Richibi’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Category: Glenn Gould

32 Variations in C# Minor, WoO.80 – Beethoven

variations-in-violet-and-grey-market-place.jpg!Large.jpg

Variations in Violet and Grey – Market Place (1885) 

               James McNeill Whistler

                          ___________

strolling through my virtual musical park 
today, in, indeed, the very merry month 
of May, I was taken by surprise by, nearly 
tripped over, in fact, a Beethoven work
written in the very year, 1806, of the 
“Razumovsky”s

I’d overlooked it cause it is without an 
opus number, is listed, therefore, as 
WoO.80and is, consequently, easily 
lost in the wealth of Beethoven’s 
more prominently identified pieces,
but it is utterly miraculous, I think, 
and entirely indispensable 

I’d said something about it in an earlier
text, back when I was somewhat more 
of a nerd, it would appear, perhaps even 
a little inscrutable, though it’s 
nevertheless, I think, not uninformative, 
you might want to check it out, despite 
its platform difficulties

the 32 Variations in C# Minor are shorter,
at an average of 11 minutes, than Chopin’s
“Minute Waltz”relatively, a variation every 
half minute, where Chopin’s nevertheless
magical invention takes twice that to 
complete its proposition

but in this brief span of time, this more 
or less 11 minutes, Beethoven takes 
you to the moon and back

a few things I could add to my earlier
evaluation, could even be reiterating, 
Beethoven in his variations explores a 
musical idea, turns it in every which
direction, not much different from what 
he does in the individual movements of 
his string quartets, his trios, his 
symphonies, concertos and sonatas, 
with their essential themes, motives, 
they’re all – if you’ll permit an idea I got
from Paganini’s “Caprices” – cadenzas,
individual musings inspirationally 
extrapolated, which, be they for 
technical brilliance, or for a yearning 
for more spiritual legacy, set the 
stage for a promise of forthcoming 
excellence 

this dichotomy will define the 
essential bifurcated paths of the 
musical industry, during, incidentally, 
the very Industrial Revolution, their 
mutual history, confrontation, for the 
centuries to follow, which is to say, 
their balance between form and 
function, style versus substance, 
Glenn Gould versus Liberace, say,
or Chopin, Liszt 

before this, it’d been the more 
sedate, less assertive evenings at 
the Esterházys, to give you some 
perspective, mass markets were 
about to come up, not least in the 
matter of entertainment

Beethoven was, as it were, already  
putting on a show


R ! chard

psst: these alternate “Variations” put you in  
          the driver’s seat, a pilot explains the
          procedures, it’s completely absorbing, 
          insightful, listen

Advertisements

String Quartet in F major, opus 77, no 2 – Joseph Haydn

 

harlequins-violinists-hidden.jpg!Large.jpg

   Masked Harlequin Violinists (1944) 

              Ossip Zadkine

                  ________

the Opus 77, no 2, of Haydn is the last
full string quartet of his, his very last  
remaining unfinished, the Opus 103,
written in 1803

Haydn died in 1809, the Opus 77, no 2
was composed in 1799, he would’ve 
been 67

but by then, he had established the 
form that music would take for the 
next over two hundred years

call, response, and recapitulation is 
the house that Haydn built, and verily 
cemented, you can hear it in our own 
period’s Love Me Tender“, for 
instance, if you’ll also permit me here
its irresistible elaborationto today’s 
top hits, like my own most recent 
favourite such contemporary iteration,
released in 2014, Photograph

we could be listening otherwise to 
Bach right now, counterpoint, 
fugues, intricate, linear music, 
however powerfully transcendental, 
instead of recurring music, call,  
response, as I said, and 
recapitulation, something like how 
a clock works

but already Haydn is testing the 
waters, in the Opus 77, no 2, the
andante, a step up from an adagio, 
is in third place, something we 
haven’t heard before, and not, to 
my mind, especially effective, like 
his mixture of tempos in the Opus 
54, no 2, which was disconcerting, 
however masterfully resolved we 
find those to be in this very Opus
77, no 2notably in the second 
movement’s “Minuet, Presto – Trio”, 
where the tempo change is nearly 
imperceptible  

art works on contravention, but 
the affronts are to established 
conventions, which are very 
hard to overturn 

watch Haydn here continue to 
do just that, for better or for 
worse


R ! chard

psst: listen to Bach hereincidentally,  
          put his largo, or slow movement, 
          right where he wants to, at the 
          very top of the bill, does it work,    
          you tell me, a trivial pursuit,  
          you’ll ask, I say not, you are    
          defining your own aesthetic  
          sensibility, something 
          profoundly, think, important, 
          who it is, with perspective, you 
          want to be   
       

threnodies: to the victims of Hiroshima, of the Holocaust, and to the Canadian North

The Scream, 1893 - Edvard Munch

       The Scream (1893) 

             Edvard Munch

                    ____________

before we leave too far behind the 
anniversary of the annihilation of
Hiroshima, August 6, 1945, let me 
introduce you to a piece that 
purports to pay it homage

if I didn’t bring it up before, it’s 
because the date was wrong, but
especially because the work 
offends me, the only thing I like
about it is the title, a thing of 
beauty, poetry – Threnody to the
Victims of Hiroshima – a threnody
is a song of lamentation for the 
dead, which worked for me, this 
one, no further than its title

there is nothing remotely 
reminiscent of the tragedy
throughout the piece, it is a 
collection of academic exercises,
pretensions, I think, without a 
heartbeat 

let me compare Steve Reich’s 
threnody to the victims of the 
Holocaust, the other signature 
Twentieth Century atrocity, his 
Different Trains“, a work in three 
movements, America – Before the 
War”, “Europe – During the War”, 
and After the War”, for string 
quartet and tape, upon which 
Reich has recorded interviews 
with people relating impressions 
from before the warduring, and 
after, according to the movements

the quartet, you’ll note, must keep 
time with the tape, and in this 
production visuals have been 
effectively added 

Glenn Gould had done something 
like this several years earlier,
incidentally, in his The Idea of 
North“, a threnody itself to that 
very idea, a masterpiece, a
groundbreaking transcendental
work of the imagination, with 
overlapping voices, which is to 
say human counterpointthough 
without string quartet

you’ll note that distressing tonalities
affect throughout this other, much 
more successful however, tribute
but the different rhythms of the 
recurrent, which is to say minimalist, 
rails keep you emotionally, as it were, 
on track

Different Trains is appropriately,
and profoundly, commemorative, 
not to mention unforgettable 

Richard

Beethoven – piano sonata no.31, op.110 (3rd movement)‏

woman-reading-in-a-garden-1903.jpg!Large

Woman Reading in a Garden (1902-03)
 
 

         _______


perhaps my best teacher ever was
my father, others never questioned
the orthodoxy, spewing out the
curriculum like it was sacred, dead,
untouchable, depriving it of its very
worth

my father was a philosopher, God 
was a question, not an answer, I,
at the time, needed an answer
 
we were sent to a Catholic school,
my sister and I, where God was in 
everything, everywhere, omnipotent,
omniscient, and, like a father then, 
autocratic, industrious, demanding,
not unopposed to punishment
 
sins against the Father could be 
summarized, at that age, briefly,
do not kill, do not lie, do not 
disobey your parents, do not 
cheat on your husband, wife, 
and follow all the rituals of the 
Church, the Ten Christian 
Commandments, brought to 
you universally then by Charlton 
“Moses” Heston, under the aegis 
 
none of these graded offences  
applied to me, really, then, but 
lying, and disobeying one’s 
parents, the others were all so 
remote as to be inconsequential, 
though the Church kept up on 
our family’s abrogations of 
religious rites – non-attendance 
at Sunday mass, eating meat 
on Fridays, worse – while 
nevertheless tending dutifully
to our wayward souls, they told 
us, holding out for a final repentant 
confession
 
we never lied at home, I’d lied about 
something once, and was so daunted
when my father probed, I sweated,
must’ve turned purple, not just red,
of embarrassment, I knew I couldn’t 
use that tactic again, I’d inexorably 
blush, flush
 
who put the Brylcreem on the dog,
he’d queried
 
not me, I trembled
 
my sister stood beside me, might 
not have even known anything 
about it, I can’t remember, though 
I recall her dismay, I think, at having 
been so blithely thrown under the 
bus, or maybe that’s just me 
extrapolating 
 
my dad turned back to what he’d 
been doing, having, I’d understood, 
got his answer, proving himself to 
be to me thereby omniscient, I’d 
have no chance, I gathered, against 
something like that, this turned me 
into a good, an at least conscientious, 
person
 
my teachers, paradoxically, only 
ever took marks off for technical 
stuff, Math, History, French, they 
never taught me lessons   
 
a teacher, once, had asked me to
stand at the head of the class and 
read a passage from Shakespeare,
be Romeo, Mark Antony, Lear, I
can’t remember which
 
“O, pardon me, thou bleeding 
piece of earth, / That I am meek 
and gentle with these butchers!”,
I uttered, fraught with emotion,
“Thou art the ruins of the noblest 
man / That ever lived in the tide 
of times”
 
in my mind and in my body I was 
Mark Antony there, shot through 
with the weight of his friend’s 
brutal death, his own irretrievable 
loss 
 
my teacher laughed
 
what, I asked
 
you’re right into it, aren’t you, he 
replied, and shut me up right there 
to any public display of expression 
 
 
I didn’t stop reading Shakespeare 
though, but by myself
 
later I read Homer, Ovid, Proust,
others, did the same with music 
and art, made countless lifelong 
friends thereby, people I’ve always 
been able to turn to, even just in 
ruminative thought as their stories 
still pervaded me, diligently leading   
still the way, like guardian angels,  
maybe
 
 
 
Richard

“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

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Bach‏

"J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)" -  Robert Strûbin

“J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)” (1957)

Robert Strûbin

________

if I’ve been getting on their backs
about their Bachs at the Tchaikovsky
Competition
, it’s that they’re playing
Bach as though he were mediocre
Beethoven, it’s like asking Duke
Ellington to be Pink Floyd, it’s just
a completely different generation,
era

Bach wrote for the harpsichord, a
precursor to the piano, it could not
control the volume, nor the length
of a note, the pianoforte came
along to resolve both issues

therefore before Beethoven, who
made full use of the new invention
and worked hard the pianissimos
and the fortissimos, to degrees that
often became either inappropriate
or too authoritative, indelicate or
obnoxious if you’re not in the mood
– I remember wanting to play his so
solemn 111 at my father’s funeral,
but realized late that the first
movement was not especially in
that situation warranted, nor even
parts of the transcendental, but not
always not obstreperous, adagio –
and thumbed thus his nose at the
aristocracy, who earlier, before
the citoyens had demanded their
rights and when the world had
been considered to be of a
rational, logical order, a clock,
and as regular, would never have
tolerated such impudence

Bach and Mozart do not sway
much from strict rhythm, neither
do they alter volume much at all

so that the constant display of
heartfelt Bach and passionate
Mozart becomes cloying, and
not at all what these Classical
and Baroque masters would
have approved of

nor Beethoven, nor Chopin, for
that matter, whose strict tempo
markings didn’t include much
rubato, ritardandos, which you
could think of as milking a note,
putting velvet on your canvas,
it doesn’t work, the composition
itself unaided by bathos, pathos,
delivers, check out, of course,
Glenn Gould

Andrei Korobeinikov sat me right
down the other night with his
arresting BWV868, thrilling,
followed by more dazzling
pyrotechnics, though he fizzled,
and fractured his Beethoven, the
very 111 I care so much for, I
couldn’t even finish, you don’t
need a velvet canvas behind the
111, neither cloying ritardandos,
just skill, nor tangles of notes,
for that matter

Richard

the flow (with a representative performance of Bach)

"The Kitchen"  - Pablo Picasso

The Kitchen (1948)

Pablo Picasso

________

having forgotten that I’d left a candle
in the kitchen, I thought, is that what
you’re going to strike me with,
Alzheimer’s

and then I thought, who’s you

certainly not some Creator with a
white beard and a vengeance, or
even, for that matter, without a
vengeance, even empathy, a
buddha, a guardian angel

no, “you” would be the order of
things, the flow

I spread my arms, and ceded to
it

to be one with the flow, I thought,
that’s the Force, there was no
getting around it

to be at one with the Force,
listen

then I remembered the chicken
drumsticks in the ginger cherry
sauce I’d left in the oven

which turned out nevertheless
perfect

Richard

psst:

for perfect coconut rice,
1 cup of coconut milk,
available in most high-end
food stores, one of water,
one of rice, of course, your
pick, bring to a boil, lower
heat, simmer covered for
45 minutes, an hour, or as
soon as you remember
you left it on the stove,
turn off heat, add a
tablespoon of butter, lime
juice

serve with chicken
drumsticks in ginger
cherry sauce

and, of course, wine

Beethoven Cello Sonata no 3, opus 69 – Gould/Rose‏

 "A Day in March" - Robert Spencer

A Day in March(1918)

Robert Spencer

_________

hot upon having seen a tremendous recital
by two internationally renowned interpreters
of the cello sonatas of Beethoven, neither
could I find their own renditions on the
Internet but their individual performances
only of works by other composers, some
astounding, others not, nor performances
by other artists of the same works I could
wholeheartedly recommend, even the big
ones, sometimes they have an off night

but with Beethoven, Glenn Gould never
lets you down, he is, quite simply, ever
transcendent, watch his Cello Sonata
no 3 of Beethoven, opus 69
, with cellist
Leonard Rose, up as well to so august
a challenge, be unequivocally
transported, don’t not watch, just click,
wow

Richard

parsing art – a response to my mother

JohnSinger Sargent - "Mrs Edward L. Davis and Her Son Llivingston" (1890)

Mrs Edward L. Davis and Her Son Livingston (1890)

John Singer Sargent

______

about John Cage my mom writes,

“Hi Rick…..

When you called I had written the message but not sent it….I am trying again..

I cannot see people spending $100 or more and wasting almost 8 minutes of their time
to watch that crap…..

As for David Hockney…..well…..not my style….but for your sake I hope a lot of people like it…..

See you at 6 p.m……will give you enough time to digest what I said…..All my love….MOM….XXXX”,

most uncharacteristically, the last time
she used an epithet was when I landed
some Schönberg on her, which she
returned promptly and categorically,
that was some fifteen years ago, even
maybe twenty

bravo, Mom, for your robust opinion,
that’s what art’s about

but I’m reminded thereby that art is not
just for effetes, pretenders to arcane
insights, it’s for all of us, not getting it
is not necessarily our fault, sometimes
the artist is obtuse, even trite

what is true should be clear, I believe,
to everyone, which is why I ever adhere
to art, art cannot be anything other than
true, manifestly, else it falls apart

love you, mom

Rick

psst: if you’ve got quarters, please bring
some over tonight

Glenn Gould‏

Glenn Gould

Glenn Gould

_______


if you think I can talk, listen to Glenn
Gould
tell in spades what I’ve only
ever been able to tell in clubs, or,
as we say in French, trèfles, clover,
a piece of music can say more than
just hello, great ones are oracular,
even transcendent

if ever they made a movie of my life
I want Glenn Gould to play me, even
the wonderful Colm Feore, I think,
couldn’t as effectively manage it

Richard

psst: here’s more, incandescent, Bach,
Glenn Gould playing his signature
piece
, just click