Richibi’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Category: concerts to ponder

String Quartet no 14 in C-sharp Minor, opus 131 – Beethoven

musician

        “Musician 

              Zaya

                 __

                                           for Ian, who surely 
                                              benefitted from my
                                                   intransigeance


after watching performed the first movement 
of Beethoven’s 14th String Quartet at home 
with a friend, I interrupted the piece and 
instead put on the one I’d found with 
computer graphics

not from the beginning, he said

yes, from the beginning, I retorted, a mere
six or seven minutes which’ll be worth it, I
insisted, and they were

four lines of music, the top one yellow for 
the first violin, red for the second, mauve 
for the viola, and blue for the cello, which 
individually advance according to the 
length of each instrument’s notes, the 
height, meanwhile, of the lines indicate 
pitch, top ones high notes, bottom lines 
low, it’s like watching a blueprint of 
what’s happening, and mesmerizing, a 
musical score in very motion, though 
without, admittedly, the bar lines, nor 
key and time signatures, clefs neither, 
for that matter 

the music meanwhile is transcendent

Beethoven here resolves all the issues
I brought up about his two early Late
Sonatas, grab bags of fine tunes but 
without a centre, cuts on an album, 
rather than the visionary 
pronouncements of the prophet I’ve
come to expect from Beethoven

Beethoven pulls out all the stops 
for his 14th, goes from a fugue in 
the first movement, a form 
reminiscent of Bach, who’d been 
completely obliterated during the 
Classical Period, masterful dance 
rhythms then, peppered 
throughout, referencing, indeed
honouring late 18th Century court
music, a set of variations in the
fourth movementand other 
classifications I won’t touch for 
their being too technical, but 
which all illustrate Beethoven’s 
mastery of every musical 
convention until his time, then 
pushes all of it further still into 
the future with this string quartet, 
supreme among all string quartets, 
his 14th

much later, Pink Floyd would pull 
off a similar stunt, take its own 
generation’s music to comparable 
heights with an equally cultural, 
which is to say historical, impact,
the comparison is, I think,  
noteworthy and instructive

Pink Floyd, incidentally, was also 
a quartet, for even more context

note that throughout, tonality, tempo,
and repetition have been strictly, 
though, admittedly, often 
eccentrically observed, the piece has 
been arresting, even riveting, however, 
for some, disconcertingly sobut 
never not understood, never foreign, 
the music isn’t at all alienating, as 
could besay, Chinese opera for most 
of us, we’re still here in our corner of 
the planet following faithfully in the 
Western musical tradition as it thus 
then evolved

I could say all of the above as well
again, by the way, about Pink Floyd  
in their own, ahem, Time


all of that said, this other version,  
by the Alban Berg Quartet, is the 
performance that you’ll remember,
it is still incomparable, the gold
standard

enjoy


R ! chard

Advertisements

String Quartet no 12, E-flat major, opus 127 – Ludwig van Beethoven

the-cellist-1909.jpg!Large

    “The Cellist (1909) 

          Amedeo Modigliani

                   _________

if I haven’t spent a lot of time with
Beethoven’s 12th String Quartet
ever, it’s that, despite being 
considered one of his “Late” 
compositions, 1825, the 
supposedly probing ones, it is 
still steeped in Classical 
traditions, rather than the 
introspective impulses of the 
“Hammerklavier”, for instance, 
most movements seem to aim
for entertainment, rather than 
for enlightenment

all movements display dance rhythms,
often 3/4 time, which is to say, three 
quarter notes to the bar – one, two, 
three, one, two, three, one, two, three, 
one, two, three, try counting them as 
you listen, a dance beat, instead of 
the probing philosophical explorations 
of his more profound “Late” pieces, 
the “Hammerklavier”, for instance

neither is the 12th especially cohesive
as a piece on its own, the movements
don’t especially relate to one another,
they’re like cuts on an album, however
satisfactory, even delightful, they’re
units in a display of abilities, the 
difference between Elvis Presley‘s  ,
however transcendent, but disparate,
ballads to, later, Pink Floyd‘s epic
metaphysical orations  


but you’ll want to watch the cellist 
here, whose enthusiasm, eagerness,
ardour are such that you might even 
want to shield your eyes on occasion, 
with splayed, even, fingers – whose 
breadth I’ll leave entirely up to your 
personal discretion – though I could 
notmyself, resist for even a moment 
the uninhibited physical expression 
of 
his thoroughly impassioned 
account 

tune in, if you dare


R ! chard

at the movies – “Phaedra”

phaedra-and-hippolytus-1802.jpg

     “Phaedra and Hippolytus (1802) 

            Pierre-Narcisse Guérin

                   _____________

Phaedra, according to Greek myth, fell
in love with her stepson, and, of course,
ruined, for everyone, everything 

she’s been represented in music by
composers from, at least, Rameau,
1733, to, here, now, Benjamin Britten,  
1976by way of even Tangerine
Dream, 1973, however peripherally, 
and the hits just keep on coming

in literature, the story goes back to 
Euripides, 480 – 406 BCE, through
Jean Racine, 1639 – 1699, poet at 
the court of Louis XlV, the version 
that I studied in French Literature,
along with, in English, Shakespeare,
who was doing courtiers, rather, 
and royalty there, then, incidentally, 
instead of the Continent’s iconic 
Mediterranean figures – it remains 
my favourite play in my mother 
tongue, next to, for me, its only 
other equal, Cyrano de Bergerac

but I’d never seen a production of 
Phaedra until this searing, 
modern, rendition, set in, relatively 
contemporary, Greece, London, 
and Paris, with the irrepressible, 
the irresistible, Melina Mercouri
torrid temptress, the very goddess 
Herahereand Anthony Perkins
perfect as her suitor, a youth still, 
pulsing with a young man’s 
unbridled intentions

sparks fly, from moment to 
incendiary moment – I had often 
to pause to catch my breath – 
portents of an inescapable, and 
eventually epic, indeed mythic, 
apocalypse

watch, if you dare


R ! chard

why I believe in music, or “I Was Born For This” – Austin Wintory

joan-of-arc-on-corronation-of-charles-vii-in-the-cathedral-of-reims.jpg!Large

  “Joan of Arc upon Coronation of Charles VII in the Cathedral of Reims (1854) 

        Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

                ____________________

many years ago, while I was volunteering 
at our hospital’s palliative care unit, nearby, 
recently installed as a response to, among 
other pressing preoccupations, but most 
urgently then, the AIDS crisis, I was asked 
to sit by a lady in profound distress, her 
family, Western Buddhists, would go to 
lunch while I would sit by her to comfort 
her as much as I could

she was dishevelled, of course, completely 
disconcerted, all ajitter, lost, and evidently
confused, in her profound isolation, not to 
mention in the crumpled state of her 
harried bedunable to communicate, or
reason

I found a chair, sat by her with earnest 
concentration, my partner had died 
there, only recently, on that very unit, 
and I was expressing, to all of those 
concerned in his unparalleled care, 
my unlimited appreciation

I lay a hand gently upon her arm, to let
her feel, at least, the safety that my 
touch could allow, to let it settle on 
her, however removed might be her 
remaining consciousness, began to 
sing quietly a chant I’d been intoning   
from a creed I’d turned to for comfort 
in my own personal anguish, at the 
loss of my own friend, a call, an 
invocation, the continuous iteration 
of a line that brought solace, Om Nama
Shivaya, I prayed, over and over again, 
with the greatest intention, whatever
that phrase might’ve, I’ve forgotten, 
meant

she relented, found her space, little by
little she became, as though grace had 
descended upon her, calm, by however  
infinitesimal degrees, while I continued, 
now, my hopeful, helpful, it appeared,
manifestly mystical, intervention

she had become restful, I’d 
accomplished essentially, I gathered, 
my primary mission, though I 
continued, with some sense, perhaps
even a glow, of personal pridemy 
soulful incantation

then in a voice not much louder than a 
whisper, but much less distraught than 
a moan, she began to join in with row, 
row, row your boat, tunefully, over and 
over again, accommodating herself,
though, naturally, exceedingly weakly,   
to my rhythm, I felt I was experiencing,  
right there, and then, through the    
power of cadence, a miracle

when I looked back, upon hearing 
behind me a rustle, standing at the 
door was her family, wrapped in 
equal consternation 


here’s something with someone singing 
in several inscrutable languages for 
most of us, mostly, words from historical 
texts, in Greek, Latin, Olde English, 
Japanese, and French, I Was Born For 
This

that title, of one of the segments of 
longer work, Journey“, by a contemporary 
composer, Austin Wintoryis indeed a 
translation of Joan of Arc‘s words on the 
cross, “Ne me plaignez pas. C’est pour cela 
que je suis née.”, do not pity me, she says, 
I was born for this, Joan of Arc, my own 
personal Jesus

Shostakovich has an entire symphony,
his 14thcomposed of music to 
accompany classic poems, all in a 
variety of foreign, to him, tongues, but
translated back into Russian for his 
purpose in this particular, and not 
uncommon, instance, nevertheless 
pointed reference to music as superior
more direct, communication – note, here, 
the word, communication – it, the 14th,
is profound, extraordinary, read here 
first, then listen


R ! chard

Piano Concerto no. 9 – Mozart

clown-with-flowers-1963.jpg!Blog

   “Clown with Flowers (1963)

           Marc Chagall

                _______

                                with the greatest respect for all
                                     who read me, and especially 
                                         for those who are least 
                                             convincedthe way also, 
                                                 I note, to a conscious, 
                                                    and entirely personal,  
                                                          aesthetic


let me once again insist that my 
commentaries here are not at all
the last word on any of what I’ve 
discussed, they’ve been merely 
my opinion, according to my own 
particular aesthetic, my comments 
have been rather to excite curiosity
about, for some, an esoteric topic, 
to awaken interest in a field, to my 
mind, strewn with marvels, and 
never to dictate, art, as I often
remind, is in the eye of the 
beholder

I think of myself as company in 
an art gallery, viewing a 
succession of works, musical 
here, expressing notions, either 
specifically to do with the exhibit
or, personal, but somehow related, 
then moving on, just enough to 
whet the appetite, or, of course, 
not

here’s an instance

I’d been waiting for the sales clerk 
to box some fresh pasta for me I 
was buying at an eatery down the 
street when a line of piped in music 
from their overhead system swept 
me off my disconcerted feet, which 
I recognized to be Mozart, but as
I’d never heard him, ever

can you tell me who’s playing that,
I asked the cashier, many stores 
played their own tapes back then,
some still indeed even do, 
19-eighty, at that time, something

he replied, Mitsuko Uchida
what she’d done was to not stress
the bar line, the natural beat, to, 
in fact, eliminate it, so that a flight
of notes went on like an unfettered 
and iridescent miracle, prompted 
by its own irrepressible momentum,
I was flabbergasted

Beethoven later on would do that
nearly consistently

where Glenn Gould would remove 
his foot from the sustain pedal to 
channel Bach while he played 
Beethoven, an atavism, Mitsuko
Uchida was reversing the process
and using Beethoven‘s own 
unleashing of rhythms to shed 
light on her Classically otherwise 
bound Mozart, a telling 
anachronismI nearly screamed

here, in the event, is the next work 
of musical art in my idiosyncratic 
gallery, the richibi galleri, I call it, 
Mitsuko Uchida herself illuminating 
gloriously, as ever, Mozart, his 
splendid, as she reminds us, Piano
Concerto no 9 

thanks so much for stopping by


ever 

R ! chard

Piano Concerto no. 5, opus 73, “Emperor” – Beethoven

v1.bTsxMTIxMTMxNztqOzE3ODE0OzEyMDA7MTEyNTsxNTAw

     All About Eve (1950)

            _______

while I’m on the subject of concertos,
there’s one concerto that cannot be 
overlooked, the very epitome of 
concerti, their summit, apex, their 
very pinnacle, Olympus, compared 
to other less mighty compositions,
Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto,
the piece I would take with me to a 
desert island, used to even walk 
along the seashore in the privacy of 
my headphones nights, after dinner, 
taking in its cadences, its wisdom,
under the moon, the stars, along 
the, however temperamental, 
ocean waters, transported 

indeed this very version of it, Glenn
Gould’s, Beethoven’s, in my mind,  
oracular equal

Beethoven made literature out of 
music, progressed to the point of
delivering a very philosophy, 
Gould took the prevailing 
Romantic aesthetic of the time,
Arthur Rubinstein being a prime
example, for instance, and gave 
us the music of the Information 
Age, the mathematical precision 
of computers, people could hear 
it, perhaps not even knowing how,
why

briefly, Gould eschews – Gesundheit
the hold pedal, the sustain pedal, on 
the piano, he’d grown up on Bach, 
made him his specialty, but Bach
had no sustain pedal on his 
harpsichord, Gould transferred this 
process to later, more rhythmically 
malleable, works, making obvious 
thereby their inner workings, 
something like reading blueprints, 
his interpretations give us the bare, 
and revelatory, bones of these later 
masterpieces, without the sometimes 
facile effects of Romanticism, think 
of rubato, for instance, the ability to 
stretch a note, not possible on the 
harpsichord, but often overused in 
Romantic renderings, a cheap trick, 
like paintings on velvet

Gould would have none of that, he
shows you the composer’s 
compositional brilliance, without 
fanfare, just the facts, no pedal, 
which at the time was completely 
revolutionary, much like computer 
science was thenand algorithms 

here’s something else about Gould,
more savourymaybe, he was called 
in at the last minute to perform this
piece when the planned pianist, of 
considerable renown, wasn’t able to 
make it, Gould hadn’t played it in a 
number of years, but showed up the 
next morning to deliver, the rest is,
as they say, history

that’s All About Eve up there, but 
for pianists, Glenn Gould is Eve 
Harrington, though without her
predatory instincts, nobody now 
remembers the other pianist
unless you were there, interested,  
listening, piano’s Margo Channing, 
even if I named himhowever 
consummately accomplished he 
might’ve been, a man I profoundly 
admire, remains, cruelly, essentially 
unremembered 

imagine


R ! chard

Violin Concerto no. 1 – Paganini

portrait-of-paganini-1832(1).jpg!Large

   “Portrait of Paganini (1832) 

          Eugene Delacroix

               ___________

before you start thinking that, because 
of my recent comparisons, Paganini is
a nobody, look what I found, had 
stupidly forgotten about, among the 
multiplicity of wondrous examples
concertos have to offer 

this will attest, as well, to my fallibility,
which I unreservedly confess, in many,
even familiar, matters, I used to not 
much remember the last time I was 
wrong, but writing makes one more 
aware of one’s even egregious 
insufficiencies, I love, I must say, 
that it makes one humble

meanwhile, Paganini’s First Violin 
Concerto has absolutely no faults,
it’ll run through your cultural veins 
like water, you’ll probably be able 
to sing all the notes, apart, of course, 
from the cadenza, which, in this 
instance, is the soloist’s, not
Paganini’sa not unusual occurence, 
indeed a common one, though it’s 
nice when they tell you who wrote it, 
the composer or the player, as they 
do in this case, cause unless you’re 
a total nerd you mostly wouldn’t be 
able to tell the difference 

the cadenza is the part, incidentally, 
where near the end of a movement, 
any movement, though usually not 
the slow one – think about it – the 
soloist struts hir improvisational 
stuff, independently from the 
orchestra, till s/he signals it back in 

I’ve said before that Paganini’s 
Caprices are a series, essentially,
of cadenzas, not at all such shabby 
stuff

meanwhile, I think Paganini is back 
in the running, what do you think


R ! chard

so you think you can be a soloist – Beethoven / Paganini / Chopin

chopin-performing-in-the-guest-hall-of-anton-radziville-in-berlin-in-1829.jpg

Chopin Performing in the Guest-Hall of Anton Radziville in Berlin in 1829” 
    (1887)                                                                                                                

        Henryk Siemiradzki

                 ________

Chopin’s Piano Concerto no 1, written 
in 1830, is in the same mold as both
the Beethoven Violin Concerto, 1806, 
and Paganini’s 5th, a synchronous 
1830, three movements, fast, slow, 
fast, long symphonic introduction,
followed by miracles of articulation 
by the virtuosic soloist, with, however, 
differing degrees of emotional impact

Beethoven is evidently the source, 
and model, for both later compositions
having clearly preceded them by a 
number of years, but neither Chopin  
nor Paganini have the chops to match
his magisterial orchestration

Chopin, like Paganini, was confined to
essentially one instrument, of which,
however, both were utter masters, and 
manifestly and profoundly there inspired, 
but in either, once the solo part takes 
flight, the symphony is merely 
packaging, no longer an equal partner 

Beethoven has parts for all his players,
his is a conversation, not a declamation

but Chopin, 1830, had learned by then,
and integrated from Beethoven the 
lesson of how to incorporate drama
into his high wire act, the constant 
repetition of a melting air, a musical 
motive, which Paganini hadn’t, Chopin 
not only could fly, but also knew how 
to dress for it, to become a virtual 
angel of mercy and compassion up
there under the biggest of tops, his
immortality 

don’t take my word for it, though, 
you’ve probably heard already Chopin‘s 
work, a very emblem of 19th Century 
Romanticism, somewhere in your 
subconscious you know this melody,
heard it before, it’s part of our Western 
culture

not so the Paganini

what’s kicked

see above

you’ll hear your senses talking, the 
language of music and art, more
accurate eventually than any of my, 
however erudite, however informed,  
but merely ruminative, words, art 
being, once again, in the eye, the 
ear, in this case, of the beholder, 
or here, the be-hearer

listen


R ! chard

twice upon a violin concerto – Beethoven / Paganini

the-violin-lesson-1889.jpg!Large

  “The Violin Lesson (1889) 

         Tom Roberts

              _______

to juxtapose two things for consideration
to my mind, is the best way to sharpen 
both one’s aesthetic and, therefore, 
spiritual personality, here, thus, are 
two contemporaneous, essentially,  
violin concertos, concerti, if you like, 
Paganini’s 5th, 1830, Beethoven’s
Only, 1806

let me point out that the Classical Era
is over at this point, this isn’t music 
for the courts any longer, but music 
as spectacle, you can hear it, it’s like 
moving from Frank Sinatra‘s 
nightclubs to David Bowie’s stadiums

noteworthy about these two pieces is 
that the structure in each is identical, 
the same lengthy introduction in the 
first movement, followed by an 
articulate, and eventually mesmerizing, 
elaboration on the initial melody by 
the soloist, with divergent, however, 
intentions, Paganini starts with a 
fanfare, promises histrionics, delivers
fireworks, Beethoven begins with 
portent, goes instead for drama, 
which is to say, your heart, as well

both their second and third movements 
are essentially, then, indistinguishable 
conceptuallytheir last movement in 
either is even a rondo

the challenge in the Paganini is physical,
the glory is in the player’s technical 
prowess

with Beethoven the requirements are 
both physical and emotional, he 
punches for the heart, which the 
player musttherefore, with equally 
astounding panache, incidentally, 
also conquer 

style, in other words, over substance,
substance over style, which is to say
The Phantom of the Opera“, for
instance, or Cirque du Soleil,
Rachmaninov, maybe, versus 
Liberaceyou are the judge

history has sided, however, with 
substance, Beethoven’s Violin  
Concerto is everywhere, it isn’t at 
all easy, conversely, to come up  
with any of Paganini’s, despite 
their incontestable magnificence

maybe it’s time for a Paganini 
revival, they did that several years 
ago for the inimitable Rossini, an 
effervescent light in an otherwise 
mostly dour 19th Century, listen,
with counts and countesses here  
in attendance, at very, can you 
believe it, Versailleswow

 
R ! chard

twice upon a “Pastorale” – Beethoven

summer-pastoral-1749.jpg!Large   

    “Summer Pastoral (1749)

          Francois Boucher

                __________

on my way to my metaphorical 
Eiffel Tower, Beethoven’s Piano
Sonata no 15, the “Pastorale”,
his first to impress me, his 
Opus 28despite the notoriety 
of the earlier “Pathétique”, 
Opus 13and of the “Moonlight”
his Opus 27, no 2, splashy 
showpieces, those last twoto 
my mind, rather than revelatory,  
knew I was going to stop at the 
Arche de Triomphe, if you’ll 
allow me the developing allegory
to visit the other “Pastorale”, the 
6th, and my favourite, Symphony
one of the few works which he 
named, but where he also gives, 
apart from tempoin the usual 
Italian, descriptive headings in 
German, the culture that had 
taken over the arts, essentially, 
from the Italians, during the 
18th Century

Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen 
bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande, 
he, for instance, instructs, or
Awakening of cheerful feelings on 
arrival in the countryside, then
Scene by the brook, Merry 
gathering of country folk, Thunder. 
Storm, and finally Shepherd’s song. 
Cheerful and thankful feelings after 
the storm – five, unconventionally 
already, movements, instead of the 
usual three, or four, with headings 
that look a lot like stage settings,
cues for a play, chapters in a story

it’s evident that music has explicitly 
become, hereliterature, movements 
have been given a specific thrust, 
particular direction to follow, not  
dance, but emotive, appealing to the 
vocabulary of the senses, the 
grammar of the heart, music as 
graphic description, later we’ll even 
get tone poems 

sure, Vivaldi had written his Four 
Seasons“, 1723, but never, ever, 
as precisely rendered as here,
Beethoven brings to life an actual 
storm, bing, bang, pow, you hear, 
as thunder cracks, rumbles, 
crashesnot to mention the virtual 
call, chirp, twitter of the various 
birds he elicits bristling in the 
rustling leaves, you’ll even hear 
in the recovering countryside 
rainbow if you listen

music has become a language, a
medium of direct intelligent 
communication, enough, indeed, 
to verily inspire century, indeed,
as well, beyond


you’ll also fall in love with Leonard 
Bernstein here, who shows why 
Leonard Bernstein remains ever, 
indisputably, Leonard Bernstein,
beautiful, angelic, inspired

R ! chard