Peter Catesby Peter Cates

The Desert Song

Mario Lanza, Judith Raskin etc.; RCA Victor LSC-2440, LP, recorded 1959.

Mario Lanza

Mario Lanza (1921-1959) was one of the finest tenors who ever lived, when it came to beauty, tone, powerful one-on-one communication and love of singing. I have a number of his recordings covering opera arias, popular songs from the ‘40s and ‘50s, Broadway show tunes, Christmas carols etc.; but I have most often enjoyed his singing of the two operettas, Rudolf Friml’s The Vagabond King and Sigmund Romberg’s The Desert Song, both of them taped shortly before his sudden death from a blood clot on October 7, 1959, and with the late soprano, Judith Raskin (1928-1984).

Sigmund Romberg’s operetta was based upon the book by Oscar Hammerstein II, Otto Harbach, and Frank Mandel. Its first performance in New York was November 30, 1926, at the Casino Theater on Broadway and 39th Street, after successes in Wilmington, Delaware, and Boston.

Judith Raskin

Lanza and Raskin’s duets in the title song and One Good Boy Gone Wrong resonate with the great duet recordings of Nicolai Gedda and Mireille Freni in La Boheme, Jussi Bjoreling and Victoria de los Angeles in Madame Butterfly, Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann in the Tosca Love Duet, Sarah Vaughan and Billy Eckstine’s Passing Strangers, Frank and Nancy Sinatra’s Something Stupid, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore’s My Romance and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Maria Stader’s in Mozart’s Magic Flute, The solos of Lanza’s One Alone and Raskin’s Romance are some of many reasons life is worth living.

Selections from the album can be heard on YouTube.

Before his death, he was approached by RCA Italiana to record a few operas. Unfortunately, fate intervened. His widow, Betty, died of a drug overdose in early 1960. three of their four children since then; two sons, Marc and Damon, from heart issues, and a daughter, Colleen, after being hit by a driver while crossing the street and dying two weeks later in a coma.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: The hiker, Peace Pilgrim

Mildred Lisette Norman, Peace Pilgrim

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Peace Pilgrim became renowned during her lifetime for crossing the entire United States at least six times on behalf of peace, feeling this leading from God.

She began her 29 years of walking in 1952 with hiking the entire Appalachian Trail in one season. The trail is 2,200 miles/3,500 kilometers of length, it is the longest hikers-only trail in the world, and it extends from Katahdin, in Maine, to Springer Mountain, in Georgia. She also coined the name ‘Peace Pilgrim’ on New Year’s Day, 1953, as to why she was doing these very lengthy distances and why she discontinued her previous name of 45 years.

Mildred Lisette Norman was born on July 18, 1908, and was raised on a chicken farm in Egg Harbor, New Jersey, a community of German immigrants. Her father was a carpenter, her mother a tailor, and she had two younger siblings.

She and her then-boyfriend, Stanley Ryder, eloped in 1933, settled in Philadelphia in 1939, and divorced in 1946.

During the years of walks, Peace spoke often at universities and churches and appeared on radio and television, She led an ascetic life, wearing the clothes on her back and taking no food and shelter until offered it.

She was killed in an automobile accident on July 7, 1981, exactly 38 years ago as I write this, being driven to an Indiana speaking engagement.

Peace Pilgrim did visit once or twice in the central Maine area but my interest in her began when, less than a month ago, a cousin of mine texted me photos of her parents, a wonderful aunt and uncle , with the woman at least 50 years ago. Peace Pilgrim’s commitment to walking the longest distances over a 30-year span, to speaking to others about her concerns where the world was headed with its evil tendencies and to enduring the hardships gladly that came with her stand for peace and good will – these were what resonated with people of conscience in their hearts whatever their world views might be. They do with me.

REVIEW POTPOURRI – Mozart: Violin Concertos 1-5

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Adagio and 2 Rondos

Lena Neudauer, violinist, with Bruno Weil conducting the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrucken Kaiserslautern; SWR Music, 2 CDs, recorded 2013.

Lena Newdauer

Lena Neudauer, born in 1984, displayed extraordinary talent early in her childhood, but steered clear of starting her career during adolescence. In quoting her from the set’s liner notes, “I did not want to live in hotels and be constantly on stage when I was only 15.”

Instead, she kept learning under the tutelage of a few teachers, Thomas Zehetmair standing out among them. She performed with chamber music colleagues, a rock band on keyboards and percussion and got married and brought 2 children into the world. In short, she began her career with her feet firmly on the ground and considers her life a very happy one.

Neudauer’s set of Amadeus’s five Violin Concertos, Adagio in E Major and Rondos in B and C display a most level-headed intelligence, endearing sensitivity to every note and formidable virtuosity at the service of music. While quite familiar with Concertos 2-5 through recordings of Arthur Grumiaux, the Schneiderhan Brothers, Giaconda da Vito, Jascha Heifetz, Pinchas Zuckerman, Leonidas Kavakos etc., I find Neudauer’s performances worth adding to the shelves.

Her performances of the lesser-known 1st Violin Concerto, Adagio, and 2 Rondos bring out their own beauties, raising the desirability of this set for those who cherish these Concertos and who like fine music. Certain “music-critics in-the-know” have these works at a lower level than Mozart’s Piano Concertos, Symphonies and Operas; as far as I am concerned, they are full of claptrap. A set very much worth hearing and owning !

Recommended 4th of July music: anything by Aaron Copland, Stephen Foster, Edward MacDowell, Charles Ives, Burl Ives, The Weavers, Duke Ellington, George Gershwin, Samuel Barber, Charlie Mingus and other great American musical figures.

REVIEW POTPOURRI: The Man Who Came to Dinner

The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942)

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

The Man Who Came to Dinner

starring Monte Woolley, Bette Davis, Reginald Gardner, Ann Sheridan, Jimmy Durante, Mary Wickes, Richard Travers etc.; directed by William Keighley; Warner Brothers, dvd, released New Year’s Day, 1942, 112 minutes.

Monty Woolley

Although Monty Woolley (1888-1963) appeared in a number of other films and plays, his most well-known role is that of the radio commentator, lecturer and boa-constructor wit, Sheridan Whiteside, known as “Sherry” to his select friends. The 1942 film came on the heels of several hundred performances on Broadway of this George S. Kaufman/Moss Hart play, during which Woolley honed his character to the most exacting level.

Whiteside was based on the legendary Algonquin Round Table wit, Alexander Woolcott (1887-1943), his own larger-than-life heft and personality worthy of another column.

The plot begins when Whiteside and his secretary of many long-suffering years, Maggie, played by Bette Davis, stop for a lecture in an Ohio city during the cold of winter and accept an invitation to a luxuriant house for dinner. He walks up the slippery front steps, falls and breaks his hip. Because he is stuck in a wheelchair for an unknown number of weeks, he seizes control of the house from its rightful owners and launches a dictatorship of everyone and everything in it.

The insults and other comments among Whiteside, Maggie and others are non-stop. Meanwhile, Maggie can hold her own with sassing him back and forth, Bette Davis delivering one very fine performance in the film.

Other cast members give performances of their lifetimes. Ann Sheridan portrays Lorraine Sheldon, a successful actress, and long-time friend of Whiteside and mutual enemy of Maggie who travels from Florida to visit Whiteside for as long as she, not Whiteside, wants. Her manipulations of everyone around her add lots of comedy to the film.

Jimmy Durante

Jimmy Durante plays another friend, Banjo, and film comedian, who drops in to visit Whiteside on his way from Hollywood to Nova Scotia because he wishes to feast on salmon in eastern Canada and avoid one of his girlfriends whom he had promised to visit in New York City. Whiteside refers to Banjo as the “reform school fugitive” and invites him to stay for as long as both Whiteside and Banjo want. Banjo’s initial indecision about the amount of time to take advantage of Whiteside’s hospitality leads to Durante’s classic song-and-dance sketch, Did You Ever Have the Feeling that You Wanted to Go and the Feeling that You Wanted to Stay?

Space limits details on additional members in the cast but Reginald Gardiner, Mary Wickes and Richard Travers are worthy of very honorable mention.

Quotes from the film:

Whiteside: ‘Banjo, my lad, you’re wonderful. I may write a book about you.’
Banjo: ‘Don’t bother. I can’t read.’
Maggie: ‘Sheri, the next time you do not want to see anybody, just let me know and I’ll usher them right in.’

REVIEW POTPOURRI: Leonard Cohen, Songs from a Room

Leonard Cohen

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Leonard Cohen

Songs from a Room
Columbia/Legacy-88697047402, CD, recorded 1968.

Quebec-born singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) was arguably most well-known for Hallelujah but, back in the 1960s, his Suzanne and That’s No Way to Say Good­bye held their own as very frequently sung.

The lyrics dealt with politics, loneliness, integrity, faith – the themes underlining a life worth living, whatever side of the drawn line. The titles in the above 12-track collection suggest much in subject matter – Bird on a Wire; Story of Isaac; A Bunch of Lonesome Heroes; The Partisan; You Know Who I Am; Tonight Will Be Fine; half dozen others.

Jennifer Warnes

For me, what sustains this second of his many albums is the beauty and moral power of the selections; the sing­ing, ar­range­ments, and repeat listenability. Very highly worth hearing and having.

His long time musical colleague and friend Jennifer Warnes devoted her worthwhile 1987 release, Famous Blue Raincoat to his songs .

Quote – “There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.”




REVIEW POTPOURRI: Sir John Barbirolli conducting the Halle Orchestra

Edvard Grieg

Peter Catesby Peter Cates


Peer Gynt Suite No. 1; Symphonic Dances; Two Elegiac Melodies
Sir John Barbirolli conducting the Halle Orchestra; Mercury MG 50164, LP, recorded August 9, 1957.

Peer Gynt 5-act play

Edvard Grieg (1843-1907) forged a musical style that was compounded of his life experiences amidst the beauties of the Norwegian landscape; health issues and one major loss; and the tunes and folk songs he heard and made part of his very soul. The fjords, mountains, lakes, meadows were distilled in the justly famed A Minor Piano Concerto, not on this record, and the three works that are contained here.

When he was 17 years old, in 1860, he came down with both pleurisy and tuberculosis but survived them, left in frail health for the remainder of his life. He married his first cousin, Nina Hagerup (1845-1935), in 1867, and they had a baby girl in 1868, only to lose her at one year old because of meningitis.

With respect to the music of Grieg’s formative years, as with such titans as Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms and Mahler, the bottom line is the quality of sheer genius they and select other composers brought to their own creations. The Peer Gynt 1st Suite has four numbers – the ever-majestic Morning, the haunting tragic Asa’s Death which is my favorite, the rhythmic mystery of Anitra’s Dance and the nasty savagery of In the Hall of the Mountain King. Its endless listenability through piles of different recordings since the early 1900s, every one at least good, has sustained a position among the 10 most well known classical standards.

Sir John Barbirolli

His four Symphonic Dances are a vivacious series of what some have labeled “free fantasias;” the high spirits of countryside festivities – whether in Grieg’s Norway or the Bohemian world of Bedrich Smetana’s opera, The Bartered Bride, and Antonin Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances. The 2nd Dance has the solo oboe, and gently caressing harp and strings in one very well-sustained moment of lyricism that is unfortunately seldom heard.

Two Elegiac Melodies, for strings only, have the titles of Heart’s Wounds and The Last Spring, conveying the sadness and loss of irretrievable memories of happiness.

Sir John Barbirolli (1899-1970) lavished his complete soul on this music as he so often did with other composers. The Mercury record has the most vivid sense of immediacy to be heard on very few records from the 1950s. It too has been transferred to CD and streaming.



REVIEW POTPOURRI: Paragraphs from E.B. White

E. B.White

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Paragraphs from E. B. White

I offer two paragraphs from E.B.White’s One Man’s Wheat in which he writes about the movies from the sweet peace of his Brooklin, Maine, farm in May 1939:

“There is no movie house in this town so I don’t get to many pictures; but I keep in touch with Olympus by reading Motion Picture magazine and the daily papers. On the whole, this is a higher type of entertainment than seeing the films-although I miss Tarzan and Lamour, and I am not getting ahead very fast with my study of trees in the movies, a work I have been engaged in for some years.

“The newspapers, of course, keep one informed of the marriages, births, deaths, separations, divorces, and salaries of the stars. If Gable weds Lombard, I know about it. When Tone and Crawford reach the end of the road, I am informed. Separations and divorces are scented with the same delicate orange blossoms as marriages and elopements, the same romantic good fellowship. One of the most interesting accomplishments of the film community, it seems to me, is that it has made real for America the exquisite beauty of incompatibility. Divorce among the gods possesses the sweet, holy sadness which has long been associated with marriage among the mortals. There is something infinitely tender about the inability of an actor to get along with an actress.”

A footnote to the above-mentioned actor Franchot Tone (1905-1968). He is one of the most underrated actors I have ever seen in films and his roles as Roger Byam in 1935’s Mutiny on the Bounty and the President of the United States in Otto Preminger’s 1962 Advise and Consent conveyed his talent at sucking the air out of a room.

Vivid moments from two recent concerts:

I traveled to Portland for the last concert of the Symphony’s 2018-19 season on May 13 at downtown’s Merrill Auditorium. It featured guest conductor Jeffrey Kahane who had already directed two previous concerts this season. Kahane lives with his wife in Santa Rosa, California, and they have another home in Denver, Colorado. He resigned in 2017 as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra after 20 years.

The Maestro led the Beethoven 1st Piano Concerto by memory from the keyboard. He then conducted a powerful Rachmaninoff The Bells for choir, orchestra and soprano, tenor, and baritone soloists and finished with Rimsky-Korsakov’s colorful showpiece, Capriccio Espagnol. The Orchestra has achieved considerable growth in the more than 45 years since I last attended a concert under one of their former conductors, Paul Vermel, who did do very good performances with it. I remember a Berlioz Romeo and Juliet, Charles Ives 2nd Symphony, Brahms Violin Concerto with Itzhak Perlman and a nicely-staged Mozart Cosi Fan Tutte.

Last Saturday’s Detroit Symphony live link featured the 26 year old Italian-born pianist, Beatrice Rana, in the Sergei Prokofiev 3rd Piano Concerto with the Orchestra under guest conductor, Kent Nagano. The Concerto, completed in 1921, was premiered by the Chicago Symphony in 1922 with the composer as soloist. Its technical demands are ferocious, its rhythms very compelling but it has the most exquisite delicacy and lyricism. Ms. Rana brought a wonderful balance of these musical qualities to her playing .

The accompanying Bruckner 3rd Symphony has the gripping power, serenity and eloquence of that composer, along with long stretches of development that need the right pacing or the symphony could become quite dull. As with long-gone conductors Eugen Jochum, Herbert von Karajan, and George Szell and the still living Ivor Bolton and Daniel Barenboim, Nagano met these challenges.

The concert can still be watched for a while through the DSO link.

My favorite Mamas and Papas pop song has always been the 1966 hit record, Go Where You Wanna Go; for those who no longer have that record, it can be heard through YouTube.


Peter Catesby Peter Cates


Piano Concerto No. 1
Ida Czernecka, pianist, with Laurence Siegel conducting; Nutcracker and Swan Lake ballet excerpts; Alberto Lizzio cond.; Orbis CCC 001, CD, recording date unknown.

Ida Czernecka

Ida Czernecka was born in 1949 in Bratislava, Slovakia, and has lived there since.

She is well-known there as a pianist and teacher but much below the radar elsewhere. This CD is my introduction to her uniquely exquisite and powerful artistry.

Her Tchaikovsky 1st is one of a distinguished catalog and very compelling. I have played it several times in the last two weeks. Along with many other Eastern European CDs, it too has circulated on numerous, mostly inexpensive labels such as the above Orbis.

Laurence Siegel

Maestro Laurence Siegel is an actual conductor whose name I have seen listed on other recordings but not heard any of them. His collaboration with the pianist is also superb.

Alberto Lizzio

Alberto Lizzio is one of several pseudonyms used by the conductor, record producer and con man, Alfred Scholz (1926-1999). The google pieces on him are quite interesting; the performances of Nutcracker and Swan Lake chunks hold their own.

Czernecka’s Tchaikovsky’s 1st and her recordings of Chopin, Mendelssohn and other composers can be heard on YouTube. She is one well worth the listening by those who cherish exceptional pianists.

Tchaikovsky quote: “Inspiration is a guest that does not willingly visit the lazy.”



REVIEW POTPOURRI: Bucharest, Romania, Radio Hall

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

Last week, I listened to a live link, via computer, from the Bucharest, Romania, Radio Hall; it is one of two major venues in that city to see classical music concerts, the other being the Atheneum. And very frequently, these concerts can be heard worldwide on romania muzical.

George Enescu

Luiza Borac

The concert featured the Radio Orchestra in a program of three works – the Enescu and Grieg Piano Concertos, played by the exceptionally gifted Luiza Borac, and Antonin Dvorak’s 7th Symphony conducted by Rossen Gergov, currently music director of the Bulgarian National Radio Orchestra.

George Enescu (1881-1955) is best-known for his Romanian Rhapsodies 1 and 2 and was also a great violinist, conductor and teacher. Cellist Pablo Casals wrote that Enescu was “the greatest musical phenomenon since Mozart.” Casals’s quote was a bit exaggerated but it also conveyed the depths of his own feelings about the composer.

Rossen Gergov

The 1st Piano Concerto, Part 1, was Enescu’s only Piano Concerto and left unfinished. It is beautiful music, in the late romantic style favored by Tchaikovsky, Rachmaninoff, etc., yet having its own individuality. Ms. Borac gave captivating renditions of the work and the much more popular Grieg Piano Concerto.

Sarah Orne Jewett

The deeply moving 7th Symphony received a very fine interpretation from Gergov and the orchestra players.

Quote from Maine novelist Sarah Orne Jewett, 1849-1909, who lived her entire life in South Berwick – “Find your quiet center of life and write from that to the world.”






REVIEW POTPOURRI: Mother’s Day from Elijah Parish Lovejoy

Peter Catesby Peter Cates

A poem very suited for Mother’s Day from Elijah Parish Lovejoy (written when he was already living in the Mid-West during the 1830s and would be killed on November 7, 1837, by an angry mob for his anti-slavery editorials, two days short of his 35th birthday) taken from the 1854 Native Poets from Maine anthology:

Elijah Parish Lovejoy

To My Mother.
My Mother! I am far away
From home, and love, and thee;
And stranger hands will heap the clay
That soon may cover me;
Yet we shall meet- perhaps not here,
But in yon shining, azure sphere;
And if there’s aught assures me more,
Ere yet my spirit fly,
That heaven has mercy still in store,
For such a wretch as I,
‘Tis that a heart so good as thine,
Must bleed – must burst along with mine.

And life is short at best, and Time
Must soon prepare the tomb;
And there is sure a happier clime,
Beyond this world of gloom-
And should it be my happy lot-
After a life of care and pain,
In sadness spent, or spent in vain-
To go where sighs and sin are not-
‘Twill make the half my heaven to be,
My Mother, evermore with thee!

Owen Lovejoy

His mother, Elizabeth Pattee Lovejoy, outlived him.

Two of Lovejoy’s brothers, Joseph and Owen, published a book about him in 1838.

John Quincy Adams

The sixth President of the United States, John Quincy Adams, wrote an introduction to the volume from which the following two sentences are taken – “Martyrdom was said by Dr. Johnson to be the only test of sincerity in religious belief. It is also the ordeal through which all great improvements in the condition of men are doomed to pass.”

Those who wish to know more about this uniquely great man, born and raised in the then-‘Albion wilderness,’ would find his Wiki piece quite comprehensive on its own terms and a point of departure for further reading.