Arimathea
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In Greek mythology, the muses were the daughters of Zeus the king of the gods and Mnemosyne the goddess of memory. The muses inspired men to create what we commonly call the fine arts. In this digital realm, you will find music of both high and low culture, from literature to the visual arts to what we narrowly call music in English. Enjoy and be grateful for being human; for the muses have richly blessed our race.
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Friday, June 24, A.D. 2016
Rule, Britannia!

Please forgive me for my blog absenteeism, but I have been quite pressed for time (and far too sleepless) for the last month. However, I had to post today . . .

Albion, how I love you!

When Britain first, at Heaven’s command
Arose from out the azure main;
This was the charter of the land,
And guardian angels sang this strain:

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

The nations, not so blest as thee,
Must, in their turns, to tyrants fall;
While thou shalt flourish great and free,
The dread and envy of them all.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

Still more majestic shalt thou rise,
More dreadful, from each foreign stroke;
As the loud blast that tears the skies,
Serves but to root thy native oak.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

Thee haughty tyrants ne’er shall tame:
All their attempts to bend thee down,
Will but arouse thy generous flame;
But work their woe, and thy renown.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

To thee belongs the rural reign;
Thy cities shall with commerce shine:
All thine shall be the subject main,
And every shore it circles thine.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

The Muses, still with freedom found,
Shall to thy happy coast repair;
Blest Isle! With matchless beauty crown’d,
And manly hearts to guard the fair.

“Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
“Britons never will be slaves.”

A day that I did not expect has dawned. May it lead inexorably to the destruction of our perverse new world disorder (it can happen), and may the Lord richly bless the peoples of Great Britain and Ireland! One day soon, perhaps even the micks will return to their senses and faith—and reject the godless, soulless bureaucrats who have eagerly helped to transform their beautiful island into a degenerate consumerist wasteland of the spirit.

To show that my support of healthy patriotism and my hatred of the E.U. are not based on any antipathy toward Europe as such—or even toward the Germans—I present a Kraut’s homage to the British—Beethoven’s Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht bei Vittoria:

And, of course, one must showcase “Rule, Britannia,” here cheerily (if cheekily) performed on the last day of the BBC Proms at the Royal Albert Hall by Sarah Patricia Connolly and the BBC Symphony Chorus and Orchestra:

Glad all over!

Posted by Joseph on Friday, June 24, Anno Domini 2016
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Tuesday, May 10, A.D. 2016
Dvořák on Радоница

Kristus vstal z mrtvých!

For Radonitsa, I offer some much loved and lovely pieces from Dvořák. Here is his String Quartet No. 5 in F minor (Op. 9), performed by the Prager Streichquartett (starting at 35:53):

I could not find a suitable video of a live performance.

Probably the most well known movement in the piece is the second—Andante con moto quasi allegretto (51:14-59:26 in the video). Dvořák incorporated the work into his Romance in F minor (Op. 11), which WGUC plays every single day. That’s not a complaint, by the way. After all, I love Dvořák. Here the work is performed by the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Keri-Lynn Wilson, with the violin solo by Tanja Sonc:

And another by the Israel Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Ariel Zuckerman, with Itamar Zorman on the violin:

Zorman plays the piece more soulfully in my opinion.

I have a few curmudgeonly gripes. First, why isn’t Zuckerman in a tuxedo? He rather wears the open collared douchebag suit so favored by TED talkers and our new sartorially-challenged plutocratic overlords. I blame Al Gore for mainstreaming this unfortunate Silicon Valley trend (probably to counter his android appearance), but I really do not know who or what made that look acceptable—besides the obvious slide toward decadence in the West, of course.

Second, there should be more uniform uniformity expected of women in orchestras. From what I can tell, black and formal-ish are the only requirements for female members. I can understand special allowances for a soloist, especially a guest soloist, but each symphony should regulate their ladies better. From my personal experience, it seems that female conductors, like Wilson shown above, respect the idea of an appropriate dress code for their station. Every female conductor whom I have seen lead has worn the same (or almost the same) pure black femxedo. A quick web search proves the opposite, but perhaps there is a movement toward uniformity as respect for the profession begins to curb the narcissistic female tendency to exempt oneself from rules. We can hope.

Anyway, lovely pieces. As for the faithfully departed whom we remember on Radonitsa, may their memory be eternal!

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 10, Anno Domini 2016
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Tuesday, January 26, A.D. 2016
Scharl on the Gospels according to Kinkade and Rousseau

As a follow-up to “Christian Kitsch,” I would like to share Jane Scharl’s “The Gospels according to Thomas Kinkade and Jean-Jacques Rousseau” from the Intercollegiate Review. Scharl argues that there is a spiritual background behind shallow Christmas art, which she describes as the most that a secular world can provide:

Rousseau’s sublimation is the best we can hope for from secular traditions. Secular Christmas music, even the best, exemplifies this attempt to sublimate experienced feelings—of loneliness (“I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”), nostalgia (“White Christmas”), or love (“Let It Snow”)—beyond their context in ordinary life and elevate them to the level of the sublime. A sublime experience is a universal experience, one that has meaning outside of itself that both clarifies and validates it. This is the purest impulse of secular Christmas: to elevate our experiences to the level of the universal, and in so doing, to create a myth of Christmas to validate the feelings that punctuate our lives, even if just for one day.

We all hold an ideal of secular Christmas in our imaginations, even though for most of us it has never happened: cottages covered in snow, lanes fretted with sleigh tracks, children laughing, clear voices singing in a village square lit by lamps. Countless sugar cookies made by a smiling family while a perfect tree gleams in the corner and orphans smile at the feet of Santa Claus. It’s the Gospel according to Thomas Kinkade. But in this picture, the light illumines only itself, reflecting endlessly. It doesn’t illumine—or transform—the things of the world.

Scharl contrasts Kinkade’s work with that of Rembrandt to make her point. Pitting Kinkade against the Dutch master strikes me as a bit unfair, but I found her essay insightful.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, January 26, Anno Domini 2016
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Monday, January 25, A.D. 2016
Christian Kitsch

I found a cheeky but thoughtful musing by Paul Griffiths on Christian kitsch in Duke’s Divinity Magazine, “A Defense of Christian Kitsch.” Griffiths argues that kitsch is the bread and butter of pious art for Christianity, “a religion of peasants and proles.” Therefore, he states, Christians should hesitate to look down on the gospel according to Thomas Kinkade.

I am not sure what to think. Griffiths is correct that most Christians have been from the unwashed masses; the good news is for all people, plumbers and MOMA curators alike, and there are always more of the former than the latter. However, I hesitate to agree with him—not (principally) because I am an insufferable snob whose stomach twists when I see sappy religious pictures and Jesus nightlights—but rather because art for the masses appears to have different characteristics in different regimes. In our contemporary democratic culture, mass tastes and consumption largely dictate what the entire society appreciates. Yes, we have art critics in the New York Times, and elite opinion trickles down (yes, yes, that cerulean speech in The Devil Wears Prada). Yet, our society’s master class appears generally content to fill the trough according to the swine’s appetite. In more hierarchical societies, the elite largely determines the aesthetics of the lower classes. Maybe, I just do not know enough about peasant art in ages past, but pre-modern religious art does not strike me as kitsch. Some of it crude, perhaps, but not kitsch (compare the paintings in the catacombs to the papal commissions of the Italian Renaissance—a striking difference in quality, but neither is kitsch). Consider traditional Christian iconography, the stained glass windows of Western Christendom, or the mosaics of antiquity. I do not even know whether we should call the governing force of such art “elite” taste—rather, artisans tended to work with canonical styles (hence, being determined by tradition, not any group’s fancy). The architectural progress of sacred buildings clearly involved the engineering elite, commissioned by the secular and ecclesiastical elite, but entire towns were involved in cathedrals’ construction and adornment. Would you call the windows of Chartres kitschy? Would the Most Reverend Maurice de Sully have found the aesthetic tastes in sacred art of his poor parents so different from that of the royal court? Griffiths even mentions the icons of Andrei Rublev, but surely this example provides a stumbling block for his position. Russian peasants and proles have always adored the transcendent beauty of Rublev’s iconography.

Christian kitsch may simply be yet another symptom of our decadent age.

That said, who doesn’t like angels and kittens, together, lightly hovering over little girls in Easter dresses having afternoon tea with their teddy bears in a peaceful meadow (with birds, chipmunks, and lots of unidentifiable flora in the background)?

Posted by Joseph on Monday, January 25, Anno Domini 2016
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Thursday, June 25, A.D. 2015
Waldstein

May all of you have a blessed summer!

Last year, I became a bit obsessed with Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21, named “Waldstein” in honor of one of his patrons, Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel von Waldstein. It is pure joy! Below are two renditions that will please you.

Claudio Arrau, Bonn, A.D. 1977:

Daniel Barenboim, Berlin, A.D. 2006:

Marvelous!

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, June 25, Anno Domini 2015
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Wednesday, September 10, A.D. 2014
Νicοle Ρesce’s Happy Birthday

To celebrate the birth of my first niece, I offer the following charming video in which Νicοle Ρesce renders the “Happy Birthday” tune according to various composers’ styles.

Χρόνια Πολλά, little one!

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, September 10, Anno Domini 2014
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Wednesday, July 23, A.D. 2014
Bach Saves Lives

It is funny that just as one is seriously considering swerving off the bridge, Brandenburg Concerto 3 comes on the radio and reminds him that life can be pretty wonderful.

Posted by Joseph on Wednesday, July 23, Anno Domini 2014
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Tuesday, May 6, A.D. 2014
Bethena

Χριστός Ανέστη!

And to those who follow the old calendar, may you have a blessed feast of Saint George!

To celebrate, I would like to showcase a gorgeous piece by Scott Joplin: “Bethana.”

According to Wikipedia, “Bethena” was ignored until the Joplin revival forty years ago. How unfortunate. A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country—and the same seems to hold true for artists. Consider the initial reception of Swan Lake. People often behave as swine.

You may know of my fondness for Joplin from “Instant Maple Love,” “Saint Louis,” and “History in Saint Louis.”

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 6, Anno Domini 2014
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Thursday, March 20, A.D. 2014
Pasha’s Lullaby

Yesterday, I received a link to “Pasha’s Lullaby” from Ella’s Song by Kurt Sander. Ella’s Song is about Grand Duchess Elizabeth Feodorovna Romanova, a saint famous for her charitable work in Russia. Elizabeth was the last tsarina’s sister, and Elizabeth’s husband was the last tsar’s uncle; Nicholas and Alexandra met at Elizabeth’s wedding to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich. Communists killed all of them—Sergei in A.D. 1905 and the others in A.D. 1918.

The message included the following quotation from the composer’s note’s:

The lullaby is a literary genre which plays a fascinating role in the culture of the Russian people. Often, the infant “listener” is actually symbolic of much larger idea, namely a culture or people in a given time or circumstance.

This movement, titled “Pasha’s Lullaby,” is named after one particular orphan, Paraskeva “Pasha” Korina, whom St. Elizabeth knew from her days as abbess at the convent of Martha and Mary. It was not uncommon for a mother housed at the convent ward to die from consumption or some other disease. So moved were these women by the love that St. Elizabeth showed to them that they would entrust their children to the care of the “Great Mother.” It was an annual custom for St. Elizabeth to bring two or three young orphans to the convent for Christmas to celebrate the feast with a small group of people. When she asked the girls what they would like for Christmas, one little orphan named Pasha pointed to the small bell at the top of the tree. Without pause, the Grand Duchess carried a ladder from the closet and climbed up to the top and brought down a little bell for the girl.

Today, Russian lullabies are still sung to babies according to traditions that have been passed down from generation to generation.  The lullaby in this particular song cycle serves two functions: first, it conveys on a surface level the depth of love and compassion St. Elizabeth had for the orphans who were placed in her care. Second, it speaks to the coming tragedy of Holy Russia amidst the persecution by the Communists. St. Elizabeth seemed to know that the days ahead would be tragic for all.

I was able to venerate the relics of Saint Elizabeth at the Convent of Mary Magdalene in the garden of Gethsemane. It is a lovely place.

Troparion:

Emulating the Lord’s self-abasement on the earth,
You gave up royal mansions to serve the poor and disdained,
Overflowing with compassion for the suffering.
And taking up a martyr’s cross,
In your meekness
You perfected the Savior’s image within yourself,
Therefore, with Barbara, entreat Him to save us all, O wise Elizabeth.

Kontakion:

In the midst of worldliness,
Your mournful heart dwelt in Heaven;
In barbaric godlessness,
Your valiant soul was not troubled;
You longed to meet your Bridegroom as a confessor,
And He found you worthy of your martyric purpose.
O Elizabeth, with Barbara,
Your brave companion,
Pray to your Bridegroom for us.

Posted by Joseph on Thursday, March 20, Anno Domini 2014
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Tuesday, May 14, A.D. 2013
Now the Green Blade Riseth

Crist is arisen!

My friend Andrew sent me a Western hymn for Pascha of which he is quite fond—“Now the Green Blade Riseth.” I had never heard it before, but it is catchy and earthy. Here it is sung by the choir of Ely Cathedral:

Now the green blade riseth from the buried grain,
Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;
Love lives again, that with the dead has been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

In the grave they laid him, love whom men had slain,
Thinking that never he would wake again.
Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green,

Forth he came at Easter, like the risen grain,
He that for three days in the grave had lain.
Quick from the dead my risen Lord is seen:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.

Speaking of Ely, I wrote of that beautiful cathedral in the first months of this site.

Posted by Joseph on Tuesday, May 14, Anno Domini 2013
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