Sunday, May 29, 2011

Panathenaic Procession

New York City Ballet in Jerome Robbins's "Antique Epigraphs".

Boston Ballet In Balanchine And Robbins

Last weekend Joshua and I went downtown to catch the final program of Boston Ballet’s season.

Works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins were presented; it was precisely the kind of evening that might be encountered at New York City Ballet.

Balanchine’s “Divertimento No. 15” was the first work on the program. Created in 1956 and danced to Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15 In B Flat Major For Two Horns And Strings, K. 287, “Divertimento No. 15” enjoys an exalted reputation. The ballet is among the most technically-demanding of all Balanchine works and was designed to show off the stunning array of ballerinas on the roster of New York City Ballet during the 1950s.

Learned dance writers have claimed that NYCB performances of “Divertimento No. 15” were unforgettable when the ballet was new. These same dance writers have insisted, however, that the magic of “Divertimento No. 15” disappeared during the early 1960s and has never been recaptured.

Before last weekend, I had seen “Divertimento No. 15” on a single occasion. It had been danced by NYCB—and it had left me unmoved.

The ballet calls for sixteen dancers: eight principals (five female, three male) and eight corps members (all female). “Divertimento No. 15” has all the intricacy of “Theme And Variations”—and requires a comparable level of bravura dancing. Nevertheless, “Divertimento No. 15” has never acquired the popularity of “Theme And Variations”.

“Divertimento No. 15” is, of course, a much more subtle ballet than “Theme And Variations”—and in this sense the two ballets mirror their musical scores: the Mozart composition is much more subtle than the Tchaikovsky composition (the final movement of Orchestral Suite No. 3).

I think a different factor, however, accounts for the relative lack of popularity of “Divertimento No. 15”: the ballet’s casting requirements are near-impossible. The ballet calls for five great ballerinas, all called upon to dance roles specifically tailored to showcase the gifts of five amazing dancers: Diana Adams, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent, Tanaquil LeClerq and Patricia Wilde. What company today can call upon such a wealth of talent as well as devote the countless hours of rehearsal time necessary to bring the ballet to life?

New York City Ballet’s current revivals of “Divertimento No. 15” are generally considered to be wan—and New York City Ballet enjoys the finest roster of dancers on the planet. Boston Ballet’s “Divertimento No. 15” was an enterprising project, but the result resembled more a ballet academy’s graduation exercise than a professional company’s thoughtful and considered rendering of one of Balanchine’s most challenging works.

During the entire performance of “Divertimento No. 15”, I thought Boston Ballet was in over its head. Simply put, the company was not in command of the ballet’s technical requirements, which rendered any explorations of the ballet’s style and content largely irrelevant. There was no specificity in the dancing, no playing off or playing against the music, no sense that anything other than the execution of difficult dance steps was the company’s objective.

The second part of the program was devoted to two Robbins works, both danced to Debussy: “Afternoon Of A Faun” and “Antique Epigraphs”.

Robbins’s “Afternoon Of A Faun” bears no resemblance to Vaslav Nijinksy’s version—except that both ballets are conspicuously narcissistic.

Robbins’s “Afternoon Of A Faun” is without plot. It depicts two dancers in a dance studio rehearsing first individually and then together. The studio’s imaginary mirror is between the stage and the auditorium—and the dancers are called upon repeatedly to admire themselves in the “mirror” as they face the audience.

There is nothing of choreographic interest in “Afternoon Of A Faun”. I am amazed that this 1953 work remains in the repertory—and I am even more amazed that it has become one of Robbins’s most popular works. The ballet is nothing more than a very thin pas de deux. I believe audiences must respond to the hints of romance that underlie the action. It is a ballet whose appeal should be limited to teenagers.

“Antique Epigraphs”, on the other hand, is one of a handful of Robbins ballets I very much like.

The choreography is very simple: eight female dancers recall the myths of ancient Greece by adopting, often in unison, a series of movements and poses inspired by Greek friezes and statuary.

It all sounds very Martha Graham, but in fact the ballet uses Classical vocabulary and bears none of Graham’s Expressionist tendencies. Further, the ballet carries no intellectual pretensions, which cannot be said of much of Robbins’s work. The ballet succeeds because it is so simple—and I am pleased that this 1984 ballet is now beginning to acquire a significant number of performances. Minor though it is, “Antique Epigraphs” will, I predict, establish a permanent place for itself in the ballet repertory.

Boston Ballet’s performance was satisfactory—“Antique Epigraphs” is not a difficult work to bring off—and I was delighted to encounter the work again. “Antique Epigraphs” is gravely beautiful; the ballet possesses an undeniable magic.

The program concluded with Balanchine’s “Symphony In Three Movements”, a recognized masterwork from the day it was unveiled in 1972.

“Symphony In Three Movements” is breathless with activity—it is perhaps Balanchine’s most overtly-energetic ballet—and packed with incident. Even the repose of the second movement does not dissipate the tension and excitement built during the bustling first movement.

The stage is alive at all times with striking images that became iconic on opening night. Sixteen female members of the corps, outfitted in white leotards, compete for attention with ten dancers (five female, five male) clad in black and white. Against this backdrop, three female principal dancers dressed in pink dance a dazzling array of maneuvers with three male principal dancers. The shifting onstage patterns are arresting; the eye hardly knows where to look. The ballet flies by in an instant.

Boston Ballet was at its best Saturday night in “Symphony In Three Movements”. The dancers innately understood the material (which was certainly not true of “Divertimento No. 15”) and gave a largely accomplished performance.

There is something inherently “American” about “Symphony In Three Movements”—the ballet could only have been created on an American company—that defies even the best efforts of European dance companies. The “American” essence of “Symphony In Three Movements” probably accounts for the fact that Boston Ballet gave its finest performance of the evening in the work.

Using Stravinsky’s very Russian music (albeit written in America), Balanchine assembled a work that is astonishing in its distinctly American vitality, openness and breeziness. There is the same effortless “throwaway” virtuosity in “Symphony In Three Movements” that is seen in the best of the classic Broadway musicals; in both cases, undue earnestness will kill the works’ appeal in a flash. The ballet is beautifully crafted, polished to the nines and instantly engaging—yet it is a work of great substance, with undercurrents of a bewildering array of events and emotions.

“Symphony In Three Movements” represents a type of high art that only Americans can create and perform—and the ballet, in my view, is the most “American” of all Balanchine works, more so even than his ballets set to American music.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Guests, Degrees, Visits, Lamps

Graduation guests will arrive tomorrow afternoon, and will be with us until Friday morning, when they will depart.

The next three days will be about business—all business and nothing but business—and we have no activities scheduled for our guests except graduation activities.

We and our guests will eat dinner together tomorrow night, Wednesday night and Thursday night, but that will be the extent of our opportunities for socializing.

Wednesday and Thursday are packed with incident, morning and afternoon. It all seems a bit much. In my opinion, a single ceremonial event should suffice.

Because Joshua and I are preparing for our move back home, our guests will spend no unnecessary time in Boston. There will be no sightseeing, no touring, no exploring, no time for leisure.

All things considered, graduation from law school is an anti-climax. Because law graduates must immediately undertake preparations for bar exams, there is no respite, no sense of a milestone having been reached, no opportunity to stop and reflect upon past achievements.

Instead, there is the continued onward press of business—and the prospect of relief only once bar exam results are released.


Josh is mostly blasé about graduation. Indeed, he has been disappointed that three idle weeks have been inserted between completion of final exams and graduation events.

While Josh has been busy the last three weeks (studying for the Minnesota Bar Exam), he would much have preferred that graduation ceremonies immediately follow completion of final exams. This would have allowed us to return home sooner.

Josh is a little miffed about the prolonged schedule of graduation activities, the strict allotment of graduation tickets (very limited in number), and the choices of commencement speakers, choices that largely render the graduation ceremonies themselves an exercise in ideology, most unsuitable for a non-ideological event at an elite educational institution.

Josh’s parents, naturally, will have use of tickets to all commencement events. However, for all graduation events, only three or four tickets are allotted per graduate, depending upon event, and Josh does not know how to allot the extra one or two tickets.

I suggested that Josh divide the extra remaining tickets between his sister and brother, and allow my parents and me to sit on the grass at the edge of the various venues (which should increase the likelihood that we will not be able to hear the speeches by Alec Baldwin and The President Of Liberia, speeches in which we have utterly no interest).

Josh, however, does not want my mother to have to sit on the grass. Consequently, he wants to give my mother the third ticket to all events, and he wants to give my father the fourth ticket to events for which a fourth ticket is allotted.

We shall have to sort things out tomorrow night once our guests are in town.


Josh’s brother and sister never made it to Boston to visit us during our three years here. We had hoped they might come for a visit but, between school and their summer jobs, they were unable to make the trip.

Josh’s parents never made it to Boston, either, but we had never really expected them to come for a visit, what with the demands of Josh’s father’s trial practice.

My middle brother did not come to Boston for a visit this year. It was the first time since I was a freshman in college that he had not logged at least one annual visit to wherever I was living or studying. Last year, he had visited us twice. The previous year, he had visited us once. This year, however, planning for a visit never got off the ground.

My parents made annual visits to Boston, always coming in the fall.

Otherwise, no one accepted our invitations for visits.

And, as we leave next Wednesday, no more invitations will be forthcoming.


On Saturday night, Josh and I went downtown to attend the season-ending program presented by Boston Ballet. Works by George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins were performed.

We do not know when we shall have another occasion to catch Boston Ballet in action. It may be years before Josh and I return to Boston for a visit—and Boston Ballet seldom tours, so there will be no prospect of seeing Boston Ballet in the Twin Cities.

Boston Ballet is a regional company, nothing more, yet we enjoyed the opportunity to experience the work of a high-quality regional ballet company.

We probably shall miss Boston Ballet. Minneapolis is home to no major dance company, and next year we shall have to content ourselves with the dance events sponsored by the University Of Minnesota, most of which will not appeal to us.

A few weeks ago, I looked at the Northrop schedule for next season, and I recall that only a couple of items created much interest: a visit to the Twin Cities by Houston Ballet; a visit to the Twin Cities by The Royal Winnipeg Ballet; and a visit to the Twin Cities by Scottish Ballet, which will be giving rare performances of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Das Lied Von Der Erde”, a ballet I have never seen and about which I have some curiosity.


This coming weekend, we shall do our final packing and disassembling, in preparation for Tuesday’s visit from the movers.

Everything will be shipped to my older brother’s house.

When we arrived in Boston, Josh and I bought new furniture, since we decided—once we saw our new living quarters—that our tiny apartment needed all the help it could get.

On Labor Day Weekend 2008, everyone in my family visited us for a few hours, driving up from New York that Sunday—and my older brother told me that day that he liked our furniture and that he thought our living-room furniture was perfect for a den.

In response, I told him that the furniture was his if he still wanted it three years hence—and he says he still wants it.

He plans to use our living-room furniture for his den, which has been completely empty since he and my sister-in-law bought their current home. He likes our sofa, he likes our end tables, he likes our bookshelves, and he likes our complicated computer module, which allows two persons to work at two computers and which includes space for a sound system, a television and other equipment.

He insists that the ensemble is perfect for him, and perfect for his den—and he will be pleased to see that everything still looks showroom new after three years of use, as Josh and I have tended the furniture with great care.

My brother especially likes our living-room lamps—one with a royal blue base, one with a rose-colored base, and one with a cut-glass crystal base—and we have been kidding him, relentlessly, about his new-found interest in lamps, of all things.

The bedroom furniture from our Boston apartment will be placed in a guest room in my older brother’s house—and I secretly believe that he is most interested in the bedroom lamp, which has a beautiful painted Chinese base.


Josh and I will hit the road early Wednesday morning.

We do not intend to drive straight through. We intend to stop somewhere along the way, and arrive home sometime Thursday night.

My parents will have to put with us for a period, but I think that Josh and I may spend some time up at the lake house while Josh studies for his bar exams.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Seven Years Too Late, Fifteen Years Too Early

Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) at his writing desk late in life.

I have recently been rereading “Beneath The Wheel”, Hesse’s first enduring book.

“Beneath The Wheel” is a very poetic work, with pages of great beauty—but it is also unmistakably the work of a 22-year-old.

Alas, Hesse was 29 years old when he wrote “Beneath The Wheel”—and therein lies the rub.

This semi-autobiographical portrait of a precocious young man forced to come to terms with the insensitivity of the world around him lacks the concentrated flame of the first rush of youthful genius. Hesse was seven years too late in writing the novel.

It also lacks the detached observation and probing psychological insight that mark the work of the mature novelist. Hesse was fifteen years away from refining his skills into mastery.

Neither fish nor fowl, “Beneath The Wheel” provides a frustrating reading experience—and yet it captures with great accuracy a particular moment in time in late-Wilhelmine Germany that was soon to be washed away forever.

Such a book could not have been written after 1914.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Wunderlich And Hotter

Fritz Wunderlich and Hans Hotter in Richard Strauss's "Die Schweigsame Frau" in Salzburg in 1959.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Help Wanted

Can a reader provide assistance in identifying this photograph?

I believe it represents a Central European architect circa 1875.

Tempo, Pulse

It’s true that practically all of the greatest performances that I can remember have been slower than average.

Adrian Boult

Budapest Opera House

The interior of the Budapest Opera House in 1947. Otto Klemperer was Music Director of the Budapest Opera at the time.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Wherein Some Daring Dances Figured



Berlin Court Condemns Editor Of Kleine Journal To A Month In Prison




Insinuated King Leopold Decorated Prima Donna After She Had Participated In “Bacchanalian Feast”


Special Cable To The New York Times

Berlin, November 15—Fraulein Frieda Hempel of the Metropolitan Opera House, New York, won today her suit for criminal libel against the editor of Kleine Journal, a sensational weekly, which insinuated that her decoration of the Leopold Order was conferred upon her by the late King Of The Belgians following her participation in an orgy at Leopold’s Summer Palace at Ostend.

The offending editor was sentenced to imprisonment for one month.

Fraulein Hempel filed suit against the proprietor of the offending newspaper in December 1912, just before sailing to America to appear at the Metropolitan Opera House. The incident narrated in the paper was alleged to have occurred at the Ostend Villa of the Baroness Vaughan, the morganatic wife of the late King Leopold.

Fraulein Hempel’s testimony was given by deposition, as she was not able to appear personally on account of her engagements to sing in America. She denied that after the King had departed from the soiree ”champagne corks popped like shots from a rapid-fire gun” and that the affair became “a Bacchanalian feast” wherein some daring dances figured. She said that she went to the Villa to sing just as if it had been a regular professional engagement and that she went home as soon as the concert was over.

The publication of the insinuations about her, she maintained in her complaint, would tend to injure her in the eyes of Americans.


Published November 16, 1913
The New York Times

Sunday, May 08, 2011

"A Concert In The Year 1846"

Graphics artist Andreas Geiger’s famed “satirical picture” of Hector Berlioz, “A Concert In The Year 1846”.

Dutoit In Berlioz

Last night, Joshua and I went to Symphony Hall to hear Charles Dutoit lead the Boston Symphony in Berlioz’s “Romeo And Juliet”.

The Boston Symphony has a distinguished history performing “Romeo And Juliet”. Both Charles Munch and Seiji Ozawa recorded the work, famously, during their respective tenures as Music Director of the Boston Symphony.

The Boston Symphony’s former special expertise in French music is now a thing of the past. The orchestra no longer has anything special to offer in French repertory. The orchestra’s thick, flabby sound, the chief legacy of the disastrous James Levine years, is much too “Germanic” to reveal the color and piquancy of French music. Further, the orchestra no longer has the flair needed to bring French music to life—the orchestra’s collective sense of rhythm is too square and plodding, its phrasing too blunt if not brutal, the elegant and patrician style of music-making from fifty years ago replaced by an unattractive and disheartening brusqueness and beefiness. This is an orchestra in dire need of a competent Music Director.

Dutoit is a fine if not particularly memorable conductor of Berlioz—yet he is the finest Berlioz conductor that may be heard on a regular basis today in the United States.

Dutoit’s Berlioz, in my experience, tends toward the light and fleet—Dutoit’s Berlioz certainly lacks the color, depth and drama of Colin Davis’s Berlioz—and I often find a “bleached” quality in Dutoit’s Berlioz performances. Nonetheless, Dutoit’s Berlioz is undeniably French in outlook; no one would mistake Dutoit’s Berlioz interpretations as emanating from Central Europe.

Last night, I thought that Dutoit viewed his chief mission as one of keeping things moving. Had Dutoit had the Philadelphia Orchestra at his disposal, I suspect Dutoit would have sought more color and drama from the musicians—and allowed first-desk personnel to participate actively in lending shape and character to the performance. However, given what he had to work with, Dutoit kept a tight rein on the proceedings. There was very much a “traffic cop” aspect to his leadership—and Dutoit cannot be faulted for such an approach, since Dutoit knows as well as anyone alive how to gauge what results may be obtained from a particular band of musicians and what results may not.

Two years ago, Josh and I had heard Dutoit lead the Boston Symphony in music of Ravel, Prokofiev and Stravinsky. That night had been a very happy one for us—and, from his smiles, it had been a happy night for Dutoit, too.

There were fewer smiles from Dutoit last night. Dutoit’s tense if not grim facial expression suggested that he simply wanted to get through the score without suffering a major incident.

The best thing about last night’s performance was mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink. Fink possesses a glorious voice. She has been blessed with a unique timbre, she has been granted a voice of extraordinary color and richness, she knows how to phrase with great specificity, and she knows how to project a text. Fink is one of the finest singers currently before the public. I would drive 200 miles in an instant to hear her in recital.

The other soloists were Jean-Paul Fouchecourt and Laurent Naouri, neither of whom is in possession of a unique timbre and both of whom command voices of pronounced dryness.

The chorus was the Tanglewood Festival Chorus, which performed to its usual low standard. Why is choral singing in Boston so atrocious? Is it something in the water supply?

Josh and I learned last night that this week’s performances of “Romeo And Juliet” were the very first performances of the work by the Boston Symphony that did not include an intermission. We were astonished when this very odd fact was brought to our attention. I cannot conceive of a more wrong-headed notion than inserting an intermission into “Romeo And Juliet”. The very idea is as laughable as inserting intermissions into performances of Brahms’s Requiem.

Contrary to reports in at least one Boston news outlet, Dutoit was not filling in this week for an indisposed Levine. Dutoit had always been scheduled to lead this week’s “Romeo And Juliet” performances.

Last night marked the end of the Boston Symphony’s 2010-2011 subscription series. It also marked the final time Josh and I will hear the Boston Symphony as residents of Boston.

The next time we hear the orchestra, I hope it will be with Riccardo Chailly at the helm, with a couple of years of reparative work already under the belts of orchestra and conductor.

Friday, May 06, 2011

"The Worst Conceivable Omen For The Next Twelve Years"

This evening's Mosquito raid was particularly disastrous for me because our Ministry was hit.

The whole lovely building on the Wilhelmstrasse was totally destroyed by a bomb. The throne-room, the Blue Gallery and my newly rebuilt theater hall are nothing but a heap of ruins.

I drove straight to the Ministry to see the devastation for myself. One's heart aches to see so unique a product of the architect's art, such as this building was, totally flattened in a second. What trouble we had taken to reconstruct the theater hall, the throne-room and the Blue Gallery in the old style! With what care had we chosen every fresco on the walls and every piece of furniture!

And now it has all been given over to destruction.

In addition, fire has now broken out in the ruins, bringing with it an even greater risk, since 500 bazooka missiles are stored underneath the burning wreckage. I do my utmost to get the fire brigade to the scene as quickly and in as great strength as possible, so as at least to prevent the bazooka missiles exploding.

As I do all this I am overcome with sadness. It is 12 years to the day—13 March—since I entered this Ministry as Minister. It is the worst conceivable omen for the next twelve years.

Joseph Goebbels, Germany’s Minister Of Public Enlightenment And Propaganda, writing in his diary on 13 March 1945


There were not to be another twelve years, either for Goebbels or for the Ministry. There were to be only another 49 days.


The bombing of the Ministry Of Public Enlightenment And Propaganda occurred on the night of March 12/March 13, 1945. When Goebbels, in his diary entry of March 13, wrote of “this evening’s Mosquito raid”, he was actually referring to the raid of the previous night.

The photograph below shows the bombed Ministry building on 13 March 1945, the day after the overnight bombing raid.

As may be seen in the photograph, much of the bomb damage had already been cleared from Berlin’s streets. Even in the very last days of the war, workers throughout Germany cleared city streets of rubble within hours of air raids; such efficiency was remarkable.

Goebbels’s Ministry occupied two buildings. The original Ministry building, Leopold Palace (also known as Ordenspalais), was the building destroyed on the night of March 12/March 13.

Leopold Palace had been purchased by the German government in 1919 to serve as a government press building. Leopold Palace previously had served as home to various princes of the Hohenzollern crown; with the collapse of the Hohenzollern dynasty in November 1918, the German government decided to make use of the structure, and turned it into a government building. This accounts for Goebbels’s unlikely references to a throne room, a blue gallery and a theater in his Ministry building—all were remnants of the building’s royal past.

A modern annex for the Ministry was constructed during the 1930s and was repeatedly enlarged, even during wartime; the modern annex only reached its final form under Goebbels in 1942 (and was to be enlarged yet again after the war by East Berlin authorities). The modern annex suffered damage during the same air raid that destroyed Leopold Palace, but the modern annex was neither destroyed nor burned out. The modern annex still stands, and remains in use; it today houses one of Germany’s many federal agencies.

Whenever persons encounter, in books or online, photographs of Goebbels’s Ministry, the photographs invariably depict the 1930s annex and not Leopold Palace.

The ruins of Leopold Palace were dynamited and bulldozed by the East German government in 1947. Nothing of Leopold Palace remains in present-day Berlin.

The photograph below shows one of the grand public rooms of Leopold Palace in 1926.

As Goebbels mentioned in his diary, his Ministry had restored Leopold Palace to a lavish standard while Goebbels was Minister. The photograph below, from 1940, shows the theater of Leopold Palace after the Nazi-era restoration.

Goebbels conducted press briefings and other public events in the theater.

It was a very handsome space, featuring design of the highest standard.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Aid And Assistance

This rare—and very intense—color photograph was taken in Russia in 1942 and shows an injured German soldier on the Eastern Front.

Fellow German soldiers have come to the aid of the wounded man.

Their efforts may have been in vain. Is not the wounded soldier’s left arm at the very bottom of the photograph?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Marriage And Class In America

Among the upper-middle class, marriage continues to be the norm. Among the lower-middle class, though, marriage rates have collapsed.

This has created a cultural gulf between classes in America that affects every aspect of life, and arguably threatens the cohesion of America itself . . .

In 1960, 88 per cent of upper-middle-class adults were married. In 2010, the figure was 83 per cent, a small drop.

But among the working class, 83 per cent of whom were married in 1960, the figure today is 43 per cent . . .

Children pay an even higher price for the absence of marriage. As [author Kay] Hymowitz writes: “If you want to analyze the inequality problem, start with the marriage gap. Virtually all—92 per cent—of children whose families make over $75,000 per year are living with married parents. On the other end of the income scale, the situation is reversed: only 20 per cent of kids in families earning under $15,000 live with both parents.”

The evidence is overwhelming. Parental behavior—that is, choosing, or not, to wait until marriage to have children—is the key determinant of success for children.

“Children of single mothers,” Hymowitz writes, “have lower grades and educational attainment than kids who grow up with married parents, even after controlling for race, family background, and IQ.”

And it isn’t just the presence of a man in the house that makes married families more successful. “Poverty rates of cohabiting-couple parents are double those of married couples, even controlling for education, immigration status, and race.”

Mona Charen, writing in National Review on 29 April 2011

Tuesday, May 03, 2011


Magda Goebbels, Wilhelm Furtwangler, Joseph Goebbels and Zitla Furtwangler at a 1940 reception for members of the Reichskulturkammer (“State Bureau Of Culture”).

Despite the fact that she had been legally separated from her husband since 1931, Zitla Furtwangler continued to perform public duties for the socially-awkward Wilhelm for another twelve years—hence her appearance at this 1940 reception sponsored by Goebbels.

Zitla provided assistance, openly, to numerous Jewish musicians throughout the period of National Socialism—indeed, Zitla may have done more in this regard than her husband—and Zitla continued, selflessly, to perform innumerable tasks for her husband long after the separation. She did so simply because she knew that Furtwangler had no one else trustworthy on whom he might rely.

When Furtwangler requested a divorce in 1943 so that he might remarry, Zitla immediately consented—and yet she continued to devote her time to providing assistance to Furtwangler’s musicians for the remainder of the war.

It is regrettable that Zitla has been written out of history books. She very well may have been a remarkable woman.

Zitla’s disappearance from modern accounts of Furtwangler’s life is largely due to the initiatives of Furtwangler’s second wife, Elisabeth, the most highly-skilled professional widow since Cosima Wagner.

Having asserted control over her husband’s legacy at the time of his death, Elisabeth has never allowed anyone but herself to feature in the Furtwangler story. In Elisabeth’s eyes, there is no room for anyone else.

So long as Elisabeth is alive—and she remains living at the age of 100, still occupying the home Furtwangler bought near Saint Moritz in 1922—and so long as Elisabeth can continue to bribe journalists with old personal photographs and ancient handwritten memorabilia, no reliable biography of Furtwangler will be allowed to appear.

In fact, I suspect that Furtwangler’s only legitimate son will have to die, too, before a probing account of Furtwangler’s life may be attempted.

By that time it may be too late.

Furtwangler In America II

Wilhelm Furtwangler’s second set of appearances in the United States occurred in 1926.

Between February 11 and April 2 of that year, Furtwangler conducted the New York Philharmonic in thirty-one concerts, more than three times the number of concerts he had led the previous year during his first American engagement.

Furtwangler arrived in the United States on the S.S. Albert Ballin of the Hamburg-America Line on February 10, the day before the first of his New York Philharmonic concerts.

In 1925, Furtwangler had traveled to the U.S. alone. In 1926, he was accompanied to the U.S. by his first wife, Zitla Lund, a Danish woman considered at the time to represent the height of sophistication, elegance and beauty.

Furtwangler and Lund had married in 1923. The marriage was not a happy one. The two became legally separated in 1931 and were divorced in 1943.

In the photograph below, Furtwangler and Lund are seen shipboard on the 1926 trans-Atlantic crossing. It is unknown whether the photograph depicts Furtwangler and Lund bound for America or on the return voyage to Europe.

Of the thirty-one concerts in 1926, twenty-five occurred in Manhattan and Brooklyn: Carnegie Hall was the site of twenty-one concerts; the Brooklyn Academy Of Music was the venue for two concerts; a single concert was held at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel; and a single concert was offered on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera House.

In 1926, Furtwangler also conducted the New York Philharmonic in six out-of-town concerts, all part of a brief Eastern tour by the orchestra: two concerts at the Syria Mosque in Pittsburgh; one concert at the Academy Of Music in Philadelphia; one concert at the Lyric Opera House in Baltimore; one concert at the National Theatre in Washington, D.C.; and one concert at the Strand Theatre in Reading, Pennsylvania.

In the 1920s, visiting orchestras in Washington appeared at the National Theatre. It must have been the only suitable venue in Washington at the time (DAR Constitution Hall was not to open until 1929). Most persons undoubtedly find this fact remarkable today—and most persons who have attended performances at the National Theatre surely were unaware that Furtwangler twice appeared onstage there (he was to lead another concert in the theater the following year).

And whoever might have known that Furtwangler once conducted a concert in Reading, Pennsylvania? This fact must astonish everyone.

Furtwangler’s 1926 American repertory is listed below.

If Furtwangler offered more than one performance of a listed work, asterisks note the total number of performances. Works heavily-asterisked signify that the works were performed during the New York Philharmonic’s brief five-city, six-concert tour under Furtwangler.

If a listed work had been performed during Furtwangler’s 1925 visit to America (as was the case with four works, one each by Beethoven, Schumann, R. Strauss and Wagner), the repeat is noted.

“Egmont” Overture ******
“Leonore” Overture No. 3 **
Piano Concerto No. 4
Symphony No. 3 ("Eroica") **
Symphony No. 7 [Repeat]

Le Corsaire Overture **

Hungarian Dances Nos. 1, 3 and 10 ***
Symphony No. 4 *******
Violin Concerto

Symphony No. 4 **

Hussite Overture
Symphony No. 9 (“From The New World”) **

Concerto Grosso, Opus 6, Number 5 **

Harpsichord Concerto In D Major, Opus 21 **
Symphony No. 88 *****

Violin Concerto

“Le Nozze Di Figaro” Overture **
Piano Concerto No. 26 (“Coronation”) **
Serenade No. 13 (“Eine Kleine Nachtmusik”) ****

Rapsodie Espagnole ***

Ancient Airs And Dances, Suite No. 2 ****

Cello Concerto No. 1

Verklarte Nacht

Entr’acte, Act II, From “Rosamunde”

Piano Concerto ** [Repeat]
Symphony No. 1 (“Spring”) ****

J. Strauss
Emperor Waltz

R. Strauss
Symphonic Interludes From “Intermezzo” **
Symphonia Domestica **
Till Eulenspiegel ***** [Repeat]

Symphony No. 6 (“Pathetique”) *****

Cello Suite **

“The Flying Dutchman” Overture **
“Die Meistersinger” Prelude ********* [Repeat]

“Euryanthe” Overture **
Invitation To The Dance
“Oberon” Overture **

The Valentini in question was Giuseppe Valentini (1681-1753), a minor master of the Italian Baroque. The composer’s so-called “Cello Suite” was probably a pastiche work created from Valentini’s many sonatas for cello and keyboard by cellist Hans Kindler, soloist for the performances. Kindler would take up the baton himself the following year; in 1931, Kindler would go on to found Washington’s National Symphony Orchestra.

Monday, May 02, 2011

A Portrait Of Familial Bliss

This cozy family portrait, from 1938, depicts Magda Goebbels with Harald Quandt, Magda’s son by her first marriage, and five of her children with Joseph Goebbels (a sixth was to follow in 1940).

The photograph was pure propaganda. It was intended to portray Magda and her children as the embodiment of family ideals under National Socialism. Until May 1, 1945, on which date Magda and Goebbels murdered the six Goebbels children and afterward took their own lives, the Goebbels clan was a constant feature of German magazines and newsreels, invariably presented as the perfect German family.

Such depictions did not reflect reality. Goebbels, a perpetual philanderer, was anything but a family man. In fact, it was in 1938, the year the photograph was made, that Magda first pressed for a divorce from Goebbels, claiming that her husband’s many affairs made it impossible for her to continue the marriage.

Hitler forbade a divorce. Hitler wanted the façade of a happy, thriving Goebbels family to be maintained—and not solely for propaganda purposes.

It would, Hitler ruled, reflect poorly upon himself for one of his chief ministers—and his only minister with a large family—to be involved in a marital breakup.

Hitler’s decree that the Goebbels family remain together was accepted—and, to assuage Magda’s hurt feelings, the German leader saw to it that a Czech film actress with whom Goebbels had become deeply infatuated was escorted out of the country.

In the photograph, Magda’s smile looks forced—and the children appear to be profoundly unhappy if not outright miserable. Harald, only seventeen years old in 1938, looks old enough to be Magda’s father.

That Goebbels himself was not included in the photograph—and Goebbels indeed generally was included in such photographs—suggests that the sitting occurred during a period in which the Goebbels marital fortunes were at a particularly low ebb.

The deaths of everyone in the photograph except Harald occurred sixty-six years ago yesterday.

Had the Goebbels children been allowed to live normal life spans, most—perhaps all—would be alive today.