Radio Digest (Nov 1930-Apr 1931)

Record Details:

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88 llllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllli Classical Music Simplified zA Monthly Feature By William Braid White Doctor of Music 1 Illllllll I I[l!llllllll!llllllllllllll!ll!llll!lllllllll[lllll!!llllllllllllllllllllll!l!lllllll!!lll!i Dr. William Braid White Dr. White will answer readers' inquiries on musical questions in his columns. Address him in care of the Editor, 420 Lexington Avenue, New York. IN THE modern Italian operas, like Leoncavallo's Pagliacci or the more skilfully worked Tosca, Madame Butterfly and La Boheme of Puccini, the audience seems to care little or nothing about the story. The pathetic little tragedy of the tiny Japanese girl in Butterfly is sad enough to wring tears from the hardest heart, but few operagoers seem to know the story correctly. On the other hand, when you take away the soft musical Italian tongue and substitute for it our rough English, the words often sound merely ridiculous, as in Butterfly when Pinkerton sings to Sharpless "Another high-ball?" and Sharpless answers, also in song, "Yes, mix me an Toscha Seidel, Columbia violinist, who is presenting a series of "Historical Concerts" other!" very prosaic and quite simple. On the other hand, to put the matter in a nutshell, Wagnerian opera requires that one know its story, whereas in Italian opera only the pretty tunes seem to matter. Now, it happens that Wagner had one of the most highly organized musical brains that ever have existed. His music is so utterly eloquent that it actually is capable of telling its own story, making words unnecessary. For this very reason, if Toscanini or another conductor announces an all-Wagner program, he knows that the title given to each of the excerpts will explain all that is needed. In a recent concert, which I hope you all heard, the first piece was the Prelude to Lohengrin. This ethereal music is Wagner's thought about the story of the Holy Grail, the very cup out of which, it is said, our Saviour drank and gave to his disciples. No one could listen to this music without realizing that its composer was dealing with the intangible and the unseen, with heavenly visions not vouchsafed to those who" are gross of appetite and dull of sight. The last items in Toscanini's program were from what, to me, is one of the jolliest and finest of all operas, Wagner's glorious Mastersingers of Nuremberg. This marvellous combination of fun, irony, satire and musical genius is not only the most perfectly Germanic of all operas but, to my thinking, the finest piece of work that has ever been done in the entire field of opera. In the first place it is a good story, a story that is intelligible and not particularly improbable. In the second place, the action is homely, natural, largely domestic and altogether on the common level, dealing as it does with ordinary men and women and their ordinary ways. In the third place the plot is built around a musical story and so the application of music to the acting seems perfectly natural. And lastly, Wagner is here, to my mind, more his own natural self than ever he was when he had to deal with those pretentious and often somewhat over-solemn ideas which he presents in his mythological operas like those of the Ring, or in the legends of Lohengrin, Tannhauser and Parsifal. There is a delightful atmosphere of beer and sausages about Meister singer. Any one who has ever had the felicity to sit in a bierkeller in Alt Number g itself and to meditate within the shadow of the very walls which once resounded to the songs of Hans Sachs, will know what I mean. Wagner's Der Meistersinger The story is simple enough. During the middle ages some of the German towns had among their commercial and industrial guilds (the mediaeval counterparts of our modern trade unions and combinations of capital) companies of master singers, who alone had the privilege of conducting musical festivals, and of furnishing song for the great high holidays which the towns used to celebrate. Wagner has taken the history of the most famous of these guilds, that of Nuremburg, and built up a charming love story around the person of the daughter of Pogner, master of the guild and rich banker, with Walther von Stolzing, a young knight who has worked out a new and radical method of composing music. Pogner proposes a contest and offers the hand of his daughter as a prize. Walther and Eva have already met and fallen in love. Beckmesser, town clerk and secretary of the guild, also desires the fair Eva. The story deals with the contest between the two men, handsome young knight and crabbed elderly bachelor, and with the benevolent intervention, on the right side, of Hans Sachs, cobbler, poet, musician and the real hero. The tale works out delightfully, without a jerk or a gap. The music is jolly, intelligible, irresistible. Yet it often ascends to heights