On this day, 25 May, 2018—what would have been my dad’s 113th birthday—I’d like to remember one of the few times he and I actually went to the movies together. This time we went to see, first-run, the warrior epic Taras Bulba (United Artists, 1962; screenplay by blacklisted writer Waldo Salt) on the recommendation of my girlfriend Tamara’s mother, who emigrated from Lviv after the war and was a booster for All Things Ukrainian. (A survivor of Axis bombingsshe had that in common with my mom.) Our Minneapolis neighborhood was made up mostly of first- and second-generation Ukrainians, Italians, Guatemalans, Poles, Irish, and of course Filipinos, Catholics all. Of course the Lutherans surrounded us but being mostly Swedes, they had their own heritage too. And at Christmas, all that pepparkakor…num.

As for Franz Waxman’s “Ride of the Cossacks, there’s a rather thrilling ostinato toward the end.

A pretty inspired choice for your Proms, John. It isn’t played too often (there’s more Ben Hur out there than Taras Bulba); my guess is because most conductors just can’t hear the “kinetic” qualities in this piece of music or they interpret it as more “memetic”, and so what comes out when they conduct sounds just awful, artificial… But you, my bonny lad, got it right. I’m starting to recognize your ear more and more, and it’s a wondrous thing.

John Wilson Taras BulbaWishing you two clean and ready handkerchiefs every concert day, John.

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2 thoughts on “My First Music: Catholics Surrounded by Lutherans and Some Conducting by John Wilson, BBC Proms 2013

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