Day 456: David Copperfied + Caruso CD 4

A18VK9Yti2LPublished in 1849-1850, David Copperfield is arguably Charles Dickens’ most famous novel. I’m reading is the Nonesuch Dickens edition.

Some info on Charles Dickens, from his entry on Wikipedia:

Charles John Huffam Dickens (7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870) was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world’s most well-known fictional characters and is generally regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian period. During his life, his works enjoyed unprecedented popularity, and by the twentieth century he was widely seen as a literary genius by critics and scholars. His novels and short stories continue to be widely popular.

Born in Portsmouth, England, Dickens was forced to leave school to work in a factory when his father was thrown into debtors’ prison. Although he had little formal education, over his career he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote 15 novels, five novellas and hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children’s rights, education, and other social reforms.

Dickens sprang to fame with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity, famous for his humour, satire, and keen observation of character and society. His novels, most published in monthly or weekly instalments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication. The installment format allowed Dickens to evaluate his audience’s reaction, and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback. For example, when his wife’s chiropodist expressed distress at the way Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield seemed to reflect her disabilities, Dickens went on to improve the character with positive features. His plots were carefully constructed, and Dickens often wove in elements from topical events into his narratives. Masses of the illiterate poor chipped in ha’pennies to have each new monthly episode read to them, opening up and inspiring a new class of readers.

Dickens was the most popular novelist of his time, and remains one of the best known and most read of English authors. His works have never gone out of print, and have been adapted continually for the screen since the invention of cinema, with at least 200 motion pictures and TV adaptations based on Dickens’s works documented. Many of his works were adapted for the stage during his own lifetime, and as early as 1913, a silent film of The Pickwick Papers was made.

My listening pleasure this month comes from Continue reading

Day 399: Something Wicked + Caruso CD 1

WickedReading. Listening.

Well, it was a long, tiring drive back home, with much of it the white-knuckle kind.

The winds were high, it was snowing in Indiana, and I was tired.

But, it’s All Hallows Eve.

And Ray Bradbury’s book has drawn to a close, just as vividly and emotionally as it began.

Caruso CD 1 is now shelved.

Tomorrow starts a new book (Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice) and a new CD (Caruso CD 2).

CarusoThe edition of Austen’s classic novel that I’ll be reading is from Barnes & Noble, one of their leather-bound editions.

The Caruso CD comes from the Naxos box set Enrico Caruso: The Complete Recordings.

See you tomorrow.

Day 373: Something Wicked + Caruso CD 1

WickedThe first time I read Ray Bradbury’s incomparable book Something Wicked This Way Comes I was both scared spitless and embarrassingly jealous at the same time.

The former because it’s just a scary story. No question about it. The tale of the strange carnival that comes to one small Midwest town in the dead of night can scare the pants off anyone.

The latter because Bradbury’s writing style is inimitable. It crackles with life. I wish I had a fraction of Bradbury’s talent.

I think, with this book especially, it’s Bradbury’s vivid descriptions combined with his short, often one-word, verbs, usually set off with an exclamation point that gives the book a vibrancy, an immediacy, enabling it to transcend its medium.


That’s how Bradbury writes.


This is more than a book. Something Wicked reads like a first-hand account of the rise of a malevolent evil.

Bradbury adeptly weaves a spell so unbreakable that it holds me until I reach the last page. Even then I want to turn back to the front and start over – and be just as engaged (and surprised!) as I was the first time.

Something Wicked This Way Comes works on many levels. It is not a story for Continue reading

Day 252: Piano Variations III, Piano Sonatas Wo047, Misc. Piano Works I

BeethovenCD57Two pianists perform on today’s CD: Alfred Brendel and Ulrich Staerk.

I’ve been listening to Alfred for a week or two. He’s fantastic.

I’m not familiar with Ulrich Staerk. So I’ll have to Google him.

According to the Naxos web site (Naxos is another excellent Classical music label),

Ulrich Stærk has been a much sought-after concert pianist in Denmark since his debut in Copenhagen in 1989, and has a wide-ranging career on the Continent with concerts in cities like Paris, Vienna and London. He has worked with artists like Yo-Yo Ma, Barbara Frittoli, Inga Nielsen and the Rubinstein Quartet, and has been a soloist with several orchestras; among these we can mention the Schleswig-Holstein Symphony Orchestra, the Danish National Symphony Orchestra/DR, the Tivoli Symphony Orchestra and the regional orchestras in Århus and North Slesvig in piano concertos by Chopin, Mozart, Ravel, Bartók, Shostakovich, de Falla, Beethoven, Grieg, Gershwin and Czerny.

That doesn’t tell me how old he is. But it tells me he’s accomplished.

Tracks 1-9 (Alfred) were recorded between 1961 and 1964. They are:

6 Easy Variations in F Wo064 on a Swiss Air

9 Variations in A Wo069 on Paisello’s Air “Quant’e piu bello”

6 Variations in G Wo077 on an Original Theme

8 Variations in C Wo072 on Gretry’s Air “Un fievre brulante”

Rondo in G Op. 51 No. 2

Allegretto in C Minor Wo053

6 Ecossaises Wo083

Bagatelle in A Minor Wo059 “Fure Elise”

Polonaise in C Op. 89

Tracks 10-15 (Ulrich) were recorded in 2007. They are:

Piano Sonata in E Flat Wo047 No. 1

Piano Sonata in F Minor Wo047 No. 2

The incomparable “Fur Elise” is on this CD. I consider it one of the most beautiful melodies ever created.

Overall, I prefer Alfred Brendel over Ulrich Staerk. But Continue reading

Day 97: Of Snowstorms and Bagels

HaydnCD97As I type this, Michigan is in the middle of a winter storm warning the likes of which we haven’t seen in years.

It’s a good day to be holed up at Panera, drinking Light Roast coffee and eating a bagel.

Or, it’s a good day to be holed up at home, not venturing out into the weather. But I’m a bit of an adventurist. Or a fool. Take your pick.

Either way, today’s CD features Haydn’s Op. 64 quartets (Nos. 1, 2, 3), composed in 1790. Haydn was 58.

For some reason, these are called the “Tost” quartets. I’ll find out why soon enough.

After a bit of Googling, I found this as a pdf for I don’t know what:

From 1783 to 1788 the Hungarian Johann Tost was principal second violin in the Esterházy orchestra of which Haydn was music director. When Tost left Esterházy in 1788 to freelance in Paris, Haydn entrusted 6 quartets to him with a view to finding a publisher. Tost was successful, and they were published in Paris in two sets of three as Op 54 and 55. A later set of six, Op 64, were written in 1790, the year that Haydn first visited London. Around this time Tost returned from Paris, married the housekeeper at Esterházy (of whom Haydn was also fond) and used her money to set up a successful cloth business in Vienna. There in 1791 he also found a publisher for this Op 64 set, which are gratefully dedicated to him. Tost continued to play the violin and commission chamber works, whose performances in aristocratic homes provided an entrée for his cloth business; incidentally he is possibly the dedicatee (“composto per un amatore ongarese”) of the last two of Mozart’s string quintets.

Oh, now I see where that pdf came from. This web site. It’s an organization Continue reading