Although I usually pay attention to these things, I somehow managed to miss Richard Wagner’s 200th birthday on Wednesday. (On the other hand, when someone is 200 years old, what’s another day or two one way or the other?) If you’ve never had the experience of watching or listening to Wagner’s magnum opus, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), which requires approximately sixteen hours to perform, here is Anna Russell’s executive summary of it, which will save you about fifteen and a half hours:
(Thanks to my pal Bob Belvedere at The Camp of the Saints for this.)
From House of Sunny, a video commentary decidedly lacking in sunshine.
An Easter Day flash mob performance in Beirut, Lebanon.
A stunning performance by The Sixteen of Gregorio Allegri’s “Miserere Mei, Deus.” One of the loveliest and most haunting choral works ever composed. The words are from Psalm 51.
Robert Frost, who was born on this day in 1874, was a college dropout, an unsuccessful farmer, and the finest poet this country ever produced. He won four Pulitzer Prizes for his poetry back when the Pulitzer still meant something, and he’s one of the most-quoted and most-anthologized poets that ever lived. One reason for his enduring popularity is the fact that he continued to employ traditional poetic forms when many of his contemporaries were abandoning them for more experimental forms. Frost once said that he would as soon play tennis with the net down as write in free verse.
In honor of his birthday, here is a choral setting by Randall Thompson of one of Frost’s best-known poems, “The Road Not Taken.”
(If you’d like to hear the complete work “Frostiana,” of which the above is an excerpt, an excellent performance of it can be found here.)
In celebration of J. S. Bach’s 328th birthday, here is an innovative performance of one of his greatest hits, “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring”:
Here is Bach’s D minor Toccata and Fugue, played on a collection of crystal wine glasses (and I thought it was hard to play on the piano):
This is an arrangement for nine cellos, but thanks to modern recording technology, one cellist is able to handle the entire piece on his own. A lovely performance, both musically and visually.
Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart was born in Salzburg, in what is now Austria, on this day in 1756. Although he lived only thirty-five years, he composed more music in those thirty-five years than one would think possible for a man who had been blessed with a full three score and ten. One of the most famous arias from one of his most popular operas is “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” (“Hell’s vengeance boils in my heart”) from The Magic Flute. Very few people are able to sing it, and I would hazard a guess that very few would be able to whistle it, either, but there is at least one — professional whistler* Geert Chatrou. Here is his jaw-dropping performance of this diabolically difficult aria. If Mozart were still with us, I think he would approve.
*Yes, there really is such a thing.