sábado, agosto 31
Stolen from Lynn (Poet and Peasant)
If music were food and drink...
Dvorak would be home made wheat bread, still warm from the oven.
Bach would be very fine tea, subtley flavored, delicately stimulating, not too sweet.
Beethoven would be a hearty meal with roast beef for the main course and a light dessert.
Haydn would be fresh strawberries with whipped topping.
Vivaldi would be a crisp green salad.
Mozart would be chocolate, not just a single kind of chocolate but all the finest chocolates: a light fluffy chocolate mousse, a warm comforting cup of creamy hot chocolate, a dish of rocky road ice cream, dark semi-sweet chocolate with its bitter edge, a rich devil's food cake, a box of the world's most expensive chocolate candies, sweet as the tenderest love, a sensual experience exquisite beyond words.
This feels like a challenge. Each reader should add at least one name and one definition. Here are mine:
Telemann would be a seven-course meal: Polish soup, Italian pasta, French quail au gratin, filet-mignon en croute avec du ris sauvage, German cabbage, Hungarian Dobos Torta, English teas and butter cookies, Turkish coffee. Each dish masterfully prepared and elegantly arranged on the finest china.
Schoenberg would be okra.
The great Sergio Roberto de Oliveira would be umas estupidamente geladas with a picanha na pedra, shared with good friends at midnight at a table with a view of Christ with welcoming arms over the bay of Guanabara.
Today we decided to entertain Mom a bit - her foot is broken and she has a cast up to her knee. So we washed the car (it was filthy) and rode all the way to distant Barra. There we went to the fish market - it is nice to see the stalls full of fresh shrimp and fish... We decided to eat at "La Plancha" a restaurant right in the middle of the market. And we asked for the monster plate of grilled seafood - yummy! Manoela loved the lobster, I gobbled on the shrimp, Hermano ate most of the octopus. Before we left, the sky suddenly turned black and rain started to pour - but of course, we had just washed the car so carefully! It is Murphy's law.
Next to the fish stalls there was a big fruit place - there I bought some exotic fruit for everyone, including a strange looking black fruit, the size of a small pear, the shape of an avocado, very rough textured skin. And it said in the poster that it "fights cholesterol". Does anyone know what it is?
It's always tough to be back in the US. I have been sleeping very poorly, so this morning, thinking that some exercise might improve matters, I got up and went for about a 75 minute walk before breakfast, on the path next to the Pennsylvania Canal in Morrisville. (It's not the Pista Claudio Coutinho, "but it will have to do, until the real thing comes along.") The sun was barely up (it was 6:45 AM) and yet there were already folks running, walking the dog, bicycling. The sun caught the golden tone of some leaves that have already begun to turn.
Later this AM I visited my children and took them the presents which I had brought back from Rio. The Doce de Leite received general approbation, Merlin liked his t-shirt and winter coat, and Emma promptly disassembled her personalized keychain (it took us a little longer to reassemble it than it had taken the vendor I bought it from in Ipanema).
I was very happy to have been invited to lunch by a fellow librarian yesterday (usually my lunches and coffee breaks are solitary). We spent the whole time talking about Rio, of course.
sexta-feira, agosto 30
More about Paulo
I learned in reading Paulo Rónai's anthology of Hungarian stories that he had translated dozens, if not hundreds, of short stories into French from the Hungarian for the Nouvelle Revue de Hongrie. Dona Nora and Laura said that these are probably not in the library in Nova Friburgo, so next week I will go and photocopy them from the holdings of Princeton University Library, which, unfortunately,
does not have a complete run of the journal. But it's a start....
segunda-feira, agosto 26
One of the pleasures of getting out of the US for a while was being able to avoid thinking about the idiots who run this country taking us into a war against Iraq. How many more days or weeks until American bombs start being dropped on innocent civilians? As I flew last night I read Rubem Braga's thoughts about the war in 1939. I will post a few sentences from Rubem here later.
Back in the USSA
After a very nice trip on Varig - the captain of the plane was a real character - as we arrived in NY he welcomed us briefly (in English) and then at great length (in Portuguese), with poetic thoughts about woman's charm and beauty - Quite amazing!
I have never heard the like. The Brazilians aboard applauded. - I am back in Nova Jersey.
From my conversation with Sergio over chopp at Cobal on Saturday: one difference between the US and Brazil - the two famous statues - one holding a book and a torch, the other with arms open ready to embrace. Quite typical of the two places.
First American experience of the day: rude conductor on the New Jersey Transit. Welcome back!!!
domingo, agosto 25
THE GIFTS I GOT
Tom gave me a beautiful pair of earrings, with small disks of mother-of-pearl. Very chic, and discreet, too. I love it!
Mom gave me... a fridge! And as if that were not enough, she also gave me a little ice-crusher machine! Cool! Manoela loved it especially!
Irene gave me a wonderful fresh fragrance: Giovanna baby, pink.
Many necklaces: a simple one, with little golden nuggets, with matching earrings, from Bruno and Natalie; a long, beaded one from India - from Elizete and Pedro; a small one, in gold with little blue stones, from Sérgio. A necklace/earring set shaped as an F-clef, from Ana Paula.
A big pink stone, with a miniature string bass stuck to it - Larissa, of course!
Rodrigo gave me a funny crazy candle holder; Lilian gave me a wooden back-massager.
Kim brought me his CD (fancy!).
Amador and Antonia both gave me flowers....
Leandro made a cookie-jar for me. Very nice!
A super-elaborate, flowered porcelain cake spatula ... from D'Artagnan, of course!
sábado, agosto 24
A BIG SURPRISE
Yesterday was my birthday. I knew I should have planned a party, but life has been hectic, I was tired.... so there it was, Friday approaching and no party organized. And Tom is leaving tomorrow! So this would break a long-honored tradition: every time Tom is here we have a big bash.
I thought we would have lunch at home. But by lunch time Antonia was going crazy, unable to clean the house with so many people around (Jú, Ma, Nonna, Bruno and Natalie, Hermano, Tom and I) and she kicked us out. I didn’t even have time to change, so we chose Ekko’s, a small place very close by, and I figured that I could go as I was...
But from there Tom and Nonna decided to kidnap me to the shopping mall (“just for a bit,” said Tom “so that I can buy you a gift”). And indeed he did – he bought me the nicest earrings! We went to Praia-Shopping (just around the corner) and suddenly I felt that Tom wanted to buy the whole place – very strange and out of character! I called Ma to say that she shouldn’t worry, we would be home soon. She answered “Why? Just stay there...”. And I thought that was weird, but I didn’t catch on to what was going on.
From the shopping mall my Mom suggested that I should go to her place, so that I could indulge in a massage bath (she has one of those fancy massage-bathtubs!). What a fine idea! I was dead, I needed the pampering! So there I went...
By nine, Hermano and Jú called me, to say they were picking me up, so we could go eat dinner at the Korean place. They arrived without Ma, and Jú explained that, as always, Ma was still undecided about what to wear, and that we should stop a minute by our apartment so that I could scream some sense into her head and make her come dressed as she was.... Nothing suspicious about that, since Ma frequently drives us all insane by changing her clothes 3 or 4 times before being satisfied with the way she looks (and she ALWAYS looks great!)
So we went home to grab Ma by force. But as I stepped out of the car with Hermano I was greeted by a true mob! Many, many friends, gathered there for a big surprise party, entirely planned and organized by Manoela!
She called everyone, decorated the garden with balloons, made brigadeiros, asked all women to bring food, all men to bring drinks, all musicians to bring instruments.
As I walked in, I saw: Serginho (our favorite composer!), Tom, Rodrigo and Lilian (my oldest friend, and Jú’s all-time favorite), Elizete and Pedro (my “afilhados"from Atempo), Zico and Luciana (Elizete’s brother+ girlfriend), D’Artagnan (from Abraçando o Jacaré, and our companion in “farras”) and Caio (our cellist friend), Rodrigo (Villa-Lobinhos), Bia (my niece, of course!), Bruno and Natalie (my favorite harpsichordist and wife!), Larissa (a student of UNIRIO, she is a talented bass-player and makes fabulous origami!), Ana Paula (my assistant) and Leandro (her boyfriend!). And Laura (André’s sister, my favorite in-law!) and Cláudio (her boyfriend), who I hadn’t seen for ages! Then further into the garden and Party room, and as the night went on, Chico (my friend the saxofonist), Kim (a flutist who had played in Youth Orchestras with me decades ago, and whom I had not seen since!) with his teenage daughter Ana Paula, Salomé (a basque recorder-player, and friend of Hermano’s), Renato (a guitar and mandolin player, friend of D’Artagnan’s), Marlon (ditto), Luís (Leite, best young guitarrist in the world!) and his Luciana, Cora, Ana and Jayme (my dear, dear friends), Amador (Perez, you already know his work from some past posts...), the little French guitarrist who was destroying all male hearts...
Manoela was upset because a few people could not show up:Cláudio Frydman (he was in Madrid!), Nando, Andréia, Naílson and Cláudia (they have a new baby, so no wonder they didn't show up!), Caio Senna, Ícaro, Maria Angela (she had a cold), Carol (she left a message in the answering machine), Irene (who couldn’t come, but sent a lovely gift!), Sonia and Zé with Marcel, Maki and Ronildo, Veruschka and Alcimar, the 2 Suelys, Alexandre Teixeira, Larissa the flutist, the 2 Guilhermes....
And speaking of Guilherme, Guilherme (Jú’s boyfriend) couldn’t come. But this morning I received a huge bouquet of lilies with the cutest card from him. I loved it! He must have read that classic: “How to get your mother-in-law to be always on your side”.
Ah, what a great party! The music started late, as everybody was busy eating and drinking... and ended only at 4 in the morning....
Thanks kids, from the heart!
Later I will tell you about all the wonderful presents that I got!
sexta-feira, agosto 23
Intimate Portrait of a Language
by Paulo Rónai
I read in the newspaper, some time back, the obituary of an illustrious German polyglot, one who knew an unbelievable number of languages. When he was asked which was the most difficult of all of them, he answered without hesitation that it was Hungarian.
It is quite possible that the scholar was correct, for I have never met a foreigner who had managed to learn Hungarian well. At best, he managed to speak it poorly, making serious mistakes in every sentence. I knew intimately, in Budapest, where he lived for more than twenty years, a cultivated Frenchman, Prof. Henri Ancel, an excellent translator of Hungarian authors into French, but who was incapable of writing a proper letter, and whose speech was only intelligible by the waiters at his favorite café. An English historian, Prof. Macartney, got to the point of being able to write letters in Hungarian, in which one could sense a certain antique flavor, as he had learned the language from the classics of the nineteenth century; but, during the war, I heard him speaking on a program of propaganda aimed by the BBC at central Europe, a program which failed in its mission, since the peculiar accent of the professor and some poorly assimilated nuances of expression weakened the impact of the arguing points.
These and other proofs of the difficulty of my native tongue could lead me to think that extraordinary intelligence is necessary to learn it, and inspire unbounded pride, if I had not known in Hungary a huge number of perfect imbeciles who spoke and wrote it reasonably well. The unconscious apprenticeship in the mother tongue, taking place in the company of compatriots, made them able to use a tongue that they would never be capable of having learned if they had started studying it after the age of twelve.
In a story by the great writer Mikszáth there appears a village blacksmith who became famous for the skill with which he removed even the most obstinate cataract. The fame of these operations finally attracted the attention of a great opthalmologist, who watched astonished during one of them, since the smith had performed it with his pocket knife, without the slightest attention to sterilization. One of the eyes of the patient having been operated on, the university-trained physician set about explaining, indignantly, the mechanism of the eye to the healer, the complexity of the retina, the sensitivity of the lens – which frightened the smith to such a degree that he threw away his pocket-knife and forever renounced the removal of cataracts, including the one which covered the other eye of the patient being operated upon. The operations which he performed were so delicate that only one who was not self-conscious could perform them; one who was aware of the complicated details would refuse to do them, terrified.
It seems to me that this parable (which Mikszáth, master of the short story, exploits in his preface as an excuse for not developing a theory of the genre) can be applied to the Hungarian language itself. If the Magyars knew the complexity of their tool, they would not touch it, or at the least, would lose any spontaneity in using it.
Do you want to read the rest? Click here.
How they learned English
(a sequel to "How I learned Portuguese")
The marvelous and amazing Dona Nora is a sea of stories. This is one I heard for the first time last night.
When Dona Nora's daughters were younger (14 and 12 respectively) Paulo was invited to be visiting professor for an entire academic year in Gainesville, Florida. An excellent opportunity for all to get to know the United States, and for the girls to improve their English.
After they had arrived, and the girls had enrolled in two different local schools, Dona Nora was mystified to discover that neither daughter was bringing schoolwork home to do at night. How could this be, with such bright daughters? So their devoted mother went to talk to Laura's teacher.
The teacher explained that there had been no homework since Laura had alleged that she did not speak English - but the teacher went on to say that she had noticed Laura both playing and fighting with the other girls in English. And Dona Nora learned that her older daughter had used the same stratagem.
Dona Nora laid down the law at home that night - either both girls would be doing their homework in English, or within a week they would be going back to Rio to spend the rest of the school year with Aunt Clara and Uncle Américo. The girls protested, but to no avail.
Laura's teacher told Dona Nora that there was a Cuban girl in the class, and suggested that she seat Laura next to her, so that the bilingual girl could help Laura learn. Instead, Laura taught the girl Portuguese, and there was so much talking that within a week or two, the teacher had to separate the girls so that the class could get some work done.
Happy ending later that year: excellent marks (of course) in the standardized tests given in English....
segunda-feira, agosto 19
Though I never had the pleasure to meet the Pater Familias, I sense a kindred spirit as far as languages are concerned (and so am I told by the Donne Rónai).
The Languages I Didn't Learn
by Paulo Rónai
Are there two thousand, three thousand or more? At any rate the number is exactly equal to the number of languages which I will never learn. A sad and humiliating thing to admit for someone who since a boy has felt a sort of passion for languages and who, still today, every time that he hears people speaking an unfamiliar language in the street, has feelings of envy.
When, for the first time in my life, I saw a really valuable piece of paper currency – I might have been about seven – I probably wanted to have it, like everyone. If I did, I forgot about it. But I remember distinctly the unquiet curiosity with which I set out to decipher the two words – HUNDRED CROWNS – that the note boldly displayed in the eight languages of the now defunct Austro-Hungarian monarchy.
As an adolescent, I secretly nourished the hope of becoming the master, as time went on, of the largest possible number of languages: twenty, thirty, perhaps even more. One of my teachers assured me that only the first fifteen were difficult. And in my rambles through the used bookshops of Europe, I would pick up every peculiar book in order to make use of it later, in the leisure time that would certainly come: a grammar of Ladino or Rhaeto-Roman with a key to pronunciation; a book of readings for the second grade in the elementary schools in La Valetta, Malta, with out a single vowel in the title; a manual of the Swedish language for Italians....a true bazaar of bizarre old books which the booksellers had watched getting old on the last shelf, and were happy to give to me practically for free.
But time went by, the leisure time never came, my library was definitively scattered in the assault on Budapest, and all those languages continue intact, unrevealed, making fun of me. Someone else has probably learned Malagasy in twenty lessons. And I content myself with dreaming of the marvelous opportunities that I lost.
domingo, agosto 18
SAD, sad, sad!
Hey guys, I mean it. If you don't post something - ANYTHING!!!!!!!!!!- we are going to quit! we know you are out there: when we look at our stats we see we have an average of 17 visits a day. Oh yeah? So why don't you say hello? We feel lonely, abandoned. Sniff!!!!!
sexta-feira, agosto 16
Last week was Father's Day. This could be considered a belated hommage to mine. Except that it was translated and posted by Tom!
How I Learned Portuguese
by Paulo Rónai
Sometimes I am asked how I learned Portuguese. I generally answer that I didn’t learn it and probably never will. But the answer evokes for me my first encounter with the language in which, through circumstances which were completely unforeseeable, I came to express myself with ease and even to think.
At that time I was teaching Latin and Italian in a high school in Budapest. Once a week I would go to a café where my linguist friends met. One of them was studying Sogdian, another was preparing an essay on pronouns in Vogish, a third had just published two thick volumes of stories in Tcheremissian. They were only interested in exoitc languages, had a true passion for difficult tongues, and despised my modest excursions in the Neo-Latin domain.
“But do you actually know Spanish?” I asked one of them, who was an expert in Finno-Ugric linguistics, one day.
“Come on!” he answered.
“But do you?” I insisted.
“I haven’t tried it yet”, he answered haughtily, as if it were something like bicycling or horse-back riding.
I fell silent, humiliated. Really, Spanish could not compare with any of those fabulous dialects. And what was worse, it was spoken by an excessive number of people, and my friends only appreciated dead languages, or if not dead, spoken by a half dozen illiterate fishermen.
And so I couldn’t find it in myself to tell them that I had begun to learn Portuguese – the more so as Portuguese seemed to me, as a beginner, too easy: like the beginning of a romance where everything is going smoothly, and nothing points toward subsequent problems.
Do you want to read the rest? Click here.
DA SÉRIE: POR QUE ME UFANO DO MEU PAÍS
Symphonies Nos. 2 & 3; Abertura Concertante
São Paulo Symphony Orchestra
No Reference Recording
This disc must be counted among the most interesting and important releases of the year. Brazilian composer Camargo Guarnieri (his real first name was Mozart, and he had three brothers: Bellini, Rossini, and Verdi) appears from time to time on pops programs, represented by some cute little Brazilian dance miniature, but he was in truth a major composer, and a symphonist of extraordinary mastery and confidence. While remaining true to his nationalist roots, his style owes nothing to that of Villa-Lobos, being far more disciplined and neo-classical in outlook. He shares something of the motoric drive and enthusiasm for counterpoint of Honegger, the folk-inspired melodic character of Bartók, and the plain-spoken directness of Copland. The result sounds like no one else and makes for some very satisfying listening.
All of the works here date from the period 1945-52 and show the composer working at a high level of inspiration. The Second Symphony shares its title, Uirapuru [a Brazilian bird] with the Villa-Lobos tone poem of the same name, and like the Third Symphony features rhythmically violent and virtuosic outer movements surrounding a longer central slow movement. In the Third Symphony the middle movement has a breezy scherzo at its center. These structural concerns greatly enhance the clarity of thought that characterizes all of this music. Listen, for instance, to how marvelously apt the first movement of the Third Symphony's slow introduction sounds when it reappears as the same movement's coda. Guarnieri clearly knows exactly where his music is going and delights in taking the listener along with him.
For all that, this isn't "easy" music. There's a nicely abrasive level of dissonance that when combined with highly contrasted melodic shapes and textures keeps each work's thematic invention from sounding facile or cheap. The rhythmic intricacies of the symphonies' outer movements make great demands on the orchestra, and in this respect the work of the São Paulo orchestra under conductor John Neschling is beyond praise. They attack these pieces with incredible energy and unbridled ferocity, to the extent that their playing in and of itself becomes a joy to hear. The orchestra also sports some excellent wind players, particularly flutes, oboes, and English horn, who distinguish themselves in the slow movements of both symphonies. BIS captures the whole affair in stunning recorded sound, completing a totally self-recommending package. If this disc isn't the first in a complete Guarnieri orchestral music series, it will be a tragedy. What a brilliant, unexpected pleasure!
quinta-feira, agosto 15
We have been super busy, so MBF (Mean Blogging Frequency) is way down. This AM Laura spoke to a big audience of high school teachers at SENAI in Tijuca on "Modernism in the Music of Brazil". She spoke beautifully and the audience was very appreciative, enjoying the musical examples at the end (Laura solo on the Fantasie by Sigimund Neukomm, and both bloggers on Cantiga and Afro-sofisticado by Guerra-Peixe for duo)
We got lost on the way there (I was driving) because our Zona Sul Girl only goes north rarely, so that part of town is terra incognita for her (I know my way around there better than ZSG). We got there almost a half hour late (late even in Brazil), but not a problem, since things were just getting under way. I enjoyed seeing the art exhibit by teens from the public schools - very fine work, including some Picasso-inspired reactions to the WTC atrocity. Ana Paula's mom was there - she teaches art in the José de Alencar high school in Laranjeiras (Ana Paula is the very talented "monitor" who takes over lessons when Laura can't be there for some reason).
On Monday I interviewed Caio Senna (from the UniRio music dept.), and this afternoon, the avant-gardist composer Jocy de Oliveira.
Busy, busy. But not so busy that we didn't have a nice dinner with Bruno, Natalie and Mom at Café Lamas in Flamengo (a personal favorite, very close to Largo do Machado).
sexta-feira, agosto 9
MEETING OUR FAIRY
Do you remember when you were a child, and read about Fairy Godmothers? Those amazing creatures that knew when anything - good or bad - happened, and came to your side, offering solace when your heart was sunken? Those wonderful phantastic beings that apperead out of the blue when you needed a new dress, or a new point-of-view on life?
I remember well. I also remember that moment of disappointment when I finally realized that they did not exist, that I would never have my own guardian angel, or my own Fairy Godmother.
But then, just last year, much to my surprise, I found out they did exist! Our own Fairy Godmother appeared out of the shadows to give our blog a new dress; she called me just when I needed a friendly word of advice; she knew (magically!!!) everything that was going on with my family. A true miracle...
She was always there, and yet I had never seen her face. But this changed on Wednesday: our Fairy Godmother invited us to have dinner with her! Ah, I won't tell you in detail about all the fabulous food that her valiant co-Angel Selma prepared for us, because it would be torture for you to know about the delicious chicken, the yummy ribs, the tantallizing ice-cream desert. And I will not make you envious by telling you how we departed from there carrying bags of gifts (ah, the cupuaçu chocolates.....the beautiful CDs... And we had good company! Cora, my super sister. And a nice extra: the reporter Mosca, with his princess Luiza. By the way, ladies: he is much younger than you think. And as my own children would say, a true cat (for that, sorry, but you have to know Portuguese)
quarta-feira, agosto 7
Yesterday your noble explorer struck out for the wilds of the Rio Sul Shopping, accompanied by the stalwart clan of Ronai women - Mom, Laura, Ju and Ma. Having braved the deserted expanses of the upper level parking (G4), we made our way down into the pyramidal labyrinth of the shopping in search of treasure. I had in mind to visit Taco for some jeans, but as usual we dídn't make it that far. It was a pleasure to have the critical eyes of four discerning females in making some purchases (it's not unusual for American males to never have had such assistance from mother, girlfriend or wife). By the time we were at Via Veneto, Laura noted, the sales associate simply asked her what to get for me...all the interaction was between Laura and the associate. Mom bought a nice athletic outfit at Cribb, I bought a fabulous leather jacket at Swain's (in honor of my friend, Dr. Dick Swain, who will get some souvenirs from the store when I return to the US), and then we went over to Cervantes for dinner. Late at night Laura and I went to the group photo for the recording project. Tonight there will be a video team there to do a "making of". Yesterday's Globo revealed that the reason that there ha been a generating truck there for the sessions was that Light (the state electric company) had turned off the power to the Federal University (UFRJ) for 6 million reais in arrears in paying their bills. By last night some resolution had been achieved, as the lights were powered in the usual way.
segunda-feira, agosto 5
This afternoon Laura talked to maestro Edino Krieger, and arranged for an interview (to be published in 21st Century Music later this year, I expect). I taxied over to his apartment in Flamengo, and spent a very pleasant two hours or so talking with the maestro. I heard about his musical family (Italians on one side, Germans on the other) in Santa Catarina, who seem to have been involved in every facet of music-making there, from jazz bands to municipal bands (marches, dobrados) to music for the Lutheran church ro music (and costumes, since the family were tailors) for Carnaval. And about the conservatism of music instruction in Rio in his youth. He is charming and I have never had an interview fly by so quickly!
Our recording session went smoothly. We recorded in the Chapel over at UFRJ at Avenida Pasteur in Urca. This is in the same building as the Salão Dourado where we did a concert back in April. The Chapel is at the top of the main staircase, and is an attractive old space that is in reasonably good repair. And it has very live acoustics. The recording was done with a multi-miked
setup to a mixer - the first time that I have recorded other than with a simple stereo mike pair.
domingo, agosto 4
It's been a busy week with rehearsals and the usual social whirl. My poor gringo system can barely keep up...We have had two rehearsals for the recording of Brazilian colonial music that we are doing with Julio Moretzsohn. Tonight at 8 is the first recording session.
Last night Ma was invited to a party at a restaurant (Japa) in Barra by a friend. All true Cariocas hate going to Barra, but really it's not so far - if the traffic is light it's about a half hour by car. We dropped Ma off and finally made our way out to the main drag, where we had a rodizio of churrasco at Porcão. My first time there. Expensive but delicious. Then we shopped at Bon Marche (a supermarket, big, but rather down-market), and picked up Ma for the drive back.
Today the whole family came over for a big Sunday lunch made by Laura.
Yesterday and today I have enjoyed meeting and getting to know harpsichordist Bruno and his wife pianist Natalie.