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Category: concerts to ponder

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

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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

a short history of the waltz

waltz-1891-1.jpg!Large

  “Waltz (1891) 

    Anders Zorn

       ________

inadvertently, during my last comments
I let slip, perhaps, prematurely – cause I
thought I’d explore earlier Romantic 
pieces first, more Beethoven, more 
Paganini – the word waltz, when I 
referenced the “Minute Waltz”, a dance 
which expressed a sea change in 
Western cultural history made 
manifest through music 

though the waltz was already the rage
in lowlier social circles in the late 
1700’s, the minuet still held sway in 
the more aristocratic salons, whose 
young swains nevertheless would 
skip out to ferret out the servants’ 
quarters, as young swains do

slowly the dance, for its more 
informal aspects, not to mention 
its sensuous intimacy, became so 
astonishingly mainstream as to 
define pretty well the very century, 
Chopin and the Strausses, Father 
and Son, would take care of that, 
the last two making a carnival out 
of very Vienna

but until the late 1820’s, not much 
was heard of the waltz in the 
musical curriculum, at which 
point it’ll come in with a vengeance  

not much from Beethoven, who, in 
his fifties, was probably about as ,
interested in waltzes as I am in hip 
hop, a ditty only, a trifle, this one,
1824, one of only two waltzes 
from him 

here’s Johann Strauss l, however, 
his Carnival in Venice, 1828, is a 
waltz in Carnival clothing, like 
cadenzas, for instance, in the 
guise of Paganini “Caprices”

here’s Johann Strauss ll, the son,
with his Wiener Blut“, “The Spirit 
of Vienna“, electrifying, 1873, the 
late already 19th Century

but here’s Chopin doing his stuff
1847, right in the middle of both, 
from far away Paris, which was 
going through its list of Empire 
changes right about then, his
Waltz in C-sharp minor

Chopin’s waltz is a more decorous 
composition, more courtly, more 
also introspective, contemplative, 
private, indeed Romantic

note how strongly the Classical 
unities still apply here, tempo, 
tonality and repetition, even more 
markedly than in Beethoven, Chopin 
is Mozart, but with more sentiment, 
and perhaps more rubato, stretching 
the rhythm in composition to 
accommodate a dancer’s presumed 
dip, in his otherwise meditational 
compositions 

the waltz will undergo trials and 
tribulations later, as the world 
turns, but I’ll keep those 
reflections for later

meanwhile, choose your partner


R ! chard

Cello Concerto no 2 in D major – Haydn

a-cello-1921.jpg!Large

         A Cello (1921)

        Louis Marcoussis

             ___________

between Bach’s transcendent Suites for
Cello and Beethoven’s reinvention of that 
instrument, two only cello works occupy
the last half of that century, both by
Haydn

his Second, however, Concerto, written 
several years later than his First, 1783, 
indeed nearly twenty years later, seems 
to me less accomplished, though ever, 
nevertheless, unimpeachably, and 
impressively, Haydn 

the first movement is long, long works 
only until you start thinking it’s long

the initial melody in the adagio, the 
second movement, struck me as artificial, 
saccharine, though Haydn weaves magic, 
not unexpectedly, still, and  
continuously, around it in its 
development, his elaboration of it

and the pace of the third movement, 
following the second, is disconcerting 
rather than surprising, rather than, 
were it effective, delightful

Mozart wrote a Cello Concerto too, 
apparently, but, if so, it is lost

otherwise we’re on to the next historical
epoch, Beethoven’s, after this inauspicious 
turn at this generation for the cello, lost 
for a while among the more assertive 
instruments of that prim, and proper,
Classical Era


R ! chard

Cello Concerto no 1 in C major – Joseph Haydn

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     “St. George and the Dragon (c.1470) 

                Paolo Uccello

                    ________

it isn’t easy for me to leave Bach behind
whenever I start listening to him, I could 
ride his musical train forever

but the middle of the 18th Century did, put 
him aside, for about a hundred years, until 
Mendelssohn rediscovered him

Bach’s Cello Suites were themselves only 
reinstated in the 1930s by, Pablo Casals,
the Classical 18th Century had considered 
Bach too fussy, his pieces, they thought, 
were technical exercises rather than 
actual entertainments, form was  
overtaking, for them, function 

there’s a wonderful book about all this,
The Cello Suites“, written by Eric Siblin, 
a Canadian journalist, which is not only 
amazingly informed and probing, but also 
beautifully written, it holds a place of 
honour on my bookshelf, along with other 
inspired, and inspiring, texts

not only was Bach set asunder, dismissed,
during the Classical Era, but all of the 
formative music also he had written, for 
cello, violin, keyboard, in other words,
their entire curriculum

which, since Bach’s reinstatement, has 
become, paradoxically, the very  
foundation for learning these instruments

imagine playing a tune with the right 
hand, then a few notes later, picking 
it up in the left hand while the right 
hand keeps on going on its merry 
way, imagine what that does to
your fingers, never mind to your 
mind, that’s what his Two-Part
Inventions are all about, fifteen of 
them, eight in major keys, seven 
in minor, consider the technical 
difficulties, intricacies, imposed 
both compositionally and upon 
the harried performer 

then Bach follows through with his 
Three-Part Inventions to top it all 
off, for the keyboard at least, and 
only for the moment – there’ll still 
be his transcendental Goldberg 
Variations” among other 
incandescent masterpieces – 
wherein one juggles three tunes at 
time, and all of them in the same 
assortment of fifteen contrasting, 
foundational, keys, the “Inventions
 – if you can do that, you’re on your 
way, one would think, to knowing 
entirely what you’re doing

but time marches on, that Classical
Era hits, Haydn takes over, not
unimpressively

the same thing happened in my 
generation to Frank Sinatra via 
the Beatles, not to mention, a little 
later, to either, with Pink Floyd

listen to Haydn’s First Cello Concerto,
note the bravura inherent in the 
composition, this is not Bach’s 
meditative music, the very Romantic 
Period is, through Classical reserve, 
expressing already its imminence, 
individual prowess is taking over 
from community, which is to say 
religious, affiliation, the same way 
the Renaissance artists, Duccio
GiottoFra AngelicoFilippo Lippi
Uccello had stood out, incidentally, 
from their brethren in the standard 
communal art schools dedicated to 
decorating the ever burgeoning 
churches sprouting out in the still
fervent European environment 

musical, though unaristocratic, 
talents, this time, were beginning, 
within German context, to flex 
their decidedly not unimpressive 
muscles, and gaining some 
significant purchase

and who wouldn’t when a Cello 
Concerto would’ve sounded like 
this, listen


R ! chard

what’s up in Belgrade, Serbia – Pepe Romero

dario-de-regoyos-playing-the-guitar-1882.jpg!Large

   Dario de Regoyos Playing the Guitar (1882) 

          Theo van Rysselberghe

                 ______________

                                                          for Donna

struck by the intimacy, the emotional 
resonance of the guitar, more outward,
more confessional, than introspective, 
like the cello, I wondered at the reasons,
speculated merely, but with, to my mind, 
unobjectionable conclusions finally, just 
this side of actual proof of my, however 
provisional nevertheless, conclusions

the guitar, I thought, when a friend 
wrote about her especial appreciation 
of it, is to both North and South 
Americans a much more integral part
of our history, cowboys carried them 
out on the range, be it American or 
Argentinian

why, I wondered

well, I figured, it doesn’t have, first 
of all, a bow, and it’s easy to carry,
a piano would, of course, be right 
out of the question

and later in the evening, around a 
fire, a cowboy can wrap his very
soul around this metaphor he’s 
holding, and speak of his love and 
his loneliness

you could try the same thing with a
mandolin, maybe, but it has, I think, 
too playful a string to be ever so
meaningful and intimate

it seems, as well, that you can play 
more than one note at a time on the
guitar, the thumb and at least one 
other finger, to achieve harmonies 
other instruments, including the 
cello, can’t – I could never play two 
notes at a time, for instance, on my 
flute when I was flaying it 

though I recently found out you can 
play two notes together, at a time,
though with great difficulty, on the 
violin, which could shoot all of my 
theories into the water

stay tuned


listen to Pepe Romero, meanwhile,
astound you with first of all Rodrigo’s
“Concierto de Aranjuez” – you’ll melt 
at the adagio – then with Francisco
Tárrega’s “Memories of the Alhambra”
a piece that’s already written deep in 
your bones, I promise you’ll

quiver

enjoy


R ! chard

up my eccentricities / the Ides of March

ides1

        “The Death of Caesar (1798) 

               Vincenzo Camuccini

                      ___________

in looking up a requiem to commemorate 
the Ides of March, today, a date imprinted  
on our collective consciousness since 
Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, act l, 
scene ll –

    Soothsayer:   Beware the Ides of March.

    Julius Caesar:   What man is that?

    Marcus Brutus:   A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.

    Julius Caesar    Set him before me, let me see his face.

    Cassius:   Fellow, come from the throng, look upon Caesar.

    Julius Caesar:   What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.

     Soothsayer:   Beware the Ides of March.

    Julius Caesar:   He is a dreamer, let us leave him. Pass.

– I found an entirely appropriate work,
though with more contemporary, and 
consequently more immediate, 
associations 

but first, let me say more about both 
Julius Caesar and Shakespeare

Caesar died on the Ides of March, 
notoriously, and ignominiously – 
though ruthless in his own way, 
not to mention also flamboyant,  
Caesar had been a ruler conscious 
of his constituency, and therefore 
socially responsive, giving, for 
instance, citizenship to residents 
from far away, a contentious issue 
still nowadays, and support for 
veterans, another hot political 
topic

he was also the lover of Cleopatra, 
among apparently many other trysts, 
not to mention, it has been suggested, 
of King Nicomedes lV of Bithynia

regardless, he is the template for 
modern rulers, eclipsing Alexander
the Great by a long shot, who else 
has a very month, July, named after 
him, apart from Augustus, Caesar‘s
heir and successor

his complete literary works have only 
recently come out in English, an
apparently, and most undoubtedly,
significant enterprise, Caesar would 
be, of course, subjective, therefore
probably indifferent to, or more 
unforthcoming about, his less savoury
excesses – he’d apparently cut off the 
hands of soldiers he had conquered,
something he never mentioned  

should we consider the impunity of our 
own 21st-Century autocrats – who will
blithely destroy communities with 
lethal chemical agents, and even, in
like manner, specifically target 
individuals – with less condemnation
and horror

nobody cared, by the way, about the 
Ides of March, until Shakespeare 
suggested, for all time, that we 
should beware of it

and we’ve been doing so ever since 


March 11th, 2011, was the date of the
Japanese tsunami, the earth shook, 
thousands died, the devastation was 
unimaginable, including nuclear 
radioactive explosions

Tōru Takemitsu‘s Requiem, written
in 1957, though not specifically 
related to that national tragedy, is
not at all unrelated to their agony

and through the power of music to
bring souls together, manifestly, 
here and now, his thoughtful
evocation, however dissonant, 
however arhythmic, however 
unhinged from Western Classical 
musical precepts, which might 
very well, I remark, be the point, 
brings souls, if you’ll listen
demonstrably together


R ! chard

psst: did I mention that the words 
          “Tsar” and “Kaiser” are 
          derivations of the name 
          Caesar

comparing divas

diva-i.jpg!Large

        Diva I 

             Erte

             __

comparing two extraordinary performances,
as I am wont to do with any coupled exhibits,
which render always more than the sum of 
their parts, let me let you consider an 
historical record of a legend already with 
that of one who is about to become one,
Bette Midler, 1971, doing the Continental 
Bathsopposite Vesselina Kasarova at the 
Schwetzinger Festspiele, 2005

the voices in either case are impeccable,
the only difference is the context, you 
choose what you’re into

but let me tell you that Vesselina Kasarova
doesn’t give an inch, she puts on a show 
that makes your jaw drop, trust me, it all 
depends on your mood

Vesselina comes from a different epoch,
despite her contemporary production,
polite, flirtatious, modest, the 18th
Century

but her staccatos, followed by verily,
and however improbably, organic 
legatos, indeed fervent, and  
unmitigated, fermatas, are stunning,  
a touras they say in such instances,  
de force, indeed de maîtrise, de  
mastery, wait till you hear the final 
moments of her surely definitive 
Glück, utterly, and incontrovertibly, 
astounding

Bette is brash, in your face, needs to 
get the attention of guys in towels, 
1971, intent on more prurient 
peregrinations than merely watching 
superstars, however in the making, 
strut their show-stopping stuff

both Vesselina and Bette achieve, I 
think, their goal, each strikingly, and 
unforgettably, each declares herself 
indestructible, a very force of
propulsive nature

watchwatch, which, in your opinion, 
delivers

ouch, both, either, I think

enjoy


R ! chard

by special request, more Tina

250px-Tina_turner_21021985_01_350

  Tina Turner performing in Norway, 1985

             __________

                                                  for Norm

shortly after my most recent post, a 
friend, as avid as I am about Classical
music, but who also lived through our
own golden age of music, and throbbed 
as I did to its pounding rhythms, sent 
me this video of one of Tina’s greatest 
hits, Proud Mary

not to mention that my inbox lit up at 
the same time with equally corroborative 
applause from a host of other, apparently
also fervid, admirers


it was the best of times, it was the worst 
of times, everyone did everything with
anyone then, and was impeded only    
by hir own personal inhibitions

therefore Studio 54and even more 
glamorous Manhattan party outlets, 
the Paradise Garage, Les Mouches, 
warehouses full of carousers, and 
Bette Midler was showcasing at the
Continental Bathsif you were 
wanting a less frenzied, though not 
at all uneventful, evening, or night
  
London had it’s comparable Heaven, 
nowhere was not having its bacchanals

the era would come down crashing, 
never to be put back together again,
of course, as a soothsayer I knew 
was then prophesying, but while it 
lasted we revelled, and had Tina 
Turner, among other, as incendiary, 
oracles telling it like it was, is, listen

 
Beethoven would’ve been proud of 
Tina, incidentally, note the adherence 
to Classical conditions, tonality, tempo, 
and repetition, art is about doing your 
own stuff around those imperatives, or, 
if you can, busting through them

Tina might not have burst through, but  
she sure knew what to do with her 
perimeters, which is to say, knock them
right out of the ballpark   

wow, watch, what a woman


R ! chard

psst: thanks Norm

“I Can’t Stand the Rain” – Tina Turner

tina-turner-9512276-1-402

                Tina Turner                     

                       ______

finding it difficult lately to endure the
late winter, early spring, besetting 
our, however, not unbearable yet, 
unpleasant meteorological conditions, 
Tina Turner picked it up for me with 
her irresistible rendition around her 
perspective about such intemperate
weather, tightly wound, in my 
instance, with emotionally resonant 
considerations

call me Tina, I cried, and burst into
earnest collaboration, ever so, as 
much as possible, mellifluously

won’t you too, haven’t you, for that
matter, already, join, joined in


R ! chard