ENDNOTES, April 2020

Sounds Original, South Ealing Road, W5

Endnotes, April 2020

Stuart Millson recalls the forgotten pleasure of browsing for records

With the near demise of the record shop (our older readers may remember the much-loved Farringdon Records at Cheapside or Harold Moores in the West End), it is the high street charity shop that has now become the unofficial forum for those classical-music-loving refugees who dislike the current vogue for “downloads” or ordering online. Many such establishments now seem to contain at least one row of classical CDs – some even offering a section devoted to vinyl. On a recent visit, prior to the Coronavirus onslaught, to an extremely well-stocked Oxfam in Tonbridge, I discovered a substantial collection of CDs – Deutsche Grammophon, Philips, EMI, Decca – recordings which seemed to be in near mint condition; the casing and packaging indicating that their former owner had curated his or her collection with extreme love and care.

Decca box-sets of Benjamin Britten folk-songs; Boult and Handley in Elgar for EMI lined the shelf – then leading the ranks, in their famous, distinctive yellow livery of Deutsche Grammophon: Karajan’s final recording – Bruckner’s monumental, yet radiant Seventh Symphony with the Vienna Philharmonic; Carlo Maria Giulini’s intense, substantial, finely-paced Brahms Symphony No. 2, again from Vienna; Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic in Mahler’s heaven-storming ‘Symphony of a Thousand’; Ivo Pogorelich, the much-admired, Belgrade-born piano genius – and still a young artist on his 1990 recording of Chopin’s Op.28 Preludes. The prelude No. 15 in D flat major, the celebrated ‘Raindrop Prelude’, is given perhaps its most gorgeous interpretation on record, each touch of the Steinway evoking slow-moving raindrops on the windows of Chopin’s Mallorcan mountain fastness.

I also spied another early-1990s recording, this time from Decca: Herbert Blomstedt’s brilliantly sound-engineered recording with San Francisco forces of Orff’s inter-war cantata, Carmina Burana, inspired by the verses and songs left to posterity by Bavarian mediaeval monks. The CD cover artwork is particularly striking – and it has to be said, more imaginative than Deutsche’s CDs which tend to show just photographic portraits of their artists. For the Orff, the Decca art department created a strange, magical nocturnal scene – a crescent moon, stars, a nightingale and woodland, in which a monk, jester and king hold goblets and musical instruments. They set the tone for what is to come: Orff’s one-hour phantasmagoria, beginning with the mighty chorus, the turning of the wheel of fortune – O Fortuna – then subsiding, and leading to the first slanting light of springtime; the Tanz on the mediaeval village green; the oblivion of the tavern – with the ‘Abbot of Cockaigne’ addressing his congregation of drinkers (a startling, challenging character-role for baritone, Kevin McMillan). The work is also distinguished by some Puccini-like sequences for soprano, Lynne Dawson, torn between earthly and spiritual love in the exquisite, two-and-a-half minutes, In Trutina:

“In the wavering balance of my feelings set against each other, lascivious love and modesty. But I choose what I see, and submit my neck to the yoke; I yield to the sweet yoke.”

Decca’s recording is sharply done, with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, Chorus-master, Vance George, captured by the microphones in astonishingly-precise, chamber-like detail. The San Francisco Orchestra – every fibre of the whole ensemble, every solo, every tap on the percussion instruments – comes to life, making the production an alternative to the more sumptuous, operatic versions of the cantata, from conductors such as Previn and Muti from the mid- to late-1970s.

At the time of writing, all live music across Britain and the Western World has come to a halt. The health emergency has closed our concert halls and recording studios. We hope and pray for a end to the unfolding nightmare, in which hospitals and governments announce grim stories and statistics with each passing day. As Orff’s wheel of fortune turns, we can take solace in our recordings and record collections, in which are captured for all time, the very highest achievements of civilisation: the symphonies of Brahms, Mahler and Bruckner and the peace and serenity of Chopin’s fleeting raindrops.

Selected recordings:
Orff, Carmina Burana, Blomstedt, San Francisco Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, Decca, 430 509-2.
Chopin, Preludes, Deutsche Grammophon, 429 227-2.
Brahms, Symphony No. 2, Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra/Carlo Maria Giulini, Deutsche Grammophon, 435 348-2.

Stuart Millson is the Classical Music Editor of The Quarterly Review

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Honour thy Father

Generalgouverneur Dr. Frank

Honour thy Father

I met one man who was wounded in love,
I met another man who was wounded with hatred”
Bob Dylan

What our Fathers Did: a Nazi Legacy, Wildgaze Films, BBC Storyville & BFI, 2015, directed by David Evans, reviewed by Leslie Jones 

“This” film, so we are informed, “is the story of a relationship” between three people, namely Niklas Frank, Horst von Wächter and Philippe Sands. Of these three individuals, Sands seems the most composed. An eminent international lawyer specialising in matters pertaining to genocide and crimes against humanity, he lost many of his relatives in the Holocaust. Niklas, a former journalist, is the son of Hans Frank, who was Hitler’s lawyer and head of the Generalgouvernement in occupied Poland. Horst is the son of Baron Otto Gustav von Wächter, Governor of the Kraków District from October 1939 to January 1942 and subsequently Governor of Galicia, from January 1942 to 1944. A lawyer and sometime Austrian rowing champion, Otto von Wächter was a Gruppenführer in the SS, having joined the Nazi Party early on, in 1930.

Horst von Wächter
The fourth of six children, he was born in 1939, and was named after Nazi “martyr” Horst Wessel. He now lives in the Schloss Hagenberg in Austria, a sprawling edifice dedicated to the god of numbers. Sands met Wächter for the first time at the castle and was understandably apprehensive about the visit. His host showed him photographs of members of his family, including one of his father standing alongside Himmler. In another of Horst’s photos, we see him as a small boy, while staying with the Frank family in Der Schoberhof, their summerhouse in Bavaria. Niklas Frank, also born in 1939, appears in the photo. Continue reading

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The Epistle of Paul to the Romans, Part III

Raphael, St Paul Preaching in Athens


By Darrell Sutton

In the study of ancient Christian texts students are obliged to investigate wider settings such as social and cultural histories and imperial policies. The text of Romans fascinates classicists and New Testament scholars because of its acknowledgement of an established community of Jews in Rome during the first century AD and of a smaller society of Christians within it. In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul does not address the contours of Roman religion, restricting himself to elucidating his own notions of messianic fulfillment of Jewish anti-types. In these epistolary depictions, Christ is the initiator of his own “ruler-cult”, whose devotees obtained legal freedom from the power of sin through their trust in the ruler’s death, resurrection and ascension above the sublunar sphere and into the faraway heavens (chapters 1-5).

In the below chapters (6-8), Paul summarizes this liberty in Christ. He provides a picture of sin’s intrinsic development in human beings and its disablement by means of Jesus’ crucifixion, a portrayal that is unrivalled by, and unknown to, previous Graeco-Roman writers who attempted to enlighten readers about native predispositions and ethical ideas. Greek myth being what it was, rendered the Greek mind of that day incapable of envisioning man as Paul did later. Previously, Aristotle pondered how a person could do what he or she knows to be wrong (Nic. Eth. VII 1-11). But his conclusion that ‘a person does not act in ways that oppose what one deems to be noblest, and so people do not ever err’, was not exact or helpful. Overrun by passions, people act and react against their better judgment daily. Paul takes a different tack in his discussion on the jurisprudences of the law of sin and the law of the spirit of life. In fact, from his deductions of Old Testament passages – while leaving aside Greek philosophical speculations – Paul was able to construct the kind of meticulous arguments about inbred sin and its effects that no other intellectual or rabbi of his day could have composed. Continue reading

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Battered and Bruised

Grimsby trawlers making ready for sea

Battered and Bruised

Bill Hartley, on beholding Grimsby

The House of Fraser store in Grimsby is set to close. For anyone who thinks that a department store represents retailing at its best, the place is a depressing sight. Large areas of floor space stand empty; elsewhere the remaining racks of clothes offer 20% off the existing sale price. Forlorn staff, soon to lose their jobs, show minimal interest in the few shoppers who pick over the remnants.

House of Fraser is situated in a bright and cheerful mall, a once positive attempt to modernise shopping in the town. Grimsby is an old seaport with very little in the townscape which is attractive, apart from the Minster church of St. Mary and St. James. Not far away is the Humber, a brown and muddy river which drains much of Yorkshire. There used to be a ferry across but no-one wrote a song about it.

Visiting Grimsby brings a sense of being at the end of the line. The town lies fifty miles up the road to no-where, in flat countryside next to that unlovely river and is a byword for social problems. Those with long memories may recall when this was the largest fishing port in the world, an industry brought down by the Cod War and the Common Fisheries Policy. Continue reading

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Will Chile Join the Shithole Country Club?

Roberto Matta, Surrealismo en roca

Will Chile Join the Shithole Country Club?

by Ilana Mercer

Chile is the jewel of Latin America. In 2014, it even surpassed the U.S. on the Index of Economic Freedom, ranking 7th to America’s 12th. Since 1990, economic growth in Chile has been as steady as the stability of its institutions. Poverty rates had plummeted and social services had been extended to the needy.

On the right, Pat Buchanan has described Chile as “the country with the highest per capita income and least inequality in all of Latin America.” On the left—yet still on the side of a competitive market economy—the Economist is agreed. Chile “is the second-richest country in Latin America, thanks in part to its healthy public finances and robust private sector.”

The protestors on the streets of Santiago and other cities are in no-man’s land. What they want is unclear. To the extent that their inchoate signs and signals can be divined, it would appear that the path the well-to-do Chile will be forced to take is that of less capitalism and more socialism; less of the private sector and more of the state. Continue reading

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Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

Michael Jackson, RIP, credit PNG59

Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged

Michael Jackson: Guilty or Innocent?, Channel 5, 21st March, 2020; OJ Simpson: Guilty or Innocent?, Channel 5, 22nd March, 2020; The Real Michael Jackson, BBC 2, 30th March, 2020; reviewed by Leslie Jones

Michael Jackson and OJ Simpson had certain things in common. Both became fabulously rich, thanks to their god given ability. Again, both were accused of heinous crimes (child molestation and double murder, respectively) but were eventually declared innocent of all charges by a jury of their peers. Apropos identity, Jackson stated that “I’m a black American and I’m proud of it…” and he rejected suggestions that he was trying to be white (see Michael Jackson’s ‘extraordinary police interview on abuse claims’, www.youtube.com). Simpson, in contrast, wanted to be treated as an individual, not as a representative of black people. He had numerous white as well as black friends. He considered himself a post-racial person, as someone who had transcended the confines of an ascribed ethnic identity (see the Storyville documentary OJ: Made in America). “I’m not black I’m OJ”, he insisted.

The thrust of these complementary films, put crudely, is that in America’s two-tier justice system, both Jackson and Simpson purchased their freedom. Simpson, accused in 1994 of brutally murdering his wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ron Goldman, hired what was aptly called the “dream team”, which included Robert Shapiro, Johnnie Cochran, Carl Douglas, F. Lee Bailey and Alan Dershowitz, amongst others. This star-studded legal team was able to call on a host of authoritative witnesses, one of which was put up for weeks in a Hollywood Hotel so that the prosecution could not use his services. Jackson’s lawyer Thomas Meserau and his colleagues, likewise, employed a posse of private detectives to spy on and dig up dirt on his accusers, notably Gavin and Star Arvizo. Continue reading

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From Wuhan with Love

Vampire bats

From Wuhan with Love

Covid-19. Ilana Mercer discerns some chinks in our armour

When in doubt as to just how remiss your government was, see what Israel has done to protect its nationals from the coronavirus pandemic. Taking its cues from the American Left, the Israeli left is all for national and individual self-immolation. But nobody who matters in that country has been listening to the Left babble on about “racism” and “Sinophobia.”

China is Israel’s second-largest trading partner. But against the advice of its liberal think tanks—and to protect its nationals from the Wuhan virus pandemic—the Jewish State had, early on, closed its doors to “more and more of eastern Asia, starting with China, continuing to Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore and Thailand, South Korea and Japan.”

To follow were tough travel restrictions and a quarantine regimen on territories in Europe, in line with unfolding coronavirus contingencies. Israel has since extended the quarantine to all arrivals. Everyone who comes to Israel from abroad is sequestered for 14 days. Although the number of cases in the country is rising rapidly, there have been no deaths to date. What is proving more difficult for the Jewish State is adding “New York and the states of Washington and California to its restricted list.” Israeli public health officials recommend it, but Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu is being muscled by Vice President Mike Pence to keep his country open to those COVID-19 hot zones. Continue reading

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Con Artist in the Congress?

Ilhan Omar

Con Artist in the Congress?

Ilana Mercer investigates Ilhan Omar

The FBI, which Americans are meant to trust with matters of life and death, is unable—or unwilling—to confirm whether U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) perpetrated fraud by marrying her brother, Ahmed Elmi, to enable him to obtain a coveted green card, thus granting him permanent-resident status in the United States, and a path to citizenship. But the bureau is said to be “investigating.”

Conversely, the Daily Mail, a British tabloid, had little difficulty gathering a critical mass of facts, enough to conclude that, in 2009, Omar did indeed secretly wed said sibling. The newspaper, and anyone else suggesting the same, has yet to be sued by Omar. Could the story be true?

As it happens, a Somali community leader has also outed Ilhan Omar as an outlaw. Abdihaikm Osman Nur contends that the Somali-born congresswoman “had indeed married her brother.” So reported Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Continue reading

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Vasilii Grossman’s Just Cause

Memorial to Holodomor victims, Kiev

Vasilii Grossman’s Just Cause

Frank Ellis celebrates a defeat for censorship 

Green eyes cut the heart without a knife (Vasilii Grossman)

I. Introduction:  For a Just Cause or Stalingrad?

Outside the circle of people who concern themselves with Grossman’s work it is not widely known that Life and Fate (1980) was the sequel to another long novel on Stalingrad, published in 1952 under the title of Za pravoe delo (For a Just Cause). For a Just Cause begins with the Axis forces about to resume their offensive in 1942 (Case Blue) and ends in mid-September with Paulus’s 6th Army on the verge of capturing Stalingrad. Most of the characters that the reader will encounter in Life and Fate feature in For a Just Cause, and, as in Life and Fate, Grossman explores, and speculates on, all kinds of questions, primary and secondary, relating to the war, the cause of so much trouble with the censors.

For a Just Cause was first submitted to the editorial board of the Soviet journal Novyi mir in 1949, with Grossman’s preferred title, Stalingrad, which is why Robert Chandler has reverted to Grossman’s original title. Over the next three years the manuscript was edited, censored, mutilated and redrafted by Grossman under pressure from various literary figures, including Konstantin Simonov, Alexander Fadeev and Alexander Tvardovskii. In spite of the best efforts of the censors the published versions of For a Just Cause, beginning with the journal version in 1952 which was followed by separate book editions in 1954, 1956, 1959, 1964 and 1989, were not rendered ideologically inert. Reading the journal version – published in 1952 in the last year of Stalin’s life let it be repeated – it is astonishing just how much politically-incorrect material, themes, ideas and Aesopian allegories made it into print. The obvious and inescapable conclusion is that in any of its published versions For a Just Cause was no ordinary novel of the Stalin period; the fact that it had been published at all was highly unusual. That this novel has now been translated into English, albeit with the questionable title of Stalingrad, is very welcome. Continue reading

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ENDNOTES, March 2020

Romantic Landscape by John Trumbull, Dayton Art Institute

ENDNOTES, March 2020

Remembering Vernon Handley

 by Stuart Millson

A recent BBC Radio 3 performance of a recording of Bax’s symphonic poem, The Garden of Fand – and my own replaying of a landmark recording of Tippett’s Concerto for Double String Orchestra – suggested an Endnotes column devoted to a British conductor who died 12 years ago at the age of 78, but whose legacy to the music of these islands continues to be felt today. Vernon Handley was that conductor – a figure, perhaps more than any other, who championed the overlooked music of Bliss, Finzi, Delius, Robert Simpson (the music-writer and BBC Producer-turned symphonist) and of Malcolm Arnold, Bax, Moeran and Warlock. It was Handley’s perseverance and early championing of Bax’s Third and Fourth Symphonies in the 1960s – the latter with the superb, semi-professional Guildford Philharmonic Orchestra –that marked this musician as someone who refused to compromise with prevailing modernist or continental trends; and who was determined to create a bed-rock discography for Britain’s composers.

After studies at Oxford (where he read philology) and the Guildhall School of Music, Handley embarked upon a career that reached pinnacles of achievement throughout the 1970s and ‘80s, principally with the London Philharmonic Orchestra – an ensemble with which he made dozens of records for the Classics for Pleasure label, and which are now almost all in circulation as EMI CDs. Continue reading

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