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“Julius Caesar”, a foretaste

"The Dead Caesar" -  Jean-Léon Gérôme

The Dead Caesar (c.1859)

Jean-Léon Gérôme

__________

a friend and I are undertaking our
umpteenth reading of a Shakespeare
play, “Julius Caesar” this time, which
I hadn’t read in an age

in this version, still unparalleled,
Brutus, James Mason, presents his
argument for the assassination of
Caesar
, “Hear me for my cause, and
be silent that you may hear…not that
I loved Caesar less but that I loved
Rome more”,
he proclaims

Mark Antony, in the incarnation of
Marlon Brando, responds, for the
ages

and therein lies the glory, incidentally,
of Shakespeare

just saying

Richard

Grieg, Piano Concerto in A minor‏

Arthur Rubinstein

Arthur Rubinstein

_________

inspired by a favoured blogger of
mine who’d highlighted an obscure
composer who’d written an
unforgettable cultural ditty we’d
all heard but never further thought
of, Hugo Alfvén, I was reminded of
another Scandinavian giant, Grieg

stop, watch, don’t just listen, to
Arthur Rubinstein make history
with Grieg’s A minor Piano
Concerto
, he is the very
representation of all of the
proprieties of a late 19th-Century
aesthetic, noble, aristocratic,
austere, yet authentic, capable,
firm

André Previn’s orchestral
accompaniment is unobtrusive,
and disappears, for all intents
and purposes, behind the sheer
dedication, conviction, of the
true maestro, the veritable muse,
the instigator, Arthur Rubinstein,
watch him leave all of them behind
in flurries of electrified inspiration

this performance bursts beyond
all literal expectations, expect
nothing short of transcendence

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Daniel Kharitonov, ll‏

Daniel Kharitonov

Daniel Kharitonov

_________

there ‘ve been extraordinary
performances since Maria Mazo‘s
defining reinvention of Mozart’s
21st Piano Concerto
, the “Elvira
Madigan”, at the XVth International
Tchaikovsky Competition
, worthy
of, believe me, fruitful commentary,
but for the sake of brevity and, of
course, indiscretion, I’ve refrained
from going on and on, and on,
about however many of them, all,
nevertheless, quite outstanding

but before even the end of Daniel
Kharitonov
‘s final and deciding
performance, of Tchaikovsky’s
indomitable 1st Piano Concerto,
followed by whatever by Liszt,
he has, like Maria Mazo, here
given us a new standard for
hearing these indelible musical
epics, she takes over from
Mitsuko Uchida, goddess of
Mozart, he takes over from very
Van Cliburn, you’ve got to go
back to 1958 to have heard
this commanding thunder

Kharitonov is sixteen, a bud
becoming a flower

wow, no matter who wins

Richard

psst: his Liszt, incidentally, will
restore your faith in Liszt

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Maria Mazo, ll‏

"Elvira Madigan"

a still from the movie “Elvira Madigan

________________

there’s been a second round of
recitals, enough to make you
weary of sonatas, unless you’re
stalwart, devoted, primed

the prizes have been awarded,
the results posted at the site,
so that any mystery, excitement,
has been chilled, had you been
in any way excited about your
choices

they certainly rained on my
parade

by now most of my favourites
have gone down, others have
been perfunctory, to my mind,
but three, which surely I’ll
cover, but presently let me
start with Maria Mazo, a
wonder, who’d wowed me
earlier with her
transcendental Beethoven

here, with an orchestra, she
takes on a monument of the
20th Century, Mozart’s 21st
Piano Concerto, better known
since the mid-20th Century as
the theme to the movie,
Elvira Madigan, a forgotten
film now, however enchanting,
but this is where a generation
learned about Mozart

Maria Mazo sets the new
standard here, this is how
you’ll hear this concerto from
now on, it is magical, it is
mystical, it is extraordinary,
it’s right up there with the
greatest, who are presently
handing over to her our
musical reins

thank you, Mitsuko Uchida,
with the greatest admiration

strangely Maria Mazo didn’t
even place

who could ‘a’ ever thunk it

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Maria Mazo

  "L'oiseau de feu" -  Leon Bakst

L’oiseau de feu (1910)

Leon Bakst

________

after playing Scriabin’s 4th Sonata,
in F# major, opus 30, a passionate
but poised performance of a work
dated 1903, Ravel maybe, or
Debussy, at first I thought, though
neither had ever been so furious in
my recollection, then a transcription
for piano of the last movements of
Stravinsky’s “Firebird”, a work as
obstreperous as the Scriabin, and
as revolutionary, relentless and
brash, much more audacity than
diplomacy however ultimately
treasured universally and celebrated,
Maria Mazo undertakes no less than
the mightiest of the mighty, gasp,
Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier”

she takes on the first two movements
at something of a clip, not an
unwelcome occurence so long as you
have the fingers for it, which on the
strength of her earlier numbers I
deemed she would, and did, which
only added to the gravitas of her then
largo, which thereby became
resplendent, luminous, utterly and
verily, indeed, transcendental, note
the cherubs twittering halfway
through, just before Beethoven
enters the portals of very Heaven
and is transformed into radiance and
incandescent light before your
very astonished sensibilities

Maria Mazo should win

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Dmitry Masleev‏

"Portrait of the Composer Sergei Rachmaninov" -  Konstantin Somov

Portrait of the Composer Sergei Rachmaninov (1925)

Konstantin Somov

_____________

after two superb performances on
the last day, June 20, of the Round
1 competitions, I expected to close
up shop, not listen to another
deserving competitor, skipped a
trio of competent but otherwise
uninteresting contenders, and
readied to quickly go on to the
second round nominations

Dmitry Masleev, the very last
performer, wasn’t to go down,
however, without a fight, wowed
me, despite my initial sceptical air
he delivered from the beginning an
unimpeachable Bach, followed by
a “Farewell” Sonata to rival Shino
Hidaka
‘s, my queen, from there it
was nowhere but up, his final
Rachmaninov dotted the i’s,
crossed the t’s, of his brilliance,
a fitting hiatus to a powerful
and significant showdown

listen

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Shino Hidaka

  "The Musical Contest" -  Jean-Honoré Fragonard

The Musical Contest (1754-5)

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

______

with only four contestants to go,
I already crown Shino Hidaka the
winner of the XVth Tchaikovsky
Competition
, this kind of affinity
only comes around once in a
lifetime, her Bach was not only
perfect but inspired, probing,
her ensuing Chopin,
mesmerizing, the Beethoven
that followed aptly, though ever
unexpectedly, transcendental,
transcendence not ever
happening without absolute
mystical concentration, her
Tchaikovsky, an evocation
rather than a mere description
of a Russian village, her
Rachmaninov, on utter fire

Dmitry Shishkin, before her,
neither was un-brilliant, a
consummate technician,
however, rather than an outright
revelation, his spirited Bach was
a turning point for me, finally
someone who got it, his Mozart,
as frivolous and delightful as
Mozart would’ve wanted it to be,
the rest appropriately everywhere
dazzling, second, therefore, ever
so illustrious, nevertheless,
prize, bravo

neither, incidentally, milked any
of their notes, just played what
was written

Richard

psst: compare Fragonard, above, to
Mozart, a synaesthetic match,
where sight and sound are
interwoven, giving you social
intimations of the mid-18th
Century

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Daniel Kharitonov‏

Daniel Kharitonov

Daniel Kharitonov

__________

Daniel Kharitonov will be 17 in
December, I think he could win

after the usual misconceived, to
my mind, Bach, which he ends,
however, with lengthened notes
that evoke the organ instead of
the more skittish, less ceremonial
harpsichord, giving credence to
some, at least, rubato in Bach,
for Bach wrote exceedingly for
the organ, he then not only
recaptures your confidence with
an unexpectedly sparkling
“Appassionata”, not easy after
so many, then polishes off his
laurels with virtuosic Liszt,
Chopin and Rachmaninov after
having played a lovely, aptly
contemplative, “Méditation” of
Tchaikovsky

Daniel Kharitonov is going places,
indeed has gone, Carnegie Hall, for
instance, in 2013, he would’ve been
14

watch

Richard

July, 2015‏

"July Bathing" - Konstantin Yuon

July Bathing (1925)

Konstantin Yuon

_________

the most wonderful thing I learned
about Tchaikovsky’s “The Seasons”
recently, watching the Tchaikovsky
Competition
, was, first of all, that
they even exist, and secondly, that
they are comprised of months,
January, February, March, and so
on, not seasons

so Vivaldi, Tchaikovsky would’ve
thought, so XVlllth-Century, been
there, done that

my favourite month is June to date,
of course, my birth month, July,
though more accurate here,
seems somehow inappropriate
on account of its unfortunate title,
“Son of the Reaper”

you’ll like June, a barcarolle
in G minor, and imagine the music
of July to be the music of June all
over again, no reapers but of wheat
and money

listen to Moye Chen, however,
deliver not only the first formal
glimpse I had of Tchaikovsky’s
masterwork, including months, like
“April: Snowdrop in E-flat major”,
do you love it, but also a noteworthy
Bach and, not un-coincidentally,
a quite competent Mozart

all entirely worth your time

may your July be blessed

by whoever might be your deity

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Bach‏

"J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)" -  Robert Strûbin

“J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)” (1957)

Robert Strûbin

________

if I’ve been getting on their backs
about their Bachs at the Tchaikovsky
Competition
, it’s that they’re playing
Bach as though he were mediocre
Beethoven, it’s like asking Duke
Ellington to be Pink Floyd, it’s just
a completely different generation,
era

Bach wrote for the harpsichord, a
precursor to the piano, it could not
control the volume, nor the length
of a note, the pianoforte came
along to resolve both issues

therefore before Beethoven, who
made full use of the new invention
and worked hard the pianissimos
and the fortissimos, to degrees that
often became either inappropriate
or too authoritative, indelicate or
obnoxious if you’re not in the mood
– I remember wanting to play his so
solemn 111 at my father’s funeral,
but realized late that the first
movement was not especially in
that situation warranted, nor even
parts of the transcendental, but not
always not obstreperous, adagio –
and thumbed thus his nose at the
aristocracy, who earlier, before
the citoyens had demanded their
rights and when the world had
been considered to be of a
rational, logical order, a clock,
and as regular, would never have
tolerated such impudence

Bach and Mozart do not sway
much from strict rhythm, neither
do they alter volume much at all

so that the constant display of
heartfelt Bach and passionate
Mozart becomes cloying, and
not at all what these Classical
and Baroque masters would
have approved of

nor Beethoven, nor Chopin, for
that matter, whose strict tempo
markings didn’t include much
rubato, ritardandos, which you
could think of as milking a note,
putting velvet on your canvas,
it doesn’t work, the composition
itself unaided by bathos, pathos,
delivers, check out, of course,
Glenn Gould

Andrei Korobeinikov sat me right
down the other night with his
arresting BWV868, thrilling,
followed by more dazzling
pyrotechnics, though he fizzled,
and fractured his Beethoven, the
very 111 I care so much for, I
couldn’t even finish, you don’t
need a velvet canvas behind the
111, neither cloying ritardandos,
just skill, nor tangles of notes,
for that matter

Richard

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