In this world there are very few things that are perfect. Of course, every person has a different opinion about what is perfect, it is a matter of individual taste. I was musing about this when I was listening for the umpteenth time to the recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing “The Cole Porter song book.” Her voice and his words and music combine to give a perfect rendition that gives deep joy. That is the criterion.
Ella Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, VA, in 1917 and recorded the Cole Porter songs in 1956. Incidentally her name is of Irish origin (Fitz means son). Cole Porter was independently wealthy, from Indiana and studied in Yale and Harvard, quite a different background. He had a horse riding accident in 1937 and after many operations was in pain for the rest of his life and eventually had to have one leg amputated, yet there is no hint of bitterness or pain in his songs. His songs are noted for their panache and the cleverness of the lyrics. I quote from the influential novel “Nausea” written in 1938 by Jean-Paul Sartre, which is considered a classic of existentialism. “Some of these days, you’ll miss me honey”… “It is the worn-out body of this Jew with black eyebrows which it chose to create it….I envy him…She sings, so two of them are saved, the Jew and the Negress….I feel something brush against me lightly… Something I didn’t know any more, a sort of joy.”
Every Monday at noon (except during July-Aug) we go to a concert usually of classical music at the Shearim Hall off the main Square in Netanya. We have heard some truly great instrumentalists there. I am thinking of Adrian Justus, the virtuoso violinist originally from Mexico, and recently a cellist whose name I have forgotten, but who was superb. We had a concert from Maria Solodovnik, I have mentioned her before, she is a truly world class pianist who teaches at the Conservatoire in Jerusalem. She played some pieces notable for their pianistics, Beethoven’s Sonata Op 13 (beautiful), Chopin’s Scherzo No. 2 (amazing), and Piazzola’s “Libertango” (wonderful). There are few other such combinations, Frank Sinatra with the Nelson Riddle orchestra, Beethoven’s late quartets, Benny Goodman, Gilbert and Sullivan, some Mozart or Chopin, Shostakovich, Bartok’s “Sonata for two pianos and percussion.” These examples may all seem very different, but they do elicit an intense joyous experience that elevates the soul.