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two suites – Debussy / Ravel

minuet-1756.jpg!large

    Minuet (1756) 

 

           Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

 

                                   _________

 

a two pieces

 

          one by Debussy, his Pour le piano

              or, in English, For the Piano 

 

          a second, by Ravel, his Le tombeau 

              de Couperin“, or Couperin’s Coffin

 

 how are they similar

 how are they different

 you tell me

 

a couple o’ clues

 

          Pour le piano 

 

                  Prélude

                  Sarabande

                  Toccata

 

          Le tombeau de Couperin

 

                  Prélude

                  Fugue

                  Forlane

                  Rigaudon

                  Menuet

                  Toccata

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: both these works are suites, in

          the manner of Bach, compositions 

          with more than one segment, the

          first a prelude, followed by, at

          least, two dance pieces  

 

          the form had remained fallow for

          nearly two hundred years until it

          was revived, atavistically, during

          the Impressionist Period  

 

           if you can’t tell your sarabande

          from your rigaudon, your forlane

          from your toccata, don’t fret, they

          are now defunct dances, not to

          mention that they’ve always been

          stylized, these suites, in other

          words, weren’t made for dancing,

          as the saying goes, but for

          performance, listening

 

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Preludes – Debussy / Gershwin

rhythm-2008.jpg!large

    “Rhythm (2008) 

 

             Romul Nutiu

 

                         ______

 

 

here’s Book 2 of Debussy’s “Préludes”,

for a total of 24, as many as in Chopin’s 

undivided set, his Opus 28but with 

different motivations, different musical 

imperatives, which I won’t get into here 

for being, for the present, too abstruse

 

here are three, meanwhile, by George 

Gershwin, just for kicks, his only three 

 

what are the differences

 

you tell me

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: Gershwin, to my mind, adds, 

          indeed stresses, rhythm, 

          fascinatin’, as it were, rhythm,

          he’s no longer as unrelentingly

          meditative, serious, as was

          Debussy, a distinguishing

          characteristic of the

          increasingly American 20th

          Century

       

        

Chopin / Debussy – Preludes

prelude.jpg!large

       “Prelude (1909) 

 

               Willard Metcalf

 

                         _________

 

 

what’s a prelude

 

something that, by definition, 

precedes something else

 

which it had been, formally, 

before Chopin made it stand 

alone as musical form, 

much, incidentally, as he 

later did the scherzo 

 

a prelude, earlier, had preceded

several other dance pieces in

suites, Bach’s Cello Suites, for 

example, all start with a

prelude

 

or fronted fugues, in, again,

notably, Bach’s celebrated 

Preludes and Fugues sets, 

more of which, for their 

complexity, later

 

here’s Chopin, however, with 

his array of 24, his Opus 28

one for each key, incidentally, 

much in the manner of Bach’s 

template pieces, the Preludes

and Fugues

 

here’s Debussy’s Book 1

picking it up for the 20th 

Century, with his tonally

indiscriminate 12 

 

what’s the difference

 

you tell me

 

R ! chard

 

psst: apples and oranges, I think,

          depends on my mood that 

          particular night, whether

          meditative or melancholy

Études – Debussy / Rachmaninov

he-music-lesson-1917.jpg!Large.jpg
 

  “The Music Lesson (1917) 

 

          Henri Matisse

 

              _________

 

 

here are two sets of contemporary 

études

 

      the first, Book 2 of Debussy’s 
          Études pour piano 
            published in 1915

 

       the second, Rachmaninov’s
           Études-tableaux“, Opus 39,
            of 1917

 

note the similarities

note the differences

 

R ! chard

psst: I found Rachmaninov to be still
          caught  up in the Romantic
          Period – identifiable melodies,
          less eccentric tonalities – the
          better to, still, pull at your
          heartstrings, Debussy, is more
          clinical, cerebral, pointing the
          way towards, I think, jazz

          but you tell

Études – Chopin /Debussy

edgar-degas-the-ballet-class.jpg!Large.jpg

   “The Ballet Class (1871 – 1874) 

 

          Edgar Degas

 

             ________

 

 

ballet dancers will attach weights 

to their ankles during exercises 

to add lift to their legs when they 

are on stage, such is the point of 

études for a piano player, a 

workout for the fingers before 

public performance 

 

Chopin, however, made them, by

themselves, works of great art,

followed by, among others,

Debussy

 

here’s Chopin, his Opus 25

 

here’s Debussy, his own Études

pour piano, Livre 1“, or Book 1

 

how are they different

 

you tell me

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: this is an easy one, Chopin is

          Romantic, Debussy, manifestly,

          is not, Debussy is Impressionistic,

          it is a new perspective, you can 

          hear it, it’s textural rather than 

          emotional, indeed, it’s even

          abstract

 

          but nearly a century has gone by,   

          and Impressionism is the new  

          aesthetic, the new preoccupation

  

          which belongs to not only the  

          painters, let me point out, but to  

          all the arts, for better, once again, 

          or for worse

Études, Opus 10 – Chopin

studies-for-the-apotheosis-of-homer-1827.jpg

Études pour l’Apothéose d’Homère” /

             

                “Studies for The Apotheosis of Homer (1826 – 1827) 

 

      Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

 

             ____________________

 

 

what’s an étude

 

 you tell me

 

 here are 12, all by Chopin, his first

 set of two, his Opus 10

 

in English, étude is a study

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

 psst: if you said they’re technical 

          pieces, warm-up exercises, 

          in preparation for more 

          substantial stuff, you’re on

 

          it should be noted that Chopin,

          after the more rudimentary

          undertakings of the earlier 

          Czernyfor instance, or Clementi

          say, added the required substance,
          the missing transcendental
          element, turning his otherwise
          mere digital pyrotechnics into
          utter poetry, into prestidigitatorial
          magic

          listen

       

Chopin / Beethoven

the-sonata.jpg!Large.jpg

     “The Sonata 

 

            Childe Hassam

 

                    ________

 

what’s the difference between

 

        one, Chopin’s Andante spianato et

            grande polonaise brillante

 

        two, Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no 32, 

            opus 111

 

you tell me

 

that one is Chopin, the other Beethoven

doesn’t, of course, count

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: if you considered the intervening

         pause between the two distinct 

         musical segments, you’re on, the 

         pause makes clear the separate

         sections, though these be 

         nevertheless profoundly, and 

         incontrovertibly, interconnected,

         you can feel it

 

         the pause determines the form, 

         once there are two portions, you 

         have movements, movements 

         are the essential components of

         a sonata, no movements, no 

         sonata

 

         the Chopin has no movements,

         just one continuous elaboration,

         however multiply constructed, 

         and is so called – Andante 

         spianato et grande polonaise 

         brillante” – note the conjunction

 

         both, however, juxtapose 

         contrasting, though intimately 

         conjoined, musical pairings to 

         be experienced as couplings,

         for better or, as ever, for worse

 

         both, incidentally, are profoundly,

         and inexorably, Romantic, which 

         is to say, personal, and probing 

      

         

from act 4, scene 3 – Othello

jealousy-from-the-series-the-green-room-1907.jpg!Large

 

when Desdemona learns that Othello

suspects her of adultery, she asks 

her maidservant

 

      Dost thou in conscience think,–tell me, Emilia,–
      That there be women do abuse their husbands
      In such gross kind?

 

Emilia, older, wiser, replies

 

      There be some such, no question.

 

 

       But I do think it is their husbands’ faults
       If wives do fall: say that they slack their duties,
       And pour our treasures into foreign laps,
       Or else break out in peevish jealousies,
       Throwing restraint upon us; or say they strike us,
       Or scant our former having in despite;
       Why, we have galls, and though we have some grace,
       Yet have we some revenge. Let husbands know
       Their wives have sense like them: they see and smell
       And have their palates both for sweet and sour,
       As husbands have. What is it that they do
       When they change us for others? Is it sport?
       I think it is: and doth affection breed it?
       I think it doth: is’t frailty that thus errs?
       It is so too: and have not we affections,
       Desires for sport, and frailty, as men have?
       Then let them use us well: else let them know,
       The ills we do, their ills instruct us so.

 

 

fall” in the second verse, for this is 

indeed a poem, in iambic pentameter, 

could easily be replaced by “fail

nearly even calls out for it, 

homophones but for the timbre of 

their vowels 

 

say that their husbands slack, she says,

then lists the several manners in which 

husbands might betray their marital 

duties, by “foreign, she means “other“, 

foreign to the family circle  

 

laps“, incidentally, is a wonderful 

metaphor to accompany “treasures,

suggesting intimate physical contact,

much more so, say, than hands

would’ve, for instance, been

 

restraint” means conditions, stress,

impositions  

 

scant our former having“, to diminish

that which formerly had been given,

of either material or psychological 

goods – “having” is a noun here, not

a participle

 

in despite, which is to say, “out of 

spite

 

galls“, a synecdoche for internal

organs, a synecdoche, the word

that means a part which signifies

the whole  

 

affection” is “lust

 

 

we’re equal partners, Shakespeare 

says, men and women, in a shared 

humanity, indeed Shakespeare is

one of the first Humanists after  

centuries of religious subjugation,

centuries of the suppression of

independent thought, a defining

notion, not incidentally, of the

Renaissance

 

 

R ! chard

 

andante / polonaise, Chopin

Kwiatkowski-chopin

   “Chopin’s Polonaise – a Ball in Hôtel Lambert in Paris (1859) 

 

          Teofil Kwiatkowski

 

                ___________

 

what’s the difference between 

 

       one, an andante spianato

 

       two, a polonaise

 

you tell me

 

both, of course, by Chopin

 

 

“andante” is a pace, a tempo, a little faster 

than adagio, slower than allegro, spianato” 

is an Italian word for “smooth”, “even”

 

“et” is “and” in French

 

“polonaise” is a French adjective for 

“Polish”, as a noun it means a Polish 

dance

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: if you said intention, you’re again

          right, everything else is, of course,

          Chopin, two different perspectives

          on a related issue

 

           think of two distinct elements 

           coming together, formally 

           conjoined, as in a mariage, 

           for better, ever, or for worse   

         

           or as in this Andante Spianato et

           Grande Polonaise Brillante, a

           conjunction which has lasted,  

           indeed brilliantly, for nearly two 

           hundred years, despite individual, 

           sometimes divergent, even

           conflicting, outlooks

 

           enjoy

       

nocturnes / scherzos, Chopin

joke-of-putti.jpg!Large

    Scherzo di putti 

 

          Giovanni Battista Piranesi

 

                        ______________

 

 

what is the difference between 

 

        one, a nocturne

         two, a scherzo

you tell me

both by Chopin

 

nocturne, incidentally, is a French 

word for night music

 

scherzo is an Italian word for joke, 

something humorous

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

psst: if you said the pace, the tempo, 

          however comparably, in all the 

          instances, elastic, you’re 

         absolutely right, the rest is

         ever entirely Romantic, which

         is to say, by definition,

         introspective