I didn't like it when I played it in college. I didn't like it when Torvill and Dean skated to it. And I didn't like it this past weekend when I listened to it five times.
But still...well. I don't know. I'll say this: the performance here is one of the few that doesn't have me clocking out at around the eight minute mark, and the video itself is amazing, with some of the best camera work I've ever seen in a classical music concert video. (Don't ask my why Gergiev is using what appears to be a toothpick instead of a baton to conduct.)
The work is a ballet, not a tone poem. I know. And it's the same damned melody, over and over again, for fifteen minutes. I know. And I've never once felt the slightest hint of why so many consider this work the height of eroticism in classical music. But...well. I don't know.
Awww, Florence Henderson passed away! That's sad, but I have to salute her long and entertaining life. Like most people my age (I suspect), she's firmly ensconced in my memory as Carol Brady of The Brady Bunch, a show which I've not seen in a long time but for which I've always had a special fondness. I mean, come on: yes, it was 1970s kitsch, but there was some very real warmth to that show, and a lot of it was generated by Florence Henderson.
Here, however, is an odd bit of Brady-related goofery that's largely forgotten. In 1988, a sitcom called Day By Day ran for just one season. It was your typical sitcom about a suburban family, with their teenage kid (named Ross) who was a good kid but a bit of a screw-up. The most notable cast member was Julia Louis-Dreyfus. It was a fun show, but no, it wasn't great or anything -- just an amiable 1980s sitcom, like a lot of 'em back in the day. You really can't fault the teevee audiences for not having made it a hit.
There was one episode of Day By Day that I've never forgotten, though. In this episode, Ross is getting bad grades and thus is hitting the books very late at night, when he falls asleep and dreams that he is in an episode of The Brady Bunch, as the long-lost Brady son "Chuck". For this they actually built the Brady House set and got some of the original Brady Bunch cast, including Florence Henderson herself. There are tons of in-jokes about the various tropes in The Brady Bunch, and Ross's "Brady name", Chuck, is an in-joke to another great sitcom, Happy Days, referencing eldest brother Chuck Cunningham, who disappeared after that show's second season (and was so thoroughly forgotten that by the series finale, Howard Cunningham referred to having raised only two wonderful children).
And lo and behold, the entire Brady episode of Day By Day is on YouTube:
Wow. There are times when this modern age we're living in continues to amaze me. I haven't seen that episode since it aired in 1988 or thereabouts.
And hey, since this is my blog and all, I have to feature the time Carol Brady took the kids (and that annoying Cousin Oliver, bleeccchh) out for a movie-set tour and then they all got cast in a silent movie that ended with a pie fight!
Finally, here's the bit from the teevee movie A Very Brady Christmas, in which Mike is trapped in the rubble of a collapsed building and Carol decides that's a good time to start singing (not that it isn't, mind you):
Well...I dunno, folks. I personally have had a relatively decent 2016, but outside my own little sphere, my God, this year has been a disaster. What year was worse? 1914? 1929? 1939? I've no idea. And the year ends with the likelihood that the darkness that dominated 2016 is just starting a prolonged period of settling in. So I'm finding "thankfulness" a bit more difficult to come by right now, if you must know.
Nevertheless, I remain convinced that no darkness lasts forever, and that we have in our power to limit the darkness that's coming. As a wise wizard once said:
Tchaikovsky! Technically this isn't a "tone poem"; Tchaikovsky himself called it a "Fantasy overture". But for the purposes of this series I take a pretty expansive definition of "tone poem" anyway, so here's Romeo and Juliet.
It's interesting to compare the noble messages at the heart of two of my favorite movies, both set in World War II. On the one hand, "The problems of two little people don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world."
On the other hand? "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire."
Like Edward MacDowell, Frederick Shepherd Converse was an American composer who came on the scene perhaps too early to really take note of the rise of jazz, the first really true American musical idiom. As such, his music is fundamentally European in its language, even if he was inspired by American subjects (moreso than MacDowell, anyway). A good example is this symphonic poem, called Flivver Ten Million, which he composed in honor of the ten millionth automobile manufactured by the Ford Motor Company.
Incidentally, the orchestra here is none other than the Buffalo Philharmonic. Yay for local musicians!