Friday, August 17, 2018

#ClassicsaDay #Bernsteinat100 Week 3

August 2018 is the centennial of Leonard Bernstein's birth. Many classical radio stations, performance groups, and writers marked the occasion. And so did #ClassicsaDay.

Bernstein was known as a composer, conductor, performer and an educator. Since #ClassicsaDay is primarily a music feed, I concentrated on the first two of those roles (and occasionally the third).

My contributions alternated between Bernstein the composer and Bernstein the conductor. And I tried to steer away from the more obvious choices for Bernstein compositions. His catalog is quite extensive, and I found it interesting to explore some of the lesser-known (and in some cases, less-successful) works.

Here are my posts for the third week:

Leonard Bernstein - Slava! A Political Overture, for Orchestra (1977)

Bernstein wrote "Slava!" for Mstislav Rostropovich's inaugural concert as conductor of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC. In the original version, a tape with snippets of Presidential political speeches is played in the background.

Richard Wagner - Liebestod from "Tristan und Isolde"

Bernstein conducted many of Wagner's big orchestral hits. He recorded "Liebestod" with the New York Philharmonic in 1968. He also recorded it with the Bavarian Radio Symphony for Philips in 1981.

Leonard Bernstein - Piano Trio (1937)

The piano trio is a student piece, written while Bernstein was at Harvard. Ever the recycler, he reused part of the second movement seven years later in his score for "On the Town."

Samuel Barber - Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, Op. 14

Bernstein first conducted Barber's concerto with the New York Philharmonic in 1960. Aaron Rosand was the soloist. He recorded it with the orchestra four years later with violinist Isaac Stern.

Leonard Bernstein - Three Meditations from "Mass", for Orchestra (1972)

"Mass" was written for the inauguration of the Kennedy Center, and involved over 200 performers. Two instrumental interludes were arranged for cello and piano for Mstislav Rostropovich. Bernstein later added a third, and the orchestral arrangement was premiered at the Kennedy Center in 1977 - with Berstein conducting and Rostropovich as the soloist.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Line Mar Match Box Construction 100 - Regulator

I found a Line Mar Match Box Construction Set from the 1930s, complete and with instructions. The box claimed the set made 100 different toys. I decided to test that claim -- one toy at a time. You can read all the posts for the Line Mar construction project at 100 Toys.

100. Regulator

The final toy in this series proved relatively easy to build. And I could build it with the pieces that came with the set. If you've been following the series, you know that was not always a given. 

Although it's called a regulator, it looks more like a governor to me. The idea's the same, of course. If this were a working model the assembly with the two hanging dowels would spin around. The dowels would pivot outward, siphoning excess energy out of the system. 

Final Thoughts

This building set was very much of its time. As such, it gave me some insights into that time.

I had always thought cheap Japanese imports a post-WWII phenomenon. The U.S. actively encouraged Japanese manufacturing to rebuild the economy. America was the primary market for the goods produced.

This set was produced by Line Mar, the Japanese subsidiary of Louis Marx Co. in 1936. So even before the war, Japan was a source of inexpensive toys and goods. 

This Line Mar construction set simply couldn't be sold today. In 1963 the United State began enacting child safety regulation for toys. This one has too many small parts that can be easily swallowed. The corners those bent metal boxes could scratch the skin.

The toys illustrated reflect the world of the 1930s. The buildings echo the modernist city structures of the 1920s and early 1930s. Many of toys are hand-cranked machines. These machines -- or ones like them -- were common in small shops and factories throughout the country. 

And one more thing. This building set would be considered inappropriate for children today. Yet it is very much a child's toy. My fingers were often too big to manipulate the pieces. I often used jeweler's tools to slide collars into place or hold a dowel steady as I added pieces to it. 

Overall, it was a satisfying project. This set had never been used. It had sat forgotten in a stock room until it was found and put on eBay. It's a toy. And it was meant to be played with. I'm glad I did. 

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Fresh Performances Enliven Praetorius Choral Concerts

Would the Protestant Reformation have been as successful without the genius of Michael Praetorius? Fortunately, we'll never know.

Praetorius adopted the Lutheran principles of simplicity and clarity into his music. The result was an impressive -- and impressively varied -- the body of sacred music that's still found in hymnals today.

This release features settings of hymn tunes by Martin Luther and Johnn Micheel Nicolai. while Praetorius' harmonizations are still used, his rhythms aren't. Many hymnals present his music in stolid, even meter.

Jochen Arnold recaptures the original vitality of these works. He leads his ensemble the Gli Scarlattisti, and the Capella Principale in spirited performances.

These tunes have a lightness, and almost dance-like quality to them. Two examples: "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott "moves along briskly with transparent two-part counterpoint. 

The mixed meters of "Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern" echo those found in Praetorius' "Terpsichore."

These performances strip away centuries of staid tradition and make these hymns sound fresh and exciting. As (I like to think) they were when first performed. 

Michael Praetorius: Gloria sei dir gesungen
Chorale concerts after hymns by Luther and Nicolai
Gli Scarlattisti, Capella Principale
Jochen Arnold, director
Carus 83.482