of his mind when he learns that Marie, the woman he lives with, has been unfaithful to him. He stabs her to death and drowns herself". The structure of the opera is mathematical and calculated in three short acts, each of five scenes. There is no key, only madness replete with Leitmotif, except in the climactic interlude in the third act. This orchestral interlude is, guess, in D minor. Good on you, Alban.

Given that it was first performed in Berlin in 1925, it makes a fitting end to the era of Wagner, with a horrifying glimpse into the Germany beyond.

I may be stressed out from work etc., but evenings like this enable me to appreciate my existence.

Posted by nathan at 11:50 PM | Comments (0)


October 08, 2002
Sparky's Magic Piano

I've been in far too introspective a mood recently. I was thinking the other day about the roots of my interest in music. This is almost certainly down to my father, who loves pieces like Rigoletto and Mahler 4, and my mother's fascination with the lyrics of Sondheim, the singing of Cleo Laine and Barbra Streisand. (I know, I know). For some reason, I wanted to listen to a childhood favourite record Tubby the Tuba and Sparky's Magic Piano. I managed to find Sparky on CD at Amazon, and I had some gift vouchers, so bought it online. Given that I also purchased Kazuo Ishiguro's The Unconsoled and Geoffrey R Moore's Crossing the Chasm, some packer will have had fun in his cod psychoanalysis.

Sparky was so magical. A little boy's dream of being able to play the piano better than his teacher, better than anyone. On stage in concert performances, playing the most wonderful music such as the Flight of the Bumble Bee and Rachmaninov's Prelude in C Sharp Minor Opus 3 No 2.

And then the realisation that the magic has ended. The piano will no longer play for him and he makes a fool of himself onstage. "Sparky, Sparky.... wake up". It was all a dream, but he has received the gift of inspiration - he'll practice harder now.

What a treat - and what ludicrous sentimentality! But with it I too have the priceless gift of music from my parents.

Posted by nathan at 08:46 PM | Comments (1)


October 06, 2002
What the pictures tell me

I spent some time today writing text for my new personal web site, JustNathan.com - I'm still not sure why I'm doing it, as it's bound to be oversentimental, self-indulgent and offensive to those closest to me.

The text was hard enough to write, and I found the style difficult. I opened a box of photographs and sifted through them to find pictures that could be scanned to illustrate some of the text. After ten minutes I found myself in tears as I saw pictures of my younger brother, his wife and children, who are growing up without a family.

All those pictures of Scotland, Japan, Germany, America, Mexico, Peru, friends, family, loved ones. Only fifteen years have passed since the earliest snap in the box, and we are all so old, and some of us faded or dead. I couldn't stop crying.

The introspection of the exercise has robbed me of any levity which remained when I started in so foolhardy a fashion a fortnight ago. The text reads as over-earnest, and perhaps reads for that reason as insincere, a pose.

I listened to my Solti Maher 3 - it lifted me beyond the cares of the world, to a place where intellect and nature fuse in joyous harmony.


I've reproduced the text I composed for the home page, just in case I remove it from there.

Thank you for visiting JustNathan. I've written the first version of the text for this web site in early October 2002.

JustNathan may come across as being rather self-indulgent, oversentimental, and telling you more than you may wish to know about my thoughts, interests, my family and friends. If so, I apologise. I realised as I was writing that you will receive a somewhat distorted view of me. This partly reflects my view at the moment, and is perhaps also a function of the introspection caused by the need to write and, particularly to summarise my life to date. Some of it hurts, but I'll let you work out what - it's not all obvious. A former manager called me "intellectually terrifying". I felt that to be less than perspicacious, and didn't reflect the true balance between my heart and head.

Reading this myself, some trends seem apparent:
- The influence I have had from people such as Gustav Mahler, Jeremy Rosen, Tom Stoppard, Douglas R Hofstadter and Mario Vargas Llosa (see the connection?)
- Sentimentality and romanticism (how does that fit in the classical versus romantic scale, given my earlier comment?)
- Questioning of orthodoxy in thought of all sorts, including politics and religion. But is that free-thinking?
- How important is the "gay thing" really in my life?
- Given to too many highbrow pursuits (I assure you that is a distortion)
- If I describe myself as "a Jewish eclectic iconoclast", how much of that is real, and how much a pose? And can I distinguish that myself?

And I'm probably rather too fond of D minor. Entartete Kunst, indeed.

Anyway, I suggest that you either use the little "x" in the top right hand corner of your screen or read, decide for yourself, and perhaps correspond with me. After all, JustNathan is merely another human being sharing your planet and the air that you breathe. Probably.

6th October 2002

Posted by nathan at 07:45 PM | Comments (0)