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Category: finding miracles

a “Musical Offering” – Bach

bouquet-of-flowers-1946.jpg!Large

    “Bouquet of Flowers (1946) 

            Martiros Sarian

                _________

                                      for Collin

a friend, who lives too far from me 
to visit, but who is too close to my 
heart for me to do nothing, has just 
had a stroke, “His body, smile, motor functions are improving.The most affected area is his speech center. He is filling in the gaps, has surrendered to his situation, but is operating at about 25% comprehension and memory. He has to rebuild his language, and is getting his ideas across with a lot of help in translation. He will be doing a lot of speech therapy. His uncanny resilience will serve him well.“, 
I’ve been advised

should I continue to write to him,
I’ve wondered, maybe just a few 
cheery words a day, does he 
take the time to read his mail, 
can he, does someone do it for 
him, should I call, or when  
I thought, if not anything else, why 
not music, something I can easily 
send, something he can hear, 
surrender to, rather than pay any 
more cerebral attention 

yesterday, I sent him Bach, Bach’s 
Musical Offering“, 1747, Bach is
from a much more serene period
in music than Beethoven, my 
recent area of investigation here
Bach wrote a lot of ecclesiastical 
stuff, cantatas and such, masses, 
was indeed music director for the 
Lutheran churches in Leipzig for 
a time, the combination makes for 
reflective, often even transcendental 
music, Beethoven wouldn’t at all, 
in this case, ‘ve done, with all of
his Sturm und Drang

I’m lighting a candle a day for my
friend, I’ll also be sending him
internet flowers, till I think of 
what else I can do but pray, for 
his speedy recovery


thanks for dropping by

R ! chard 

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Violin Concerto no. 1 – Paganini

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   “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

Fantasia in F minor, D.940 – Franz Schubert

Millais, John Everett, 1829-1896; The Princes in the Tower

 

        Princes In The Tower (1878) 
 
               John Everett Millais
 
                     ___________
 
 
flipping through the suggested list of 
YouTube videos that always accompanies
the main feature for a quite specific other 
quintet of Schubert, a work to compare 
chanced upon, by the very gleam of what 
it promised on the label, a Fantasia, rather, 
of Schubert for four-hand piano, in other 
words, two people, pups of the same 
family, it appeared in this instance, 
according to both their names, and the 
still picture
 
I wasn’t prepared to find two veritable
cherubs, dressed alike in black and 
white, not unlike those in the painting 
abovesit at the piano and deliver the 
very music of angels
 
written in May, 1828, Schubert died 
that November, age 31
 
the Fantasia is essentially a sonata
with all the breaks removed, it is 
played without interruption, this 
video indicates the three traditional
separations of the movements as 
they occur
 
you’ll find again tonality, tempo, 
and recapitulation rule, but the 
idiom is searching, clusters of 
notes are broken down, explored,
dissected, looking for some kind
of metaphysical solution, which
of course, can only be the quest
itselfimperceptible to the 
beseecher, who can only ever 
find it in the mirror of his or her 
own creation, in other words, the 
answer is in the process, we are 
ourselves our own metaphysical 
solution according to the life that 
we individually create, which, in 
this case, Schubert’s, is utterly 
magical, the very utterances of 
angels, Schubert must’ve been 
an angel
 
note the return of the original 
theme in the final movement, 
like a memory of something 
that started long ago, before 
the tumult and anguish of the 
intervening moments, the sigh
at the end, the very last note, 
a surrender, a submission, an
exhausted, and I use the word
advisedly, capitulation
 
 
if I’ve twinned the painting above
it’s that they are both expressions
of absolute innocence, unclouded
emotions before their either fate,
in one case, the message of 
Schubert, a very Annunciation
played appropriately by apt 
messengers, the other, dread 
before their direst of plights  
 
Edward, heir to Edward lV, King of
England, and Richard, his brother,
disappeared from the Tower of 
London after Richard lll had them,
ages 12 and 9, held there, no one 
has determined the true course of
events, apart from the fact that
Richard lll got the throne, 
however illegitimately 

 

note that the painting above is 
manifestly Romantic, 1878, though
late, Impressionism was taking 
over, but Millais, English, and not 
as controversial as the French, 
nor the Austrians, for that matter,
still delivered utter masterpieces
in the, however outdated, 
perspective 
 
the painting, at five feet by three,
is nearly life size, standing beside 
it is unforgettable, it is in a sober, 
dare I say, Protestant style, quite 
different from the Catholic 
Schubert and his more Italianate
sensibilities, it is spare in both 
colour and filigree, a consequence 
of strict rules established upon the 
arts after Charles ll, under William 
of Orange and Mary, 1689 -1702
 
the British will pick up again, 
artistically, but only marginally, in 
the 19th Century, they shine,
however, in the area of philosophy, 
mostly political, Adam Smith, for 
instance, significant in the shaping 
of the American Constitutionor 
empiricist, what there is to learn 
directly from experienceHobbes
BerkeleyLockeuntil it returns to 
Germany in the 18th Century with 
Kantconcerns more existential
does God exist, all the way up to 
Nietzsche in the late 19th Century
puts an end to Him, and the West 
prepares for secularism, separation 
of Church and State

 
the Princes“, like Schubert, are 
manifest in their horror, not 
stylized, but overt, flagrant
 
Jane Grey“, Delaroche, for the 
combination of drama, pathos,  
for Romantic attention to the 
plight of even regal personalities
 
 
R ! chard

 

pension protest, à la Russe

miriam-dances-1931.jpg!Large.jpg

  Miriam dances (1931) 

       Marc Chagall

             ______

a couple of retired Russian ladies spoofed 
a video that student airline pilots had 
performed, that shocked their academy,
who wanted the boys expelled

in protest, other Russians started sending
in their own versions of the dance, but these
two ladies, nothing at all like Tina Turner
turned out to be the Internet sensation

read all about it here, click on each of the
videos there, the girls’ and the boys’, you’ll
love ‘em


R ! chard

what’s up in Düsseldorf / Beethoven

tn_705x705_3

          the “Altstadt“, Düsseldorf, Germany

                  ______

from Düsseldorf, a city I’ve called 
Düsseldon’t, Düsseldreary, 
Düsselneverbother, comes a 
performance there to change, utterly,  
my mind about it, though I’d always 
known that every European city has
its extraordinary wonders, count ’em

watch this, for instance, one of those

Beethoven didn’t write string quartets
until he was ready, following in the 
footsteps of Haydn wouldn’t’ve been
easy, but Beethoven wasn’t wasting 
his time in the meanwhile, or, 
alternately, his while in the meantime
– while you consider that, listen

in his Opus 5, no 1, the first to leave  
me with much of an impression, as 
began to explore Beethoven 
chronologically, the first four 
opuses – a word I deplore, but its
equivalent plural, opera, seems 
to me so pretentious – seemed, 
indeed again, to me long, tedious 
and academic, a student delivering 
exercises  

then the Opus 5, no 1 hit, and blew 
me right out of the water, he verily, 
Beethoven, thrust the metre right  
out of the ballpark, propelled the  
music – who ‘ld ‘a’ ever thunk it –  
right off the page 

marvel, I urge


there was also a restaurant in 
Düsselwhatever I really loved,
it served an improbable 
assortment of schnitzels, the 
Altstadt 

we embraced, the staff and I, 
when I had to eventually, and 
finally, leave, to go back home, 
to Canada, I’ll always remember, 
never ever forget, their grace


R ! chard

Cyprien Katsaris in Budapest

Katsaris-Cyprien-01

       Cyprien Katsaris

               ________

if there’s only one concert you see 
this week – I would’ve said this year 
but I have way too many irresistible 
concerts to promote – make it this 
one, like none I’ve ever seen before, 
Cyprien Katsaris, who wowed us in 
my last encomium, delivers, not one, 
but two concertos, when emotionally 
I can usually deal with only one

but you can pause between the pieces, 
like I did, to wipe a tear or two away 
after the adagios, which remind me,
always, of my beloved, John

but that’s another story

Katsaris starts with an improvisation,
which he elucidates as an art form 
much more expertly than I would, 
then delivers stunning rendition of
his mastery of that gift 

though I couldn’t identify the first part
of it, the melting melody in the last 
section of his homage to, essentially, 
the Romantic Period, rushed back 
memories for me of a piece I could 
never forget, the music from Fellini’s 
heartbreaking masterpiece La Strada 
– listen, listen – right out of Romantic 
Period idioms, its very story evenlike 
Dickens’ Oliver Twist“, his Little Nell 
from the The Old Curiosity Shop“, 
staples of my adolescence, married  
to a nearly mythic lyrical invention 

let me add that improvisations have 
been an integral part of concertos for 
a very long time, the cadenzas, an 
interpolation by the performing artist, 
hir riff, a strutting of hir stuff, late  
in the, usually final, movement, a 
consequence, incidentally, of the 
more forward, individualistic, 
18th-Century progression towards 
individual rights, some left to the 
performing artist, but many 
prescribed by the composer himself,
where, here, I must, gender sensitive 
myself, unceremoniously interject to 
explain my deference to the
designation above, himself“, to male 
merely composers, who were then the 
only ones, however culturally ignobly, 
to nevertheless shape our quite, 
think, extraordinary musical trajectory, 
for better, of course, or for worse

in this instance, I suspect Katsaris 
wrote his own cadenzas for the 
Mozart, notice his arm at the end of 
the first movement fly up in an 
especial transport, and in the last 
movement, watch his very 
exuberance mark the spot, but 
couldn’t put it past Mozart to have 
written something so historically 
visionary

Bach, incidentally, wasn’t doing 
cadenzas, so don’t look for them 

the two concertos that follow the 
improvisation, Bach’s, my favourite 
of his – you’ll understand why when 
you hear it – then Mozart’s 21st – 
everyone’s favourite – are both 
played transcendentally 

consider the difference in period, 
the earlier Baroque, with Bach’s 
notes skipping along inexorably,
the pace required by the 
harpsichord, which didn’t have 
hold pedals to allow notes to 
resonate, the music moves along
therefore nearly minimalistic tracks, 
a pace, and musical motif, that don’t 
stop, they keep on chugging, until 
they reach their destination, their,
as it were, station, or even their

stasis

Mozart’s music is as effervescent,
but conforms to a different cadence,
where a theme is presented, then a
musical, and contrasting, second,
with recapitulation, sometimes
merely partial, which is to say that
the call and response dynamic of 
the dance, or for that matter, by 
extension, modern ballads, is  
being established, codified, and 
elucidated

an era has intervened

then as an encore, Katsaris delivers,
not a cream puff, but Liszt, of all 
people, we’re used to performers
giving us trifles at this point, but not
Katsaris

then to top it all off, he plays the Chopin 
you thought you’d never ever hear again, 
but here immaculate and utterly 
inspirational

the orchestra alone performs after the 
intermission, works by Ravel and Bizet,
surprisingly similar, I thought, the two
composers, in their musical idiom, the 
use of the winds as metaphors, for 
instance, for originality, eccentricity, 
unmitigated poetry within the context 
of what is not unnatural

neither is either composer adverse to 
atonality, they work in textures, instead 
of melodies, all of which is very 
Impressionistic, see of course Monet
and others for historical reference

did I say I want to be Cyprien Katsaris 
when I grow up, well there, it’s said,
he’s lovely 


R ! chard

January 30, 2018

moon-light-1895.jpg!Large

        Moon Light (1895) 

               Edvard Munch

                    ________

my mom texted me this morning that
the moon would be  “BLOODY RED IN 
COLOUR….because “, she added, “earth
🌏 will be between sun and moon …last
happened 152 years ago ….moon closest
to earth 🌏

I haven’t told her yet that from my 
window I’ll be singing, as the moon  
rises above the mountains in the 
east, Casta Diva“, Norma’s song 
to the moon

chaste Goddess, she appeals, who 
bathes these sacred trees in silvery 
light, bless us with your grace, we
are not not in need of it

maybe you’ll sing along


Norma is a Druidic priestess, 
representing her community, which 
has been overtaken, and is now ruled,
by the Romans, she bears already, 
however, two children of a Roman 
military official, Pollione, who has 
fallen for her maid, Adalgisa, sparks 
fly in every direction, both personal 

and political, Adalgisa ‘ll keep the 
kids eventually, and both Norma and 
Pollione will go the pyre, the very 
height of Romantic fervour, check it
out, it’s extraordinary, with Joan 
Sutherland in this, dare I say, 
classic performance

but first of all, Casta Diva itself, by  
the inimitable Maria Callas 

and may the moon be your guide


R ! chard

Nobuyuki Tsujii / Chopin

the-old-blind-guitarist-1903.jpg!Large.jpg

     “The Old Blind Guitarist (1903) 

               Pablo Picasso

                      ________

to watch Nobuyuki Tsujii play the 
piano, a piano he cannot see, nor
anything else around him, not 
even his fingers, is a wonder, 
one beholds the work of the 
imagination taking place inside 
tenebrous, one would’ve 
supposed, cerebellum, a place 
without height, depth, width, 
without the idea, even, of, verily, 
spatial dimensions

not only has he had to imagine 
Chopin’s extraordinary, admit it, 
First Piano Concerto therehe’s  
had to imagine himself playing  
it, playing it before even 
international audiences – here
the 2009 Van Cliburn Competition, 
in which he tied for first place – 
despite surely profound physical, 
moral, emotional impediments, 
mountains most, I’m sure, 
couldn’t climb

it is to see the face of an angel
think, to watch him, only angels,
I believe, can do this sort of thing

watch, be inspired

and the Chopin is terrific

R ! chard

“The Man I Love” – George and Ira Gershwin

apollon-1937-jpglarge

             Apollon” (1937) 

             Charles Despiau

                    _______

when my heart is broken, I learn the 
words to torch songs, and wallow in 
my misery until the poignancy of the
poetry seduces me and I revel in its 
caress

for a while now I’ve been yodelling 
along with Hank Williams, who, 
incidentally, sings in my key, though 
the accurate reach of his far-flung 
notes can be tricky

but today, I inadvertently slipped into 
this Sophie Tucker classic enough to 
change my tune

watch this wonderful rendition of 
The Man I Love in a version you’ll 
never forget for both its originality
and its great humanity

Richard

“Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave”

hank-williams-1

                        Hank Williams

                              _______

halfway through The Last Picture Show
recently, a celebrated movie from the early 
Seventies I was watching, about the early
Fifties, I was sidetracked by the Hank  
Williams soundtrack till I was out and out 
stopped by its fervent Cold, Cold Heart 

I put the film on pause 

another love before my time, I warbled,
made your heart sad and blue, and so 
my heart is paying now, I wallowed, for 
things didn’t do, in anger unkind words
were said, I rued, that made the teardrops 
start, why can’t I free, your doubtful mind, 
I fretted, and melt your cold, cold heart 

but I wanted to hear Hank Williams do
it too, live if I could, and lo and behold 
got it

but listed as an option among other 
options nearby was also a longer  
feature purporting to be a 
representation of a concert he 
never  gave the night, December 31, 
1952, he died, the movie is called,
not inappropriately, Hank Williams:
The Show He Never Gave

the actor who plays Williams steps
right into his shoes, he’ll break your 
heart, you’ll need a lot of Kleenex

one of he best film biographies I’ve 
ever seen 

watch it

Hank Williams died of a heart attack
on the night of December 31, 1952

he was 29

may he rest in everlasting peace

Richard