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Month: September, 2015

“King Lear” – William Shakespeare

 "Study for King Lear" - Joshua Reynolds

Study for King Lear (1760)

Joshua Reynolds

________

though it has its weaknesses, I have
never seen a better version of “King
Lear”
than this one, also, to my mind,
Shakespeare’s best play

watch

Lear has always been a difficult
character to portray, a King becomes a
vagrant, a Jesus figure, “a man / more
sinned against than sinning”,
and the
most difficult part an actor must render,
I’ve found, is that of social status

and here we have both extremes, a not
easy transition, nor have I seen but once
a Lear I could believe in

James Earl Jones in New York’s Central
Park
is Lear from the word go, but the
rest of the cast betrays him, they all
mostly merely phone in their roles

in this alternate production, the reverse
is true, Lear, though in many moments
mighty, is never really a King, nor truly,
I think, a Jesus, though his final breaths
are nothing short of holy

Cordelia speaks her lines well, but
doesn’t breathe them

every other performer is magnificent,
with a special mention for the truly
human Fool, not merely a caricature
here, but a wise man

also Kent, the vitriolic sisters, Edgar
and his ignominious brother Edmund,
even the several messengers, all of
whom intently and forcefully to a one
live out their roles

the direction is thrillingly manifest in
the solid and detailed work of the cast,
note, for instance, Regan’s laugh, an
inspired directorial touch, when Lear
declares his intention to bequeath
his land according to which of the
daughter’s “doth love Us most”,
relaying in an instant, and at the very
start, her fundamental, and thereafter,
of course, unswerving, unfilial scorn

I’ve never seen that note played
elsewhere so incisively

mostly, however, it’s the poetry of
Shakespeare, which bristles throughout,
like buds in spring in a garden, which ‘ll
especially delight, and have you marvel

watch

Richard

 

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‏‏String Quartet no 2 in D major – Alexander Borodin‏


 "Russian Music" - James Ensor

Russian Music (1881)

James Ensor

_______

Alexander Borodin’s ravishing String
Quartet no 2 in D major
, from 1881,
was written only a few years after
Smetana’s 1876 From My Life“, and
sounds surprisingly similar, the same
number of movements all in the same
order, fast, a dance step, polka or
waltz, then slow, then fast

their second movements are notably
united by their common use of long
bowing of paired notes from the
violins, to establish, irresistibly,
the rhythm of their individual dances

their eccentric, even strident notes,
stretching towards atonality but
remaining this side of the divide,
thus surprisingly welcome, even
captivating

the change of tempo right in the
middle of every movement to
separate and sharpen contrast
between the exposition and the
development, then the whole
thing all over again, all quirks
of the evolution of the
nevertheless stalwart string
quartet structure, as unassailable,
it would appear, as that of the,
also inveterate, sonnet

I could go on

the difference is in the intention,
the appropriation of the Viennese
model to express more culturally
expanded varietals of the original
mode, in these two cases, Czech
and Russian, it’s all in each their
homegrown cadence

and that’s how music speaks if
you lend an ear

think of the European Pinot Noir,
for instance, taking root in other,
foreign soil not being necessarily
any longer inferior, sometimes
even superior, downright even
celebrated, you’ll get, essentially,
the big picture

Alexander Borodin’s ravishing
String Quartet no 2 in D major,
note, is such a prize, an utterly
intoxicating wine you wouldn’t
want to eschew, miss

Gesundheit

Richard

 

String Quartet no 1, “From My Life” – Bedřich Smetana‏

"Coucher de soleil sur le lac Léman" - Gustave Courbet

Coucher de soleil sur le lac Léman (1874)

Gustave Courbet

_________

paying attention to tenuti is not as
easy as all that, you’ll have found
probably that the music’s kept on
going and you’re not so sure if
what just went by indeed was a
tenuto, so brief, however stressed,
might’ve been the impression

rubati are easier, it’s hard to miss
them when they come round, for
being spread out through the
musical passage as a
consequence of being at the very
least three notes, usually
considerably more

tenuti happen on one note only,
one fleet fish in an ebullient river
rather than a more noticeable and
synchronous school

interestingly, not many of either,
rubati, tenuti, show up in music
history until the late Romantic
Era, the mid- to late 1800s, they’d
been only theoretically, and here
and there, part of the musical
vocabulary for having had no
purchase in music written for the
harpsichord, an instrument that
had allowed only minimal
resonance, though it laid the
foundations for composition,
and therefore dictated taste
into the very mid-nineteenth
century, a whole hundred years
after the invention of the piano,
by having entrenched the ideal
of strict tempo, the reflection,
note, of an ideal, and belief
then in a scientifically cogent
world

that was the Enlightenment

Romanticism came along to
express the ineffable reality of
the truths of the human heart,
in contrast to merely reason –
“Le coeur a ses raisons que la
raison ne connaît point”,
says
Pascal, “The heart has its own
logic which allows it to
understand what the rational
mind cannot”,
though he in a
somewhat other, much more
theological, context

but the shoe snugly fits, so I’ll
wear it, though with the same
consideration I’d render the
shoes, understand, of my
father

you can tell we’ve reached the
late 1800s when you start
hearing tenuti, ritardandi,
atonality, for that matter, and
also obscure and eccentric
repetitions

this pattern is probably more
evidenced in pictorial art,
where precision gives way to
individualized expression,
and the blurred lines of Early
Impressionism, see above

at the same time, the German
grip on the history of Western
music which it had held for a
hundred and fifty years, from
Bach to Brahms, began to loosen,
along with the idea, incidentally,
of a rationally, even irrationally,
conceived world, you can hear
it in the evolution of the tenuti,
the rubati, like canaries sense
altered conditions in a coal
mine

note however that music itself
is as indifferent to bald facts
as mathematics, it merely
describes, doesn’t comment

listen to Bedřich Smetana, a
Czech composer, his String
Quartet no 1, “From My Life”

follows in the footsteps of
the Germans, but with a
distinctively folkloric air,
there’s even a polka

tend the tenuti, relish the
rubati, if you can identify
them, they’re milestones
to the modern

but, more than anything,
enjoy

Richard

 

what’s happening in Poland

"The Kiss" - Gustav Klimt

The Kiss (1907-08)

Gustav Klimt

_______

last night, most unexpectedly,
someone I know sent me this, I
wondered if it was because of
the music, the message, or the
performance, consequently I
assumed everything

Mateusz Ziółko won the Voice
of Poland
contest in 2013, it’s
fun, despite the language
barrier – the adjudication being
all in Polish – to watch also,
during the evaluation, the judge
in blue fall apart, come entirely
undone, be unabashedly smitten,
from nearly the very first note of
this riveting audition, then spend
the rest of the show trying to get
herself back together again

much as I did, in fact, without
a camera

quiver too, enjoy

Richard

 

September, 2015‏

 "A September Day" - George Henry

A September Day (1935)

George Henry

_______

September is a melancholy month, it
suggests fall in all of its connotations,
the array of burning colours lighting
up the leaves, purple, amber, magenta,
the steady decline into winter, of the
year and, by metaphorical extension,
of the years we have to come

it’s a month for philosophy, I think,
and introspection, therefore,
incidentally, I am

listen

Richard