Friday, August 25, 2006

Knopfler/Harris: "This is us"

I don't touch much on pop music, largely because it is a disturbing mix of techno, crooning, and otherwise-dreadful schlock. It's like Pierre Boulez and Mama Cass had a lovechild. Not '60s Boulez, when he was cool. No. The synthesizer, keeping-up-with-the-Stockhausens Pierre Boulez. Yeah. I know.

However, off the Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris record, All the Roadrunning, there is one single that really works. "This is us" has all the hallmarks of a great pop single from the days when pop singles weren't for dance halls and morons. I liked Knopfler's single of some time back, "Boom like that," about McDonald's czar Ray Kroc. The current single has a sweet-enough story, catchy hooks, and doesn't make my ears bleed.

I can't say I love it as much as Schmidt's Das Buch mit sieben Siegeln (which is fast becoming one of my O-best-beloved works), but I like it. If pop, even well done examples, isn't your thing, that's fine. However, if you enjoy a good four-minute song, this might fit your bill. Or some Schumann.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Schwarzkopf's Past

In the Guardian, Michael Kater analyzes, once again, the late Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf's NSDAP past. In the most resonant passage, he notes

The postwar rise to fame of Schwarzkopf is legendary. There is no question, however opportunistically Schwarzkopf may have acted on her way to fame in the Third Reich, that the quality of her art made political protection unnecessary. But Schwarzkopf may have seen this differently.

After May 1945, she still had difficulties to overcome and continued to need protection, now of another kind. For almost two decades she remained shut out from the New York Metropolitan Opera, making her debut there in October 1964. For this, general manager Rudolf Bing, who had earned his credentials in Glyndebourne and Edinburgh, was responsible. He had been born a Jew in Vienna. At one time he poignantly remarked that he could forgive Schwarzkopf for having worn a Nazi uniform and taken an American boyfriend right after the war, but what he could not forgive was that she later married British impresario Walter Legge, through whom she obtained British citizenship (and the title of Dame Commander). For Legge was a Jew.

While I just railed against the pornography of fascism, I find her case somewhat unique. It could be argued, just as for Herbert von Karajan and (less famously) Karl Böhm, that her association with the NSDAP was a "career thing." However, unlike Von Karajan - who made that claim when finally confronted with cold, hard facts - she was silent and brusque about the whole business. Karl Böhm, it seems, was taciturn about the mess. I suppose his more flamboyant DGG peer, Von Karajan, bested him at that, too. However, he did give the fascist salute on a couple of occasions. I digress.

Schwarzkopf-the-soprano needed and needs no real apology. I found her a little brittle and metallic, but that doesn't mean she wasn't great. Schwarzkopf-the-NSDAP-youth-leader needs to be reckoned with eventually, no mean feat, as tight-lipped as she was about it. Young people make mistakes all the time, and some of them make utterly egregious errors in judgment. However, part of growing up is admitting those errors. She has been forgiven for crimes for which she never sought pardon. That is what galls me about this nasty stuff: she was given a free pass, thanks - I assume - to the then-pantokrator of music, Walter Legge.

A generation has stood, rightly, unforgiven at the cenotaph of their making - while a few have been given a general absolution. You don't get in bed with racist, genocidal maniacs and deserve that.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Kulturpunkt: Hitchens on Grass

Bilious ex-Trotskyite author Christopher Hitchens weighs in on Günter Grass and his Waffen-SS past. It's not a surprise that Hitchens would take Herr Grass to task for his rancid past. While I think Hitchens is a bit off-his-rocker with his current Bush affection, I think this passage is the very mot juste:

"Let those who want to judge, pass judgment," Grass said last week in a typically sententious utterance. Very well, then, mein lieber Herr. The first judgment is that you kept quiet about your past until you could win the Nobel Prize for literature. The second judgment is that you are not as important to German or to literary history as you think you are. The third judgment is that you will be remembered neither as a war criminal nor as an anti-Nazi hero, but more as a bit of a bloody fool.

Grass was an important novelist, at least as far as such things are decided by the academy (who write, largely for each other, and decide from this shallow pool who is "important"). However, ostensibly to set himself right and sell copies of his memoir, he mortgaged all that to come clean about his membership in the genocidal, fiercely-Nazi Waffen-SS. Good move, that. Right.

This is all, if I may borrow a phrase (or create it if no wag has done so), the pornography of fascism. I find that people are altogether too excited by National Socialism and its evil. Like the Acanthophis antarcticus, or Death Adder (what a descriptive name!), we are fascinated by a lethal creature. Rather than sending the criminals off to their justice and putting some weight behind the vow, "never again," we sit about and discuss the NSDAP and their evil designs far too much. The History Channel has made a career showing visceral, indeed, almost-pornographic (not in the etymological sense) clips of stock footage. Not least Riefenstahl's technically brilliant and morally repulsive film Triumph des Willens.

The lady doth protest too much, and - sooner or later - all that pornography of fascism warps the mind. Let Grass rot in the prison he has decided to construct with his lies and obfuscation, but - for our own sake - let's leave fascism (especially the racist, genocidal strain of the disease) in its own special Hell.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Celibidache's Wagner

OK. So, I am a sucker for the iTunes Music Store, not least because it is frequently home to some really obscure recordings. If you can deal with 128 kbps rips, sent whizzing through the digital aether that passes for the "information superhighway" (a laughable term, even more so when I delete my spam-mail), then you can find some gems.

One such record is the EMI disc of Sergiu Celibidache's Wagner, done in Munich - and admirably recorded by the Bayerischer Rundfunk team - during his tenure there. I think, given Wagner's fascination with Buddhism (which needs no reconciliation with Nietzsche, by the way, Herr Schlingensief), that he would find some merit in Celibidache. Some. Not an infinite amount.

Celibidache mocked "camel-drivers," who seem to be roughly equivalent to Wagner's loathed four-square conductors. He was a bit of a crank, and he seemed to earn more fame for his weird Zen Buddhist notions and refusal to record (that worked out, didn't it?) than his work, but he always let his music breathe. His Wagner is broad, almost glacial, by the clock. Note the last bit: "by the clock." Celibidache might take some time getting to the goal, but he lets the music work on its own terms. He seemed to understand that Wagner wrote everything into his score, and you only need to let Wagner tell the musicians - and the conductor - what to do. His Trauermusik, for example, is grand, noble, profoundly sad, and everything that Wagner's Siegfried was supposed to be.

He also respects Wagner's orchestration. Hell, he luxuriates in it. None of this "transparency" business. Celibidache knew that Wagner wrote his music a certain way for it to sound a certain way, and he really lets it go. Everything comes together, the detail is still there, but it serves the orchestral color - rather than being the color. There is a swirling, lush sound - exactly, as I understand it, what Wagner wanted.

Now, I am happy to have a discussion on how appropriate Celibidache was in this music, but I think even the most hardened critic would admit that he comes a lot closer than many conductors would have liked to admit.

Monday, August 21, 2006

For your viewing pleasure

The finale of Mahler's 2nd, conducted by Claudio Abbado, at what looks to be the Lucerne Festival.

It is really overwhelming, like any competent performance of the 2nd, especially when the camera pans back to reveal the full forces required for this masterpiece.

Aufersteh'n, mein Herz, aufersteh'n in einem Nu. Indeed.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kulturpunkt: Wrathful vintage

In keeping with everything else about the Putin regime, Russia is cracking down on imported wine. The FSB (apparently, the KGB had a name-change, just like the NKVD) has to certify the wine into the country. The BBC has a whole story on it here. However, I was blown away by this little factoid:

According to, Chateau Mouton Rothschild '86 retails at almost £2,000 a bottle. Importers of the stuff to Russia were valuing it at £3 a bottle. The customs man smelt a rat.

Using the Universal Converter, I found out that 3 GBP is, currently, equivalent to $5.66. Six bucks for a bottle of '86 Mouton Rothschild?! Now, the 1982 vintage is - arguably more famous - with Haut-Brion having the riband for the year of my birth; however, six dollars? Seriously? No. Of course not. Nevertheless, if the Government of Russia wants to unload some Mouton Rothschild, Latour, or Lafite on me at declared prices, I'll take it.

These importers, obviously looking for a cheap-out, have really fouled this one up for all of Russia. A nation, like the Midwest, fond of its drink if there ever was one. However, that reminds me of an interesting anecdote:

Apparently, the radar system on the Sukhoi Su-27 "Flanker" was alcohol-cooled. Soviet ground crews, waiting for the might of the Workers' Own military to fly into action, would tap the coolant system and drink the cooled alcohol straight and straight from the aircraft. How's that for Russian ingenuity?

I'm back...sort of

After my once-trusty IBM ThinkPad decided to die, I was without computer access. Now, my shiny new iMac is here, so I will be able to blog somewhat more often than what was then-usual.

Of course, classes are about to resume, so I don't know if I'll have the same amount of time; but, we'll see.

Friday, August 18, 2006

So it goes

Terry continues his thinking about Dorst's Ring and - sort of by extension - staging a work like the Tetralogy. He says:

Namely, the Ring rises above mere historical referencing. By placing it in a reference, you [lose] something in the work. The problem is, however, that because of the universal nature of the Ring drama to humanity, we can place it in any context we wish, and still derive some meaning out of it, even if that meaning isn't Wagner's.

I suppose, more and more, my point is that you simply can't take Wagner out of Wagner's greatest work (and one of the supreme artistic achievements of humanity). Because the characters are so archetypal, and because no Konzept director would dare stage it without Wagner's texts lest he get a crash course in the life of Poet-Diplomat Griboyedov, it is going to have meaning in any situation. However, Wagner's meaning is best, most universal, and most dramatic. To remove Wagner's own Konzept from the work is equivalent to emasculating it and rendering it - potentially - a dramatic atrocity. Only Wagner had the genius necessary to make the Ring work.

Terry then notes:

I suppose, in this culture of ours, this is necessary. Many people, pure and simple, are incapable of purely transcendent reasoning. They need a framework to think about the Ring, which is why I support some (but not all) interpretations. In the long run, one can only hope that the subject will attempt to investigate the work. In the short run, staging that places the Ring in a framework mislead the audience into believing they understand the work, when in fact they only understand the limited conceptions of the director. But, unfortunately, it's taboo to let the audience realize how much they don't understand. I suppose a kinder and gentler world is kinder and gentler when it comes to one's inability to understand.

I would say that, at the risk of being obstreperous, this is plain wrong. Everyone can understand archetypes. Everyone - except, apparently, Friedrich Nietzsche - can understand drama. Wagner intended, if he stuck to his guns from Das Kunstwerk der Zukunft, for this to be art for the Volk. I am not entirely interested in getting into the common need and all that, but I think that Wagner's concept of drama was populist (in the best sense of the word).

Shoddy education, increasing egocentrism, and the utter lack of attention-span of most people today all make it difficult for most folks to appreciate Wagner's work. Let's not, then, muddy the waters with silly, dramatically-confused, and - often as not - dangerous productions. If people don't get the Ring as Wagner wrote it, then how are they going to understand (for example) Patrice Chéreau's production or, Chéreau's ultimate source, George Bernard Shaw's critique? They're not, and they likely aren't going to appreciate Socialist speechifying on the stage, either.

If my overall argument has to be reduced to one or two sentences, for its own sake as much as mine, let it be thus:

Wagner's drama is so perfect that it is a crime against art, as well as an inexcusable obfuscation, to take Wagner's Konzept from his work. Let Wagner decide what he meant; he certainly left enough prose on the subject.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Schadenfreude doch die schönste Freude.

I almost made a mess of my drink when I saw this "abomination" (in the best sense, I suppose) at Parterre Box.

Robert Wilson meets Oliver Stone. How could that not be completely awesome?

Oh, right. It can't. It is.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dorst's counterpoint?

Terry responds.

First of all, I am going to have to object to using the Konzept productions of either Chéreau or Kupfer to illustrate a point. As Terry does:

I believe this is true. Chereau's Ring, gloriously sung as it was, is a prime example of this. In the end, you can't get over the fact that Siegfried is wearing a tux in the second act, or that Hagen looks like a used car salesman.

On one hand, it was not (sorry to say) "gloriously sung." None of the principals, save maybe Sir Donald McIntyre, was first-rate. Some, like Manfred Jung in the rather-important role of Siegfried (ha!), were downright execrable. On the other, a Konzept staging might be interesting insofar as drama goes, but it (unless it is Wagner's own Konzept) is not the original intent of the composer. Often, it is far enough from his own idea of things to be called "perverse." Anyway, enough with the shrimp, let's get to the steak.

However, the reason the drama can sweep us along (and remain open to so many interpretations), is because of the universality of the archetypes. An archetype reflects the varying "shades" of humanity (both cross culturally and cross temporally), and because of its trancendant nature, is reveals very different things to different people. Dorst, for his mistakes, admits this in appeal to the collective unconscious idea. Archetypes and myth are merely an extension of the unconscious, eternally trying give meaning to the cosmic questions of humanity (an idea both Jung and Campbell asserted). The drama isn't happening just out of visibility, but is happening to us collectively. The story of the Ring, as you pointed out, inevitably, is the story of humanity in general. This was the point Jung [the psychologist Carl, not the tenor Manfred - pjs], Campbell, and to some extent Dorst, were trying to make. In the end, we can't "just" leave it to myth and archetype, because in the end, what they inevitably refer to us.

Great. Wonderful, even. I am sure Professor Lévi-Strauss would be happy to agree. However, I think Terry misses his own point here. The archetype, as Terry notes, is so recognizable and so universal that it - as I said elsewhere - doesn't need reference.

(The point with archetypes is that they don't need a frame-of-reference. The characters are so universal and recognizable that they are entities sui generis. )

Because archetypes work as they do, we can indeed "'just' leave it to myth and archetype, because in the end, what they inevitably refer to us." [italics mine - pjs] I think Terry makes that point himself, he just misses the conclusion." Then he notes,

And thus, I agree with you that the drama of the Ring redeems us, but so does our participation. For Campbell, myth is an extension of our desire to understand our own nature. These archetypes and myths teach us a lesson through their actions, and at the same time, renew society. They are necessary because of this action. Wagner (textually) may have rejected the Eternal Return, but among the "mash" of his ideas, there were his own beliefs [concerning] Greek theatre and myth. Wagner didn't write for the passive observer, but the active participant. It is through this participation (thinking, contemplating, and certainly committment) that we redeem ourselves, even as the drama redeems us. I think the Bayreuth theatre stands, not only as a testament to Wagner's complete and utter drive (to put it nicely), but to this fact as well.

OK. However, the redemption is not a human redemption. Brünnhilde's death, and the twilight of the gods, is necessary. Not for humanity, but for the world. The prelude to Götterdämmerung is of supreme importance here. History under the gods, because of their sins, must come to an end. After the destruction of Valhalla and the gods, there is a fresh start for humanity. This drama, because it is so archetypal, happens above and beyond humanity.

If we take Wagner's mythology at face value, which is an issue for another post, then we have to admit that this cosmic drama happened to renew the world. Not humanity, though it serves as a warning to those who come after. The gods' sin and rapaciousness corrupted the world and required a cleansing end to history, so poignantly expressed by the Norns, and the drama including and proceding from Das Rheingold has the teleological purpose of bringing about that purification.

Humans come in after the action. Wagner doesn't deal with human redemption (in such a world-historical way) until Parsifal. The archetypes serve as a warning, but the drama of the Ring necessarily happens beyond humanity because the text -Wagner's own Konzept - happens beyond humanity.

Notes from the prairie

I will be blogging sporadically over the next week, as I am in the process of moving back to school. My trusty IBM ThinkPad decided to die on me last month, and its shiny iMac replacement hasn't made the trip north yet, so I am - alas - without regular computer access. However, thanks to the kindlness of strangers and my college's brobdingnagian endowment, I will be able to continue my "good work." Just in a less Stakhanovite fashion.

Thanks to A.C. Douglas for linking to my blog-discussion with Terry over Tankred Dorst's cycle. I am alarmed over the critical silence over a premiere production of the Ring at the Bayreuther Festspiele, and - I think - Terry and I are getting to the heart of why people are so "blah" about it all. We'll see.

There is more (much, if you get down to it), but nothing worth a mention. I'll keep in touch, and try not to turn this into a summer hiatus, like so many other cultural bloggers.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Ring and Me

Terry went a long way to getting his blog back on my links bar with this post.

Not because it's better than anything I could have said, but because Terry is - by training - a psychologist and a theologian. I, in contrast, am a classicist and a mathematician (shades of Boulez, I know). My work in the classics, such as I have any work, has been in philology and textual analysis. Terry, then, brings an unique and intelligent perspective to things that I lack. I am less-acquainted with Jung and the rest of the structuralists like Lévi-Strauss. I come to the Ring with a big bag of textual and analytical tricks, and I'll admit a tendency to seek to break Wagner's mythology over my knee like a text to be translated and analyzed. As though Wagner's mythology is as simple as a passage of Caesar or Cicero. Of course, that implies that I, firstly, have any business presuming to be intelligent-enough to break Wagner's work "over my knee" (I know I most assuredly don't); and, secondly, whether I am committing sacrilege by presuming to analyze Wagner's literature (I likely am). So, that's my handicap - irrelevant as it may be to the rest of this post.

I am going to deal with Terry's incisive analysis of Tankred Dorst's supremely confusing production of the Ring this season at Bayreuth. The part I find interesting begins thus:

And so, it would seem Herr Dorst believes there is. Of course, at the same time, one can't help but notice the Jungian/Campbellian aspect to the staging. The characters are archetypes of our collective unconscious (i.e. two worlds cohabitating, unseen), forever enacting the Eternal Return. Kupfer's [Ring] at Bayreuth also suggested this, in his own weird sci-fi mythic way. For Dorst, placing the action (seemingly) in the subconscious human world does the same.

The point with archetypes is that they don't need a frame-of-reference. The characters are so universal and recognizable that they are entities sui generis. The universal drama of the Ring, such as it is, must - necessarily - be beyond the vagaries of humanity and human life. The action happens on the mythological scale, which can involve humans, but has to be bigger than humans. That's the point. This much I know from my own work.

Now, as to the Eternal Return, where is it in Wagner's text? Kupfer introduced it, Everding (in Chicago) made it obvious, but I don't think Wagner wrote it in to the score. The sacrifice of the Immolation Scene works - it is drama as Wagner intended - only if it really does purify everything. Now, I understand that Wagner lost control, so to speak, of Wotan and Siegfried - allowing them to become something else wrecking the original framework of the cycle. However, assuming the Ring makes dramatic sense, there can be no Eternal Return. The end has to be the end. The sin has to be cleansed in a Messianic act of self-sacrifice. The archetype has to fulfill its duty.

Then, he writes:

In this way, Dorst gives some sense of hope back to humanity. I'm just as much of a fan of Kultur [Terry means, I think, Regietheater, which some would be loath to call Kultur - pjs] as anyone else, especially of the Chereau [Ring,] but not unlike liberation or feminist theology, when you take something that strives for or encompasses the divine, and reduce it to the purely socio-economic level, you loose something of the transcendence of the work. By placing the work back into the subconscious (or collective unconscious), a concept of transcendence returns, perhaps not in a divine way, but metaphysically. The story and the themes do not encompass just one culture, but all of them, transcending time. In a way, it takes our mediocre and mundane existence, and through participation (unseen or not), redeems it. We are no longer just lost shells scattered throughout time.

Fair enough. However, that seems to want it both ways. The Ring is mythic, archetypal, and transcendent. But: our participation - thanks to Herr Dorst - redeems us. I'm sorry, but the drama of the Ring, as Wagner wrote it, redeems us. In Wagner's mythology, the twilight of the gods purged the earth of their sin. We were left, for better or worse, with a clean slate and the message of their fall. What has happened since then, that is our doing alone. And, Wagner seems to warn with archetypes: if we make their mistakes, we become liable to their end.

Wagner wrote a world-encompassing and world-shattering cycle with the Ring. He put it beyond the realm of human events, into the realm of mythology and the truly monumental, for a reason. The idea is that it serves, like all mythology, as an explanation for how "we" got "here." Wagner seems to be offering us both a rationale and an example. To profane this sacred drama by putting it in the realm of humanity, as though it is just happening "beyond" the visible realm is silly (to me). Wagner built, destroyed, and showed us an entire world. It should be left in the universe he designed - the one of archetype and myth.

Administration: How to get a link

OK. I am being hassled about this by someone who should know better, but for those of you who really would like a link on The Penitent Wagnerite, here is some information.

First, I try to select only blogs and websites that meet my own personal, subjective standards to be called "excellent." Some, like Sounds and Fury and On an Overgrown Path, meet those criteria with thoughtful, reasoned posts about a variety of things. Others, like Wellsung and Parterre Box, do so by being smart, funny, and outstanding sources for good opera information. There is something about being close to the cultural fires that makes for good reportage.

However, I can't read all 50,000,000 blogs out there. In fact, I only read about ten. So, if you think you've got dynamite, let me know (through the e-mail link above) - preferably in something approximating the form below:

Dear Mr. Smith:

I think that your blog would benefit from having a link to my blog, [name] ([url]). In fact, without my blog, yours is a sorry shell of a blog - yearning to have the glory and wonder that is mine. Furthermore, I'd be happy to link to yours.


John Q. Blogger

When you put it like that, what choice do I have? I could be rejecting the blog of the next Gore Vidal, Philip Roth, or Norman Mailer. How would I live with myself? How, more to the point, would I get a mention in the "Acknowledgements" section of their book? Also, the chance of having more readers to mine through my largesse pleases me. Of course, if your blog isn't that great or I don't like your tone: you're S.O.L.

It's that easy. Or is it?

An ode to the shark

A.C. Douglas is really putting together a best-of with his "Featured Past Post" link. I am particularly fond of this one. I confess a weakness for one kind of nature films: shark films. They are nature's own killing machine, they are loners, and they are just really cool.

The best shark films avoid falling into the Jaws-trap: i.e., presenting sharks as mindless villains, ravening for the "sweet, gamey tang of human flesh" (Mr. Burns' words, not mine). No. The best ones do nature's research and design department justice by presenting the shark as a machine built to kill. From the sensitive olfactory and vibration centers to the ever-regenerating rows of razor-sharp teeth, the shark is designed to do some damage. No human is ever going to form a Whale Rider-esque attachment to a Great White or Tiger shark. There is no March of the Penguins allegory to be found with sharks, unless you're a sociopath. There is only the visceral thrill of watching a two-ton fish, streamlined like a '65 Cadillac - I might add, fly out of the water to use a mouth full of daggers to rip something apart that it might devour it. That's why sharks are cool.

Sharks are the ultimate cool-kid in the animal school. They do their thing, like they have for millions of years, and they clearly don't give a damn if they're cuddly-enough for housewives in Dubuque. Nor do they mind killing the prey of human fishermen. The ultimate animal for the cultural conservative, really. Perhaps Mr. Douglas should drop his unfortunate fondness for the wusses of the animal world - the friendly, dolphin-on-'roids killer whales - and come over to the shark side. He won't regret it. I didn't.

Did I mention how cool sharks are?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Neckwear and me

I wear bow ties.

Almost exclusively, as a matter of fact. They are, ounce-for-ounce, infinitely more interesting than cravat-style neckties. They're also harder to tie, so you get a feeling of accomplishment that the four-in-hand knot doesn't provide. They are also distinctive. At my job this summer, in downtown Indianapolis - but I won't say where, my predilection for bow ties earned me some small renown in my building. Of course, one doesn't wear them out of ego, but rather out of an earnest desire to look dapper and to master an art from a bygone time.

Lest I give one of my more devoted readers ammunition with which to attack my private disgust at fashion, I won't tell you all the places whence I get my ties. Let me say, though, that you'd be surprised who still makes them. And how hard they make them to find. However, I will say - for conservative styles - Brooks Brothers is the place to go. Unless you're a devotee or the son of a former chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, you'll find all your needs filled there.

Here, also, is an article - from earlier this summer - about the resurgence of the bow tie. Yes, I want to tell the author, bow ties are "hot." Not because you say they are, but because they speak to a time in fashion when Milan and Paris didn't exercise a total hegemony over fashion. A time when conservative style for men was the norm - and the clothes that some men wear today would have been grounds for a solid thrashing at the club. Verbal or otherwise.

Don't say I never addressed fashion; I just knew that my attitudes are suitably antediluvian.


Apologies for my absence. I was with family in northwest Indiana. I was also reminded why I never stray from I-65 into northwest Indiana while on the way to Chicago.

Speaking of: I got my tickets for Pierre Boulez' upcoming performance of Mahler's 7th with the CSO. I am excited. I won't tell you which show I booked, as I value my privacy (not that anyone would recognize me). However, I am looking forward to this.

You better believe I'll be listening to Boulez' Cleveland 7th in the interim.

Kulturpunkt: FYI...I suppose

Apparently, Günter Grass served in the Waffen-SS. After he couldn't get into the U-boat corps of the Kriegsmarine. I know: one can't get into the military service with a long history of attacking civilian vessels and civilian support vessels with stealth weapons, so he goes for the service with a (relatively) brief history of outright genocide. Shocking. Really. It was a long time ago, but I find it interesting that we've had forty years (or so) of moral outrage from this chap over Germany and its NSDAP past, while he was a "veteran" of the Waffen-SS. Not exactly the biggest fan of logical consistency, is he?

Then again, I've read The Tin Drum. I'm not surprised.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Here's the deal

I intend to stop writing these posts which remind everyone what a technocrat I am and how closely I monitor my visitors, but to the seemingly dedicated fan from Washington, D.C., I have a message:

You don't have to Google "penitent wagnerite" each time you want to check up on TPW, just type "" in your browser's address bar. In fact, since you've obviously been here before - you know I know - just type in "wagner," and your browser's autocomplete function should do the rest. I get slightly annoyed when I see your algorithm.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming: how 'bout that Wagner? He was something, wasn't he?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Symphonie de psaumes

This may be too ambitious, but I am thinking about an ongoing series of posts about works of modern music which I like. I think I spend enough time dealing with the culture of one hundred years ago, which is - admittedly - the foundation, gut, and muscle of what passes for Western culture today. Perhaps, however briefly, I'll move the clock forward and give my devoted readership (ha!) a taste of my views on modern music. If I don't derail myself with introductions like this.

Serge Koussevitzky (a champion of modern music), then director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, commissioned Igor Stravinsky to write a work to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. The composer turned in what has to be one of the masterpieces of modern music, his Symphonie de psaumes. Taking three psalms of David and setting them to neoclassical music, which prefigures the minimalists to a great degree, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms is a work that I find attractive - especially for modern music.

Dedicated, "Cette symphonie composée à la glorie de DIEU est dediée au 'Boston Symphony Orchestra' à l'occasion du cinquantaire de son existence," the Symphony is a haunting, driving work. To my mind, it relies on rhythm as much as melody or harmony to make its point. And, because of that, it has a ritualistic feel that is positively primeval. This is music, were the orchestration not so "modern," that would seem to roll out of the mists of time. Stravinsky accomplishes what Messiaen seemingly struggled to bring off with works like the Quatuor pour la fin du temps and the Turangalila-symphonie. Stravinsky creates music that stops time with its "liturgy." The classicist in me wants to make all sorts of comments-by-extension to liminal states and archetypal music, but Lévi-Strauss, structuralism, and all that will have to wait.

No, the Symphony is successful modern music (as opposed to avant-garde, and fundamentally specialist, works like Boulez' Le Marteau sans maître) precisely because it has a timeless style. It pays homage at almost every turn to older music, even as it drives forward and expands into the realm of new music. Benjamin Britten's War Requiem is successful for this reason, too. In other words, it works because it uses the language of the past to develop modern literature. In contrast, Leonard Bernstein's 1971 mess Mass is unsuccessful because it self-consciously mocks the music of the past. Stravinsky managed - by creating a work that is both undeniably modern and unquestionably in debt to composers of the Renaissance and Classical periods - to open up an avenue in music which would have never been paved by self-conscious, avant-garde serialists like Boulez and Stockhausen.

I could go on about the musical merit of the Symphony, but I think I've made my point. Of recordings, oddly enough, Pierre Boulez' disc with the Berliner Philharmoniker and the Berlin Radio Chorus seems to get high marks. I'll admit, I like it. Boulez' tendency to keep his tempi fleet and drive the music along fits with Stravinsky's rhythmic feel. However, unsurprising as this may be, Boulez has expressed indifference - if not outright contempt - toward Stravinsky's neoclassical output. For a recording by a conductor (no less controversial, though) without an expressed antipathy to Stravinsky's work, check out Sergiu Celibidache's 1984 recording with the Münchner Philharmoniker on EMI. Discs like this give me pause-enough to doubt Celibidache's critics, who contend that his tempi became too broad and his music making sloppy during his Munich period (1979-1996). Granted, his Bruckner was on the long side (and worse, if you listen to his 8th, which runs a half-hour over the usual timing), but the Symphony has a pace that just seems "correct." Celibidache's religious sensibilities, such as they were, also allow him to bring an almost-liturgical feel to the work. Ultimately, infintely better than Boulez' cut-and-dry postmodern approach.

I, if you couldn't tell, am a fan of the Symphony.

Hey, Forest Hills!

How's the traffic at the I-495/I-678 junction? You know, Kramer never had much use for the Van Wyck.

Nah. I'm just having some fun, but I notice you're visiting The Penitent Wagnerite with some frequency. Good for you. There are other members of the blogosphere who are apparently fans, but they'd never admit it.

Yeah. I know.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Kulturpunkt: Bad tidings?

This is a culture blog, and I don't like putting political things on it. However, this was just too good to resist.

In a defeat that even a political novice could have seen from a distance, Ned Lamont beat Joe Lieberman in the Connecticut Democratic primary. Of course, the 2006 Democratic vice-presidential nominee doesn't plan on accepting the will of Connecticut Democrats. That's no surprise. Washington insiders have no interest in their constituents. Only in getting big donations and keeping their jobs. Here's The Nation's take.

I, for one, never underestimate the Democrat's seemingly God-sent ability to blow a sure thing. They did it in 2004, by nominating the least-charming, most-Bush-like candidate they could find. The fact that he was slightly more plutocratic in family and demeanor than Bush didn't help, either. John Kerry went windsurfing and skiing, while Bush indulged his lucrative passion for brush-farming. Which candidate seemed more in touch with Middle America?

And, despite growing national dissatisfaction with a war without either a clear end or a clear rationale, they might blow this final referendum on the Bush administration. Lamont's victory proves that anti-war sentiment works in the party, and - I imagine - the nation. If the Democrats capitalize on this, they'll make Karl Rove's Christmas an unhappy one. If not, well, don't say I didn't warn them.

Update, 9 August: The name of Lieberman's new party says it all. "Connecticut for Lieberman"? Perhaps I misunderstand the point of our Republic and its representative democracy, but shouldn't it be "Lieberman for Connecticut"? On that alone, I wish Mr. Lamont all the best! Someone who remembers the House of Morgan has to be good for America. I leave with these thoughts from Richard Wagner:

Rheingold! Rheingold!
Reines Gold!
O leuchtete noch
in der Tiefe dein laut'rer Tand!
Traulich und treu
ist's nur in der Tiefe:
falsch und feig
ist, was dort oben sich freut!

A lament for our Republic, perhaps? No. Assuredly not. But it's nice to pretend sometimes.

Robert King?

In perusing some of my in-clicks, I see that a lot of people are coming here because of the trouble conductor Robert King has found himself in recently. Someone even rolled in from Milton Keynes in the jolly olde U.K. (Perhaps they'll tell me if they are old enough to have gone to Queen's performance there.) I assume his Prom at the Albert Hall prompted the search frenzy.

Well, there have been - Google News assures me - no updates. Other than a 30 August hearing, by which time, I am sure, I won't care. I'll say this: whenever someone gets famous, people make up silly stories about them. Even if the charges are true, and I doubt they are, it was a long time ago. I understand the vigor with which some people like prosecuting these types of accusations, but I am content to let the past remain solidly so.

But, as I said, I doubt the charges will hold water.

On Jascha Horenstein's Mahler 8th

Horenstein is one of those conductors that has cult status in some circles and very little currency in others. Some, like David Hurwitz, loath him and his devotees. Others find his Mahler to be consistently perfect. I have his famous London 3rd on LP and the BBC Legends release of his 1959 Royal Albert Hall performance of the 8th. It is on the latter that I shall concentrate here.

Mahler's 8th is a massive work. It didn't pick up the "Barnum and Bailey" epithet of the "Sinfonie der Tausend" because it is an intimate chamber work. Of all Mahler's works, including large scale ones like the 2nd and 3rd, the 8th has the most Wagnerian scope - both in the forces required and the themes covered. It is also, for that reason, the most difficult to construct. It's one of Mahler's more popular works, and it is one that can really test the mettle of any conductor. On that account, it is my litmus test for any Mahlerian. More than the 3rd, Das Lied von der Erde, or even the 9th.

In 1959, Gustav Mahler wasn't nearly as well known as he is today. However, there were a few conductors and players left who either worked with him or remembered his work. Bruno Walter and Otto Klemperer were the two closest associates alive on 20th March, 1959. Jascha Horenstein was far better-acquainted with the composers of the Second Viennese School - like Alban Berg and Anton Webern - than Mahler (who, as Horenstein related in the interview with Alan Blyth, died before he got to Vienna - which wouldn't have mattered, for obvious reasons). However, he was picked to conduct a performance of Mahler's 8th in the Royal Albert Hall to soak up some budgetary overrun in the BBC's programming department.

This is a justifiably famous performance, credited with sparking the Mahler revival in Britain, and it has circulated in various forms since its recording. The BBC disc, made from the stereo (!) master tapes, sounds better than any previous release. It might be mistaken for a performance made today - if it weren't a little dim in the quiet parts and weirdly-balanced. As to the performance: it is a driven, fiery performance. Horenstein picks his tempo, a rather quick one, and moves the music along relative to that. The, for example, "Accende lumen sensibus" in the first part (Veni, creator spiritus) is thrilling indeed. His second part (Faust) has the requisite amount of mystery and drama - and Horenstein's quick tempo.

I suppose the question is this: does the recording match the hype? Sure, why not? Compared to Solti, Bertini, Nagano, and Wit? No. Not really. Horenstein's performance is notable for being an early document in a new performance tradition (like Barbirolli's 1965 Berlin 2nd), but there have been other conductors who have managed to do better in the score. If you need a super-dramatic Mahler 8th, either Solti or Bernstein will do. I rather prefer Kent Nagano's HM record or Antoni Wit's new (flavor of the month, by the by) set on Naxos. Listen to Horenstein, appreciate his interpretation, and think about what he did. Then put on the Solti disc for some real fireworks.

Monday, August 07, 2006

What do you do about a problem like Bayreuth?

It's Ring season, though I've been listening to a lot of Schubert, and there are all manner of reviews of the new production. Tankred Dorst's somewhat confusing production (I'll admit, I didn't get it or - from the pictures - have much of an idea what was happening) got me to thinking, as they say around these parts.

The Bayreuther Festspiele, unlike all the other European summer festivals, created in haste to follow Wagner's lead, has a clear mission statement. You'll have to leave the Festspielhaus grounds to get performances of other composers. As it should be, and as Wagner wanted. However, one gets the sense that the Festspiele is gradually yielding to the artistic trends of Europe. If you read Charles Dudley Warner's illuminating account of the 1882 Festspiele (specifically, the premiere of Parsifal), then you get the sense that the Festspiele should be above and beyond the usual, messy artistic fray. Why else, then, would you go to Bayreuth? (Surely the B.F.E., if you'll pardon the infelicity, of Bavaria - if not Germany. And I've been to Oberammergau. I know it gives stiff competition on that front.)

My question is this: for one season, why don't we try doing everything as Wagner wanted? Let's roll the clock back to 1882, the last Festspiele that he would have personally overseen, and play the music as he wanted it played and stage the operas as he wanted them staged? Just for one year, let's pretend that Wagner were still in charge. And let's see what happens. I warrant, though I wouldn't want to be held to this, that there would be less controversy over Wagner and more attention paid to his music and his message.

And that can't be a bad thing. Can it?


Sitemeter. I love it. I can see where everyone is and why they came here. Very Sliver. Only, you know, it's like Alec Baldwin's running things. Not that slattern Billy. And on Penitent Wagnerite time, Sharon Stone is always toothsome. That's my guarantee. Void, of course, in Tennessee.

I have had guests from Brazil, the Ile-de-France (yeah, I know, still part of France - but I like the name), and Denmark. Among other places. Hooray! This blog is now, verifiably, an international blog read by more people than Terry and me.

I think I'll have a Coke. I've earned it.

A requiem for Beckmesser

In this "featured past post," ACD goes off on one of his favorite topics, i.e., the bigotry-quotient in Wagner's operas.

I've dealt with this before, but have recently listened to Die Meistersinger again - and redrawn my conclusions. I'll ignore the evidence of Alberich in the Ring, because the licht-Alberich, Wotan, is really no better. In fact, with Alberich's willingness to forswear love (and Wotan's willingness to use only force), one might even feel sympathy for the Nibelung. Though, admittedly, that was likely not Wagner's intent. Damned modernity and the anti-hero, but I digress. The fact that Wagner would subject his tragic hero to the same abuse is silly. So, there goes Wotan. And Alberich. And the Ring. There is enough going on with what Wagner intended for the cycle versus what actually gets staged at Bayreuth that adding any sort of conspiracy nonsense is a worthless exercise in academic auto-affection. (Note: the last three sentences of this paragraph were added to clarify my overall point. It was less-clear in the original form.)

As to Sixtus Beckmesser: who does he represent? Well, you could follow Barry Millington, who provides a reasonable case for a caricature. Or, you could assume that Meistersinger is Wagner's (idealized) biography. That would make Beckmesser the avatar for all the punctilious, "rule"-obsessed critics that had gasped and set their jowls a-quiver at each of Wagner's innovations.

Or, as I do, you could see Beckmesser as a middle-aged clerk, in love and clinging to rules that make the world seem reasonable. In that way, he is no different than a lot of people. What makes him the "villain" of Meistersinger is the fact that he would rather have the world seem reasonable than have two youths have the life they desire. Moreover, he loves Eva - but not quite enough to let her go. (Never mind, of course, that young Walther von Stolzing is quite the poet and singer - in addition to a handsome young Ritter.) Hans Sachs sets himself apart by realizing that real love will take its course - no matter what he would want. Beckmesser, to me, represents the confused suitor. A nice-enough guy, but not quite smart enough to take the hint. Sachs, the "simple" cobbler, is not only smart enough to take the hint, he's generous enough to help the kids along in their lives. That's the definition of a hero.

Beckmesser is only a vile, bigoted caricature when people need him to be. If people are willing to let Herr Sixtus do the talking, then he becomes a silly, love-sotted, but still a bit punctilious town clerk. In Wagner's most human and humane opera, I would rather hear from a silly clerk than anyone else.

The quieter passions

A friend of mine was (is?) wont to say "My Jesus is a quiet Jesus." Now, he used that expression to pass off all manner of amoral and immoral activities while still remaining ostensibly Christian. However, by way of analogy to that statement, I might say "My deepest pleasures are quiet pleasures."

I refer to my well-closeted taste for Franz Schumann's chamber music (especially his Trios) and Lieder and Robert Schumann's Lieder. This is music of great refinement, great emotional depth, and - mirabile dictu - great subtlety.

For example, Schubert's Piano Trio in E-flat (D. 929 for catalogue nerds) is a work that expresses such emotion, such (in Peter Shaffer's words) inexpressible longing, that it is a wonder of the high Romantic period. It has, also, a rhythmic sensibility that could be seen as a cousin to Beethoven's rhythmic wonder, the A-major symphony (Wagner's "very apotheosis of the dance"). The Andante con moto, used to such effect - ironic and otherwise - in Stanley Kubrick's haunting and affecting 1975 film, Barry Lyndon, has as much rhythmic intelligence as the Allegretto from the A-major. It also has the same emotional currency, a quiet - indeed, resigned - sadness. If anyone can listen to the Andante from D. 929, forgetting the Barry Lyndon connection, and not be affected, then I will be amazed. And worried for their soul.

As to his Lieder: Schubert's Schwanengesang is no less emotional, and just as subtle. These are, as the Germans would say, Kunstlieder at their most artistic and expressive. There is, of course, Die schöne Müllerin and the Winterreise, and they are great and heart-felt cycles in their own right. However, I have always preferred and felt more deep affection for the Schwanengesang. For example - and not that the Schwanengesang is a walk in the park - I have always found the Winterreise to be almost too bleak in spots. There are only so many times that one can listen to "Der Leiermann" without having something deep in the psyche break loose. In contrast, the Schwanengesang is just bleak enough to make me feel like I've had a suitably high Romantic experience. No more. No less.

Of Robert Schumann's Kunstlieder, much has already been said - and I doubt I can add much.

Getting down to "brass tacks," and recordings - of the D. 929 Piano Trio, I like the Beaux Arts Trio recording on Philips. Forty years old, it still sounds great, and the interpretation is still quite formidable. It comes on a Philips Duo of the complete Trios, with the Grumiaux Trio turning an equally-good performance of some other works.

Of the collaboration of Peter Schreier and Andras Schiff, I can say only this: their presence can, ipso facto, spur me to buy a disc - unheard and unresearched. Perhaps, only Gerald Moore and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau were as sensitive and intelligent a Lieder partnership as Schreier and Schiff. More to the point, too, Peter Schreier is a far better Lieder singer than Fischer-Dieskau. Schreier has an understanding with the text that allows him to interpret and to characterize it without lapsing into Fischer-Dieskau's occasional pedantry and frequent hectoring. Schreier's voice is also, and I know this from a Schumann disc recorded in 2002, when the tenor was 67, far more expressive and beautiful than Fischer-Dieskau's ever was. Save, perhaps, one moment. If you e-mail me about it, I might get into more depth. However, it's late and I've gone on far too long.

Good night. Good morning.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

A fate worse than fame.

Among many Mahlerites - and certainly among British critics - Simon Rattle's 1987 performance of the 2nd is considered one of the best. Like everything else the British Von Karajan has done, I've never quite warmed to it. (Wait, that isn't fair. Von Karajan's Mahler, especially his 1978 reading of the 6th, was quite good. Anyway.) Last night, I sat down and - with grim determination - listened to Rattle's Mahler 2nd.

I realized why I "never quite warmed to it." It is, in a word, boring. Also, EMI recorded it somewhat strangely, but I can deal with that. The boringness, though, is somewhat of a stickier wicket.

It oozes correctness. Every note, every Luftpause, and every application of rubato is - to my ears - scrupulously observed. However, that's all. It is as though Rattle and his CBSO set out to hit all the notes in the score of Mahler's 2nd, in order, not play Mahler's 2nd. I know that's a linguistically-challenging statement, but bear with me. In Leonard Bernstein's DG version with the New York Philharmonic and Zubin Mehta's with the Wiener Philharmoniker, one senses an almost-Herculean effort to let the soul of Mahler's score find voice. When the chorus comes back with the final "Aufersteh'n, ja, aufersteh'n wirst du," (i.e., in those recordings) one understands about what Mahler spoke.

Not so with Rattle.

One understands that Simon Rattle is a conductor who can get an orchestra to play all the notes. He falls victim to a fate worse than fame, in Warren Zevon's words, and that is fame without any real talent. Even Von Karajan managed to get a barn-burner or two going on occasion.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

And another thing...

Just a thought that occurred to me as I did my nightly YouTubing:

Why doesn't Wolfgang Wagner revive his own staging of Parsifal? This (or, at least, the finale of which) can be seen in a 1981 performance on YouTube, which I have been nice enough to embed below:

Now, this looks like Wolfgang sort of borrowed Wieland's 1951 staging of the same, but it is still infinitely better than any of the other productions out there. Save, maybe, Wilson's.

I know Wolfgang has gotten old, and he is probably still devoted to the Bayreuth Workshop notion, but he had some stagings which were (if not clever) at least reasonable.

Devilishly confused

Christoph Schlingensief is worse than a "Self-involved, self-important schmuck."

He's a dramatic idiot. Or worse. He's possessed by the shade of Eduard Hanslick.

Looking at the pictures from his revised (but, alas, not withdrawn) Bayreuth production of Parsifal, I could only shake my head at his (pace Wagner) "devilishly confused dramatic idiom." In fact, I think that I can say that - since Patrice Chéreau's Centennial Ring - the concepts behind the postmodernist productions have become increasingly nonexistent. No one can tell me that Schlingensief had any idea what he was doing with Parsifal. He, undoubtedly, wanted to get up on the Green Hill and "freak out the squares." When he says stuff like this little gem:

"It may be a lot to expect of the people in the expensive seats, but I have reconciled Nietzsche with Wagner by negating Wagner's silly Buddhist dream."

I know, in my heart, that I am right. He isn't a director, he isn't a Konzeptherr, he's a shock-jock buffoon who has managed to bamboozle an elderly gentleman. And he certainly does not know better than Richard Wagner how to conceive of Parsifal, but I digress. It's like Howard Stern convincing David Rockefeller to let him program an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art. It just isn't going to end well at all. There is, to my mind, no program behind the production except using the most shocking images possible while the pit and singers deal with those minor inconveniences, otherwise known as Richard Wagner and his Parsifal.

Someone, perhaps even Patrice Chéreau, needs to tell him that such a performance isn't drama. It's just idiocy. The only way a Konzept performance can work, assuming that one should apply a Konzept to operas with the composer's preferences clearly stated (a proposition of which I am becoming less sure), is if the director has both good dramatic sense and an ironclad sense of purpose. Schlingensief has neither.

Perhaps Wolfgang's last gift to the Festspiele to which he devoted his life will be this: withdrawing the Schlingensief mess and substituting the acclaimed and clever Nikolaus Lehnhoff or Robert Wilson productions in its place. That would be an excellent way to retire.

Friday, August 04, 2006

No respect.

I kind of like Der fliegende Holländer. It is transitional Wagner, and - I believe - the earliest work of his to make it into the Bayreuth canon. Of all Wagner's operas it is probably more in line with Italian grand opera, and probably the most fun. Jonathan and Alex at Wellsung don't share my enthusiasm.

To wit:

I was thinking today what a bummer it would be to wait 9 years for Bayreuth tickets and then get Fliegende Höllander.

Ouch. They forget that Harry Kupfer staged Der fliegende Holländer at Bayreuth in 1985. A performance, by the way, back out on DVD. If you like Kupfer's work (which is starting to grate on me more and more, by the way), then that was a Holländer you wouldn't be disappointed to get.

Also, I'll take any less-than-desired tickets for Bayreuth.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: 1915-2006

There are names I do not want mentioned in my home. Do not say that name in my presence. I have seen what he has done, and it is criminal. As my husband used to say, so far no one has dared go into the Louvre Museum to spray graffiti on the Mona Lisa, but some opera directors are spraying graffiti over masterpieces.

Many composers today don't know what the human throat is. At Bloomington, Indiana, I was invited to listen to music written in quarter tones for four harps and voices. I had to go out to be sick.

It really is the end of an era, with the passing today of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Her aristocratic, intelligent (though some might say mannered) readings of the Marschallin and Strauss' Vier letzte Lieder earned her a place among the great sopranos - really, the great singers of any fach - of the Twentieth Century.

Her wit and talent, though somewhat blunted by age of late, stand in print and on records as the marks of a truly great artist. The likes of her do not come along but once in a great while.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Completion Problem

In a footnote to history, Henry Kissinger was to have written a piece called "The Collaboration Problem," outlining his thoughts on accepting a Nixon appointment. He never did, as he decided he would rather have the job with Nixon than have his morals intact. In any event, the problem of completions of works like Mahler's 10th is similar to Kissinger's problem.

Can you make things better by working from the inside? Can you complete something fundamentally impossible to complete?

Mahler completed the Adagio and Purgatorio to the 10th, with some portion of the first Scherzo. The entire symphony, though, is written out in four stave notation. That blueprint allowed Deryck Cooke to go back and make a "performing version" of the work. That "version" was revised a couple of times - and conductors frequently add or subtract bits as it suits them (Simon Rattle being first and foremost among the offenders). However, my problem isn't a textual issue - it's a conceptual issue.

Should we complete Mahler's work? The man was a genius with few comparisons (Bach and Wagner, maybe), and he was an orchestrator without equal (saving, perhaps, Wagner). Fate snatched him out of the musical world before he could apply his genius to what looks to have been his most revolutionary symphony. Just listen to the brass chorale in the Adagio: it is a cry from the depths, pierced by a trumpet, like a stab through the heart of the symphony. Is it Alma's dalliance with Gropius finding voice? Mahler's - by then, obvious - looming death? Who knows? Who, more to the point, wants to know?

That, I suppose, is my attitude about the completions in general. Play the Adagio, play the Purgatorio - and leave the rest where it is. The problem of completion is this, and only this: where does one draw the line? Does the nervous and tragic second Scherzo need a voice? Assuredly. Is there anyone other than Mahler who could reasonably give it a voice? Likely not.

That is why the 10th is infinitely more tragic than the symphony of Mahler's most commonly afflicted with the title (the 6th): the content is heart-rending, but the unfulfilled promise is even more so.