Richibi’s Weblog

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Category: Brahms

on art, its purpose


                                Poet With Flower (2008)

                                          Stefan Caltia


wherefore art, I’ve long and often wondered,
with only a wink to Juliet’s Romeo, for my
question dug deeper, why, indeed, itself art

we build our souls on the stories we’ve 
heard, the impressions we’ve received
from voices that spoke directly to our 
senses, painters with paint, musicians
with music, writers with words, poets 
with poems

it started with fairy tales, which told of
right and wrong, good and bad, courage,
kindness, responsibility, and dire 
consequences for discord

Biblical stories also took up a lot of my own
childhood, Jesus, Adam and Eve, Moses
and the Ten Commandments, this last 
reinforced by Cecil B. DeMille’s epic

but soon enough it was Oliver TwistLittle
Nell, and by an inescapable authorial leap, 
since these were all by an irresistible 
Charles Dickens for a guy my age, Sydney
Carton, who valiantly stands in for his
friend, Charles Darnay, at the guillotine, a 
quantum, even existential, leap from 
Peter Pan and Mary Poppins 

though I had the good fortune to learn to 
read and write music as a boy, play music, 
learn about Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, 
it didn’t take anyone else much more than
their enthusiasm to see what the Beatles
were similarly doing, the Rolling Stones, 
the Supremes, they were not only singing, 
but making history, shaping it, and us, we 
followed the questions they rose, their 
responses, the effects upon ourselves
for nothing is considered until it’s 
mentioned, spoken, made clear, and they
were those prophets

the same goes for art, we see as we see
cause Monet, Picasso, Warhol showed 
us how to see, what to look at

and of course poets, Shakespeare, 
RostandDanteGoethe, to inform, each,
their individual language, and culture

I have been Philip CareyScarlett O’Hara, 
Blanche DuboisGary Cooper in High
Noon“, both Martha and George in 
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf“, lately 
I’ve been even Hank Williams

as Babette would say, a French doll who 
gets abducted in Raggedy Ann and Andy:
A Musical Misadventure“, an animated 
movie from the Seventies, – oo aahrr yoo 


psst: all of them have been me too,


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

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”,
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

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

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

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,



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

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

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


Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor‏, opus 26

Max Bruch

Max Bruch


still under the spell of the captivating
Akiko Suwanai, it didn’t take me long
to search out this enchantress further

as a follow-up to the perhaps tonally
discomfiting Berg I earlier highly,
nevertheless, recommended, I found
this utterly thrilling Bruch

Max Bruch, a Late Romantic, a
composer of the full flowering of the
Romantic Age, before Brahms, for
instance, Impressionism and the turn
towards social grievances rather than
the merely personal, Karl Marx, and
the rush towards isms, Capitalism,
Fascism, Communism, even indeed
Impressionism – is famous for
especially his Violin Concerto in G
, his first of three, and Kol
, a setting for the introduction
of a Jewish service, suggesting
Bruch might’ve been Jewish, which
he wasn’t

I’ve always been indifferent to the
Kol Nidrei“, perhaps because I’m
an utterly lapsed Catholic

but the Violin Concerto is something



psst: compare the Bruch to the Berg
for powerful historical insight
into the evolution of music in
the West

Horn Trio in E-flat Major, opus 40 – Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms


if I’ve been away from my perhaps too
abundant, Cornucopian indeed sometimes,
post of late, not as ubiquitous in your
hotmail, it’s because I’ve been following
not six but six and half courses at
Coursera, which have taken up a
considerable amount of my time, all of
them fruitful except for that half, which
apart from some smoke still from its
lingering ashes in the form of belated
comments on what were personally
pertinent fora, forums, I’ve committed to
the cellar of wasted money, despite its
being free, time itself being, according
to my father, hard currency

The Fiction of Relationship
Introduction to Philosophy
Revolutionary Ideas: An Introduction to Legal and Political Philosophy
Søren Kierkegaard – Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity
From the Repertoire: Western Music History through Performance
Philosophy and the Sciences

the half will remain unnamed for its
being, to my mind, inferior, not worth
not only recommending but even
mentioning, or, worth not only not
recommending but neither mentioning,
take your pick

but from “From the Repertoire” we were
offered this week to investigate Brahms’
Horn Trio in E-flat Major, opus 40
, entirely
worth looking into, I thought I’d pass it

it was composed in commemoration of
Brahms’ mother who’d died not much
earlier, a cello could replace the horn,
stipulated Brahms, even a viola for
fear of later horns being too brassy,
incommensurate with the intent of the
dedication however passionate some
of its musical argumentation, much
more abstract than that of Beethoven,
you’ll note, though still nevertheless
ever melodic

he has as well a more heraldic tone,
consequently, by extension
earthbound, rather than Beethoven’s
more transcendental ruminations
both remaining equal, however, ever,
in, in each his realm, their grandeur