Posted by: rbbadger | August 9, 2013

Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, S.J.

This year marked an interesting chapter in the history of the Society of Jesus, more commonly known as the Jesuits.  We saw the election of the first Jesuit pope in Pope Francis.  We also bid farewell to a remarkable Chinese Jesuit in the person of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, S.J.  Bishop Jin was a very complex man.  He himself admitted in a 2010 interview to being both “a serpent and a dove”.  I am currently reading his memoirs, which he started working on his 90s.  He lived to the ripe old age of 96, having seen huge changes in his country. 

He was born in 1916, a few years after the Republic of China was established by Dr. Sun Yat Sen.  The Republic of China endured many tumultous times.  He grew up during a time where warlords dominated much of the country.  Shanghai has a Catholic community of very long history.  Some of the earliest Catholics in Shanghai were friendly with the great Jesuit missionary and Sinologist Mateo Ricci.  If you visit the Xujiahui neighbourhood of Shanghai, you will not only find the cathedral and the chancery, but you will find the Jesuit library and many other relics of the Catholic community there.  One of the most famous Catholic figures was the late Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-mei, S.J.  Cardinal Kung, like so many other Chinese bishops and priests, spent many years imprisoned.  Bishop Jin also was imprisoned.  Cardinal Kung eventually was able to leave China to seek medical treatment.  While in the West, Blessed John Paul II revealed that he had chosen him to be a cardinal.  Needless to say, the Chinese government was not exactly pleased with this development and Cardinal Kung never returned to his homeland.  It is easier, I suppose, to sympathise with Cardinal Kung than with Bishop Jin.  However, Bishop Jin suffered greatly and endured many hardships as well.

Bishop Jin, on the other hand, remained in China.  As the Communists took power, he served as rector of the seminary.  He held positions of great responsiblity in the diocese.  He spoke a number of languages, including French, German, and English.  Like Cardinal Kung and most, if not all of the clergy of the Diocese of Shanghai, he was imprisoned and tortured.  He spent many years in prison, though he later received lighter treatment, thanks to his foreign language skills.  When he was released, he was asked to take an active part in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.  He resumed his role as rector of the seminary.  He was also ordained a bishop, albeit without Rome’s blessing.

Ordaining a bishop without papal approval is a big thing.  It is one of those things for which excommunication is imposed, both for the bishop being ordained with papal approval and for those who ordained him.  However, Bishop Jin took it on, feeling perhaps it would be better than to have someone else even more in the pocket of the Communist Party.  During his time as bishop, he was able to work with the authorities.  His accomplishments are impressive.  Not only was the cathedral restored and reopened, but he recovered some 150 parishes.  He had a growing seminary and uniquely in a country where the print media is generally owned by the state, his own printing press.  He was an adroit enough politician to accomplish all this.  In doing so, he had to work within the strictures imposed by the party and make concessions that many faithful Catholics would be uncomfortable making.  In a 2010 interview, he admitted to being both “a serpent and a dove”.  The ways in which he accomplished all this are not reccommended, at least from the perspective of Canon Law.  He had to work with an anti-religious government and under the ever watchful eye of the party.  All the while, he was soliciting funds from overseas to rebuild the church in Shanghai.  However, Bishop Jin has long insisted that China is a special case.   As he once said, the Vatican though he was too close to the government and the government thought he was too close to the Vatican.  Nevertheless, he was trusted by officials of the Communist Party, the State Administration of Religious Affairs, and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. 

Adam Minter did a profile on Bishop Jin some time ago.  You can read his latest profile on the late Bishop and his legacy for religious freedom in China.  What he did manage to accomplish is remarkable, not only in the rebuilding of churches, but through getting the Pope to be remembered in all Masses and long after everyone else had switched from Latin to the vernacular, getting Masses said in Chinese.  The government preferred that they still use Latin.  In China, they now all use Chinese for Mass.  You can read Adam Minter’s profile here.  Dr Anthony Clark, who wrote the preface to his memoirs, interviewed Bishop Jin many times.  You can read his profile of the late Bishop Jin here.

One wonders what will become of all of Bishop Jin’s labours.  His successor, Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin is still under house arrest and has not been seen since his episcopal ordination two years ago.  Bishop Ma publicly stated at his ordination that he wished to resign from the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, the Community Party-established association which all Catholics are required to belong to in China.  He was swiftly apprehended afterwards and taken to the seminary where he has been under the watchful eye of state security.  They have stripped him of his title, though the Vatican refuses to recognize this, as only they have the authority to do so.  Unfortunately, it seems that Catholics in China are once again at an impasse, given the new stricter guidelines required of all new bishops.  New bishops now must publicly assent to the rule of the Communist Party and the socialist system of government.  Hong Kong and Macau are separate cases.  They have separate legal systems and while the party may be present, it dares not operate openly. 

At some point, he was legitimised in his role as bishop.  He died as a Catholic bishop in full communion with the Pope and as a member of the Society of Jesus.

Posted by: rbbadger | July 22, 2013

King Philippe

This has been an interesting year for monarchy in Europe.  We saw a few months ago the abdication of Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands in favour of her son.  With her abdication, she is now once again Princess Beatrix.  A few weeks ago, King Albert II of The Belgians announced that he too would abdicate. 

Belgium as an independent state is a relatively new phenomenon.  In the 1830 Belgian Revolution, the Catholic southern provinces of Belgium separated from the Kingdom of The Netherlands.  The Dutch speakers and the French speakers were a unique alliance.  Unfortunately, the politics of language remains very controversial in Belgium.  There are three official languages, Dutch (also known as Flemish), French, and German.  Towards the latter end of the 20th century, conflicts between the Dutch and French speakers became very common.  The oldest university in the country, the Catholic University of Louvain, founded in 1425, split in the 1960s with the Dutch speakers remaining in the historic buildings and the French speakers establishing a new university in the nearby town of Louvain-la-Neuve.  The Dutch speaking university is now known as the Katholieke Universitiet te Leuven.  Leuven is the Dutch name for Louvain.

All government business, at least at the national level, can be conducted in three different languages.  The Constitution is in Dutch, French, and German as are all laws.  The bickering between the language groups is so bitter that Belgium recently went for a long period without a government.  The parties were simply unable to agree as to their representation.

Only Britain goes in for all the pageantry of a coronation.  In most other European countries, the inauguration of a new monarch is much more restrained affair.  Following the death of Francisco Franco in Spain, King Juan Carlos I was sworn in as king at the parliament.  The royal crown and sceptre were placed on a credence table near him, but he was not crowned.  A similar procedure happens in The Netherlands, though the new king or queen wears a long ermine cape.  There’s nothing on the Continent to equal the splendour of the State Opening of Parliament in Britain much less a British Coronation.  In Belgium, not even a crown or a sceptre is in evidence.

Because of the unique polyglot nature of Belgium, the king takes his oath in three languages, first Dutch, then French, and then in German.  He says, “I swear to uphold the Constitution and laws of the Belgian people, to maintain national independence and the integrity of its territory.” 

Posted by: rbbadger | July 6, 2013

Max Reger Will His Time Come? Again?

We’ve seen a lot of composer anniversaries in recent years.  In 2006, we saw the 250th anniversary of the birth of W.A. Mozart.  2009 was the bicentennial of Haydn’s death.  We’ve since seen the Schumann and Liszt bicentennials come and go.  This year marks the 140th birthdays two very different composers, namely Max Reger and Arnold Schoenberg. 

Max Reger is perhaps best known in organ circles.  In many of his organ works, he seeks to marry the adventurous harmonies of Richard Wagner with the counterpoint of Johann Sebastian Bach.  Like the later Paul Hindemith, Reger was a formidable master of counterpoint.  In some ways, he was a sort of Bavarian Brahms.  He did not compose any operas.  All of his compositions are in abstract forms.  Apart from the organ works, his two most famous orchestral works are the Mozart Variations, Op. 132 and the Hiller Variations, Op. 100.  Despite his Catholic birth and upbringing, many of Reger’s works feature German Lutheran chorales.  During the time of Bach and before, German composers made many fantasies and preludes on various chorales or hymn tunes.  The practice still continues among composers for the organ today.  The hymn tune appears in one of the voices where it is played against two or more other voices.  An excellent example is Bach’s Chorale Prelude “Wauchet auf, ruft uns die Stimme”.  The work starts out with a beautiful melody.  However, this is not the hymn tune.  You will hear the hymn tune played very slowly on one of the reed stops of the organ.  In this recording, the organist is playing the hymn tune on the lowest manual (keyboard).

The late organist Virgil Fox once said of Reger that it was “the mathematical complexity of Sebastian Bach times five!”  One of the pieces of Max Reger that I most like is his Chorale Fantasia on “Hallelujah, Gott zu loben bleibe meine Seelenfreude”, Op. 52, No. 3.  The hymn title in English is “Hallelujah, To Praise God Remains My Soul’s Joy”.  The Korean organist Ji Su-Ryeon performs this very demanding work quite well.   This is a sort of late-Romantic take on the whole Baroque tradition of Chorale Preludes and Chorale Fantasies. 

Max Reger is famous for another reason, too.  Like many composers, Reger had an adversarial relationship with some of his critics, especially Rudolf Louis of the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten.  Around this time, there was a great deal of bad blood between the followers of Johannes Brahms and those of Richard Wagner.  Reger was more in the Brahms tradition, as he valued traditional forms and abstract music over opera.  Louis was solidly in the Wagner school and was a friend of Richard Strauss.  After one particularly caustic review of Reger’s work, Reger wrote Louis “Ich sitze in dem kleinsten Zimmer in meinem Hause. Ich habe Ihre Kritik vor mir. Im nächsten Augenblick wird sie hinter mir sein.”  Or in English, “I am sitting in the smallest room in my house.  I have your review before me.  In a moment, it will be behind me.”  Sibelius, who had received more than his fair share of criticism once caustically remarked “Nobody has ever built a monument to a critic”.  There are monuments to Sibelius all over Finland today.  Max Reger has a concert hall and a high school named in his memory. 

Reger is an interesting composer to me.  Ever since I was a child, I loved the textures of fugal writing.  Reger provides a lot of dense Baroque counterpoint, albeit in a solid Romantic idiom.  Perhaps it’s natural that I would develop an affinity for the man and his work.  Apart from the two variation sets I’ve mentioned, I’m most familiar with his organ works.  When it comes to organ composition, the French tend to dominate the Romantic period.  However, I am interested in German contributions to the Romantic repertoire and Reger’s contributions are substantial.

Posted by: rbbadger | June 12, 2013

Before and After

When I’ve been in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China (中華人民共和國香港特別行政區), I generally chose to attend Mass at Mary Help of Christians Parish in Kowloon which is located inside Tang King Po School on Tin Kwong Road.  Since Benedict XVI granted a wider use of the older form of the Latin Mass, I do enjoy attending the older rite when I can.  It isn’t celebrated very often in Korea.  In Hong Kong, however, they have a very active group of lay people who are devoted to the old rite, along with the active support of both cardinals and a couple of priests. 

The changes that were made after the Second Vatican Council (1963-1965) simplified a lot of things.  For one, there is the wide use of the vernacular.  It was never meant that the vernacular would totally replace Latin, as has happened in many places.  Nevertheless, Latin has made a comeback in some places and Hong Kong is one of them.  One of the other changes was that Mass began to be frequently celebrated facing the people.  In the older days, the priest would face the altar for much of the Mass.  Unfortunately, I think that in many instances, Mass facing the people has not really helped.  Some priests indulge in all sorts of unnecessary commentary, as if the Mass were a talk show and we were his guests.  In his pontificate, Benedict XVI celebrated Mass both facing the people and also facing the altar, as he did in the Sistine Chapel.  Both are legitimate options in the new rite.  (You can also celebrate the new rite entirely in Latin.  I’ve seen it done a number of times before.) 

Anyhow, the liturgical requirements for the older rite are a bit more strict than those of the newer form.  Here is Mary Help of Christians as it is for the normal Chinese Masses on weekdays and Sundays.

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It’s not a terribly ugly parish, but it’s not terribly beautiful either.  Here’s the same church after being readied for the celebration of Mass in the Usus Antiquior.

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  It’s amazing what a nice frontal can do!

Last year, the Tridentine Mass Apostolate in the Diocese of Hong Kong celebrated their 10th anniversary with a Solemn Pontifical High Mass at the Throne celebrated by His Eminence, John Cardinal Tong.  Here’s a video of the event.

Posted by: rbbadger | June 12, 2013

Chungnyeolsa

Busan is Korea’s second largest city.  It has over four million inhabitants.  It is home to some of Korea’s largest ports.  Despite being such a large city, it seems to me to be much more relaxed than the capital of Seoul.  The people aren’t as pushy as Seoul types often can be.  That being said, Seoul is nowhere nearly as bad as any major American city. 

Busan has also seen more than its share of history.  During the Korean War, Busan was home to millions of refugees who came to escape the fighting.  It was just about the only part of South Korean territory which was not taken by the North.  During most of the war, South Korea’s de facto capital was Busan.  You can tour the old presidential mansion and a number of other places associated with the Korean War.

In the late 16th century, the Japanese, under the leadership of the Shogun Hideyoshi Toyotomi, attacked.  They went through Korea burning and pillaging.  So many old buildings were destroyed.  Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul was burned to the ground.  In Busan, Beomeosa Temple, which had been built in the late 7th century by the monk Uisang, was destroyed.  After the Japanese were successfully repelled, the city of Busan erected a shrine in honour of those brave men and women who arose in the defense of the city and the nation.  It is a Confucian shrine, I suppose.  Each year, on May 25th, Confucian ceremonies are performed in honour of those enshrined here.  The shrine contains the ancestral tablets of those honoured here.  Because this is not a royal shrine or a Buddhist temple, it is not painted in the elaborate manner you often see with those sorts of buildings.

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This is the entry gate into the shrine proper.

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The Sojuldang (昭茁堂) is a lecture hall where lectures were given praising the great virtue of those who defended the city of Busan.

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I love these old buildings, especially the architecture and the beautiful calligraphy.

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This is the main building of the shrine.  You will also see a number of ancestral tablets inside. 

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The gardens around the shrine are well-tended and magnificent.  There is also a lovely koi pond with some huge fish swimming about.  It is a good place to take your children.  You’ll see families there and the kids are permitted to feed the fish as long as you use the fish food they supply.

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To get to the shrine, take the subway line number 4 to Chungyeolsa station.  Take exit number 1 and follow the signs.  It’s very close.

Posted by: rbbadger | June 5, 2013

Symphony No. 45 “Farewell”

Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) was a very important figure in the development of western classical music.  Unlike the Romantic age, which celebrated artists, composers and musicians, during Haydn’s time a musician depended largely on patronage for his bread and butter.  Some composers, such as George Frideric Handel, were successful enough to make it on their own, though Handel was technically in the employ of the Hanovers back when they were still in Germany.  Apart from some periods where he was in the employ of nobility, Bach depended on the patronage of the church for his livelihood.  Handel was granted leave from his duties and conquered Italy and later the UK with his operas and oratorios.  Franz Joseph Haydn was in the employ of the Esterházy princely family of Austro-Hungarian nobility. 

The Esterházys were (and perhaps still are) a very wealthy princely family.  Their magnificent palace in Eisenstadt, which you can tour today, is owned by the Esterházy Foundation which was set up by Princess Melinda Esterházy de Galántha.  In the Hungarian countryside in the village of Fertőd, Prince Nikolaus Esterházy had built for himself a summer palace which rivals that of Versailles.  According to H.C. Robbins Landon, the pioneering Haydn scholar, it cost some 13 million gulden to build, a sum he terms “astronomical”.  The palace had 126 rooms, an opera house, and a marionette theatre.  During the summer months, the prince, his family, and his vast entourage of servants and musicians would pack up and move from Eisenstadt to Esterháza.  Unfortunately for the musicians, it is in a rather small town, even more so than Eisestadt, Austria where the family’s other principal residence is found.  It was very islolated.  Because there wasn’t the accomodation for the servant’s families, they had to leave them behind in Eisenstadt for a few months each year. 

While we often think of the music of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven as being quite Viennese, it is interesting to note that none of them were natives of the city, though each spent some significant time there.  Haydn spent much of his career in Eisenstadt, which isn’t a very large city, and also at the summer palace of Esterháza.  He was the director of music and composer to the prince.  His job meant composing a great deal of music.  He was isolated from some of the devolopments which were going on at the time, so, as he put it, in his isolation he was “forced to become original”.  After the death of Prince Nikolaus, Prince Anton and his successors didn’t show much enthusiasm for living at the summer palace and preferred to remain in Eisenstadt or at their other residence in Vienna.  While in Vienna, Haydn met and encouraged the young Mozart.  Mozart always had the greatest respect for the older composer.  He also taught the young Ludwig van Beethoven.  The only great Viennese composers to have actually been born in the city were Franz Schubert and Arnold Schönberg.  So many of Vienna’s great musical genuises came from somewhere else. 

Among the things which Haydn is known for were his contributions to the development of the sonata form.  He also brought about something beloved of many fans of chamber music, namely the string quartet.  Prince Anton was not quite the music lover that Prince Nikolaus was.  With increasing amounts of time on his hands, Haydn was granted leave to travel.  Like Handel, he made his way to England where he conquered mightily.  It was there that he first encountered the oratorios of Handel.  The experience overwhelmed him.  He later contributed a couple of oratorios of his own, namely The Creation and The Seasons

In 1772, Prince Nikolaus was spending a larger amount of time at Esterháza than normal.  The musicians very much wanted to get back to their families and had grown bored of their continued isolation in the Hungarian countryside.  Haydn came up with a typically witty solution.  He wrote a symphony.  Haydn wrote many symphonies.  There are some 107 of them.  They differ greatly in character from each other.  Haydn, who was always known for his exceptionally good sense of humour and for having a playful nature, does often let his humour shine through.  The Symphony No. 45 “Farewell” Hob. I:45* does have a very unusual feature.  In symphonies of the classical period, the last movement tends to be fast, most often (though not always) in a rondo form.  The last movement of this symphony does start out as expected, though it later becomes yet another slow movement, something which have must have surprised Prince Nikolaus.  One by one, the musicians leave the stage and snuff out their candles as they go.  Finally, it ends with two violins who in turn snuff out their candles and then leave.  The prince got the message and everyone packed up to return to Eisenstadt the next day.

*Composers in the 18th century tended to be very prolific.  They also tended not to use opus numbers, which give sort of a chronological list of the works they composed, such as Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 “Choral”, Op. 125.  Bach’s works have BWV numbers.  BWV stands for Bachs-Werke-Verzeichnis and is a complete listing of all Bach’s work.  Handel’s works all have HWV numbers.  Mozart’s works all bear Köchel numbers.  Ludwig Ritter von Köchel went through at catalogued all of Mozart’s works K.1 through K. 626.  The Hoboken-Verzeichnis is the complete catalogue of Haydn’s work.  Unlike the Köchel catalogue, which is a chronological list of Haydn’s work, the Hoboken catalogue is a thematic catalogue.  Hob. I:45 identifies this work as belonging to Section I (Symphonies) and this particular work as being his 45th symphony.  Anthony van Hoboken (1887-1983) was a Dutch engineer who later became a musicologist.  He was a collector of musical manuscripts and had a passion for cataloguing.  He completed his Haydn catalogue in 1957 and it is still the standard one used for Haydn.  The late American composer Alan Hovhaness (1911-2000) is in serious need of a similar catalogue.  He left behind him hundreds of works, not all of which have been performed, much less recorded.  While Hovhaness did assign opus numbers, his catalogue is sort of chaotic and the opus numbers often don’t reflect the true chronological order in which they were completed.

 

Posted by: rbbadger | June 1, 2013

The Pope and Wilhelm Furtwängler

Recently, the Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany, Dr. Angela Merkel, visited Pope Francis in the Vatican.  I haven’t posted much about Pope Francis.  I do believe that the cardinals made a wonderful choice.  Pope Francis is a very different man from his predecessor.  And while I still do admire Benedict XVI, I have been very pleasantly surprised by Pope Francis. 

Each Pope brings different talents and limitations to the role.  For Benedict XVI, who is after all a rather quiet and shy man, being thrust into the role as Sucessor of Peter must have been very difficult.  Following someone like Blessed John Paul II would be difficult for anybody.  Pope Francis, while as Archbishop of Buenos Aires, was somebody who loved mingling with the people and getting know them.  For him, that also meant getting to know the very real poverty to be found in the Argentine capital, along with its splendours.  When Pope John Paul II was the Pope, he would often invite guests to his private chapel for Mass.  Benedict XVI tended to have Mass only with his household staff.  Pope Francis has instead remained in the Vatican guest house where there are a number of priests in residence.  He seems to be taking his role as pastor and Bishop of Rome very seriously.  The private chapel in the Vatican apartments is very small.  The chapel in the Domus Sanctae Marthae is much larger and it is there that he has daily Mass with the resident priests and the various employees of the Vatican.  He is a man with a real pastoral heart.  He also seems to enjoy a life of simplicity and wants to continue to try and live a simple life as best he can, despite now having a very complicated role.

Like most Catholic bishops, Pope Francis has a doctorate.  He did his doctorate in Germany where he focused on theology of the German philosopher and theologian Romano Guardini.  (Guardini was ethnically Italian and born in Verona.  However, when he was one year old, his family moved to Mainz and he spent the rest of his life in Germany.)  He has made references in some of his speeches to the poetry of Friedrich Hölderlin.  Hölderlin was one of the German Romantic poets and novelists.  His poetry inspired many composers, Johannes Brahms and Robert Schumann among them.  However, I was surprised to learn that the Pope has a predeliction for the conducting of Wilhelm Furtwängler.  The Pope has hailed him as “Germany’s most brilliant conductor and the greatest Wagner and Beethoven expert”. 

For those of you who don’t know who Furtwängler was, he was a major figure in German cultural life in the first half of the 20th century.  He was the conductor of the Berliner Philharmoniker.  Unlike a number of German musicians, who fled Germany either because they were either Jewish or opponents of the Nazi regime, Furtwängler chose to remain in Germany.  He was not a fan of the Nazis.  He used his considerable influence to save the lives of a number of Jewish musicians.  However, because he chose to remain rather than flee, he had to dog controversy over being a Nazi for the rest of his life.  Furtwängler was never a member of the Nazi party and despised Hitler despite the fact that Hitler loved his conducting.  It’s an unfortunate example of good art happening to bad people.  He always refused to give the Nazi salute, would not conduct the Horst Wessel Lied (the anthem of the Nazis), and refused to sign letters with the customary “Heil Hitler”, even in those he wrote to Hitler.  Eventually, in 1945 under increasing pressure from the Nazis, he himself fled to Switzerland, though he returned to Berlin shortly after it was all over.  Unfortunately, though, the Nazis used culture to further their political aims, something which he was blind to.  Ordinarily, being invited to conduct at Bayreuth, the last home of Richard Wagner and home of the Wagner Festival is a huge honour.  Furtwängler conducted there when it was very much a Nazi stronghold.  He also conducted a number of concerts for workers, all of which were later used in Nazi propaganda. 

Furtwängler is regarded by many of as the greatest of the German Romantic conductors.  His style of conducting is not one which is much practiced nowadays.  Currently, musicians try their best to uncover what the composer’s intentions were and carry them out as best they can.  The discipline of musicology has been a huge help in this regard.  The early music revolution involved playing historic instruments, or at least good replicas of historic instruments.  A great deal of research has been done in areas such as fingering and bowing.   We also see Beethoven performed with much smaller orchestras than before.  Vibrato is avoided.  The British conductor Sir Roger Norrington made waves in the 1980s by releasing a series of recordings in which the Beethoven symphonies were performed on historic instruments with no vibrato and by carefully following Beethoven’s metronome markings.  Furtwängler, like other conductors of the time such as Willem Mengelberg and Leopold Stokowski, did not view the score as the absolute last word on a given piece of music.  He practiced a rather subjective approach to the music and rarely conducting a given piece the same way twice.  Furtwängler, sadly, suffered a loss of hearing at the end of his life.  After no longer being able to hear some of the instruments in his orchestra, he lost the will to live and died in 1954 aged 68.

Naxos Historical has released a number of Furtwängler’s recordings, one of which I bought a few months ago.  His rendition of the Schubert 8th “Unfinished” and 9th Symphonies would certainly not be approved by many critics today, at least if it came from a living conductor.  But since Furtwängler belonged to a different time, there is now a greater appreciation of some of these great Romantic masters.  Unfortunately, none of these Naxos CDs, which are very inexpensive, can be bought in the United States.  Thanks to US Copyright Law, which gives sound recordings a very long time before they go into the public domain, the Naxos International recordings can’t be sold in the United States of America.  If there is any greater example of who actually writes our laws (the special interests and lobbyists), US Copyright law is a prime example.  In most of the world, sound recordings are only protected for 50 years.  However, in the USA, it can take up to about 100 years before these works pass into the public domain.  I shall be a very old man or dead before some of the great recordings of the 20th century become public domain in my native land.  That being said, it is possible to find recordings of Furtwängler’s in the US, some of which have been licensed from their copyright owners.  One of them is the 107 CD set put out by Membran Music in Germany and which can be bought in the USA.

Pope Francis, according to this article which you can read by clicking here, recently received the German chancellor Angela Merkel in the Vatican.  As is traditional at these sorts of affairs, there is an exchange of gifts.  He gave the Chancellor some medals from the recent Sedae Vacante period.  She gave him some volumes of Friedrich Hölderlin’s poetry and the 107 CD set of Wilhelm Furtwängler’s complete recordings on Membran.  I’ve noted that Membran is already using this in their web store.   

I have to admit that I prefer some of the older recordings to some of the newer ones.  I have on my mp3 player some volumes of Gregorian Chant sung by the monks of the French Abbey of St. Pierre de Solesmes.  Solesmes is the greatest centre for the study of Gregorian Chant.  However, as musicological research has continued, Solesmes has abandoned the old method for which they were famed.  While their newer recordings reflect the best of recent research into the chant, my favourites still are the 1930 recordings they made on HMV under the direction of Dom Joseph Gajard, O.S.B.  I prefer the older, though less musicologically-correct Solesmes method, as much as I respect and admire the research done by Dom Eugène Cardine, O.S.B and his successors.  There is that wonderful legato and undulating rhythm which gives the chant a certain degree of serenity.

Posted by: rbbadger | May 27, 2013

Catholic Daegu

Daegu, the largest city in North Gyeongsang Province, is the hometown of many powerful persons in South Korea’s history.  Park Chung-hee, who was president from 1961 until 1979 was from nearby Gumi.  He went to a school for teachers in Daegu and then later entered the Japanese military academy in China.  Other presidents who came from Daegu were Chun Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo.  The current president of the Republic of Korea, Park Geun-hye, is also a native of Daegu. 

Daegu is also a very important city in the history of Korean Catholicism.  It is home to one of the three metropolitan provinces in Korea.  I live in the Diocese of Busan.  The Archbishop of Daegu is our metropolitan archbishop.  The other two archdioceses are in Gwangju and Seoul.  A number of the Korean martyrs came from the Daegu area.  Daegu is also home to one of the most splendid cathedral churches in Korea.  A number of the French missionaries were also architects.  Daegu’s Gyesan Cathedral was designed by Father Achille Robert, M.E.P. 

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Across from the Cathedral is First Presbyterian Church.  The design of First Presbyterian is probably not coincedental. 

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Near the cathedral, the Archdiocese has a large campus where you can find all the archdiocesan offices, the archbishop’s residence, the old seminary, and a cemetery where the bishops and some of the priests are buried.  One of the interesting things about the campus is the Lourdes Grotto.  The Vicar Apostolic of Daegu, Bishop Florian-Jean-Baptiste Démange, M.E.P. wanted to erect a Lourdes grotto.  However, after building the cathedral and the seminary, there weren’t the funds to carry it out.  Sometime later, one of the priests became seriously ill.  Bishop Démange promised Our Lady that if she would heal the priest through her intercession, he would build a grotto in her honour.  The priest was healed and the grotto subsequently built.

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Posted by: rbbadger | May 24, 2013

Samgwangsa

CNN named the lantern festival at Samgwangsa Temple in Busan as one of the top 50 most beautiful sites in the country.  Samgwangsa is not a historic temple like Busan’s historic Beomeosa temple.  Beomeosa was founded in 678 by the monk Uisang.  Uisang was one of Korea’s greatest Buddhist patriarchs and was a close friend of another great Korean Buddhist, Wonhyo.  Beomeosa was destroyed by the Japanese during the Hideyoshi invasions of the 16th century.  It was subsequently rebuilt in the 17th century, only to be burnt down again.  In 1613, Beomeosa was rebuilt.  Samgwangsa, on the other hand, was built in the 1980s.  There are several sects of Korean Buddhism.  The largest is the Jogye Order.  Samgwangsa belongs to the Korean Buddhist Cheontae Order.

The Cheontae Order is a revival of the Chinese Tiantai lineage.  It was founded by the monk Sangwol Wongak, whose image may be seen on the altar of Samgwangsa Temple along with those of the Buddha, the Bodhisattva Mahasthamaprapta (known in Korean as 大勢至 or Dae Se Ji) and the Buddha Amitabha (known in Korean as 阿彌陀佛, or Amitabul).  Cheontae Order temples tend to be quite spectacular.  They may not be the most historic.  Those tend to belong to the Jogye Order.  The headquarters of the Cheontae Order, Guinsa Temple, are so large that they can easily accomodate 10,000 monks and feed about 30,000. 

Buddha’s Birthday is a huge event for Samgwangsa Temple.  It is said that it has some the most impressive celebrations of Buddha’s Birthday in Korea.  Here’s the stone indentifying this place as Samgwangsa ( 三光寺) located on Mount Baekyangsan (白陽山). 

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Here’s a shot of the building which houses classrooms and dormitories for the monks.

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Here’s a close-up shot of some of the lanterns.

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This hall can accomodate a large number of people who come for lectures by eminent monks or for Dharma services.

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Here’s looking towards the building housing classrooms and the monks’ quarters.

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Some animatronic dragons, elephants, and a lotus flower which opens to reveal a Buddha inside could be found as well.

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The Daeungjeon is the heart of any Buddhist temple.  The Main Buddha hall is where many of the practitioners gather to practice their devotions.  It is also where the monks gather for chanting twice a day.  It is generally a very busy place and not really all that conducive to meditation.  It is for this reason that many Korean temples also include places where the monks, or lay people on retreat, may meditate in peace away from the visitors who come to either fulfill religious devotions or who, like me, come to look at the architecture.

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Unlike China, which tends to make its pagodas out of brick and Japan which tends to make them from wood, Korean pagodas are made of stone. 

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Finally, I leave you a shot of the temple at dusk just as the lanterns are lit.

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I also found over on YouTube a short video which gives an even better look at Samgwangsa’s annual celebrations.

Posted by: rbbadger | May 24, 2013

Cheondogyo Central Temple

For scholars of religion, South Korea is a fascinating place.  While it is a very ethnically homogenous society, its religious diversity is unique.  Among Christians, there is quite a bit of diversity.  While the dominant denomination is the Presbyterian Church in Korea, there are Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, the Assemblies of God, and others.  The Roman Catholic Church has been in Korea for over 200 years.  Additionally, there is a small Orthodox presence.  There are several Buddhist sects.  Korean shamanism continues to survive. 

Korea has also produced a number of new religions.  The oldest of these is Cheondogyo (天道敎), or the religion of the heavenly way.  Cheondogyo’s origins date back to the 1860s.  The founder, Choi Je-u, proposed his religion, which he called Donghak (東學) or “Eastern Learning” as an alternative to Seohak (西學) or “Western Learning” which was synonomous with Catholicism.  It is a monotheistic religion, which is sort of unique for Korea at that time.  However, the God worshipped by the followers of Cheondogyo is more panentheistic than anything.  Followers are to cultivate an awareness of God’s presence in them as well as in other people.  It draws on Confucianism as well.

It is also a very nationalistic religion.  About half of the signers of the Declaration of Independence of March 1, 1919 were followers of Cheondogyo.  The leaders and followers of the religion were involved in resistance to the Japanese regime.  It is one of the very few religions tolerated in North Korea today.  Like in China, there are seats allocated in the Supreme People’s Assembly.  And also like in China, the members of the Cheondoist Chongu Party all follow the leadership the Korean Workers’ Party.  (There are about eight minority parties in the People’s Republic of China.  Wan Gang, who is the Minister for Science and Technology, is the only non-Communist Party member of the State Council, or cabinet.  All of the minority parties follow the leadership of the Communist Party of China.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t be allowed to exist.)

Cheondogyo also played a part in the Donghak Peasants’ Rebellion of the late 19th century.  The rebellion of the peasants forced the king in Seoul to make some major reforms.

Anyhow, given its nationalistic heritage, it is somewhat strange that for their central temple, they hired a Japanese architect.  Nakamura Yoshihei was an architecht working in Seoul during the early 20th century.  He had on his staff an Austrian architect by the name of Anton Feller.  Perhaps this accounts for the almost Viennese Secession look of the building.  It was intended to be an answer to the Roman Cathedral Cathedral in nearby Myeongdong.  In the first half of the 20th century, the three most visible buildings in Seoul were Myeongdong Cathedral, the Japanese government building (since demolished), and the Cheondogyo Central Temple.  It is one of my favourite buildings in Korea.  It is well worth a visit.

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Matt Kelley of Seoul Scene has a short video about the history of this temple which is also worth viewing.

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