Easter Sunday, March 2008

March 25, 2008 at 12:06 am (Food, Music, Spiritual)

Ron and I spent Easter Sunday at home, just the two of us. boeuf.jpg We made beef bourgignon and listened to music. First, the Mozart symphonies, starting with number twenty. We made our way through to the mid-thirties before switching gears and putting on the ‘Prelude and Good Friday Spell’ from the opera Parsifal by Richard Wagner.

mozart2.jpg mozart1.jpg The Mozart symphonies were performed by the Prague Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras. The recordings were made in the early 1990’s. The clarity and exuberance of the playing – perfectly captured by Telarc, that home of sonic wonders! – fills the house.

The delicious aromas of the mingling stew components are equally pervasive. As dinnertime draws near, we put on the Wagner. I like to listen to this at Easter time. The recording we have features the Columbia Symphony Orchestra conducted by the great Bruno Walter. Here is what the liner notes – uncredited, alas – say about this music:

“Like Tannhauser, the last of Wagner’s music dramas, Parsifal is built around a story of the Knights of the Holy Grail, and concerns itself with the conflict of spirituality and earthly passion. It contains some of the greatest music Wagner ever wrote, particularly the spiritual Prelude and one of the most awe-inspiring religious pieces of music ever penned–the ‘Good Friday Spell’ in Act III.”

walter.jpg This recording, released by Columbia Masterworks, was made in 1959. It is the only version of this sublime masterwork that I will ever need to own.

If there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is cherish days like yesterday for their simplicity and for the peace and love with which they are filled.


  1. J. Vaughan said,

    Sir Charles is my favourite Mozart conductor, but I personally can do without that orchestra! For the last four of the Symphonies, I would _FERVENTLY_ recommend his recently-released set of them with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra on Hyperion! Though modern instruments are again mostly used, the strings here play with limited vibrato similar to the playing style of Mozart’s time, though natural brass and period timpani are also used as a welcome nod to authenticity. I do own one of the Telarc recordings, of _Symphonies_ _36_ and, duplicating the Hyperion set, _38_, so will now just play _36_ from that. Sir Charles recorded most, if not all, of his cycle of Mozart’s operas for Telarc with the SCO before their strings started playing with limited vibrato, but two of these recordings stand out for me, _Don_ _Giovanni_ and _Die_ _Zauberflote_! The latter includes _REAL_ thumnder and a _REAL_ lion, obviously not authentic in the strictest sense since they did not have recording equipment in the 18th Century, but it is nice to have the realism, and there is some _WONDERFUL_ singing, notably from Miss Barbara Hendricks as Pamina!

    Begging your pardon, the earlier Wagner opera based on the Grail legend was _Lohengrin_, not _Tannhauser_, though the latter does feature Medieval knights, and Walther in _Die_ _Meistersinger_ claims to have learned from one of them. Is the _Parsifal_ that you played a studio recording, or one of the many that have been made at Bayreuth? My personal favourite is the studio recording from the 70’s conducted by Sir Georg Solti.

    Hoping that this finds you and your readers well, and further hoping that I have not made any typographical errors since I, legally blind, cannot proofread with my limited screen reader in this edit field as it is set up for colour and/or background

    J. V.

  2. Roberta Rood said,

    Mr. Vaughan,

    Thanks very much for your comments. I will certainly seek out the recordings by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The opera recordings in particular sound fabulous! This dovetails nicely with the fascination with – and deep respect for – Scottish life and culture that was recently awakened in my husband and me by our visit to Edinburgh last October.

    With regard to Wagner’s Grail Operas – I took that comment verbatim from the liner notes. As I was transcribing it, I felt something nagging at me. I now know what it was. And shame on me for not catching it sooner; Lohengrin is an opera I love and have seen several times!

  3. J. Vaughan said,

    Do you have the Solti recording of _Lohengrin_ with Segnor Domingo in the title role and Miss Jessye Norman as Elsa? Another fine one in my opinion is the 1951 Bayreuth performance with Herr Windgassen and Miss Steeber.

    J. V.

  4. Roberta Rood said,

    I am not familiar with either of those recordings. We have the one conducted by Rudolf Kempe, with Elisabeth Grummer, Jess Thomas, Christa Ludwig and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.

  5. J. Vaughan said,

    Apart from an _EXCEPTIONAL_ _Tristan_ I heard him give live in 1978 (the air conditioning in the hall failed on that hot and humid evening, but the music making was of a _VERY_-high order, and the audience awarded each act with extatic standing ovations!), I have never cared for his work, though Herr Fischer-Diescau and Madame LLudwig make a _MARVELLOUS_ Telramund and Ortrud respectively, and Herr Frick makes, if I recall aright, a fine Konig Heinrich. Yet I recall the sound being a bit on the thin side, and Maestro Kempe seems a bit tame compared with the other two conductors I mentioned. Yet that recording manages to fit onto three CD’s whereas the Solti is on four (I do not know about the 1951 Bayreuth since I heard it on LP’s).

    I fear I _COULD_ _HAVE_ made one or more typographical errors here which, if I did, I am unable to correct due again to this field’s incompatibility with my reader, so please pardon them if we find any when we both read this!

    J. V.

  6. J. Vaughan said,

    And, of course, the first individual to whom I referred above was Mr. Thomas, and I think it would have been just a _LITTLE_ better if I had said that the audience _REWARDED_ each act with those ovations! They performed _Tristan_, uncut, in the Bayreuth manner, with a long interval for dinner or whatever one wished to do between the first two acts and a shorter, though still rather long, one between Acts II and III. How they pulled it off so well in those _TRYING_, at best, conditions is beyond me, but it was one of the musical highlights of my _LIFE_! The conductor was Miss Yve Queller (spellings hopefully correct), and the Isolde was a soprano who apparently had a rather short career, Miss Roberta Knie. It was given in the Tawes Theatre at the University of Maryland, College Park.

    J. V.

  7. J. Vaughan said,

    Again begging your pardon, this time for possible monopolizing, I just visited your profile, and wish to tell you that I also am an Anglophile, having visited England nine times between 1977 and 1990. Elgar and my semi-namesake, Vaughan Williams, are special favourite composers of mine along with that great emigree, Handel! I have been making my way through the new recording, on the Somm Label, of the 1732 version of Handel’s _Esther_, recorded live at the 2002 London Handel Festival, and have been enjoying it much despite some lapses in the playing which others have also noted. Both versions are let down by fairly-poor poetry, and neither tells the complete story, but there is some aattractive music nonetheless, and the later version includes two of the 1727 _Coronation_ _Anthems_, one of them, the famous _Zadok_ _The_ _Priest_, slightly shortened and with text altered in its first section. If you have an interest in this composer beyond _Messiah_ and possibly some of the other more-frequently-performed oratorios, you might wish to seek this recording out.

    J. V.

  8. Roberta Rood said,

    Many thanks for the recommendation of the Handel’s Esther. I’m not “up” on Handel’s vocal music – except for the inevitable Messiah – and I need to hear more of it.

    And thank you in general for your comments. It is always a pleasure to coorespond with people who understand how essential this music is to the soul’s nourishment!

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