Everyone dreams of the perfect kitchen. Cabinets made from the best materials, stainless steel appliances that take the breath away and enough space for the entire family to gather around while you prepare their favorite dishes and meals. Although many don’t realize it, small kitchen appliances can also make your kitchen more beautiful and, more importantly, more functional.

kitchen appliances

Small kitchen appliances make life in the kitchen a lot easier. Whether you live alone, in a couple or an entire family, these small appliances can complement your kitchen and cooking style. Even the best chefs in the world rely on slow cookers, microwaves, toasters and pressure cookers. They make life in the kitchen easier for everyone. You can prepare all kinds of meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Head to the local shop or perform a quick research online looking for microwave, slow cooker, toaster or pressure cooker reviews.

Main Function of Small Kitchen Appliances

Depending on your needs and time available for preparing a meal there are all kinds of small kitchen appliances that can come to your rescue. Some of you lead busy lives which limits the time for cooking, while others have more time to dedicate to preparing the most delicious meals.

However, there is another side of the story. You may have already realized the importance of these kitchen accessories and have already ended up purchasing too many of them. This can lead to a storage issue, since no matter how tiny they are, they still take up some space. And having too many takes up a lot more storage space.

How to Decide Which Ones to Buy

That being said, it is crucial that you learn to compromise. You should be aware of your cooking needs in order to purchase only the most necessary appliances you require.

Furthermore, depending on the time of year and what sort of seasonal food you prepare, there are some small appliances more suitable for the given situation than others. Let’s take a look at the list of small appliances experts suggest you have by your side in the kitchen:

  • If you don’t want your food to be greasy, get an Air Fryer.
  • If your time in the kitchen is limited, you should look for a Slow Cooker. They do cook food really slowly, as the name itself implies, but what this means is that you can simply leave your meal to prepare with them while you do run other daily chores without having to stand over it all the time. When you are done with other obligations, the food in the slow cooker will be done.
  • If you prepare a lot of fried food, such as chips of chicken wings you need a Deep Fryer.
  • If you are more into grilled meat and can’t do it outside due to whatever reason, get an Electric Grill.
  • If you take pleasure in preparing customized sauces, dressings and salsa getting a Food Processor is absolutely essential.
  • If you like preparing healthy fruit or vegetable smoothies you will need a Blender or a Juicer.
  • If you often end up preparing extra food and rely on leftovers from the day before a Microwave is the ideal solution.
  • If you, again, are short on time, but you need a meal prepared quickly, getting a Pressure Cooker is a very good idea. Pressure cookers can prepare almost every sort of meals very fast, utilizing pressure and steam. They can be found in a stand-alone electric version as well.
  • If you take pleasure in preparing and eating rice or sushi, get a Rice Cooker. It does all the work itself.
  • If you or your kids like waffles (and who doesn’t, really) you best invest in a Waffle Iron.
  • If you depend on caffeine, or simply enjoy drinking coffee frequently, don’t forget the Espresso Machine. It can prepare the perfect espresso for you in a second.

Shopping provides a lot of fun for most people. Whether you choose to do it online or go to a local store yourself, buying appropriate small appliances for your kitchen will undoubtedly make your life easier. Look for quality materials and well-known brands that fit your budgets, and choose carefully. You don’t buy these every day.

As wig approach the year 2000, it becomes ever clearer that the number of twentieth-century musical masterpieces is remarkably small, compared either with the number of contemporary literary or artistic ones or with the number of musical masterpieces produced in the eighteenth or the nineteenth century. High on the list of these few masterpieces stands the opera Wozzeck, by the Viennese composer Alban Berg (1885-1935). Though it is mainly atonal, an avowedly avant-garde work in which no apparent concessions are made to popular taste, its 1925 Berlin premiere was an immediate popular (as well as critical) success, and was quickly followed by equally successful productions in Prague (1926) and Leningrad (1927). The American premiere, conducted by Leopold Stokowski and with sets by Robert Edmond Jones, took place in 1931. Wozzeck had had twenty-seven separate productions by the end of 1932, a month before the Nazis came to power and banned it and other “decadent” works; by the end of 1936, the total number of performances had risen to 166; in 1942, there was even a performance in Rome, over strong Nazi protest. Since the end of the war, Wozzeck has been performed in most major opera houses, and is now firmly established in the permanent repertoire.

musical

The pioneers of 1951

For a formidably difficult work, Wozzeck has been recorded fairly often. Moreover, all the recordings are well worth hearing. Dmitri Mitropoulos’s pioneering 1951 version (until recently, available on Odyssey set Y2 33126, but now, unfortunately, out of print) is the one that most successfully projects the work’s haunted, nightmarish atmosphere. The recorded sound lacks definition, and the orchestral playing is occasionally haphazard, but Mack Harrell and Eileen Farrell are superb as Wozzeck and his mistress, Marie, and Joseph Mordino’s Captain and Ralph Herbert’s Doctor are masterpieces of grotesque caricature, unsurpassed on later recordings. Karl Bohm’s 1965 version (Deutsche Grammophon 2707 023) is somewhat less exciting dramatically, but it has superb playing by the Berlin Philharmonic and two excellent principals in Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Evelyn Lear. Pierre Boulez’s 1966 Paris Opera performance (CBS M2 30852) has a less distinguished east, but Boulez renders Berg’s complex orchestral textures with unique clarity and transparency. (There is also a fine 1953 broadcast performance of three excerpts from Wozzeck, conducted by Erich Klieber, who conducted the opera’s premiere, on Fonit Cetra DOC 3; this important record, which also contains an equally fine 1945 broadcast performance of the Berg Violin Concerto by the Hungarian-born Joseph Szigeti, may be ordered from IBR Classics, 40-11 24th Street, Long Island City, New York 10111.)

Several Current Recording

Now there is a fourth recording, by Christoph von Dohnanyi and the Vienna Philharmonic, with Eberhard Waechter and Anja Silja in the principal roles (London LDR 72007). The flawless orchestral playing is captured with breathtaking fidelity by the new digital recording process, and the balance between singers and orchestra is better main tained than on any of the previous versions. But the performance is a little tame and careful, standing at the opposite end of the spectrum from the inspired madness of Mitropoulos’s reading.

Waechter sings well but is rather impersonal, not as tormented and desperate as Wozzeck ought to be. Silja, too, sings beautifully and accurately, but she rarely stops sounding like an opera singer long enough to become fully involved in her role and in the drama. In her scenes with Waechter, they often seem to be standing at arm’s length from each other, and at the end of Act I, when she first refuses and then allows herself to be seduced by the Drum-Major, there is none of the violent reversal of feeling so memorably projected by Farrell and Lear.

Wozzeck – The Talented Captain

Wozzeck

Similarly with the minor characters, in the opening scene, for example, the Captain, whom Wozzeck is shaving, keeps badgering him, telling him to go more slowly, to take life easy (“Langsam, Wozzeck, langsam!”). It is obvious, however, from what the Captain says and from the erratic, angular contours of his vocal line, that he himself is anything but easygoing. He is, in fact, fearful and obsessed with death, as we are later to see clearly in his long scene with the equally crazy Doctor. Yet Heinz Zednik’s Captain seems perfectly sane and not even especially cruel as he taunts Wozzeck and lectures him about having an illegitimate child. As the Doctor, Alexander Malta is powerful and full-voiced, but he, too, plays it straight, never sounding really possessed by thoughts of the immortality he imagines he will gain through the dietary experiments he is performing on Wozzeck.

Despite its comparative tameness, the performance has an unobtrusive, cumulative power that is very impressive. The large, panoramic scenes, especially the ones in the inn and the tavern, are more effective than the intimate, conversational ones. Yet this Wozzeck, its many virtues aside, fails to re-create the crazed world that Berg so perfectly imagined.

Why Was Wozzeck So Much More Immediately Intelligible To Audiences?

More than most avant-garde musical works of the 1920s, and why has it demonstrated so much more staying power than they have done? Avant-garde apologists, actually somewhat embarrassed by the opera’s popularity, have often chalked it up to the superficial “excitement” of the play Berg used, only slightly altered, as his text. And Georg Buchner’s Woyzeck is undeniably exciting. Moreover, though it was written in 1836 by the amazing Buchner, who died the following year at the age of twenty-three, it reads almost as if it might have been written eighty or ninety years later. The poor army barber Woyzeck-hounded and victimized by the Captain and the Doctor, betrayed by the pathetic, capricious Marie, subject to terrifying visions he can neither understand nor control–is not only an unforgettable character; he is also a character who fits perfectly into the world of 1920s expressionist drama. Equally unforgettable are the scenes that make up the final, inevitable catastrophe: Woyzeck’s murder of Marie, which he commits as though entranced by the blood-red moon rising in the sky; his guilty, compulsive return to the pond beside which he stabbed her and his drowning as he walks farther and farther out into the water, searching for the incriminating knife; and the chilling, poignant last scene, in which a group of slightly older children who have found Marie’s body try to make her child understand that his mother is dead, while he just keeps riding his hobby-horse, repeating “Hipp, hopp! Hipp, hopp!”

But Buchner’s drama was also set by another composer of the 1920s, Manfred Gurlitt. Given its premiere only a few months after Berg’s opera, Gurlitt’s had a brief success, but quickly sank without a trace. The inescapable conclusion is that the success of Wozzeck, like that of all great operas, is based primarily on its music.

Somethings Are Not the Same What People Know

No one who knows the opera can read the drama without recalling vividly the soft, slow, muted-trombone arpeggios that catch the image of the moon rising over the pond, or the slithering upward chromatic scales in winds and strings as Wozzeck drowns, or the eerie quiet of the very last bars. Moreover, it was Berg who decided to cut Buchner’s final lines, in which a policeman comments on the murder, and end with the child’s pathetic, uncomprehending words. More important, Berg inserted between the drowning and the final scene a powerful orchestral elegy for Wozzeck. Though often criticized, by Stravinsky among others, as too explicit and too traditional in its musical substance, the elegy is a dramatic masterstroke: it releases at last, without the intrusion of words, which would have been crudely explicit at this point, all the feelings of pity and despair built up by Wozzeck’s tragedy. The sustained invention and dramatic rightness of Berg’s music give body and depth to Buchner’s somewhat fragmentary play; Berg not only overcomes the difficulties of the atonal idiom in which the music is cast but wonderfully exploits them, rendering the twisted and distorted nature of Wozzeck and the characters who surround him more effectively than would have been possible in a more traditional idiom. Most listeners, even relatively inexperienced ones who dislike (or think they dislike) modern music, have no trouble becoming immediately engaged and following the course of the elaborate score from beginning to end.

The World of Ulysses or the Waste Land or Kafka’s Stories, the World of Picasso or Matisse

To enter the world of Wozzeck is one of the great, central twentieth century aesthetic experiences, fully comparable to entering to these worlds. For a three-act opera, Wozzeck is very short: almost exactly an hour and a half, or about the length of a single act of a Wagner opera. In fact, one often has trouble remembering how short it is–so much drama, so much intensity and variety of feeling, so much wit and grotesquerie, are packed into its ninety minutes. Extraordinarily grand and imposing, it is also as pitilessly concise and economical as a Bach fugue. One may say of it what D. F. Tovey said of Haydn–that almost everything is unexpected yet nothing is difficult to follow. How did Berg manage it?

  • Certainly no listener has ever been particularly troubled by this question. Anyone who knows the opera well can point out many telling details like the ones I mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Moreover, there are many recurring motifs–snatches of folk songs, the little march associated with the Drum-Major and with Marie’s betrayal of Wozzeck, the four-note phrase that embodies Wozzeck’s impassioned outburst “Wir arme Leut’!” (“We poor people!”)–that help the listener to organize the music as he listens.
  • Yet it is always very satisfying to have one’s appreciation of a piece of music complemented, explained, and extended by systematic analysis; and until recently, the analysts have been of remarkably little help with Wozzeck. There are two related reasons for this failure.
  1. Berg pointed out in several articles that in arranging the twenty-six scenes of Buchner’s drama into the fifteen of the opera; he had employed a number of traditional musical forms. Each of the three acts contains five scenes.

Those of Act I are what Berg called “character pieces”: Suite, Rhapsody, Military march and lullaby, Passacaglia, and Andante affetuoso (quasi Rondo). Those of Act II constitute a “symphony”: Sonata-form movement, Fantasia and fugue, Largo, Scherzo, and Rondo con introduzione. Those of Act III, together with the orchestral elegy inserted between Scenes 4 and 5, are a series of “inventions”: on a theme, a note, a rhythm, a hexachord, a tonality, and a regular eighth-note movement. While these forms were evidently of help to Berg in the act of composition, they have only occasional relevance to the lis tener, who remains largely unaware of their presence. Berg himself repeatedly stressed their lack of relevance, yet many critics, beginning with his first biographer, his friend and pupil Willi Reich, eagerly seized upon them and made them central to their analyses of Wozzeck. Reich even arranged them into a convenient chart, very much like the one of the episodes of Ulysses that Joyce communicated to his friend and early apologist Stuart Gilbert. Like Joyce’s chart, Reich’s has proven to be a red herring, of little use to listeners and a distraction to analysts.

  1. The second reason for the failure of most analyses of Wozzeck stems from the fact that Berg, as a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg, played an important part in what was once thought to have been the crucial development in twentieth-century music–the evolution and employment of Schoenberg’s twelve-tone method.

Convinced that the resources of tonality had been utterly exhausted by the post-Wagnerian chromaticism of the late nineteenth century, Schoenberg, followed closely by his two most important pupils, Berg and Anton von Webern, set about effecting what was often spoken of as “the liberation of the dissonance,” the freeing of music from any dependence upon a tonal center. The twelve-tone method, which completed this process by supposedly rendering all twelve notes of the chromatic scale of absolutely equal value within a given work, was thought by its enthusiastic supporters to be an achievement not only natural and fruitful but also historically inevitable, ordained by an iron determinism governed by the “laws” of music. Rene Leibowitz’s assertion, in his 1947 book Schoenberg and His School, that the music of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern is “the only genuine and inevitable expression of the musical art of our time” is characteristic of this view. Now, Wozzeck is not a twelve-tone work. It belongs, rather, to what is often called the period of “free atonality,” which just preceded and overlapped Schoenberg’s development of the twelve-tone method in the early 1920s. Because twelve-tone propagandists such as Leibowitz and Josef Rufer viewed the period of free atonality as merely a necessary transitional stage, a way station on the road to the twelve-tone promised land, for them the most significant feature of Wozzeck was its anticipation of twelve-tone techniques. But such techniques, even when they are exclusively employed, are usually no more audible to the listener as organizing forces in the music than are the traditional forms Berg employed in Wozzeck.

The Man and His Music

music

The First Book to move toward a more just and accurate analysis of the ways in which the music of Wozzeck actually creates its effects was Hans Redlich’s 1957 Alban Berg: The Man and His Music. Taking to task such “proselytizing apologists” as Leibowitz and Rufer for treating the three Viennese composers as “an artistic unity, with an indivisible community of aims and tendencies,” Redlich tried to view Berg’s music on its own terms rather than as part of a lockstep movement. Though Redlich, too, stressed twelve-tone anticipations in Wozzeck, he also called attention to Bergs use of Wagnerian leitmotifs and of quasi-tonal harmony, neither of which had been of much interest to the apologists.

In a 1975 biography, Alban Berg: The Man and the Work, Mosco Carner paid still closer attention to harmony in Wozzeck, and stated clearly that “Bergs great merit in Wozzeck was to have been the first to write a full-length opera in the atonal style, a style characterized by an extreme lability and randomness, but in which certain recurring melodic, harmonic and rhythmic configurations act as points of reference or as landmarks in the music.” To point out the “lability and randomness” to which atonal music is liable–a far cry from the old talk about “the liberation of the dissonance”!–and the resulting need for “points of reference” and “landmarks” that will do the work of those formerly supplied by tonality is to put the stress where it belongs: on the fact that our ways of hearing are still basically tonal, and that if a composer chooses to deprive his music (and his listener) of traditional tonal means of organization, he must somehow compensate for the loss so incurred–not by supplying the analyst with fancy schemes that make sense only on paper but by finding new ways to help the listener organize the music as he hears it. For the main problem with atonal music is not, as is so often charged, that it is “ugly”: much of it is, but so is much of Wagner and Mahler, and even some of late Beethoven. The main problem is precisely the absence from most atonal music of audible “points of reference” and “landmarks.” And the main job of the analyst of an atonal work is to locate these, if they exist, and to show how they function in their dramatic context.

Two books that perform this job quite satisfactorily for Wozzeck

George Perle’s the Operas of Alban Berg: Volume One / “Wozzeck” (1980) and Douglas Jarman’s the Music of Alban Berg (1979). Though both writers occasionally go over the mark into the inaudible, pointing out hexachords and intervallic cells that most listeners do not and cannot hear, both unearth and systematize a great deal that is audible and therefore illuminating. Moreover, both quite rightly (and very refreshingly) view the period of free atonality not as a mere transitional stage but rather as a time of unique opportunity and fruitful experimentation.

Perle gives an exhaustive catalogue of the leitmotifs in Wozzeck, and sensitively describes their use. Also, he very interestingly shows how Berg often gives a particular note–C-sharp/D-flat in the opening scene of the opera, for example–the priority and organizing force that establish it as a “tone center” without involving it in the elaborate hierarchical relations required to make it a true tonic or key note in the traditional sense. Finally, Perle discusses Berg’s use of characteristic scale fragments–for example, a five-note segment of the whole-tone scale with one added “odd” note–in many of the most important recurring themes of the opera.

Jarman is less interested than Perle in leitmotifs, but he accepts and complements Perle’s analysis of “tone centers” in Wozzeck. Jarman also illuminates Berg’s relation to the twelve-tone method. Berg, as Jarman shows, had a lifelong fondness for ciphers and numerological schemes, and his works are full of hidden, secret meanings and patterns. It was recently discovered, for example, that The Lyric Suite, his 1925-1926 work for string quartet, contains a sort of coded account of a long-forgotten love affair. What emerges from Jarman’s analysis is that Berg was drawn to the method not primarily by an apocalyptic recognition that tonality had to be supplanted (indeed, his later, twelve-tone works make greater use of tonal modes of organization than do those from the period of free atonality) but by the same emotional need that produced his virtually obsessive interest in other private, abstract schemes and systems.

The Private Organizing Device for Composers

In fact, the method itself, viewed at this comfortable distance from the fierce (and often foolish) polemics of 19201950. Schoenberg admitted this in later life, but earlier it was often claimed that the twelve-tone method was precisely on a par with tonality, and Berg himself compared the role played by Schoenberg in the transition from tonal to twelve-tone music to that played by Bach in the transition from modal to tonal music. But the analogy does not hold. Tonality organizes music not only privately for the composer but also publicly, because audibly, for the listener. “I have made a discovery which will ensure the supremacy of German music for the next hundred years,” Schoenberg boasted to Ruler in 1921. But, of course, he had done no such thing. His and his followers’ apocalyptic statements about historical inevitability and the laws of music now sound as silly and dated as the very similar political statements of their Marxist contemporaries. With very few exceptions (almost none of them works by Schoenberg), twelve-tone music has not proved acceptable, even to a thoughtful and openminded public, because most of it is organized only by means that are, and remain, private, secret, inaudible. The success and importance of composers as diverse as Stravinsky (who turned to twelve-tone music only in his old age, when he was already a master), Bartok, Prokofiev, Ives, Janecek, Britten, and Elliott Carter make nonsense of all the twelve-tone propaganda. The resources of tonality, it turns out, were and are far from exhausted. Surely, the splendid and enduring achievement of Wozzeck is best viewed, and most successfully analyzed, not in relation to the twelve-tone method but in terms of Berg’s remarkable exploitation and extension of tonal ways of thinking and hearing.

It is also useful to view Wozzeck in relation to the works that Berg wrote just preceding it, especially the Altenberg Lieder, Op. 4, of 1912 and the Three Pieces for Orchestra, Op. 6, of 19141915. (Both works are excellently performed by Boulez on CBS MS 7179 and by Claudio Abbado on Deutsche Grammophon 2543 804.)

  • The Altenberg Lieder, not performed in their entirety until 1952, are a dazzling achievement. Though the mass and variety of orchestral sonority sometimes threatens to overwhelm the rather slight texts, the sheer mastery of the writing makes it all but impossible to believe that this was Berg’s first work for orchestra.
  • The Three Pieces for Orchestra, though better known, are less successful. Compared with Webern’s Six Orchestral Pieces, Op. 6 (1909) and Five Orchestral Pieces, Op. 10 (1911-1913), which Berg obviously used as models, they seem long and garrulous.
  • The vocabulary and syntax of Wozzeck are there, but the music sounds musclebound, trapped in itself, lost in its search for a fitting subject. Berg found that subject–as well as the greater scope that he was reaching toward in the Altenberg Lieder–when he saw Buchner’s play in May of 1914, while he was at work on the Three Pieces for Orchestra. He knew it at once, and resolved that Woyzeck would provide him with the text of the opera he had wanted to write.

Berg died at fifty, and he was a slow and careful worker. Hence, he did not write a great deal of music. Though none of his other works is either so immediately compelling or so perfectly formed as Wozzeck, all of them are well worth hearing and studying, especially the Piano Sonata, the Altenberg Lieder, The Lyric Suite, the Violin Concerto, and his -second opera, Lulu, left unfinished at his death but recently completed from his sketches. For it is Berg, along with Stravinsky, who best helps us understand the problematical relations between twentieth-century music and the tradition through his strikingly original and creative use of the great music of the past.

In 1969

The year the drums of the rock counterculture beat their wildest tattoos, Frank Sinatra turned fifty-four. Pop music‘s “chairman of the board,” whose rightward-tending politics and friendship with the youth-baiting Vice President Spiro Agnew made him a symbol of establishment cynicism to the Woodstock generation, enjoyed his last Top-40 hit for the next eleven years that spring, when “My Way,” a surly roar of self-satisfaction, reached number 27 in Billboard’s Hot 100. In 1980, Sinatra returned to the Top 40 with the equally feisty “Theme from New York, New York,” from Trilogy, his monumental three-disc album.

Pop music

It was with Trilogy that Frank Sinatra began to gain the attention of the previously disdainful rock press. Rolling Stone ran a review of a Sinatra concert soon after the release of the album which offered the ultimate in reck-critic flattery, comparing Sinatra’s singing to that of John Lydon, the Sex Pistols’ screaming punk moralist. Instead of being viewed as an enemy of sixties radical-liberal communalism, Sinatra began to be viewed as a kind of proto-punk rocker, spitting at the world with pugnacious arrogance.

Tommy Dorsey-Frank Sinatra Sessions

More than three years after Trilogy, Sinatra’s reputation as a pop artist for all cultures–post-counter and post-punk as well as old-guard–has continued to build. In 1982, RCA Records released the complete the sessions in three double-album sets. This month, Twyla Tharp will mount a dance piece called Nine Sinatra Songs at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Linda Ronstadt made a hit album of torch songs, what’s New, with Nelson Riddle, Sinatra’s most gifted arranger-conductor. It included three songs that Sinatra and Riddle had recorded together twenty-five years earlier, on the album Only the Lonely.

Sinatra

Mobile Fidelity Sound Labs, the Southern California company that in 1982 released a fourteen-disc, $325 Beatles collection, with the discs mastered at half-speed and pressed in Japan, followed it up last fall with a $350 boxed set called Sinatra. The collection includes sixteen albums that Frank Sinatra recorded for Capitol Records from 1953 to 1962, when he was at the peak of his artistry. Each record comes with the original Capitol artwork and detailed information about musical personnel and recording dates. Cuts that had been deleted when Capitol reissued the records have been restored, and the set’s aural quality is excellent. Beautifully clear and balanced monaural sound on the earlier discs gives way to crisp, deep stereo on the later ones, which, like many stereo albums of the fifties, widely separated the orchestral voices.

“This Is Sinatra and This Is Sinatra”

Sinatra isn’t as complete as the advertising for it implies. Left out are Capitol’s first two collections of Sinatra’s singles–, Volume 2–which contain such crucial hits as “Young-At-Heart,” “Learnin’ the Blues,” and “Hey! Jealous Lover.” And the three later collections of singles that are included–All the Way, Look to Your Heart, and Sinatra Sings … of Love and Things/–are cluttered with junky novelties and second-rate movie songs that no singer could redeem. Another omitted album is one of Sinatra’s last for Capitol, Point of No Return, on which he teamed up again with his regular arranger-conductor from the forties, Axel Stordahl. Also left out are a Christmas album and soundtracks from Sinatra’s movies.

pop music 2

The thirteen core albums, however, constitute a body of pop music conceived for the LP record which, in its scope and consistency, has been matched only by the work of the Beatles. Oddly, the music on Sinatra is in some ways more pertinent than that of the Beatles–at least at the moment. Sinatra has, after all, outlasted many of the formidable pop phenomena that were supposed to depose him. Elvis Presley is dead, and his biggest posthumous hit, ironically, is an eerily nervous and out-of-breath rendition of “My Way.” The Beatles died with John Lennon. Bob Dylan resurfaces periodically, an erratic bohemian voice in the wilderness, out of phase with Reagan-era realities.

Frank Sinatra is in phase–socially, as a Reagan family friend, and artistically, as a hardy individualist. At sixty-eight, he still gives concerts and makes records the old-fashioned way–with a live orchestra, eschewing rock rhythms and fancy overdubs. And his ubiquitous new signature song, “Theme from New York, New York,” unabashedly glorifies worldly success. In today’s trend-crazed world of pop music, Frank Sinatra is not simply the ultimate survivor but the ultimate victor.

In 1953

It was in 1953 that Sinatra, who had .spent the previous decade at Columbia Records, moved to Capitol. He was thirty-seven, an age at which all but the most enduring rock acts have lost their followings. Sinatra was not a big star when he made the move–in fact, some considered him a washed-up crooner. But in winning an Oscar that year for his portrayal of Maggio in From Here to Eternity, Sinatra made one of the most dramatic comebacks in Hollywood history. The following year, his recording career was rejuvenated as well, as the single “Young-At-Heart” became his first top-five hit in eight years.

Young-At-Heart

The aura of cocky serf-assurance in Sinatra’s Capitol albums suggests someone who has arrived safely at adulthood having just barely survived an irresponsible and foolishly romantic youth. This posture hasn’t changed significantly since, even as the voice has coarsened and darkened with age. The mature Sinatra is a lapsed romantic. While capable of great tenderness, compassion, and joy, beneath the surface he is always reflecting on his loss of faith in the quasi-religious romantic ethos that engulfed movies and pop music in the forties and early fifties. In that ethos, ineffable sexual ecstasy inside marriage was supposed to be everybody’s reward for sexual postponement; “true love” was the happy ending everyone was coaxed into anticipating. And, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary, it was supposed to last “forever.”

Sinatra’s voice had embodied this dream in the forties with a fervent intensity that no other singer has matched. With his rounded baritone, suggestive of the trombone at its most purringly lyrical, he conjured a fantasy world of tender rapture, at once virile and delicate. Sinatra’s bel-canto phrasing turned the most flowery lyrics into plainspoken, believable outpourings of emotion. Faith in romantic love as a possible and permanent salvation seemed built into his voice, which lent a compelling spiritual conviction to the love songs that he recorded in the forties–“The Girl That I Marry,” “How Deep Is the Ocean,” and “I Concentrate on You,” for example. If Bing Crosby, Sinatra’s great forerunner, projected a comforting hominess, in which eroticism had its cherished but modest place, Sinatra exalted the erotic with a dedication that made it a world unto itself. Axel Stordahl exquisitely orchestrated Sinatra’s best Columbia singles like aural valentines, trimmed with lacy violins and tinkling bells.

It wasn’t until the Beatles’ psychedelia, exemplified by “All You Need Is Love,” that a vision of love was again so thoroughly and successfully captured in pop music. But the love the Beatles conjured was a communal and polymorphously exploratory utopia of peace, cuddly sex, and eternal youth; Sinatra’s love had been a yearning daydream. Both visions were rooted in carefully distilled concepts of musical beauty that had been established in late-Romantic European music.

Frank Sinatra and His Remarkable Versions

Frank Sinatra

But beauty has a way of evaporating, and he arrived at Capitol at just the moment when his voice had begun to lose its spellbinding loveliness. The lapsed romantic had to rebuild his world from inside himself instead of trusting to magic and looking to heaven. In defining his adult self, Sinatra made the first real “concept” albums, in the rock sense. One after another, Sinatra’s records explored different styles of adult love and alternatives to love, as the singer tried out different roles: flippant roue (Swing Easy), warmly reflective companion (In the Wee Small Hours), optimistic, fun-loving hedonist (Songs for Swingin’ Lovers), happy globe-trotter (Come Fly with Me), mysterious loner (Where Are You?), and jaded sensation-seeker (Come Swing with Me).

While at Capitol, Sinatra favored three arranger-conductors: Nelson Riddle (nine albums), Billy May (three albums), and Gordon Jenkins (two albums). With Gordon Jenkins, who used heavy strings and French horns arranged into a tortured Wagnerian chromaticism, Sinatra made the introspective albums Where Are You? (His first stereo release) and No One Cares. In Where Are You? The singer summons the ghosts of old flames with a formal, almost operatic intensity enhanced by a bleating twenty-two-piece string section. In No One Cares, made two years later with the same orchestration, Sinatra’s voice is frayed and his phrasing hesitant; he “acts” songs like “Stormy Weather” and “I Can’t Get Started” as a dark night of the soul.

With May, Sinatra made his toughest, hardest-swinging records. Their third collaboration, Come Swing with Me, is a musical fistfight in which two enlarged brass sections throw punches at each other while Sinatra socks out angry, anti-romantic remakes of ballads he recorded in the forties, like “Day By Day” and “That Old Black Magic.” This swing has to it almost a rock harshness. Billy May also arranged and conducted one of Sinatra’s more mellow albums, Come Fly with Me, a spirited travelogue that blends ballads with the swinging numbers.

Nelson Riddle and Sinatra

Song for Young Lovers

It was with the struck for his most consistent balance between toughness and angst. Songs for Young Lovers (1954), Close to You (recorded in 1956, with a string quartet), and especially In the Wee Small Hours, which may contain Sinatra’s warmest ballad performances, sustain a mood of quiet intimacy and reminiscence. In Songs for Swingin’ Lovers (1956), the quintessential Sinatra-Riddle medium-tempo album, Riddle expanded the orchestra to thirty-five pieces to achieve the optimum hybrid of swing band and Hollywood studio orchestra. “I’ve Got You under My Skin,” which Sinatra and Riddle jauntily syncopated against a light, finger-snapping beat, becomes not the sophisticated yet abject confession of love that Cole Porter’s lyrics imply but the fond tribute of one sensualist to another. In the song’s climax, Sinatra admits that for the moment he’s a smitten fool, and this exhilarating expression of a perfect balance between intoxication and wry knowingness may be the apex of all his “swinging” music. As Fred Astaire’s graceful courtliness transformed Cole Porter’s musical sophistication into a dancing style that seems to be the purest kind of pleasure, Sinatra’s artfully casual readings of Porter embody a comparably enviable ideal of grown-up fun.

Sinatra and Riddle

They achieved another peak in Only the Lonely (1958), a reflective album that avoids the sepulchral gloom of the Gordon Jenkins records by putting Sinatra musically in the world instead of in a room by himself at 3 A.M.; the cautious bounce of jazz-inflected rhythms and the impressionistic foliage of brass and woodwind choirs in Riddle’s forty-six-piece ensemble prompted performances from Sinatra less solemn than those with Jenkins’s ghostly strings and horns. For Nice ‘N’ Easy (1960), their last great collaboration, Riddle pared the orchestra back to thirty pieces. All but one of the twelve songs are standards that Sinatra had recorded between 1940 and 1950. Riddle’s smoothest arrangements for Sinatra enhance his cool mastery of ballad phrasing. Sinatra stopped acting songs; the album is above all a demonstration of technique.

Sinatra’s Capitol years ended when Warner Bros., then a nascent corporate giant, offered Sinatra his own label, Reprise, in 1961. Unwilling and probably unable to come to terms with rock’s technology, he continued to sort through his past, as he had on Nice ‘N’ Easy. While Sinatra’s Reprise catalogue is rich, it’s spottier than his Capitol output, and the explorations of mature aspirations are frozen into patterns. Sinatra the symbol rose above Sinatra the interpreter.

In The Sixties

musical art

When the rock-and-roll culture wrested the airwaves from pop traditionalists and made the rock LP album the musical art form of a generation, Sinatra seemed to have no place in the revolution, which in the end turned out to be more technological than cultural. Today, as we look back, very little of the billions of dollars’ worth of corporate merchandise marketed as artistically worthy rock seems to have any enduring value.

In 1969, the turmoil’s and victories of people reaching middle age were of no concern to a generation so contemptuous of its elders that it cherished Pete Townshend’s sneer “Hope I die before I get old.” But to those of us who are still alive, the “chairman of the board” no longer looms as a disapproving surrogate parent; he has become an adult role model for how to make it to the top and stay there.

If “true love”–epitomized by Sinatra crooning “All or Nothing at All” or “Nancy” or “Dream”–was a false salvation for the parents of the Woodstock generation, the sexual revolution has proven just as false an ideal. The rock generation may have won the opportunity to prolong adolescent pleasure-seeking for as long as it liked, but it didn’t anticipate the complexity of middle-age desires. What, then, is there to pursue? The albums explore every avenue of possibility except religion: knowledge, reflection, and friendship, travel, “swinging” in most of its manifestations, and, finally, accomplishment and power.

One wouldn’t ordinarily expect a singer to communicate so much lived experience. But Sinatra’s greatness is his ability to lay bare the emotional facts. These albums are about continuing, and not only continuing but trying to get better in spite of the realities of aging. They are heroic feats of self-generation, of finding more with less and gaining in the struggle a reason for going on.

You could tell that Balanchine was in the theater, or so the saying went, if the boy tossed the girl into the air in Symphony in C. Because that moment was so perilous, the dancers could always be counted on to resort to the safer, alternative version when Balanchine wasn’t there. But usually he was-stationed in the downstage right wing, surveying the dancers he had trained as they executed the ballets he had choreographed, missing nothing.

ballets

The Applause of Audients for Great Ballet Performances

New York City Ballet dancers have always performed more for Balanchine’s approval than for the audience’s applause. For years, it was he who taught company class every morning, who made new ballets, who east the repertory. Other ballet companies turn loose a variety of styles and methods of training on stage and hope for the best, rather than sanctioning any one at the expense of the rest. They east by committee and hire freelance choreographers. These companies, attempting to make a virtue of eclecticism, are run along the lines of a democracy. The New York City Ballet is a monarchy, founded on one man’s vision, didactic but consistent.

For several years now, City Ballet regulars-not a handful of fanatics but several hundred highly opinionated, fixedly loyal people who live at the company’s performances–have been speculating on what would happen to the company when Balanchine was no longer in command. Was there a young choreographer qualified to succeed him? Balanchine had made classical ballet a modern art, but who would take it from there? What none of us figured, in our efforts to prepare ourselves for the inevitable by fretting about it, was that more than the future of ballet choreography would be at stake–that without Balanchine, the dancers, who had always looked to him, would have to find some new motivation for their work from day to day.

Last October, Balanchine was hospitalized. Though rumors about his condition varied widely from one day and one source to the next, it soon began to seem unlikely that he would ever return to running the company. This realization slowly settled in over the dancers and the audience. But instead of the lassitude one might have expected to settle in along with it, there was a redoubled energy in most performances, almost as if the company were dancing for dear life. For many young dancers, last season was a breakthrough. There were debuts in new roles every week. The company was keeping busy.

Some Changes for Better Results

At the same time, the regulars in the audience were busy re-examining their motives for returning every night. A good many City Ballet fans are devoted to Balanchine’s work but not to dance itself. Balanchine’s work has been so extensive that his followers can almost get away with thinking that it is all anyone needs to know about dance. The full measure of that work has just been demonstrated in Choreography by George Balanchine: A Catalogue of Works, a big fat book published by the Eakins Press Foundation, in a limited edition of 2,000. Compiled by researchers in thirteen countries, and edited by Harvey Simmonds, it lists 425 ballets, operas, Broadway musicals, movies, and what have you.

ballets2

The total is deceptive, because several works are entered twice–once for their world premieres, if they were made originally for a company other than the one Balanchine directed at the time, and once for their first production by his own company. Even so, the body of his work is staggering. One’s first reaction is that no single lifetime could be long enough to encompass all this choreography. No one year could be time enough to make five ballets, eighteen opera ballets, and one dance number for a “comedy with music,” which is what Balanchine did in 1932.

Still more astonishing is the range of his work. Balanchine was apparently willing to do anything, and for anybody. For example:

  • In honor of the treaty resuming Anglo-Soviet trade relations, in 1921, he staged a foxtrot for a party in Petrograd.
  • In 1953, he choreographed a promenade for some 500 couples, with two dancers from his own company in the lead, for the Negro Debutante Ball at the 369th Armory, in Harlem.
  • In 1942, for fifty girls and fifty elephants in the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, he choreographed a ballet to an original score he commissioned from Stravinsky.

The catalogue includes five films, twenty-one musical comedies and revues, six stagings for choral works, and ten plays for which Balanchine arranged movement sequences. From these repeated forays into other territories, Balanchine always returned to classical ballet and his own company. The classical tradition is the closest any art comes to a science, in which one discovery can lead to another, in which one man’s work makes the next man’s possible. By working within that tradition in ballet, Balanchine could build on the past. And by going to work outside that tradition–learning other ways of moving and their effects, other problems and their solutions-he could acquire the means to make classical ballet more topical.

Significant Classical Ballets

Balanchine understood that a ballet has no life of its own, apart from its performance. Where other choreographers would set out to make dances that would be innovative or long-lived or fashionable, Balanchine seems to have set out to make dances that were, above all, appropriate to the dancers at hand. In the course of one year, 1947, he staged Symphonie Concertante for his own company (he had choreographed it two years earlier on students) and choreographed Le Palais de Cristal (now called Symphony in C) for the Paris Opera and Theme and Variations for Ballet Theatre–three ballets in the classical idiom. Another choreographer, having finished any one of these, would probably have gone on to make the next ballet as different as possible-romantic, maybe, or jazzy–as a way of keeping himself interested and of proving to the world how versatile he could be. But Balanchine must have felt that a classical ballet, exacting in its precision, was what each of these three companies needed at the time. More interesting finally than three ballets in three determinedly different styles are these, which are markedly different within the same style. There is no sign in any of them of Balanchine running out of new ideas and reverting to formulas; in his hands, the style seems inexhaustible.

Ballets3

Not only did Balanchine have enough interest in dance and all its possibilities to sustain the works listed here but he seems never to have lost interest in a ballet as long as it was still being performed. The revisions listed in this catalogue, if not always extensive, are certainly numerous. Balanchine persisted in improving on a ballet years after its premiere, and would willingly re-choreograph an old role to suit a new dancer’s capabilities. On occasion, he returned to a piece of music he had already choreographed and made something entirely different out of it. There was no such thing as the definitive interpretation of a piece of music, inevitable as the choreography might seem to everyone else.

About the ballets we know well, the catalogue can teach us little. In some cases, the production credits for ballets that have been lost tell us just enough to make us curious: it would be interesting to know what Balanchine did with Schubert’s Wanderer Fantasy (the score for Errante), Haydn’s Trumpet Concerto in E flat major, or Mozart’s Violin Concerto in A major. In other cases, the catalogue’s brief descriptions of ballets we have never seen defy our imaginations. For instance, while still a young choreographer in Petrograd, Balanchine devised movement set to poems, which were chanted aloud by a chorus of fifty voices. In 1926, under Diaghilev’s supervision, he choreographed an entr’acte, without music, for Bronislava Nijinska’s Romeo and Juliet: “A drop-curtain was lowered to within a foot or two of the ground so that only the dancers’ legs and feet were visible.” For Sir Oswald Stoll’s Variety Shows in London, in 1931, Balanchine used the Coliseum’s revolving stage as a giant phonograph record, with a small dog in the center listening to “His Master’s Voice,” and the dancers as phonograph needles.

But the biggest surprise this book holds for anyone already familiar with Balanchine’s ballets is the number of operas he choreographed–sixty-nine. It is hard to believe that he agreed to stage the ballet sequences in La Gioconda, not once but twice, because he was so inspired by the music for “The Dance of the Hours,” an old chestnut (made even more familiar as “Hello mudda. Hello fadda. Here I am at Camp Granada”). He choreographed the ballet sequences in Carmen four times. Some of these commissions, especially during the years his company doubled as the resident ballet company for the Metropolitan Opera, can only have been the means to keep his dancers working year-round. Yet Balanchine’s dedication to opera throughout his career is obvious, and it is sad that his impact on it has not been more lasting. Opera and ballet, two traditions closely allied at the start of this century, have gone their separate ways, and left the ballet divertissements far behind. Few choreographers today would be willing to take on “The Dance of the Hours” in the context of someone else’s production of La Gioconda, whereas Balanchine, in his work for films, theater, and opera, was always willing to stage part of the whole–and not the most important part, at that.

Balanchine – A Remarkable Milestone in History

One is struck repeatedly by Balanchine’s selflessness. His detractors point to the empire he built and accuse him of egomania. But an egomaniac would have done less work and made more of it. He would have seen to it, as Balanchine did not, that his choreography for an acclaimed ballet like Caracole would be recorded (it was forgotten, but never mind–Balanchine took the same score and made it into Divertimento No. 15, one of his greatest works). An egomaniac would have been more preoccupied with his own place in history. Balanchine doesn’t seem to have given a damn.

Ballets4

He was, however, a monomaniac, obsessed by dancing and all its possibilities, and a hustler, capable of scaring up more commissions than most choreographers could handle, at a time when there were far fewer ballet companies and thus far fewer chances for employment. He was a soft touch, too, unfailingly generous with his ballets: in the United States alone, eighty-eight companies other than Balanchine’s have had his works in their repertories, and the list of companies in other countries is even longer, from Alberta, Canada, to Zagreb, Yugoslavia.

The New York City Ballet is today made up of 105 dancers who perform Balanchine’s works better and more clearly than any other company in the world. Their dancing is practically transparent–they show us the choreography. Those full-cast finales, with rows of dancers advancing on the audience, jumping and turning in unison; those instances when, two by two, girls come bolting from the wings and crisscross one another’s paths in flying pas de chat, and for a moment the entire stage is airborne; that terrifying forward surge of a crowd of women, at the end of Walpurgisnacht, toward one man, who holds his ground; the image of a sleepwalker carrying a poet in her arms, or of a man who walks, guided from behind by a woman and blindfolded by her hand–no other choreographer has so consistently captured the ambiguity, excitement, and energy that reside in music, and released it in dancing.

There are moments in Balanchine’s ballets when the dance gives voice to the music, and the dance and the music combined become almost more than the audience can bear. When, at the close of Theme and Variations, the men and women pair off and make a tour of the stage in a grand polonaise set to the music’s final proclamation, the ceremony strikes us as exactly right; then the men continue walking and the women chaine turn alongside them, turning on the spiraling melody in the music–and this is almost too much. The sensation is one of pain brought on by something so perfect that you must look but want to turn away. These moments, in dance or in music, come over us, and our instinct is to try and hold on to them; there is no holding on to them.

Ballets5

The New York City Ballet board of directors announced the appointment of Peter Martins and Jerome Robbins as ballet masters-in-chief, with Martins responsible for the company’s day-to-day artistic decisions and Robbins as adviser.

The doomsayers who seem convinced that classical ballet ended with Balanchine’s last work (an inconsequential solo made last year for Suzanne Farrell) are missing the point. Balanchine put himself at the service of a tradition larger than any individual. His work and history teach us that other choreographers can take up that tradition and further it.