Dec 31

Conan the Barbarian, starring Arnold Schwarznegger ? ? ? ? ?

I’ve seen this movie probably more than 30 times, yet it continually remains funny and fresh. First inspired by Dr. Pridjian to watch this film, it nearly became a cult film for the General Surgeons at Cook County Hospital. We would get together just to watch Arnold do his thing. This film is difficult to take serious. The plot is stupid, the acting is horrid, but quotes are often from historic characters, like Gengis Khan or historica situations. The music of Prokofiev is used prolifically. It was seen again only because Andrew Flanagan had never seen Conan before, and New Years eve seemed the most fitting time to watch it, if we weren’t going to watch another version of Die Fledermaus. In spite of all its stupidity, the movie seems to work, and it’s nice to see the governor of California in one of his earlier roles. Though there is a modest amount of partial nudity, it is never presented in a vile fashion, and the biggest aspect to prevent kids from watching this film is the shear violence that occurs. Of course, this film can turn one into a violent person, as is witnessed by a generation of surgeons from Cook County Hospital.

 

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Dec 31

David Oistrakh-Concertos and Encores ?????

These concerti (not concertos!) were published by Deutsche Grammaphon, which means of superlative recording style. The sound is very forward, which on my system, is close to being in the concert hall. This set consists of a potpourri of Oistrakh recordings, but most importantly, the Mendelssohn, Bruch, Glazunov, Prokofiev, and  Kabalevsky concerti. There is some repetition with the EMI set, with the Bruch and Prokofiev concerti on both sets, and some concerti only on the EMI set, such as the Brahms, Khatchaturian, and Shostakovich concerti. The duplicated pieces are definitely different performances, and definitely better recorded with DG than with EMI. Both sets are worth having. Oistrakh is a consummate violinist, the best that could ever be, and these recordings reflect the various pieces performed at their very best. Oistrakh is not so strident as Haifetz, and not as smooth or mellow as Menuhin. It is a commanding sweetness that I would make it my preferred recording for the hypothetical desert island setting.

 

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Dec 30

Great Minds of the Western Tradition, various professors (Teaching Company).????

This series was a mix, with some very good and some very average professors. Starting with the Greeks, various notable philosophers were discussed, typically all by people who were expert on that person. I’ve reviewed some of the teachers in the blog site. The series is quite variable in quality, is highly repetitive of the Greeks, and leaves out many of the most important thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. All in all, it’s been an enjoyable series, that I will probably listen to again someday.

 

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Dec 30

Ravi Shankar

By Kenneth Feucht Media, Music No Comments »

Ravi Shankar ????

OK, it’s not fair reviewing six albums at once. The third (West Meets East) and last (Shankar Sitar Concertos) were a touch different, in that they also included either Yehudi Menuhin or an orchestra, or both). In the first album, Ravi explains in western musical terms exactly what is happening with the music. First, it is not based exactly on the western 12-tone system, and will have many other tones included. It will not necessarily utilize conventional harmonies. The beat may be quite odd metered-such as 13 beat per measure. It is a mix of fixed format as well as improvisations, thou Ravi makes clear that it definitely is not jazz. All in all, it has a tendency toward serialism, or minimalism, which it also is not.  Shankar did cut an album with the master of minimalism, Phillip Glass, which shows a tendency to accommodate to such a musical form. I don’t like minimalism, though this music was rather enjoyable to listen to. The sitar is a fairly complex instrument to play, and is usually accompanied by a “drone” as well as a semi-pitched percussion instrument. I’m not sure there is a necessity of purchasing many albums by Ravi Shankar, since the pieces seem to lack the distinctiveness that would allow the listener to distinguish one piece from another. I’m sure more familiarity with his music might help a bit.

 

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Dec 28

Jascha Heifetz Tchaikovsky & Mendelssohn Violin Concerti, with Fritz Reiner and the CSO ?????

It is difficult to imagine somebody not liking the Tchaikovsky and Mendelssohn violin concerti, and this recording is supremely done to enhance ones’ appreciation for these two pieces. Not only are the recordings of superb quality, but the performance by both Heifetz and Reiner are at the best that these two concerti could experience. Heifetz is an especially commanding and aggressive performer, while maintaining technical brilliance. While Menuhin (reviewed above) has a sweet, light and airy approach, Heifetz has no hesitation to attack. Both, as well as Oistrakh, are the best of the best. Yet, their particular performing styles create entirely different pieces. All three performers are worth having in one’s repetoire.

 

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