Sunday Music

Here we sit, and rest in our rooms, stare at screens, tempted to gargle the bleach.
When this started some weeks ago, all of a sudden nearly any website I visited had an article about virtual museum tours, whether it was a car magazine or a gossip journal made no difference. I still have not followed the call of the Sirens, and visited different collections, but soon I will. I only hope that I will know what I’ll see.
Because at Easter I accidentally saw a painting and could not (as so often) immediately decipher it. But I found someone who can & does, and other pictures of course too. I had seen Noli me tangere by TIZIAN (here), it is explained by British art historian Lynne HANLEY. And because the National Gallery is closed, Ms HANLEY sits down at her kitchen table and explains art in a weekly series, in an educated & entertaining way, I think.
In her feature about flowers in art, she starts with the præraffelitic Heliogabal’s Roses (Eng.), and mentions jokingly that it would need a lot of blossoms, roses or else, to kill the guests for dinner. Because exactly that is one of the crimes the third-century p.C.n. Emperor HELIOGABAL (ca. 204-222) (Ger., Eng.) is accused of, among many others. He, allegedly, murdered his guests with violets.
I think he surely not wished to squish them, besides the technical difficulties, it is a bit unaesthetic. I think the knack lies in the violets (“Veilchen”, Ger., Eng.). While the common “Stiefmütterchen” (Ger., Eng.) is absolutely innocent, and today again used as decoration in salads and drinks, the “Usambaraveilchen” (Ger.) is not so harmless. While a grown human person will not drop dead, small children and cats may feel ill after having ingested a part of it. And other flowers also go by the name of “viola”, so for example the “Nachtviole” (Ger., Eng.), very nicely scented, but poisonous in all parts.
GOd alone may know what HELIOGABAL had raining down on his dinner guests, but chances are that the blossoms, seed vessels etc. that fell on their food and into their happily used goblets, were poisonous. Whether the Emperor wanted this to happen, or whether he fell victim to an unhappy accident, who can decide ? In any case it added to HELIOGABALs bad press.
Bad reputation or case violet, we have to march on, the alternative is the bleach, not really an option. Narciso YEPES (1927-1997) (Ger., Eng.) shows us how it’s done with the Marcha Irlandesa. I hope you enjoy the music, may the coming week be friendly and peaceful. Just don’t eat the flowers.

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Oh Herr …

Since I stumbled out of this fancy doctor’s office on Wednesday afternoon i feel like living in a bubble. I held the papers they gave me, close to my chest and moved carefully since my eyes were still widened from the drops they had poured in “so that the professor can see better what is in your eyes”.
What he saw and showed me on a screen was not very nice, and since this afternoon i have to handle the unavoidable, an operation on my right eye. If it is not done soon things will deteriorate, so there is no real “choice”. I had to think of my venerated academic teacher who spent the last years of his life in his large library unable to read, a man who taught us “to see”, hinschauen, erkennen, the main capabilities in this field called Geisteswissenschaft. And i had to remember the old man I worked for in the early nineties, who only could read with the help of a very strong magnifying glass that was installed on his desk … Waiting is no option. And as Eros said, and what I know from experiences of humans very close to me, modern medicine made astonishing steps forward, there is no more payne … yes, I want to believe this.
I sit around, try to read. And since my eyes were examined more often in the last two weeks than in the years before, I realise how bad it has become. Especially since I sat the last time at my optician for last measurements, and something had to be checked for the final glasses’ strength. One more time a rack with lenses was put on my nose, a little tweak here & there – “Can you read this ?”
And all of a sudden i could read a text in (I guess) eight point (perhaps less) at my usual reading distance. Actually I have to take the glasses off and hold it close to my eyes for small print.
So progress is imminent. I have to take care for some things first, and then the procedure will be very soon.
All will be good.
I came to think about music that accompanied me through the years while I traveled through youtube lately. Of course this was triggered by the various list of “Top Tens” published by fellow bloggers through the last week(s) – Jon, IDV, Savannah, MsScarlet, Dinahmow, Eroswings – I only hope I missed no one.
There is some music I always come back to. I fear it may be boring to most of my venerated readers, sorry.
I do not use the lp-player any more, the large loudspeakers gather dust. They are made to fill a pretty large space with sound, this is not viable here. Thinking about it, when I go to youtube and search for a Sunday Music, I often begin with some of the music I like, liked from the start, when I started to listen, to buy records. Of course I missed a lot, there is an abundant mass of music out there, especially since it is not necessary anymore to depend on a record company and all this. A lot changed how to meet music, musicians, artists. but this is not the topic. There is a kind of old core, music I found sometime, mostly in my younger age, and that stayed with me. In fact, when I squint towards the shelf of records, I think that a lot of them could go, mostly newer ones, I would not miss them.
What I would miss, if I could not hear it anymore, is COLOSSEUMs (Ger., Eng.) Valentyne Suite (Eng.) (11/1969), of course the second side with the suite itself (here’s a link).
This music is often categorised as “Jazz Rock”, ach labels …
I am not too keen with the rock’n rollers of the fifties, somehow music started for me with the STONES, and Let It Bleed (Ger., Eng.) (12/1969) still is it (here Midnight Rambler).
I do not think that Mr RICHARDS is one of the “best” guitarreros in the world, it is nonsense to categorise artists this way. I simply like the guitar and admire what can be done with this instrument.
One of the live albums I always come back to (admittedly after some drinks), and one of the guitarreros I deeply admire, is Rory GALLAGHERs (Ger., Eng.) Irish Tour (Eng.) (6/1974) (here A Million Miles Away, remastered).
Sadly Rory’s dead, but Mr Robin TROWER (Ger., Eng.) is still active, and his album Bridge of Sighs (Eng.) (4/1974) is nothing to sneeze at ; other live albums I remember are THE WHOs Live at Leeds (rambam) (Ger., Eng.) (2/1970), and KING CRIMSONS Earthbound (rambam on steroids) (Eng. (6/1972).
But all this music obtains that the basic feeling is rage, anger, even for Rory’s drunken excursions.
Miles DAVIS Kind of Blue (Ger., Eng.) (8/1959) is totally different, one of the greatest lps ever made in my humble opinion. It speaks to you only when you are in the mood for it (here Flamenco Sketches).
There is so much, and so much still to be discovered, at least for me : From Orlando di LASSO to the latest stuff I can not name. It is always new, a new start. No need for Living in the Past (Ger., Eng. (6/1972) (song) only, it’s always Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day, like a rabbit on the run (here), hopefully not Thick as a Brick (here).

And then there are moments like this.
And there’s nothing left to say.

LESSING Makes Himself At Home

(The following is a continuation of this post.)

We left our hero when he came to Wolfenbuettel (Ger., Eng.). The year is 1770.
The first part of the 1760s LESSING had worked as secretary of the already mentioned Prussian general von TAUENTZIEN. In 1765 he went back to Berlin, back to the existence as free lance writer, critic, man of the theater. In 1767 he goes to Hamburg, with high hopes, to work on the newly founded Nationaltheater (Ger., Eng.). And because he learned a little from his earlier adventures, LESSING becomes partner in a printing house, what is meant as economical basis for his literary work. This also allows him to publish his own writings and a journal. He is back in the saddle, so to speak, after his military detour. The work at the theater leads to his “Hamburgische Dramaturgie” (Ger., Eng., here you go), other publications follow. LESSING arrives in the Hamburgian society, meets people there – he does not inhabit the proverbial ivory tower. Among people he got acquainted with is the family of the merchant KÖNIG.
In 1769 the party is over, LESSING is more or less banquerotte.
He accepts the position as librarian in Wolfenbuettel. I think he is interested in the library itself, but the need for a steady income is also a non deniable factor. His departure from Hamburg gets delayed several times, in the end he has to sell his private library (!) – achGOtt, who can imagine & appreciate what this means to a man whose existence is based on the written word ?
On the other hand is the Herzog-August-Bibliothek waiting, the HAB (Ger., Eng.). But let’s face it : Wolfenbuettel was in the 18th century a tiny town in the Northern marshlands where the proverbial dog is buried. The geographical situation did not change (and the dog was not exhumed), it was the same after WWII, just with the addition of the inner-German border ; and when the famous librarian RAABE (Ger.) came here (in the 1960s) he described (at least in my memory) the fog first. And the wetness. The darkness and the cold. It was not cold and wet when LESSING was presented as librarian there in May 1770 ; but in one of the next winters they could not work, because the ink had frozen in the bottles.
The building itself could kindly be described as a multi-purpose-hall. But one can concisely call it the Marstall (Ger., Eng.), the horse stables, with some galleries for book storing. The famous Rotunde was the arena where horses were trained and moved. Simple creature comfort for librarians was not in the specification book, or at least not high up : Heating, anyone ?
LESSING found himself billeted in the old castle (Ger., Eng.) – the court had moved to Braunschweig, the house was empty since 1753 – and there he lived alone in some rooms for the next seven years.
He found a vast book repository, some old servants, and a secretarius called Karl Johann Anton von CICHIN (1723-1795), he will survive LESSING. I found no biographical information about von CICHIN, but according to all I read about the man, and according to the notes CICHIN left (cited by LESSINGS biographer HILDEBRANDT), he was a very unpleasant character. A Dominican monk, what alone is enough to prod my curiosity – how comes a canis DOmini  to the Protestant court of Braunschweig, and how does he stay there ?
The older idea about LESSING as librarian was not very nice, some even thought that he did more harm than good in this position. But I think nowadays the common persuasion is that LESSING immersed himself into the task, he did draw a plan for cataloguing, but the realisation of this project was torpedoed by CICHIN.
Even in the biographical entry for LESSINGs successor, the first real librarian of the HAB, Ernst Theodor LANGER (1743-1820), the “Unbrauchbarkeit des Bibliotheksecretärs v. Cichin” (the uselessness of secretary v. CICHIN) is mentioned.
But LESSING makes the best from his situation. He works himself into the library and its treasure of manuscripts. The first fruit is his publication about “Berengar Turonensis”. He writes for the theatre, his “Emilia Galotti” comes out and goes over the ramp in 1772. He starts – or better : gets dragged into – his worst public polemic fight with the Hamburgian Pastor GOEZE (Ger., Eng.), about the Fragmente eines Ungenannten, “Fragments of an Unknown’s Text” (Ger.). These “fragments” are not “found in the library”, as LESSING states, in fact he smuggled the manuscript in. It was written by REIMARUS (Ger, Eng.), and can be understood to be one of the most important texts of the age of enlightenment (think : Deism) –  the public fight was pretty ugly, nevertheless.
But the important things are happening outside the Gelehrtenrepublik.
LESSING, past forty in 1770, gets engaged to Eva KÖNIG (Ger., Eng.), the widow of the mentioned Hamburgian merchant, who had died on a business trip in Venezia. They engage in 1771, but it will take some time until they tie the knot, on the 8th of October 1776.
And things get better !
The court decides to ramp up his income. And : They even pay it !
An adequate housing is taken care for : What today is known as Lessinghaus (Ger., Eng.) is cleared, cleaned and modernised for the bibliothecarius and his wife. He gets his own entrance to the HAB.
In the new house they live, here she gives birth to their first son, Traugott, on the 25th of December 1777.
Here the son dies right after birth.
Here Eva dies on the 10th of January 1778.
Here he writes in a letter : “My wife is dead ; now I too had this experience. I am glad that no such experiences are left for me to make ; I am feeling light.”

His fight with GOEZE heats up over the following months, but I insist that it is GOEZE who takes the argument ad hominem & leaves the factual level, who starts real nastiness. In the course of events LESSINGs exemption from censorship is revoked by the court, he can not publish freely any more.
In this situation he writes his “Nathan” (Ger., Eng.), the avowal, the affirmation to tolerance, not only religious tolerance, but tolerance as a value in general. Published in April 1779 it was first not successful with the audience – too intellectual, too much reflexion. Only IFFLANDs and GOETHEs stagings after 1802 made it a success.
After that he declines. Still writing & publishing, visitors to the library, but his vigor … the end comes in the form of some strokes (“Steckfluss” they call it) at his secondary home in Braunschweig, in the house of the merchant ANGOTT – you can not criticise this man for having a bolthole at a wine merchant’s !
Present are his step-daughter Amalia KÖNIG, he dies in the arms of a young Jewish man called DAVESON, determined, serene, voll Besinnung bis in den letzten Augenblick.
What a life. What payne, what struggle – the struggle to be one self, to define oneself, to think independently – to be free.

LESSING Enters the Building

If one visited a German school for some years, and had to study the school subject “Deutsch” / “German”, chances are very good that one encountered Mr LESSING (1729-1781) (Ger., Eng.). A classic *. It is possible that our imaginary student read Sara Sampson (Ger., Eng.) (1755), and it is possible that he remembers the “Ring-Parabel” from LESSINGs Nathan (Ger., Eng.) (1779).
What would be a good thing, and I’d call it a success.
But what does it mean to be “a classic” ?
It is a label pinned onto some people, artists, writers, public intellectuals avant la lettre, right after they have lived their lives. Later generations of scholars reach a consensus, and finally agree that this one or that one embodies something that goes further than his own reach, something that is significant for an epoch, or a generation. Being labeled “a classic” afterwards, post festum, when already dead, and hence unable to discuss the reasons for this label, seems to be a little unfair. Flattering of course. Why do I talk about this here, when I want to tell about Mr LESSING ? Would he strongly reject to be called “a classic” ? Would he love it ?
I do not know. I have no deep enough knowledge about the man to make a serious suggestion, but I think one thing is for sure : He would not “just accept” it and smile. LESSING was not afraid of a public argument, in fact he was a flamboyant polemicist – and he was always – always – “marching to his own drum” **. This meant that he was not saving people he called friends from his public critique, even when this led to, well, unfriendly feelings. I think in the end, verity was the most powerful and true value for him, and of course the ability to think for oneself. And this makes him a classic of the age of enlightenment. And he formed the new or modern German theatre of the eighteenth century.
He was born in Kamentz in the Oberlausitz, right into a family of protestant orthodoxy. Conservative to the bone. His father loved him, and recognised himself in this son. LESSING years later – when his father had died – realised how similar they were, especially in their irascibility. Only after the death of my father I realised how similar I am to him, not a shock, but something that makes one think. Old LESSING wanted his son to study and made it possible by asking for a stipendium for his son, which was granted. And the son went and skipped the studies and wrote for the theatre, ach what a shame : THEATRE ! Whores, gays, polymorphous pervertism !
And the string of disappointments went on and on (money ! marriage ! family !) ; they both must have felt terrible at times.
LESSING went to Leipzig. Later to Berlin. Than to Hamburg – where he worked on the theatre again and wrote his famous Hamburgische Dramaturgie (Ger., Eng.) between 1767 and 1769. I skip dates – if you are interested in the time line, see the linked articles please. For some years he went away from it all – simply vanished without notice. Only months later he resurfaced in Breslau as secretary of the Prussian general Bogislav von TAUENTZIEN (Ger., Eng.) (1710-1791). He did the general’s letters, administration etc. and spent his free time playing cards and drinking : He (the classic !) lived as a gambler through these years, and even later seems to have had a weak spot for this kind of amusement.
I want to focus on his time in Wolfenbüttel.

 

 

* For the following I use & refer heavily on HILDEBRANDT, Dieter : Lessing. Eine Biographie. Reinbek 1990 (first : Lessing. Biographie einer Emanzipation. München Wien 1979)
** Many thanks to LẌ for clarifying in his comment to this post from where the expression origins.