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Month: July, 2015

Mendelssohn – Opus 13, String Quartet no 2 in A minor‏

           "Caricature of Felix Mendelssohn" -  Aubrey Beardsley

Caricature of Felix Mendelssohn

Aubrey Beardsley

____________

my music teacher on the Internet,
a woman of impeccable credentials,
said about Mendelssohn that his
music was “instantaneously
recognized”

I raised a quizzical eyebrow, and
thought, not to me, honey, despite
my erudition I’d never even heard
of Mendelssohn’s Opus 13, String
Quartet no 2 in A minor

it was full of atonalities, you could
be forgiven, I thought, for thinking
it might be even after Brahms, by
you I mean, of course, me

but an incontrovertible tenderness
and courtesy runs like blood through
it, enough to anchor it to the very
engines, entrails, gut, if you’ll permit
me, of Romanticism, it was 1827

but there wasn’t a single tune I’d
ever heard, in contradiction to my
nevertheless highly respected
teacher, however ever pleasant,
however ever amazing the
number

I was surprised, I’d expected some
Proustian, which is to say, inchoate,
reminiscence, encounter

Mendelssohn was 18 when he wrote
this, sowing his oats, some oats

Richard

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“Tru”‏

"Truman Capote" - Gloria Vanderbilt

Truman Capote

Gloria Vanderbilt

____________

Truman Capote, a towering XXth-Century
figure, might be remembered much more
for his personality than his considerable
literary output, In Cold Blood remains
a turning point in the history of literature,
not to mention an extraordinary read

three major works have been produced
about Capote since at least 1992, when
Robert Morse won a Tony for Tru, my
favourite rendition, with a nod to the
superb Infamous, before even the
dire, Oscar-winning, Capote, however
deserving Philip Seymour Hoffman
might’ve been of his own award for his
brilliant work

watch Tru in coordinated instalments,
no fuss, no muss, only the suspicion
you’ve missed an irretrievable and
perhaps crucial nugget in the clip
change

chill, Tru, however apportioned here,
is seamless, and captivating, hilarious
and, all at once, profound, not to be
ever forgotten, much as I never have

Richard

 

“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