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Category: concerts to ponder

on Beethoven’s Symphony no. 6, the “Pastorale”

the-sound-of-the-flute.jpg!Large

      The Sound of the Flute 

 

               Xu Beihong

 

                 ________

 

 

                                    for Susan, who urges

                                               me ever to write

 

 

a friend wrote recently, extolling a

performance of Beethoven’s Sixth

Symphony he’d just seen, a 

noteworthy conductor conducting 

 

then again, how can you go wrong, 

I wrote back, with that already 

enchanting music, sent him, in

return, a version I’d ferreted out,

tried out for him, had been duly

enchanted, had laughed, had cried, 

taken shelter from the storm, come 

out the other side transported, again  

 

I wondered about the power of music, 

during my intermittent musings

throughout the variegated movements, 

as the peregrinations ambled on along 

their own magical explorations, long 

irrepressible arpeggios running up or 

down the scales, performing 

arabesques at their peaks, rumbling 

tremolos at their grumbling bottoms, 

before returning to the more stable 

middle ground of the melody

 

where, wondered, does it all find its 

source

 

sounds, individual sounds, would 

have been signals of danger, 

originally, a single note from a horn

warning of strangers on the way to

a community of otherwise peaceful

cohabitants if not only family, twig 

cracking in the forest when you 

believe you’re all alone

 

individual sounds would’ve picked

up meaning beyond their own pitch

and volume, resonance, reverberation,

rotundity, through Darwinian, even, 

time

 

a mother’s voice, for instance, 

identified immediately, upon a single

note, perenially, by any of her brood

 

 

it’s a long way from there to a symphony

but those are its roots, why we laugh, why

we cry, take shelter from the storm, and 

come out the other side transported

 

notes are written, emblazoned, on 

our consciousness, our lives depended,

depend still, on it 

 

listen

 

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: interestingly, our Darwinian evolution

          has produced pitch as an identifying

          factor for our species, a female voice 

          is higher than a male’s, this has 

          allowed us, as a species, to sing

“Orfeo ed Euridice” – Christoph Willibald Gluck

6-orpheus-leading-eurydice-from-the-underworld-plein-air-romanticism-jean-baptiste-camille-corot.jpg!Large

   Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld (1861) 

 

           Camille Corot

 

              _________

 

the question of the afterlife comes up

in several places in art history, from

very Homer to the present, my very

favourite is Gluck‘s opera Orfeo ed 

Euridice“, 1762

 

Orpheus, because of the sweetness 

of his music, his ability on the lyre, 

is granted, by the rulers of the 

Underworld, the return, among the 

mortals, of his recently deceased 

beloved, Eurydice 

 

the condition is that he not turn back

to look at her as he leads her back 

to the world of the living, our 

sensate world

 

it’s a journey I’ve taken often for its

utter enchantment and inspiration,

you’ll find it irresistible

 

watch, listen 

 

you won’t want to not go back,

I didn’t


 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

“Requiem” – Antonin Dvorak

1024px-Notre_Dame_de_Chartres.jpg


        Chartres Cathedral – View from south-east


                           _____________________

 

                                               for Donna

 


a few days before a dear friend was due 

to pass away, which is to say with medical 

assistance, I had taped from television, 

whether coincidentally or not, Antonin 

Dvorak’s “Requiem”, though I hadn’t yet 

listened to it

 

on the day of the procedure, I lit candles, 

put the music on, and sat in attendance 

as its flights of angels s[a]ng [her] to

[her] rest

 

the piece is somber, probably reserved for

somber occasions, but upon their instance, 

the work is glorious, and salutary

 

here, it is performed at the Cathedral

of Chartres, suffused with the solemnity 

and the splendour appropriate to such 

a fateful moment   

 

may you journey forth in peace, 

dear friend

 

 

R ! chard 

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 4, Opus 58 – Beethoven

music-painting-and-decoration-of-a-piano-1920.jpg!Large.jpg

     Music (Painting and Decoration of a Piano) (1915-1920) 

 

          Konstantinos Parthenis

 

                    __________

 

like with Shakespeare, some of Beethoven’s

work doesn’t reach the heights I find in their 

utter masterpieces, his Fourth Piano Concerto

is, to my mind, such a piece, though it’s not at

all not impressive

 

my complaint is that the musical motive, the

original theme, the cluster, merely, of notes

that make up the matter of the ensuing 

harmonic explorations, in all of the three 

movements of the Fourth, is lost in his 

excessive elaborationsone is distracted by 

the soloist’s dazzling showmanship rather 

than by the work’s metaphysical magic, as 

is conversely the case rather in Beethoven’s 

sister concertos, his OneTwo, Three, and 

Five 

 

most notably, the Fourth‘s slow movement,

the andante con moto, slow, but not unduly,

passes by in an instant, nearly imperceptibly,

but for the conspicuousness of its plodding 

rhythm, you wonder what just happened,

what did I miss

 

the first movement, the allegro moderato, 

or slightly slower than allegro, begins highly

unconventionally with the soloist at the helm, 

setting up the conversation, as it were, the

subject of the matter

 

that an individual, a commoner, would’ve  

dared to initiate a dialogue of purported 

significance in a culture where subjects

would have known their place, like later,

for instance, a woman asserting her 

position in a patriarchal society, would’ve 

been shocking, and highly controversial

 

but Beethoven raps out a rhythm, four

quick notes followed by four quick notes

followed by the same four notes again,

ra ta ta tat, ra ta ta tat, ra ta ta tat, like

someone knocking at a door, however

plaintively, requiring attention, before the

orchestra responds, determinedly and

categorically, though the soloist will ever 

remain the prime, and manifest, mover

 

this is not a tune, this is a statement

 

this is also the 18th Century’s introduction 

to the Romantic Period, where individual 

voices were stating their answer to the 

question of the disintegration of the

aristocratic as well as the religious 

ideals which had prevailed throughout 

the earlier Christian centuries, when 

their controlling dogmas, however still 

entrenched, were being questioned, 

and rejected, as evidenced by both the 

constitutional dictates of the American ,

and the French Revolutions, which 

were installing, codifying for their 

progeny, their individual continents,

and for very history, the idea of Human,

as opposed to the traditionally assumed

Divine, Rights

 

secular voices would consequently

sprout in myriad profusion 

throughout the ensuing 19th Century 

in order to people with personalities, 

as distinct from omnipotent, whether 

secular or ecclesiastical, established 

figures, to shape the ideologies of the 

impending future, for better or for 

worse

 

but I digress, exponentially

 

the third movement of the Fourth Piano

Concerto reminds me, in all its urgency,

of the finale of Rossini’s William Tell

Overture, of which I suspect it might  

have been an inspiration, the work

better known to many of my generation

as the theme to The Lone Ranger

 

Lone Ranger indeed, Beethoven was

already leaving his indelible, not to

mention generative, mark on our

present, 21st Century, culture

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 3 in C minor, Opus 37 – Beethoven

fishing-boats-on-the-deauville-beach-1866.jpg!Large.jpg

    Fishing Boats on the Deauville Beach (1866)

 

          Gustave Courbet


              ___________

 

if you’ve listened to the first two 

Beethoven piano concertos here

you’ll find the Third to be very 

similar in structure, the first 

movement is an allegro, which is 

to say it’s fast, and in the manner 

of Beethoven, brash, tempestuous,

exhilarating, the second, slow, an

adagio, or a largo, is plaintive,

melancholy, mournful, the third, 

brisk, ebullient, commanding, is

again an allegro

 

the form is descended from Mozart 

and the Classical Period, of which 

Beethoven is the tail end, but the 

entrails of his pieces are entirely

upended and revolutionary

 

Beethoven demands your attention,

his music is no longer the backdrop

for social gatherings of the 

aristocracy, but performances for 

intent audiences

 

compare, for instance, Mozart’s 

24th Piano Concerto, a more 

demure affair, however 

impressive

 

there are several similarities, both

pieces are in C minor, a downcast

key traditionally, but most notably,

the intial musical motive, or idea, 

at the top of either concerto, their

first few introductory notes, are

the same, you’ll recognize them

 

but Mozart is never in your face,

insisting upon your attention with

eccentric rhythms and jerky 

musical progressions, not to

mention loud and aggressive

passages such as Beethoven

presents, but lulls one, rather, 

into his reverie with an ever  

polite discourse from a 

deferential soloist, courteous 

and beholden, however ever

illustrious, from the first note

to the last

 

in the visual arts, it’d be like 

comparing a Courbet, say, to a

Monet, it’s a question, given 

their overlapping time periods, 

of accent, and sentiment

 

you’ll need in either case, of 

either, a keen ear, a keen eye

 

listen 

 

now listen

 


R ! chard

 

Piano Concerto no 2, opus 19 – Beethoven

allegro-con-brio-bourke-st-west-1890.jpg!Large.jpg

     Allegro con brio, Bourke St. West (1890) 

 

                Tom Roberts

 

                    ________

 

 

a concerto is a movie, but for the ears,

one listens, rather than looks, for one’s 

information

 

quite specifically, Beethoven introduces

drama into his inventions, where earlier 

there’d been merely an invitation to the 

dance, minuets, for instance, gigues, or 

disparate, disorganized, appeals, 

otherwise, to our more interior, whether 

secular or mystical, emotions, see in 

this context, for instance, early adagios, 

heart-wrenching, melting often, odes

 

these, or the even slower largos, fit 

neatly, however, into Beethoven’s 

compositional scheme of things,  

between the introductory allegros,

often con brio, and the closing, 

and equally spirited rondos, by 

becoming the pivotal element in 

his intended musical evening, the 

core of his narrative presentation, 

the plangent centre of his three 

part play, film 

 

here’s his Second

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 1, opus 15 – Beethoven

Jolson_black

      Al Jolson, in “The Jazz Singer” (1927)


              _________________

 


in order to abate my discomfort, my

consternation, after meeting up with

one of the candidates I considered

favouring in the upcoming election,

I put on Beethoven’s Firstwhich,

incontrovertibly, from the first few 

notes, did the trick, took me out of 

politics and the uncomfortable 

present, into metaphysical 

pertinence, and magic

 

I’d referred to the issue of blackface,

a searing issue at present in the 

media, I said, what about Laurence 

Olivier doing Othello, Placido 

Domingo doing the very same Moor,

not to mention Al Jolson doing,

unforgettably, My Mammy 

 

but picked up that neither the

candidate, nor his mentor, standing 

by his side, had any idea what I was 

talking about 

 

Placido Domingo, I said, one of The

Three Tenors, remember them

 

the aspiring representative indicated 

a dim recollection, his accompanist 

admitted to having nebulously heard

of him, them, somewhere

 

OMGess, I reared, I’m talking to the 

next generation, maybe even the 

generation after that, who have no

recollection, no understanding of

where I come from, it was, to say

the least,  unsettling, discomfitting, 

sobering 

 

there was no one at home with whom 

to commiserate when I arrived, 

answering machines only at the end 

of every line, I resorted, therefore, 

not unwisely as it turned out, to the

said Beethoven, who was, as usual, 

lifesaver

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

“The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross” – Joseph Haydn

lord-s-crucifixion-1990.jpg!Large.jpg

     Lord´s Crucifixion (1990) 

 

           George Stefanescu

 

               ____________

 

 

my sister is not well, her situation, 

though blessed throughout with 

grace, is dire, in such moments I 

turn to music for consolation, for 

courage, and for a serene 

acquiescence to whatever might 

be the outcome, the hour that I 

spend thus with her becomes in

that light a meditation, a mass,

private prayer

 

I’ve lit a trinity of candles in her

honour, one nearby for our dad,

gone these already thirty years, 

on something of an altar I’ve 

fashioned, however all the while 

unconsciously, about my 

fireplace, by their flickering 

silence, I find a place for 

solemn contemplation 

 

The Seven Last Words of Our

Saviour on the Cross is to my 

mind Haydn’s greatest 

masterpiece, its subject is

self-explanatory, but you might

want to read again here what I 

wrote about it earlier for 

greater context 

 

it is sung in the Oratorio de la

Santa Cueva, the Oratory of 

the Holy Cave, in Cádiz, Spain

for which it had been originally

composed

 

it is transcendent

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

Symphony no 7 – Anton Bruckner

cathedral-1991.jpg!Large.jpg

   Cathedral (1991) 

 

          George Stefanescu

 

                          _________

 

 

it’s funny, upon the imminent demise 

of my only sister, I chose to listen to,

instinctively, for solace, Bruckner’s 

Symphony no 7, lighting candles,

everywhere in my apartment, at 

dusk, like settings, for my somber

reveries

 

listen, you might understand why

 

Bruckner was a profoundly Catholic

composer, composing liturgical

works expressive of his profound

beliefs, fit, aurally, for, indeed,

cathedrals, ceremonial, arresting

 

his 7th, grand and utterly convincing,

is not an ineffective consolation, is

not an easily disregarded promise 

of something, however ephemerally

manifested, beyond the meagre

aspirations of merely faith

 

and which finally produces an epiphany,

a human understanding, that just being,

just responding to our condition, within

the confines of our station, is, 

eventually, nothing short of grace

 

art, in other words, is praying

 

 

R ! chard

rhapsodies – Gershwin / Rachmaninov

rhapsody-1958.jpg!Large

  “Rhapsody (1958) 

 

      Hans Hofmann


          _________

 

if a sonata is a piece of music with more

than one section, by definition a rhapsody

is not a sonata, a rhapsody has only one 

section, only one movement, all that is 

required, therefore, essentially, of a 

rhapsody, is that it be – a subjunctive 

here, incidentally, the mood of aspiration, 

high hopes, ideals – that it be, I reiterate, 

rhapsodic

 

in the spirit of juxtaposition, here are two

rhapsodies, the first, George Gershwin’s 

Rhapsody in Blue“, the other 

Rachmaninov’s, his Rhapsody on a 

Theme of Paganini

 

how are they different, you tell me

 

I’ll just point out that the one seems, to 

my ears, steeped still in the Romantic 

Period, the early 19th Century, despite 

its publishing date, 1934, the other

earlier, composition, 1924, sounds like 

full blown, in comparison, 20th Century

America, the future 

 

Old Europe, in other words, meets the 

New World, however chronologically 

counterintuitively

 

listen, you can hear all of it, both are,

either era, extraordinary, time is what

eventually tells

 


R ! chard