Thursday, March 26, 2015

Schubert's Beethoven Project

Schubert's Beethoven Project by John Gingerich examines the composer's musical ambitions in the last years of his very short life.  This book demonstrates how the shadow of Beethoven's musical accomplishments loomed very large for Schubert (and really for every classical composer of similar lofty aspirations).

In the last years of Schubert's life Beethoven's music was standard by which the new category of "classical music" came to be measured. By describing the historical context of 1820s Vienna and through a very close analysis of Schubert's music, Gingerich demonstrates Schubert's process of assimilating the structure and harmonic language of Beethoven's music. He also notes that in the eyes of his contemporaries, this project was doomed to fail owing to Schubert's intimate association with genres of music like Lieder and partsong which were not felt to be serious. This hindered the possibility of his music being performed during his short life and for decades after his death.

But Gingerich shows how this "failure" in fact led to an original approach to the process of composing large scale ambition chamber and symphonic music. The author demonstrates this with a great deal of painstaking musical detail -- some passages of this book take great effort to follow and should be skipped by readers who cannot comfortably read a score.

This book provides fascinating insight into the musical world just prior to classical music world that we are familiar with today. The Napoleonic wars disrupted court support of ambitious music and composers had to find support in other ways -- through publication of compositions and through musical organizations devoted to the advancement of serious music. Genres like art song and solo piano music were denigrated.  It's hard to believe that not a single piano work of Schubert's was given a public performance in his lifetime.

Schubert's Beethoven Project is a difficult but rewarding read.

Schubert's Beethoven Project by John M. Gingerich (Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Merola Goes to the Movies: Manon (1996)

The opera Manon is based an a novel by Abbé Prévost (Antoine-François Prévost), a some time member of the Benedictine order.  His L’histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut provided inspiration to many dramatic works -- a ballet by Halévy, an earlier opera by Auber, Puccini's well-known Manon Lescaut. In more recent years this tale has been revived as Hans Werner Henze's opera Boulevard Solitude and the French feature film Manon 70 with music by Serge Gainsbourg.

In the libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille, Manon Lescaut, a sheltered teen, is on her way to a convent when she falls madly in love with the Chevalier des Grieux. Their relationship goes through ups and downs ending in her downfall.  This operatic masterwork takes you to the splendors of Paris to the desolation of a Louisiana swamp, all set to Massenet's ravishing score.

This filmed performance is directed by Vincent Paterson with the Staatskapelle Berlin and features two alumni from the Merola Opera Program, Anna Netrebko (Merola 1996) and Rolando Villazón (Merola 1998).

Please join us this Sunday in the Koret Auditorium for the 1 p.m.  Admission is free. Seating begins at 12:30 pm.

The article about Manon in the Grove Music Online (part of the subscription database Oxford Music Online) provides an excellent introduction to the opera as does Henry W. Simon's 100 Great Operas And Their Stories (Doubleday, 1989).

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Oriental Carpet Design

The subject heading, “Rugs, Oriental” brings up many titles in the library catalog. Though this isn’t a topic that we are asked about at the reference desk now, it is clear from the quality and quantity of titles offered that the Oriental rug was a subject of much interest during the 1960s and 1970s. Many of these books have high quality photographs of rugs and in-depth diagrams of parts of the rug, and the knots used.

The reference book Oriental Carpet Design: a guide to Traditional Motifs, Patterns and Symbols gives a thorough introduction to all aspects of these rugs. This first section discusses the structure, colors, knots, dyes, origins of carpet design. The following sections discuss the elements of design: the border, designs that are universal, geometric and floral. Within these sections are chapter on motifs such as the boteh, and further descriptions of the geometric design. The format is somewhat of an anomaly, since the town or city where a rug is woven is often the most important factor in its design and construction - most titles in the collection divide chapters into geographical regions.

Books on this subject can be found in two different call number areas.  Formerly these books were given the call number 745.2 (as part of industrial design). More recent books have a textile arts, 746.7, call number. Here are a selection of titles from our collection:

Antique oriental rugs and carpets by Philip Bamborough (Blandford Press, 1979).

Beginner's guide to oriental rugs by Linda Kline (Ross Books, 1980).

Complete illustrated rugs & carpets of the world edited by Ian Bennett (A & W Publishers, 1977).

Oriental rugs and carpets today  by Georges Izmidlian (Hippocrene Books, 1977).

The splendor of antique rugs and tapestries by Parviz Nemati (Rizzoli; PDN Communications: Distributed by St. Martin's Press, 2001).

The story of carpets by Essie Sakhai (Moyer Bell, 1997).

The carpet: origins, art and history by Enza Milanesi (Firefly Books, 1999).

Heaven in a carpet  (Institut du Monde Arabe; Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, c2004).

Carpets from Islamic lands
by Friedrich Spuhler (Thames & Hudson, 2012).