Monday, October 30, 2006

Books And Discs

Joshua and I tend to read several books at a time, going back and forth between them. We like to choose a subject matter we want to learn more about, select between three and six books on that topic, and then begin reading. We just completed an extensive reading program on Russian history, which lasted us most of the summer, and now we are working on a hodgepodge of books, on no particular theme. We selected these books merely because we thought they would be of interest to us.

The Baltic: A History Of The Region And Its People by Alan Palmer

The Somme: Heroism and Horror In The First World War by Martin Gilbert

1945: The War That Never Ended by Gregor Dallas

June 1941: Hitler And Stalin by John Lukacs

The War Of The World: Twentieth Century Conflict And The Descent Of The West by Niall Ferguson

Rome's Greatest Defeat: Massacre In The Teutonburg Forest by Adrian Murdoch

Three of the books address facets of the two world wars, a subject both of us seem never to tire exploring. We are reading the Baltic book because we will be visiting the Hanseatic League cities of Northern Germany for two weeks over Thanksgiving (my father must travel to Hamburg on business, and he has asked my mother, my middle brother, and Josh and me to join him for the trip). We like to read Niall Ferguson because he is generally provocative. The last book on the list is sort of a wild card.

My Mom and Dad are also reading the Baltic book, and my father is also reading the Niall Ferguson book and the book about The Battle Of The Somme (he has already read the two books about World War II).

Josh and I also like to keep six different compact discs on our CD player for a week at a time. We select six discs of music from different eras, thereby providing us with a varied listening program for the week.

This week we selected:

Bach's Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1, 3 and 5, performed by the Akademie Fur Alte Musik, Berlin, on the Deutsche Harmonia Mundi label

Mozart's Symphonies Nos. 38 and 39, performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Rafael Kubelik, on the Sony label

Schubert Songs, performed by Janet Baker and Geoffrey Parsons, on the EMI label

Mussorgsky's Pictures At An Exhibition and Ravel's Valses Nobles Et Sentimentales performed by Ivo Pogorelich on the Deutsche Grammophon label

Nielsen's Symphonies Nos. 4 and 5, performed by the San Francisco Symphony under Herbert Blomstedt, on the Decca label

Czech A Capella Choral Music by Dvorak, Janacek and Eben, performed by the Prague Chamber Choir under Josef Pancik, on the ECM label

We are enjoying all of this week's discs except for the Bach, which we find difficult to enjoy because of severe lapses in intonation. The first time we put the disc on, we thought the disc had a manufacturing defect!

On the Czech a capella disc, the Janacek composition, "Our Father", is indescribably beautiful and moving, and new to both Josh and me. We played it for my parents, and they asked to hear it over and over again.

My parents know Janet Baker, and I met her once when I was eight or nine years old. She came to our house several times, including before I was born and when I was a baby, and she always told my parents that Minneapolis was her very favorite American venue. Being such a gracious guest, she may have said the very same thing to every American host, but she placed Minneapolis on her recital schedule for almost all of her American tours, and that probably signifies something about the sincerity of her remarks. My father says that a 1973 Janet Baker song recital was the finest song recital he ever heard, and he still remembers every composition she performed that night.

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