Monday, May 19, 2008

Long Road Trip Ahead

As Joshua mentioned on his blog this morning, very early Thursday morning he and I will embark upon a long road trip.

On Thursday, we will drive nonstop from early morning until late at night from Minneapolis to Oklahoma in order to attend the Friday night high school graduation of Josh’s sister.

On Saturday, we will drive nonstop from early morning until late at night from Oklahoma to Denver in order to help my brother prepare for his move back home in July.

On Tuesday, we will drive nonstop from early morning until late at night from Denver back to Minneapolis.

The first leg of our journey will be almost 800 miles, the second leg will be over 600 miles, and the final leg will be over 900 miles. Virtually all of our journey will be on interstate highways, happily, but it will be a very long program of nonstop driving.

En route to each destination, we will stop only to replenish fuel. We will take our own food with us so that we do not have to stop and eat along the way. We decided tonight what foods to take with us, foods we can eat in the car without leaving a trail of crumbs.

We will get the foods together Wednesday night, and put everything in a cooler, ready to be picked up and placed in the car early Thursday morning: tuna salad sandwiches with cucumber on whole wheat bread, chicken salad sandwiches with cucumber on rye bread, roast beef sandwiches with Swiss cheese and green pepper on onion rolls, ham sandwiches with Swiss cheese and radish on potato rolls, and salmon sandwiches with red onion on English muffins; cucumber slices, carrot sticks, celery sticks and radishes; apples and pears and boxes of raisins; oatmeal raisin cookies; individual servings of apple juice, cranberry juice and apple-cranberry juice; and thermoses of milk and coffee.

My mother is going to help us, because she will bake the oatmeal raisin cookies on Wednesday afternoon. She will bake a pot roast and a small ham on Wednesday afternoon, too, and she will bring those items over to us on Wednesday night, when we will all have dinner together. Josh and I will boil chicken pieces and grill tuna steaks and poach salmon that night, and between the pot roast, the ham, the boiled chicken, the grilled tuna and the poached salmon, all of us can eat a little of anything or everything for Wednesday night’s dinner. After dinner, we will prepare the sandwiches for the road trip and send the remainder of the food home with my parents, who will have their Thursday night dinner virtually ready for them a day in advance.

My parents only have to worry about food for Thursday, because on Friday morning they will go to New York to visit my older brother and his family over the Memorial Day weekend.

Tonight Josh and I selected the music we will listen to during our road trip. Josh said that he wanted to listen to three operas—operas he has never heard, operas completely new to him, but nevertheless mainstream operas that every civilized person should know—but he also stipulated that the operas had to feature “great, great, great” music, be “immediately appealing”, and be assured of sustaining his interest for the length of the drama over repeated listens.

That’s a tall order, which seemed to eliminate just about everything, but we settled upon Mozart’s “The Magic Flute”, Beethoven’s “Fidelio” and Weber’s “Der Freischutz”. Consequently, on Wednesday night my parents, in addition to the pot roast and the ham, will bring over Otto Klemperer’s recordings of the Mozart and the Beethoven, and Joseph Keilberth’s recording of the Weber. If Josh dislikes all three of these works, I will be immensely surprised—and I will be forced to entertain him with my Jimmy Stewart impersonations.

Josh and I did not have any notably good or original ideas what to present to his sister for a graduation gift, so we had asked her what she would most like from us. She told us that what she would most like would be to go somewhere this summer, before college, and to go somewhere interesting—I do not think she found the family baseball road trip last summer to be her ideal version of a vacation—and that her parents had agreed to allow her to go somewhere this summer as long as she was accompanied by Josh and me. (Apparently her and Josh’s parents suffer under the grave misapprehension that Joshua and I are responsible individuals. Wherever did they get such an absurd notion?)

Josh’s sister knows that he and I are considering going somewhere in July and/or August, and she wants to come with us if the destination interests her. If our chosen destination does not interest her, she wants us to take her to New York for a few days before school starts.

Our gift to her, accordingly, is a summer trip, final destination yet to be determined. However, we also have another gift to present to her in person on Friday to mark her very special occasion.

My mother will be busy with some of her own gifts, too. She told us tonight that she will bake zucchini bread and lemon poppy seed bread on Wednesday for us to drop off in Oklahoma and Denver (my mother’s zucchini bread, made with lots of walnuts and raisins, and lemon poppy seed bread are to die for).

She also mentioned that someone in Denver will be eating chocolate whiskey cake very, very soon (I have literally no idea whom she’s talking about).

My mother’s chocolate whiskey cake is made from the very darkest, very richest chocolate, and it is divine.

I just hope Josh and I don’t lose all discipline and self-control, and eat the chocolate whiskey cake ourselves en route!


  1. Andrew, I was going to suggest, since Bach is Josh's fav composer, that you also take that disc of Bach cantatas performed by Gardiner - the one you never heard. Just as a backup, in case Josh hates ALL those operas (highly unlikely). Of course, you may BOTH hate the Gardiner; but at least you will have something else to talk about!

    It's a damn shame that recording of "Der Ring des Nibelungen" with Jimmy Steward singing Siegmund and Siegfried is no longer in print. Wow, what a conversation piece! Conducted by Ernest MacMillan in Los Angeles with the American Christmas Box Symphony - later to become Bruno Walter's orchestra - in 1944, the recording also features Anna Russell singing ALL THE major female roles and Astrid Varnay as the Woodbird! Can you even imagine the last Act of "Die Walkuere"?

    I don't envy your road trip. Make sure also that the car is in top shape.


  2. Yes, that's Jimmy Stewart, not StewarD. Jimmy, you probably know, took a quick leave from the 453rd Bombardment Group to make this recording. It was reported in the Amphisbaena Whisperer that Stewart's leave took place between his 19th and 20th B-24 mission into Germany; but others have asserted that the recording WAS his 20th mission!


  3. Of course, that huge set of 78’s didn’t sell at all in America, despite the draw of Stewart’s name. Recent scholarship attributes the commercial failure of this pioneering “Ring” more to the fact that all of the notes above E (below high C) which Steward “sang” were dubbed by Wolfgang Windgassen.

    So embarrassed was EMI over the scandal, that they didn’t try such a ruse again until a decade later, when they signed Walter Legge’s wife to do similar honors for Kirsten Flagstaff - to much subtler effect, I might add. But between 1944 and 1969 EMI denied the Jimmy Stewart / Siegfried recording ever existed. In a 1969 libel lawsuit against The Amphisbaena Whisperer, EMI cited the fact that the twenty official bombing missions conducted by Stewart were for the 445th – not the 453rd - Bombardment Group. The AW responded in June 1969:

    “. . . In 1961 James Stewart confided to co-star John Wayne on the set of “The Man who shot Liberty Valance,” that he had led a grand total of FORTY deep penetrations behind enemy lines before July 1944. The Duke in turn told director John Ford, who later informed Alfred Hitchcock, who told actor Anthony Perkins, who told Tab Hunter in bed; Tab Hunter blabbed to Brigitte Bardot, who, on the set of “Dear Brigitte” in 1965, told Jimmy Stewart. Steward’s response: “Are you insane, Brigitte? I never got off even once!”

    So, I guess we will never know how many missions he flew for the 453rd.


  4. Dane:

    Speaking of John Eliot Gardiner, did you know that he is currently conducting Verdi's "Simon Boccanegra" at Covent Garden? I cannot imagine a more bizarre choice to lead that noble work.

    It is probably a good thing that Josh chose operas completely unknown to him for us to listen to on the trip. The works will hold his attention--great music, great dramas--and I can listen to all three works endlessly.

    Going back to John Eliot Gardiner, have you heard his Archiv recording of "The Magic Flute"? It is one of the most inept recordings ever made. Gardiner is totally clueless how to conduct Mozart. In his hands, Mozart sounds like wallpaper music. If your library has a copy, you might want to check it out and give it a listen, if only for a few laughs.

    Alas, I have never heard the legendary Jimmy Stewart Ring, unique as it is. Is it possible that the Stewart Estate is holding up its reissue? Wagnerians surely lament.

    Josh and I are saving that Gardiner recording of Bach cantatas for New Year's Day 2049. It will give us something to look forward to over the years.


  5. Correction: Kirsten Flagstad.


  6. Oh, please don't get me started on Gardiner's Magic Flute! Pain, pain.

    By the time you hear the Gardiner disc, Andrew, you'll be 69. Good choice.


  7. And, if I'm lucky, I'll already be dead.

  8. Andrew, I'll be dead before I hear Gardiner's recording of "Simon Boccanegra." Bliss.


  9. I think you should fly to London to attend one of the remaining "Boccanegra" performances. Apparently Gardiner has to be heard to be believed.

    As preparation, during the flight you can listen to Gardiner's "Magic Flute" recording.

  10. You're killing me, Andrew.


  11. Dane, sometimes truly bad performances can be fun, you know.

    In a perverse sort of way, I would almost like to hear what kind of hash Gardiner makes of the Verdi.

    Whoever at Covent Garden made such a ridiculous conductor decision? And did Pappano approve of Gardiner's engagement, knowing it would make the London public value his own skills in Verdi even more?

    Check out today's edition of One of the reviews takes a few swipes at Gardiner. You might enjoy it.

  12. Hey, Andrew:

    Have you visited Mr. Noise's blog lately?

    He has a piece on Vanska. Apparently, Osmo is a genius in his estimation. Is this valid?

    I take some Angela, too, if I were you and Joshua.


  13. J.R.:

    Is Mr. Noise Alex Ross? The same person who wrote on his blog that he "dreaded" the prospect of Riccardo Muti being named conductor of the New York Philharmonic?

    I shall have to check him out.

    How are you? Have you been excused from jury duty yet?

    I hope you have a wonderful holiday weekend planned.


  14. I see what you are talking about now, J.R.

    No, Vanska is not a genius. He is no better than, and no worse than, Neeme Jarvi, if that tells you anything.

    Alex Ross is no judge of conductors or orchestras. He should be covering New York's downtown music scene and nothing more.

    The local papers had a few stories about Vanska' piece commemorating last summer's bridge collapse.

    I am not keen on such pieces, marking various disasters and tragedies. The proliferation of 9/11 pieces, for instance, practically made me vomit.

    Such events should be remembered, but not necessarily through musical composition.

  15. Yes, Andrew, it is the very same person.

    I have yet to mail that jury summons form. I shall do it in the next couple of days, definitely.

    I wish you a safe, worthwhile and enjoyable pilgrimage to the Mother Land...

    ...or, rather, the Heartland of America.

    I plan to stay at home this upcoming long weekend at you-know-who's apartment in the city.



  16. I've only heard Vanska on record: A Beethoven recording made in and with the Minnesota Orchestra.

  17. For what it's worth, I am told by reliable persons that the orchestra sounds much better on its Beethoven discs than it does in person. BIS knows how to manipulate orchestral sound in expert fashion.

    I never bothered to get any of the Vanska Beethoven discs.

    My father has so many Beethoven recordings that it seemed pointless.

  18. As for me, I own only a couple Beethovens: a piano concerto recital and No. 5 with Dudamel, who I've only just recently realized is about the same age as us!

    Is having a twenty-something music director even legal in most States?

    I wonder.

  19. Legal, but not advisable.

  20. I hope you guys have a safe trip.

    It's almost two years now since you guys left Washington. I miss you more every day.

    We will have to get together more once you're in Boston.

  21. Thanks, Paul.

    And you will indeed have to come up to Boston as often as possible. (The weather CAN'T be worse than it was in Minneapolis in January.)