Absolutely surprised I was, when during the first corona lockdown, I sat down, and started reading Tolkien’s Hobbit, and immediately thereafter The Lord of the Rings, almost without significant interruption, in days to the end. The Hobbit only on the Kindle App. The Lord of the Rings in the 50th anniversary edition of Houghton Mifflin.
I was always reticent to start, because I had viewed some pieces from the movies. I was afraid it was more of some fantasy war stories.
Yet it gripped my intention as a kind of bildungsroman, as a path through life, going through difficult periodes in life. And all with great attention to feelings, thoughts, misery and happiness, of the surrounding earth, friendship, and especially for the feelings of others. Most of all struck me of course Frodo, the young one, with all his doubts, fear, and still going on. And of course Sam, the best of friends.
I have read from youth much of the great world literature. As in all those novels there are human and social relations which belong to other times than ours. This book is written in its own time, by Tolkien has been, in his time.
And I think to feel constantly the horrors of WWI and WWII, even as this is not the attention of the author.
I read first the Kindle edition. That’s fine for making notes and quickly rereading the most beautiful and memorable passages.
But after that I read Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings in the beautiful 50th anniversary edition of Houghton Mifflin. Because I thought this is a book that was made for reading with all the senses, with the beautiful black cover and the golden text of front cover and spine. The light brown pages are gentle for the eyes and for the mind. It was part of the same feeling, the beautiful gentle book in my hands and the wandering with these wonderful friends, especially when they were wandering through their natural world, of trees, flowers, animals, and human beings.
I was reading as I did as a child, in an easy chair, with all other senses away from the rest of the world, completely living in a wonderful world of nature, flowers, plants, mountains, travelling, fear, horror, cold, but above all human heroism and human friendship.
It is wonderful story, because Tolkien recreates his own world, and shares it with us. Tolkien, Frodo and Sam and Merry and Pippin…
Finding words for the many thoughts always floating through my mind…
‘Wie alles war, weiss ich;
wie alles wird, wie alles sein wird, seh’ ich auch’
‘Höre! Höre! Höre! Alles, was ist, endet.’
‘Mein Schlaf ist Träumen.
mein Träumen Sinnen,
mein Sinnen Walten des Wissens.’
From Wagner Rheingold and Siegfried
Erda is the most intriguing and wise woman.
A little homage to Erda and her wisdom at the end of 2018.
Erda Christa Ludwig
Name changing of my site. Great Moments felt good for years. Made even a list of all my Great Moments from diary and catalogues and tickets and from memory. They are all always lively in my mind even after years.
Yet picturing these moments in plain words is nearly impossible, to me. Words fall short for all these emotions and feelings. And Life feels more as One Endless Continuing Great Moment, highs and lows, coming and going, in life and in memory. Life feels more and more as Streaming Thoughts. Floating through my mind as birds in the sky.
So better using this site for Streaming and Floating Thoughts. If I can hold them for a moment. And if I can give them words. English words and words from other languages, when I feel their sound or image more beautiful.
Zénon is the physician and philosopher from L’ Oeuvre au Noir by Marguerite Yourcenar.
Der Mönch am Meer Caspar David Friedrich
I have always been reading. As long as I can remember. So I suppose at least from the moment, that I learned the alphabet. I got many books in my youth, took them from my brothers bookshelves, and from the, forbidden, parents bookshelves, borrowed them from the library. So I read all the books, that I could get.
It has been all my life a pleasure to wander through the bookshops. As it is nowadays through the wider world of the online bookshops. And I welcomed the ereaders and the likes from the moment they were there. Physical books or ebooks, I don’t mind, all are good, if I can read.
I read because I love the words, the language, the stories, the discoveries, the memories, the familiar and the unknown.
I only need my mind and the letters of the alphabet.
I read all kinds of books, novels, study books, art books, you name it. They all have 2 things in common. They show me familiar situations, to keep me reading. And they show me unknown situations, to keep me reading.
I write about my thoughts and feelings. Perhaps a short description. But do not expect any expertise here. And certainly no good or bad judgement or more or less stars. You will never hear me tell you, that you should read this or that book, or just not.
You will hear only some more or less loose, incoherent, coincidental thoughts and feelings. About books I feel close to.
Well, if I succeed to put them into words.
Will be continued…
Interesting info from Janson History of Art (2nd edition 1977)…
“Stone Age men were content to collect pebbles, as well as less durable specimens, in whose natural shape they saw something that rendered them ‘magic’; echoes of this approach can sometims be felt in later, more fully worked pieces. Thus the so-called Venus of Willendorf, one of many such female fertility figurines, has a bulbous roundness of form that recalls an egg-shaped ‘sacred pebble’; her navel, the central point of the design, is a natural cavity in the stone. ”
This reminds me of collecting pebbles as a child.
A kind of connection with unknown people long long ago.
And I feel again the joy of the lovely round forms of the warm pebbles in my hand.
This image does make me feel the intensity of beauty. It is a moment from long ago. Via a small vague picture from a CD cover. Seconds after the sound of music is fading.
This post is short of words. The feeling is so intense, that I can’t find them, the right words. When I do have found them, I’m back.
Wagner Tristan und Isolde.
Needs no explanation. I played it countless times. Hard work in the LP era. Easier now, when the whole Act 2 is on 1 CD, as this one by Karl Böhm. Birgit Nilsson as Isolde and Wolfgang Windgassen as Tristan.
I don’t remember when I heard Tristan und Isolde for the first time. It must be long ago. The prelude, whole Act 2 and Mild und Leise are the highlights. Actually, Tristan und Isolde is one highlight, from beginning to end.
It is a miracle to me how Wagner could have thought and composed this music. Be it physical or spiritual. The music is magical.
CD:Karl Böhm, Birgit Nilsson, Wolfgang Windgassen, Christa Ludwig, Martti Talvela, Eberhard Waechter, Bayreuther Festspiele 1966. Amazon
CD:Wilhelm Furtwängler, Kirsten Flagstad, Ludwig Suthaus, Blanche Thebom, Josef Greindl, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Philharmonia Orchestra. Disadvantage is Act 2 on 2 discs. Amazon
DVD: Not found one yet, that I preferred to the CD’s.
YouTube:Birgit Nilsson Mild und Leise Bayreuth 1966.
The music is enchanting. The story is, well, let’s say, a little burlesque. Above all, Susanna, Figaro, La Contessa and the other characters remind me always of my friends. Mozart’s music is all-
YouTube:The Jean-Pierre-Ponnelle movie, Karl Böhm, Hermann Prey, Mirella Freni, Kiri Te Kanawa, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Maria Ewing, Wiener Philharmoniker.
I’m always listening to classical music or opera in a certain mood. Or I listen to a composer for days. Always playlists in my head and piles of CD’s next to me. Not the usual playlists. More like Lifelong Love, Nostalgia, Curiosity, and so on. I’ll try to made them public. Starting slowly. With additions and extensions in the course of time. And references to CD’s, DVD’s, Spotify, YouTube, books, even performances from the past. Maybe some explanation, reasons, feelings.
However, be warned. I’m not very disciplined at sitting down and writing. I rather listen to music. If you write, you can’t listen. Instead of 1 hour writing a day, you can listen to about 3000 Lieder, 600 pieces of chamber music, 300 symphonies or 100 operas a year.
I’ll try to show links to CD’s and DVD’s and to Amazon and YouTube.
Dies ist eine fantastische CD. Die Miniaturen sind hervorragend gespielt. Die Töne sind bezaubernd. Durch die Wahl wird es zu einer Reise durch eine erstaunliche Fülle von Klänge. Besonders liebe ich Dukas/Staub L’Apprenti sorcier, Saint-Saëns/Liszt/Horowitz Danse macabre und Scriabin Poème.
Und natürlich das wunderschöne Gretchen am Spinnrade von Schubert/Liszt. “Ich liebe dieses Drama, erzählt sie, denn es steckt so viel Menschliches darin.”
Aber alle Miniaturen sind fantastisch.
Es gibt eine ausgezeichnete Erklärung in das CD Büchlein.
Versuchen Sie Yuja Wang im Konzertsaal zu hören.
Und hören Sie diese CD.
Don Juan in Hankey is a novel about an opera company, which is preparing a new production of Don Giovanni, about the acts and the thoughts of all the people involved. It is a wonderful story. The plot you must read yourself.
It reads as a satire, but with serious nuances. There is a lot to laugh about, as always, about the protagonists and about you, if you recognize yourself in one or more of the characters. It was difficult for me to stop reading, because of the many cliffhangers. I was curious each chapter, each page, sometimes each sentence, to the next event.
The description of the acts and the emotions of the characters is especially bright. I had the feeling as if I was there myself.
What makes this novel so special, that are the many levels to discover and enjoy, as in every good novel.
There is the story about the lives of the principal characters.
The story about the opera company, which is creating a new production and trying to overcome all the problems, recalls the difficulties of teamwork.
In the communication between the protagonists, you can hear them thinking, anticipating, preparing their responses to the other members of the Guild. It is a way of communication in our modern times. Be careful for the feelings of others in what you say and be willing to soften you words.
It is also a story about the essence of human life, of the energy of human beings, of getting up after a setback, of optimism.
The ‘colors of the language’, a good story can be like a painting, remind me of the bright colors of modern city life.
The storyline and the way of telling remind me of the opera Don Giovanni, with its many scenes and its lively phrases.
Above all, the ‘music of the language’, language can have a musical quality, is like the music of Mozart and Don Giovanni, lively and bright.
It was a great pleasure to read this musical novel. I think it will be for all members of opera companies, opera singers and opera lovers, and for all lovers of a novel about modern life. Recommended!
Series: Favorite Paintings
Catena Saint Jerome in his Study from the National Gallery
Standing alone before St Jerome.
Wandering through the National Gallery in London, I am always looking for my favorite paintings. One of them is St Jerome in his Study by Catena. Some years ago, I fell in love with this painting. As no other people seemed interested, I could watch St Jerome for a long time without being disturbed. It gave me a wonderful feeling, to stand alone before this painting. I felt totally quiet.
Readers and silence.
There is silence. The bird does not make noise.
The lion is sleeping. St Jerome is reading.
It is this act of reading which is holding my attention. Reading is an interaction between two people, the author and the reader, actually from author to reader. It is a lonely activity. Readers are alone with their thoughts. Before this painting, I forget all the people, walking behind me through the National Gallery rooms.
I am just there with another reader, although he cannot talk with me. That does not matter. Readers like other readers. Readers like silence.
Colors and composition.
The quiet green and brown colors and the geometrical composition with right lines are greatly contributing to the feeling of rest.
The reading St Jerome in his red and blue gown.
The view through the window of the blue grey mountains and the sea.
And especially the sleeping lion.
I love paintings because of the pleasure of lines and colors.
Moreover, they are arousing old and new thoughts and feelings.
Some feelings are reminding of personal life events, sad and happy ones.
New thoughts are sometimes more interesting. They can produce another way of looking, of thinking, about personal life, about humanity, about the world.
Perhaps this painting is representing another meaning than a reading St Jerome. I am sure it has many different meanings. Sometimes that is important, sometimes not.
The painter creates, the art lover re-creates.
I am an art lover. I value art historians and art books highly. Art books show me details, I could overlook. They help me seeing more. However, when I am standing before a painting, it is between the painter and me. It is about what he wants to show and say, and about what I think and feel.
Jerome – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Vincenzo Catena | artist | active 1506 – 1531 | The National Gallery, London
Vincenzo Catena | Saint Jerome in his Study | NG694 | The National Gallery, London
Other paintings of St Jerome
In spring the beautiful rondeau of Charles d’Orléans sings in my head.
Le temps a laissié son manteau
De vent, de froidure en de pluye,
Et s’est vestu de brouderie,
De soleil luyant, cler et beau.
Il n’y a beste, ne oyseau,
Qu’en son jargon ne chante ou crie:
Le temps a laissié son manteau !
Riviere, fontaine et ruisseau
Portent, en livree jolie,
Gouttes d’argent d’orfaverie,
Chascun s’abille de nouveau:
Le temps a laissié son manteau.
From Charles d’Orléans Poésies ed. Pierre Champion, Librairie Honoré Champion 1971.
Nature has taken off her coat of wind, of rain and of cold, and has dressed in embroidery, in bright and beautiful sun. There is no beast or bird, which in his own tongue not sings or shouts: nature has taken off her coat. River, fountain and creek dress, in beautiful livery, drops of silver, everyone dresses in new: nature has taken off her coat.
Charles d’Orléans lived from 24 November 1394-5 January 1465. He became Duke of Orléans at a very young age, after the murder of his father Louis d’Orléans in 1407. He was captured at the Battle of Agincourt and lived as a hostage in England during 25 years. The last years of his life, he lived in Blois on the Loire River. He wrote rondeaux, chansons and ballades. I first heard about him through the wonderful biographical novel by Dutch author Hella Haasse: Het Woud der Verwachting or In a Dark Wood Wandering.
Another beautiful poem for this time of year:
En regardant ces belles fleurs
Que le temps nouveau d’Amours prie,
Chascune d’elles s’ajolie
Et farde de plaisans couleurs.
Tant enbasmees sont de odeurs
Qu’il n’est cueuer qui ne rajeunie,
En regardant ces belles fleurs.
Les oyseaus deviennent danseurs
Dessuz mainte branche flourie,
Et font joyeuse chanterie,
De contres, deschans et teneurs,
En regardant ces belles fleurs.
Watching the beautiful flowers that the new era of Love invites, they are all glad and full of beautiful colors. They are so full of perfume that everybody with a heart is happy. The birds are dancers under many flowering branch. And sing for joy, high and low. Watching these beautiful flowers.
He also wrote in English:
Ayens the comyng of may
That is full of lustynes,
Let us leve all hevynes
As fer as we can or may.
Now is tym of myrth and play;
Wynter weth hys ydylnes
Is discomfet as y ges,
And redy to fle a way.
Ayens the comyng of may.
Wherfore, ladys, I yow pray
That ye take in yow gladnes,
And do all your besynes
To be mery nyght and day.
Ayens the comyng of may.
I love his poems. Some are happy. Some introvert and melancholic. Charles d’Orléans has written his poems nearly 600 years ago. However, I could still feel the joy and the grief of the poet. In the same way as I feel joy and grief.
‘Ein international Chor gefeierter Sänger und Sängerinnen setzte, begleitet von diskret zurücktretendem Orchester, die hochgeschulte Gottesgabe seiner Stimmen ein zur Ausführung von Arien, Duetten, ganzen Ensembleszenen aus den verschiedenen Gegenden und Epochen des musikalischen Theaters:der südlichen Schönheitssphäre einer zugleich hoch-und leichtherzigen Hingerissenheit, einer deutsch-volkhaften Welt von Schalkheit und Dämonie, der französischen Grossen und Komischen Oper.’
Der Zauberberg is a ‘Bildungsroman’. The protagonist Hans Castorp, a young engineer, travels to Davos to visit his cousin Joachim, who remains a long period in a sanatorium. Soon Hans forgets to return home. He is intrigued by life in the small community. The following years, he learns much about life, love, friendship, world views and opera.
It is in the chapter about music, Fülle des Wohllauts, that we see Hans Castorp reveling in the most beautiful opera arias. Hans gets access to a beautiful gramophone with the brand name ‘Polyhymnia’.
He makes sure he is alone in the music room and starts listening to famous opera arias for hours.
Below, some of the arias Thomas Mann and his protagonist listened frequently to, with quotations from Fülle des Wohllauts:
‘Der unvergleichliche Tenor, der fürstliche Alt mit dem herrlichen Stimmbruch in der Mitte seines Umfanges und der silberne Sopran…’
‘..nun öffne sich der Himmel und ihrem Sehnen erstrahlte das Licht der Ewigkeit.’
Aureliano Pertile Dusolina Giannini Carlo Sabajno: O Terra Addio 1928
‘Der Soldat sang von der Blume, die Carmen ihm am Anfang ihrer Bekanntschaft zugeworfen, und die im schweren Arrest, worein er um ihretwillen geraten, sein ein und alles gewesen sei.’
‘Und ewig dir gehör ich an, liess danach die Stimme um zehn Töne sinken und bekannte erschüttert sein Carmen, ich liebe dich.’
Alfred Piccaver: Blumenarie Hier an dem Herzen treu geborgen 1920
Hans Castorp feels particularly sympathetic to Valentin, who reminds him of his recently
deceased cousin Joachim, who had served in the army.
‘Jemand trat auf, jemand Erz-Sympatisches, der Valentin hiess, den aber Hans Castorp im Stillen anders nannte…’
Hans Nissen: Da ich nun verlassen soll
At the end of the story we find Hans Castorp back in the mud of the battlefields of WWI, singing:
‘Ich schnitt in seiner Rinde so manches liebe Wort …’
‘Und sei-ne Zweige rau-uschten, als rie-fen sie mir zu-‘
Richard Tauber: Der Lindenbaum 1927
Der Zauberberg is one of my favorite novels. I read and re-read it in different stages of my life, or sometimes only out of love for it. It is not only the story, which is holding my attention. It is also the enchanting narrative style.
The best edition is the Grosse Kommentierte Frankfurter Ausgabe from S.Fischer Verlag, from which the quotations are. However, I think each edition will be good.
Many opera lovers will share the feelings of Thomas Mann and his protagonist, and me, for the enchantment of opera. Attending a live performance is beautiful. Listening to records or CDs of the great arias at home has its own delight.
Some years ago, I visited Champmol in Dijon, the grounds of the old monastery of Chartreuse de Champmol, today a psychiatric hospital. I made the journey just for visiting the sculptures of Claus Sluter. After some rather heavy traffic, I drove onto the site. At my surprise, there was a small parking for visitors under beautiful trees. Walking across the site, I met only a few friendly patients and nurses. It was a hot day, but thanks to the trees, it was very pleasant.
Of course, I went straight to the Well of Moses, in a backyard with some scattered construction material. I could walk around the sculpture group as many times as I wanted to. Nobody disturbed me. It is always nice to be alone with a work of art. It is as if you are alone with the artist. It is exciting to stand in front of a sculpture and realizing that ages ago an artist has touched it with his hands.
The second sculpture group was in the chapel. After a short walk under beautiful trees, I went into the portal of the chapel. It was there in the portal that the beautiful statue of Maria struck me. I have seen many beautiful medieval sculptures. Mostly, they were more static and serious. This time however, I saw a very lively Maria. She was moving, turning and smiling, with the child on her arm. It was as if I was seeing my grandmother, my mother, and many other women, washing, cleaning and caring for their child. There was something human between the mother and her child. Maria seemed almost real. I loved it. Never before I saw such a lovely statue of Maria, of any woman. It was worth the trip. Go see it when you are in the neighborhood. Claus Sluter has made a beautiful image in favor of women.
Recently I listened to Ferruccio Busoni Doktor Faust. The opera was waiting on my recorder. Mezzo.tv broadcasted it nearly 2 years ago. The performance was by Opernhaus Zürich from 2006. Thomas Hampson as Doktor Faust impressed me greatly. I immediately bought the Blu-ray disc. In the past, I have read, re-read and seen several times the play by Goethe. I read the play by Marlowe. I have seen the Faust opera of Gounod. However, never the story of Faust had such an effect on me. I will try to explain.
During the second prologue, Doktor Faust opens a book about black magic. According to the guidelines, he conjures up six spirits and chooses the sixth one Mephistopheles as his servant. He asks him to help him with all his wishes, especially for knowledge. In return, Mephistopheles asks him to serve him after death. First Faust shrinks back. Then he surrenders.
It was at this moment of transition from good to power, that Thomas Hampson as Doktor Faust took me into his mind, his thoughts, his hesitation, his weighing up the pros and cons of having power over other people. I was going with him into the life of Faust, and into my life.
Great art is great because it takes you into your own life, your mind and your thoughts. It gives you another way of thinking about life.
In this performance, the creation of many people is converging: The legend of Faust, the libretto and music of Busoni, and Philipp Jarnach, the co-workers of the Zürich Opernhaus. The cast, the conductor, the orchestra, the direction, all are exceptional, even on a recording, certainly on a Blu-ray disc. The music is beautiful, stirring, impressive, fascinating.
However, it is the opera singer, who can bring these reflections on life into your mind.
Thomas Hampson is Faust for the moment. You can go along with him.
If you are susceptible to this kind of experience, listen to it.
The passage is from Prologue II:
Faust: Töte sie.
Mephistopheles: Es ist geschehn. Möchtet Ihr das Übrige abwarten?
Faust: Kaum! – Ich geb mich dir. Aber jetzt – verlass mich.
Mephistopheles: Nur noch ein Geringes.
Faust: Fort, fort, fort! Ich kann dich nicht ertragen!
Mephistophels: Du musst es lernen.
I will ask Arthaus Musik for uploading a part of this section on YouTube.
Thomas Hampson at the end of the opera, stunning:
Naxos Videos Channel:
When I am listening to music, looking at a painting or a sculpture or reading a book, I know instantaneously that something is happening to me, a kind of flash. Sometimes a memory of an event in the past, sometimes a memory of a friend, but often an indistinct feeling of happiness, of “je ne sais quoi” or even of melancholy. These moments make a deep impression, I never forget. I don’t know if they are influencing my daily life. But I do know they are remaining in my memory and in my thoughts. They can change with time, mood, ageing or personal development. They never fall out of favour.
For instance, when at the age of twelve first reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace, I looked at Pierre and Andrei as grown-up men. Young, my greatest admiration was for Pierre with his more deviating way of life. Older, I appreciated more Andrei’s social attitude. Yet each time I reread the novel, I feel involved with both and with Natasha of course.
Or when I am looking at a sculpture by Lehmbruck or a painting by Malevich or a .
Earlier I always tried to understand why some works had such an effect on me. Nowadays, I am just happy with the old familiar memories and the future, not yet known, events. They are like old and new friends. They are part of me.
In this blog I’ll write about my favorite music, art and books.
What I hear, see, read, feel, think and love.
Last week, after a troublesome journey, I arrived at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. After some queuing up in the rain I was going at once to Jan Six. There he was, with his beautiful red coat. I liked him at first sight. His appearance, his posture. His polite impatience, was he going out ? His gorgeous cloths. The many buttons. Most of all I liked his eyes. Were they green ? Friendly but a little absent. He had other things on his mind.
In another room his etch, more casual, Jan Six was leaning against a window-sill. Reading some papers. As if not aware of the portraitist.
A reader lives in another world or age. Forgets the other people around. Can a reader be unaware of the attention when pictured ? Is it possible to picture the very moment of reading ?
Both portraits showed a real person. Someone you could give a hand and speak to. I felt the presence of two people. Jan Six or was it Rembrandt that I saw or maybe, interpreting, me ?
A little child, six years old, I was going to a fair. My mother told me about a kind of water organ with music. Full of expectations I was sitting at the front row inside a very large tent. Suddenly the organ was spraying water streams in all sorts of color. The fountains were waving from left to right and up and down. All in harmony with the music.
I liked the show with all these magnificent colors. But moving me most was the music. I never liked the usual children songs. Now I was sitting upright, absorbed by the music.
The slow beginning, the tempi, the waltz. The mildness and then the unexpected loudness of the orchestra. The violins, the flutes, the brass. The melancholy of the violoncello. Sounds I never sensed before.
Life got a new and heavenly dimension. I have never forgotten this first conscious hearing of music. This enchantment of music.