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Bernard Greenhouse

May 15, 2011 Leave a comment

I was sad to read yesterday that cellist Bernard Greenhouse died on Friday. He was a founding member of the Beaux Arts Trio, which I saw many times in my last few years in Boston.

The NYT obituary explained that when the trio was founded in 1955, the piano trio literature was not widely performed.

Piano trios faced their own obstacles. For chamber-music lovers, the string quartet, with its evenly married sonorities and vast repertory, was the ensemble of choice. The sonic challenge entailed in combining a violin and a cello with a piano, akin to pairing gentle breezes with a thunderclap, was something performers were rarely willing to take on.

As a result, there were few high-level piano trios at the time the Beaux Arts began. Those that did exist were generally shotgun affairs, created when three prominent soloists converged in the recording studio and dissolved immediately afterward.

Though born of similar circumstances — it was convened primarily to make recordings — the Beaux Arts was different. Its players remained together, dedicated to performing the neglected trio literature, which encompasses works by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak and Shostakovich, among others.

After making its debut at Tanglewood, the Beaux Arts became a fixture of concert stages throughout the world; in New York, it performed regularly at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

It seems I fell in love with chamber music at a good time, given that my favorite chamber pieces of all were the Brahms piano trios. Speaking of which, watch the video below, featuring not the Beaux Arts Trio (I couldn’t find them), but Eugene Istomin, Isaac Stern, and Leonard Rose. Not a bad alternative.

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Categories: Music

The King’s Speech

May 15, 2011 1 comment

We don’t see too many movies. Gail would be happy to, but I never seem eager to get to the theater. Unless it’s new Bond or Pixar. Last year was our worst year ever for Oscar-nominated movies. But I realized yesterday that they must all be out on DVD, so off I went to rent The King’s Speech. Best movie. Best director. Best actor. Best screenplay. Must be worth watching. After dinner, we fired up our movie system and entered the world of 1930s Britain.

The audience response hereabouts wasn’t so good. Joel took off halfway through. Gail split her attention between the movie and her iPad. I stayed true to the end, fascinated by the buddy story of King George VI and Lionel Logue. I think the depiction of their relationship was well done. And Geoffrey Rush was superb as Logue. Helena Bonham Carter was pretty good too. (Say, did you know she’s the great-granddaughter of Herbert Henry Asquith, the British prime minister early in the twentieth century?) It could be, though, that the movie is not so easy to take seriously at home, without benefit of the big screen. Can the king’s stuttering really be the major issue facing Britain during the depression, as war approached? In September 1939, in the wake of Hitler’s invasion of Poland, was everyone really so concerned with how the king would handle his speech about the coming war? Maybe so. I don’t know. Yet, much as I enjoyed the story’s narrow focus, it did seem a bit frivolous by the end.

Coincidentally, earlier in the day, I was reading about King George VI’s youth in a book I had just started two days before. Or maybe not coincidentally, now that I think about it. that could be what made me think to see The King’s Speech. More on the book in another post.

Categories: Movies

War Criminals Ascendant

May 15, 2011 Leave a comment

It’s bad enough that in the wake of Bin Laden’s killing, Bush’s old torture crew came out of the woodwork to take credit. But worse, we’ve had guest appearances in the news this past week from criminal Secretaries of State.

I don’t know why Condi Rice thinks she deserves a free ride for her lead roles in lying about the basis for the Iraq War and sanctioning torture. But there she was a week ago, holding forth at Stanford Law School about international relations. She did not go unchallenged, as you can see in the video above. Whatever a viewer may think about violations of the rules of decorum, at least the protestors got their facts right.

And now Henry, shameless violator of international law, is back, cashing in yet again with a new book On China, reviewed by Max Frankel in today’s NYT.

I know Condi and Henry will never be held accountable. I know they will not show remorse for their actions. But why must we continue to reward them?

Categories: Politics, Torture, War

Sentence of the Week

May 15, 2011 1 comment

Usually, my sentences of the week are bad ones. This one’s a good one.

Earlier this afternoon, one of Roger Angell’s occasional baseball posts appeared at the New Yorker blog site. In writing about New York Yankee Jorge Posada, who at 39 is having a bad season and chose not to play yesterday, Angell added a variation to his decades-long theme that baseball is just darned hard:

For this fan, one of the compelling traits about baseball at its top level is its insatiable difficulty, which shows itself most ferociously to arriving rookies and to older players, no matter how celebrated, on their way out.

Of course, occasionally a player has a stretch that fools you into thinking it’s easy. Like Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Alas, it didn’t last.

Categories: Baseball, Writing