REVIEWS: Conductor: von Karajan; Novelist: Arnold Bennett; Film: Four Brothers

Peter CatesREVIEW POTPOURRI

by Peter Cates

How I Started Collecting Records! (Beginning a series of weekly paragraphs.)

The first records I ever owned, at 2 years old, were Columbia yellow label 10-inch 78s – three in number – all featuring Burl Ives applying his warm, cuddly baritone to such titles as The Little White Duck; Lollipop Tree; Old Witch, Old Witch; The Little Engine That Could; and several others. I discovered the thrill of ownership, of music being transferred from a round circulating disc through a needle to a speaker and of the escape to be had from the mundane everydayness of one’s life that could creep in at any moment!!

Haydn

Paris and London Symphonies
Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic; DG -477 7917, six CDs, recorded 1981-82.

Herbert von Karajan

I have had a long listening love/hate relationship with Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989). He could do a performance that would send one into clouds of bliss, such as, for example, a mid-’60s Deutsche Grammophon LP of Vivaldi’s 4 Seasons. Then an early 1980s digital recording of the Holst Planets that would drive one crazy with its bombastic slickness and superficiality, as if he didn’t give a hoot !

Hearing the above set of 18 of the most beautiful symphonies Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) ever composed, I wanted to take back every bad response and rehear the bad records. These symphonies each have captivating opening movements; playful and heart-warming Andantes, Adagios and Allegrettos, often with a little joke thrown in; cheerful Minuets; and perky, snappy Finales. They rank among the select group of musical works that are truly life-affirming, thus making this box of CDs a genuine bargain of under 20 bucks in several venues I have checked.

Arnold Bennett

Imperial Palace
published 1930, 625 pages.

Arnold Bennett

For me, Arnold Bennett (1867-1931) was one of the most consistently readable and enjoyable novelists, as well as critics and essayists, of a generation of English writers that include such powerful names as Joseph Conrad, John Galsworthy, and Ford Madox Ford. Bennett’s gift was in re-creating the lives of middle- and working-class folks, but he could do memorable rich individuals too.

Imperial Palace would be Bennett’s last novel. Consisting of 625 pages, it would be his longest as well. Focusing on a luxury hotel modeled after London’s Savoy, it chronicles the type of panorama one would expect as its inner workings, but told mainly through the eye of its manager, Evelyn Orcham, and a meticulously competent one at that!

The reader encounters a most memorably depicted array of characters and situations. In fact, there is not a dull page in the book due to Bennett’s extraordinary story-telling skills at placing one in the novel as the proverbial fly on the wall. One scene that will always stick in my mind is a breakfast meeting between Orcham and a multi-billionaire in the latter’s private suite. I could feel the hearts of both men beating throughout this early morning chess game.

Totally recommended to anyone who enjoys a first class, old-fashioned reading experience!!

Four Brothers

starring Mark Wahlberg, etc. 2005.

Mark Wahlberg

A woman is murdered at work during a hold-up. Her four grown-up adopted sons inevitably investigate the circumstances and take joint action. This is a very entertaining revenge film, shot – no pun intended – mainly in Detroit!

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