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Homage to Catalonia, Baroque Music and Haydn Quartets

George Orwell had fought in the brutal Spanish civil war of 1936, the book Homage to Catalonia is a vivid memoir, with an occasional chapter or two on the political situation in Spain of 1936, that chronicles his ordeal and narrow escape. His account of the year or so he spent fighting both at the front and in the streets of Barcelona makes you understand how he could come-up with brilliant, timeless classics like Animal Farm and 1984 � classics that have almost assumed the status of universal truth (which in a way is a sad reflection on civilized world�s inability to learn from its own mistakes). Another reason why I had a fringe interest in Spanish civil war (that made me pick this work by Orwell) was because of the fact that it had had a profound impact on Dali (Soft construction with Boiled beans is a work he produced to express his horror at the prospect of civil war in Spain, while Autumn Cannibalism was painted after the civil war broke out in July 1936.). Stark. Definitely worth a read.

I am enamored by Baroque music for last two days. I had heard Bach�s Brandenburg Concertos earlier but they couldn�t quite get me to pursue Bach beyond a point. But I�ve recently picked his double violin and violin concertos and now just can�t stop playing them! Its worth mentioning how my interest in Baroque was revived � one of the old Rahman CD I had picked from Chennai, had on it, score of another movie, by this composer called Deva. Now Deva is known less for his creative finesse and more for blatant plagiarizing, and indeed, true to his reputation has used a complete baroque piece as intro for one of the Tamil songs � I liked what I heard (the intro that is ;-)) and thus decided to give Bach another chance! I personally feel that these violin concertos are lot richer than the acclaimed Brandenburg concertos and have forced me to re-rank Bach somewhat higher amongst my mental list of classical composers.

Another surprise pick this week was Mozart. As much as I like western classical, I�ve never quite been able to cultivate taste for Mozart (barring 5 or 6 odd compositions by him). I picked first two (No. 14, K.367; No. 15, K. 467) of the six quartets that he had dedicated to Haydn (which is why they are sometimes collectively referred to as �Haydn Quartets�). The fact that Cleveland Quartet was performing them made the choice a little easier. [The Cleveland Quartet split up in 1995, and had performed for most of their recordings on a matched Stradivarius set that once belonged to Pagnini, on loan to them from Corcoran gallery of art]. Enjoying both the quartets � the final movement of K. 467 for some strange reason reminds me of Bach, perhaps it has a dash of Baroque in it. Both quartets have this noble, jovial romantic quality that makes you play them on and on�

These occasional digressions apart, I am glad that I mostly stick to Beethoven, the volumes of work other composers - most notably; Bach, Mozart and Haydn (100+ symphonies!) - churned out, would make it almost impossible for me to own their entire works without looking at the calamitous prospect of liquidating most of my tangible assets�

posted: 11.12.03

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