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Category: Franz Schubert

“Octet in F major”, D803 – Franz Schubert

schubert-at-the-piano-ii-jpglarge

     “Schubert At The Piano II (1899) 

              Gustav Klimt

                  _______

there are reasons why an octet, a 
piece for eight performers, would 
be a rare occurrence in our modern
world, the most flagrant being the 
sheer number of players to 
assemble, all with international 
commitments, and all, more 
specifically, working individually, 
or in smaller composites

duos can play any choice of 
instruments, trios as well, but
quartets are usually, which is to 
say traditionally, comprised of 
only strings, first and second 
violins, a viola and a cello, 
these three groupings, duos, 
trios, quartets, are often already 
formed, play or meet together 
regularly

also musical compositions for such 
groupings abound, the canon is 
replete with music written for two, 
three or four instruments

but at five participants, a quintet, 
the combinations are less stable, 
there isn’t enough in the 
repertoire for four strings and 
clarinet, say, to play, so that a
clarinettist must be invited in
for such an occasion, any 
other alternative accompanying 
instrument would be fit in as
incidentally 

with six, of course, and upwards, 
you get egg rolls, anything can 
happen

but at eight, an octet, you need 
friends, people who’ll gather from 
their individual busy schedules to 
perform specifically together out 
of sympathy, much as friends 
would’ve back in the Nineteenth 
Century, before television, when 
the form took shape, to socially 
cut up the rug
 
if indeed it did take shape, cause I 
can think of no other octet, off hand
after Schubert’s glorious one 

Schubert’s Octet, the composition, 
with this particular octet, the group, 
is probably the best you’ll ever hear 
of either ever, Schubert’s D803 in F
major is everything you want 
Schubert to be, and in a generous 
indeed six movements, while
Janine Jansen and her friends, the 
octet performing here, with the 
requisite four strings, plus a horn,  
a bassoon and a clarinet, are 
magisterial, dare I say definitive, 
the standard now to exceed 

octets, incidentally, don’t do 
encores, for obvious reasons

enjoy

Richard

psst: for a comparable congregation 
         of friends, see Roy Orbison’s 
         Black & White Night“, equally
         as improbable, epic

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Meditation 1 – John Donne

John_Donne

                              John Donne
 
                                 _______
 

to my utter embarrassment, my
profound dismay, I attributed in
my last title John Donne‘s No
inadvertently, a somewhat later 
though nearly contemporary 
poet of Donne‘s, equally as 
noteworthy, thereby accounting, 
maybe, for my confusion, my 
lapse, my infelicity, however still 
unforgivable
 
once I mistook Schubert for 
Beethoven, and, however similar
these might become in their 
euphoric musical explorations
despite their obvious rhythmic 
differences, never a sufficient 
excuse, though, for that flagrant 
flaw – still blush at the memory 
of that faux pas, among French 
intellectuals no less, the worst, 
the least forgiving   
 
John Donne, I’ve found since, is
not only noteworthy for his ribald 
poems, the ones we studied mostly 
at school, but his “Devotions upon
Emergent Occasions, from which 
No man is an island” is but one
inspirational bit, is replete with 
other gems 
 
he’d composed them after having
survived a brush with death, they 
are wise, and worth individually
considering for their spiritual 
illumination, their metaphysical 
light, their sage and sober 
guidance
 
here’s Meditation 1, or
 
                                   The first grudging of, the sicknesse.
 
“Variable, and therfore miserable condition of Man; this minute I was well, and am ill, this minute. I am surpriz’d with a sodaine change, and alteration to worse, and can impute it to no cause, nor call it by any name. We study Health, and we deliberate upon our meats, and drink, and ayre, and exercises, and we hew, and wee polish every stone, that goes to that building; and so our Health is a long and regular work; But in a minute a Canon batters all, overthrowes all, demolishes all; a Sicknes unprevented for all our diligence, unsuspected for all our curiositie; nay, undeserved, if we consider only disorder, summons us, seizes us, possesses us, destroyes us in an instant. O miserable condition of Man, which was not imprinted by God, who as hee is immortall himselfe, had put a coale, a beame of Immortalitie into us, which we might have blowen into a flame, but blew it out, by our first sinne; wee beggard our selves by hearkning after false riches, and infatuated our selves by hearkning after false knowledge. So that now, we doe not onely die, but die upon the Rack, die by the torment of sicknesse; nor that onely, but are preafflicted, super-afflicted with these jelousies and suspitions, and apprehensions of Sicknes, before we can cal it a sicknes; we are not sure we are ill; one hand askes the other by the pulse, and our eye asks our urine, how we do. O multiplied misery! we die, and cannot enjoy death, because wee die in this torment of sicknes; we art tormented with sicknes, and cannot stay till the torment come, but preapprehensions and presages, prophecy those torments, which induce that death before either come; and our dissolution is conceived in these first changes, quickned in the sicknes it selfe, and borne in death, which beares date from these first changes. Is this the honour which Man hath by being a litle world, That he hath these earthquakes in him selfe, sodaine shakings; these lightnings, sodaine flashes; these thunders, sodaine noises; these Eclypses, sodain offuscations, and darknings of his senses; these Blazing stars, sodaine fiery exhalations; these Rivers of blood, sodaine red waters? Is he a world to himselfe onely therefore, that he hath inough in himself, not only to destroy, and execute himselfe, but to presage that execution upon himselfe; to assist the sicknes, to antidate the sicknes, to make the sicknes the more irremediable, by sad apprehensions, and as if he would make a fire the more vehement, by sprinkling water upon the coales, so to wrap a hote fever in cold Melancholy, least the fever alone should not destroy fast enough, without this contribution nor perfit the work (which is destruction) except we joynd an artificiall sicknes, of our owne melancholy, to our natural, our unnaturall fever. O perplex’d discomposition, O ridling distemper, O miserable condition of Man!”
  
                                                                                      John Donne
 
 
in other words, carpe diem, seize 
the day, don’t worry, be happy,
something too many of us learn 
too late 
 
Richard
 
psst: thanks, Guy, for the heads up,
         Guy is a librarian friend of mine 
         with the goods on the Tudors

 

Fantasie in C Major, D. 760 (“Wanderer”) – Franz Schubert‏

 "The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" - Caspar David Friedrich

The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)

Caspar David Friedrich

____________

a great way of learning to speak music,
approfondir, we say in French, to plumb
the intellectual depths of, is to count the
tenuti, as I quasi-humorously suggested
in my last piece one should, a tenuto, of
course, holds, caresses, one note, or one
chord, only, before proceeding any
further

music is a language, like French, English,
indeed I even include it as a language I
speak as professional qualification, people
find it amusing who don’t speak it

but you need to start somewhere, and
tenuti are as good a place as any, they’re
like an exclamation mark, denote intensified
intention, these give direction, and structure
to the statement, separating the units of
what’s being said

pauses between words, when you’re learning
a language, for learners is a godsend, and
thank goodness for them at least at the end
of sentences

tenuti do the same, count the tenuti, you’ll
discover an enchanted world of music,
right there between the lines

surprisingly you’ll find, rubati, tenuti,
rallentandi, accelerandi
don’t occur much
in Romantic music, where you’d expect
the grand passions to swoop and sway
and swoon, but gripped still by the
rigours of Classicism, and its own roots
in the harpsichord, its beats were rigid
still, mostly, right through to Schubert,
Chopin, whereupon more lachrymose
composers began to use these devices
nearly indiscriminately

count the tenuti in this wonderful
Fantasie in C Major, D. 760 of Schubert,
his Wanderer” Fantasy, you won’t find
that many, nor rubati, rallentandi,
accelerandi,
for that matter, and that’s like
someone not crying on your shoulder,
Schubert gives it to you straight, whether
emphatic, earning empathy, or making
magic

Richard

psst:

the Wanderer” Fantasy, incidentally,
is, again, programmatic music, it is
based on Schubert‘s own lied, song,
to Georg Philipp Schmidt von
Lûbeck
‘s The Wanderer

“Death and the Maiden” – Franz Schubert‏

 "Ophelia" -  John William Waterhouse

Ophelia (1889)

John William Waterhouse

___________

though death is not an especially
appealing topic for many, it was
nevertheless of fundamental
consideration during the
Romantic Period

Goethe, the German poet, had
already created a sensation
with his The Sorrows of Young
Werther
, a young man,
disappointed in love, takes his
own life, a potent seed for the
new era, secularism was
overtaking theocracy, the
autocracy of the Christian
Church was giving way to the
prevalence of human rights,
a private opinion, well disputed,
was holding sway against the
rigidities of religious orthodoxies,
science and reason had been
chipping away at the very idea
of God

but with human rights there was
the question of personal
responsibility, if not an imposed
authority, then each man, woman
was in charge of his, her own

the fundamental question,
therefore, was Shakespeare’s
To be or not to be, or, for that
matter, Burt Bacharach’s and
Hal David’s What’s it all about

this is not me, this is Albert Camus
talking, who formalized the situation
in the 1940s

“There is but one truly serious
philosophical problem, and that
is suicide. Judging whether life
is or is not worth living amounts
to answering the fundamental
question of philosophy. All the
rest — whether or not the world
has three dimensions, whether
the mind has nine or twelve
categories — comes afterwards.”

after Werther, Madame Bovary followed,
Anna Karenina, suicide had become an
option, the penalty was no longer
opprobrium, castigation, as it had been
under unforgiving religious constraints

death itself, fatefully rather than
personally determined, was, of course,
no less considered when the era of
heartfelt declarations dominated,
Mendelssohn had written his
Quartet no 6 in F minor, opus 80
for his deceased sister, Beethoven
and Chopin, each his Funeral March,
either, incidentally, still iconic, and
perhaps the most poignant work
of all in this manner, Schubert’s
Death and the Maiden, a precursor
of his own much too premature
demise

this is music as if your life depended
on it

watch, listen

Richard

psst:

the Alban Berg Quartet, a group who
set the standard for several significant
string quartets in the ’80s, do no less
with this one

you’re not likely to see a better
performance of it ever, nor, for that
matter, of anything, pace even Glenn
Gould, a statement I think nearly
against my religion

you be the judge

“Schubert at dinner” – me‏

"Schubert at the Piano, ll" -  Gustav Klimt

“Schubert at the Piano, ll” – Klimt (1899)

Gustav Klimt

_______

June has been too hot for words
here, therefore my hiatus, along
with other physical and emotional
tribulations

but someone sent me something
today that made me think I should
return to my literary preoccupations

I’ve been fussing about my kitchen
rather, making soups, biscuits,
muffins, learning about basic, and
trying out unusual, taste
considerations

coconut rice with lime, for instance,
perfect for seafood and summer
presentations

pan-roasted pork tenderloin in a
whisky, mustard preparation, for
one’s incontrovertible delectation

you need to sear the tenderloin in
oil first, salt and pepper of course,
turning to brown all indentations

then smear with a whipped up
mustard and butter blend, lower
heat, cover, listen to this Schubert,
meanwhile, revelation

one of several transcendental
sonatas he wrote before he died,
a too early death, considering his
sublime cultural donations

he was 30, too young to die, to
produce what would’ve surely
been otherworldly musical
creations

when the meat’s cooked, set it
aside, keep warm, loosely
covered, increase heat, add
diced shallots, soften for
several fragrant inhalations

add as much whisky as you
want, though too much, I
found, will defeat your taste
expectations, though not, of
course, your degree of
inebriation

bring to a boil, reduce to a glaze,
lower heat, add cream to the
mustard, butter, shallot, whisky
agglomeration

gently cook sauce till it clings
to a spoon, I add the pork then
to the pan to return it to my own
doneness specifications

with coconut rice, you’ll serve
an unadulterated celebration

with Schubert’s D894, whether
cooking or dining with it, an
utterly existential affirmation

have fun

Richard

psst: serve with wine

XXXlX. Because thou hast the power and own’st the grace – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XXXlX. Because thou hast the power and own’st the grace

Because thou hast the power and own’st the grace
To look through and behind this mask of me
(Against which years have beat thus blanchingly
With their rains), and behold my soul’s true face,
The dim and weary witness of life’s race, –
Because thou hast the faith and love to see,
Through that same soul’s distracting lethargy,
The patient angel waiting for a place
In the new Heavens, – because nor sin nor woe,
Nor God’s infliction, nor death’s neighbourhood,
Nor all which others viewing, turn to go,
Nor all which makes me tired of all, self-viewed, –
Nothing repels thee, . . . dearest, teach me so
To pour out gratitude, as thou dost good!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

_____________________________

after XXXVlll indeed iconic poems, wherein
Elizabeth speaks nearly exclusively about
herself, intimately and, as history would
show, epochally, breaking new, fertile,
Romantic in this instance, ground, she
turns her attention here to someone else,
to Robert, her paragon

Bette Midler would later say, now that’s
enough about me, let’s talk about you,
what do you think about me

having shed some of her insecurity,
Elizabeth seems equally more solid, less
fragmented, in her inordinate, indeed
disarming, ardour

you’ll note a return to rhyme, metre, cadence,
commas are in the right place, the reiteration
of certain words, like markers, beat rhythm
as well as emphasis, the ground of the
verses seems sounder, sound, all elements
which earlier would have determined the
very parameters of poetry, as though she
could now return to balance, order, lyricism,
even convention, when turned away from
strictly herself, a lesson I’m sure we could
all learn

Schubert, incidentally, could ‘ve easily set
this to music, as indeed someone else did
here only over a year ago, David MacIntyre,
and called it Love in Public“, an inspiration
which set me off on this very journey

to date this is my very favourite of Elizabeth‘s
poems

Richard

Schubert – Piano Sonata D959‏

to my utter surprise when I checked I’d never
but only once in the many months I haven’t
been able to shut up since I started spouting
my bristling endorsements, like a very rushing
river gushing with the overflowing bounty of
an inveterate spring, mentioned Schubert, an
incandescent voice from surely heaven

it was about his String Quartet in C major, the
D956, not surprisingly, it is utterly enchanting,
D for Otto Erich Deutsch still, incidentally

here’s an alternate version of it, an utterly
inspired one

but if I’ve reintroduced Schubert it’s specifically
this time to compare him with Beethoven, they’re
easily confounded, I even did it once myself, to
my crushing embarrassment, in erudite and
unflinching company, oof, I cringe to even
remember it

the D959, moments only after the 956 of course,
has all the idioms of a Beethoven, and exercises
them as expertly, the beat, however, is always
on, unlike Beethoven, whose beat is always off,
contrary, rebellious, against the prevailing
order

though this variance might seem slight, one
senses already in the younger and later
Schubert a return to form, elegance, and civility,
the First Empire had indeed taken hold during
the transformation of Napoleon from hero of
the Revolution to a different incarnation of
Emperor, Chopin as well would be beholden
to later similarly reinstated French courts

so seemingly trivial an alteration speaks
volumes when one attentively listens, one
must do this with one’s heart

such a return to aristocratic principles is not
uncommon, incidentally, we seem, indeed, to
thirst for dynasties, if you’ll note the return of
late, of the Bushes, the Clintons, and most
recently the Canadian Trudeaux

Putin is another, though arguably somewhat
less democratic, version of that principle

Beethoven is off the beat then, Schubert on, you
won’t find much else that’s different upon first
listening, you’ll note only that their music is very
much the same, rigorous beat, tonal, essentially,
harmonics, and the return eventually of the
melodies, Classical imperatives, but with the
distinction of the new Romantic,
transformational however, sensibilities

Schubert might’ve even outpaced Beethoven
had he survived, I think, but he didn’t, he died
much too young, at the most tender age of
only 31, younger even than the more
celebrated Mozart, famous for succumbing
prematurely at the still early age of 36

may they rest, may they all rest, Schubert,
Mozart, and the somewhat longer-lived
Beethoven, still early deceased at 56, in
eternal peace, for they have brought us
but wonders

Richard

psst: here’s a movie to go with the earlier
Schubert
, The Company of Strangers“,
the very best film Canada has ever had
to offer, bar none, a gaggle of old women
are stranded in the Laurentians after their
tour bus breaks down, Schubert would’ve
loved it

and been honoured

Franz Schubert – String Quintet in C major, D 956‏

"Schubert at the Piano" II (1899) - Gustav Klimt

Schubert at the Piano (1899)

Gustav Klimt

________

the Filarmonica Quartet, which I’d earlier described
as “not at all unimpressive”, show themselves here,
performing Schubert‘s otherworldly String Quintet
in C major, D 956
, to be the very sound of those
angels Schubert calls upon to perform his
miraculous music

their hometown Novosibirsk audience will continue
however to stubbornly, shamelessly, cough, in
scattered places, though the angels themselves,
the players, seem not especially distraught, they
play with great conviction, patience and tolerance
throughout superbly, caught up surely in their own
Schubertian Nirvana, a not uninstructive response

the Filarmonica Quartet of course will need a fifth
to play with them a quintet, who is, I think, the
extra cello at the front on the right, uncredited,
the piece calls for two violins, a viola and two
cellos, instead of the standard, at the time, extra
viola, surely for their greater and more resonant
chthonic character, which is to say, triggered by
the very earth

Franz Schubert, 1797-1828, died much too young,
only 31, this piece was completed not two months
before he passed away

it is also therefore a very haunting last testament

Richard

psst: D is for Otto Erich Deutsch