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Alex Ross Hough’s Nocturnes

Moonlight. The New Yorker, Jan. 31, 2022.

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Alex Ross Translating Mann

TMA_0198

Several people who’ve read my Mann essay in this week’s The New Yorker have asked me how this somewhat intimidating author might best be approached. I have no hesitation in recommending John E. Woods’s series of translation for Knopf: Buddenbrooks, The Magic Mountain, Joseph and His Brothers, Doctor Faustus. The first two are perhaps more easy to digest, relatively speaking, than the last two, although Joseph is a vastly more entertaining work than many people might expect. It does take a few hundred pages to get warmed up, but Mann’s mastery of storytelling creates a remarkable degree of suspect around stories that most people have known since childhood. There is also a strong underlay of mischief and sophistication. Faustus is the most difficult of these books, because of the density of the musical allusions, but it is also, I believe, Mann’s greatest, deepest, most personal work. There are also several good translations of the stories: I recommend those by David Luke and Jefferson Chase. The classic early stories — “Little Herr Friedemann,” “Tonio Kröger,” “Tristan” — are perhaps the best point of departure. “Death in Venice” is unavoidable, although it is probably the most elusive, deceptive Mann story of all.

Alas, Woods did not go on to translate Mann’s shorter novels: Royal Highness, Lotte in Weimar, Der Erwählte (published in English as The Holy Sinner). New versions of these books are sorely needed; the old ones are inadequate. Lotte is a particularly challenging text, because of the wild profusion of Goethe allusions. The monologue in the seventh chapter is perhaps Mann’s most extraordinary feat of collage-writing. As much as Joyce’s Ulysses, this is a book that needs to be read with a guide — such as Heinrich Detering provides in the Kommentar volume of the Grosse kommentierte Frankfurter Ausgabe. We will probably never get such a thing in English, but a more accurate and modern translation would do wonders for this profound comedy of a book. 

As for the prose writings, these are largely inaccessible, unless one searches out the old Lowe-Porter translations in used bookstores. Many of Mann’s most interesting essays — “Bilse and I,” “Occult Experiences,” “On Marriage,” his unpublished cri de coeur against McCarthyism — have never been translated. The return to print of Reflections of a Nonpolitical Man is a mixed blessing given the absence of the other work. Aside from the issues I’ve raised about Mark Lilla’s introduction, there are also problems of translation. Walter D. Morris’s 1983 rendering of Reflections is a valiant attempt at an impossible task, and it holds up reasonably well, although there are errors that could have been corrected: misplaced quotation marks, typos (on p. 326, “the principle of even freedom” should be “the principle of every freedom”), awkwardnesses (it would be better to say that the “shores reecho with the sounds of a hunting horn,” not a “French horn”). Appended are two essays, “Thoughts in Wartime” from 1914 and “On the German Republic” from 1922. The latter was presented in bowdlerized form by Lowe-Porter, with the author’s connivance; American audiences were deemed unready for Mann’s peculiar strategy of celebrating democracy by way of Whitmanesque homoeroticism. Lawrence Rainey’s version is complete but not especially accurate. On p. 515, we read that Gerhart Hauptmann “conducted himself as a man of letters”; this should be, “He did not conduct himself as a man of letters” — a vestige of the rhetoric of Reflections. A little later, we read, “Young men, please not that tone!” Mann in fact writes: “Jungmannschaft — nicht diese Töne!” — something like “Young teammates — not these tones!” What Rainey missed here was an allusion to the finale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Throughout the essay, Mann is fantasizing that he is addressing a crowd of boisterous young men whom he intends to win over to the cause of democracy with his seductive talk of comradeship. That he thinks a Beethoven reference will help his case is part of the charming absurdity of the exercise.

The verion of “Thoughts in Wartime” is credited to Mark Lilla and Cosima Mattner. Why it was felt that we needed an English version of this generally ugly essay when so much else by Mann remains unavailable in English is unclear to me. That aside, I find the translation troubling in its tendency to simplify Mann’s prose and drop phrases. Here is how the opening is rendered:

So often in today’s press the words “culture” and “civilization” are used inaccurately and arbitrarily. Sometimes they are treated as equivalent, sometimes as being on a continuum. And it is never clear which of the two—culture or civilization—is superior to the other. Here is how I understand the terms.

A more literal translation would read like this:

Much inaccuracy and arbitrariness prevail in the use of the buzzwords “culture” and “civilization,” especially in the daily press, both at home and abroad. Sometimes one seems simply to mix them up as if they meant the same thing; sometimes it appears as if the first is considered a heightening of the second, or vice versa — it remains uncertain which state actually counts as the higher and nobler one. For my part, I have arranged the terms as follows.

The translation goes on in this vein, with various fussy complications of Mann’s prose set aside in an apparent attempt to make the writing blunter, breezier, more think-piece-like. In the process, it ceases to sound like Mann. Convoluted openings are part of his prose strategy; he often uses them as a foil for sharper, crisper utterances later on. In this case, the preliminary throat-clearing feels part of the author’s psychological condition as he embarks on a plunge into politics that will do him considerable damage, as he is perhaps aware. Morris is much more faithful to that voice, in a way that makes Reflections a chore to read, but in a necessary way.

The best of the Mann biographies, I find, is Hermann Kurzke’s Thomas Mann: Life as a Work of Art, although it perhaps goes too far in interpreting Mann’s fiction as a reflection of his life. It also presumes a quite high level of acquaintance with the work itself. Anthony Heilbut’s Thomas Mann: Eros and Literature is an excellent study of Mann through a sexual lens, even it is a bit overzealous in seeking out a physical side to that sexuality, as I discussed in a 1996 essay for The New Yorker. There is still space for a comprehensive biography of Mann in English. I hope to write one some day.

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Franz Liszt (1811-1886)

Donald Macleod reflects on Franz Liszt’s Hungarian story – he spent little time there and couldn’t speak the language but just how important to his music was the land of his birth?

Music Featured:

Hungarian Rhapsody No 8 in F sharp minor
Die Drei Zigeuner
Symphonic Poem: From the Cradle to the Grave
Fantasy on Motifs from Beethoven’s ‘Ruinen von Athen’
Variation on a Theme of Diabelli
Hungarian Rhapsody No 10 in E – ‘Preludio’
Hungarian Rhapsody No 5 in E minor ‘Heroide-elegiaque’
Six Grandes Etudes de Paganini – No 6 “La Campanella”
Fantasia on Hungarian Folk Themes
Hungarian Rhapsody No 15 ‘Rakoczy March’
Arbeiterchor
Symphonic Poem – ‘Hungaria’
Liebestraum No 1 ‘Hohe Lieb’
‘Magyarok Istene’ (version for organ)
2 Légendes – No 2 ‘St Francois de Paule marchant sur les flots’
Hungarian Coronation Mass – II. ‘Gloria’
Hungarian Rhapsody No 9 in flat ‘Pesther Carnival – II. Finale presto
Piano Concerto No 2 in A
Hungarian Rhapsody No 6 in D flat
Hungarian Rhapsody No 4 in d minor (orchestal arrangement)
Die Legende von der Heiligen Elisabeth – Part 2 (“Death of Elisabeth”; “Chorus of Angels”)
Hungarian Portraits – “Mosonyi Grabgeleit”
Cardas Macabre (arr. for Hungarian folk instruments)
Seven Sacramenta – Responsories V. ‘Extreme unctio’
Hungarian Rhapsody No 11 in a minor

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Chris Wines

For full track listings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Franz Liszt (1811-1886) https://ift.tt/3AiizGB

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: https://ift.tt/2vwHS8q

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Alex Ross At the grave of Korngold

The music on the grave is, of course … 

Previously: Salieri, Bruckner, Liszt, Georg Trakl, Willa Cather and Edith Lewis, Thomas Mann, Bach, Nietzsche, Monteverdi, Koussevitzky, Michael Furey, Luranah Aldridge, Ligeti, Frescobaldi, Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Baudelaire and Beckett, Nadia and Lili Boulanger, Stravinsky and Nono, Zemlinsky, Schnittke, Fibich, Xavier Scharwenka, Elliott Carter, Enescu, Rachmaninov, Mahler and many others, Russ.

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Alex Ross Mann vs. Heydrich

Screen Shot 2022-01-18 at 12.28.20 PM

Reinhard Heydrich’s memo about Thomas Mann, July 1933.

In my Thomas Mann essay in this week’s New Yorker, I write about a critical and dramatic moment in the author’s life, one whose full dimensions became clear only long after his death. On Feb. 11, 1933, shortly after Hitler became Reichskanzler, Mann left Germany to deliver a series of lectures on Wagner in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris. He and his wife, Katia, then went on vacation in Switzerland. Mann returned to his native land only in 1949, and did not live there again. Because the departure had not been planned, a great quantity of papers remained at Mann’s house in Munich, including volumes of his diaries, in which his same-sex desires were very evident. Mann almost immediately began to worry that the diaries would fall into the hands of the Nazis, who could have made a propaganda bonanza out of them — or, possibly, have tried to blackmail Mann into returning to Germany and endorsing the regime.

A quasi-novelistic series of events ensued. Golo Mann, one of the novelist’s sons, was deputized with packing up the diaries and other important documents. Mann explicitly asked his son not to read the journals. Golo complied, taking the precaution of locking the door while he crammed thirty-eight kilograms of papers into a large suitcase, including the typescript of Joseph and His Brothers. Golo was preparing to ship the suitcase when he was met by the family chauffeur, Heins, who offered to take care of the heavy parcel himself. Golo handed it over — a questionable decision, since Heins had admitted his Nazi sympathies. As weeks went by and the suitcase failed to appear in Switzerland, the family came to suspect that Heins had brought it to the police. In fact, as later researches made clear, the shipment did reach the border in Lindau, where a police official named Neeb detained it. Opening the suitcase, Neeb found a set of contracts that made clear Mann’s considerable earnings as an author. He got in touch with the political-police office in Munich, offering to send the material for inspection. There was, indeed, great curiosity in Munich, as the document below makes clear. “Eilt sehr!” is written on the top — extremely urgent. The contracts were sent to Munich, information was copied down, the contracts were sent back, and Neeb allowed the parcel to proceed. 

Screen Shot 2022-01-18 at 11.43.50 AM

Neeb also wrote in his memo: “A look through the suitcase revealed that it contained only manuscripts of Thomas Mann’s novels and short stories. It gives the impression that Thomas Mann does not intend to return to Germany in the near future.” Either the official failed to notice the diaries, or, as Hermann Kurzke speculates in his remarkable biography Thomas Mann: Das Leben als Kunstwerk, possibly he decided that private matters were better left private. The memo gives the impression of a punctilious bureaucrat, one would presumably have made a thorough inspection. In any case, the suitcase arrived intact, and Mann had the impression that it had not been disturbed. He never learned what a stroke of luck been granted to him; the Neeb memo was published in 1987, in Jürgen Kolbe’s book Heller Zauber: Thomas Mann in München 1894–1933.

Neeb addressed his memo to “O. Sektr. Müller,” in Abteilung VI of the Munich Polizeidirektion. This was Heinrich Müller, who would rise to become chief of the Gestapo and would play a crucial role in the planning of the Holocaust. His superior was Reinhard Heydrich, who ran Abteilung VI, the political division of the Bavarian police. There is no question that if the entire suitcase had been sent to Munich its contents would have been of extraordinary interest to Müller, Heydrich, and Heinrich Himmler. The Nazis were very exercised about Thomas Mann, who was widely seen as an apostate from the right-wing cause on account of his embrace of the Weimar Republic in 1922. In July 1933, Heydrich went to the trouble of writing up a two-page memo detailing Mann’s ideological crimes, leading in an ominous conclusion: “This anti-German, Marxist, pro-Jewish attitude, one hostile to the national movement, gave reason to issue a protective custody order against Thomas Mann, which, however, could not be carried out on account of his absence.” Of that document Mann had no inkling. But he was right to say, as he did on various occasions, that if he had remained in Germany he would have wound up jailed or dead. Even when he was in Switzerland, there was a not unjustified fear that he could be kidnapped or assassinated.

Screen Shot 2022-01-18 at 11.43.12 AM

A fruitless thought experiment: what would have happened if the Nazis had published incriminating excerpts from the diaries, including those detailing his 1927 infatuation with the eighteen-year-old Klaus Heuser, which could have been interpreted as indicating a physical affair? (As I write in my New Yorker piece, Heuser’s own later testimony suggests that nothing of the sort happened.) Perhaps Mann would have been driven to despair, even suicide. Or — I admit this is extremely unlikely — perhaps he would have written an essay saying, yes, I have been attracted to men, though I have never acted on those impulses — so what? He had come close to making such an admission already. It is implicit in the bizarre 1925 essay “On Marriage,” which spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the impossibility of gay desire, as if this were an ordinary factor in any man’s decision to marry. A 1920 letter to the gay poet and educator Carl Maria Weber is also moderately forthcoming. Behind the mask of bourgeois reserve, there was a deep streak of defiant pride in Mann, and I don’t think his response to a Nazi exposé would have been quiet either way.

Profuse thanks, as ever, to Hans Rudolf Vaget.

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Alex Ross Mann vs. Heydrich

Reinhard Heydrich’s memo about Thomas Mann, July 1933.
In my Thomas Mann essay in this week’s New Yorker, I write about a critical and dramatic moment in the author’s life, one whose full dimensions became clear only long after his death. On Feb. 11, 1933, shortly after Hitler became Reichskanzler, Mann left Germany to deliver a series of lectures on Wagner in Amsterdam, Brussels, and Paris. He and his wife, Katia, then went on vacation in Switzerland. Mann returned to his native land only in 1949, and did not live there again. Because the departure had not been planned, a great quantity of papers remained at Mann’s house in Munich, including volumes of his diaries, in which his same-sex desires were very evident. Mann almost immediately began to worry that the diaries would fall into the hands of the Nazis, who could have made a propaganda bonanza out of them — or, possibly, have tried to blackmail Mann into returning to Germany and endorsing the regime.
A quasi-novelistic series of events ensued. Golo Mann, one of the novelist’s sons, was still in Germany, and was deputized with packing up the diaries and other important documents. Mann explicitly asked his son not to read the journals. Golo complied, taking the precaution of locking the door while he packed thirty-eight kilograms of papers into a large suitcase. He was preparing to ship the suitcase when he was intercepted by the family chauffeur, Heins, who offered to ship the heavy parcel himself. This was a questionable decision on Golo’s part, since Heins had admitted his Nazi sympathies. As weeks went by and the suitcase failed to appear in Switzerland, the family came to suspect that Heins had brought it straight to the police. In fact, as later researches made clear, the suitcase did reach the border, whereupon a police official named Neeb detained it and inspected it. Heins may have alerted the police after dispatching the suitcase, although it seems more likely that Neeb simply noticed the significant name and became curious about the contents. On the top, Neeb fond a set of contracts that made clear Mann’s considerable earnings as an author. He got in touch with the political-police office in Munich, offering to send the material for inspection. There was, indeed, great curiosity in Munich, as the document below makes clear. “Eilt sehr!” is written on the top — extremely urgent. The contracts were sent to Munich, information was copied down, the contracts were sent back, and Neeb allowed the parcel to proceed. 

Neeb also wrote in his memo: “A look through the suitcase revealed that it contained only manuscripts of Thomas Mann’s novels and short stories. It gives the impression that Thomas Mann does not intend to return to Germany in the near future.” Either the official failed to notice the presence of the diaries, or, as Hermann Kurzke speculates in his remarkable biography Thomas Mann: Das Leben als Kunstwerk, possibly he decided that private matters were better left private. The memo gives the impression of a punctilious bureaucrat, one would presumably have made a thorough inspection. In any case, the suitcase arrived intact, and Mann had the impression that it had not been disturbed. He never learned what a stroke of luck been granted to him; the Neeb memo was published in 1987, in Jürgen Kolbe’s book Heller Zauber: Thomas Mann in München 1894–1933.
Neeb addressed his memo to “O. Sektr. Müller,” in Abteilung VI of the Munich Polizeidirektion. This was Heinrich Müller, who would rise to become chief of the Gestapo and would play a crucial role in the planning of the Holocaust. His superior was Reinhard Heydrich, who ran Abteilung VI, the political division of the Bavarian police. There is no question that if the entire suitcase had arrived in Munich its contents would have been of extraordinary interest to Müller, Heydrich, and Heinrich Himmler. The Nazis were very exercised about Thomas Mann, who was widely seen as an apostate from the right-wing cause on account of his embrace of the Weimar Republic in 1922. In July 1933, Heydrich went to the trouble of writing up a two-page memo detailing Mann’s ideological crimes, ending with the text reproduced at the top of this post: “This anti-German, Marxist, and pro-Jewish attitude, one hostile to the national movement, gave reason to issue a protective custody order against Thomas Mann, which, however, could not be carried out on account of his absence.” Of that document Mann had no inkling. But he was right to say, as he did on various occasions, that if he had remained in Germany he would have wound up jailed or dead.
A fruitless thought experiment: what would have happened if the Nazis had published incriminating excerpts from the diaries, including those detailing his 1927 infatuation with the eighteen-year-old Klaus Heuser, which could have been interpreted as indicating a physical affair? (As I write in my New Yorker piece, Heuser’s own later testimony suggests that nothing of the sort happened.) Perhaps Mann would have been driven to despair, even suicide. Or — I admit this is extremely unlikely, but not impossible — perhaps he would have written an essay saying, yes, I have been attracted to men, though I have never acted on those impulses — so what? He had come close to making such an admission already. It is implicit in the bizarre 1925 essay “On Marriage,” which spends an inordinate amount of time discussing the impossibility of gay desire, as if this were an ordinary factor in any man’s decision to marry. A 1920 letter to the gay poet and educator Carl Maria Weber is also moderately forthcoming. There was a deep streak of defiant pride in Mann, and I don’t think his response to a Nazi exposé would have been quiet either way.
Profuse thanks, as ever, to Hans Rudolf Vaget.

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Alex Ross Thomas Mann, again

Behind the Mask. The New Yorker, Jan. 24, 2022.
Previously: Mann in Love, Mann and music (NYT), fictional composers, the Mann house in LA, the Mann house again, Adrian Leverkühn companion, Exodus.

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Alex Ross For Terry Teachout

I was deeply saddened to hear of the death, at the age of sixty-five, of the critic, biographer, and playwright Terry Teachout. Terry was, as Ethan Iverson comments, an uncommonly generous soul who seemed incapable of holding a grudge. His inexhaustible attention to theater across the country was a model for me as a critic. He had a great deal to do with the fact that I started this blog back in 2004. I saw him seldom in person, but he was a constant presence in my life nonetheless, through his writing and through social media. A couple of weeks ago, I posted something enthusiastic about Frank Martin, and Terry posted something enthusiastic in return. It’s the kind of exchange that makes one think one isn’t alone in the world. I offer Martin’s great Mass for double choir in Terry’s honor.

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Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687)

Donald Macleod explores the life and work of Jean-Baptiste Lully

Jean-Baptiste Lully was the most influential French composer of the 17th Century, a key figure in the court of Louis XIV. This week, Donald Macleod explores how Lully rose from humble origins in Italy to become the most powerful musician in France, a story of lies, ambition and intrigue.

Music Featured:

Phaëton, LWV 61, Overture
Le Carnaval, LWV 52, Overture
Le Carnaval, LWV 52 (Air “Son dottor per occasion”)
Dies Irae, LWV 64/1
Dances – Les noces de village, LWV 19 (excerpts)
Psyché, LWV 56 (Finale)
Atys, LWV 53, Overture
Anon – Les Nuits Ballet: Ouverture
Ballet royal de Flore, LWV 40 (excerpt)
Ballet royal des amours déguisés, LWV 21 (Air “Ah! Rinaldo, e dove sei?”)
L’amour malade, LWV 8
Jubilate Deo – Motet de la paix, LWV 77/16
Alcidiane, LWV 9, Ouverture
Armide, LWV 71 (End of Act II)
Ballet Naissance de Venus, LWV 27 (excerpt)
Le Triomphe de l’amour, LWV 59 (excerpts)
Miserere, LWV 25
Les Plaisirs de l’île enchantée, LWV 22 (Divertisment No 5)
Le Carrousel de Monseigneur, LWV 72 (Marches Militaires)
La Princesse d’Elide, LWV 22 (Quand l’amour a nos yeux)
Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, LWV 43 (excerpt)
Psyché, LWV 45, Act I “Deh, piangete al pianto mio”
Cadmus et Hermione, LWV 49 (Marche pour le sacrifice; ‘C’est vainement que l’on espère’)
Te Deum, LWV 55 (Sinfonie and Te deum laudamus)
Thesée, LWV 51 (end of Act V)
La Bourgeois Gentilhomme, LWV 43 (La cérémonie turque)
Armide, LWV 71, Overture
De Profundis, LWV 62 (Requiem aeternum)

Presented by Donald Macleod
Produced by Sam Phillips for BBC Wales

For full track listings, including artist and recording details, and to listen to the pieces featured in full (for 30 days after broadcast) head to the series page for Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) https://ift.tt/33EVykY

And you can delve into the A-Z of all the composers we’ve featured on Composer of the Week here: https://ift.tt/2vwHS8q

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