Sunday, September 8, 2019

Brad Pitt has "Invictus" tattooed on his arm!

Just when I thought publicity for the novel, "Invictus" by L.L. Holt, couldn't get any better, I read in The New York Times yesterday that Brad Pitt has Invictus tattooed on his arm! Every time he waves to the camera, thousands of fans scramble to the Internet to look up and find the title of my new book! It just doesn't get any better than this.

To find out the real meaning of Invictus, order a copy at amazon.com. Make sure you get the version by L.L. Holt. It's such a popular concept that you'll find dozens of older books with this name, but not the same smokin' hot Brad Pitt version!

On the page before the preface, you'll find everything you need to know about Invictus. But don't stop there! You'll want to read THE WHOLE BOOK, with its message of triumph over despair, justice over prejudice, and hope over tragedy, and how each one of us can reach for and attain our own star in the firmament of possibilities.

Thank you, Brad, for helping me communicate the importance of self-confidence and becoming the best we can be to millions of people around the world. Now, Everyone, go grab a copy of "Invictus" by L.L. Holt for every organization, club, and individual you know. What a holiday gift! What a guy!





Sunday, July 14, 2019

Harvard Square article on Holt Invictus book launch

Here is a link to coverage of my book launch in 2019. Please copy this URL and paste into a browser:

https://litvote.com/invictus-launch/

Venice Baroque Orchestra dazzles. Review at BachTrack.com

The first in what I hope to be a series of classical music reviews at a Web site with an international beat. Please copy and paste into a browser:

https://bachtrack.com/review-vivaldi-venice-baroque-orchestra-new-york-july-2019

Monday, May 13, 2019

Nicola Walker - Remarkable Acting, Remarkable Face

Mini review: I was just blown away last night by Nicola Walker’s portrait of breakdown in the BBC detective series, Unforgotten (S3 E5). (Some spoilers follow.) Actually, the portrait began in Episode 1 five weeks ago. What is particularly interesting is how she was able to convey the descent from uneasiness to full-blown collapse primarily through facial expressions and some vocal effects. Unlike a stage actor who uses their entire body to convey character development, a lead performer in a TV drama relies heavily on facial expressions captured in close-ups.

Walker plays Cassie Stuart, a middle-aged detective chief inspector (DCI) whose unit is responsible for investigating cold cases using new techniques such as DNA matching. She is assisted by her partner, Detective Inspector Sunny Khan (played by Sanjeev Bhaskar), who seemed catatonic in the first two dramas in the series, but has evolved into an emotionally engaging character in the third. Unlike other police dramas, the quality that stands out in these two characters and indeed their entire investigative team (thanks to writer Chris Lang) is compassion, a quality that while ennobling their quest for justice, takes its toll on their already fraught personal lives.

We’ve seen Walker before as the farmer in Last Tango in Halifax (another spoiler) who lets her abusive husband die only later to fall in love with and marry his brother. She has ice-blue eyes and a haunted, craggy beauty with lines that seem cruelly etched into her face. At the same time she can convey vulnerability and the steely toughness of a survivor. I don’t know whether this face-focused approach to acting would work on the stage, probably not; but with Walker’s film portrayal of someone at the top of their game falling apart professionally and personally, it is acting at its best.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Mozart's Requiem, the Velveteen Rabbit, and Recollections of the Moldau

Although it has been stitched together from odd scraps and pieces, like the Velveteen Rabbit, the Mozart Requiem remains one of the most perfect creations of man or God.

We stand in awe before it, as before Bach’s B Minor Mass or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. And yet, unlike those mighty works, there is something wounded and vulnerable in the Requiem. It may be because we know something about the deeply personal story behind it: Mozart feverishly trying to outpace the Grim Reaper as he struggled to meet the deadline for a much needed commission, and losing that race.

Then, his assistant Süssmayr rising to the occasion to provide a finished edition two years later. Or did he? The music is nothing like anything the acolyte produced before or since. How much of the work truly was composed by Mozart, how many of those mysterious scraps of paper with notes and instructions contributed to the completion, did Süssmayr really provide anything of substance? And what about discoveries of more scraps and hints in the 1990s, including a complete “Amen” fugue after the “Lacrimosa”?


Ultimately, who cares? Whether we hear the earliest Süssmayr version or the now more widely accepted edition by Robert D. Levin, this is music etched in the DNA of humanity. If you have heard it even once in the past, it has already taken root in who you are. It is as inescapable as eternity.


Sentimental imaginings of composers' deaths 
were popular art subjects in the 19th century

Probably the best performance I ever heard of the Requiem was in Dvorak Hall next to the Vltava River (“the Moldau”) in Prague. The year was 1998; it was the Prague Chamber Orchestra and Chorus, I don’t remember the conductor. The ensemble was small but sonorous, musically rich yet full of that spiritual brokenness that we all share with Mozart on some level. But the Requiem can be heard as a large-scale work as well, and that is what I heard April 12, 2019, as the Philadelphia Orchestra and more than 150 singers of the Westminster Symphonic Choir joined forces to produce a much larger sounding Requiem than I am used to, but one with a memorable tale to tell.

Bernard Labadie, a Baroque and Classical specialist, conducted the orchestra, while Joe Miller directed the choir, joined by four distinguished soloists. Michele Losier’s warmly enveloping mezzo voice blended beautifully with the grainy bass-baritone of Neal Davies and the bright tenor of Jeremy Ovenden. But I was singularly impressed by the pure, bell-like tones of soprano Amanda Forsythe. The pristine clarity, the sense of always holding just a little something back made her voice so appealing, so dramatically effective. There was a sensuousness about her voice that at times seemed to reach out for the words rather than simply articulate them. Her expression was sincere, a little pained, but hopeful, yes, unfailingly confident, perhaps redeemed. What a privilege to hear and see her perform so affectingly.

This may actually be the first time I heard the “Amen” that was added 20-some years ago, and it nicely stitched together the conclusion of the Sequentia and the opening of the Offertorium. The orchestra and choir provided a large, heart-stopping sound, sometimes a bit too grand for my taste, and oddly ended on a subdued note in the “Lux Aeterna.” The peroration spins higher and higher in a kind of dust devil of ecstasy, but instead of slamming home that last measure after the dramatic key shift, Labadie seems to hold back the timpani, and pull in the power at his fingertips. The audience’s failure to launch into applause seemed more tied to not being sure this was actually the end, rather than a moment of silent reverence at the completion of a masterpiece. But this is nit-picking; the performance was splendid and the composition itself, gorgeous beyond words.

The program opened with Mozart’s less than stunning Masonic Funeral Music and the popular “little g minor” Symphony No. 25, featured in the film, Amadeus. The concert was held in Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center, Philadelphia, Pa., USA.

Last page of Mozart Requiem, original edition,
courtesy of Petrucci Library, IMSLP

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

L.L. Holt interviewed on Princeton TV about novel, "Invictus"

Here is a link to a half hour interview with L.L. Holt, author of Invictus, on Back Story with Joan Goldstein, Princeton TV. The interview is being telecast throughout April 2019. Please copy and paste the vimeo link into a browser if the link is not working.

https://vimeo.com/329114277

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Gripping tale of Beethoven's childhood unveiled on Princeton TV

I was thrilled on March 19, 2019, to be interviewed by sociologist and educator Joan Goldstein on her Princeton TV30 talk show, Back Story. The program will air in New Jersey, USA, at 8:30 p.m. ET on Wednesday, March 27, and 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, March 31, and will be available via a URL starting next month.

Increasingly, I am thinking of this novel, a fictionalized account of Beethoven's life from birth through age 16, as a metaphor for the heartbreak of domestic violence, prejudice, bullying, failure, and abuse that haunts millions of lives in the 20th and 21st centuries.

In recent weeks, as I carefully proofread galley after galley in anticipation of the April 10 release date, I began to experience episodes of empathy with the main character, Luis (one of the names Beethoven used), that I did not have when I wrote the book six years ago.

Why was I feeling this way? What was it about the descriptions of family violence and the ray of hope that spreads into a rainbow on the final page?

Then it became clear. I had experienced this myself. Whether through actual incidents or through the observation of others, I knew every taunt, put-down, and slap, but more important, I knew every door that was opened because of a caring stranger, a great teacher, and my own inner resolve.

The child Beethoven's story is not just a tale from the past, a loose configuration of facts and imaginings. It is our story today, the story of how we have dared to progress from darkness into Light.

There was a reason the tears would fall every time I read the final pages of Invictus. I was that child, graduating from high school with no future, no promise, no one to care for me. And yet I did persevere and create the success that others would deny me.

I think now that Invictus has far greater meaning than a mere story about a young composer. It has meaning for everyone who has ever been held back because of their background or the way they looked, or through jealousy.

But it also has meaning for showing us that hope is always there, and when no one shows up to open the door, we can put our hand on the doorknob ourselves, and give it a turn.

https://harvardsquareeditions.org/portfolio-items/invictus/