Monday, October 15, 2018

Fawlty Towers: The Kipper and the Corpse (1979)

British Comedy


Fawlty Towers: “The Kipper and the Corpse” (S 2; Ep 4; March 12, 1979; BBC2) starring John Cleese as Basil Fawlty and Prunella Scales as Sybil Fawlty, inept owners of the namesake hotel in the seaside town of Torquay on the “English Riviera.” Connie Booth as Polly Sherman, a waitress and general helper; and Andrew Sachs as Manuel, a waiter, round out the cast of this British comedy. Only 12 episodes were made in total: Six in 1975 and six more in 1979. For more, go [here].
Via: Youtube

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I am taking some time off to rest & recharge; I expect to return in November.

Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Dead Parrot (1969)


Monty Python Flying Circus and the "dead parrot” episode. Wikipedia writes: “It was written by John Cleese and Graham Chapman and initially performed in the show’s first series, in the eighth episode (‘Full Frontal Nudity’, which first aired 7 December 1969).[1]” I am old enough to remember seeing this comedy skit when it first aired; my brothers and I found it so amusing that we often acted it out with, and in front of, our friends.
Via: Youtube

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Mordecai Richler’s Belling the Cat

Book Review

Belling the Cat: Essays, Reports & Opinions (1998)by Mordecai Richler [1931–2001], a Montreal native who grew up in the working-class streets of the Mile End neighborhood, as I did a generation later. Such lessons and the memories they create never leave you; they remain and speak in your ear. 
Photo Credit: ©2018. Perry J. Greenbaum

The further one finds himself from good and great writing, both temporally and spatially, the better one appreciates it when it is close at hand. Such is the case when one dips his mind into Mordecai Richler’s essays, which highlight and discusss the absurdity of modern western life that all too often, over time and repetition, passes for and becomes the accepted norm; and in contrast the truth (and the reality it both protects and projects) becomes buried, hidden and forgotten. Richler, with his trained eye for nonsense, notably of the social and political kind, rightfully and faithfully employs his caustic wit—aimed squarely at the nincompoops and dolts who are as bland as toast, yet "evil in their acts of omission and commission"—to uncover, unearth and raise the truth out of the deep dark pit of confusion. Satire involves both the heart and the mind. Reading Richler’s essays are a good reminder of humor that makes us think, and, perhaps, provoke us to act in a moral fashion. But first comes the thinking, preferably one placed in a moral frame of reference emanating from the long history of western civilization, whose purpose is to differentiate right from wrong. Richler was, without question, one of Canada’s finest writers, and he was as courageous as he was honest; his death in July 2001 left a gaping hole in the realm of political and social commentary. To see what I mean, read this collection of essays; and for more on Richler, go [here], [here] and [here].

Puccini’s Madama Butterfly (1975)


Giacomo Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly,” in a 1975 West German film version of the well-known Italian opera directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and with the Vienna Philharmonic conducted by Herbert von Karajan. Fast forward 20 years later and you might wish to view another film version [here], the 1995 one directed by James Conlon and with the Orchestre de Paris. For more on the opera in general, go [here].
Via: Youtube

Friday, October 12, 2018

Vienna Philharmonic: Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 (1976)


Vienna Philharmonic: Mahler’s Symphony No 6 in A minor, with a bearded Leonard Bernstein [1918–1990] conducting, at Musikverein in Vienna (“the Musikverein”), in October 1976. There is a fitting and beautiful convergence taking place here. This musical performance was directed by Humphrey Burton.
Via: Youtube

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Jascha Heifetz: Mendelssohn Violin Concerto (1949)


Jascha Heifetz [1901–1987]: Felix Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor, opus 64, Sir Thomas Beecham conducting the Royal Philharmonic, on June 10, 1949. This was Mendelssohn’s last large orchestral work. Mendelssohn first thought of it in 1838 and it premiered six years later, in 1845, when he was thirty-six. The concerto, considered an important work and one of the first concertos of the Romantic period, is a popular piece of music. Heifetz has been considered one of the preeminent and prominent classical violinists of the 20th century—the violinists’ violinist; his playing here in this recording ought to leave no doubt as to why he is so well-regarded, even or especially by other wonderful violinists. What a joy it is to listen to this: Mendelssohn and Heifetz together.
Via: Youtube

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Marc-André Hamelin: Gershwin Concerto in F


Marc-André Hamelin: Gershwin Concerto in F with the Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, with Leonard Slatkin at the podium. (This is a Dutch radio orchestra, based in Hilversum, which gives public concerts in Amsterdam and Utrecht.) This piece captures the zeitgeist of America of the time it was written, in 1925, by George Gershwin: The Jazz Age of the 1920s and '30s. Gershwin, a talented composer, died in 1937 at the age of 38.
Via: Youtube

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Kissin, Maisky & Bell: Mendelssohn’s Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano No. 1 (2009)

Evgeny Kissin, Mischa Maisky and Joshua Bell perform Mendelssohn’s Trio for Violin, Cello and Piano No. 1 in D Minor, opus 49 at the Verbier Festival in the mountain resort of Verbier, Switzerland, during the summer of 2009; the festival runs for two weeks in late July and early August. Felix Mendelssohn [1809–1847] completed the work in July 1839; this is still one of the most popular chamber works in the world. In a short piece about this work for the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C., Dr. Richard D. Rodda writes: “Mendelssohn's duties kept him close to Leipzig for most of 1839, but he did manage to escape in May to conduct at the Lower Rhine Music Festival in Düsseldorf and in September to oversee the presentation of his oratorio St. Paul in Brunswick. The D minor Piano Trio was completed in July, between those two engagements. The work has remained one of Mendelssohn's most popular and beloved instrumental creations —Pablo Casals chose to play it with Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Alexander Schneider when he was invited by President John F. Kennedy to perform at the White House in 1961.”
Via: Youtube

Monday, October 8, 2018

Israel Philharmonic: Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde (1972)


The Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, with Leonard Bernstein on the podium, perform Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde [“The Song of the Earth”]; with singing by Christa Ludwig (alto) and René Kollo (tenor). This was recorded at the Frederic R. Mann Auditorium, Tel Aviv, Israel, on May 18, 20 & 23, 1972; and subsequently released as an LP in 1974. Mahler [1860–1911] completed the work in 1909, following a period in his life where tragic losses overtook him, including the loss of his eldest daughter, Maria (age 4), from diphtheria and scarlet fever, the loss of position & status in Vienna, and the loss of his health. The work premiered in Munich on November 20, 1911, with Bruno Walter conducting; this was six months after Mahler’s death due to heart problems, at the age of 50, in May of that same year. The text for the work can be found [here].  Leonard Bernstein is credited with bringing Mahler to wider public acceptance, primarily in America but also outside its borders. It might also be true that nations on both sides of the Atlantic were then ready to take in and consider Mahler’s “tragic truths” of the human condition—of the human soul, to speak of matters spiritual—one predicated on the “belief” that art requires constant and courageous effort while residing in a “foreign land,” where truth is hidden, requiring strenuous intellectual effort to find it, and that rest (and reward) only comes after all this is achieved or done, only after the effort is made. For more, go [here] and [here] and [here] and [here].
Via: Youtube

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Israel Philharmonic: Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 (1998)

Jewish Composers


He was not a man who ever deceived himself, and he knew that people would not forget he was a Jew. . . . Nor did he wish it forgotten. . . . He never denied his Jewish origin. Rather he emphasized it.
Alma Mahler, Gustav Mahler: Letters and Memories (1946), p. 90


Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Lorin Maazel, perform Mahler’s Symphony No. 1 in D major, in Tokyo, Japan, on October 20, 1998. The work was first performed at the Vigadó Concert Hall, in Budapest, Hungary, by the Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra on November 20, 1889, with Mahler [1860–1911] himself as conductor. Having read much about Mahler over the years, I view him without question as a Jewish composer. This remains true despite his late-in-life conversion, at age 36, to Christianity (i.e., in particular, Roman Catholicism), baptized at St. Michael's Church in Hamburg, in 1897. This was done only as a necessary means to obtain a coveted position as director of the Court Opera in Vienna (the Hofoper)—a position for which he was eminently qualified but nevertheless disqualified because he was a Jew and not a Christian. Such is, in my opinion, a conversion done under duress. Even so, or rather perhaps as a result, Mahler was routinely assaulted by acrimonious, rude and vitriolic comments from the Viennese press for being precisely what he was: Jewish. This is apparent in his music, which resonates beautifully with this writer. There is another added beauty to Mahler’s music—its universality. You need not be Jewish to appreciate it or love it.
Via: Youtube

Friday, October 5, 2018

The Rav and The Rebbe: Rabbi Hershel Schachter Recounts (2007)


The Rav and The Rebbe: Two great Jewish leaders meet. Rabbi Hershel Schacter [1917–2013], former president of the Rabbinical Council of America, recounts the story of he accompanying the Rav, Rabbi Yosef Ber Soloveitchik [1903–1993], to visit the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson [1902–1994], in 1980. (Note: This is the same Rabbi Schacter who, as an Army Chaplain, participated in the liberation of Buchenwald concentration camp on April 11, 1945; and stayed on for months administering to the material and spiritual needs of the Jews. He led Pesakh and Shavuot services. He left the army with the rank of captain.) For more on the friendship between the Rav and the Rebbe, see [here] and [here] and [here].
Via: Youtube

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi:Back to Our Jewish Origins (2018)

People of the Book
וְשִׁנַנְתָּם לְבָנֶיךָ וְדִבַּרְתָּ בָּם בְּשִׁבְתְּךָ בְּבֵיתֶךָ וּבְלֶכְתְּךָ בַדֶרֶךְ וּבְשָׁכְבְּךָ וּבְקוּמֶךָ

“And you shall teach the Torah to your children and you should speak about it when you are at home and when you travel, before you lie down to sleep and when you wake up.” 



Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi: Back to Our Jewish Origins in a recent 2018 lecture on  ignorance. 
ViaYoutube


The greatest ignorance, says Rabbi Mizrachi [born in 1968 in Israel and now living in Monsey, New York], is ignorance of Torah. He is speaking directly to the Jewish People, and in doing so, he is continuing a tradition that dates to the very origins of Judaism and the Jewish People some 4,000 years ago with Avraham Avinu (אברהם אבינו; “Our Father Abraham”) with the Abrahamic Covenant—called berith bayin hebatrim (ברית בין הבתרים; The Covenant Between the Parts ) and the promises it makes. These were fulfilled and developed further after the Sinaitic Covenant, after Moshe took them out of Mitzrayim (Egypt)—first physically and then through teaching of Torah, spiritually.

Many great rabanim (רבנים;‬ rabbis), nevi’im (נְבִיאִים‬; prophets) and Jewish spiritual leaders and teachers of Torah through the ages, including Moshe Rabbeinu (מֹשֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ; “Moses our Teacher”), have spoken about this very idea and the importance of and the necessity of instilling this in the minds of the Jewish People, the same Jewish People who were collectively given the Torah at Mount Sinai and who today bear a responsibility to not only understand it, but equally important to teach it to their children and, also, to the world at large. This is a grave and great responsibility, one that is best learned young. Yet, you might think that this is asking a lot, but can one forever remain ignorant?

I would say “no.” As a countervailing force, Rabbi Mizrachi at times uses assertive, forceful and insensitive language as part of his efforts in kiruv (קירוב; “bringing close;” popularly known as “outreach”). I suggest that the rabbi takes such an approach to bring to light the dangers of assimilation and inter-marriage. Both are due to the widespread acknowledged and unrepentant Jewish ignorance of Torah (“I don’t need or desire to know”), an active ignorance that greatly differs from enlightened ignorance (“I know why I don’t know”) of Talmidei Chachamim (תלמידי חכמים; “Torah scholars”). This, however, is another topic, an important one no doubt, worth discussing at another time.

What bears repeating now, however, is that many of my fellow Jews actively ignore what they do not know or, perhaps, fear; I was one of them, taking years to find my way home. Cynicism might be a defense against disappointment, a result of ignorance, yet it is not the ideal way to live; neither is following the alluring dead-end philosophical/ethical theories of utilitarianism and of pragmatism. Both are devoid of Jewish religious principles, and as a result the soul is not enlivened. As for me, Baruch Hashem (ברוך השם), the beginning of knowledge was getting married and having children, which made me (re)think about what is important, including what values and what ways I need to instill in my children.