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Classical Notes: October 31, 2006 Archive

Like Norman Bates, with a Baton

Posted at 1:46 PM on October 31, 2006 by John Birge

For Halloween, Creepy Conductors Dept., Part I:

In 1956, conductor Eugene Goossens's brilliant career was brought down by scandal. Returning to Sydney from London, customs officials found over a thousand pornographic photographs, sealed in envelopes marked "Brahms" and "Beethoven." They also found a mask, and letters linking Goosens to Rosaleen Norton, the notorious "Witch of Kings Cross," who initiated Goosens into her circle, which practised ritual acts of sexual black magic.

Creepy Conductors Dept., Part II:

Swiss conductor Michel Tabachnik has gone on trial a second time for alleged involvement in the deaths of members of a doomsday cult. Tabachnik is charged over the deaths of 16 people who were found in a forest in the French Alps in 1995. Prosecutors say he incited members of the Order of the Solar Temple to commit mass suicide. Tabachnik denies the charge, and he was cleared by a French court in 2001, but prosecutors appealed against the verdict. Tabachnik studied under Pierre Boulez and held orchestral posts in Canada, Portugal and France.

Of course, some musicians might say all conductors are mass-murderers, in a manner of speaking... ;-)

Scary music, the Universal language

Posted at 2:32 PM on October 31, 2006 by Don Lee

Even as an impressionable boy, I wondered what was so scary about Dracula. I'm talking about the 1931 film version starring Bela Lugosi. To me, that one wasn't nearly as frightening as the other Universal horror classics that became my Saturday afternoon TV ritual: the various Frankenstein, Wolf Man and Mummy movies.

A key difference, I realized in later years, was the music underscoring the action. There wasn't any for Dracula. Fake fangs and a heavy-browed glower were Lugosi's only means to convey a sense of menace--an effort undermined by the sound I could hear: pops and crackles from the badly worn celluloid.

The filmmaker did select music for the opening and closing titles of Dracula, a score that seldom gets trotted out on Halloween, perhaps because it points mostly to the pathos embodied alongside the peril in those old movie monsters. The same music was used in The Mummy in 1932. So I forward this request to Bill Morelock for his consideration on this evening's Halloween show: the (haunting) main theme from Tchaikovsky's Swan Lake.