Author Topic: Performances and The Persistence of Memories  (Read 1452 times)

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Offline Cato

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Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« on: September 18, 2019, 10:03:01 AM »
Recently there was a discussion of the 1960's performance of the Shostakovich Symphony #10 on DGG by the Berlin Philharmonic, conducted by Herbert von Karajan.

In the last weeks I have been revisiting the famous Sibelius set of complete symphonies from the 1960's performed by the Japan Philharmonic with Akeo Watanabe conducting.

Certainly there may be better recordings today, e.g. a certain amount of "hiss" is audible in the Sibelius recordings now and then.

However, I am biased in favor of these on one level because of the memories attached to them, when I first heard them.  Listening to these performances brings back an entire universe of other people, places, and events now lost forever, except in my memory.

And that aspect remains a reason to prefer them!  8)

Does anyone else share a similar preference/bias?
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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2019, 12:46:26 PM »
Of course.


In fact the HvK recording of the Sibelius Sixth was the first I heard. I know that other recordings are better, but I remain fond of that HvK recording
« Last Edit: September 18, 2019, 12:49:07 PM by k a rl h e nn i ng »
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Online vandermolen

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #2 on: September 18, 2019, 12:58:57 PM »
I have a similar relationship with HVK's performance of Honegger's 3rd Symphony 'Liturgique'. In the case of Shostakovich's 10th Symphony, my nostalgic emotional connection is with Ormandy's recording which my older brother had on LP at a time, during my teenage years, when I was first discovering classical music:
« Last Edit: September 18, 2019, 01:01:26 PM by vandermolen »
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Offline Ken B

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #3 on: September 18, 2019, 01:33:46 PM »
Quite a number. There are a lot of pieces where I imprinted on my first recording   

I must have heard Anda’s Mozart 21 more often than my name and it is still the standard I judge by.

Sibelius 6 & 7 HVK 60s is another pertinent  example.
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Offline Cato

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #4 on: September 18, 2019, 04:16:48 PM »
I have a similar relationship with HVK's performance of Honegger's 3rd Symphony 'Liturgique'. In the case of Shostakovich's 10th Symphony, my nostalgic emotional connection is with Ormandy's recording which my older brother had on LP at a time, during my teenage years, when I was first discovering classical music:


For the Honegger symphonies, my memories keep taking me back to Ernest Ansermet's recordings on London.  My associations take me back to Christmas vacations in high school in the middle 1960's.  I believe the Second Symphony was in fact paired with the Christmas Cantata on a London "FFRR" LP.  ("Full Frequency Response Recording" for you whippersnappers!)

Ormandy was very important for several recordings, among them the Rachmaninoff Symphony #1.  That record was earth-shaking...especially for an adolescent!   Again I associate it with the Winter and the 5-bedroom house where we lived for several years.


Of course.

In fact the HvK recording of the Sibelius Sixth was the first I heard. I know that other recordings are better, but I remain fond of that HvK recording


Yes, that is a classic, and had better sound (of course!) than the Watanabe set. 

The Maazel Tchaikovsky set on London was another favorite: I played the Third Symphony for a high-school friend of Polish heritage.   Despite the works nickname ("Polish") he was unable to agree that anything Polish was involved.  He lived across town, and I had to ride my bicycle for 45 minutes (one way) with one hand carrying the record and one on the handlebars to regale him with the symphony.  (His record player had better sound than mine!)
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Offline SymphonicAddict

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #5 on: September 18, 2019, 04:35:12 PM »
The title of this thread led me to think of the famous painting by Dalí.  :D

Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony conducted by Karajan/BPO (EMI) and VW's 2nd Symphony conducted by Bakels/Bournemouth SO (Naxos) are some examples where I was utterly hooked by when I started listening to classical music. Very good memories are brought to my mind when I relisten to them.
« Last Edit: September 18, 2019, 04:38:16 PM by SymphonicAddict »

Offline Ken B

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #6 on: September 18, 2019, 06:14:39 PM »
The title of this thread led me to think of the famous painting by Dalí.  :D

Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony conducted by Karajan/BPO (EMI) and VW's 2nd Symphony conducted by Bakels/Bournemouth SO (Naxos) are some examples where I was utterly hooked by when I started listening to classical music. Very good memories are brought to my mind when I relisten to them.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apNA2pfzD4k
Give a man a fire and he is warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he is warm for life.

Offline Cato

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2019, 03:29:50 AM »
The title of this thread led me to think of the famous painting by Dalí.  :D

Tchaikovsky's 5th Symphony conducted by Karajan/BPO (EMI) and VW's 2nd Symphony conducted by Bakels/Bournemouth SO (Naxos) are some examples where I was utterly hooked by when I started listening to classical music. Very good memories are brought to my mind when I relisten to them.

Allow me a variation on your theme: the recording which hooked me on Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony was an old Serge Koussevitzky/Boston Symphony record from RCA.

I just placed some comments under the Mahler Mania topic and mentioned the Ninth Symphony recording by Leopold Ludwig and the London Symphony Orchestra: I still recall listening to it in our "rumpus room," where I had placed my fairly new stereo system.  Nobody else was in the house (somehow), and I had borrowed the score from the library.  THAT first hearing was quite an experience, especially after the first movement, which qualified as a complete work itself (I thought at the time). 

Our curious cat, a small, medium-brown, female "tiger" cat, had come down the steps to listen as well, although she eventually succumbed to a nap.

The silence at the end of the work was emphasized by the silence in our house.  20 years ago or so, I was able to hear the Cleveland Orchestra play the work in concert: Severance Hall was being remodeled at that time, so the concert was a in a downtown theater.  Christoph von Dohnanyi allowed the silence at the end to persist for a long time, before he turned around.  A marvelous moment!
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #8 on: September 19, 2019, 09:29:13 AM »
Allow me a variation on your theme: the recording which hooked me on Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony was an old Serge Koussevitzky/Boston Symphony record from RCA.

I just placed some comments under the Mahler Mania topic and mentioned the Ninth Symphony recording by Leopold Ludwig and the London Symphony Orchestra: I still recall listening to it in our "rumpus room," where I had placed my fairly new stereo system.  Nobody else was in the house (somehow), and I had borrowed the score from the library.  THAT first hearing was quite an experience, especially after the first movement, which qualified as a complete work itself (I thought at the time). 

Our curious cat, a small, medium-brown, female "tiger" cat, had come down the steps to listen as well, although she eventually succumbed to a nap.

The silence at the end of the work was emphasized by the silence in our house.  20 years ago or so, I was able to hear the Cleveland Orchestra play the work in concert: Severance Hall was being remodeled at that time, so the concert was a in a downtown theater.  Christoph von Dohnanyi allowed the silence at the end to persist for a long time, before he turned around.  A marvelous moment!

Nice!
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline SymphonicAddict

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #9 on: September 19, 2019, 02:27:58 PM »
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apNA2pfzD4k

That was a charming piece, albeit there the title The Persistence of Memory is definitely more pastoral. Music to soothe the soul. Thanks for sharing it.

Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #10 on: September 20, 2019, 02:53:32 PM »
I'd say a good 85% of my "can't-live-without" choices for the mainstream standard repertoire are recordings 40-65 years old (I generally want at least stereo sound for orchestral music but I've heard great mono performances of course) ... How many Beethoven Concerto cycles are there? 30? More?  Leon Fleisher got it perfect nearly 60 years ago  ... A little minor hissing and close mic aggressiveness will never be anywhere near sufficient to disqualify those recordings... they are a paragon of insight, refinement, beauty, intelligence ...

There's also a incalculable quality of being closer to the source... let me put it this way ... think of Arthur Rubinstein playing Brahms... we're hearing him play that stuff recorded in the 1950s or 1960s and to us it's this grand old musician playing the music of a long-dead "Great Composer"... but Rubinstein's perspective is he's playing the music of a man who died when Arthur was a young teenager! Someone who was alive and famous when Rubinstein was growing up.  When Rubinstein or later Horowitz played the music of Rachmaninoff, they were playing the music of a colleague, a man they knew... For Sviatoslav Richter, Prokofiev and Shostakovich weren't ancient dead figures with halos of reverence; he knew these guys as living, breathing, complex human beings... You can do this with loads of great musicians of the older days (Casadesus with Ravel/Debussy, etc)
 
When George Szell or Fritz Reiner or Rudolf Kempe conduct Till Eulenspiegel or Don Juan, they're interpreting the music of a man they actually knew personally ... Mravinsky knew Shostakovich, he knew Prokofiev... They didn't see these people and their compositions under glass in a display

These people were from another time much closer to the music they were conducting or playing
 and it feels like that to me when I hear them ... there's a special feeling of insight because there's not that barrier of time and the dogma of reputations, etc ... 

In the 25 years since I first surprised the merchant of my local record store by purchasing a genuine classical recording (a Bernstein/NYPO Tchaikovsky cassette) as a long-haired pot-smoking teenaged hoodlum  ;) I've heard, for example many nicely played, appropriately interpreted London Haydn symphonies, some of them "HIP", others standard ... they're fine ... none of them touch the only set I ever had no choice but to buy - Szell's.  I heard them and that was it.  Had to have them.   In the Classical/Romantic/Early 20th Century repertoire it's rare that a recording from say the last 30 years becomes one I purchase. 

Baroque (not sure why, honestly) and obviously later 20th century and contemporary music, it's a wide open field and I'm all over the place ... old records, brand new records... no real preference pattern has emerged


"If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it!"
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Offline some guy

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #11 on: September 21, 2019, 01:09:30 AM »
There's also a incalculable quality of being closer to the source.
Though note that you did indeed calculate it, and very accurately as well. :)

The first recording the Beaux Arts Trio did of Shostakovich's second piano trio, first released the year Shostakovich died (recorded before he died?), is a splendid thing, fresh and lively and fairly crackling with energy. I noticed that other recordings of this were not so lively--somber, magisterial, reverent. They were all playing, it was clear, the work of a master, an important composer with weighty things to say about the world of the second world war. All of them but one (of the ones I found): the Eroica Trio. But while they put in a spirited performance, it was also quite ragged, as if the Eroica had not yet rehearsed it enough to be comfortable with it.

And "all of them" included, sadly enough, a subsequent recording by the Beaux Arts Trio, which is as lugubrious and reverent as all get out. By then (1989), Shostakovich had been dead long enough to have been deified as "A GREAT MASTER," and hence all his works had to be performed as if "PROFOUND and IMPORTANT."

I saw the same thing happening, live and in concert(s), after Mauricio Kagel died. Some groups played his music as he had written it, witty, sarcastic, and tongue-in-cheek. (Yes, I have heard Kagel perform his own music, live and on recordings.) Other groups, however, awed and sobered by death, performed even Kagel with the sobriety and reverence appropriate for a grand master. Getting it, as a result, painfully wrong.


Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #12 on: September 21, 2019, 04:27:42 AM »
Even the dead masters should be performed as if they still walked among us. Not as zombies, I don't mean.
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Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #13 on: September 21, 2019, 05:51:59 AM »
Though note that you did indeed calculate it, and very accurately as well. :)

The first recording the Beaux Arts Trio did of Shostakovich's second piano trio, first released the year Shostakovich died (recorded before he died?), is a splendid thing, fresh and lively and fairly crackling with energy. I noticed that other recordings of this were not so lively--somber, magisterial, reverent. They were all playing, it was clear, the work of a master, an important composer with weighty things to say about the world of the second world war. All of them but one (of the ones I found): the Eroica Trio. But while they put in a spirited performance, it was also quite ragged, as if the Eroica had not yet rehearsed it enough to be comfortable with it.

And "all of them" included, sadly enough, a subsequent recording by the Beaux Arts Trio, which is as lugubrious and reverent as all get out. By then (1989), Shostakovich had been dead long enough to have been deified as "A GREAT MASTER," and hence all his works had to be performed as if "PROFOUND and IMPORTANT."

I saw the same thing happening, live and in concert(s), after Mauricio Kagel died. Some groups played his music as he had written it, witty, sarcastic, and tongue-in-cheek. (Yes, I have heard Kagel perform his own music, live and on recordings.) Other groups, however, awed and sobered by death, performed even Kagel with the sobriety and reverence appropriate for a grand master. Getting it, as a result, painfully wrong.

I need to hire an editor for my posts ;)

Yours is a great post, by the way. 
« Last Edit: September 21, 2019, 05:57:11 AM by ChopinBroccoli »
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Offline Cato

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #14 on: September 21, 2019, 01:20:35 PM »
I'd say a good 85% of my "can't-live-without" choices for the mainstream standard repertoire are recordings 40-65 years old (I generally want at least stereo sound for orchestral music but I've heard great mono performances of course) ... How many Beethoven Concerto cycles are there? 30? More?  Leon Fleisher got it perfect nearly 60 years ago  ... A little minor hissing and close mic aggressiveness will never be anywhere near sufficient to disqualify those recordings... they are a paragon of insight, refinement, beauty, intelligence ...

There's also a incalculable quality of being closer to the source... let me put it this way ... think of Arthur Rubinstein playing Brahms... we're hearing him play that stuff recorded in the 1950s or 1960s and to us it's this grand old musician playing the music of a long-dead "Great Composer"... but Rubinstein's perspective is he's playing the music of a man who died when Arthur was a young teenager! Someone who was alive and famous when Rubinstein was growing up.  When Rubinstein or later Horowitz played the music of Rachmaninoff, they were playing the music of a colleague, a man they knew... For Sviatoslav Richter, Prokofiev and Shostakovich weren't ancient dead figures with halos of reverence; he knew these guys as living, breathing, complex human beings... You can do this with loads of great musicians of the older days (Casadesus with Ravel/Debussy, etc)
 
When George Szell or Fritz Reiner or Rudolf Kempe conduct Till Eulenspiegel or Don Juan, they're interpreting the music of a man they actually knew personally ... Mravinsky knew Shostakovich, he knew Prokofiev... They didn't see these people and their compositions under glass in a display


These people were from another time much closer to the music they were conducting or playing
 and it feels like that to me when I hear them ... there's a special feeling of insight because there's not that barrier of time and the dogma of reputations, etc ... 

In the 25 years since I first surprised the merchant of my local record store by purchasing a genuine classical recording (a Bernstein/NYPO Tchaikovsky cassette) as a long-haired pot-smoking teenaged hoodlum  ;) I've heard, for example many nicely played, appropriately interpreted London Haydn symphonies, some of them "HIP", others standard ... they're fine ... none of them touch the only set I ever had no choice but to buy - Szell's.  I heard them and that was it.  Had to have them.   In the Classical/Romantic/Early 20th Century repertoire it's rare that a recording from say the last 30 years becomes one I purchase. 

Baroque (not sure why, honestly) and obviously later 20th century and contemporary music, it's a wide open field and I'm all over the place ... old records, brand new records... no real preference pattern has emerged

Many thanks for the nice comments!

Yes, I recall thinking 50+ years ago how a performance of e.g. Rachmaninov conducted by Eugene Ormandy was more special because he knew the composer. 

George Szell: always a good choice, I believe.
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Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #15 on: September 21, 2019, 01:51:52 PM »
Many thanks for the nice comments!

Yes, I recall thinking 50+ years ago how a performance of e.g. Rachmaninov conducted by Eugene Ormandy was more special because he knew the composer. 

George Szell: always a good choice, I believe.

Exactly!

Szell/Cleveland... their records are very, very special to me.  They check all of the boxes that I hold most dear in classical music.  I admire many conductors and ensembles but none have ever so consistently hit me so squarely in the head and the soul ... I only wish they had made 100 more recordings
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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #16 on: September 23, 2019, 12:42:29 PM »
For the Honegger symphonies, my memories keep taking me back to Ernest Ansermet's recordings on London.  My associations take me back to Christmas vacations in high school in the middle 1960's.  I believe the Second Symphony was in fact paired with the Christmas Cantata on a London "FFRR" LP.  ("Full Frequency Response Recording" for you whippersnappers!)

Ormandy was very important for several recordings, among them the Rachmaninoff Symphony #1.  That record was earth-shaking...especially for an adolescent!   Again I associate it with the Winter and the 5-bedroom house where we lived for several years.

Yes, that is a classic, and had better sound (of course!) than the Watanabe set. 

The Maazel Tchaikovsky set on London was another favorite: I played the Third Symphony for a high-school friend of Polish heritage.   Despite the works nickname ("Polish") he was unable to agree that anything Polish was involved.  He lived across town, and I had to ride my bicycle for 45 minutes (one way) with one hand carrying the record and one on the handlebars to regale him with the symphony.  (His record player had better sound than mine!)
The Ansermet Honegger Symphony 2 and Christmas Cantata are familiar to me from a famous old Decca Ace of Diamonds LP. Like you, Ormandy was my introduction to Rachmaninov's First Symphony - still one of the finest performances I think. Like Cesar this thread title immediately brought to mind Dali's painting.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Cato

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #17 on: September 23, 2019, 01:01:42 PM »

 Like you, Ormandy was my introduction to Rachmaninov's First Symphony - still one of the finest performances I think.


Oh yes!  I had an LP of Ormandy and Company playing the Second Symphony, which contained cuts.  Until I obtained a score, I never knew that parts had been excised, as the symphony seemed whole, with no abrupt transitions or anything.  I once knew an aficionado who thought the cuts to be proper and an improvement.


 this thread title immediately brought to mind Dali's painting.


I certainly hope so! ;)

Similar story: a performance of Tchaikovsky's Manfred Symphony on RCA with the NBC Symphony and Arturo Toscanini conducting also had cuts, which I did not realize until later.  And this time, I thought the cuts (mainly in the last movement) may have improved the impact of the work: the shorter version of the last movement was a fast sledgehammer to the psyche!
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Offline ChopinBroccoli

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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #18 on: September 23, 2019, 07:50:27 PM »
Ormandy gets ripped on for his interpretations (or rather lack of) in some material but in his defense I'd say the following are beyond dispute:

1) he led an orchestra for decades that was one of the world's greatest playing and greatest sounding ensembles and that can't just be a coincidence

2) because of his steady discipline and that great playing, all of the records are enjoyable to listen to even when his lack of interpretation is maddening

3) he was a faultless, expert Concerto accompanist

4) he clearly had a genuine genius for the Russians ... especially Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and somewhat surprisingly Shostakovich (his 1st symphony remains my favorite recording of the work and his 5th is one of the tightest played ever put to disc)

Overall, there's a lot to look upon positively
"If it ain't Baroque, don't fix it!"
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Re: Performances and The Persistence of Memories
« Reply #19 on: September 24, 2019, 10:42:11 AM »
Ormandy gets ripped on for his interpretations (or rather lack of) in some material but in his defense I'd say the following are beyond dispute:

1) he led an orchestra for decades that was one of the world's greatest playing and greatest sounding ensembles and that can't just be a coincidence

2) because of his steady discipline and that great playing, all of the records are enjoyable to listen to even when his lack of interpretation is maddening

3) he was a faultless, expert Concerto accompanist

4) he clearly had a genuine genius for the Russians ... especially Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky and somewhat surprisingly Shostakovich (his 1st symphony remains my favorite recording of the work and his 5th is one of the tightest played ever put to disc)

Overall, there's a lot to look upon positively

I can agree with all of this.  For me at least, Ormandy for a long time was over-shadowed by his flashier Columbia compatriots (Lenny, Szell, and Walter), but recently I've revisited a lot of his recordings, and invested in a few of those cheapie Sony white box sets.  In general, I've been very pleased (it's hard not to smile while listening to the sound of that orchestra), particularly with his Sibelius set, which is outstanding. 

You're right about the Russians -- Ormandy's Shostakovich is excellent, as is his Tchaikovsky (and I'm not generally all that into Tchaikovsky).  Now they just need a box collecting all of his Rachmaninov recordings; I would definitely snap that up...


I've been slowly working my way through this... lots of good stuff in here....


« Last Edit: September 24, 2019, 10:44:16 AM by j winter »
The man that hath no music in himself,
Nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
Is fit for treasons, stratagems, and spoils.
The motions of his spirit are dull as night,
And his affections dark as Erebus.
Let no such man be trusted.

-- William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice