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“Orfeo ed Euridice” – Christoph Willibald Gluck

6-orpheus-leading-eurydice-from-the-underworld-plein-air-romanticism-jean-baptiste-camille-corot.jpg!Large

   Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld (1861) 

 

           Camille Corot

 

              _________

 

the question of the afterlife comes up

in several places in art history, from

very Homer to the present, my very

favourite is Gluck‘s opera Orfeo ed 

Euridice“, 1762

 

Orpheus, because of the sweetness 

of his music, his ability on the lyre, 

is granted, by the rulers of the 

Underworld, the return, among the 

mortals, of his recently deceased 

beloved, Eurydice 

 

the condition is that he not turn back

to look at her as he leads her back 

to the world of the living, our 

sensate world

 

it’s a journey I’ve taken often for its

utter enchantment and inspiration,

you’ll find it irresistible

 

watch, listen 

 

you won’t want to not go back,

I didn’t


 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

“Death is nothing at all…” – Henry Scott Holland

St_Paul's_by_Thomas_Hosmer_Shepherd_(early_19th_century)

     “St Paul’s Cathedral 

 

           Thomas Hosmer Shepherd


                          _____________

 

upon learning of the recent demise 

of my younger sister, my only sibling,

a friend sent me the following passage

 


    “Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away 

     into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains 

     exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we 

     lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we 

     were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar 

     name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put 

     no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or 

     sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we 

     enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my 

     name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be 

     spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. 

     Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. 

     There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death 

     but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because 

     I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, 

     somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing 

     is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was 

     before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we 

     meet again!”


 

it is usually presented as a poem, but 

was part of a sermon, rather, given by 

Henry Scott Holland, the very pastor 

who composed it, at St Paul’s 

Cathedral, in London, after the death 

of Edward Vll

 

listen

 


it expresses well the experience I’ve

had with others of my beloved 

departed

 

intimations of my sister are already 

popping up in my reality, soon, I told 

another friend, I’ll be talking to her 

more often than when she was not 

gone

 

much as is the case with my father, 

for instance, away some 30 years 

now, but an abiding presence, 

however mystical, still, and, 

it appears, forever

 

I consider myself profoundly 

blessed

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

“Requiem” – Antonin Dvorak

1024px-Notre_Dame_de_Chartres.jpg


        Chartres Cathedral – View from south-east


                           _____________________

 

                                               for Donna

 


a few days before a dear friend was due 

to pass away, which is to say with medical 

assistance, I had taped from television, 

whether coincidentally or not, Antonin 

Dvorak’s “Requiem”, though I hadn’t yet 

listened to it

 

on the day of the procedure, I lit candles, 

put the music on, and sat in attendance 

as its flights of angels s[a]ng [her] to

[her] rest

 

the piece is somber, probably reserved for

somber occasions, but upon their instance, 

the work is glorious, and salutary

 

here, it is performed at the Cathedral

of Chartres, suffused with the solemnity 

and the splendour appropriate to such 

a fateful moment   

 

may you journey forth in peace, 

dear friend

 

 

R ! chard 

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 4, Opus 58 – Beethoven

music-painting-and-decoration-of-a-piano-1920.jpg!Large.jpg

     Music (Painting and Decoration of a Piano) (1915-1920) 

 

          Konstantinos Parthenis

 

                    __________

 

like with Shakespeare, some of Beethoven’s

work doesn’t reach the heights I find in their 

utter masterpieces, his Fourth Piano Concerto

is, to my mind, such a piece, though it’s not at

all not impressive

 

my complaint is that the musical motive, the

original theme, the cluster, merely, of notes

that make up the matter of the ensuing 

harmonic explorations, in all of the three 

movements of the Fourth, is lost in his 

excessive elaborationsone is distracted by 

the soloist’s dazzling showmanship rather 

than by the work’s metaphysical magic, as 

is conversely the case rather in Beethoven’s 

sister concertos, his OneTwo, Three, and 

Five 

 

most notably, the Fourth‘s slow movement,

the andante con moto, slow, but not unduly,

passes by in an instant, nearly imperceptibly,

but for the conspicuousness of its plodding 

rhythm, you wonder what just happened,

what did I miss

 

the first movement, the allegro moderato, 

or slightly slower than allegro, begins highly

unconventionally with the soloist at the helm, 

setting up the conversation, as it were, the

subject of the matter

 

that an individual, a commoner, would’ve  

dared to initiate a dialogue of purported 

significance in a culture where subjects

would have known their place, like later,

for instance, a woman asserting her 

position in a patriarchal society, would’ve 

been shocking, and highly controversial

 

but Beethoven raps out a rhythm, four

quick notes followed by four quick notes

followed by the same four notes again,

ra ta ta tat, ra ta ta tat, ra ta ta tat, like

someone knocking at a door, however

plaintively, requiring attention, before the

orchestra responds, determinedly and

categorically, though the soloist will ever 

remain the prime, and manifest, mover

 

this is not a tune, this is a statement

 

this is also the 18th Century’s introduction 

to the Romantic Period, where individual 

voices were stating their answer to the 

question of the disintegration of the

aristocratic as well as the religious 

ideals which had prevailed throughout 

the earlier Christian centuries, when 

their controlling dogmas, however still 

entrenched, were being questioned, 

and rejected, as evidenced by both the 

constitutional dictates of the American ,

and the French Revolutions, which 

were installing, codifying for their 

progeny, their individual continents,

and for very history, the idea of Human,

as opposed to the traditionally assumed

Divine, Rights

 

secular voices would consequently

sprout in myriad profusion 

throughout the ensuing 19th Century 

in order to people with personalities, 

as distinct from omnipotent, whether 

secular or ecclesiastical, established 

figures, to shape the ideologies of the 

impending future, for better or for 

worse

 

but I digress, exponentially

 

the third movement of the Fourth Piano

Concerto reminds me, in all its urgency,

of the finale of Rossini’s William Tell

Overture, of which I suspect it might  

have been an inspiration, the work

better known to many of my generation

as the theme to The Lone Ranger

 

Lone Ranger indeed, Beethoven was

already leaving his indelible, not to

mention generative, mark on our

present, 21st Century, culture

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 3 in C minor, Opus 37 – Beethoven

fishing-boats-on-the-deauville-beach-1866.jpg!Large.jpg

    Fishing Boats on the Deauville Beach (1866)

 

          Gustave Courbet


              ___________

 

if you’ve listened to the first two 

Beethoven piano concertos here

you’ll find the Third to be very 

similar in structure, the first 

movement is an allegro, which is 

to say it’s fast, and in the manner 

of Beethoven, brash, tempestuous,

exhilarating, the second, slow, an

adagio, or a largo, is plaintive,

melancholy, mournful, the third, 

brisk, ebullient, commanding, is

again an allegro

 

the form is descended from Mozart 

and the Classical Period, of which 

Beethoven is the tail end, but the 

entrails of his pieces are entirely

upended and revolutionary

 

Beethoven demands your attention,

his music is no longer the backdrop

for social gatherings of the 

aristocracy, but performances for 

intent audiences

 

compare, for instance, Mozart’s 

24th Piano Concerto, a more 

demure affair, however 

impressive

 

there are several similarities, both

pieces are in C minor, a downcast

key traditionally, but most notably,

the intial musical motive, or idea, 

at the top of either concerto, their

first few introductory notes, are

the same, you’ll recognize them

 

but Mozart is never in your face,

insisting upon your attention with

eccentric rhythms and jerky 

musical progressions, not to

mention loud and aggressive

passages such as Beethoven

presents, but lulls one, rather, 

into his reverie with an ever  

polite discourse from a 

deferential soloist, courteous 

and beholden, however ever

illustrious, from the first note

to the last

 

in the visual arts, it’d be like 

comparing a Courbet, say, to a

Monet, it’s a question, given 

their overlapping time periods, 

of accent, and sentiment

 

you’ll need in either case, of 

either, a keen ear, a keen eye

 

listen 

 

now listen

 


R ! chard

 

Piano Concerto no 2, opus 19 – Beethoven

allegro-con-brio-bourke-st-west-1890.jpg!Large.jpg

     Allegro con brio, Bourke St. West (1890) 

 

                Tom Roberts

 

                    ________

 

 

a concerto is a movie, but for the ears,

one listens, rather than looks, for one’s 

information

 

quite specifically, Beethoven introduces

drama into his inventions, where earlier 

there’d been merely an invitation to the 

dance, minuets, for instance, gigues, or 

disparate, disorganized, appeals, 

otherwise, to our more interior, whether 

secular or mystical, emotions, see in 

this context, for instance, early adagios, 

heart-wrenching, melting often, odes

 

these, or the even slower largos, fit 

neatly, however, into Beethoven’s 

compositional scheme of things,  

between the introductory allegros,

often con brio, and the closing, 

and equally spirited rondos, by 

becoming the pivotal element in 

his intended musical evening, the 

core of his narrative presentation, 

the plangent centre of his three 

part play, film 

 

here’s his Second

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 1, opus 15 – Beethoven

Jolson_black

      Al Jolson, in “The Jazz Singer” (1927)


              _________________

 


in order to abate my discomfort, my

consternation, after meeting up with

one of the candidates I considered

favouring in the upcoming election,

I put on Beethoven’s Firstwhich,

incontrovertibly, from the first few 

notes, did the trick, took me out of 

politics and the uncomfortable 

present, into metaphysical 

pertinence, and magic

 

I’d referred to the issue of blackface,

a searing issue at present in the 

media, I said, what about Laurence 

Olivier doing Othello, Placido 

Domingo doing the very same Moor,

not to mention Al Jolson doing,

unforgettably, My Mammy 

 

but picked up that neither the

candidate, nor his mentor, standing 

by his side, had any idea what I was 

talking about 

 

Placido Domingo, I said, one of The

Three Tenors, remember them

 

the aspiring representative indicated 

a dim recollection, his accompanist 

admitted to having nebulously heard

of him, them, somewhere

 

OMGess, I reared, I’m talking to the 

next generation, maybe even the 

generation after that, who have no

recollection, no understanding of

where I come from, it was, to say

the least,  unsettling, discomfitting, 

sobering 

 

there was no one at home with whom 

to commiserate when I arrived, 

answering machines only at the end 

of every line, I resorted, therefore, 

not unwisely as it turned out, to the

said Beethoven, who was, as usual, 

lifesaver

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

“The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross” – Joseph Haydn

lord-s-crucifixion-1990.jpg!Large.jpg

     Lord´s Crucifixion (1990) 

 

           George Stefanescu

 

               ____________

 

 

my sister is not well, her situation, 

though blessed throughout with 

grace, is dire, in such moments I 

turn to music for consolation, for 

courage, and for a serene 

acquiescence to whatever might 

be the outcome, the hour that I 

spend thus with her becomes in

that light a meditation, a mass,

private prayer

 

I’ve lit a trinity of candles in her

honour, one nearby for our dad,

gone these already thirty years, 

on something of an altar I’ve 

fashioned, however all the while 

unconsciously, about my 

fireplace, by their flickering 

silence, I find a place for 

solemn contemplation 

 

The Seven Last Words of Our

Saviour on the Cross is to my 

mind Haydn’s greatest 

masterpiece, its subject is

self-explanatory, but you might

want to read again here what I 

wrote about it earlier for 

greater context 

 

it is sung in the Oratorio de la

Santa Cueva, the Oratory of 

the Holy Cave, in Cádiz, Spain

for which it had been originally

composed

 

it is transcendent

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

on our magnificence

allegory-of-magnificence-1654.jpg!Large.jpg

   Allegory of Magnificence (1654) 

 

      Eustache Le Sueur

 

           ____________

 

we have only our magnificence to 

counteract the indignity of our 

incarnation

 

a flower is itself its only existential 

defence, its effervescence of 

attributes – colour, grace, 

intoxicating aroma – its 

validating glory

 

we are such things as dreams 

are made of, its a question of 

choosing one’s dreams

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

Symphony no 7 – Anton Bruckner

cathedral-1991.jpg!Large.jpg

   Cathedral (1991) 

 

          George Stefanescu

 

                          _________

 

 

it’s funny, upon the imminent demise of

of my only sister, I chose to listen to,

instinctively, for solace, Bruckner’s 

Symphony no 7, lighting candles,

everywhere in my apartment, at 

dusk, like settings, for my somber

reveries

 

listen, you might understand why

 

Bruckner was a profoundly Catholic

composer, composing liturgical

works expressive of his profound

beliefs, fit, aurally, for, indeed,

cathedrals, ceremonial, arresting

 

his 7th, grand and utterly convincing,

is not an ineffective consolation, is

not an easily disregarded promise 

of something, however ephemerally

manifested, beyond the meagre

aspirations of merely faith

 

and which finally produces an epiphany,

a human understanding, that just being,

just responding to our condition, within

the confines of our station, is, 

eventually, nothing short of grace

 

art, in other words, is praying

 

 

R ! chard