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Month: January, 2018

January 30, 2018

moon-light-1895.jpg!Large

        Moon Light (1895) 

               Edvard Munch

                    ________

my mom texted me this morning that
the moon would be  “BLOODY RED IN 
COLOUR….because “, she added, “earth
🌏 will be between sun and moon …last
happened 152 years ago ….moon closest
to earth 🌏

I haven’t told her yet that from my 
window I’ll be singing, as the moon  
rises above the mountains in the 
east, Casta Diva“, Norma’s song 
to the moon

chaste Goddess, she appeals, who 
bathes these sacred trees in silvery 
light, bless us with your grace, we
are not not in need of it

maybe you’ll sing along


Norma is a Druidic priestess, 
representing her community, which 
has been overtaken, and is now ruled,
by the Romans, she bears already, 
however, two children of a Roman 
military official, Pollione, who has 
fallen for her maid, Adalgisa, sparks 
fly in every direction, both personal 

and political, Adalgisa ‘ll keep the 
kids eventually, and both Norma and 
Pollione will go the pyre, the very 
height of Romantic fervour, check it
out, it’s extraordinary, with Joan 
Sutherland in this, dare I say, 
classic performance

but first of all, Casta Diva itself, by  
the inimitable Maria Callas 

and may the moon be your guide


R ! chard

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String Quartet no. 38 in E♭major, Op. 50, No. 3 – Haydn

fullsizeoutput_3f4.jpeg         

         Frederick William II of Prussia

                      ______________

if there’s a difference that I can detect 
between both these “Prussian” string
quartets, the No. 21 of Mozart, Haydn’s
38th, the somewhat more boisterous 
voice of the youthful Mozart up against 
the more deferential, the more precisely 
filigreed, manner of Haydn, the more 
consummate courtier of the two via his 
actual, and constant, presence at the 
Esterházy court

Mozart is somewhat less genteel, less
mercurial, I think

both sets, six in each, were originally 
dedicated to the King of Prussia,
William ll, Haydn’s in 1787, Mozart’s 
in 1789, though each had unfortunate 
legal, and controversial outcomes 

it’s not so much the specificity of each
other’s talent at this point that settles 
their ultimate significance, but that 
their invention, the form, the structure,  
has lasted already two hundred years, 
the might of their prowess has inspired 
inexhaustibly our culture

Mozart and Haydn built the house that
our music now stands on, working, of 
course, from earlier, even glorious, 
standards, culture  – music, art, 
literature – is like a tree, growing 
organically from its local soil, our
Western earth has become 
historically especially significant,  
we could be listening to Chinese 
opera for instance now had we been 
born, however arbitrarily, in that 
culture, for better or for worse we are 
in our ever evolving ours, our 21st 
global century, and the Classical Era 
is pretty well where it all began for us 

it was also called the Age of 
Enlightenment, Mozart and Haydn 
were doing their particular part

let me add that the term “Classical”
applies only to the music of that 
period, it is not the period of 
Classical art, for instance, nor of
Classical literature, the term 
“Classical” refers to the originality
of the product and its historical
resilience, we speak of Classical 
Greece, for instance, for its 
sprouting of our Western culture,
our literature, our sculpture, our
architecture, our very philosophy

after the Age of Enlightenment, we 
get the Romantic Period

wait till you hear about that


R ! chard 

String Quartet no 19 in C major, K465 (“Dissonance”) – Mozart

queen-marie-antoinette-of-france-1783.jpg!Large

                    “Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1783)  

                              Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun

                                           ______________

if Mozart’s 19th String Quartetthe last of 
his Haydn Quartets, the six he indeed 
dedicated  to Haydn, sounds less 
deferential than one would have thought 
for the period, it should be remembered 
that the American Revolution had just
taken place, in 1776, the French one was 
about to, in 1789, and even the more 
aristocratic houses in Europe would not
have been unaffected, Mozart was young,
29, and astir with confidence and bravura,
it was 1785

Haydn had had his moment earlier, his
Opus 20, which went on to revolutionize 
music if not countries, but had retreated 
to a less emboldened political stance 
as he grew older, while concentrating 
rather on his more important muse, and 
refining his ear for precise, pure music,
which is to say devoid of any but polite
sentiments, delight and lyrical 
melancholy only

in Mozart’s 19th String Quartet, even the 
minuet is peremptory, not something 
you’d especially want to dance to,
however musically accomplished

he starts the first movement with, of all 
things, an adagio, however briefly, which 
could’ve been disastrous, you need to 
know what you’re doing when you open
with a lament

incidentally, all the instruments in the
opening adagio are playing in different 
keys, resolved when the allegro kicks 
in, this is why it’s called “Dissonance”,
something in and of itself of a 
rebellious act 

the 19th is also twice the length of 
Haydn’s nearest earlier one, his Opus 42,
expansive rather than terse, for whatever
that might mean, the point is to keep us
throughout interested, which he does, 
they do

Mozart is prefiguring hereincidentally,
Beethoven, with his audacity, his 
sense of an ideological mission, and  
he’s mightily impressive

listen


R ! chard

String Quartet no. 14 in G major, K. 387, (“Spring”) – Mozart

the-musical-contest-1755.jpg!Large     
     “The Musical Contest (c.1754 – 1755) 

            Jean-Honoré Fragonard

                     ____________

right about this time, 1782 to 1785, Mozart 
was writing his Haydn Quartetssix of 
them, in the very fashion, not incidentally, 
of Haydnas a tribute to the master, the 
father, the very originator of the string 
quartet 

here’s the first of them, a not at all 
unimpressive tribute

Mozart follows the master in kind, the
number of movements, the selection
of tempi, there’s even again a minuet,
an aristocratic prerequisite, note even 
the delicate, the deferential, endings,  
to all, not just one, of the movements,
a trait indicative of Haydn, his courtly, 
courteous reserve before any too
personalized spotlight, however 
manifest his brilliance – noblesse, 
in other words, oblige

Mozart follows immaculate suit

you might find it difficult to distinguish
between Mozart and Haydn, I do, the 
differences are so subtle as to be 
nearly, for the most part, 
indistinguishable, their periods overlap, 
their contexts were not at all dissimilar, 
just even Vienna as their musical core

the aristocracy was still, evidently, in 
charge, however henceforth briefly, 
and paying the bills, and the mood 
required remained respectful, polite, 
unpolitical, which both composers
dutifully obliged, neither subjecting 
himself to any constraints around 
his higher manifest destiny, his 
irresistible muse, the pursuit of 
pure, and unadulterated, music

this will unfurl, see, for instance,
Shostakovich


R ! chard

String Quartet no 35 in D minor, Op 42 – Haydn

Haydnportrait

                         “Joseph Haydn (ca. 1791) 

                              Ludwig Guttenbrunn

                                   _____________

                               

                                             for, especially, Collin

Haydn’s Opus 42 was written in 1785,
he would’ve been 53, which might 
explain his return to a less 
ideologically driven music than his 
earlier more vociferous compositions, 
one gets more conservative, nearly by 
definition, as one gets older

there is no vehemence in this quartet,
it is meant to merely delight listeners, 
lords and ladies looking to be 
impressed, there is no call to arms
here, there’s even a minuet

the final movement, the presto, might
seem urgent, but is rather, I think,  
engaging than peremptory, more 
entertaining than adamant

there’s only one string quartet in the 
Opus 42, usually there are six in 
Haydn’s opuses, or opera, the piece 
is also terse, a wonderland of 
extraordinary music within the span 
of, however improbably, just 13 
minutes

Haydn seems to be giving us his idea 
of the string quartet, a nearly Platonic
proposition, in a nutshell

Plato thought that there was an ideal 
string quartet somewhere up there in
an ordering space, a mystical 
system of specifically representative 
entities, determining the accuracy of
definitions, religions presently 
struggle with that, the inflexibility of 
their intractable propositions, Haydn 
was giving us something to think 
about, a string quartet to define the 
very ages

note the recurrence of the original 
theme always with all of its 
permutations

note the rhythmic consistency, 
though the several movements are
decidedly, and effectively, divided 
according to their strict tempos

note that all, though here and there
a strident note may appear, the 
tonality, the key, the modality, is  
constant

this will change

but for now we have the very essence 
of the Classical Period

and it’s hot 


R ! chard

psst: to a friend who’s become impressed 
          by my choice, incidental of course, 
          of cellists, I would suggest it has  
          more to doperhaps, with its sonority,  
          the low thrum of their instrument, it 
          can really unsettle one’s kundalini,   
          the sleeping serpent at the base of 
          the spine, and not so much the   
          individual cellist, maybe
            

String Quartet, Opus 33 no 3 – Joseph Haydn

the-music-lesson.jpg!Large.jpg

        “The Music Lesson (c.1769) 

             Jean-Honoré Fragonard

                       __________

by 1781, Haydn was, along with Mozart,
the most celebrated composer in Europe,
and via publication of his musical scores,
his compositions would’ve been played 
even in smaller communities, where 
string players would’ve blossomed 
everywhere for there being no television

only two generations ago, my own family
sported, if not violinists, remarkable 
fiddlers – see, for comparable example, 
Deliverance“, I have old movies at home 
of my own kin doing such wonders

the Opus 33, no 3 is no longer, you’ll note, 
especially courtly, this is music to heed,
pay attention to, not meant to be 
background

nor is it

in the first few bars of the very first 
movement, Haydn’s got you riveted,
you know you’re going to get your 
money’s worth, and you do, in 
exponential spades 

you’ll note there are no dance 
references, cerebral tempo markings 
only allegro moderato, scherzo: 
allegretto, adagio ma non troppo, 
finale: rondo – presto – which means 
the music will be entirely edifying, 
not carnal, sensual, music is 
specifically becoming an intellectual 
exercise, a new, as it were, language, 
no longer doing tribal tribute around 
bonfire, it’s speaking rather than 
pulsating

pay attention to the vehemence,
the stark contrast between the 
opening statement in the second
movement and its response, a
nearly unnerving juxtaposition

pay attention to what Haydn does 
to the entire first section of the 
adagio ma non troppo, the third 
movement, with the recapitulation 
of the themes by introducing very 
magic in the superimposed 
peregrinations of the first violin,
to entirely enchant and exalt the 
original musical proposition

and that final exit in the last
movement, after so fiery a
rondo presto, urgent and 
even confrontational

but ever so brilliantly, in the last  
few moments, rendered courtly, 
respectful, deferential, indeed 
the very Classical spirit of 
Haydn


R ! chard

String quartets, Op.20 – Joseph Haydn

HaydnPlaying

  Joseph Haydn playing string quartets 

          Anonymous 

                (Staatsmuseum, Vienna)

             _______

upon first hearing the first movement only 
even of the opus 20, no 5 of Haydn, I was 
immediately struck by the more determined, 
insistent, peremptory strokes of the strings,
something not especially appropriate in an 
aristocratic setting, where the music should
be polite, reserved, nearly unobtrusive, a 
music composed for performance here 
rather than as an after dinner mint

the second and third movements return to 
a more conventional, which is to say courtly,
tone, but the end of the fourth movement is
also, and more virulently, vociferous

what’s up 

you might view this as the very beginning 
of the Classical Period, the stately 
institutions of not only the aristocratic 
social experiment, but also of the very 
world order were being debated, personal
opinion was beginning to supersede 
convention, the very core of the upcoming
Romantic Era, which saw the rights of the 
individual installed rather than the voice
of an imperial, or an indeed spiritual,
authority

Haydn was expressing his musical, and
dare I say Delphic, anima, his inspired 
spirit, setting the stage for what was to 
come, however historically blindly, the
French Revolution was coming up


I have a beef with the third movement, 
the adagio, however lovely – it’s right 
out of Bach, without anywhere any 
apparent attribution, I object to that 

is this a tribute, or an appropriation,
or does it matter, you tell me, I think
it’s, again however lovely, and ever
so influential, not only not right, but 
neither as lovely as the sublime 
BWV1031, a complete and utter
serenity, a sin of the sons against 
the fathers, or is it, rather, our 
indifferent patrimony, like putting 
moustache on the Mona Lisa 


the opus 20, no 2, is, for reasons I
won’t get into, a later work, it is 
throughout vociferous, peremptory,
insistent, adamant, assertive, 
vehement, uncompromising, it’s 
nearly even Beethoven, it’s, in
other words, a scorcher, like 
Beethoven, it takes no prisoners 

check it out, it’s only 1772 and the 
earlier model of civilizational order 
isn’t any longer holding, opus 20,
no 2 is an augury, an omen of what
is to come, which is, of course, the 
very task of the poet 


R ! chard

String Quartet no 22 in G major, opus 17, no 5 – Joseph Haydn

rhythm-1956(2).jpg!Large.jpg

       Rhythm (1956) 

            Bice Lazzari

               ________

before I return to string quartetsand 
Haydn, here’s a divertimento, Mozart’s
First, I couldn’t let it pass, it sparkles 
from the very first instant

Mozart himself confounded his musical
definitions, he called his early string 
quartets divertimenti, before they were 
compiled by his own bibliographer, 
Köchel

notably, however, divertimentos were 
meant to be joyful, light, fluffy, no, in 
other words, adagios

this might create the problem of 
confusing movements, however, that 
have similar tempos, blending one 
indistinguishably into the others, so
that no particular theme stands out,
you leave the show not singing

dance rhythms help that, it’s not too 
hard to tell a jive when it follows a 
tango, or a polka, it’s something in 
our blood

but the more abstract tempos – 
andante, allegro, adagio – as musical 
prompts are cerebral concepts, and 
their airs more suited to singing, not
dancing

from the Baroque suites – sets of
musical dances, gavottes, minuets,
and so on, which were the model
for the string quartets, and indeed
divertimentos of the later 18th
Century – chamber music was 
evolving towards a more abstract 
level of musical conversation

Haydn and Mozart were setting up
the grammar for that, the Classical 
structure, and letting others take 
care of the nomenclature

note that though the performance 
here is electric, the piece, one you’d 
even pay for, you’ll wonder if Mozart 
even changed the music, or was it 
only the rhythms he altered, his 
middle andante wasn’t slow enough 
to make a dent in the general flow, 
the tenor, the mode, the mood of  
the composition

here’s Haydn’s String Quartet no 22,
opus 17, no 5, in G major to compare

though not as crackling as Mozart’s 
Divertimento in this, at least, particular
productionjust listen to what a little 
adagio can do for you, to anchor the 
entire experience in your heart

note also that the second movement 
is still a minuet, a dance step

this will change


R ! chard

Divertimento in G major, Hob.II:1 – Joseph Haydn

giraffe.jpg!Large

        “Giraffe” 

               Michael Sowa

                        ________

after looking everywhere on the Internet 
for how many divertimenti Haydn had 
written – since I’d given up counting them 
individually from the only list I could find
there, confounding one – I asked Siri
the 21st Century’s Delphic Oracle, whom 
I’d never yet consulted, apart from once 
during a friendly demonstration of her 
prowess

her reply about “divinity minty”, however, 
didn’t lead me anywhere, though 
“divertimento” eventually got me, 
however unsatisfactory, somewhat more 
pertinent answers

regardless, here is Haydn’s very first  
divertimento

a divertimento is quite simply an 
entertainment, an after dinner mint for
the aristocratic set, a place to digest 
one’s fine culinary offerings in the 
same, usually stratified, company
 

nowadays we have supper clubs

when Haydn called his early string 
quartets “divertimenti a quatro”, he
wasn’t kidding, a divertimento could 
be comprised of indeed even a small 
orchestra, or, quite simply, one only
performer, the string quartet as a 
form hadn’t yet been established as 
such, Haydn pulled it, as it were, out 
from under his hat, and gave it status

here’s the short, terse, Divertimento 
in G major, for instance, for, originally, 
harpsichord only, which is to say, just 
one person, but this homemade piano
version will point out already Haydn’s 
musical brilliance – you’ll love the 
giraffe, I loved the coffee cup at the 
bottom of the keyboard

incidentally, Haydn could’ve called 
his Divertimento a piano sonata, 
like Hoboken did, his bibliographer, 
eventually, for the list he compiled 
of the works of Haydn, we know it 
now, therefore, as well, as Haydn’s
First Piano Sonata in G major, 
Hob. XVl:8, same number as for  
the corresponding Divertimento

new terms were popping up, and 
being tested, then just as now, 
like our app, interface, Siriand 
who says compact disc anymore, 
or record

tempus, as we say in Latin, fugit,
time ever is on the wing


R ! chard

String Quartet no 15 in E flat major, op. 9, no. 2 – Haydn

minuet-1756.jpg!Large

   Minuet (1756) 

          Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

                   _______________

by 1769, Haydn had settled into a form 
for his string quartet that would become
definitive, four contrasting movements
in a particular key, to give the work 
cohesion

his Opus 9, no 2 retains a movement 
devoted to dance, the second, the 
“Menuetto”, but the essential 
conditions of the Classical string 
quartet are met

earlier, Haydn had referred to his 
compositions as “divertimenti a 
quattro”, divertimenti for four, 
players, of course, now he 
acknowledged, indeed installed, 
the concept of the string quartet, 
its earliest incarnation, as such 

though the outer movements are 
competent – the first using its 
initial off-beat musical motif a 
bit too often for my taste, and 
its repeat portions too similar, 
like someone repeating the same 
information you’ve been given
and unnecessarily extending the 
conversation with too few 
intriguing elaborations, too few 
arresting developments, the 
second, polite, and, thankfully, 
distinctive – the third, the 
“adagio – cantabile”, will knock
however, your socks off, a line 
of music is explored in all its 
tortured beauty to utterly 
transcendental effect


there is a spot in music, often an 
adagio for me, where one thinks, 
I have been there, this is me, and 
one throughout space, time, 
responds to the language of 
another, one melts, and finds 
one’s connection with humanity

therefore music, therefore, indeed, 
all art, thanks to all those who 
chose to share with us their,
however ever eccentric, 
inspiration, thanks to their, our, 
ingrained, ineffable, desire, 
indeed capacity, to communicate,
even across the ages, to, indeed, 
transcend 


but I’ve digressed

listen


R ! chard