Thursday, April 30, 2020

Pieni punainen / Little Red Bunch


Jouko Aaltonen: Pieni punainen (2020). Mao and Stalin were among the idols of Finnish Maoists.

FI © 2020 Illume Oy. P: Jouko Aaltonen.
    D+SC: Jouko Aaltonen. Cin: Marita Hällfors. M: Heikki Valpola. Mozart: Requiem (played in Matti Puolakka's funeral). S rec: Lou Strömberg, Jonne Lydén. S design: Martti Turunen. ED: Samu Heikkilä. Graphic design: Tuomas Korolainen / Mene Creative Oy. P manager: Oona Saari. ED ass: Jasmina Hämäläinen. Post-production: Toast.
    A documentary film featuring: Kyösti Mankamo, Heli Santavuori, Heikki Pihlaja, Raimo Laakia, Jaakko Laakso, Hannele Pihlaja, Pia Lansman, Pertti Koskela, Veli Rosenberg, Jaakko Muilu, Olli Santavuori, Hannu Ruonavaara, Merja Ojala, Matti Puolakka, Maija Keskisarja, Juhani Tanska, Pate Tirkkonen, Ilpo Oksanen and Pekka Kauppinen. Archival: Tauno Olavi Huotari and Tauno Puolakka.
    Language: Finnish. English subtitles by Tiina Kinnunen.
    78 min
    Trailer: https://vimeo.com/394193492
    Streaming in Finland: 4.5.2020 Yle Areena. Telecast: 7.5.2020, 10.5.2020, Yle TV1.
    Corona lockdown viewing / First of May lockdown viewing.
    A private Vimeo link viewed on a 4K tv set at home in Helsinki, 30 April 2020

Jouko Aaltonen's new documentary film is a remarkable oral history project covering the history of Maoism in Finland. In many Western countries Maoism was influential in the youth radicalism of the 1960s, but in Finland it remained marginal. To international representatives of Maoism belonged also Cambodia's Khmer Rouge.

A great split among international Communism took place after the death of Stalin in 1953 and the 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party in 1956 where Nikita Khrushchev exposed and denounced Stalin's terror. International Communist parties in general distanced themselves from Stalin, but Mao's China was the exception. The rift between China and the Soviet Union grew. China condemned the leaders of the USSR as "revisionist traitors" who pursued a course of "social imperialism". The conflict escalated to war between China and Russia in 1969 at the Ussuri River.

The turbulences of the post-Stalin development were in the background of Mao's "Great Leap Forward" which led to 30 million deaths in the Great Chinese Famine which started in 1959. An expression of China's fight against revisionism was the creation of the Little Red Book, a canonized text of Mao's cult of personality in the "Cultural Revolution" which started in 1966. 20 million died in the campaign which belongs to the most devastating cases of destruction of culture in the history of mankind. For instance film production was reduced to filmed records of model operas and ballets. Prominent film-makers were tortured to death.

The Maoists with their militant anti-Soviet stance were conspicuous in the Finland of the 1960s that tried to pursue a policy of peaceful coexistence with the USSR. The Maoists denounced Khrushchev and Brezhnev but idolized Stalin. They belonged to the Finnish Communist Party but their aim was to establish a party of their own. They were openly committed to violent revolution.

Although the movement was tiny, it was infiltrated by and spied on by at least five outside forces, including the Finnish secret police and the Chinese embassy.

Aaltonen follows the various stages of the movement from a strict severity to more relaxed attempts to approach the mainstream of the young people (party-going now had a new meaning) and even an attempt to establish a commune in the countryside. The cultural shock of actually visiting China and witnessing its deep poverty is recorded.

The magnetic key personality of Finnish Maoism was Matti Puolakka (1947–2018). In the 1970s he distanced himself from "the great story of Marxism" and pursued for the rest of his life philosophical ideas as an independent thinker. Aaltonen managed to interview Puolakka on film before he died, and footage on Puolakka's funeral is incorporated. Puolakka's posthumous papers contain tens of thousands of files.

Pieni punainen is a complex, bewildering and thought-provoking documentary with lasting value. My only reservation is that it takes for granted viewers' awareness of the catastrophe that was taking place in China while Maoism became fashionable in Western countries.

Jouko Aaltonen's work adds a fascinating contribution to Western cinema's expressions about Maoism, including Jean-Luc Godard's La Chinoise and Michelangelo Antonioni's Chung Kuo, Cina.

BEYOND THE JUMP BREAK: THE OFFICIAL INTRODUCTION:

Beethoven 250: Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus (Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 1993)


Heinrich Füger (1751–1818): Prometheus bringt der Menschheit das Feuer / Prometheus Brings Fire to Mankind. Painting, oil on canvas, ca 1817. Palais Liechtenstein, Wien. Gemeinfrei. From: Wikipedia.

Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited. Also available on Spotify etc. I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

CD 14 / 80

Opus 43: Die Geschöpfe des Prometheus – Ballettmusik (Ouvertüre in C-Dur) (1801).
The Creatures of Prometheus, ballet in 2 acts after the libretto by Salvatore Viganò.
    Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 1993
    18 tracks, 69 min

Beethoven's only full length ballet is a ballo serio in the allegorical and mythological spheres familiar from Hesiod's Theogony. Characters include, besides Prometheus, Bacchus, Terpsichore, Melpomene, Pan and Thalia, as well as Apollo, muses, graces, Bacchus and Pan with entourage, Orpheus, Amphion and Arion, plus Phoebus and Euterpe.

The original choreography and the libretto have not survived, but many detailed reviews give an idea of the contents of the ballet. The original cast included:

    Prometheus: Filippo Cesari
    The creatures: Maria Cassentini and Salvatore Viganò
    Bacchus: Ferdinando Gioja
    Pan: Franz Kilian Aichinger
    Terpsichore: Fräulein Brendi
    Thalia: Amalie Cesari geb. Muzzarelli
    Melpomene: Theresia Reuth geb. Decamp.

The art director was Josef Platzer.

Beethoven wrote in his choreographical notes: "The two s[tatues] move slowly across the stage from the background. - P[rometheus] gradually regains consciousness, look towards the field, and is pleased when he sees his plan is such a success; he is inexpressibly delighted, stands up and beckons to the children to stop - They turn slowly towards him in an emotionless manner. - P continues to address them, expresses his divine and fatherly love for them, and commands them (gives them a sign) to approach him. - They look at him in an emotionless manner - turn to a tree, the great size of wich they contemplate. - P begins once more to be disheartened, is fearful, and is saddened. He goes towards them, takes their hands and leads them to the front of the stage; he explains to them that they are his work, that they belong to him, that they must be thankful to him, kisses and caresses them. - However, still in an emotionless manner, they sometimes merely shake their heads, are completely  indifferent, and stand there, groping in all directions."

Separated from the original ballet performance the composition does not provide a fully satisfactory experience, but it offers many glorious passages. A thunderous overture opens the ballet score which proceeds in the Mozart / Haydn mode. The music is festive, stately and dignified. In the finale we recognize music that later formed the basis of the fourth movement of the Eroica symphony.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All (Met Breuer online Exhibition Tour)


Gerhard Richter: Painting After All (Met Breuer online Exhibition Tour). My screenshot from YouTube.

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All   
    an exhibition at the Met Breuer, New York, March 4–closing date to be announced; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, August 15, 2020–January 18, 2021
    (Both museums are temporarily closed; the exhibition can be viewed online at YouTube and metmuseum.org)
    Catalog of the exhibition by Sheena Wagstaff and Benjamin H. D. Buchloh, with essays by Briony Fer, Hal Foster, Peter Geimer, Brinda Kumar, and André Rottmann
    Metropolitan Museum of Art, 269 pp., $50.00 (distributed by Yale University Press). – Data copied from The New York Review of Books.
    Corona lockdown art museum visits.
    Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art / Met Breuer website / YouTube, viewed on a 4K tv screen at home, Helsinki, 29 April 2020.

AA: Emergency times prompt emergency measures in art viewing and reviewing.

Yesterday I read for the first time in my life an art review on a virtual exhibition visit: Susan Tallman's essay on Gerhard Richter "The Master of Unknowing" in The New York Review of Books, 14 May 2020, "The Art Issue". In her rewarding and thought-provoking essay Tallman states that "Richter is contemporary art’s great poet of uncertainty; his work sets the will to believe and the obligation to doubt in perfect oscillation."

On the Met website there is a 1966 film clip of Gerhard Richter's own comments which are still valid regarding his own, versatile, constantly growing oeuvre: "To talk about painting is not only difficult but perhaps pointless, too. You can only express in words what words are capable of expressing, what language can communicate. Painting has nothing to do with that. That includes the typical question: "What were you thinking of?" You can't think of anything, painting is another form of thinking. What interests me in general, and this also applies to painting, are things I don't understand. It's like that with every picture: I don't like the ones I understand."

Richter talks about painting, and the title of the exhibition is "Painting After All", but there are also for instance glass panel installations in the exhibition. "Reflection" is a keyword in all its meanings, including thinking. And the museum architecture is also meaningful in its mise-en-scène of reflections. But painting remains essential. There is a Richter quotation from an interview with Amine Haase (1977) on the Met website: "The pleasure of painting proves the necessity of it — all children paint spontaneously. Painting has a brilliant future. Hasn’t it?” There is a "flipped image" function on the website where we can examine how Richter has painted both figurative and abstract pictures in the same year. He has not been moving from a certain period to a new and different one; instead he has been pursuing different approaches simultaneously, and there are several continuities in his production.

Among the newest works on display in the Met exhibition is the Birkenau room. To quote the website: "Richter is interested in what pictures mean—not the spectacle of the image itself. His Birkenau series was based on four photographs smuggled from Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Nazi death camp, in 1944. In 2014 Richter revisited the horrific images, first sketching them out on individual canvases, but then gradually painting them over to produce heavily disturbed, ruptured surfaces. This veiling holds in tension the complex relationship of history and memory, with the forces of destruction and reconstruction, and with abstraction and representation."

Susan Tallman points out that Claude Lanzmann objected to any visual representations of the Holocaust, while for Jean-Luc Godard they are essential for our historical memory. Indeed film-makers who were there, from Samuel Fuller to George Stevens, instantly understood the necessity of visual records for something that would be incredible if it were not true.

Susan Tallman reports that Georges Didi-Huberman responded to Lanzmann "with a carefully considered book, Images malgré tout, which Richter read in Geimer’s German translation, Bilder trotz allem" that in turn gave the name to this exhibition.

Richter seems to accept the views of both Godard and Lanzmann. He exhibits the four authentic photographs (the only ones taken by Auschwitz inmates). And he creates enormous paintings that go beyond representation. All this in a house of mirrors where we, the spectators, become a part of the spectacle. At home, during the corona lockdown, we may want to pay attention to our reflections on the screen on which we are watching the tour.

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All, the virtual tour film, is an excellent achievement in its genre, film on art. I copy from its end credit title cards:

Special thanks to the artist Gerhard Richter.

All artwork © Gerhard Richter 2020 (20012020)

Footage courtesy of
Südwestfunk (SWR)
Kino Lorber

Music: Arvo Pärt, Fratres (1977) performed in The Met's Temple of Dendur for the program Arvo Pärt at Eighty, September 11, 2015. Alex Shiozaki, violin. Mika Sasaki, piano.

Exhibition credits:

Gerhard Richter: Painting After All is co-curated by
Sheena Wagstaff – Leonard A. Lauder Chairman, Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met and
Benjamin H. D. Buchloh – Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Modern Art in the Department of History of Art and Architecture at Harvard University,
with Brinda Kumar – Assistant Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art at The Met.

© The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Women Make Film 9: Politics, Gear Change, Comedy


From Chapter 23: Politics: Tomka dhe shokët e ti / Tomka and His Friends /  Xhanfize Keko, Albania 1977. Screenshot from the Women Make Film website.

From Chapter 24: Gear Change: Orlando / Sally Potter, GB 1992. Screenshot from the Women Make Film website.

From Chapter 25: Comedy: Ciało / Body / Małgorzata Szumowska, Poland 2015. Screenshot from the Women Make Film website.

Women Make Film. A New Road Movie Through Cinema
Women Make Film. Uusi matka elokuvaan
    GB © 2019 How To Make A Movie Ltd. PC: Hopscotch Films. P: John Archer. EX: Clara Glynn, Tilda Swinton. Assistant P: Sonali Choudhury. Associate P: Carl Beauchamp, Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Barbara Timmer.
    D+SC: Mark Cousins. Sound mixing: Diane Jardine. S: Joe Harfield. ED+script consultant: Timo Langer. Online: Chas Chalmers. Edit assistant: Scott Bilsbrough. P coordinator: Mhairi Valentine. P team: David Brown, Rowan Ings, Raja Kryda. World Sales: Dogwoof. Head of sales: Ana Vicente. Legal: David Burgess.
    https://www.womenmakefilm.com/
    14 hours
    Festival premiere: 1 Sep 2018 Venice Film Festival
    Finnish telepremieres of the 14 episodes: 3.3.2020, 10.3.2020, 17.3.2020, 24.3.2020, 1.4.2020, 8.4.2020, 15.4.2020, 22.4.2020, 29.4.2020, 6.5.2020, 13.5.2020, 20.5.2020, 27.5.2020, 3.6.2020

Episode 9/14: Politics, Gear Change, Comedy
Jakso 9/14: Politiikasta komiikkaan
Narrators: Kerry Fox, Sharmila Tagore
Finnish / Swedish subtitles: Tiina Kähkönen / Sari Östman

Chapter 23. Politics

Zacharovannaya Desna / Зачарованная Десна / The Enchanted Desna / Lumottu Desna / Yuliya Sointseva, SU 1964
Dans ma peau / In My Skin / Marina de Van, FR 2002 [unreleased in Finland]
Padenie dinastii Romanovykh / Падение династии Романовых / The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty / Romanovien dynastian tuho / Esfir Shub, SU 1927
Triumph des Willens / The Triumph of the Will / Leni Riefenstahl, DE 1935 [unreleased in Finland]
Bhaji on the Beach / Gurinder Chadha, GB 1993 [unreleased in Finland]
Digeh che khabar? / !دیگه چه خبر؟ / What Else is New? / Tahmineh Milani, IR 1992
El premio / The Prize / Paula Markovitch, MX/FR/PL/DE 2011 [unreleased in Finland]
Tomka dhe shokët e ti / Tomka and His Friends /  Xhanfize Keko, AL 1977 [unreleased in Finland]
Melodiya dlya katerniki / Мелодія для катеринки / Melodiya dlya sharmanki / Melody for a Street Organ / Kira Muratova, UA 2009 [unreleased in Finland]
Divorce Iranian Style / Kim Longinotto, Ziba Mir-Hosseini, dok, IR/GB 1998 [unreleased in Finland]
Drowned Out / Franny Armstrong, dok, GB 2002 [unreleased in Finland]
Strange Days / Strange Days / Kathryn Bigelow, US 1995
Koibumi / 恋文 / Love Letter / Kinuyo Tanaka, JP 1953 [unreleased in Finland]
Cuba, une odyssée africaine / Cuba: An African Odyssey / Kuuba! Afrikka! Vallankumous! / Jihan El-Tahri, dok, FR 2007
Finsterworld / Frauke Finsterwalder, DE 2013 [unreleased in Finland]
Nimeh-ye penhan / نيمه پنهان / The Hidden Half / [Finnish release with English title] The Hidden Half / Tahmineh Milani, IR 2001

Chapter 24. Gear Change

Selma / Selma / Ava DuVernay, GB/US 2014
Bande de filles / Girlhood / Céline Sciamma, FR 2015 [unreleased in Finland]
Orlando / Orlando / Sally Potter, GB/RU/IT/FR/NL 1992
Milarepa / Liliana Cavani, IT 1974 [unreleased in Finland]
Astenicheski sindrom / Астенический синдром / The Asthenic Syndrome / Asteeninen oire / Kira Muratova, SU 1990
The Connection / Shirley Clarke, US 1961 [unreleased in Finland]

Chapter 25. Comedy

Jumpin' Jack Flash / Jumpin' Jack Flash / Penny Marshall, US 1986
Big / Big – isoksi yhdessä yössä / Penny Marshall, US 1988
I've Heard the Mermaids Singing / Merenneitojen laulu / Patricia Rozema, CA 1987
Appropriate Behaviour / Desiree Akhavan, GB 2014 [unreleased in Finland]
The Trouble with Angels / Harmia enkeleistä / Ida Lupino, US 1966
A New Leaf / Kun mies on mies / Elaine May, US 1971
The Heartbreak Kid / Sydäntenmurskaaja / Elaine May, US 1972
Obvious Child / Gillian Robespierre, US 2014 [unreleased in Finland]
But I'm a Cheerleader / Olen kunnon tyttö / Jamie Babbit, US 1999
Fjols til fjells / Fools in the Mountains / Edith Carlmar, NO 1957 [unreleased in Finland]
El camino / Ana Mariscal, ES 1963 [unreleased in Finland]
Wayne's World / Wayne's World / Penelope Spheeris, US 1992
Ciało / Body / Małgorzata Szumowska, PL 2015 [unreleased in Finland]
Marlina si Pembunuh dalam Empat Babak / Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts / Mouly Surya, ID/FR/MY/TH 2017 [unreleased in Finland]
Privarzaniyat balon / Привързаният балон / The Attached Balloon / Binka Zhelyazkova, BG 1967 [unreleased in Finland]

AA: In this episode Mark Cousins presents new marvellous samples from films both familiar and unfamiliar, directed by women. This is a series about women film directors, but I started to think that the theme "Women Make Film" is much larger. Ever since the star system started around the year 1910, star power has been the driving force of film-making usually much more than the power of the director. From Asta Nielsen to the present day, the most powerful women in the film industry have been film stars, and also, at least since the 1960s, also pop stars. Barbra Streisand, Madonna, and Lady Gaga have been auteurs of today. In the silent period, Mary Pickford was one of the most influential people in the world.

As for editing, Mark Cousins has written illuminating pages about women editors elsewhere. From Anne Bauchens to Thelma Schoonmaker, they have been top of the game. And because Esfir Shub is represented in this episode, we remember that she was the mother of the montage film in the world, as Nicole Védrès was the mother of the postwar montage film and essay film, the model for Alain Resnais and Jean-Luc Godard.

The liberties Mark Cousins takes with his themes are bewildering. He makes a point of straying as far as possible from the conventional and the expected. I enjoy the digressions and the recherché samples. But the more obvious samples carry the thesis: juxtaposing Esfir Shub and Leni Riefenstahl, for example, in the chapter on Politics. Discoveries in this chapter include Tomka and His Friends by  Xhanfize Keko and Finsterworld by Frauke Finsterwalder, both with a sharp approach to Nazism.

The chapter on comedy... a certain sloppines creeps into the series, and this chapter fails colossally to pay tribute to the fantastic contribution of women in comedy. Which is because it only focuses on directors and not stars. Especially in comedy based on an established character of course the comic is the auteur. It suffices to mention Mae West.

Even from a director-driven viewpoint it could have been possible to mention Mabel Normand as one of the founders of the American slapstick comedy and a mentor of Charles Chaplin, among other things. There are many fine French comedy directors unmentioned here, such as Coline Serreau (3 hommes et un couffin). Of Americans, Amy Heckerling (Clueless) and Nora Ephron could have been alternatives to directors who have already been introduced in earlier chapters. Maybe they will emerge later. Many of the most prominent comedy directors in Finland are women, and I guess Finland is not the only country where it is so.

This episode is slightly slapdash, unfortunately, but still rewarding.

Beethoven 250: music for theatre and ballet


I. István magyar király. A Wikipédiából, a szabad enciklopédiából. / Stephan I. der Heilige / Stephen I of Hungary, King Saint Stephen. Image: Portrayal of Stephen I on the Hungarian coronation pall from 1031. Textile, embroidery. Magyar Nemzeti Múzeum / Hungarian National Museum. Scanned by Szilas from A magyar Szent Korona by Tóth Endre, Szelényi Károly, Kossuth 2000, Budapest.

Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited. Also available on Spotify etc. I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

CD 13 / 80

Opus 117: König Stephan – Singspiel (1811). King Stephen, or Hungary's First Benefactor, music for A. von Kotzebue's festive prologue. Ten tracks.
    Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / Myung Whun Chung.
    Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Boris Aljinovicz, Helmut Ruhl, Frank-Thomas Mende
    Ulrich Jackwerth, recitation.
    Coro dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia / chorus master Norbert Balatsch, 1996 Rome.

WoO 1: Musik zu einem Ritterballett (1791). Music for a ballet on horseback. Eight tracks.
    Swedish Chamber Orchestra Örebro / Thomas Dausgaard, 1998 Örebro Concert Hall.

WoO 2a: Triumphmarsch - for C. Kuffner's tragedy Tarpeja
    Philharmonia Hungarica / Hans Ludwig Hirsch, 1975

WoO 91: Zwei Arien zum Singspiel Die schöne Schusterin für Tenor bzw. Sopran mit Orchester
    Hanne-Lore Kuhse, Eberhard Büchner
    Staatskapelle Berlin / Artur Apelt, 1972

WoO 94: Arie „Germania“ aus dem Singspiel Die gute Nachricht
    Gerald Finley
    BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Davis, 1996

WoO 96: Schauspielmusik Leonore Prohaska, music for J. F. L. Duncker's drama. Four tracks.
    Sylvia McNair (soprano), Karoline Eichhorn (recitation)
    Rundfunkchor Berlin / Dietrich Knothe
    Berliner Philharmoniker / Claudio Abbado, 1994

WoO 97: Arie „Es ist vollbracht“ aus dem Singspiel Die Ehrenpforten
    Gerald Finley
    BBC Singers, BBC Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Davis, 1996

WoO 104: Gesang der Mönche aus Schillers Wilhelm Tell für zwei Tenöre und Bass
    Joachim Vogt (tenor), Günther Beyer, Siegfried Hausmann (basses), 1976

WoO = Werk ohne Opusnummer.

AA: Beautiful but not unforgettable tracks from Beethoven's compositions for theatre and ballet, performed by great singers and musicians. Leonore Prohaska is intepreted by Sylvia McNair and ends with a moving funeral march.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Beethoven 250: music for theatre


Cover art in Warner Classics: Beethoven: Complete Works: CD 12: Caspar David Friedrich (1774–1840): Junotempel in Agrigent. Ca 1828 – ca 1830. Oil on canvas. 54 x 72. Museum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte (Dortmund). Source: The Yorck Project (2002) 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei (DVD-ROM), distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. ISBN: 3936122202. Photo: Wikipedia.

Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited. Also available on Spotify etc. I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

CD 12 / 80
Opus 84: Egmont-Ouvertüre und Schauspielmusik (1810)
    New York Philharmonic Orchestra / Kurt Masur, 1992 live at Avery Fisher Hall
    Sylvia McNair, Will Quadflieg
Opus 113: Die Ruinen von Athen – Singspiel (1811)
Die Weihe des Hauses, Hess 118 (1822) – an adaptation of Die Ruinen von Athen
    Berliner Symphoniker / Hans-Hubert Schönzeler, 1970
    Berliner Philharmoniker / Claudio Abbado, 1994
    Sylvia McNair, Neumar Starling, Vladimir de Kanell, Bryn Terfel, Bruno Ganz
    Berliner Konzertchor, 1970
    Rundfunkchor, 1994

AA: This record starts from a thrilling high point: the Egmont overture played magnificently by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Kurt Masur. The rest of the record contains less well known material. All ten tracks of Beethoven's music for Goethe's tragedy Egmont (1787) are of high quality, and Goethe himself praised the composer's "remarkable genius". The drama is about the heroic sacrifice of Egmont who stands up against Spanish oppression in the Netherlands of the 16th century. The music was meant to be played in the theatre, and the tragedy was written to be performed with music. For concert circumstances notable writers have created declamations to be recited by actors; this performance has none. Sylvia McNair sings eloquently the tragic songs of Klärchen, Egmont's loved one. The tenth track, Siegessymphonie, is a recapitulation of the overture.

Die Ruinen von Athen is a celebratory play, ein Festspiel, written by August von Kotzebue. Again Beethoven wrote ten pieces of music. At the start is an intriguing and haunting overture. (Among many other things, Beethoven was a master of overtures!). One of the tracks has become a perennial for pop music: "Marcia alla Turca" (both Mozart and Beethoven created a memorable Turkish March). None other than Bruno Ganz recites "Es wandelt schon das Volk im Feierkleide" in "Musik hinter der Szene". I like also the gentle march with chorus "Schmückt die Altäre" performed by Berliner Konzertchor. Beethoven recycled his composition for another play, Carl Meisl's Die Weihe des Hauses, writing for it another overture (included in CD 11) and a composition for a dance with chorus and aria (heard as the final track on this CD 12).

The ruins of Athens are lamented by the goddess Athene who gave her name to the city, now occupied by the Ottoman Empire. The subject of the ruin brings a new angle to the theme of the sublime in Beethoven's work. The sublime is often at its moving when it is reflected in a hidden power, something overwhelming lying dormant, a bear in hibernation, a volcanic energy before an eruption or the hours before the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami when the animals sensed in advance what was about to happen. The ruins of Athens are marks of a former glory that might be revived again.

Monday, April 27, 2020

Genius



Genius / Genius
    GB/US © 2015 Genius Film Productions Limited. Year of release: 2016. PC: Desert Wolf Productions / Michael Grandage Company / Riverstone Pictures / Ingenious / Pinewood Pictures. P: James Bierman, Michael Grandage, John Logan.
    D: Michael Grandage. SC: John Logan – based on the book Max Perkins: Editor of Genius (1978) by A. Scott Berg. Cin: Ben Davis – digital – colour / b&w – 2.35:1 – release format: DCP. PD: Mark Digby. AD: Patrick Rolfe. Set dec: Michelle Day. Cost: Jane Petrie. Hair designer / makeup designer: Christine Blundell. SFX: Trevor Butterfield. VFX: Helen Streeter. M: Adam Cork. "Flow Gently Sweet Afton" (1873). S: Ian Wilson. ED: Chris Dickens. Casting: Jina Jay.
    C: Colin Firth (Max Perkins), Jude Law (Thomas Wolfe), Nicole Kidman (Aline Bernstein), Laura Linney (Louise Perkins), Guy Pearce (F. Scott Fitzgerald), Dominic West (Ernest Hemingway), Vanessa Kirby (Zelda Fitzgerald), Gillian Hanna (Julia Wolfe), Angela Sant'Albano (Bertha Perkins).
    Loc: England, Czech Republic, 2014.
    104 min
    Festival premiere: 16 Feb 2016 Berlin International Film Festival.
    US premiere: 10 June 2016.
    Finnish dvd premiere: 2 Nov 2016, Future Film.
    Finnish telepremiere: 21 Feb 2020 Yleisradio (YLE), Finnish subtitles by Suvi Heinonen.
    Corona lockdown viewings.
    Yle Areena, viewed at home in Helsinki on a 4K tv set, 27 April 2020.

IMDb: "A chronicle of Max Perkins's time as the book editor at Scribner, where he oversaw works by Thomas Wolfe, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald and others."

AA: Maxwell Perkins belongs to the greatest editors in the history of book publishing. Even in Finland he was a model for example for Jarl Hellemann, the illustrious CEO of the Tammi publishing house. Hellemann wrote about Perkins in his book Kirjalliset liikemiehet: kustantajakuvia [Literary Businessmen: Portraits of Publishers, 2002].

When Michael Grandage's film Genius was released four years ago, Robert Gottlieb wrote for The New York Review of Books (8 Dec 2016) an illuminating essay on the relationship between Max Perkins and Thomas Wolfe – a professional relationship that also turned into a profound friendship. Max Perkins had five adorable daughters but no son. For Wolfe, Perkins became a father figure. For Perkins, Wolfe filled the part of the much-longed son.

I have no means of assessing how close Grandage sticks to the truth, but according to Gottlieb's review he seems to have achieved that reasonably well. Let's state here that Genius is not a perfectly successful film. There is a top cast and the ingredients are good, but an irresistible drive is missing. The director does not have a compelling touch. The musical score is conventional, and there is a slightly drab look in the cinematography. Although this is a New York story, it has been shot in England and in the Czech Republic.

However, the screenplay is excellent. Based on A. Scott Berg's award-winning book, John Logan has dramatized the story well. Ernest Hemingway is a supporting character, important in his leanness of style as the diametrical opposite to the exuberant Wolfe. F. Scott Fitzgerald is more important in the core drama: he suffers from writer's block, and in this he is the opposite of the overproductive Wolfe.

Max Perkins helps Wolfe edit publishable books from endless (and endlessly growing) masses of manuscript pages. I laughed out loud in the scene where the caskets filled with the manuscript of Of Time and the River are carried to Perkins's office.

Perkins always gives sole credit to the artist and none to himself. Wolfe keeps discovering himself in his writing. It is also about discovering "life". "You haven't the slightest idea of how to live" is Wolfe's accusation to Perkins. But he treats his significant other, Aline Bernstein (Nicole Kidman) abominably. During the most hectic period of editing Wolfe's book, Perkins sacrifices his family and lets his wife Louise (Laura Linney) carry the whole responsibility of their daughters.

A topical connection in this story is that Thomas Wolfe writes his final lines as a miliar tuberculosis patient, treated by the best neurosurgeons of the country, at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. The Coronavirus Research Center at Johns Hopkins University is today the most respected source of information about the pandemic.

Meek's Cutoff


Kelly Reichardt: Meek's Cutoff (2010). Photo from IMDb. The film itself is in Academy, not scope. Please click on the image to enlarge it!

Meek's Cutoff – kadonnut vankkurikaravaani.
    US © 2010 Thunderegg LLC. PC: Evenstar Films / Film Science / Harmony Productions / Primitive Nerd. P: Elizabeth Cuthrell, Neil Kopp, Anish Savjani, David Urrutia.
    D: Kelly Reichardt. SC: Jonathan Raymond. Cin: Christopher Blauvelt – negative: 35 mm – colour – 1,33:1 – digital intermediate 2K – released on 35 mm (Fuji). PD: David Doernberg. AD: Kat Uhlmansiek. Cost: Vicki Farrell. Makeup: Leo Won. Hair: David Kennedy. M: Jeff Grace. "Nearer My God, To Thee" (Sarah F. Adams, Eliza Flower, 1841 [the original tune]). S mixer: Felix Andrew. S: Javier Bennassar, Mandell Winter. ED: Kelly Reichardt.
    C: Michelle Williams (Emily Tetherow), Bruce Greenwood (Stephen Meek), Will Patton (Soloman Tetherow), Zoe Kazan (Millie Gately), Paul Dano (Thomas Gately), Shirley Henderson (Glory White), Neal Huff (William White), Tommy Nelson (Jimmy White), Rod Rondeaux (the [Northern] Paiute).
    Loc: Oregon (Burns, Hines), November 2009.
    104 min
    Festival premiere: 5 Sep 2010 Venice Film Festival.
    US release: 8 April 2011.
    Finland: dvd release: 14 Aug 2013 Atlantic Film.
    Finland: telepremiere: 17 Feb 2017 Yle Teema, Finnish subtitles by Vesa Kuittinen.
    Corona lockdown viewings / Women Make Film.
    Yle Areena, HD, viewed at home in Helsinki on a 4K tv set, 28 April 2020.

IMDb synopsis: "Settlers traveling through the Oregon desert in 1845 find themselves stranded in harsh conditions."

AA: Many Westerns and television series have been made about the Oregon Trail, the most famous being Raoul Walsh's epic The Big Trail (1930) in which John Wayne was cast in a leading role for the first time.

Kelly Reichardt's film reverses genre expectations. The scout of the settlers, Stephen Meek (Bruce Greenwood), is a historical character, and Meek's Cutoff is an actual historical trail in Oregon. But Reichardt's film is not an epic and Meek is not a hero. Instead, the violent and braggadocious Meek turns out to be clueless in the Oregon desert. He does not know his way there, and he puts the lives of the settlers in danger.

The settlers run out of water and decide to ask for advice from a lone Paiute man. They do not understand each others' languages, but in the finale the Paiute leads them to a tree at the edge of the desert. Where there's a tree, there must be water. During the trek Meek wants to kill the Paiute, but in the last minute Emily (Michelle Williams) intervenes and turns her rifle against Meek.

There are exciting scenes in the movie, such as the lowering of wagons from a mountainside, but the approach is the opposite of a conventional adventure story, and the film is not story-driven at all. Instead, Reichardt's approach is based on durée, as if the events were unfolding in real time instead of rousing montage sequences. Her film has been shot in the classical Academy format, where The Big Trail was shot in Fox Grandeur 70 mm, a pioneering widescreen process. What Reichardt conveys is a sense of really being there.

Meek's Cutoff is an image-driven, painterly and visionary film. Together with her cinematographer Christopher Blauvelt, Reichardt shoots on location in her beloved Oregon, using available light, daring to shoot long takes in the dusk or at night, very often in extreme long shot, visually dramatizing the theme of the struggle for existence. The film is full of gorgeous shots that could be hung on the wall. The theme of seeing is a matter of survival. For instance we learn that because of the thin air things on the horizon seem much nearer than they really are.

The movie has been beautifully shot in deep focus on 35 mm. The feeling of natural light and the fine textures are successfully conveyed in the digital intermediate.

Beethoven 250: overtures * military music


Robert Alexander Hillingford: Wellington at Waterloo. Photo: Wikipedia.

Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven. Performers: various artists including: Artemis Quartet, Daniel Barenboim, Rudolf Buchbinder, Renaud Capuçon, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Otto Klemperer, Stephen Kovacevich, Yo-Yo Ma, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Jacqueline du Pré, András Schiff, János Starker, Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
    "Jubiläums-Edition zum 250. Geburtstag im Deluxe-Packaging mit umfangreichem Begleitmaterial."
    "Doing full justice to Beethoven’s awe-inspiring, but profoundly humane genius, this is Warner Classics’ first-ever complete edition of his works. It draws discerningly on the riches of the label’s catalogue, assuring integrity by assigning entire cycles to the same artist, ensemble or team of performers. Classics from the age of the LP are complemented by the best of the CD era and by a wealth of new recordings of rarely heard works that are ripe for discovery. This is a comprehensive and deeply satisfying tribute to Beethoven, a transformative force who has enhanced the lives of music-lovers for more than two centuries.".
    Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited.
    Compilation producer and editorial: Ray Granlund.
    Editorial assistant: Xenia Evans.
    Mastering: Isabelle Davy - Circé Studios, Paris.
    Graphic design: WLP, Ltd.
    An emphasis on complete cycles by a specific artist, ensemble or team of musicians. A particular feature of the box is continuity of the interpreter(s) throughout an entire cycle of works in the same musical genre / related genres.
    Some 300 tracks specially recorded for the box. These specially recorded tracks mostly comprise rarely heard works that are waiting to be discovered by a broader body of listeners. In the main these are piano works, choral works and songs.
    Booklet note by David Wyn Jones.
    The CD covers carry evocative paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, Josef Anton Koch and other German and Austrian artists of Beethoven’s time.
    Also available on Spotify etc.
    I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

CD 11/80:
Opus 62: Coriolan-Ouvertüre (1807)
    Philharmonia Orchestra / Otto Klemperer, 1957
Opus 115: Namensfeier-Ouvertüre (1815)
    Swedish Chamber Orchestra Örebro / Thomas Dausgaard, 2002–2005
Opus 124: Ouvertüre „Die Weihe des Hauses“ (1822)
    Philadelphia Orchestra / Riccardo Muti, 1985
Opus 138: Ouvertüre Nr. 1 zur Oper Leonore (1807)
    Staatskapelle Berlin / Daniel Barenboim, 1999
WoO 2b: Introduction to Act II of Fidelio (1805 version) 1'57"
    Swedish Chamber Orchestra Örebro / Thomas Dausgaard, 2002–2005
Opus 91: Wellingtons Sieg oder die Schlacht bei Vitoria (1813)
    Swedish Chamber Orchestra Örebro / Thomas Dausgaard, 2002–2005
WoO 18: Yorckscher Marsch Zapfenstreich No. 1, Marsch in F für Militärmusik (1809)
    The London Baroque Ensemble / Karl Haas, 1958
WoO 19: Zapfenstreich No. 3, Marsch in F No. 2 für Militärmusik
    The London Baroque Ensemble / Karl Haas, 1958
WoO 20: Zapfenstreich No. 2, Marsch in C für Militärmusik
    The London Baroque Ensemble / Karl Haas, 1958
WoO 21: Polonaise für Militärmusik in D-Dur
    Zentrales Orchester der Nationalen Volksarmee / Gerhard Baumann, 1970
WoO 22: Ecossaise für Militärmusik in D-Dur
    Zentrales Orchester der Nationalen Volksarmee / Gerhard Baumann, 1970
WoO 24: Militär-Marsch in D-Dur
    Zentrales Orchester der Nationalen Volksarmee / Gerhard Baumann, 1970

WoO = Werk ohne Opusnummer.

AA: From love to war: CD 10 in Warner Classics box set of Beethoven's complete works was dedicated to love. It is followed by CD 11 bringing together his military music. It is immediately obvious that Beethoven was a master of love music and only competent in martial topics.

The Coriolan Overture is one of the most heroic and magnificent compositions of Beethoven, powerfully conducted by Otto Klemperer on this collection. The overture was composed for a tragedy by Heinrich Joseph von Collin and not the famous play by Shakespeare which is about the same Roman leader from the period of the Roman Republic.

The Namensfeier Overture is jubilant, the Weihe des Hause Overture is festive, the first Leonore Overture is fine but understandably forgotten next to the incomparable third Leonore Overture.

Comes Wellington's Victory which was Beethoven's biggest hit and moneymaker. It is one of his most undistinguished works: a competent military jubileum composition with powerful drums and extended helpings of "Rule, Britannia!" (1740) for the British troops, "Marlbrough s'en va-t-en guerre" (composed before 1780) for the French side and "God Save the King" (1745) for the finale.

It is followed by six military marches which are brisk and perfect for their purpose. But after the Coriolan Overture there is nothing unforgettable on this CD.

I happened to listen to this military CD on Finland's National Veterans' Day, 27 April 2020. Finland has now lived 75 years in peace after many devastating wars. We remember gratefully the veterans who secured us the strongest hand possible in our quandary between Stalin and Hitler.

"Finnish soldiers raise the war flag at the three-country cairn between Norway, Sweden, and Finland on 27 April 1945, the end of World War II in Finland. The photograph was taken by the commander of Infantry Regiment 1, Colonel Väinö Oinonen. It became a widely circulated symbol of World War II in Finland." Photograph and caption from the English Wikipedia.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Beethoven 250: Violin Concerto (Itzhak Perlman, 1980)


Julius Schmid (1854–1934): Beethoven beim Spaziergang in der Natur / Der einsame Meister.

Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven. Performers: various artists including: Artemis Quartet, Daniel Barenboim, Rudolf Buchbinder, Renaud Capuçon, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Otto Klemperer, Stephen Kovacevich, Yo-Yo Ma, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Jacqueline du Pré, András Schiff, János Starker, Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
    "Jubiläums-Edition zum 250. Geburtstag im Deluxe-Packaging mit umfangreichem Begleitmaterial."
    "Doing full justice to Beethoven’s awe-inspiring, but profoundly humane genius, this is Warner Classics’ first-ever complete edition of his works. It draws discerningly on the riches of the label’s catalogue, assuring integrity by assigning entire cycles to the same artist, ensemble or team of performers. Classics from the age of the LP are complemented by the best of the CD era and by a wealth of new recordings of rarely heard works that are ripe for discovery. This is a comprehensive and deeply satisfying tribute to Beethoven, a transformative force who has enhanced the lives of music-lovers for more than two centuries.".
    Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited.
    Compilation producer and editorial: Ray Granlund.
    Editorial assistant: Xenia Evans.
    Mastering: Isabelle Davy - Circé Studios, Paris.
    Graphic design: WLP, Ltd.
    An emphasis on complete cycles by a specific artist, ensemble or team of musicians. A particular feature of the box is continuity of the interpreter(s) throughout an entire cycle of works in the same musical genre / related genres.
    Some 300 tracks specially recorded for the box. These specially recorded tracks mostly comprise rarely heard works that are waiting to be discovered by a broader body of listeners. In the main these are piano works, choral works and songs.
    Booklet note by David Wyn Jones.
    The CD covers carry evocative paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, Josef Anton Koch and other German and Austrian artists of Beethoven’s time.
    Also available on Spotify etc.
    I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

CD 10/80:
Opus 61: Konzert für Violine und Orchester in D-Dur (1806) – Kadenzen: Fritz Kreisler
    Itzhak Perlman (violin), Philharmonia Orchestra / Carlo Maria Giulini, 1980
Opus 40: Romanze für Violine und Orchester in G-Dur (1802)
    Itzhak Perlman (violin), Berliner Philharmoniker / Daniel Barenboim, 1986 live
Opus 50: Romanze für Violine und Orchester in F-Dur (1798)
    Itzhak Perlman (violin), Berliner Philharmoniker / Daniel Barenboim, 1986 live
WoO 5: Konzert für Violine und Orchester in C-Dur (Fragment) (1790–92)
   Sergiu Luca (violin), The Rochester Philharmonic / David Zinman, 1981

WoO = Werk ohne Opusnummer.

AA: I am listening to the CD's in the Warner Classics Beethoven box set in numerical order, and it turns out to be a splendid idea, because the collection has been curated to be listened in that way. First the symphonies and the piano concertos, then the violin concerto. In each format Beethoven was groundbreaking, and all who followed could benefit and be inspired: not to copy Beethoven, but follow the personal calling of one's own. Beethoven was a great liberator.

I confess that the Violin Concerto was the composition I was most looking forward to, for personal reasons. It was the composition that woke me up to music in a profound sense when I first heard it as a child while lying in a fever. For the first time I felt the full impact of a long format composition. I learned it by heart and listened to it in my mind.

The Violin Concerto was a swashbuckling adventure story like the novels by Alexandre Dumas that I had been reading or the films starring Errol Flynn such as The Adventures of Robin Hood. But it was also a space odyssey in which even the sky was not the limit. And a deep diving trek to the bottom of the ocean, to the Mariana Trench. It was both breathtaking and disciplined. The fundamental difference to my boyhood favourites was of course that Beethoven presents an adventure story of the mind, an ordeal of the spirit, a musical Bildungsroman, like the Wilhelm Meister cycle of novels that Goethe was creating during the same decades.

Thanks to the curatorship by Ray Granlund we have by now heard on the previous CD's Beethoven's piano arrangement of the concerto and Itzhak Perlman's appearance as the violinist of the Triple Concerto.

On this CD the Violin Concerto is followed by Beethoven's two violin romances whose affinities with the concerto are obvious. They may be the most wonderful confessions of love in the history of music. With them Beethoven was also a founder of a new genre. Itzhak Perlman plays them with pure, lyrical and sincere conviction. The interpretation is sober and classical.

There is also a fragment of the young Beethoven's first attempt at a violin concerto, composed 16 years earlier, played by Sergiu Luca. It is a pleasant and competent exercise in the classical mode, but there is nothing unforgettable about it.

Itzhak Perlman's interpretation of the Violin Concerto appears regularly on the lists of the greatest recordings of the composition. Made in 1980, it was the first recording of the Violin Concerto that was released digitally. It has great discipline and clarity, and perhaps a careful approach was selected because of the pioneering digital circumstances. But Perlman also dares to be overwhelming and heartbreaking, evoking distant echoes of unspeakable tragedy. This is not a case of Romanticism anti-romanticized.

I can't help myself that in my memory I keep returning to my first love, the 1952 recording of the Violin Concerto by Ruggiero Ricci and the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Adrian Boult. A music connoisseur would probably detect many drawbacks in the recording, just like Ricci himself later did. But in the 1960s he also fondly remembered the circumstances at the time when a musician needed to have a repertory of not more than ten compositions at a time. It was a more relaxed period, and a musician could live the drama of the composition more totally, with his full being. I'll never forget the bravado, the swashbuckling spirit, the sense of danger, the joy of plunging into chaos and making order into it in a way where we can identify with the exaltation of a demiurge.

...

In many sources the story circulates that the first performance of the Violin Concerto was unsuccessful and for that reason it fell into oblivion for decades. Actually it had a wonderful reception (a rave review by the critic Möser in Wiener Theater-Zeitung, 8 Jan 1807 can be read online) but the "inner adventure" was felt too daunting for the violinists of the time.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

Beethoven 250: the piano concertos (András Schiff, 1996)


"In writing, later, of this meeting, Liszt said, "I played the first movement of the Concerto in C major [Piano Concerto No. 1 in C]; and, when I had finished, Beethoven grasped me with both hands, kissed me on the forehead very softly and said, "Go, thou art blessed; because you will bring joy and blessings to many others. There is nothing finer or more beautiful in all the world." The drawing is by Rudolf Lipus (1893–1961). Source: http://etudemagazine.com/etude/1936/11". From: Wikipedia.

Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven. Performers: various artists including: Artemis Quartet, Daniel Barenboim, Rudolf Buchbinder, Renaud Capuçon, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Otto Klemperer, Stephen Kovacevich, Yo-Yo Ma, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Jacqueline du Pré, András Schiff, János Starker, Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
    "Jubiläums-Edition zum 250. Geburtstag im Deluxe-Packaging mit umfangreichem Begleitmaterial."
    "Doing full justice to Beethoven’s awe-inspiring, but profoundly humane genius, this is Warner Classics’ first-ever complete edition of his works. It draws discerningly on the riches of the label’s catalogue, assuring integrity by assigning entire cycles to the same artist, ensemble or team of performers. Classics from the age of the LP are complemented by the best of the CD era and by a wealth of new recordings of rarely heard works that are ripe for discovery. This is a comprehensive and deeply satisfying tribute to Beethoven, a transformative force who has enhanced the lives of music-lovers for more than two centuries.".
    Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited.
    Compilation producer and editorial: Ray Granlund.
    Editorial assistant: Xenia Evans.
    Mastering: Isabelle Davy - Circé Studios, Paris.
    Graphic design: WLP, Ltd.
    An emphasis on complete cycles by a specific artist, ensemble or team of musicians. A particular feature of the box is continuity of the interpreter(s) throughout an entire cycle of works in the same musical genre / related genres.
    Some 300 tracks specially recorded for the box. These specially recorded tracks mostly comprise rarely heard works that are waiting to be discovered by a broader body of listeners. In the main these are piano works, choral works and songs.
    Booklet note by David Wyn Jones.
    The CD covers carry evocative paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, Josef Anton Koch and other German and Austrian artists of Beethoven’s time.
    Also available on Spotify etc.
    I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

Opus 15: Klavierkonzert Nr. 1 in C-Dur (1795)
Opus 19: Klavierkonzert Nr. 2 in B-Dur (1795)
Opus 37: Klavierkonzert Nr. 3 in c-Moll (1803)
Opus 58: Klavierkonzert Nr. 4 in G-Dur (1807)
Opus 73: Klavierkonzert Nr. 5 in Es-Dur (1809)

    András Schiff, piano
    Staatskapelle Dresden / Bernard Haitink, 1996

Opus 61a: Klavierkonzert in D-Dur (Arrangement des Violinkonzerts op. 61) (1808)

    François-René Duchâble, piano
    Piotr Kostrzewa, timpani
    Sinfonia Varsovia / Yehudi Menuhin, 1999

CD 9/80:
Opus 56: Tripelkonzert in C-Dur (1805)

    Itzhak Perlman (violin), Yo-Yo Ma (cello), Daniel Barenboim (piano). Berliner Philharmoniker / Daniel Barenboim, 1995
WoO 4: Klavierkonzert in Es-Dur (1784) orchestral score reconstructed by Ronald Brautigam.
    Ronald Brautigam (piano). Norrköping Symphony Orchestra / Andrew Parrott, 2008
Opus 80: Fantasie für Klavier, Chor und Orchester in c-Moll (1808) "Chorfantasie"
    Luba Orgonasova, Maria Heid, sopranos * Elisabeth von Magnus, alto * Deon van der Walt, Robert Fontane, tenors * Florian Boesch, Ricardo Luna, baritones * Pierre-Laurent Aimard, piano * Arnold Schoenberg Chor, chorus master: Erwin Ortner
    Chamber Orchestra of Europe / Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 2003

WoO = Werk ohne Opusnummer.

AA: After the symphonies, Warner Classics's Beethoven: The Complete Works box set continues with the five piano concertos. It is a parallel experience: Beethoven starts as a brilliant master for the aristocracy and soon embarks on an unheard-of inner journey, a devastating spiritual pilgrimage, a space odyssey that knows no boundaries. It is a saga of liberation. From a servant of the court he grows into "the hero of his own life" and a great model for all composers who follow.

The selection of this 1996 recording by András Schiff is interesting and in a way similar to the decision to start the box set with the 1991 recording by Nikolaus Harnoncourt of the symphonies. This interpretation is like a masterclass, a transparent and analytical study. It brings to mind the early decades of digital cinematography where the emphasis was on clarity and brightness.

I am not a music connoisseur, but I have on my shelf the 1984–1987 Claudio Arrau recordings of the piano concertos, and they sound very different. There is an assured and confident legato approach all through the concertos. The strength is convincing, but there is also a subtle magical timbre, like a tender lover's touch. For Arrau, this is a love story.

In András Schiff's interpretation of the Fifth Piano Concerto there is a change of tack, and suddenly everything runs smoothly, everything connects and builds to tremendous grandeur. Comes the most breathtaking passage in the interpretation of the five piano concertoes: the Adagio. It is extremely restrained and held back, yet in a way that we can sense an imminent thunderstorm. This movement had me in tears.

This brings to mind that the works of Beethoven belong to textbook examples of the sublime. Sublime as an experience of something overwhelming, transcendent, evoking Kant about the fate of human reason to ask questions that transcend its own limits. At its most refined, the sublime is evoked in a dormant, latent state, via negation, absence, silence and stillness, and that is what happens in the Adagio of the Fifth Piano Concerto.

It's about the sleeping tiger, the calm before the storm.

A bonus to the five official piano concertos is the opus 61a piano concerto: Beethoven's violin concerto with the piano replacing the violin as the solo instrument. It sounds wonderful and inspiring in the beginning, but after it has finished we understand why it is not being played more.

Following the official piano concertos there is CD 9, beginning with the Triple Concerto with Itzhak Perlman on the violin, Yo-Yo Ma on the cello and Daniel Barenboim on the piano. Glorious and joyous music, not quite among the absolutely highest achievements of Beethoven, but elevated by masters at the top of their game.

The hors série piano concerto in E flat (from 1784!) is heard as a reconstruction by Ronald Brautigam. A delightful performance introducing us to the 14-year-old boy genius Ludwig. It is not a masterpiece but a wonderful display of the young Beethoven's radiant and sunny dimensions. Brautigam's touch is juicy and full-figured.

The last composition on CD 9 is the Choral Fantasy, with Pierre-Laurent Aimard at the piano, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt conducting again the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. It is an exhilarating and passionate performance, already a fascinating stage in Beethoven's development towards the Choral Symphony (the Ninth), with some similar themes and approachs.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Women Make Film 8: Home, Religion, Work


From Chapter 20: Home: Ung flukt / The Wayward Girl / Edith Calmar, Norway 1959. Screenshot from the Women Make Film website.

From Chapter 21: Religion: Priest / Antonia Bird, GB 1994. Screenshot from the Women Make Film website.

From Chapter 22: Work: Araya / Margot Benacerraf, Venezuela 1959. Screenshot from the Women Make Film website.

Women Make Film. A New Road Movie Through Cinema
Women Make Film. Uusi matka elokuvaan
    GB © 2019 How To Make A Movie Ltd. PC: Hopscotch Films. P: John Archer. EX: Clara Glynn, Tilda Swinton. Assistant P: Sonali Choudhury. Associate P: Carl Beauchamp, Catherine Glynn Benkaim, Barbara Timmer.
    D+SC: Mark Cousins. Sound mixing: Diane Jardine. S: Joe Harfield. ED+script consultant: Timo Langer. Online: Chas Chalmers. Edit assistant: Scott Bilsbrough. P coordinator: Mhairi Valentine. P team: David Brown, Rowan Ings, Raja Kryda. World Sales: Dogwoof. Head of sales: Ana Vicente. Legal: David Burgess.
    https://www.womenmakefilm.com/
    14 hours – 14 episodes of 1 hour each
    Festival premiere: 1 Sep 2018 Venice Film Festival
    Finnish telepremieres of the 14 episodes: 3.3.2020, 10.3.2020, 17.3.2020, 24.3.2020, 1.4.2020, 8.4.2020, 15.4.2020, 22.4.2020, 29.4.2020, 6.5.2020, 13.5.2020, 20.5.2020, 27.5.2020, 3.6.2020.
    Corona lockdown viewings.
    Yle Areena.
    Viewed on a 4K tv set at home in Helsinki, 22 April 2020.   

Official synopsis: "The epic, four years in the making, still in production, is made up of forty “chapters” to be narrated by Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda and other key women in cinema, still to be announced. Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema follows in the footsteps of Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: An Odyssey, to give us a guided tour of the art and craft of the movies. Using almost a thousand film extracts from thirteen decades and five continents, Cousins asks how films are made, shot and edited; how stories are shaped and how movies depict life, love, politics, humour and death, all through the compelling lens of some of the world’s greatest directors – all of them women."

Episode 8/14: Home, Work, Religion
Jakso 8/14: Pyhä ja arki

Narrators: Sharmila Tagore, Jane Fonda
Finnish / Swedish subtitles: Jaana Wiik / Anna-Sofi Pettersson

Chapter 20. Home

Ung flukt / The Wayward Girl / Nuoret syntiset / Edith Calmar, NO 1959
Zacharovannaya Desna / Зачарованная Десна / The Enchanted Desna / Lumottu Desna / Yuliya Sointseva, SU 1964
Ratcatcher / Rotanpyydystäjä / Lynne Ramsay, GB/FR 1999
Hedi Schneider steckt fest / Hedi Schneider is Stuck / Sonja Heiss, DE 2015 [unreleased in Finland]
Nattlek / Night Games / Öiset leikit / Mai Zetterling, SE 1966
Niupi er / Niu pi II / 牛皮贰 / Oxhide 2 / Jiayin Liu, doc, CN 2009
Tailpiece / Margaret Tait, c.m., GB 1976
Khaneh siah ast / خانه سیاه است / The House is Black / Forough Farrokhzad, IR 1963
Safe / Tillflykten / Antonia Bird, GB 1993
Home / Ursula Meier, CH/FR/BE 2008 [unreleased in Finland]
Povest plamennykh let / Повесть пламенных лет / The Story of the Flaming Years / Liekehtivän taivaan alla / Yuliya Solntseva, SU 1961
Nachalo nevedomogo veka 2: Rodina elektrichestva / Начало неведомого века 2: Родина электричества / The Beginning of an Unknown Era / The Beginning of an Unbeknown Age Part 2: Homeland of Electricity / Sähkön kotimaa / Larisa Shepitko, SU 1967 [unreleased in Finland]

Chapter 21. Religion

Hypocrites / Lois Weber, US 1915
Gahanu lamai / ගැහැණු ළමයි / The Girls / Sumitra Peries, LK 1978 [unreleased in Finland]
Khovanshchina / Хованщина / Hovanshtshina / Vera Stroyeva, SU 1959
La niña santa / The Holy Girl / Lucrecia Martel, AR/IT/NL/ES 2004 [unreleased in Finland]
Nachalo nevedomogo veka 2: Rodina elektrichestva / Начало неведомого века 2: Родина электричества / The Beginning of an Unknown Era / The Beginning of an Unbeknown Age Part 2: Homeland of Electricity / Sähkön kotimaa / Larisa Shepitko, SU 1967 [unreleased in Finland]
Priest / Papin tarina / Antonia Bird, GB 1994
Lourdes / Jessica Hausner, AT/FR/DE 2009 [unreleased in Finland]
Persepolis / Persepolis / پرسپولیس / Marjane Satrapi, Vincent Paronnaud, FR/US 2007

Chapter 22. Work

The Future / Miranda July, DE/US/FR 2011 [unreleased in Finland]
American Honey / American Honey / Andrea Arnold, GB/US 2016
Baby ryazanskie / Бабы рязанские / Women of Ryazan / Rjazanin naiset / Olga Preobrazhenskaya, SU 1927
Araya / Margot Benacerraf, doc, VE/FR 1959 [unreleased in Finland]
Nachalo nevedomogo veka 2: Rodina elektrichestva / Начало неведомого века 2: Родина электричества / The Beginning of an Unknown Era / The Beginning of an Unbeknown Age Part 2: Homeland of Electricity / Sähkön kotimaa / Larisa Shepitko, SU 1967 [unreleased in Finland]
O něčem jiném / Something Different / Jostakin muusta / Věra Chytilová, CZ 1963
Nana / Valérie Massadian, FR 2011 [unreleased in Finland]
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles / Jeanne Dielman, 23 Commerce Quay, 1080 Brussels / [Finnish title:] Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles / Chantal Akerman, BE/FR 1975
The Selfish Giant / Clio Barnard, GB 2013 [unreleased in Finland]
Skyscraper / Shirley Clarke, Willard Van Dyke, doc, c.m., US 1960
Monster / Monster – Aileen Wuornos / Patty Jenkins, US 2003
SherryBaby / SherryBaby / Laurie Collyer, US 2006
American Psycho / Amerikan psyko / Mary Harron, US 2000
Devotion: A Film About Ogawa Productions / Barbara Hammer, doc, JP/US 2000 [unreleased in Finland]
Chircales / The Brickmakers / Tiilentekijät / Marta Rodríguez, Jorge Silva, CO 1972
Samt el qusur / صمت القصور  / The Silence of the Palaces / Palatsin hiljaisuus / Moufida Tlatli, TN 1994

AA: Three more playful chapters in Mark Cousins's epic saga of women making films. I love his way of going against the grain and his taste of the unexpected. I have never seen The Wayward Girl starring Liv Ullmann, and watching these scenes I understand that this film is the Norwegian counterpart to My Summer with Monika: the rebellious young love, the dismal everyday reality. I was surprised to see the samples from Julia Solntseva and Larisa Shepitko here, as well as Forough Farrokhzad: scenes of non-home actually. Seen from a traditional viewpoint, Chapter 20: Home could be a centerpiece of the project. Cousins has an interesting insight about "the house looking at us". The room, the house, the home, is usually a female space even in a patriarchal society, traditionally a symbol of femininity. The relevance is not diminished in a feministic perspective (Virginia Woolf's A Room of One's Own). The Female Gothic, not discussed here, is an intriguing genre: the woman as a stranger at her own home. The cinema's immortal accounts of home have been written by women (Gone With the Wind, Rebecca) but perhaps until now they have been produced by men (such as Selznick) with an understanding of what intrigues women.

Chapter 21 is about cinema and religion, and it is not a very rewarding contribution to the theme, but again, it does not matter because all the clips are fascinating: Hypocrites (early cinema from Lois Weber), Khovanshchina (a Mussorgsky opera adaptation, a lavish spectacle, in continuation to Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible and Vera Stroyeva's own Boris Godunov) and a discovery from Sri Lanka, Gahanu lamai by Sumitra Peries. The spiritual and the sacred have been unforgettably conveyed by directors as different as Larisa Shepitko and Pirjo Honkasalo, perhaps more strongly elsewhere than in the clips selected to this chapter.

Chapter 22, on work, in turn makes sense also thematically and not just as a brilliant compilation of clips. It starts with a heartbreaking sequence about a door-to-door solicitor (in Miranda July's The Future). The embarrassment of job interviews is dramatized from a female / feminist viewpoint in Patty Jenkins's Monster with the unrecognizable Charlize Theron as Aileen Wuornos and Laurie Collyer's SherryBaby with Maggie Gyllenhaal in a scene relevant to Me Too. From Mary Harron's American Psycho we see a satirical sequence of alpha males comparing business cards. From Olga Preobrazhenskaya's masterpiece The Women of Ryazan we see a classical harvesting sequence, worthy of Tolstoy and Dovjenko. A rediscovered gem here is Margot Benacerraf's Araya, a powerful documentary on the labourers who extract salt from the sea off the Araya Peninsula in Venezuela in the traditional way: it shared the Cannes International Critics Prize with Hiroshima mon amour in 1959. Also rediscovered here: the Colombian documentary Chircales (The Brickmakers) by Marta Rodríguez and Jorge Silva which was released even in Finland at the time, launched at the Tampere Film Festival if my memory serves.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Beethoven 250: the symphonies (Nikolaus Harnoncourt, 1991)



Beethoven: The Complete Works (80 CD). Composer: Ludwig van Beethoven. Performers: various artists including: Artemis Quartet, Daniel Barenboim, Rudolf Buchbinder, Renaud Capuçon, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Carlo Maria Giulini, Bernard Haitink, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Otto Klemperer, Stephen Kovacevich, Yo-Yo Ma, Yehudi Menuhin, Itzhak Perlman, Jacqueline du Pré, András Schiff, János Starker, Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
    "Jubiläums-Edition zum 250. Geburtstag im Deluxe-Packaging mit umfangreichem Begleitmaterial."
    "Doing full justice to Beethoven’s awe-inspiring, but profoundly humane genius, this is Warner Classics’ first-ever complete edition of his works. It draws discerningly on the riches of the label’s catalogue, assuring integrity by assigning entire cycles to the same artist, ensemble or team of performers. Classics from the age of the LP are complemented by the best of the CD era and by a wealth of new recordings of rarely heard works that are ripe for discovery. This is a comprehensive and deeply satisfying tribute to Beethoven, a transformative force who has enhanced the lives of music-lovers for more than two centuries.".
    Warner Classics / © 2019 Parlophone Records Limited.
    Compilation producer and editorial: Ray Granlund.
    Editorial assistant: Xenia Evans.
    Mastering: Isabelle Davy - Circé Studios, Paris.
    Graphic design: WLP, Ltd.
    An emphasis on complete cycles by a specific artist, ensemble or team of musicians. A particular feature of the box is continuity of the interpreter(s) throughout an entire cycle of works in the same musical genre/related genres:
    – Symphonies Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Chamber Orchestra of Europe
    – Piano Concertos András Schiff, Bernard Haitink, Staatskapelle Dresden
    – Violin Concerto & Romances Itzhak Perlman
    – Piano sonatas Stephen Kovacevich
    – String quartets Artemis Quartet
    – Violin sonatas Renaud Capuçon, Frank Braley
    –  Fidelio & Missa Solemnis Otto Klemperer
    Some 300 tracks specially recorded for the box. These specially recorded tracks mostly comprise rarely heard works that are waiting to be discovered by a broader body of listeners. In the main these are piano works, choral works and songs.
    Booklet note by David Wyn Jones.
    The CD covers carry evocative paintings by Caspar David Friedrich, Josef Anton Koch and other German and Austrian artists of Beethoven’s time.
    Also available on Spotify etc.
    I bought my box set from Fuga at Helsinki Music Centre.
    Ludwig van Beethoven 1770–1827.
    Beethoven 250 / corona lockdown listening.

Opus 21: 1. Sinfonie in C-Dur (1800)
Opus 36: 2. Sinfonie in D-Dur (1803)
Opus 55: 3. Sinfonie in Es-Dur „Eroica“ (1805)
Opus 60: 4. Sinfonie in B-Dur (1807)
Opus 67: 5. Sinfonie in c-Moll (1808)
Opus 68: 6. Sinfonie in F-Dur „Pastorale“ (1808)
Opus 92: 7. Sinfonie in A-Dur (1813)
Opus 93: 8. Sinfonie in F-Dur (1814)
Opus 125: 9. Sinfonie in d-Moll mit Schluss-Chor über Schillers Ode An die Freude (1824)
with Schoenberg Choir, Robert Holl, Birgit Remmert, Rudolf Schasching, Charlotte Margiono

    Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt.
    Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
    1991

AA: Many complete box sets are available of Ludwig van Beethoven's works for his 250th anniversary. When I asked Hannu Nuotio of Fuga for a recommendation for a layman he said that they are all great, but the Warner Classics box might be best for my purposes. I am not a music connoisseur nor a concert-goer but music means much to me. Nobody can bring greater happiness than Beethoven to a period of unhappiness. For the film industry, this is the biggest disaster during the entire 125 years of the cinema.

In his 2019 introduction to the box set David Wyn Jones acknowledges that Beethoven's lifetime was a period of revolutions but challenges the spirit-of-the-age arguments about the composer's achievements. Wyn Jones's emphasis is on Beethoven the Courtier, a man of the establishment, the official musician of the Congress of Vienna (= counter-revolution).

"I am large, I contain multitudes", wrote Walt Whitman, and those words certainly befit Beethoven. He cannot be classified in any simple fashion. He belongs to the Classical period, to the Romantic period and to a timeless legacy of absolute music. He belongs to the courts of Bonn and Vienna, but he was not a contract composer for the courts. His oeuvre is a grand adventure of a free spirit.

I am happy to disagree with Wyn Jones. For me, Beethoven is the soundtrack of the age of the triple revolutions which took place during his lifetime: the American Revolutionary War in 1775–1783, the French Revolution in 1789–1799 and the Industrial Revolution 1760–1840. Beethoven learned tremendously from Mozart and Haydn, but his spirit was profoundly different.

The box set starts with the symphonies. The conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe interpret them with noble conviction. The symphonies are evergreens, always new. Although the symphonies are familar, I have never before listened to them back to back. Beethoven was probably the first composer whose symphonies grow to an organic whole, an inner saga. The uneven numbers are the most famous ones (1, 3, 5, 7, 9), they are grand and dramatic. But the even numbers are not weaker, and they contribute joy, happiness and tenderness. I have often avoided the best-known symphonies and favoured the less played ones. But this time it was the Fifth that shook me even physically. Its opening is overused as a cliché, but now the Schicksalssinfonie really got me. It is again a soundtrack for a time of turbulence.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

One World: Together at Home (global television and social media special)


Poster art copyright: Global Citizen. Image from Wikipedia.

One World: Together at Home: The Rolling Stones, clockwise: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts, Ronnie Wood. Photo: Getty Images. Please click to enlarge.

Supertähtien koronatukikonsertti
    US © 2020 Global Poverty Project IP Pty Ltd. PC: Live Animals, Global Citizen. Created by: Global Citizen and Lady Gaga. EX: Audrey Morrissey, Hugh Evans, Lee Rolontz. Presented by: Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Stephen Colbert.
    Production locations: Virtual.
    120 min
    Worldwide release: original network: syndication, and global social media, 18 April, 2020
    Finnish release: Yleisradio, Yle TV2 channel, 19 April 2020.
    Corona lockdown viewings.
    Yle Areena edition, the 120 min version, viewed on a 4K tv set at home, Helsinki, 19 April 2002.

Data from Wikipedia: "Together at Home (also known as One World: Together at Home) is an ongoing virtual concert series organised by Global Citizen in support of the World Health Organization. The special is intended to promote the practice of social distancing during the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic."

"On April 18, 2020, a 6-hour preshow was streamed online immediately prior to the television global broadcast. The online portion of the event was hosted through YouTube by actress and presenter Jameela Jamil (hour 1), actor Matthew McConaughey (hour 2), actress Danai Gurira (hour 3), singer Becky G (hour 4), actress Laverne Cox (hour 5) and actor Don Cheadle (hour 6). It featured many appearances from celebrities."

During the 2-hour global television broadcast
Artist(s)     Song     Location

Lady Gaga: "Smile" US
Stevie Wonder: "Lean On Me" / "Love's in Need of Love Today" US
Paul McCartney: "Lady Madonna" UK
Kacey Musgraves: "Rainbow" US
Elton John: "I'm Still Standing" UK
The Roots featuring Jimmy Fallon: "Safety Dance" US
Maluma: "Carnaval" Colombia
Chris Martin (previously recorded on Instagram Live): "Yellow" UK
Shawn Mendes and Camilla Cabello: "What a Wonderful World" US
Eddie Vedder: "River Cross" US
Lizzo: "A Change Is Gonna Come" US
The Rolling Stones: "You Can't Always Get What You Want" UK
Keith Urban: "Higher Love"  US
Burna Boy: "African Giant" / "Hallelujah" Nigeria
Jennifer Lopez: "People" US
John Legend and Sam Smith: "Stand by Me" US and UK
Billie Joe Armstrong: "Wake Me Up When September Ends" US
Billie Eilish and Finneas: "Sunny" US
Taylor Swift: "Soon You'll Get Better" US
Lady Gaga, Celine Dion, John Legend, Andrea Bocelli and Lang Lang: "The Prayer" US/Canada/Italy/China" (data from Wikipedia)

Yle TV2: "Lady Gagan käynnistämä huipputapahtuma kansainvälisten tähtien seurassa. Tapahtumalla tuetaan maailman terveysjärjestön WHO:n, hoitoalan ja koko maapallon kamppailua koronavirusta vastaan. YleX:n Katri Norrlin ja Womma Seppälä juontavat lähetystä suomeksi. Yle Areenasta löytyy myös lähetys pelkästään alkuperäiskielellä, ilman kommentointia. Tapahtumassa ovat mukana Lady Gagan lisäksi mm. Billie Eilish, Camila Cabello, Celine Dion, Chris Martin, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez, John Legend, Kacey Musgraves, Keith Urban, Lizzo, Paul McCartney, Pharrell Williams, Sam Smith, Shawn Mendes, Stevie Wonder, Taylor Swift ja Usher." (Yle TV2)

AA: One World: Together at Home is an engrossing global television and social media programming event to strengthen the fighting spirit in our combat against the coronavirus, a show of support to the medical professionals and everyone risking their lives in the frontline and a message of love to all who are suffering.

Personally, this show helps me make better sense of the frontlines around the globe. The montages of the deserted cities all around the world are unforgettable. This show does embody the concept of "one world".

I know that for many superstar benefit and charity concerts are among the worst things they can imagine, but I have always been a fan, ever since The Concert for Bangla Desh (1972), not forgetting Band Aid ("Do They Know It's Christmas?", 1984 etc.), USA for Africa ("We Are The World", 1984 etc.), Artists United Against Apartheid ("Sun City", 1985), Dionne and Friends ("That's What Friends Are For", for AIDS research, 1985), Live Aid (dual venue benefit concert to help Ethiopia in famine, boosted by giant concerts in seven other countries, organized by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure, 1985 etc.), One World Project ("Grief Never Grows Old", for the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami relief) and Earth Day ("Earth", 2019).

This time it's different because the artists themselves are sheltering at home and cannot perform for live audiences. Its an unheard-of and frightening situation for everyone. But this is "no time to wallow in the mire". What we need is that fighting spirit, and joy and love. There are no immortal performances in this show, but the cast is amazing.

The opening number is Lady Gaga's performance of Charles Chaplin's "Smile" from Modern Times (1936), recently revived in Joker (2019). A song of multiple meanings, and this concert adds a new one. Favourite numbers of mine include Keith Urban's performance of Stevie Winwood's "Higher Love" (1986) and "Soon You'll Get Better" (2019) by Taylor Swift, a major WHO solidarity activist. It's amazing to see Stevie Wonder and Elton John here, as well as a representation of the Beatles and the Stones. Paul McCartney remembers his mother who was a nurse before embarking on "Lady Madonna". The Rolling Stones are ageless in their ramshackle but vigorous performance of "You Can't Always Get What You Want".