Posted at 6:25 pm by A M Zénon, on November 20, 2014
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.
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-
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.
No chapter from a novel describes the delight of the opera lover as beautifully as the above section from Der Zauberberg. Nobody has written about opera as beautifully as Thomas Mann:
‘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.’
‘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-‘
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.