Friday, April 26, 2013

Kempff's concerto recordings

Deutsche Grammophon has released a 14CD set of Wilhelm Kempff's Concerto recordings. Click here to read my review.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

A Tale of Two Letters

Two letters appeared in today’s Plain Dealer, both touching upon the subject of diversity. One, adapted by me from a blog post I made several days ago; and another, by Erik Kolesar of North Olmsted. Kolesar’s letter, the tone of which defines the term Ugly American, demands a response.

There have been other acts of terrorism over the last several years that have nothing to do with foreign values, and the frothing displayed by politicians in the wake of the Boston Marathon attack serves only to distract the public from a substantially worse problem. Let’s review:

*Adam Lanza, a natural-born citizen, killed 27 people (mostly children) in Newtown, Connecticut – using a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle with multiple round magazines.

*James Holmes, a natural-born citizen, killed 12 and wounded 58 in Aurora, Colorado – using a 12-gauge Remington 870 Express Tactical shotgun, a Smith & Wesson M&P15 semi-automatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine, a Glock 22 40-caliber handgun, preceded by several gas or smoke canisters – all purchased legally.

*Jared Loughner, a natural-born citizen, killed 6 and wounded 12 in Tuscon, Arizona – using a 9mm Glock pistol.

America's ongoing violence problem is clearly not the result of immigration, and we should remember that one of the victims in the Boston Marathon attack, Lü Lingzi, was a Chinese citizen.

In no way am I minimizing the terrible events in Boston. The actions of Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev constitute terrorism. Four people were killed and scores injured. But considering that the United States is a prominent country with a population of over 300 million and a substantial worldwide military presence, there have been remarkably few acts of Islamic terrorism on our soil post-9/11.

There are an average of 40 murders in the United States every DAY – most of which are committed with guns.  We need to ask why an improvised explosive device is a weapon of mass destruction, but a semi-automatic weapon is not.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Thrilling, but incomplete...

My review of Byron Janis RCA recordings has been posted. The 11CD/1DVD box offers a tantalizing glimpse of the pianist's early work. Click here to read my review.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Diversity works

Last night, the citizens of Watertown cheered safety forces following the capture of Dhzokhar Tsarnaev. I saw people of every ethnicity, likely with varying religious and political beliefs, gathered in peace and celebration - smiling and embracing.

Embracing diversity works.

It's those who hate the differences between us, such as the Tsarnaev brothers, who personify the problem.

Those Angry Days: 1939-1941

Lynne Olson has written a fascinating and enlightening book about the struggle between Isolationists and Interventionists durign the early years of World War II. Click here to read my review

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ashkenazy: 50 years on Decca

Decca has released a 50 CD retrospective of pianist and conductor Vladimir Ashkenazy - one of the most prolific classical musicians in history. Click here to read my review.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I shall not mourn Maggie Thatcher

Today, amid great pomp and even greater security, Margaret Thatcher is being laid to rest. 

Neither she nor her "comrade in arms" Ronald Reagan did anything special to win the Cold War.  They merely carried on the policies of their predecessors, starting with Winston Churchill and Harry Truman.  But they got the credit.

What is too often forgotten is how they both turned a blind eye to the many who were suffering from AIDS, who showed hostility to the entire LGBT community. 

Ian McKellen helps us remember:

With regard to the divisive effect of her reign, one omission was significant and glaring: Section 28.
Lest we forget, this nasty, brutish and short measure of the third Thatcher administration, was designed to slander homosexuality, by prohibiting state schools from discussing positively gay people and our "pretended family relations". Opposition to Section 28 galvanised a new generation of activists who joined with long-time campaigners for equality. Stonewall UK was founded, to repeal Section 28 and pluck older rotten anti-gay legislation from the constitutional tree. This has taken two decades to achieve.
Pathetically, in her dotage, Baroness Thatcher was led by her supporters into the House of Lords to vote against Section 28's repeal: her final contribution to UK politics. She dies too early to oppose Parliament's inevitable acceptance of same–gender marriage.
Thatcher misjudged the future when, according to her deputy chief whip, she "threw a piece of red meat (Section 28) to her right-wing wolves". Some of these beasts survive her, albeit de-fanged. When, to take a recent example, a disgraced cardinal delivers anti-gay diatribes, the spirit of social Thatcherism is revealed as barren, hypocritical and now pointless.

I shall not mourn.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Spirit of Boston will prevail

This afternoon, I learned of the horrific events at the Boston Marathon. Two friends of mine ran in this year’s marathon. Fortunately, they were uninjured.

I lived near Boston for nine years, and took the train into North Station nearly every Saturday, either for a concert at Symphony Hall or for shopping. My Saturday shopping took me from Tower Records (now closed) on the corner of Massachusetts Avenue & Newbury Street, then to Boylston Street via Gloucester Street. I would then stop at Glad Day Bookshop (also closed now) which was almost exactly where the first blast hit.  It was at the Boston Public Library, across the street from the first blast site, where I first heard Rachmaninoff's own recordings of his piano concertos.

Make no mistake: Whether this was an act of one lone nut, or a domestic or international terrorist group – this was an act of terror.

Yesterday, after the explosions, Boston's Finest and ordinary citizens rushed in to provide assistance and comfort. That is the spirit of Boston, and it shall prevail.

Friday, April 12, 2013

68 years ago

It was 68 years ago, April 12, 1945, that Franklin Roosevelt died in Warm Springs, Georgia. The photograph immediately below was taken on April 11 - the last taken of FDR. It's a blunt descriptor of the burdens of the Presidency - particularly in wartime.

The three illustrations below the last photo are memes published recently by the FDR Library. Almost seven decades after his passing, his words and achievements remain relevant.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Kapell, the Complete RCA Recordings

The title of this set is a bit misleading, as several recordings have appeared on other labels. But this superb eleven CD set contains William Kapell's complete authorized RCA recordings. Click here to read my review

Monday, April 1, 2013

Time to reform Ohio’s Animal Cruelty Laws

I attended a rally in Cleveland’s Public Square this morning. Despite the cold weather, there were about a hundred others present, including Dick Goddard – who has been reporting the weather since before I was born.

The rally was calling for the reform of Ohio’s Animal Cruelty laws, which are some of the weakest in the United States.

One of the touchstones for today’s rally was a situation involving a dog - now named Forrest.

For those who are unfamiliar with Forrest’s history, allow me to give some background. On November 25, 2012, Raymone Clements, an ex-convict who had served time for drug trafficking, armed robbery, and raping two young girls, took this gentle Mastiff into Forrest Hills Park last year and tied him to a tree. In the presence of two female companions, Clements shot at the dog four times, hitting him twice: one bullet lodged in his jaw, the other penetrated his shoulder and lodged in his chest. Clements and his friends then walked away, apparently content to let the dog bleed out.

The dog lingered overnight in 30 degree weather and was discovered by a dog-walker the next morning. Thanks to the intervention of several concerned people, the dog was saved, named Forrest, and adopted by a couple in Solon.

Forrest’s story had a happy ending. For all too many companion animals, that is not the case.

As for Clements, he faced a judge in Federal Court today. The misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty have long since been dropped. Instead, Clements faces felony charges for illegal possession of a firearm and ammunition, which is barred due to his previous convictions.

Those of us who were on Public Square, myself included, did not rally just for Forrest - although his situation has become a rallying cry for those who favor reform. We rallied because Ohio's animal cruelty laws are woefully inadequate and out of sync with most of the country.

Consider this: In Ohio, you can torture and kill a dog or cat - and the penalty you face is about the same as a traffic ticket. The situation is not limited to canines and felines – starve a horse to death and you’ll get a slap on the wrist. Any right-thinking person would recognize there's something wrong with that.

For those who don’t know me personally, let me make it plain that I am hardly some kind of radical. I do not consider animals or humans to be equivalent. Nor do I follow the PETA line and believe that domesticated dogs and cats are being held “in bondage” and should be set free. I am not a vegetarian/vegan who chants “meat is murder” and the like. Nor did I get that vibe from others in the crowd – otherwise, I surely would have gotten comments and angry looks because of the leather jacket I was wearing. This is not a conservative vs. liberal issue. It is one of basic humanity.

What we are asking is merely that Ohio’s animal cruelty laws be brought into sync with most of the rest of the country.

For those who say that we should not bother with worrying about animals and concentrate on people instead, note this well: People who abuse animals often abuse humans also.