Richibi’s Weblog

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Category: Debussy

“The Afternoon of a Faun” – Vaslav Nijinsky‏


                           Program for L’après-midi d’un faune”  (1912)

                                                       Léon Bakst
though the reference to Pan is not direct
in the title of Nijinsky‘s choreographic 
rendition of Debussy‘s 1894 symphonic
classic, itself a musical transposition
of Stéphane Mallarmé‘s 1876 poem, 
L’après-midi d’un faune“, or, in English, 
connections are unmistakably implicit, 
not only in the story which is told, but 
also in the elements of the dance, which 
borrows heavily from Grecian urns, their 
static, angular poses
also Mallarmé makes specific allusions to
Syrinx herself, among other nymphs, in his 
seminal work, not to mention to the deity’s
eponymous flute
the only change to the original production 
dancers, here, Rudolf Nureyev performs 
with the Joffrey Ballet, where Vaslav
Nijinskythe choreographer himself, 
danced with Sergei Diaghilev‘s Ballets
Russes in the show that made history, 
the sets and costumes by Léon Bakst 
remain also unchanged, this is what the 
audience saw May 12, 1912, at the very  
the piece shocked even irreverent Paris,
of course, for its overt and unapologetic
eroticism, it‘ll probably even shock you, 
I thought, this is what happened to Berlin 
after the First World War, a reconstructed
chthonic* resurgence at the death of an 
old order, the Age of Aquarius after the 
nuclear scare, “Hair
famously, Auguste Rodin loved it
chthonic: of what makes you snort, grunt,
   instinctive forces, the ones which make  
   a young man’s fancy turn to, well, love 
   or worse

Bassoon Sonata, opus 168 – Camille Saint-Saëns


                  Photo; This is the Color of My Dreams (1925)
                                                Joan Miró 

 for  my sister

a competition program that pits
youngsters against each other,
but on a variety of instruments,
with some operatic voice, has
riveted us to our sets on Friday
evenings, seven o’clock local
time throughout Canada

out of the province of Quebec,
however, and therefore in

Virtuose lives up to its name
with extraordinary performances
from mere children, and some
adolescents, you can catch all of
the past episodes, and performers,
on their website

last week a young man delighted
us with a movement from a bassoon
, an unlikely instrument, of 

Saint-Saëns, his opus 168

my sister expressed surprise,
un basson, she marvelled

quickly I sought out, of course, the
full composition, it’s otherwise for
me like reading one chapter only
out of a book

it’s a short piece, no longer the
grand statements of the earlier
Romantic Period, but a series of
pastiches, fleeting impressions,
impromptu ruminations rather
than extended dissertations,
something like what I’m doing
here with these texts

you’ll recognize also a similar
approach in other composers of
the period, Debussy especially,
but too Satie, Ravel, Poulenc to
name only a few, the speed of
the new century precluded
extended musical peregrinations,
you’ll remark on the dearth of
symphonies, concertos,
composed during this epoch

the composition is in G major, my
cleaning lady had come over, was
already busy in an adjoining room
at the time, I was nearing the
end of the first movement, the
allegro moderato, a wistful
evocation of spring, I thought,
an innocent, fragile blossom
unfurling its delicate petals
with unaffected grace and
unconscious poetry

the final note sounded, the
bassoonist removed his lips from
the tube, but the note kept on
playing, coming, as I soon
understood, not from the video I
was watching, but from the other
room, Jo had turned on the
vacuum cleaner

o my god/dess, I uttered, hurried
over to where she was, subdued
my enthusiasm in order not to
unduly rattle her, as I brimmed
with my scintillating insight

your vacuum cleaner vacuums in
G, I gushed when she turned to
acknowledge me, it continued the
last note, I explained, of the first
movement of my sonata, Saint-
Saëns’ – say that three times with
a lisp, I interjected – until you
turned your vacuum cleaner off,
which is also, I pointed out, a
wind instrument

her delight was modest compared
to mine, however ever nevertheless
congenial, and quickly she returned
to her duties

I went back tickled pink to my
monitor and the following
movement, the sprightly and equally
enchanting allegro scherzando


String Quartet in G minor, opus 10‏ – Claude Debussy

                                    “Pluto and Persephone” (1522)
                                               Gian Lorenzo Bernini
if I’ve been away from my post for so long,
it’s either because my muse had left me, 
abandoned me to the rigours of an 
especially inclement winter, cold, driving 
rain, short somber days, weather for 
isolation, insulation, hibernation
or, like Persephone, I’d been abducted 
as to an Underworld, moral as well as 
meteorologicalhowever cosseted might’ve 
been there my stay, eiderdown pillows, 
blankets, books, Internet movies, concerts, 
plays, until by permission of Plutofateful 
consort, God of the Netherworld, by the
intercession of Mother Demeter, Queen of 
the Harvest, I’ve been allowed, even urged, 
to return for spring
where cherry blossoms are burgeoning, 
flowers bud in their variety of colours, 
birds sing, trees, like myself, begin to 
scratch out their brimming script onto 
the open-armed page of heaven
I’d left the string quartet evolving towards
Bohemia and Russia, in the capable hands 
of Smetana and Borodin respectively, from 
its solid roots in Vienna with Haydn and 
it would evolve westwards, of course, too 
to France eventually, as the centre of art 
shifted somewhat from Vienna to Paris in 
the late 19th Century, and spread, through 
paint mostly, the eye superseding the ear, 
wresting the cultural reins from music as 
oracle for the times, the new perspective 
of Impressionism
minor, his opus 10, a world away from 
the emotional seductiveness of 
Romanticism, but rather driving, electric, 
cosmopolitanteeming with traffic, it’s 
1893, the zeitgeist has changed

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Maria Mazo

  "L'oiseau de feu" -  Leon Bakst

L’oiseau de feu (1910)

Leon Bakst


after playing Scriabin’s 4th Sonata,
in F# major, opus 30, a passionate
but poised performance of a work
dated 1903, Ravel maybe, or
Debussy, at first I thought, though
neither had ever been so furious in
my recollection, then a transcription
for piano of the last movements of
Stravinsky’s “Firebird”, a work as
obstreperous as the Scriabin, and
as revolutionary, relentless and
brash, much more audacity than
diplomacy however ultimately
treasured universally and celebrated,
Maria Mazo undertakes no less than
the mightiest of the mighty, gasp,
Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier”

she takes on the first two movements
at something of a clip, not an
unwelcome occurence so long as you
have the fingers for it, which on the
strength of her earlier numbers I
deemed she would, and did, which
only added to the gravitas of her then
largo, which thereby became
resplendent, luminous, utterly and
verily, indeed, transcendental, note
the cherubs twittering halfway
through, just before Beethoven
enters the portals of very Heaven
and is transformed into radiance and
incandescent light before your
very astonished sensibilities

Maria Mazo should win



when I started looking for miracles,
I found out that there indeed were
some, as a matter of fact, many

here’s another, in case you missed
the last one


Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no 3, in D minor, opus 30

fully 150 years after Mozart the concerto was still a thriving
musical form though it had undergone some modifications,
you’ll hear a more passionate account in Rachmaninoff than
the more lyrical, less emotionally overt compositions of
Mozart, the variations in volume, tempo, tonality, the play
of harmonization and discords, all incidentally within a single
movement, show the passage of time, of Beethoven, of Chopin,
of Debussy between Mozart and the more Romantic, Impressionistic
Rachmaninoff, note the sweeping ritardandos, where the beat is
drawn out, stretched for pathos, a Chopinesque insinuation into
music not found in earlier stuff, one imagines torrid expressions
of fervent sentiment, note the evanescent flurry of notes passing
by like the fleeting glitter of stars, the ephemerality of an
incorporeal idea that Debussy originated and brought to music,
and of course note the irrepressibility, the authority, the masculinity
of a volcanic Beethoven underpinning the lot, you can hear them all

the Vladimir Horowitz Piano Concerto no 3 of Rachmaninoff at
Carnegie Hall, January 8, 1978, with Eugene Ormandy leading the
New York Philharmonic Orchestra is, after Van Cliburn’s historic
1950s account, May 19, 1958, again at Carnegie Hall but under Kiril
Kondrashin this time, and the now defunct Symphony of the Air,
don’t ask, the one I then grew up with, it was riveting even without
the pictures

with pictures here he is again a few months later at Avery Fisher
Hall in New York, September 24, 1978, under Zubin Mehta with
again the New York Philharmonic, so good you’ll even forgive
Mehta his usual sentimental excesses

incidentally Horowitz was 74 at this concert, he is astounding

Vladimir Horowitz, colossus and legend, 1903 -1989

enjoy, be transported, be transfixed, you have been warned