A toast to …

Nibelungenlied Manuscript C, Folio 1r, about 1220-1250. Owned by Landesbank Baden-W├╝rttemberg and Bundesrepublik Deutschland. Permanent loan to the Badische Landesbibliothek, Karlsruhe (Codex Donaueschingen 63).

Reflecting the increasingly Austria-centric concentration of this journal, I posted items this week about the late Professor Marjorie Perloff and the holiday offerings of radio klassik Stephansdom.

In addition, I raise my glass today to the Nibelungenlied; as part of my continuing education and immersion in all things German and Central European, I’m reading the Penguin Classics translation by A.T. Hatto, a rather interesting fellow himself. A page of the manuscript, from a 13th century codex, is above. I’m just past the midpoint now, as Kriemhild┬á stopped at Melk and then proceeded to Vienna for her marriage to Hungary’s King Etzel. As it happens my family and I were in both Melk and Vienna just a few months ago; no sign of Kriemhild, but that was some time ago.

Compared to the much older epics of the Mediterranean Sea — the Iliad and the Odyssey for starters — the Nibelungenlied is far sparer and relatively god- and goddess-free, with more of an emphasis on the internal lives of its characters; apart from Siegfried’s cloak of invisibility, there’s very little supernatural about it. I suppose you could say that, like the climate from which it emerged, it’s much colder than Homer’s poems, but I rather like that; although of course there’s considerably more Christian and chivalrous material, there’s also an awareness that paganism was still an element in social, cultural, and religious life (indeed, a Christian Kriemhild marries a pagan Etzel, a point made by the anonymous Nibelungenlied poet). In addition, both Brunhilde and Kriemhild possess much more agency and are far more energetic than Homer’s female characters — the Nibelungenlied is much sexier and erotic, for want of better words, than the earlier epics. Wagner’s Ring operas have a rather scant resemblance to this poem, relying more on the Volsung Saga, but the Nibelungenlied itself is still quite a wonderful read.

Reading the rest of it is how I’ll be spending much of this weekend.

A toast to …

Cafe Katja.

This afternoon at Cafe Katja I’ll be raising a glass to … well, myself, for a busy week here at the blog. Apart from encouraging you to donate to radio klassik Stephansdom in Vienna, I offered a few notes from Kenneth Clark on civilization and opera, spent a few minutes looking at the triumph of wisdom, and pointed your attention towards a new Klimt exhibition opening next week at the Neue Galerie here in New York.

But I’ll also be raising a glass to Seiji Ozawa, who today stepped down from this earthly podium at the age of 88. Gramophone has a gossip-free overview of Ozawa’s career here, and the Vienna Philharmonic, of which Ozawa was an honorary member, remembers him here.