SOFIA (WJC)– Israel’s President Shimon Peres has paid tribute to Bulgaria’s record with respect to the plight of its Jewish population during World War II. Peres said that the country had “suffered much from many directions, including from the Nazis, but the country managed not only to save itself, but also to save the Bulgarian Jews”.
“I am sincerely grateful for this,” Peres said in a speech, after he was bestowed by Bulgarian President Georgi Purvanov with an order in recognition of his “great contribution towards strengthening and developing Bulgarian-Israeli bilateral relations”.
Peres was in Bulgaria to discuss cooperation between Israel and Bulgaria in technology, industry and tourism. His visit follows Purvanov’s trip to Israel in 2008, and “is the result of the high level of bilateral cooperation in all spheres”, an official statement of the Bulgarian government said.
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress
By David Amos
SAN DIEGO-This is a somewhat negative article, not about the wrong notes we hear, but about the lack of them, and the notes and music we do not hear.
Nowadays, we hear virtual perfection from soloists and orchestras. This is what we expect. Sometimes it is as if we are hearing a computer, flawless, no spontaneity, no risks, and just safe notes. So many artists on the concert stage will not take any chances, but it is at the sacrifice of creativity. This is why I am reluctant to run to a local concert by a renowned artist; all the notes will be there, but I’ll be bored to death.
But it was different in the past. Here are a few salient examples:
Among the most exciting recordings of a live performance is the one of pianist Sviatoslav Richter, playing Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, in Sofia, Bulgaria, sometimes in the 1950’s. The dated Columbia long play record and the subsequent release on CD are full of flaws. The microphone placement is questionable, and the audience has a collective case of terminal coughing. Oh, yes, and Richter misses more notes than you could imagine. Someone could write a concerto just with the notes dropped under the piano.
Yet, this is an electrifying performance. The energy level coming out of the piano is indescribable, as is the virtuosity of the soloist. The communication is so strong, the message of the music so vivid, that after a while, you forget about the pianistic clams, and you feel transported into a different dimension.
If you want to hear sloppy ensemble playing, listen to the many recordings of Wilhelm Furtwangler and the Berlin Philharmonic in releases from the 1930’s and 40’s. But that becomes unimportant. What you keep and remember from these historical discs is music that sparkles, is alive, and energetic. They have the stamp of epic performances. Furtwangler’s interpretations were legendary, and once you get past the primitive recording sound and the less-than-perfect playing, the real quality becomes apparent.
Here is another classic example. From the Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Arthur Schnabel (1882-1951) was a classical pianist who composed and taught. He was renowned for his seriousness as a musician, avoiding anything resembling pure technical bravura. He was said to have tended to disregard his own technical limitations in pursuit of his own musical ideals. However, Schnabel is widely considered one of the greatest pianists of the Twentieth Century, whose vitality, profundity, and spiritual penetration in his playing of works by Beethoven and Schubert in particular, have seldom, if ever been surpassed”. His recordings on the Angel label of the Beethoven Piano Sonatas are a standard and a model for others to emulate.
Today, we judge a performance and call it “faulty” if it has a few wrong notes. But quite the opposite, if we do that, we are listening to the wrong things and missing the whole point of what music is all about.
And, what’s even funnier, musicians can play an anthology of wrong notes, but if they are consonant and don’t clash harmonically, 99% of the listeners would not know the difference!
There are many wonderful and talented soloists in the world today. But in the past, you could recognize the style of an emerging soloist by the teacher with whom he or she studied. The individual personality was all there, but the stamp of the master teacher or the school was clearly discernible. It had pedigree. Today, no matter where of with whom a young artist studied, they all tend to sound alike, with non-geographical, predictable similarity to other musicians of their generation.
It is no secret that musical competitions of the last 30 years or so are usually won by the contestants who play the loudest and fastest. None of the subtleties and spontaneous imagination which makes great music is to be found. And judges, artists’ managers booking agents and audiences, on the whole, don’t get it.
Today, after finishing this article, I will be one of those judges at a music competition. I will do my best not to succumb to the temptations of flashiness vs. serious artistry.
The best music being made today on a worldwide, world-class level is by musicians who are willing to take chances. They play and create something vibrant and fresh during the performance, not just “pay it safe”.
No wonder that recitals and concerts, on the whole, are stale experiences which do not communicate and leave so many listeners dissatisfied, sometimes not even knowing why. And maybe this is a contributing factor to the ever-growing problem of creating and cultivating new, young audiences.
Many of us who are veteran concert-goers have become somewhat immune to the cookie-cutter interpretations on stage today. We hear not what is taking place, but what we want to hear. Younger, less seasoned listeners may actually be more perceptive than many of us, and are justifiably unexcited by the concert experience.
I have discussed this subject through the years with many people, in and out of music, and in recent times, with someone who has had a direct connection with some of the greatest names in music in the last 100 years, including legendary artists.
By learning from the past, music can strengthen our present and future.
Amos is condutor of the Tifereth Israel Community Orchestra and has been guest conductor of professional orchestras around the world.
Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
Preceding provided by the Anti-Defamation League
By Cynthia Citron
LOS ANGELES – Who knew sex could be so tedious? In David Hare’s The Blue Room 11 acts of intercourse are conducted without heat, or charm, or intimacy, or humor, or foreplay. The acotrs climb all over each other into a black out, and from there, it’s just “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” and “Where are my shoes?”
Moreover, if a cardinal rule of acting is “Never let them see you acting,” Christian S. Anderson and Christina Dow apparently never got the memo. They are so busy “acting” in their own individual roles that they might easily be in two different plays. There appears to be no physical or emotional connection between them.
It has to be the acting and the direction (by Elina de Santos), because the play itself, in more able hands, might well be an engaging exploration of desire and passion—and the lack thereof. The playwright, Sir David Hare (he was knighted in 1998, the same year The Blue Room was first produced), has certainly won enough major awards (the Olivier, BAFTA, New York Drama Critics Circle Award, London Theater Critics’ Award, Berlin Film Festival’s Golden Bear) to qualify as one of Britain’s more prolific and respected theater and film auteurs.
Hare early in his career became resident dramatist at the Royal Court Theatre and the Nottingham Playhouse and later became the associate director at the prestigious National Theatre. He is also the founder of Greenpoint Films, for which he has written many screenplays.
The Blue Room was commissioned by British director Sam Mendes as an adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s play from 1900 that examined the mores and decadence of Viennese society and the alarming spread of syphilis throughout all the classes of that society. Considered to be too sexually explicit to be performed, the play (“Der Reigen”) was only meant to be read and performed privately by Schnitzler’s friends. Its first public performance in 1921 was closed down by the Viennese police and Schnitzler was subsequently prosecuted for obscenity. The play also unleashed a wave of antisemitism toward its Jewish playwright. In 1950, however, Max Ophuls turned it into the highly successful movie “La Ronde.” Different times, different attitudes.
Hare’s version of this durable play reduced the 10 characters to two—a challenging feat for its actors—and starred Nicole Kidman and Iain Glen. But even though it had been a hit in London (influenced, perhaps, by a glimpse of Kidman’s dimly lit tush) it received mixed reviews in New York.
In Elina de Santos’ version, set presumably in New York, judging by the prostitute Irene’s accent in the opening round, each encounter is followed by an on-screen sign reckoning how long the act took. The times vary from 45 seconds to two hours and 28 minutes. (And the signs misspell 40 as f-o-u-r-t-y—twice!—and 20 as t-w-n-e-t-y.)
Meanwhile, the accents switch from New Yorkese to, inexplicably, bad British and, at one point, some sort of garbled Bulgarian (Italian?). In one particularly annoying scene, Anderson, playing a British politician, keeps enunciating “that is” and “it is” rather than “that’s” and “it’s” which prompts Dow, in a totally different context, to admonish him by saying “You do talk like a prick!”
And so it goes. If the actors are to be commended for anything, it’s for the speed with which they make their many costume changes.
Anderson spends much of his time onstage getting in and out of his pants, but stripping down to his skivvies doesn’t loosen him up much; he is pretty wooden throughout (no pun intended).
Adam Flemming provides a set consisting of screens that project multi-colored abstract designs while the furniture is being rearranged, and Arthur Loves Plastic provides original music interspersed with sexual moaning in the background.
If you’re still with me, here’s a piece of free advice: go to Netflix and order any of the many DVDs of “La Ronde.” See it at home. The popcorn is cheaper!
The Blue Room will continue as a Guest Production presented by SOLOCAT at the Odyssey Theatre, 2055 Sepulveda Blvd., in West Los Angeles, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 through May 2nd. Call (310) 477-2055 for tickets.
Citron is a theatre reviewer and Los Angeles bureau chief for San Diego Jewish World