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Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Kreutzer Sonata

This afternoon I heard the "Kreutzer Sonata," by Janacek, based on the "Kreutzer Sonata" by Tolstoy, which in turn was based on"the Kreutzer Sonata" by Beethoven.  According to Wikipedia,

The sonata was originally dedicated to the violinist George Bridgetower (1778–1860), who performed it with Beethoven at the premiere on 24 May 1803 at the Augarten Theatre at a concert that started at the unusually early hour of 8:00 am. Bridgetower sight-read the sonata; he had never seen the work before, and there had been no time for any rehearsal. However, research indicates that after the performance, while the two were drinking, Bridgetower insulted the morals of a woman whom Beethoven cherished. Enraged, Beethoven removed the dedication of the piece, dedicating it instead to Rodolphe Kreutzer, who was considered the finest violinist of the day.[1] However, Kreutzer never performed it, considering it "outrageously unintelligible". He did not particularly care for any of Beethoven's music, and they only ever met once, briefly.[2]

Could this be true?  Anyway, the story is too good to check, and I'm only a humble blogger so no-one cares much what I say.

To get back to Tolstoy, his story is the account of a man finding his wife, a pianist, conversing intimately with her accompanist and friend, a violinist. The two have been practicing the Kreutzer Sonata.  It requires a lot of practice because it is a quite difficult piece of music.   He then kills his wife out of jealousy, but the violinist gets away.   I have not read the story, because I no longer am attempting to improve my mind through literature and would rather curl up with Daniel Silva's latest.  If my mind accidentally gets improved, okay, but I'm no longer working on it.

I was interested enough in the story  to go to YouTube and play a couple of versions of the Beethoven original.  It is quite beautiful but appears to be very demanding technically; however, to me all violin music seems demanding because I could no more play the violin than I could invent electricity. 

This Tolstoy story has apparently been made into a play, then adapted into a play for the Yiddish theater, then made into a movie of the Yiddish theater version, and for all I know is being made into a Pixar or Claymation version as we speak. 

The moral of the story might be, "Don't try to play music which is too technically difficult or emotionally arousing,"  Or maybe not.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Everybody hates everybody else and always has

I've been reading "The Mask of Command," by John Keegan.  Keegan discusses four commanders, Alexander, Wellington, Grant, and Hitler.  I was particularly keen to learn something about Alexander, about whom I knew nothing, except that he was the son of Philip of Macedon.

Now I have a smattering of information about Alexander, which is sufficient, because my interest is actually in American history.  But I did learn something I had long suspected, that the Greek city-states were constantly either at war with each other, just getting over a war with each other, or preparing for such a war.  This was their normal state, excepted when threatened by the Persians, whom they hated more than they hated one another.

Similarly, the peacable, nature loving Native Americans of whom Ellizabeth Warren is such a notable example, were  constantly fighting with each other.  They also had a habit of attacking villages full of settlers who were minding their own business.  I know we treated them unfairly, but there is a reason they were featured as bad guys in so many movies.

Anyway, we weren't nearly as mean to them as the British were to the Irish.

But my thesis is not to prove that we are the best country in the world.  Although we are.  My point is that armed struggle between groups has always existed and always will.  There can be no such thing as a War to End All Wars because wars will not end.   James Madison, in a different context, wrote:  If men were angels, no government would be necessary.  Neither would wars, because we would all be too busy with harp lessons and choir practice.

Obama seemed to believe that our disagreements with Russia were all one big misunderstanding which could be settled with a nice comfortable talk with his friend Vlad.  Clearly the lovefest did not work, and Putin is re-conquering the former Soviet satellites even though it might upset his friend Barack.  

Once we had removed American troops from Iraq, no doubt our government believed that Sunnis and Shi'ites would be having interfaith picnics to explore their common heritage and Kumbaya would be the new official government anthem.  Again, this did not happen.


Thursday, June 04, 2015

Worst customer service?

I heard on the radio somewhere that U S Cable had been chosen as the worst customer service provider in the country for 2014.  This made me angry, and I think the folks at United Airlines ought to demand a recount.  They certainly are a strong contender for the title.  It's hard to see how their customer service could be any worse.  Even with Wells Fargo Bank and Comcast in strong competition, I think United should be considered for next year's award.

I recently took a trip to San Francisco from Philadelphia which delayed leaving the ground for 4 hours.  Of course there was a grisly kind of domino effect, causing travelers to miss their connections from Africa to Zanzibar.  My plane to San Luis Obispo was long gone.  Customer service then re-routed me to Santa Barbara   by way of Los Angeles. 

My Los Angeles flight departure was then delayed so that the Santa Barbara flight would leave the ground before its arrival.  No-one informed me of this delay.  I just happened to glance at the departures board and did the math. 

Back to customer service.  They kept suggesting places I might like to fly besides Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo.  Orange County, anyone?  I told them I was very weak on California geography but did not think Orange County would do.  I got my daughter on the phone when they suggested Bakerfield, which got a strong nolle prosequi from my daughter. We finally settled on a midnight flight to Santa Maria, which was only a half hour late in leaving. 

In recompense for their poor performance, they gave me two $7 vouchers for food at any of the airport vendors.

The return flight was much less annoying, arriving in Philadelphia only and hour and a half late, which passes for promptness at United.

By the way, on the return flight, one of the $7 vouchers was refused at the food court.