Richibi’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

twice upon a violin concerto – Beethoven / Paganini

the-violin-lesson-1889.jpg!Large

  “The Violin Lesson (1889) 

         Tom Roberts

              _______

to juxtapose two things for consideration
to my mind, is the best way to sharpen 
both one’s aesthetic and, therefore, 
spiritual personality, here, thus, are 
two contemporaneous, essentially,  
violin concertos, concerti, if you like, 
Paganini’s 5th, 1830, Beethoven’s
Only, 1806

let me point out that the Classical Era
is over at this point, this isn’t music 
for the courts any longer, but music 
as spectacle, you can hear it, it’s like 
moving from Frank Sinatra‘s 
nightclubs to David Bowie’s stadiums

noteworthy about these two pieces is 
that the structure in each is identical, 
the same lengthy introduction in the 
first movement, followed by an 
articulate, and eventually mesmerizing, 
elaboration on the initial melody by 
the soloist, with divergent, however, 
intentions, Paganini starts with a 
fanfare, promises histrionics, delivers
fireworks, Beethoven begins with 
portent, goes instead for drama, 
which is to say, your heart, as well

both their second and third movements 
are essentially, then, indistinguishable 
conceptuallytheir last movement in 
either is even a rondo

the challenge in the Paganini is physical,
the glory is in the player’s technical 
prowess

with Beethoven the requirements are 
both physical and emotional, he 
punches for the heart, which the 
player musttherefore, with equally 
astounding panache, incidentally, 
also conquer 

style, in other words, over substance,
substance over style, which is to say
The Phantom of the Opera“, for
instance, or Cirque du Soleil,
Rachmaninov, maybe, versus 
Liberaceyou are the judge

history has sided, however, with 
substance, Beethoven’s Violin  
Concerto is everywhere, it isn’t at 
all easy, conversely, to come up  
with any of Paganini’s, despite 
their incontestable magnificence

maybe it’s time for a Paganini 
revival, they did that several years 
ago for the inimitable Rossini, an 
effervescent light in an otherwise 
mostly dour 19th Century, listen,
with counts and countesses here  
in attendance, at very, can you 
believe it, Versailleswow

 
R ! chard

Advertisements

off my top – from Bach to Beethoven

6.jpg

    “Alice in Wonderland” 

             Mary Blair

               _______

when I listen to Bach, I feel like I’m 
on a train – from Leipzig to Dresden, 
say, his territory – the constancy of
his rhythms, modified only by 
accidentals along the way, the 
particular condition of the rails, that 
indeed decorate an otherwise 
monotonous clockwork progression, 
beat upon beat, there is neither an 
increase in volume, which hadn’t been 
formally invented yet as a principal 
musical implement – and I’m only 
partially joking here – the music is 
horizontal, not focused on reiteration, 
but on getting there, accomplishing 
mission, upon which the outcome is
even spiritual – it’s Dresden, I get off 
at the Neustadt Station, am not only 
refreshed but utterly inspired, 
reminded of my position in the world, 
and my place in this novel, but
ordered, and pious, environment 

listen to Bach, his Sonata for Violin
and Piano, B minor, BWV 10141717 
to 1723 approximately, for instance

with Mozart, I get on a merry-go-round,
at a carnival, the clockwork has become 
circular, you can sing the tune, and sing 
it again without a problem, the wooden
horses fly by, one after the other, entirely 
recognizable, though ever magical and
entertaining, but you get off at exactly 
the same untransformed station, 
however delightedly

Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano,
no 18 in G major, K301, 1778, say

with Beethoven, though, it’s like going 
through the looking glass, if you’ve ever 
been through one, the direction is 
horizontal again, you might try singing 
along, but get only so far, until you’re 
utterly confounded, what happened, 
where am I, you wonder, when 
suddenly a Mad Hatter comes along, 
or a Queen of Heartsand speechless, 
you hold onto your seat, it’s 
Disneyland, but without the usual 
safeguards

later, after however many movements,
you’re returned to, if you’ll permit in 
its American transliteration, Kansas, 
from Oz, and Dorothy’s tornado, her 
equally transformational journey, 
safe and wondrously sound, but with 
extraordinary benefits, mystical, 
even transcendental 

but, o my goodness, you think, it’s 
late, I’ve got to get the supper on, 
and, did that really just happen, a 
blip in the order of consciousness, 
a very illumination, a transcendence, 
however secular, however 
non-denominational a take on the 
question of our shared fate, our 
shared humanity, our manifest 
and sublime glories, our profound 
and wrenching tragedies, as 
probing, and indeed as oracular 
as the words of any of the other 
propounding pastors, indeed 
philosophers, then, in a world 
coming to grips with the debate 
around God, and by extension,  
I might extrapolate, my own 
God/dess

for by this time, that had become
a concern, Science, which is to say, 
the Enlightenment, the Age of 
Reasonhad provided a convincing 
counterpoint to the various takes on 
an, even just Christian, Supreme 
Deity, Who’s very viability was up,
in the 18th Century, for grabs

Beethoven provides the first 
personal option, his version of the 
Ten Commandments, for the later
non-denominational ages, our 
souls, our individual agonies, he 
demonstrates, are enough of an 
argument for our unconditional 
salvation, our personal, and 
resplendent souls are not not to
be discounted, their poetry, their 
truth and beauty, are the heaven 
towards which we can existentially 
all aspire, for better, of course, or  
for worse

Beethoven, his Sonata for Violin 
and Piano in G major, no 10
Opus 96, 1812, listen 


R ! chard

twice upon a “Pastorale” – Beethoven

summer-pastoral-1749.jpg!Large   

    “Summer Pastoral (1749)

          Francois Boucher

                __________

on my way to my metaphorical 
Eiffel Tower, Beethoven’s Piano
Sonata no 15, the “Pastorale”,
his first to impress me, his 
Opus 28despite the notoriety 
of the earlier “Pathétique”, 
Opus 13and of the “Moonlight”
his Opus 27, no 2, splashy 
showpieces, those last twoto 
my mind, rather than revelatory,  
knew I was going to stop at the 
Arche de Triomphe, if you’ll 
allow me the developing allegory
to visit the other “Pastorale”, the 
6th, and my favourite, Symphony
one of the few works which he 
named, but where he also gives, 
apart from tempoin the usual 
Italian, descriptive headings in 
German, the culture that had 
taken over the arts, essentially, 
from the Italians, during the 
18th Century

Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen 
bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande, 
he, for instance, instructs, or
Awakening of cheerful feelings on 
arrival in the countryside, then
Scene by the brook, Merry 
gathering of country folk, Thunder. 
Storm, and finally Shepherd’s song. 
Cheerful and thankful feelings after 
the storm – five, unconventionally 
already, movements, instead of the 
usual three, or four, with headings 
that look a lot like stage settings,
cues for a play, chapters in a story

it’s evident that music has explicitly 
become, hereliterature, movements 
have been given a specific thrust, 
particular direction to follow, not  
dance, but emotive, appealing to the 
vocabulary of the senses, the 
grammar of the heart, music as 
graphic description, later we’ll even 
get tone poems 

sure, Vivaldi had written his Four 
Seasons“, 1723, but never, ever, 
as precisely rendered as here,
Beethoven brings to life an actual 
storm, bing, bang, pow, you hear, 
as thunder cracks, rumbles, 
crashesnot to mention the virtual 
call, chirp, twitter of the various 
birds he elicits bristling in the 
rustling leaves, you’ll even hear 
in the recovering countryside 
rainbow if you listen

music has become a language, a
medium of direct intelligent 
communication, enough, indeed, 
to verily inspire century, indeed,
as well, beyond


you’ll also fall in love with Leonard 
Bernstein here, who shows why 
Leonard Bernstein remains ever, 
indisputably, Leonard Bernstein,
beautiful, angelic, inspired

R ! chard

twice upon a dirge – Beethoven / Chopin

owl-on-a-grave-1837.jpg!Large

   Owl on a Grave” / “Eule am Grab (c.1836 – c.1837) 

          Caspar David Friedrich

                   _______

following my nose rather than 
my intellect in my exploration 
of musical treasures, like a very 
Aladdin uncovering at the click 
of my password a cave full of 
priceless wonders, I might find 
stuff out of sequence, but gems
nevertheless, and I can’t just 
whisk by without acknowledging 
them, however peripheral to my 
main task  

it’s like heading towards the Eiffel
Tower in Paris, and not stopping 
at the Arche de Triomphe

though I’d debated so soon 
presenting these two pieces, 
not because of their chronology 
especially, though also that, but 
mostly because of their dour 
content, I’ll point out that the 
move from Classicism to 
Romanticism is the transition 
from dance music, delightful 
music, to drama, passion, 
powerful emotions, dirges, 
therefore, are not out of place, 
however mournful

thus the two most famous 
funeral marches, Beethoven’s,
Chopin’s, the third movement 
in either of their home sonatas

the clincher for me was the 
immaculate performance of 
the Chopin herea revelatory 
moment, though the Beethoven
significantly earlier, the tune, 
1801, 1837, is nevertheless 
unimpeachable, however still 
underdeveloped – four variations 
only in the first movement, for 
instance, and all of them 
elementary – the caterpillar had 
not yet become the butterfly, the 
apple blossom the apple

note that each movement in the 
Chopin, apart from the last, has
two distinct tempi, executed 
effortlessly and nearly 
imperceptibly, a total of six, you 
can’t see, you can’t hear, the 
seams as you listen, which, with 
its virtual therefore episodes, 
conflicting and tortuous 
emotions, constitute collectively 
a drama, a narrative, music has 
become literature

the last movement of the Chopin
moves beyond even tempo – 
Beethoven’s also, incidentally, 
nearly – creating therefore 
very challenge to it, both trying 
to transcend tempi, an area to 
closely watch

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no 12

Chopin’s Piano Sonata no 2

take your pick

both are supremely, mark, 
instructive


R ! chard

Minuets in G – Bach / Mozart / Beethoven

not_detected_236478.jpg

    The Minuet (1866) 

          John Everett Millais

                  _________

having pointed out that the minuet 
and the waltz were historically 
related, let me somewhat 
extrapolate

they are both in 3/4 time, which is 
to say, three quarter-notes to the 
bar, which means that when 
you’re dancing, your beat is one,
two, three, one two three, with 
the accent, usually, on the first 
note

so what happened, how could two
identical frameworks turn out so 
differently 

here’s Bach, 1725, his Minuet in G
the first thing you’ll think is, o, so
that’s what that is, it is an iconic 
number written on our collective
consciousness

the second thing you’ll notice is
that it is choppy, however delightful, 
that it is written for a harpsichord,
and that it’s probably not ready, 
despite it’s 3/4 time, to be a waltz,
too many curtsies

here’s Mozart, 1762, his Minuet in G
though you might not want to admit 
it, I suspect this number is much
more present in your subconscious
than you’d think, see if you don’t 
find yourself later on humming it

but it’s still way too polite to be a
waltz, you can easily imagine the 
partners, hands held high together
around their imaginary maypole,
courting, but there’s a touch more 
fluidity in the progression of the
notes, it is written for a fortepiano,
an instrument that has added the
hold, or the sustain, pedal to the 
harpsichord to increase a note’s
resonance, a loosening of the 
earlier constraints of that 
quintessentially Baroque 
instrument, a cannily apt 
metaphor, take into account, for 
the unfolding cultural r/evolution

here’s Beethoven, 1796, his Minuet 
in Gyou’ve heard this one too

the Revolution has taken place, 
but entrenched in the music of an
earlier era, the beat remains the 
same, this is not a waltz, despite 
it’s 3/4 progression

you’ll note, however, more spin 
to the cadences, more give, more
elasticity, much of this has to do 
with the development of the 
central instrument, which was 
about to become a pianoforte,
instead of a fortepiano, but 
‘nough said about that, I’ll let 
you feel it

here’s Chopin, 1833, his Grande 
valse brillante, Opus 18, written
for itself, the piano, it is indeed 
a waltz, the difference is in the 
piano’s ever evolving flexibility, 
again a metaphorical expression 
of, or an avatar for, the unleashing 
of personal freedom, an idea spun 
ineradicably from the lessons of
the French, and the, incidentally, 
nearly simultaneous, 1776, 1789, 
American Revolutions

for better or for worse 


R ! chard

a short history of the waltz

waltz-1891-1.jpg!Large

  “Waltz (1891) 

    Anders Zorn

       ________

inadvertently, during my last comments
I let slip, perhaps, prematurely – cause I
thought I’d explore earlier Romantic 
pieces first, more Beethoven, more 
Paganini – the word waltz, when I 
referenced the “Minute Waltz”, a dance 
which expressed a sea change in 
Western cultural history made 
manifest through music 

though the waltz was already the rage
in lowlier social circles in the late 
1700’s, the minuet still held sway in 
the more aristocratic salons, whose 
young swains nevertheless would 
skip out to ferret out the servants’ 
quarters, as young swains do

slowly the dance, for its more 
informal aspects, not to mention 
its sensuous intimacy, became so 
astonishingly mainstream as to 
define pretty well the very century, 
Chopin and the Strausses, Father 
and Son, would take care of that, 
the last two making a carnival out 
of very Vienna

but until the late 1820’s, not much 
was heard of the waltz in the 
musical curriculum, at which 
point it’ll come in with a vengeance  

not much from Beethoven, who, in 
his fifties, was probably about as ,
interested in waltzes as I am in hip 
hop, a ditty only, a trifle, this one,
1824, one of only two waltzes 
from him 

here’s Johann Strauss l, however, 
his Carnival in Venice, 1828, is a 
waltz in Carnival clothing, like 
cadenzas, for instance, in the 
guise of Paganini “Caprices”

here’s Johann Strauss ll, the son,
with his Wiener Blut“, “The Spirit 
of Vienna“, electrifying, 1873, the 
late already 19th Century

but here’s Chopin doing his stuff
1847, right in the middle of both, 
from far away Paris, which was 
going through its list of Empire 
changes right about then, his
Waltz in C-sharp minor

Chopin’s waltz is a more decorous 
composition, more courtly, more 
also introspective, contemplative, 
private, indeed Romantic

note how strongly the Classical 
unities still apply here, tempo, 
tonality and repetition, even more 
markedly than in Beethoven, Chopin 
is Mozart, but with more sentiment, 
and perhaps more rubato, stretching 
the rhythm in composition to 
accommodate a dancer’s presumed 
dip, in his otherwise meditational 
compositions 

the waltz will undergo trials and 
tribulations later, as the world 
turns, but I’ll keep those 
reflections for later

meanwhile, choose your partner


R ! chard

32 Variations in C Minor, WoO.80 – Beethoven

variations-in-violet-and-grey-market-place.jpg!Large.jpg

Variations in Violet and Grey – Market Place (1885) 

               James McNeill Whistler

                          ___________

strolling through my virtual musical park 
today, in, indeed, the very merry month 
of May, I was taken by surprise by, nearly 
tripped over, in fact, a Beethoven work
written in the very year, 1806, of the 
“Razumovsky”s

I’d overlooked it cause it is without an 
opus number, is listed, therefore, as 
WoO.80and is, consequently, easily 
lost in the wealth of Beethoven’s 
more prominently identified pieces,
but it is utterly miraculous, I think, 
and entirely indispensable 

I’d said something about it in an earlier
text, back when I was somewhat more 
of a nerd, it would appear, perhaps even 
a little inscrutable, though it’s 
nevertheless, I think, not uninformative, 
you might want to check it out, despite 
its platform difficulties

the 32 Variations in C Minor are shorter,
at an average of 11 minutes, than Chopin’s
“Minute Waltz”relatively, a variation every 
half minute, where Chopin’s nevertheless
magical invention takes twice that to 
complete its proposition

but in this brief span of time, this more 
or less 11 minutes, Beethoven takes 
you to the moon and back

a few things I could add to my earlier
evaluation, could even be reiterating, 
Beethoven in his variations explores a 
musical idea, turns it in every which
direction, not much different from what 
he does in the individual movements of 
his string quartets, his trios, his 
symphonies, concertos and sonatas, 
with their essential themes, motives, 
they’re all – if you’ll permit an idea I got
from Paganini’s “Caprices” – cadenzas,
individual musings inspirationally 
extrapolated, which, be they for 
technical brilliance, or for a yearning 
for more spiritual legacy, set the 
stage for a promise of forthcoming 
excellence 

this dichotomy will define the 
essential bifurcated paths of the 
musical industry, during, incidentally, 
the very Industrial Revolution, their 
mutual history, confrontation, for the 
centuries to follow, which is to say, 
their balance between form and 
function, style versus substance, 
Glenn Gould versus Liberace, say,
or Chopin, Liszt 

before this, it’d been the more 
sedate, less assertive evenings at 
the Esterházys, to give you some 
perspective, mass markets were 
about to come up, not least in the 
matter of entertainment

Beethoven was, as it were, already  
putting on a show


R ! chard

psst: these alternate “Variations” put you in  
          the driver’s seat, a pilot explains the
          procedures, it’s completely absorbing, 
          insightful, listen

String Quartet, Opus 59, no 3 – Beethoven

view-from-the-small-warmbrunn-sturmhaube.jpg!Large

    “View from the Small Warmbrunn Sturmhaube (1811) 

           Caspar David Friedrich

                  _____________

                                               for Joselyn

because I hadn’t been that enthralled with 
Beethoven’s Middle Period string quartets,
when Joselyn called and asked me what I 
was up to, I answered, a hiatus, honey, I’m 
experiencing a hiatus

I’d heard the first movement of Beethoven’s
Opus 59, no 3, the last Razumovsky, and had
been less than impressed, the next movement 
could, if she could entice me, wait 

well, she said, get your hiatus right down
here, let’s have a game of Scrabble, she 
lives in the building a few floors down

she beat me, as she always does, often 
trounces me, but it is a distraction from 
my other more philosophical, intellectual, 
pursuits, however much it might inform
them

the Opus 59, no 3, is not, for me, 
especially convincing, as are none of the 
string quartets until the 14th, but they are 
historically significant, having changed 
the very course of music since, they’re 
worth, consequently, a visit

you’ll note that you don’t sit back to listen
to Beethoven, you sit up, this is not 
entertainment, it is a proclamation, 
Beethoven arrests your attention, doesn’t 
court it, this is not, in the new era, chamber
music, as we call it still, it is music for the 
stage, an audience, see Paganini for more  
proof, if you need it, of that

Beethoven takes a trinket and explores it,
a motive, if you will, applies volume to it,
changes of pace, changes of tonality, 
eccentric rhythms, to eventually lose one
in a world of, if not confusion, 
enchantment, usually, with a few deft 
musical turns, enchantment, a somnolent
adagio, for instance, becomes a profoundly
seductive tune, for an however brief moment 

later, he will utterly, and constantly, inspire, 
during his, indeed oracular, Late Period

but other miracles will transpire before that, 
of which I’ll, assuredly, keep you posted


R ! chard

String Quartet Opus 59, no 1 – Beethoven

blue-moby-dick(1).jpg!Large

     “Blue (Moby Dick) (1943) 

            Jackson Pollock

                  _________

                                                            for Gail

my story is nearly incredible, as Herman
Melville would say around his Moby-Dick,
but there you have it, today, I levitated

I’d been leery about broaching the
“Razumovsky” Quartets, their never having
been my favourites, for being both too 
groundbreaking, and not enough, strident
passages with insufficient philosophical 
exploration, and opted all but instinctively   
for the more probing stuff, Beethoven’s  
later transcendental revelations

but how could I talk about string quartets,
I reasoned, the actual focus of my, however, 
apparently peripheral, subject, here, without
tackling, and decidedly, the very best example
of Beethoven’s Middle Period, his Opus 59

there are three works in the “Razumovsky”s,
but after a veritable epiphanyI chose 
the First

my housekeeper had arrived, Proust’s
Françoise, in my poetic imagination, 
a lady who knows my most intimate 
secrets, but tends merely, and 
respectfully, and dutifully, indeed 
blessedly, but to her mission, though 
I entrust her, by extension, I guess,
with aspects, even unconsciously,  
of my very soul

I’d delighted in the second movement
of Beethoven’s 7th String Quartet, the
Allegretto vivace e sempre scherzando“,
was even singing along, told her I’d get 
the notes right next time, even did a
second turn that she thought better
than the first 

then I realized, after a break, for 
refreshments, that the adagio was about 
to come up, the Adagio molto e mesto“, 
not to mention its unanticipated attacca 

o my god/dess, I cried, you’re not going
to be ready for this, though I remembered 
nothing of this particular, however 
miraculous, eventually, movement

she remained throughout composed, 
continued diligently her purposes, 
while I, progressively, levitated, left, 
I tell you, the sofa, transcended

wow, I kept exclaiming, as I held on, 
however enthralled, to my seat, Gail,
I screeched, I’m not even touching 
the sofa

she kept on, imperturbably, steadily, 
and conscientiously passing the 
vacuum, while I up and soared


the last glorious movement, the 
“Allegro”, carried me comfortably 
to a satisfying conclusion, 
enough 
to settle me down enough to touch
the ground in order to pay her
 
which she, ever as graciously and 
discreetly as Françoise might’ve
done, acknowledged

I’ll send you the transcript of my
impressionsI said to her, you’ll 
want to listen, you’ll love it 

listen, you’ll love it


R ! chard

“Caprices” for Solo Violin – Paganini

musical-f-te-1747.jpg!Large

    “Musical Fête (1747) 

           Giovanni Paolo Panini

                        ____________

though by now you must be assuming 
that Beethoven had been defining the
entire early Romantic Period all by 
himself, 1803, let’s say, to, say, 1810, 
when Schubert, 13 by then, started 
kicking in, however immaturely, with 
his D1 – D1, note, not D960, over a 
thousand compositions later, a work 
imbued, so early, not unexpectedly,  
with the irrepressible spirit of Mozart, 
and therefore, by thenincidentally, 
audibly outdated – but you would be, 
we would  be, overlooking the extraordinary  
influence of a maverick, a relic of the  
earlier Italian domination of the arts, 
from the Renaissance, at least, on – 
Paganini – the wizard of the 
violin, who’d sold his soul, like Faust,  
to the devil, it was susurrated, for his
extraordinary gift
 
Bach had not only changed the course 
of musical history, in the early 18th
Century, but shanghaied the very 
language of art as oracular expression,
and substituted music as the voice that 
spoke for the people, music will define 
henceforth, for a time, the period
 
there is the Italian Baroque, of course,
utterly masterful paintings, sublime
even, see abovebut it has been 
supplanted in our 21st-Century 
popular imagination by the Baroque 
of the German nations, their music, 
Bach’s, transcendental then, though 
ever so intricate, descriptions of his 
particular epoch 

this dominance will migrate to Paris, 
eventually, and back to art, painting, 
after over a hundred tumultuous, 
and impermeable, years, with the 
Impressionists, in the late 19th 
Century

meanwhile, Paganini will get in the 
way, 1780 – 1840, an exact, more or 
less, contemporary of Beethoven, 
1770 – 1827, and show off what 
Romantics can do, unleashed, 
before a newly enfranchised, and 
thrilled, as you will surely be, 
audience  

watch, be dazzled


R ! chard

psst: the Caprices are essentially
          cadenzas, the improvised solo
          sections in concertos, where 
          instrumentalists get to show 
          off their stuff, and riff, however
          exponentially, on their subject

          Paganini, makes an art form 
          of that, as do others, whom 
          I’ll bring up, trust me, later

          stay tuned