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Month: February, 2018

String Quartet opus 74, no 1, in C major – Joseph Haydn

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         Minuet in Villa (c.1791)  

                Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

                                _____________

                                          for my father

the Opus 74, along with the Opus 71, were
written as a unit, to deliver to the English 
public for presentation, if the opus numbers 
differ, it’s probably to do with publication 
dates, the 74‘s being later than the earlier
but they fit the bill together, batches of six
string quartets for Haydn’s opuses up until
now being the standard, each opus here 
comprising only half the normal number, 
just three

Haydn’s sponsor, Prince Nicholas Esterházy
had died, leaving his son, Anton, to preside, 
but being tone deaf, the descendant fired 
the orchestra, however until then illustrious 
the fact that these works were no longer,
therefore, court pieces but intended for 
larger, paying, audiences, changed the 
dynamics, Haydn is not only peripheral 
music at an aristocratic court any longer
he’s the host, and you can hear it

fermatas, where the note, or the pause, 
are accentuated, deliver drama, so does 
volume, and sudden tempo changes

therefore the Romantic Period

but, interestingly, the Classical 
foundation remains, the established 
structure – a musical statement, an 
elaboration, a second musical, 
related, statement, in usually a 
complementary key, it’s own 
elaboration, then a recapitulation 
of either, or both

the minuet, incidentally, stalwart
still, holding on to the very end of 
the 18th Century, still applies, 
sure enough, though residual 
sign of the earlier Classical 
supremacy, even as that era was 
inexorably disintegrating

music is an entertainment, it 
inspires, however so incidentally
though it ever, perhaps even 
intentionally, makes you often, 
indeed, cry, it’s needed, even in 
the direst circumstances, for 
courage, however ironically, 
however contrapuntally, in any 
particular moment, it might even 
seem cynical so to arouse spirit, 
inspiration, I mean the French had 
just turned the world upside down, 
and here was sparkling creativity

Haydn was doing his stuff, keeping 
us musically integrated, speaking 
music instead of politics, turning 
bad situation into pearls, keeping 
the world going, the very stuff of 
oracles
  
listen


R ! chard

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String Quartet opus 71, no 2, in D major – Joseph Haydn

old-london-brige.jpg!Large

    “Old London Bridge

          J.M.W. Turner

              ________

in the spirit of juxtaposing two items of the 
same genus but growing from different 
trees, let me put together for comparison 
two versions of Haydn’s delightful Opus 71,
no 2, in D major, one by a quartet of ladies 
from “South Korea”, the other a same 
number of males from the “UK”, as 
indicated in either case on their videos

their Trondheim Chamber Music Festival
Competition was held last year, 2017,
it’s irrelevant who won on this particular
challenge, both are brilliant, so I’ll leave 
it up to you, the girls, the Esmé Quartet
the boys, the Maxwell – I think it might 
even come down to your sexual 
inclination, though both, as the host of 
the musical “Cabaret” would say, “are 
beautiful, life is beautifuleven the 
orchestra is beautiful“, indeed

the Apponyi Quartets, requested and paid 
for by Count Anton Georg Apponyi, after 
Haydn’s sponsor, Prince Nicholas Esterházy,
had died and left his son, Prince Anton, with
Haydn on his hands, whose orchestra he 
forthwith disbanded, being no aficionado of
music, Haydn was left to peddle his wares  
in London, England, where he became an 
undisputed success, not surprisingly, 
would think, after their having to handle the 
dour and, if you’ll forgive me, unimaginative, 
and uninspired Handel

the Esmé, I found, was sharp, acerbic, 
succinct in their first movement, but 
the Maxwell took over in their melting,
verily discombobulating adagio, a 
sensuality that seemed to evade the 
women’s more electric, crackling  
performance

the girls caught up, however, in the
final “allegretto”, where they killed it

like I said, it’s a toss-up, you choose


R ! chard  

Mozart / Haydn in 1790

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                                 “Prussian Homage (1796)

                                       Marcello Bacciarelli

                                           ____________

it’s 1790, a year after the French Revolution, 
and both Mozart and Haydn are peddling 
their wares, Mozart to the King of Prussia, 
Friedrich Wilhelm ll, who’d commissioned 
some string quartets, as well as piano 
works for his daughter, but wasn’t paying 
Mozart off for them, where Haydn with the
help of Johann Tost, was hustling his stuff
in very, of all places, Paris 

Haydn’s, incidentally, own Prussian Quartets,
dedicated to the same King of Prussia, were  
sold to two different publishers, one in
Vienna, the other in England, commercial
transactions left essentially, for all it might 
matter to us, for lawyers, and potentates, I
expect, eventually to have resolved

it is my habit to juxtapose two things always
to be able to see each more critically, 
determining my favourite sharpens my 
aesthetic pencil, one looks more closely at
what distinguishes one work from the other

therefore Mozart’s String Quartet no 22 in 
B flat major, KV 589, up against Haydn’s 
no 53 in D major, opus 64, no 5, “The Lark”, 
both written in the same year

it’s like comparing apples with oranges,
different fruit from the same nevertheless
genus, my favourite being lichee, so go 
figure

it’ll be up to you to find your especially
preferred nutrient 

I‘ll just point out a few differences that
immediately set apart these, however 
similar, masterpieces for me, Mozart 
remains utterly Classical, relying on 
the established, by now, conditions of 
the string quartet, an entertainment for 
nobility, nothing at all controversial, 
where Haydn with his soaring notes 
for the first violin, followed by 
arabesques that define a personal 
agony, introduces drama into the 
equation, a music that speaks of 
sentiment, is pointing already towards 
the future, though I suspect he could 
never have imagined where, in the 
very next generation, Beethoven 
would take it

to look back, to look forward, that is 
the question, it’s not always an easy 
one 

but this is where art speaks to us, 
reminding us of our tendencies, 
defining, truly, eventually, who we 
veritably are, according to our 
individual choices, preferences, 
for better or for worse, rendering 
the world an ever effulgent garden 
rather than a dour mausoleum


R ! chard

Cyprien Katsaris in Budapest

Katsaris-Cyprien-01

       Cyprien Katsaris

               ________

if there’s only one concert you see 
this week – I would’ve said this year 
but I have way too many irresistible 
concerts to promote – make it this 
one, like none I’ve ever seen before, 
Cyprien Katsaris, who wowed us in 
my last encomium, delivers, not one, 
but two concertos, when emotionally 
I can usually deal with only one

but you can pause between the pieces, 
like I did, to wipe a tear or two away 
after the adagios, which remind me,
always, of my beloved, John

but that’s another story

Katsaris starts with an improvisation,
which he elucidates as an art form 
much more expertly than I would, 
then delivers stunning rendition of
his mastery of that gift 

though I couldn’t identify the first part
of it, the melting melody in the last 
section of his homage to, essentially, 
the Romantic Period, rushed back 
memories for me of a piece I could 
never forget, the music from Fellini’s 
heartbreaking masterpiece La Strada 
– listen, listen – right out of Romantic 
Period idioms, its very story evenlike 
Dickens’ Oliver Twist“, his Little Nell 
from the The Old Curiosity Shop“, 
staples of my adolescence, married  
to a nearly mythic lyrical invention 

let me add that improvisations have 
been an integral part of concertos for 
a very long time, the cadenzas, an 
interpolation by the performing artist, 
hir riff, a strutting of hir stuff, late  
in the, usually final, movement, a 
consequence, incidentally, of the 
more forward, individualistic, 
18th-Century progression towards 
individual rights, some left to the 
performing artist, but many 
prescribed by the composer himself,
where, here, I must, gender sensitive 
myself, unceremoniously interject to 
explain my deference to the
designation above, himself“, to male 
merely composers, who were then the 
only ones, however culturally ignobly, 
to nevertheless shape our quite, 
think, extraordinary musical trajectory, 
for better, of course, or for worse

in this instance, I suspect Katsaris 
wrote his own cadenzas for the 
Mozart, notice his arm at the end of 
the first movement fly up in an 
especial transport, and in the last 
movement, watch his very 
exuberance mark the spot, but 
couldn’t put it past Mozart to have 
written something so historically 
visionary

Bach, incidentally, wasn’t doing 
cadenzas, so don’t look for them 

the two concertos that follow the 
improvisation, Bach’s, my favourite 
of his – you’ll understand why when 
you hear it – then Mozart’s 21st – 
everyone’s favourite – are both 
played transcendentally 

consider the difference in period, 
the earlier Baroque, with Bach’s 
notes skipping along inexorably,
the pace required by the 
harpsichord, which didn’t have 
hold pedals to allow notes to 
resonate, the music moves along
therefore nearly minimalistic tracks, 
a pace, and musical motif, that don’t 
stop, they keep on chugging, until 
they reach their destination, their,
as it were, station, or even their

stasis

Mozart’s music is as effervescent,
but conforms to a different cadence,
where a theme is presented, then a
musical, and contrasting, second,
with recapitulation, sometimes
merely partial, which is to say that
the call and response dynamic of 
the dance, or for that matter, by 
extension, modern ballads, is  
being established, codified, and 
elucidated

an era has intervened

then as an encore, Katsaris delivers,
not a cream puff, but Liszt, of all 
people, we’re used to performers
giving us trifles at this point, but not
Katsaris

then to top it all off, he plays the Chopin 
you thought you’d never ever hear again, 
but here immaculate and utterly 
inspirational

the orchestra alone performs after the 
intermission, works by Ravel and Bizet,
surprisingly similar, I thought, the two
composers, in their musical idiom, the 
use of the winds as metaphors, for 
instance, for originality, eccentricity, 
unmitigated poetry within the context 
of what is not unnatural

neither is either composer adverse to 
atonality, they work in textures, instead 
of melodies, all of which is very 
Impressionistic, see of course Monet
and others for historical reference

did I say I want to be Cyprien Katsaris 
when I grow up, well there, it’s said,
he’s lovely 


R ! chard

an interjection – Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto no 3, opus 30

Sergei_Rachmaninoff_cph.3a40575

Rachmaninoff in 1921 (photographed by Kubey Rembrandt)

______________


for Barbara


a friend wrote today about memories of her 
uncle, a violinist, insisting on the right 
pronunciation of Rachmaninov, “with a soft
ch, as the c in cello. It drove my Dad crazy“, 
she said, which led me in a response to both 
his Second Piano Concerto, which she’d 
specifically mentioned, and to what I 
think is like comparing oracles with 
oracles, his Third

it seemed a wonderful time to shed light 
on some of the things I’ve been explaining
about Haydn

I spoke, even in a recent transmittal, about 
the idea of extending tempi, from its 
Classical four, to, through variations in a 
single movement, more than four, and
found Haydn to be awkward, as he 
experimented, unimpressive

listen to what Rachmaninov does, however,  
in every movement here, take it from its 
base through variations in tempi to leave 
you reeling with emotion

the adagio, the middle movement, for 
instance, starts off slowly, continues apace, 
then finds itself embroiled in a whirlwind of
sentiment it finds difficult to control, before
returning, with a nearly audible sigh, to its 
distressed slower, and defining, rhythm

there’s a story here, a narrative, and all the 
permutations of a drama, a reckoning

watching also the performer, Cyprien Katsaris,
the soloist, and marvelling at the speed of his 
fingers, I wondered, should a performer be 
impeded by hir conductor, for not acquiescing
to untoward advances, for instance, a recently 
significant consideration, raise the beat by one 
point merely on the metronome, a novice might 
be undone in a very minute, in a blur of 
distraught acciaccaturas, arpeggios, and 
discombobulated trills

a great player must consequently play the 
piece in practice at a quicker pace to ensure
an immaculate, ever, presentation, the work 
of a consummate, and immutable, artist

think about it, and watch, indeed marvel,
at this extraordinary performance


R ! chard 

String Quartet in B flat, Opus 55, no 3 – Haydn

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                      “Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1783) 

                                Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

                                              ___________________

first of all, let me grievously repent an
egregious confusion I probably left
in my last diatribe, I said that the second
movement of the Opus 54, no 2 sounded 
to me like a minuet, I had, through 
embarrassing inattention, confused its,
however unmemorable, adagio with that
of this Opus 55, no 3, which I’d listened 
to in too quick succession, driven as I 
am by my thirst for epiphanies

the Opus 54, no 2 will do, but I’m not 
going back for seconds, nor to the 
Opus 55, no 3, though here’s where  
I flaunt nevertheless Haydn, not to 
mention Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, 
all the way to eventually Bruckner, 
Brahms, the extraordinary Richard
Wagner, passing through Schubert,
Mendelssohn, the Strausses, father
and son, and the unrelated Strauss,
Richard, another incontrovertible 
giant, and I nearly left out the 
unforgettable Liszt, all of them 
forefathers of our present music

you might have noticed that these 
are all Germanic names, obedient 
to the Hapsburg empire, with 
Vienna as its supreme cultural 
capital, and it was that 
Austro-Hungarian dynasty that
indeed nearly single-handedly 
secured our Western musical 
traditions

a few Italians are remembered,
from the 18th Century, Scarlatti 
maybe, Boccherini, Albinoni
but not many more 

no one from France, but they were 
about to have a revolution, not a 
good time for creative types,
though, incidentally, Haydn was 
getting Tost, to whom he was 
dedicating his string quartets for 
services rendered, to sell his stuff 
in very Paris 

then again, Marie Antoinette, I thought, 
was Austrian, an even archduchess, 
and would’ve loved some down-home 
music at nearby Versailles

so there you are, there would’ve been 
market

the English had Handel, of course,
who was, albeit, German, getting 
work where he could when you 
consider his competition, he was 
too solemn and plodding by half,
to my mind, for the more 
effervescent, admittedly Italianate, 
continentals, Italy having led the 
way earlier with especially its 
filigreed and unfettered operas

but here’s Haydn’s Opus 55, no 3
nevertheless, the best Europe had
to offer, socking it to them

Haydn’s having a hard time, I think, 
moving from music for at court to
recital hall music, music for a much
less genteel clientele, however 
socially aspiring, we still hear 
minuets, and obeisances all over 
the place, despite a desire to 
nevertheless dazzle, impress

then again, I’m not the final word, as
my mea culpa above might express, 
you’ll find what eventually turns 
your own crank, floats your own 
boat, as you listen

which, finally, is my greatest wish


R ! chard

String Quartet no 42 in C major, Opus 54, no 2 – Haydn

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       “The Attributes of Music (1770) 

              Anne Vallayer-Coster

                      ___________

meanwhile back at Haydn, some nearly 
70 years after Bach’s Partita no 2
Haydn’s been freed by his sponsor, 
Prince Esterházy to sell his 
compositions to the highest bidder
and with the help of the Hungarian 
second violinist at the Esterházy 
courtfinds buyers in Paris

the Opus 54 is therefore associated 
with Johann Tost, as well as its 
companion Opus 55, and indeed 
Haydn’s later Opus 64 for string
quartet is decidedly dedicated to 
him

Haydn has been released from not
only contractual obligations, it
seems apparent, in his new, more
experimental phase, but from the
constraints of, verily, courtly music,
this is not dinner music for a coterie
of aristocrats, but demands attention,
Haydn is pulling out his showstoppers, 
musical eccentricities, to dazzle the 
crowd, pauses in the first movement, 
for instance, right off the top, for 
drama, of course, and musical 
tension

and the second movement sounds 
a lot more like a minuet to me

later in the last movement, he 
delivers a second, incongruous, I think, 
adagio, unusual at this point, the 
piece’s traditional cheery farewell,
interrupted by a presto, of all things,
right in the very centre of all that 
solemnity, you tell me if that ultimately 
works, thought not, and it ends, on 
top with of that, with whimper

but it opens the way for tempi 
prolonging the emotional impact of
the composition, six rhythms instead 
of four throughout the work makes 
the musical journey longer, more 
probing, more episodic, more 
narrative, eventually

wait till you hear what Beethoven 
does with that

but meanwhile, Haydn doesn’t 
disappoint, though you’ll have 
heard better, I think, and will, 
from him 


R ! chard

Partita no 2, BWV 1004 – J.S. Bach

Leopold_von_Anhalt-Köthen_(1694_-_1728).jpg

         Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen

                      __________

if I haven’t spoken much about Bach
until now it’s that, although he is at 
the very start of our modern music,
having in fact set up its very alphabet,
the scale we’ve been using since, he 
is nevertheless as different from our 
own era in music as Shakespeare is 
to us in literature, both are stalwarts,
but we no longer say, for instance, 
thee or thou, nor write in iambic 
pentameter, nor do we dance 
gavottes at court, nor congregate 
at church to hear cantatas

the turning point is the Enlightenment,
also called the Age of Reason, when 
the concept of God was being 
questioned, if not even debunked, and
the mysteries of nature were being 
rationally resolved, handing authority
to knowledgeable individuals instead
of to popes

by the time of Mozart and Haydn, a
secular tone was gradually pervading 
all of the arts, devoid of any religious 
intentions, sponsors were private 
rather than clerical  

Bach had indeed been hired by a prince,
Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, but was 
appointed court musician at his ducal 
chapel, Nikolaus l, Prince Esterházy 
wanted Haydn’s music, rather, for his 
court entertainment, and for himself 
as well, incidentally, as a fellow baryton 
player

Mozart was also employed by a prince,
but left when he wasn’t being payed 
well 

times haven’t changed much, see 
Trump, for instance

after the French Revolution, there was
not much call for religious music, 
human rights took the place of God, 
liberté, égalité, fraternité, and all that, 
not to mention the American Bill of 
Rights, and that’s the route we’ve 
been following ever since, for better 
or for worse 

but hey, we’re still reading Shakespeare,
and still listening to Bach, and loving 
both of them, some of us

here’s some more Bach for old times’
sake, his Partita no 2 for solo violin

a partita is just a series of dance suites 
– an allemande, a courante, a sarabande, 
a gigue, and a chaconne, in this case – I 
don’t think anyone other than Bach ever 
wrote some, but his are sublime

it’s kind of like my calling my own 
stuff prosetry, for whatever infinity 
that word might ever deliver, though
no one else might ever use that term
again

listen also to a transposition of its
celebrated last movement, the 
Chaconnefor left-hand piano, in 
this instance, as transposed by 
Brahms, a precursor to Ravel’s 
Concerto in G major for the Left
Hand, written for Paul  
Wittgensteinan already 
accomplished pianist – the much 
more famous philosopher, 
Ludwig‘s, brother – who’d lost his 
right hand during the First World 
War, and who’hopefully be 
inspired, by such positive 
reinforcement

art, music, poetry thrives on such 
heartfelt expressions of sympathy,
compassion, communion

art is the faith that we rely on now 
that God/dess is gone 


R ! chard

Easter Oratorio – J.S.Bach

easter-angel-1959.jpg!Large

   “Easter Angel (1959) 

          Salvador Dali

               _______

                                  for Elizabeth, 
                                      who needs an oratorio right now,
                                           and who takes great comfort, 
                                                 she tells me, in this music


if The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour 
on the Cross is not a divertimento, it 
nevertheless didn’t come out of nowhere,
and a clue to its inspiration lies in the 
eventual transposition of the orchestra 
only piece to, a few years later, the piece 
with voice, its oratorio

Haydn had heard his original composition
rendered in a nearby provincial town, where
they’d added lyrics, however saccharine, to
the score, and he thought it entirely effective 
and appropriate, had new less sanctimonious 
lyrics composedand gave us what we now 
hear

oratorios go back quite a while, not 
surprisingly, they are quintessentially 
religious music, meant to inspire, a 
familiar convocational ploy, Bach and 
Handel made them especially immortal
in the early 18th Century

listen to Bach’s Easter Oratorio to see,
to hear rather, the connection to Haydn,
though you might not even notice much
significant difference, they’ve as many 
movements more or less, nine for Haydn,
Bach’s has eleven, but all the forces are 
the same, and in the same order

that Bach’s oratorio would be more 
joyous is not surprising, the occasion for 
the Easter Oratorio is one of celebration,
where The Words is more lugubrious, it 
describes a portentous demise, dance 
rhythms therefore are not in the former 
inappropriate

its dances, however, are rather gavottes
and sarabandes instead of the later 
minuets, a not not instructive alteration 
when you think that minuets not much
later than Haydn had become waltzes,
more about that later

in the Easter Oratorio“, the story is told
by the singers, whereas in The Seven 
Last Words“, the music is doing the 
telling, secured by the fact that the piece
was originally written without singers

The Words is more dramatic, more
use of contrasting volumes and tempi,
the piano hadn’t been invented at the 
time of Bach, long notes couldn’t be 
accommodated on the harpsichord,
which determined the pace of the plot,
the piano allowed with its soft pedal 
a moderation in volume, and with its 
hold pedal a moderation of a note’s 
resonance, which allowed for more 
expansive expression, which led 
eventually, nearly inescapably, to 
the Romantic Period, after passing, 
of course, through, Mozart and
Haydn

but listen to what Bach can do 
without these later interventions,
proof that a poet can inspire with 
merely matchstick, the second 
aria itself – My soul, the spice that 
embalms you shall no longer be 
myrrh – for soprano and baroque 
flute, spare as it is instrumentally, 
is manifestly entirely worth the 
priceless price of admission 


R ! chard

Divertimento no 17, K334 – Mozart

minuet-with-pantaloon-and-colombine-from-the-room-of-carnival-scenes-in-the-foresteria-1757.jpg!Large.jpg

Minuet with Pantaloon and Colombine, from the Room of Carnival Scenes
                                                                                                       in the Foresteria (1757)

     Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

             ________________

already I can hear you asking, why is
The Seven Last Words“, with its nine
already movements, not a divertimento,
you’ll cry 

a divertimento is an entertainment, it 
doesn’t have the gravitas of Haydn’s 
composition, a sacred work, a 
divertimento is meant to delight

The Seven Last Words“, therefore,
by definition is not a divertimento,
it’s a completely different idea of a
piece with several movements, it 
has profoundly ulterior intentions,
following, rather, in the tradition of
Bach’s oratorios, though it had 
originally been conceived without 
words, the prelate in this work 
would be doing the talking

the piece gives itself a theme, a 
focus, a project, creating something 
like chapters in a book 

or think of the Stations of the Cross 
a metaphorically more apt, perhaps, 
unifying principle, instead of just a 
series of disparate airs, like singles 
were on albums until Pink Floyd 
similarly revolutionized music with 
a topic during my generation, The
Wall, with a little preparatory help
albeit, from the Beatles, earlier,
our friends

here’s Mozart, nevertheless, in order 
to compare, his Divertimento no 17,  
K334giving the aristocracy what 
they still, in 1780, wanted, something 
courtly

you’ll notice there are not just one 
but two minuets in the program, both 
with recapitulations, sure sign that 
we’re still in the Classical Era, though 
the minuet will die off as quickly as 
the divertimento will in the following 
decades, relics, both, of an earlier era

and indeed this is Mozart’s last for 
small orchestra, divertimenti would be 
composed from here on as merely 
tributes to an earlier period and its 
musical formulas

masses and oratorios would go the same 
way, incidentally, with some resurgence 
in the following centuries from a couple 
of Catholic organists who left profound 
influences individually on later centuries

but more about them later

meanwhile, here’s Mozart, feel the 
gentility, his genuflexion to propriety 
rather than to faith


R ! chard