Saturday, October 4, 2008

Brief Reviews

Since classes started, I haven't been able to post and book or CD reviews. This doesn't mean I haven't been reading or listening. Last week, I finished reading Louis de Bernières' magnificent 1996 novel, Captain Corelli's Mandolin. The novel is set on the Greek island of Cephallonia. Most of the novel takes place during World War II, when Greece was occupied by German and Italian forces. One of the most sympathetic characters in the novel, Carlo Guercio, is an Italian solider who delivers what could be the epigraph for the entire novel: "I know that the Duce has made it clear that the Italian campaign was a resounding victory for Italy. But he was not there. He does not know what happened. He does not know that the ultimate truth of history ought to consist only of the anecdotes of the little people who were caught up in it." Among those caught up in it are wonderful old Dr. Iannis and his beautiful daughter Pelagia, who stands at the center of this beautiful story of love, loyalty, and music. The novel is lyrical and satirical at the same time, exploring the pain and beauty of ordinary lives amidst the relentless forces of history and ideology.

Meanwhile, the latest addition to the music library is the latest disc from Kate Rusby, Awkward Annie. It's a beautiful, melancholy CD of contemporary and traditional English folk music, with sensitive instrumental playing and Kate Rusby's lovely, Yorkshire-accented voice. Wonderful from beginning to end. For me, the highlights are the bittersweet "John Barbury," with gorgeous piano and strings, followed by the more upbeat "High on a Hill" (with a great banjo part and perfect harmony vocals by Chris Thile of Nickel Creek). Perfect music for curling up with a cup of Yorkshire tea on a cool October afternoon. The disc includes a bonus track: a cover of The Kinks' "The Village Green Preservation Society." Highly recommended.

Finally, it's also been a month of great live music. The concert season opened on September 12, when Clara and I drove up to St. Paul for our first Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra concert. Since then, there's been a free concert each weekend at Carleton. Last weekend, in addition to the SPCO concert at Skinner Chapel, there was an organ recital by college organist Lawrence Archbold, the high point of which was the magnificent Ciacona in F minor by Johann Pachelbel. Last night, there was a piano recital by Nicola Melville, with guest clarinetist Jun Quian, from St. Olaf, performing Brahms' Sonata in F minor, Op. 120, no. 1. Melville also played music by Debussy, Messiaen, Granados, and a wonderful new piano piece by Carleton composer Alex Freeman called "Night on the Prairies."

Tonight we're joining friends for dinner and a concert at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. The Minnesota Orchestra is performing some old favorites: Bach's Brandenburg Concerto no. 3, Beethoven's Fourth Piano Concerto, and Brahms' First Symphony. Finally, next Friday, October 10, it's the SPCO again at the Ordway, where we'll get to hear their take on the third Brandenburg.

1 comment:

Clara said...

One of Rob's only flaws is a very bizarre mental block he has about reading books once I've read them. Many times in the course of our marriage I've finished a book and told him how much I liked it, only to find him making excuses not to read it -- it's as if he can't enjoy things he hasn't discovered himself. Luckily he made an exception for Captain Corelli, which was one of those books I really hate to see end. Everyone should read it right away!

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