1) Since posting my Addenda to the Civic Orchestra of Chicago Concert (below), the renowned Russian conductor and arranger Rudolf Barshai has passed away. Mr. Barshai was one of many to arrange Shostakovich’s 8th string quartet for string orchestra, but his was the only one to receive Shostakovich’s express approval.
2) The critics (the good ones at least) found out what I’ve known since the tender age of 19: that “A Quiet Place” just isn’t Lenny’s finest work. In fact, it’s not really even very good. OK, let’s admit it: it’s a klunker. And the really unfortunate thing is that when he interpolated his earlier opera, “Trouble in Tahiti”, into the flow of the later work, it just served to emphasize the genius of 40′s and 50′s Lenny and the unfortunate turn that 80′s Lenny had taken.
[Ed: the above picture is not in any way meant to illustrate an "unfortunate turn". Quite to the contrary, it's actually a portrait of perfection. Which will work against the ensuing argument, but it's still a great picture.]
But I actually find something very inspirational in “A Quiet Place”, because it makes Lenny more human. As Stephen Sondheim says, the main thing he learned from Lenny is that if you’re going to fall off the ladder, fall off the highest rung. And it turns out that Lenny wasn’t perfect! He fell hard. Although I think he would have made a great fireman. [That's a reference to the aforementioned "ladders". And just a general comment.]
3) Speaking of Maestro Sondheim, I put my entire life on hold for 2 1/2 days so I could read his new book of collected lyrics, Finishing the Hat. It’s every bit as brilliant as you’d expect it to be, and also more. It is a vivid insight into the mind of a genius. It makes you feel like you’re sitting right next to Mr. Sondheim himself and he’s explaining to you everything you ever wanted to know. Since the lyrics in this volume only run through 1981, it also leaves you begging for more.
Which brings me to a particular post-1981 Sondheim lyric, and a particularly cheeky end to this blog post. I’d like to share with you something that recently dawned on me. Actually, I’ll challenge you to find it for yourself. See if you can you discover the hidden libertarian message in this song:
Here’s a clue:
Although I have a feeling that these two pieces reach slightly different conclusions…