When I first saw the poster for Immortal Beloved just about a month ago, the first thing that ran through my mind was, “A movie about Beethoven…with Gary Oldman…how have I never seen or heard of this before?” I happen to have a love of films that center around composers and their music (which may be ironic, because I detest actual musicals, both in film and on stage, so much), and have probably seen Amadeus close to 30 times by now. So late last night, just after midnight, when I was searching through Comcast’s Xfinity Streampix feature, the title of this film popped up and I became really excited, because it was by accident that I would be able to watch this surprisingly rare and seemingly forgotten movie. The story begins, much like Amadeus, after the composer’s death, and is told predominantly through the perspective of his secretary and only friend, Anton Schindler, played by Jeroen Krabbe. It then takes many expertly crafted twists and turns through the life and many mysterious loves of Ludvig Van Beethoven. It is after the funeral that Beethoven’s secretary and brother are rummaging through his personal items and discover an updated will left by the deceased maestro, and also a love-letter, both addressed to the same person: an unknown “immortal beloved”. While the brother wants to discard the new will, because the original had him receiving the bulk of the estate, Schindler takes it upon himself to investigate further, and track down Beethoven’s lost love.
For anyone who knows author and historian Ned Huthmacher, they would be hard-pressed to find someone more enthusiastic about Texas history and the siege and battle of the Alamo than him. His life simply revolved around it, so much so that he actually moved to Texas several years after authoring a book titled One Domingo Morning: The Story of Alamo Joe, a novel, and also the first time commander William Barrett Travis’ slave Joe was ever profiled in-depth. Ned is a very easy-going guy who is always willing to talk about anything, especially his love of history. He is a man who can serve as inspiration for those who have a hobby or interest and want to take it to the next level. However, in a step away from his normal Alamo focus, Ned has spent the last several years working on songs to be produced for an album, titled Outside the Alamo, sung and performed by John Beland, who in the past has served as guitarist for several country music legends, including Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, Ricky Nelson, and Dolly Parton. While the cover of this album is a vintage photograph of Ned sitting by the outer barrack walls of John Wayne’s Alamo film set, the focus of the songs are quite literally outside the Alamo (with the exception of the song titled the same as his book, which he considers to be it’s “soundtrack”), meaning focusing on his other interests besides the famous battle.
Last night we witnessed a historic event, the concert of my generation so far. It was amazing to see so many singers and celebrities appearing for free to help relief for the hurricane damage in our area. While I cannot attack any of the performers because they did play for charity, I can still poke fun at them for an underwhelming overall performance. I was excited to see Paul McCartney, and while he sounded good, I did not recognize all but two of his songs. Nirvana was also disappointing and you can flat-out say Kanye West was disgusting. We, in this area, would like to thank all those involved, from the bottom of our hearts, but that does not mean they can escape my watchful eye…er, I mean ear. Below is my running commentary of Facebook statuses (in bold) during the concert, starting from when I put it on after Bruce Springsteen finished:
Wanting to kick off the week with something triumphant, how about we venture on over to a film score, written by John Addison for the World War II epic A Bridge Too Far (my review of which can be found here), which depicted the failed allied invasion of Holland, known as Operation Market Garden. No other soundtrack for a war film ever shone through with such militaria like this one has. It has everything you could want, with some old-time fife and drums present, as well as some jazzy interludes that bring in the era of big bands in America with plenty of brass. It has a catchy main theme that can get stuck in your head for an entire day, and prove to not be such a bad thing. For me, one essential item for a war movie is the soundtrack, with the exception of Saving Private Ryan, which offered none. This one ranks very high on my list.
Hope everyone had a great Easter Weekend, and will have an even better oncoming Spring Break! We’re starting off the week with some music that is a little bit of doom-and-gloom, but how can you not like The Doors on a Monday morning? “Light My Fire” is probably my favorite song by them, but this song, “The End”, is a close second, because of the imagery, relaxing tone of music, and of course, the hauntingly brilliant and poetic lyrics sung by the master song-orator himself, Jim Morrison. I also just love the title of the song, so plain, but telling you exactly what you are going to get. I also plan to have some fun with this on Facebook when December rolls around, and we near closer to the Mayan Apocalypse. You can expect to see this video posted every single day with the phrase “One Day Closer…” labeling the top. As you know already, I love to mess with people, and there are probably plenty who think I’m serious every time I mention how thankful I am that the world is ending in December because of how stupid the human race has become. Rest assured, though, I am not one of those loons (but I will certainly use it to my advantage to get blog hits as we get closer to the date; hey, if the History Channel can do it, so can I). Now it’s time for the music:
I was first introduced to the wonderful music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at a very young age, by way of the film Amadeus, starring Tom Hulce and F. Murray Abraham. Though years later, I found out that most of the film was fiction, it still gave a decent portrayal into the turbulent life of the child prodigy, and how his drinking and lifestyle led to an untimely death, thus leaving us all to wonder how much more music he could have written. No composer ever wrote such depth and such beauty, and even though he is not quite my all-time favorite (Tchaikovsky still holds that title), he is no doubt that greatest composer to ever live, hands-down. Because he celebrated his 256th birthday on Friday (personally, I don’t think he looks a day over 200), I decided to devote this first Musical Monday of 2012 to his honor.
Upon leaving the Prudential Center after an evening with Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra, a feeling of celebration came over me. Strange, I thought, what was the occasion? There was no holiday or birthday to be commemorated, so why this sense of joy? Then I realized, music; that’s what we just celebrated—music. Very simply, very happily, we had just come from a two and a half hour celebration of some of the greatest classical pieces in history, all performed with the Rieu touch, as if he was performing personally, for each and every person in the audience.
“Music is the most important thing in our lives.” Rieu told the audience on several occasions, during one of his many conversations with the crowd. Perhaps that is why such a special feeling could be felt inside the arena, because after every song, he would speak in a very calm, relaxed manner, either explaining why a particular song is important, or giving a little bit of history. More importantly, he reveled in the interaction with fans, and seemed to love poking fun at the audience. Famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) for his punctuality, after the first song, the camera would zoom in on audience members walking to their seats late, and he would talk about them until they realized it by looking up at the big screen. This generated a decent amount of laughter, and he continued to make jokes throughout.
Because I will be seeing world-renown violinist Andre Rieu and his famed Johann Strauss Orchestra tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, I figured I would get back to a “Musical Monday” post with one of my favorite pieces of his music. It is hard to believe that I discovered him accidentally, a little more than a year ago, when I was looking for a certain piece of music on Youtube, and his name popped up in the suggestions sidebar. Having some free time, I decided to watch that video; then another, and another, until finally, I was completely hooked. As I wrote last October, Andre Rieu is one of those rare figures who can actually make classical music fun for those who consider it dull. I have always liked it, so he did not have to be so persuasive on me, but it seems after the feedback I have gotten after writing that article, many people became fans of him having never listened to classical music beforehand.
When it comes to Christmas music, there are two kinds of people in this world: the die-hards for Trans-Siberian Orchestra and the same for Mannheim Steamroller. Though I have always appreciated the sound of the former, I have been listening to the latter for much longer, and think that they have a better sounding, wider range of songs, and that there is some tradition behind what they do, given their playing and restoring of music from the Renaissance and Medieval Times that would have been all but forgotten otherwise. For 2011, they are back and better than ever, with their eleventh Christmas album alone, titled, Christmas Symphony. Though there are not any new songs on the album, each one has been completely re-orchestrated, led by the band’s founder and drummer Chip Davis, with some help from the Czech Republic Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Arnie Roth.
On this Monday morning, I was particularly in the mood for some Napoleonic sounding music, because I am planning a lesson for a program I am teaching on Saturday that includes the battle of Waterloo, among many other famous battles from the 1700′s and 1800′s. There is no other piece of music out there that emulates this period in history better than Petr Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, which was actually written to commemorate the Russians’ victory over Napoleon during his invasion that culminated with battles such as Borodino.
The version of this piece that you can hear below is slightly different than others you may have heard, because near the end, when the pace begins to pick up, the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra used actual cannons instead of loud drums, which was what Tchaikovsky had originally written in when it was first performed in 1880. The technology employed on this version (which I actually own on CD and was happy to find the identical one on YouTube for your listening pleasure) is known as “Digital Cannons”, which was something groundbreaking in 1978 and actually caused peoples’ speakers to break due to their high volume. A description of this new technology reads as follows:
Telarc International made recording history in 1978 when they used digital audio technology to record the 1812 Overture. With its live cannons and phenomenal dynamic range, it quickly became a favorite demo disc in many audio stores, and the ultimate test for my new CD player and system. The advent of multi-channel discrete surround sound and high-definition audio recording systems such as 24/96 PCM and the DSD system, with its frequency response extending beyond 100 kHz and the availability of Super Audio CD and DVD-Audio, were enough to coax Telarc to create a new recording of the 1812. The new recording is even more taxing on your sound system than the original.
The cannons no-doubt give this music a more warlike and epic sound, and if you play it loud enough, your speakers may actually vibrate off the table. I have listened to this on the surround sound in my car, and it truly is amazing! So here it is folks, Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece and my own personal favorite, played as it was meant to be heard: