Thursday, February 28, 2008

Franz Liszt Accompanies Tour of Budapest

Dear Franz,

Thank you for providing background music for our tour. Though we didn't go to any Liszt concerts while in your fair city, this soundtrack more than makes up for it. Thanks. Gee, we didn't even get to go to the Liszt Ferenc Memorial Museum, which I hear is a recreation of your last Budapest flat. Well, next time.

I'm posting this semi-repetition of my last slide collection because I have overcome some of the innate technological problems of the last. Plus, and this is big, your music as well as some title slides to tell where we are.



Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Budapest: Betsy and Steve's Great Adventure

Dear Alan and Malinda,

I cannot express what a pleasure it was to be with you and to explore the wonders of the beautiful city of Budapest, Hungary. The slideshow below is somewhat chronological as you will realize. It cannot capture, but only reflect the beauty and old world vitality of the city.

Of course my remembrances of this great adventure will always be colored by the warmth of your hospitality and flavored by the zest of your spirits.

Thank you.


Betsy and Steve

Friday, February 15, 2008

Budapest Opera House

Dear Ybl Miklos,

I am blown away by your work. I've been in Hungary such a short time, but already I understand what an important influence you have been to the art and architecture of the place. I'll write more later, but I wanted to just send this short line and attach the video so you can see how your opera house looked last Tuesday prior to the performance of The Magic Flute (which was excellent, i must say).

Wish you were here.


Saturday, February 09, 2008

Lenten Lands

Dear Conversely and T. Azimuth,

I know that I once said that I don't write poetry, and I don't anymore, but this is very old, and never shared publicly before.

I have given up the United States for lent, at least so far. And here in this far away land of Budapest, Hungary, I am thinking of lent and giving up and being far from home.

Lenten Prayer

Alpha, Omega, Ancient of days dawned ashen,
This we bring to you.
The starting of it, later, the ending of it,
And between. . . dark, dank.

Lent, not holy, but desperate and full of stiff
Desperate measures,
One paralysis leading on to another.
No sleep, nor eating,
Choking on the idea of food or warmth or rest,
We sink under the weight.

It was Lent when Judas tossed his coins, felt the weight,
And hanged himself.
Those cords slipped so easily round the guilty neck,
The paralyzed neck
Of one whose sin so beset him that hope, too, fled,
He, left with just rope.

And I also, before dear Alpha, stand proscribed.
“Anathema” sounds, loud.
Sin has so beset us.
Eaten us empty.
We'll feed it no more.

. . . No eating in Lent. We'll feed it no more.
Starve it.
Tear at its clothing.
Let it be naked in the cold, wholly exposed.
Shake it from sleeping.
Give it not a wink's rest in Lent to gather strength,
This sin filled body.

And before Omega come, not as a Judas,
God, not as Judas,
Though our betrayal is as complete and as real.
But tossing us down
At Lent's end, with Peter, lonely, clasping your feet,
Begging, forgive us still.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Black Monk, Saving Orchards from Frost, and Lensky's (or Kovrin's) Aria

Dear Anton Chekhov,

I was fascinated by a couple of things while reading your short story, The Black Monk. The first is a criticism. The other, I'm not sure. The first is something about horticulture. It is about living in an orchard.

Early in my married life I lived in orchard country, more specifically, in the middle of orchards of apples and peaches. Have you ever eaten a ripe peach, picked warm from a tree, ripened wholly on the branches? Oh, how divine the taste, the sweetness. I have never eaten a "store-bought" peach that even closely compares. I don't even buy peaches. My palette has been ruined.

But, back to the subject, the farmer who worked that land, who like Tania's father works from love and attachment to land and plants, is full of knowledge and solutions. The solution you described in the opening pages of The Black Monk is one that was used at the time of your writing, and is used yet today. However, the weakness in your portrayal of Kovrin, upon returning to his adopted home one frosty spring night, is that he was surprised and full of questions at the process of burning debris to save the budding trees of the orchards. Frankly Anton, he would have known. He could not have grown up near an orchard ignorant of such fires and the stoking of such smoke. April, says Eliot, is the cruelist month. At least it is for the farmer. He or she just begins to breathe deeply the sun stroked gusts of blossom-scented air when it freezes in his/her nostrils.

So Yegor Pesotsky and Tania and Andrei Kovrin too, all would have known from hard experience the drill of long nights tending fires on the evenings of spring that had played them false. I, too, have known the phantom clouds, not appearing as a whirlwinding Black Monk but wafting from piles of burning trash and used tires with the rubber emitting acridity as well as makeshift cumulus forms.

The second element I noticed was the song from Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin that Kovrin chose to hum to Tania when first he noticed her, not as a child, but as a woman.

Interestingly, one of my favorites of late, Vladimir Nabokov, translated a version of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin in which I found this passage:

Or when a falling star along the dark sky flew and dissipated, then Tanya would hasten in confusion while the star still was rolling her heart's desire to whisper to it. When anywhere she happened a black monk to encounter, or 'mongst the fields a rapid hare would run across her path, so scared she knew not what to undertake, with sorrowful forebodings filled, directly she expected some mishap.
So is this where you found inspiration for your eerie Black Monk? I notice that here Pushkin pictures Tanya as being frightened by a falling star. You used that image, too, in your story about an artist. You must have liked Pushkin's novel/poem very much, so I can imagine that you were among the first, at the opening nights of Tchaikovsky's operatic version of Onegin to listen and love the music. From Pushkin you secreted away the name of the leading lady for your tale. From Tchaikovsky's Onegin you took a little musical reference. But that is where I tripped, for though you had your Onegin-like hero hum a tune from the opera, the reference doesn't quite work. That tune was not one that Onegin sings to Tanya. Instead, Tchaikovsky's Lensky sang it of Olga. "Olga how I loved you." In the example below though, I'll let you hear Fritz Wunderlich sing it, for he was one of the great Lenskys!

Apart from such particularities and snobbery of detail, I liked your story very much and it carries with it great pathos.