ENDNOTES, 6th December 2017

Olga Spessiva, in Swan Lake

ENDNOTES, 6th December 2017

In this edition: Ronald Corp conducts Parry, Elgar & Vaughan Williams; A Wind in the Willows fantasy, narrated by Simon Callow; Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker from Bergen, reviewed by STUART MILLSON. Echoes of Mozart, reviewed by LESLIE JONES

The Quarterly Review caught up with conductor and composer Ronald Corp just a few days before his end-of-year concert with the London Chorus and New London Orchestra. Busily rehearsing at London’s Cadogan Hall – especially the large-scale and seldom-performed Vaughan Williams’ Hodie (1953-54) – we asked the maestro about his latest championing of rare English music: “I am delighted to be performing this late work by Vaughan Williams, his 16-part Christmas choral-orchestral piece, because it’s very much a symposium – his own symposium – of his lifetime of composition. Hodie (‘Today’ – [Christ is born]) contains many ideas and themes – some of them pastoral, some reminiscent of The Pilgrim’s Progress, some from the symphonies. There are wonderful sections for the three soloists, a tenor, soprano, baritone [Mark Wilde, Julien Van Mellaerts and Augusta Hebbert] with the choir – and children’s choir – evoking the mysteries of the Christmas story.” Continue reading

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Oakeshott’s World View, Part 3

Dusk at Walpole, by Max Panks*

Oakeshott’s World View, Part 3

Noel O’Sullivan (ed), The Place of Michael Oakeshott in Contemporary Western and Non-western Thought, Imprint Academic, 2017; £19.95; pbk; 197 pages, reviewed in three parts by ALLAN POND

[This collection includes some of the papers given at the 2015 conference of the Michael Oakeshott Association held at Hull University plus some papers not presented to the conference but on the same theme of the conference which also lends its title to the book.]

Whence Oakeshott’s growing appeal? Clearly he speaks ‘to our condition’. Yet there are many thinkers who don’t speak ‘to our condition’ (such as Filmer, Bossuet, Albert the Great) who are studied and whose writings are still available to us, the first two at least in modern paperback editions; and there are writers who try to speak to us but do so in such technical or obscure language that they have little broad appeal. Continue reading

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Mad Days in Münster

Jan van Leiden tauft ein Mädchen

Mad Days in Münster

Le prophète, Grand Opera in 5 acts composed by Giacomo Meyerbeer, Deutsche Oper, Berlin, November 26th, 2017, directed by Olivier Py, conducted by Enrique Mazzola, reviewed by TONY COOPER

Le prophète forms part of a project that has seen new productions at Deutsche Oper Berlin of Les Huguenots (2012) and Vasco da Gama (L’Africaine) (2015) while a concertante version of Meyerbeer’s opéra comique, Dinorah, formally entitled Le pardon de Ploërmel, was staged in 2014.

It charts the rise and fall of the rebellious Protestant Anabaptists who tried to establish a communal sectarian government in the Westphalian city of Münster during the Reformation. The city, in fact, came under their direct rule from February 1534 – when the city-hall was seized and Bernhard Knipperdolling installed as mayor – until its fall in June 1535. It was Melchior Hoffman who initiated adult baptism in Strasbourg in 1530, and his line of eschatological Anabaptism helped lay the foundations for the dramatic events in Münster, one of the bloodiest chapters in the history of the Reformation.

Meyerbeer’s opera Le prophète captured this slice of history convincingly and was  frequently performed on the world’s leading opera stages. But, sadly, it fell completely out of favour in the early part of the 20th century and only slowly recovered its status with revivals at Zürich Opera in 1962 and Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1966 (both featuring Sandra Warfield and James McCracken in the leading roles). A revival at The Met in 1977 starred Marilyn Horne as Fidès. Vienna State Opera also brought it to the stage in 1998 in a production directed by Hans Neuenfels with Plácido Domingo and Agnes Baltsa. Happily, over the past few years, Le prophète is finding its feet once more in European houses. Continue reading

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Deconstructing Darwin

Charles Darwin, painting by Walter William Ouless, 1875

 Deconstructing Darwin

Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker by A.N. Wilson, published by John Murray, 2017, £25, hardback, reviewed by Gerry Dorrian

Some of literature’s most unreliable narrators can be found in the field of biography. How appropriate, then, that A.N. Wilson devotes much of Charles Darwin: Victorian Mythmaker to an examination of the naturalist’s self-reconstruction in his autobiography. In doing so, Wilson is endeavouring not only to demonstrate Darwin’s contribution to eugenics in the twentieth century but also arguably to occlude his (Wilson’s) embrace of eugenics at the start of the twenty-first.

As the author observes, Darwin erased from his history the evolutionary theories of his grandfather Erasmus Darwin, his parents, at least one schoolteacher and his fellow officers on the Beagle, whom his disappointed captain (later Admiral) FitzRoy bitterly referred to as “the ladder by which you mounted to a position where your…talent could be thoroughly demonstrated”. He also failed to mention adumbrations of his theory by Edward Blyth and Georges Cuvier, giving the impression that he came up with evolution through inspiration as opposed to osmosis. Continue reading

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The Body Dandiacal

The Body Dandiacal

The Dandy at Dusk: Taste and Melancholy in the Twentieth Century, 2017, Philip Mann, Head of Zeus, £25, reviewed by STODDARD MARTIN

For one who grew up by the sea and sequoias of California in the 1960s, there is no more perfect condition than to amble in solitude in a warm, dappled wood. This is an instinctive creed. To be barefoot or nude wearing nothing but beads was a style of the soi-disant New Age. It travelled cross-country to Woodstock, not far from where Emerson tread, Thoreau and Whitman notionally alongside. Over the ocean, a renaissance of Wandervögel and Kibbo Kift kindred flourished, donning old tapestries and furs and boa-like scarves – anything begged, borrowed or fallen from the curtain-rails – during the inevitable tragedy that winter becomes for children of a forest of Arden.

Nature, in short, was our milieu, the body the ultimate dress. Pasolini, clothing his dramatis personae in gaudy costume in Decameron or Canterbury Tales, revelled in disclosing the vanity, nay absurdity, of such sumptuousness by repeated uncoverings of youthful flesh. Clothes are a substitute, or necessity. Having lost simian hair, we need protection from the elements. So evolved ‘fashion’, with its inevitable preferences. Because it is a creation, artifice if not art, we have generated theories about it. Like cookery or the lore of perfume, it is a sensual craft liable to be dismissed as frivolous or delectated with ardour and prescriptive rules by dedicated connoisseurs. Continue reading

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Vox Populi, Vox Dei

Eva Perón

Vox Populi, Vox Dei

From Fascism to Populism in History, Federico Finchelstein, University of California Press, 2017, 328 pp, h.b., reviewed by LESLIE JONES

In his Prison Notebooks, Antonio Gramsci refers to the sentimental connection (connessione sentimentale) that exists between the intelligentsia and the people. But not today, as Federico Finchelstein unwittingly makes clear.

“Why beholdest thou the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye”? (St Matthew, 7:3). During both the British EU referendum campaign and the American Presidential election, many commentators gave up being objective. Both results were generally unexpected (and unwelcomed), a testament to left-liberal wishful thinking but also to the underestimation of nationalism. Indicatively, in this context, “defeated” French Presidential candidate Marine Le Pen won 11 million votes in 2017, more than twice the number of her father in 2002. And Donald Trump, likewise, won almost 63 million votes in 2016. Continue reading

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Cadres for Canadian Renewal

Cadres for Canadian Renewal

Mark Wegierski, on an under-estimated element in politics 

Whether one calls them infrastructures or “cadres”, conservatives in Canada today are greatly in need of them. A truly consummate politician is able to utilize the self-interest of disparate groupings to work towards some common goal that only he or she has in mind. This process is exemplified by Pierre Elliott Trudeau, the Liberal Prime Minister of Canada from 1968-1984 (except for nine months in 1979-1980). Trudeau’s ability to turn both French- and English-speaking Canada to his own ends, with both parts of the country thinking they were pursuing their own self-interest, is the mark of an effective political figure.

Indeed, one of the most important elements in politics is the harnessing of the energies of others to consciously or unconsciously, willingly or inadvertently, work for your own goals. Cadres, broadly defined, are a key to history. Certainly, in the Twentieth Century, the exercise of social, political, and cultural power by various “cadres”, whether left-liberal, Leninist, fascist, nationalist, or theocratic (in Iran, for example) has had an enormous impact. Continue reading

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Egypt’s Geniza Texts

Fragment of the Cairo Geniza

Egypt’s Geniza Texts

Darrell Sutton considers an incomparable collection 

Discoveries are sometimes made by accident, as archaeologists can readily attest. Hidden passageways can lead to welcome treasures of real historical value. This happened in the case of Howard Carter (1874-1939) and the famed Tutankhamen cache of riches found in Egypt years ago. He stumbled upon a priceless gold mask that still captivates crowds in museums around the globe when ever it is on display.

Moreover, Egypt has yielded up numerous artifacts that are useful for studying peoples of ancient times: e.g., (1) the thirteen leather bound codices of Nag Hammadi, found in upper Egypt in 1945, paved the way for new approaches to understanding the beliefs of Gnosticism in the earliest centuries of “Late Antiquity” (2) the discovery of Codex Sinaiticus at Saint Catherine’s Monastery persuaded scholars of early Christian studies to accept it as a standard critical text in transmission of the New Testament. Sinaiticus’ one practical virtue is the Syriac which shares its pages with the Greek New Testament text. Continue reading

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We Will Bury You

Kiev Holodomor Memorial

We Will Bury You

Red Famine: Stalin’s War on Ukraine, Anne Applebaum, Alan Lane, 2017, £25, reviewed by GERRY DORRIAN

Marx wasn’t sure what to do about the peasants. Although he railed in Capital against the “corvée” or rent-in-kind that reduced them to serfs, he had condemned them for their patriotism in the Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon (1852), which had emboldened Bonaparte’s nephew to finally mount a successful coup d’état. He revealed the source of his ambivalence in The Poverty of Philosophy (1847) in which he situates the origin of the working classes in peasants being forced off the land and into towns through changing agricultural practices. He was right in this, but according to the system he was formulating, the Revolution would not come until all peasants were subject to industrialised economics, and the failure of the 1848 wave of revolutions that convulsed Europe strengthened his belief.

In 1895, Lenin proclaimed that “The peasantry wants land and freedom…All class-conscious workers support the revolutionary peasantry with all their mind.” However, once in power, the “revolutionary-democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry” he had promised became a Dictatorship of the Proletariat that excluded almost all working-class Russians, reducing them to serfs. Every aspect of their lives was a corvée in return for something they were told was freedom. Continue reading

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River Cottage and Old Park Hall

Old Park Hall

River Cottage and Old Park Hall

Em Marshall-Luck finds a comfortable stay near the River Cottage HQ

If attending a River Cottage course would incur a long drive, Old Park Hall is a conveniently close place to stay the preceding and / following night. Located just the other side of the A35 from River Cottage, and just half a mile or so from the town of Axminster, it is a beautiful, mainly Georgian, stone house with Gothic features and impressive wings nestling in the Devonshire hills. It is easy to miss – look out for the all-too-discreet OPH sign-board by the side of the road, and follow the winding drive to a gravelled forecourt, with glorious house on one side and casual gardens lawns, exuberant rose bushes, lavender beds, chimenea, rusting ancient metal bed-frames and scrolled iron-work table and chairs on the other. Ring the bell for entry, and one will be greeted by Daisy: friendly, jokey and extremely casually-attired when we turned up. Continue reading

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