Friday, February 20, 2015

Music is Magnificent

Maybe something about the prolonged cold and mild cabin fever makes me more than usually susceptible to the magic of music.  Dr. Oliver Sacks wrote that music is processed in its own section of the brain. Its effect on the human being is more pervasive and older than speech. Sometimes people who lose their ability to speak due to brain injuries such a strokes, can still sing, including the words.  So soon after the delight of the Anne Moses Band, I had another musical experience that I had been a little reluctant to go to but went and am so glad I did.

The opera class was to see a DVD of Candide. I heard it years ago and read the book even more years ago and was not very interested but was convinced to go by the same person who gave me a ticket to the symphony. Happily the coordinator of the opera class decided not to show the Broadway version but a concert version video taped in London in 1988, just two years before  Leonard Bernstein died. (He looked far older than he does in the picture here.) He had the gaunt face of an old man but it remained marvelously mobile and expressive).  Bernstein had worked on the initially unsuccessful opera (or operetta as Wikipedia calls it) for three or four years and at last had it in the shape that pleased him. He had a wonderful set of singer including Adolph Green (hardly a singer) as Pangloss/Narrator and the beautiful Krista Ludwig as the Old Lady and a cast of younger singers who were all very fine. It was in the Barbican Center in London with a large orchestra and chorus.

L.B.,  always a very dymanic conductor, known for speaking to the audience, did that too at times, he was a part of the event squared.  The video camer a was on his face often, he was involved body and soul, dancing, jiving, singing, he was very happy, he embraced singers many times.  It was a moment of great triumph and joy which was clear in every shot of his face.  Total involvement.  And empathatically I felt the same.

I also thought often of the stone deaf Beethoven trying to conduct his last great works with multiple frustrations and a contentious audience, I thought of impoverished Mozart and young, sick, sad Schubert with their magnificent works but never, as far as is known, the kind of immersion in a successful life achievement that L.B. has in this concert. I was thrilled for him, thrilled an artist can feel achievement so acutely. Search for "Bernstein conducting Candide", there are several video clips. The whole thing is available on DVD.  It's an experience to make your heart sing.


Kass said...

Oliver Sacks is dying and wrote something quite beautiful in the NY Times Oliver Sacks

June Calender said...

Thanks, Kass. I read it and thought a little bit about saying it in this post but it didn't feel like it fit. I've loved his books.

Bev Sykes said...

I recommend going to YouTube and watching Kristen Chenowith doing "Glitter and be Gay" from a concert version of Candide..breathtaking!

June Calender said...

BEv, I believe it was sung by Krista Ludwig, an older opera singer with great personality.