A Kyle Gann list of American symphonies got me thinking about my own favorites in the genre. Certainly, I'd second many of Kyle's choices. Two additions: William Levi Dawson's Negro Folk Symphony, a neglected delight, and the piercing Symphony (1962) of Irving Fine, whose centenary will arrive at the end of the year. (Contrary to the caption in the YouTube upload above, Fine himself is the conductor.)
My thoughtful husband alerted me to the fact that on a recent episode of the Victorian-Gothic series Penny Dreadful the Wild West character played by Josh Hartnett is so overcome by the strains of Tristan und Isolde, not to mention several glasses of absinthe, that he is inspired to begin making out with none other than Dorian Gray (portrayed by Reeve Carney, previously a singing Spider-Man). "I'd ask if you had heard of Wagner," Gray asks, "but you'd pretend you hadn't." Opera Fresh has more coverage of the show's saucy operatic goings-on.
Longtime readers of this blog may recall sporadic posts on the subject of encounters between Richard Strauss and American soldiers in the years of the Allied occupation of Germany. One time I pleaded for information about Major John Kramers, who is mentioned in Strauss's diary. As I report in this New Yorkerblog post, I finally know more about him: Dr. Carl Ellenberger, of Mount Gretna PA, interviewed Kramers some years ago about his meeting with Strauss, and in 2012 reported his findings on the blog of the chamber-music series Gretna Music. It's the bitterwseet ending to a longtime obsession. Many thanks to Hannah Edgar, a young writer and violinist from Walnut Creek CA, for having prompted this discovery. Walnut Creek is, incidentally, the former home of the celebrated oboist John de Lancie, who inspired the Strauss Oboe Concerto.
The seemingly indestructible diva has died at the age of eighty-nine. Sarah Larson remembers her on the New Yorker website. Stritch's immortal versions of "The Ladies Who Lunch" have been widely shared, so I thought I'd feature this clip from her final run of Café Carlyle shows, in which she singles out one of her most ardent fans. (Levine famously went to seeElaine Stritch at Liberty fourteen times.) The recent documentary Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me captures her splendidly.