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Monday, August 19, 2013

Musical Sport



Swimming a leisurely breaststroke in our pool to the sound of the theme music for “Two pints of larger and a packet or crisps” took me back to an inchoate time when I still thought that popular music was something I could look down on with utter contempt because I could hum the more famous parts of The Coronation of Poppea based on the luscious strings version of an early Glyndebourne production on disc!  

Ah, the ease with which one could make value judgements based on the flimsiest of cultural scaffolding!

I’ve never stopped doing that of course, though I pride myself that I now know that my cultural background is more widely shallow than it was.

The bone conduction “ear” phones are working reasonably well and seem to be a vast improvement on the last set that I had years ago.  That at least proved that the technology worked, but it has taken some time for the hardware to get to the level where something more subtle than a base heavy pop track could make its vibrations through to the inner ear.  

I fear that my super-pretentious intention of learning the late Beethoven Quartets while doing my lengths never was really a serious possibility – though now, with the Neptune Finis in all its expensive glory, it might, just be possible.

But before then I will have to rationalize my tracks.  Admittedly I do put the thing on random play so that “Two pints of larger and a packet of crisps” was followed by a jolly little Bach gigue.  It’s those sorts of juxtapositions that keep me swimming lengths!

I have started listening to my DG set of H von K, after gloating over the collection.  I do recognize some of the covers as discs that I couldn’t possibly afford to buy except in sales and so have them all at bargain price is something of a musical delight. 

Not that I am a committed fan of His Germanic Majesty; I bought (at sale price) one of his conductings of Sibelius and I immediately placed a sticker on the front saying “DO NOT LISTEN!”  I did not throw it away as it was very useful as a sort of bookend to protect other more worthy recordings from the end-of-shelf pressure. 

It will be interesting to compare my present understanding of performances of the symphonies with what they were forty or so (!) years ago – indeed, as I intend to purchase another box set of his earlier recordings (at an even better bargain price) I will be able to compare different recordings from different decades of Beethoven symphonies and those of Brahms and Sibelius.

I can remember a televised performance of Karajan’s conducting of the Brahms symphonies where he was the only person shown full face.  The orchestra were in shadow and only their arms and fingers playing the instruments were shown.  Karajan conducted with his eyes closed and he was backlit so that his hair gave a halo effect.  The music was wonderful, but I did end up listening with m back to the television!

These discs are CDs not DVDs, so I should be fine!

My beach reading of The Tudors by Ackroyd continues to delight.  I have especially enjoyed reading about her late majesty Queen Mary I.  Questions about the likeability or otherwise of that monarch followed me like an infection from the age of 13 to first year in University with exactly (and I mean exactly) the same question: “Why was Mary Tudor unpopular?”  I must have answered that question at least six times in my academic career. 

Perhaps I should do a history course I the OU in the hope of doing it again and producing the final and authoritative response and put this recurring topic to rest at last!  I hope that there would be a little more depth and complexity in my answer now rather than the simplistic one-two-three of: was a Roman Catholic; married a foreigner and burned people. 

Or perhaps not, I could re-use all the trite points and try and present them in a post modern, ironic sort of way!

Tomorrow to the Sacred Mountain, admittedly more for the lunch and the art than the spiritual quality!

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