Monday, June 11, 2007

"Where's Otto Klemperer When You Need Him?"

Our weekend was pretty low-key.

Friday night Joshua and I and my parents went to hear the Minnesota Orchestra perform Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 2. The orchestra played very, very well, but I simply was not in the mood to hear Mahler that night, and neither was Joshua. I had hoped that something would happen to capture my attention once the performance got under way, but this was not to occur. Once Joshua and I had memorized the program booklet, and memorized the subscription brochure for next season, and memorized the list of this year's "Sommerfest" concerts, there were still another fifty minutes to go before the Mahler ended.

A lady seated next to me was leafing through a book during the performance--the title of the book was "Oceanic Wilderness", and I could see that there were lots and lots of photographs in it--and I was hoping that she would finish the book so that I could ask her whether I might kindly borrow it. "Oceanic Wilderness" is a book that would not normally be of much interest to me, but under the circumstances I found it to be uncommonly appealing. However, the book continued to hold her interest for the remainder of the performance, so I had to entertain myself by trying to decide whether it was more amusing to watch Vanska's choreography or to watch a nearby elderly couple keep nodding off, only to be jarred awake whenever the orchestra erupted in a loud passage.

By the end of the performance, I had identified, through careful study, the source of Vanska's dance moves: they came from Alvin Ailey's "Revelations", and Vanska was, amazingly, spot-on in his duplication of the choreography for the finale of that work. Until Friday night, I had had no idea that Vanska was even a fan of modern dance, let alone such a skilled practitioner at recreating modern-dance choreography from the late 1950's. There was no credit in the program booklet, so I trust that someone from the Alvin Ailey Estate was in attendance, in order that legal proceedings may be initiated, without delay, for copyright infringement.

On our way home Friday night, Josh told me that he never in his life was so happy to see a performance end. I told Josh that the Mahler Second, for me, was one of those works that required a certain frame of mind. In response, Josh said that he hoped never to experience that particular frame of mind, either in him or in me.

Josh likes Osmo Vanska even less than I do. He has taken to calling him Aksnav Omso, which I think is sort of funny, and so do my parents. Aksnav Omso sounds just like the name of a brand of Scandinavian dog food.

My parents were very high on Vanska for his first couple of years in Minneapolis--anyone would have looked good after Eiji Oue--but they are now tiring of Vanska. When we got home Friday night, I asked my parents what they had thought of Vanska's Mahler. My father said that he genuinely could not make up his mind--the surface of the score was fully realized, he said, but every time he started to think that Vanska was penetrating the spirit of the score, Vanska would do something weird to make him change his mind. My mother's opinion: "Where's Otto Klemperer when you need him?"

I wanted to sleep in on Saturday morning, but another member of the household--the one with a wet nose and floppy ears--had other thoughts. He was raring to go, ready to start his day, at 5:45 a.m., so I had to get up and take him to the park. Otherwise, he would have started barking, and wakened everyone.

We got our yard work done on Saturday, and we also did the painting we had planned to do. We had to be very attentive while we painted, because another member of the household--the one with sharp teeth and extremely acute hearing--was very curious about the paint cans, and wanted to stick his nose and tongue into the paint, and create whatever general disorder he could.

Saturday evening we attended Vivica Genaux's recital. She is a fine singer, but she has a habit of craning her head and neck from side to side, and up and down, and back and forth, as if she needs to place her head and neck in a very particular position in order to find a note. I found this to be irritating, and so did Josh, and so did my parents.

I thought that Genaux did a truly excellent job in Haydn's "Arianna A Naxos". I was very impressed.

It was nice to hear Carl Loewe's version of "Frauenliebe", which was entirely pleasant, but I can understand why this version is so seldom heard. It lacks the pathos, and depth of feeling, and emotional range, of the Schumann.

In the second half of her recital, Genaux sang Rossini, and Pauline Viardot, and some zarzuela numbers, and she handled them well, I thought. I wish, however, that someone would work with her on those head-and-neck contortions.

On Sunday, Josh and I were in charge of the dog after church. We entertained him out-of-doors, nonstop, all afternoon. Last night, for dinner, we baked two chickens: one for him and one for us. He got his tummy full, and he was happy, and content.

My parents came by and got him around 8:00 p.m., and they asked Josh and me whether we wanted to go home with them and watch the Tony Awards. We declined--we had watched that award show last year, and had found it to be insufferable--so my parents took the dog home, and Josh and I spent a quiet evening by ourselves.

It was nice.


  1. Andrew, judging from what I've read about the show, I myself was glad that I opted to read and watch the Simpsons instead. For me, the excitement and the prestige of the Tonys are a thing of the past.


  2. Thanks, Opera Chanteuse.

    I don't think we missed much.