Wednesday, October 17, 2012

heading out

Two cultural activities last Sunday, not just one. First, to San Jose Rep for the play Freud's Last Session. This was a "what if?" story involving C.S. Lewis. Inspired by a nonfiction book contrasting the views of Lewis and Freud, the play imagines that Lewis had come to see Freud for a philosophical discussion during the 16 months that Freud lived in London between his escape from Nazi-occupied Vienna and his death. It works pretty well, and comes off as dramatic rather than rarified. None of the issues are resolved - how could they be?; they've been disputed for centuries - and the script terminates the various discussions with various interruptions, after each of which the discussants get on to something else. I don't know that much of Freud, but the author has read Lewis, and introduces ideas from his writings without making Lewis sound as if he's just mouthing his books (something which the famous Shadowlands had some trouble with). The catch is that, though the character expresses Lewis's ideas, he doesn't always do so in Lewis's voice. But since the real Lewis could be a heavy and underhanded debater, this play's open-hearted character makes a better discussion partner.

Then on to a concert for review. I don't cover piano recitals very often, and they don't offer much cover for a reviewer who doesn't already know the music. I didn't know these particular big works by Liszt and Chopin, so I spent a lot of time beforehand with various recordings and the scores. This was the first time I'd studied the scores of either, and I got a distinct impression of their difference. Chopin's sonata is dense and convoluted. Liszt's suite is open and - "simple" isn't the right word; look at the harmonies - broad, straightforward, un-convoluted. I like the Chopin better, but the pianist did a superior job with the Liszt.

And then I goofed up by mishearing the name that the pianist announced as the composer of her encores, and didn't have the chance to check with authority. No wonder I couldn't find them in the wrong composer's oeuvre.

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