Friday, April 12, 2019
Clickable table of contents for this site
The late Lawrence Auster 1949 – 2013
Why a great Protestant hymn breaks my heart
Bach's toccata and fugue in d minor at Passau
The Tilt Train has been nobbled
A new favourite pianist -- Alice Sara Ott
"Trim Taut & Terrific" -- the Lightburn Zeta
More wonderful singing from Anna Netrebko
A marvellous rendition of Meine Lippen, die küssen so heiss by a young Anna Netrebko
Pergolesi and Sabina Puértolas
Dr Gordon Lavelle Mangan (1924 - ): A biographical note
Ingeborg Hallstein: Die Fledermaus (excerpt)
Another Ingeborg Hallstein clip: "Ich bin die Christel von der Post". Also the Nightingale song by Grothe
The marriage of Figaro
The Tsar and the Carpenter
Der Opernball by Heuberger
The Duchess of Chicago
Dollarprinzessin (Dollar Princess)
Fledermaus (The bat) at Moerbisch
Simplicius (The simpleton)
Graf von Luxemburg (Count of Luxemburg)
A wonderful Austrian singing lady: Ute Gfrerer
Der Vogelhaendler (The bird merchant)
Zirkusprinzessin (Circus Princess)
Der Rosenkavalier (The rose gentleman)
The New Testament canon
Bach and Psalm 23
Wiener Blut (Vienna spirit)
Das Land des Laechelns ('The land of smiles")
Altemeyer's conceptual confusion
Eine Nacht in Venedig (a night in Venice)
Csardasfuerstin (Gypsy princess)
Bettelstudent (Beggar student)
Zarewitsch (Heir to the throne of Russia)
Zigeunerbaron (Gypsy baron)
Jesus Christ Superstar
Lustige Witwe (merry widow)
Graefin Mariza (Countess Maritza)
Emerich (Imre) Kalman and Graefin Mariza
Fledermaus at Covent Garden
Paganini a psychopath?
Zigeunerliebe (gypsy love) and GWF Hegel
Weissen Roessl (White Horse inn)
"The pirates of Penzance" as satire
Salzkammergut and "Im weissen Roessl"
Swan Lake The 2009 performance by the Australian ballet
Giulio Cesare (Julius Caesar) at Glyndebourne
Disney: a Philip Glass opera
Falvetti and Il diluvio universale (Noah's flood)
Just click to go there
Note: For some unknown reason, blogspot sometimes muddles up the location of the various videos. They are all there but just a bit out of sequence. Seek and ye shall find! For the more recent posts, I have inserted the URL for the video somewhere into the text -- which will allow you to load the correct video manually
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
The late Lawrence Auster 1949 – 2013
By John Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.)
Author of the blog "VIEW FROM THE RIGHT", Auster was a deeply conservative writer who often wrote on immigration and multiculturalism. Sadly he died all too soon. Conservatives tend to remember their honoured predecessors so I thought I should put up a small personal memoir about him. I therefore put up below largely unaltered versions of my posts about him in 2004
I rarely comment on arguments put forward by my fellow conservatives, but I am going to make a small exception today to say a few words about the ideas of Lawrence Auster, a traditionalist Jewish writer who thinks that almost nobody these days is conservative enough. He has just put up on Frontpage an excellent article on the antiwar RIGHT ("The Antiwar Right's Bent View of the World") that I fully agree with and recommend. It no longer comes up on that site unfortunately but there appears to be a complete copy of it here and here
Auster summarizes it as follows:
"The charge of “anger” has, of course, long been a liberal shibboleth used to label, belittle, and dismiss conservatives. This has especially been the case at the New York Times, where the word “anger” as applied to conservatives, both in headlines and the body of stories, would typically appear more often in the paper than “House of Representatives,” “poll,” or “gay.” It is classic politically correct propaganda, a way of portraying any non-liberal position as consisting of nothing but primitive impulses and dark prejudices. Since 9/11, however, the phenomenon of anger-driven politics, both on the left and the antiwar right, has ceased being a politically correct fantasy and has become an all-too-real, indeed formative element in our national politics that renders rational discussion almost impossible much of the time. As such it represents an extremely important development that needs to be understood in depth and resisted."
Auster replies to a critique of it here. and there is an updated and expanded version here
He also has an excellent article here (reproduced here) that explains why American Jews are so overwhelmingly Left-wing. He says that they are actually AFRAID of American Protestant Christians, who are -- as Auster points out -- in fact the very best friends that Israel and the Jews have. Auster does not say so but I think the Jews concerned can be forgiven their paranoia. It is a pity that they are not more up to date but Christians (including Protestants such as Calvin and Luther) DID persecute them for a very long time.
Some other Auster articles of the many I could mention are ones complaining that the Pope is too Leftist and that most modern conservatives are really Leftists. He also thinks that the "neocons" are a bad lot who have GWB in their hip-pocket and that America's largely open borders are a disaster.
I of course agree with SOME of those other articles. I do think the whole neocon conspiracy thing is just paranoia but, as an Australian conservative I am delighted that our government has just about stopped illegal immigration stone dead and that it locks up any illegal immigrants it catches -- as it would anyone else who defies our laws. And I agree that the Holy Father, like most of his predecessors, is not much of a conservative politically.
My disagreements with Auster arise from the fact that I am one of those villains whom he sees as having destroyed conservatism -- libertarians. He rightly notes that libertarian conservatism is one of the dominant forms of conservatism today (the other being Christian conservatism) and makes the correct point that Christian conservatives are pretty strongly influenced by individualistic, liberty-oriented thinking too. Unlike Auster, however, I do not see this as a particularly modern phenomenon. I have done an extensive historical survey showing that belief in individual liberty has always been central to conservatism. Auster, by contrast, seems to think that traditionalism is the main current. I actually see something more basic in conservatism that underlies both traditionalism AND belief in liberty -- a certain cautious pragmatism and mistrust of the goodwill of others. Because of this basic trait of caution, conservatives want as much freedom to make their own decisions as possible and they also like systems that have been tried and tested. But the liking for tradition is in the end just a tool -- a way of being cautious, not something that is compelling for its own sake.
So the basis of Auster's complaint is that modern conservatives are too liberty-oriented and value-free -- and he sees this as something that they have in common with the Left. A related complaint is that modern conservatives have no anchors -- they just go along with whatever seems to be working. The only thing I disagree with there is the idea that Leftists believe in liberty. They don't. They only believe in power. They advocate various liberties from time to time -- e.g. various sexual liberties -- mainly because it suits them as a way of disrupting existing society and thus hopefully getting themselves into power. But for the rest, I would claim that liberty and the good life are the only lasting values for secular conservatives and that going along with what seems to be working is the historic conservative modus operandi. And long may it continue! We have had more than enough of theorists telling us what to do!
I apologize to Auster for having to a degree caricaturized his views above but I was aiming only to give a quick impression of them. His own prolific writings give plenty of detail, explanation and nuance.
Auster made the following brief comment on my post above about his writings:
"I thank Mr. Ray for his sympathetic and thoughtful overview of my writings. However, regarding his main criticism of me, I don't think I ever said that the belief in individual liberty was not part of the American conservative tradition. The difference is between those who understand liberty as being within a moral and constitutional order, and those who see liberty, or rather freedom, as essentially free of any constraints". Mark Richardson is another writer who often makes that sort of point. I find such a view incomprehensible. I know of NO conservative who denies that "rights connote duties" and I know of NO conservative who denies that we are in at least some ways constrained in what we do by "human nature". So the claim that there are conservatives who believe in some sort of absolute liberty is a total straw man.
So it would appear that the differences between Auster and other conservatives lay mainly in matters of emphasis
Under the heading "Exposing the Open-Borders Arguments", Auster has a very comprehensive article here (also here) arguing against America's current de facto policy of allowing millions of illegal immigrants to flow into the country. Australia has a high immigrant inflow too but we insist on choosing whom we allow in. As a result we mainly get high-quality (hard-working, law-abiding) immigrants from East Asia. We were getting a rash of illegal Muslim immigrants for a short while but Australia's conservative government put a stop to that -- to great public acclaim.
Was Pope John Paul II a conservative?
Auster has a heap of posts and comments up at the moment (e.g. here) about the late Holy Father. Auster is derisive of the view that John Paul II was a conservative. But that depends on what you mean by conservative and Auster has his own view of that. It is certainly clear that JPII was a political centrist but I think one could say much the same of GWB. So is GWB a conservative? NO! I can hear some people shouting. But no real-life politician wins universal approval even from his own side of politics so I think we have to say that in the ordinary meaning of the term GWB IS a conservative.
From my own libertarian conservative viewpoint both GWB and JPII are/were not nearly conservative enough but I think that real-world conservative politics at least from Disraeli on have almost always consisted of finding a safe balance between competing political claims rather than pursuing some hard-line ideology. Hard-line ideologies are for Leftists. So I think Auster's view of the matter misses the point that JPII was of necessity a real-world politician -- so compromises were to be expected of him. Even my great hero, Ronald Reagan, signed into law some pieces of legislation I would rather not think about.
What I think Auster also misses is that political centrism is thoroughly Papal. The attitudes of JPII were simply modern adaptations of traditional Papal thinking. I go into that at slightly greater length here. Papal thinking is in fact the ancestor of the Blairite "third way". The syndicalism that was recommended in the famous 1891 encyclical De rerum novarum of Pope Leo XIII also tried to strike a balance between capitalism and socialism.
Update: I guess I should mention explicitly something I initially thought was too well-known to require comment: That there was one respect in which His Holiness was NOT a centrist -- his stand in favour of individual rights versus the power of the Communist State. So in that respect he was very much a conservative, and a great one.
Winston Churchill was a neocon
I am sometimes amazed by how little history even my fellow conservatives seem to know. Lawrence Auster is of course well-known for the way he agrees with Leftists in his paranoia about the "neocons" so I guess that helps us understand his latest lapse. He has put up a post consisting mainly of a letter from an historian claiming that Winston Churchill was NOT a neocon. In the narrow sense that Churchill was not Jewish and that the term "neocon" is only a recent invention, that does, of course, have to be true.
In the broader sense -- a neocon being a former Leftist who favours foreign military intervention in favour of democracy -- however, to say that Churchill was not a neocon betrays no knowledge of history whatever. He joined the British LIBERAL party in 1904 and served as Colonial Under-Secretary under Campbell-Bannerman and as president of the Board of Trade and Home Secretary under Asquith. So he was in his early years a prominent Leftist in terms of British politics at the time. But, like the neocons, he later (1925) changed his tune and became a prominent Conservative.
And as for foreign interventions in favour of democracy, who was Secretary of War under Lloyd George when Britain sent troops to join the "white" Russians in fighting the Bolsheviks in 1919? It was Winston Churchill! And there is no doubt that Churchill did not repent doing so. One thing he never changed was his fierce opposition to Communism -- an opposition that is also characteristic of the neocons.
And though Churchill was not Jewish, he was at least philosemitic. As Auster notes, Churchill once said: "Where the Jew goes there is oasis. Where the Arab goes there is desert."
So on the four primary neocon identifiers -- Jewishness, anticommunism, Leftist early life and support for military intervention in the cause of promoting democracy -- Churchill scores 3 out of 4 -- and on the Jewishness angle he might be said to have done his best! I gather that not all neocons are Jewish anyway -- particularly if you include the Straussians in what is after all a pretty loose classification to begin with. Some people also say Churchill was a neocon because he was an unabashed defender of the British Empire but for that to be relevant we have to accept that the neocons want an American empire -- which is in my view a brain-dead claim. The idea of America as an empire is antithetical to all American values and traditions and the neocons are far too smart to be unaware of something as basic as that.
Auster does not link to it but the article which started the recent discussion about Churchill as a neocon is here
Auster on Paleocons: Auster is a pretty old-fashioned conservative himself so his critique of the "paleocons" (who as far as I can see are in fact largely anarcho-capitalists rather than any sort of conservative) got a bit of a reaction. Such internecine feuds are normally of little interest to me but this particular feud involves criticism of "psychologizing". The claim is that one should look only at the argument someone is advancing rather than their motivation for making the argument. That is of course the classic critique of "ad hominem" arguments but in cases when an argument makes no sense at the logical level, I think you have to look at the psychological motivation. It is of course my contention that Leftism can ONLY be understood as a psychological rather than a rational phenomenon. Leftist arguments are so inconsistent from occasion to occasion that one has to look at what is behind such a strange phenomenon. So I am on Auster's side in this one. There is of course an argument against speculative or "pop" psychologizing but my 200+ published academic journal articles on political psychology insulate me fairly well from that charge. I do not however rely on any claims of authority to substantiate what I say about Leftist psychology. I do what all scientists do (or should do): Present evidence for what I say. And again, I think Auster does a fair job of substantiating his points in that way.
Auster says that there is no such thing as a moderate Muslim. He is wrong. One of the major religious leaders (and a former Prime Minister) of the world's largest Muslim country is actually pro-Israel. And I'll bet Lawrence does not even know whom I am talking about. That there is no such thing as a moderate ARAB Muslim I might tend to agree with, however. No doubt there are some decent Arabs but they seem to be vastly outnumbered by others whom I can only call disgusting.
It is very encouraging to see an article by Abdurrahman Wahid in the WSJ which sets out the urgency of defeating Islamic extremism. Better known as Gus Dur, Wahid is of course arguably the most respected religious leader in the world's most populous Islamic nation -- Indonesia. As Indonesia is on Australia's doorstep, many politically aware Australians are rather appreciative of Gus Dur and his moderation.
*There is a comprehensive list of Auster's writings here
Tuesday, December 11, 2018
I don't know if I will be able to convey what is after all a feeling but I cannot listen to the original version of the great Lutheran hymn "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" (A mighty fortress is our God) without being upset.
The hymn is now best known in the marvellous setting by J.S. Bach -- a supreme work of musical art -- so we usually overlook the original hymn. Both the original work and the Bach setting are works expressing Christian triumph over evil and adversity but in the original version you get a feeling for what Christians of hundreds of years ago had to triumph over.
The world they lived in was full of tragedy, hardship and disaster and they attributed it all to demons and the Devil himself. To them the Devil was real and powerful and present in their lives. They saw his cruel deeds all about them on a daily basis -- in sickness and death and disaster. There are few things, if any, more upsetting than the death of a child but they had to endure such deaths often.
So what the hymn conveys to me is both how awful their lives were and how their Christian faith gave them the heart to power on. Their faith was their only rock, their only comfort. They had no power to combat the evils around them. It cuts me up that they had so little power over their lives when we have so much. Their survival truly is a wonder.
But I have said as much as I can. Just listen to the starkly simple words of a very simple hymn and feel for those poor people. https://youtu.be/_itd4gQMzxM
As students of foreign languages always tell you, you cannot adequately translate a poem and that is certainly so here. The song is even more powerful in the original German: Simple punchy words
The words: <i>"Gut, Ehr, Kind und Weib: lass fahren dahin"</i> are not well translated above. They say that your possessions, your honour, your child and your wife can all be lost but the Devil still has not triumphed. What tragedies they had to expect!
And now listen to the wonderful things Bach did -- https://youtu.be/YQOJzjz7pwY -- with that ultra-simple hymn:
Bach had joy in the Christian triumph over the Devil
Footnote: The opening image in the first video above depicts Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. In the background is the Wartburg castle where Luther hid from his imperial pursuers
Saturday, December 8, 2018
In idle moments I prowl the net looking for bits of musical entertainment. And in doing so, I occasionally come across performers who are new to me. And some of them are very good. Walter Berry's rendition of the great Mache dich mein Herze rein from Bach's Matthew Passion is absolutely the best I have heard. https://youtu.be/SguNpDynB2k His bass baritone voice is as good as you get.
The song is very devout. Rough translation:
Make thyself pure, my heart,
I will myself entomb Jesus.
For he shall henceforth be in me
For ever and ever
Take his sweet rest.
World, begone, let Jesus in!
Another recent discovery is Stepan Hauser, from Croatia. He seems to have single-handedly revived interest in the cello as a solo instrument. The great power of the cello is very engrossing and emotionally moving so it deserves more prominence. The great champion of the cello for a time was Jacqueline du Pré but, sadly, she is now long gone -- so it is good to see a successor emerging
And it was in a duet with Hauser that I discovered American violinist Caroline Campbell. One expects lady violinists to look rather dowdy but Campbell in the opposite. She is a real glamor girl -- who also happens to be mistress of the violin while also being a most expressive interpreter of what she plays. Watching her play is very easy on the eye.
Below are two videos, first a popular duet between Hauser and Campbell. They play the popular song "Return to Sorrento", which just about everyone should be able to get with
Then there is a duet in which Hauser and Campbell do a Hungarian Csardas -- which starts out slow and ends very fast. They both handle even the fastest notes effortlessly and with great panache.
A Neapolitan song
"Torna a Surriento" is a Neapolitan song composed in 1902 by Italian musician Ernesto De Curtis to words by his brother, the poet and painter Giambattista De Curtis. https://youtu.be/Jo4fRy4zGK4
English translation ("Come Back to Sorrento")
Look at the sea, how beautiful it is,
it inspires so many emotions,
like you do with the people you look at,
who you make to dream while they are still awake.
Look at this garden
and the scent of these oranges,
such a fine perfume,
it goes straight into your heart,
And you say: "I am leaving, goodbye."
You go away from this heart of mine,
away from this land of love,
And you have the heart not to come back.
But do not go away,
do not give me this pain.
Come back to Surriento,
let me live!
I think this performance -- https://youtu.be/Sk2yoOY8CTU -- might be my favourite classical music performance. Both players really live the music and in addition to the lady being both an excellent artist and a good humoured person she is such a dish. We men are allowed to admire the female form. The human race would rapidly grind to a halt if we did not.
The venue for the performance appears to be the Arena Pula in Croatia, the best preserved Roman amphitheatre
Saturday, December 1, 2018
I have recently installed a sub-woofer on my computer so I tried it out with Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, a work using a lot of bass. It performed faultlessly, to my pleasure. Below is the work concerned.
The organist is the late Hannes Kästner on the great cathedral organ of St. Steven at Passau in Bavaria. The German lands are truly the lands of music. https://youtu.be/ho9rZjlsyYY
Monday, October 1, 2018
The Tilt Train doesn't tilt any more. That's one of the most glaring proofs of how the super cautious bureaucrats at Queensland Rail have totally misused one of the few trains that they could have been proud of. It is one of the few bits of "modern" (it is 20 years old) technology that could have given passengers a modern journey time.
It chugs along at a speed averaging about 80 kmh versus the 160 kmh it is routinely capable of. It goes a little faster than the old "Sunlander" but the "Sunlander" was REALLY slow. You could have walked faster at some points on it.
Do the sums yourself: The Tilt Train does the 615 km from Brisbane to Rockhampton in 7.5 hours -- which averages out at 82 kmh -- or 51 mph in the old money. Highway traffic goes faster than that. Allowing half an hour for stops still brings the average speed up to only 87 kmh
And that slow speed is why the train doesn't tilt any more. The whole point of Tilting technology is so it can go faster. The train does not have to slow down so much as it goes around curves. It leans into curves the way a motorbike would. But the Tilt Train goes so slowly around curves that it has no need to tilt. It handles curves in the track the same way the old "Sunlander" did -- by slowing to a crawl.
On my recent trip from Brisbane to Rockhampton, there were a few spots when the train showed something of what it can do and that was rather exciting but they never lasted for long.
Perhaps the most extraordinary example of excess bureaucratic caution was the way the train slowed to a crawl for an urban level crossing. With red lights flashing and a boom gate down, Queensland motorists can still cross rail tracks at will. In most of the world you risk your life by ignoring crossing warnings but not so in urban Queensland. The train goes so slowly that the driver could probably stop in time rather than run into you. The bureaucrats ensure that NOTHING will generate negative publicity for their train.
On my trip the train even came to a full stop for 15 minutes to deal with an ill passenger. I have no idea how that helped. I suspect regulations again.
So why are Queenslanders in the grip of bureaucrats who completely misuse their best asset? I suspect it goes back to the time when the Tilt Train did tilt. But it can only tilt so far. And in 2004 BOTH drivers were too busy noshing to slow the train down when it entered a curve. So they sent the train through a curve at twice the recommended speed. It of course crashed.
So what was clearly needed were computerized speed limiters. Queensland Rail in fact did install such a system but to be super cautious they just slowed the whole train down forever. A very bureaucratic and unintelligent response. They can now enjoy their coffee breaks without a care in the world.
I must however give credit where it is due. The food aboard is remarkably good for railway food. Their chef clearly knows what he is doing. The hot food came around hot and the cold food around came cold. And the prices are very reasonable, though the portions are rather small. And the food carts come around with great frequency, perhaps to take the minds of passengers off the painful progress of their train. I am guessing that the food supply is the only thing outsourced to private enterprise. What might upset international visitors, however, is that they only take cash. Remember that stuff? Credit cards are not accepted.
Friday, September 21, 2018
I listen to quite as lot of music on video -- mostly classical. And the piano is of course a big part of that. So it is a very pleasant discovery for me to come across a new artist -- new to me anyway. Up until recently my favourite pianist was Yuja Wang, a gift to us all from Beijing. I have just in the last few days got to hear the playing of Alice Sara Ott, from Germany. Her mother was Japanese so she is rather tiny in build but quite pretty.
I have heard quite a few pieces by her but the one that gets to me most is Beethoven's 3rd Piano concerto. https://youtu.be/PM0HqmptYlY Her timing is exquisite. Below she joins with the French national radio orchestra in Paris under a Finnish conductor.
Before her the pianist I was listening to most was Yuja Wang. She is quite amazing playing Schubert. I know the words and story for quite a few Schubert Lieder and listening to Wang play I could swear she has the words in her head too. Her playing exactly reflects the poem concerned. Below is an example of that most dramatic Lied Der Erlkoenig -- set to a poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
The Erl-King https://youtu.be/4_BmRekeJ8A
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Who's riding so late where winds blow wild
It is the father grasping his child;
He holds the boy embraced in his arm,
He clasps him snugly, he keeps him warm.
"My son, why cover your face in such fear?"
"You see the elf-king, father?
He's near! The king of the elves with crown and train!"
"My son, the mist is on the plain."
'Sweet lad, o come and join me, do!
Such pretty games I will play with you;
On the shore gay flowers their color unfold,
My mother has many garments of gold.'
"My father, my father, and can you not hear
The promise the elf-king breathes in my ear?"
"Be calm, stay calm, my child, lie low:
In withered leaves the night-winds blow."
'Will you, sweet lad, come along with me?
My daughters shall care for you tenderly;
In the night my daughters their revelry keep,
They'll rock you and dance you and sing you to sleep.'
"My father, my father, o can you not trace
The elf-king's daughters in that gloomy place?"
"My son, my son, I see it clear
How grey the ancient willows appear."
'I love you, your comeliness charms me, my boy!
And if you're not willing, my force I'll employ.'
"Now father, now father, he's seizing my arm.
Elf-king has done me a cruel harm."
The father shudders, his ride is wild,
In his arms he's holding the groaning child,
Reaches the court with toil and dread. -
The child he held in his arms was dead.
And before that I was most often listening to Emil Gilels, a Ukrainian pianist from the Soviet era -- playing Beethoven's 5th concerto, "The Emperor". Its beauty still moves me to tears