REVIEW POTPOURRI: Kodaly, Ella Fitzgerald, & The Pelican Brief


by  Peter Cates


Hary Janos Suite; Respighi: Feste Romane- Arturo Toscanini conducting the NBC Symphony Orchestra; RCA Victor LM-1973, 12-inch vinyl mono LP, released 1956.

Zoltan Kodaly

Arturo Toscanini (1867-1957) was, arguably, one of the four best known conductors of the 20th century, the others being Leopold Stokowski, Arthur Fiedler, and Leonard Bernstein (these three definitely being subjects for later columns.) . That said, it now occurs to me I did a column devoted to the Maestro’s wide influence a while ago. Therefore, I move on to this week’s record.

The featured pieces are the Hary Janos Suite, composed in 1926 by Zoltan Kodaly (1882-1967), and Feste Romane, from 1928 and composed by Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) . Along with his lifelong friend, Bela Bartok, Kodaly was one of Hungary’s two best known 20th century composers. Hary Janos is a mythical character who proceeds to run off with Napoleon’s wife, Marie-Louise, and unleashes a series of near-lethal events before he miraculously makes things right. The Suite is a colorful piece of orchestral virtuosity.

In 1959, Kodaly’s first wife of 48 years died; he then married a 19-year-old student, with a 58 year age difference, and both were one happy couple (supposedly) until his own death in 1967, one year after a concert tour in the U.S.
Respighi’s Feste Romane evokes the spirit of Roman history from ancient times onwards – the spiritual pilgrimages to the Holy City, the romance of October Festival, the Circuses with their just plain fun-loving folks taking in the feasting of savage lions on the martyrs, etc.

Both works have immense potential appeal for beginning classical listeners and Toscanini’s conducting bristles with excitement.

Ella Fitzgerald

with Nelson Riddle’s arrangements and conducting; Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson; Verve V6-4054, 12-inch stereo vinyl LP, recorded 1962.

Ella Fitzgerald

The words Swings Brightly do not hint at the supremely splendid, vibrant excitement of this album. As far as I am concerned, Ella Fitzgerald sings renditions of the 12 songs contained here that have been rarely surpassed by anyone for power, beauty, elegance and all the other grossly overused synonyms for musical pleasure; and Nelson Riddle’s arrangements are those of once in a lifetime. Simply try Duke Ellington’s I’m Gonna Go Fishing, which I shared on my fb home page from YouTube, where it can be easily heard!

Pelican Brief

starring Julia Roberts, etc.; directed by Alan J. Pakula; Warner Brothers, 1993, 141 minutes.

Two Supreme Court justices of radically different ideologies are murdered on the same day. Thus no common thread is found to launch any type of investigation, until a Louisiana law student, Darby Shaw (played by Ms. Roberts), shows a brief to her professor who passes it along to a friend at the Justice Department.

Julia Roberts

Julia Roberts

All hell breaks loose for her – her car explodes, killing her professor inside who was borrowing it; she is pursued by killers from out of nowhere and doesn’t know who to trust. It’s 141 minutes of cat and mouse paranoia adding up to a most entertaining film. The late Hume Cronym does a captivating turn as one of the two murdered judges.


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