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Category: Haydn

Mozart / Haydn piano sonatas

Portrait_of_Princess_Friederike_Luise_of_Prussia_(1714-1784),_Margravine_of_Brandenburg.jpg

    Princess Friederike Luise of Prussia (1714-1784), Margravine of Brandenburg

              ____________

if you had trouble distinguishing your
Schubert from your Beethoven, you’ll
probably have trouble as well telling
your Mozart from your Haydn, though
you won’t find it difficult, if you listen,  
to tell the earlier two from the latter

both the Haydn here, and the Mozart,
were written in 1789, the year of the 
French Revolution, something akin 
to our 9/11, the world changed from
one moment to the next 

the first two were still doing parties,
which is to say, salon music, stuff 
for elites, you can hear it, frivolities,
with, however magical, elaborations
– Liberace, I thought – nothing ever 
as confessional as the two later 
composers, who, with the new 
fervour around individual opinion, 
in the wake of questions even about 
the validity of God, would create the 
very Romantic Era 

Mozart and Haydn explore songs,
ditties, Beethoven and Schubert 
investigate very fundamental 
musical constructions, they’re 
down to the very essence of 
tonal possibilities, something 
that happened to the pictorial 
arts in the 1950’s, as artists 
probed the cerebral implications 
of colour, see for instance, 
Rothko

their probe itself becomes more 
powerful than their apparent 
subject, the tune, though the 
melody proves to be, ever, the 
cement that keeps the meditation 
together

what it says, what they say, is
that confronting our destiny, 
we remain the only arbiter, its
outcome will be as beautiful 
as we make it, for better or for 
worse, the creation of 
something beautiful, a work 
that can be so beautiful, much
like a life, seems to be a reply 
that can somewhat, at least, 
existentially satisfy a sense 
of purpose 

what, otherwise

  
R ! chard

psst: Mozart’s piano sonata was written 
          for Princess Friederike Luise of
          Prussia, pictured above 

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what’s up in Frankfurt – Piano Sonata in F minor, “Appassionata” – Beethoven

the-conversation-of-napoleon-and-francois-ii-1808.jpg!Large

  “The conversation of Napoleon and Francois II (1808) 

        Pierre-Paul Prud’hon

________

it’s 1804, Beethoven has entered his
Middle Period, left the more formal 
constraints of the Classical Period, 
Mozart and Haydn, behind, though
perhaps not essentially, the 
structure remains, hardwiredbut 
its spirit is entirely different, 
revolutionarily different, thanks to
Napoleon

and Beethoven is as opinionated 
as the revolutionaries, boisterous,
adamant, peremptory even, he is 
Zeus, and not undeservedly, at 
the top of Olympus’ musical 
mountain, where, incidentally, 
he still prevails, harmony’s very 
Homer

by his Opus 57, the Appassionata” 
– a name not of his own invention, 
but, however discriminately, ascribed 
later – he isn’t as metaphysical as 
Schubert is in that later poet’s D960
Beethoven is still writing descriptive 
texts, torrid novels, however 
masterfully illustrated, more than 
the philosophical stuff he’ll later 
undertake, even topping, when that
takes place, Schubert’s, ever, 
nevertheless, transcendental D960
if you can believe it

but Schubert remained a stripling, 
Beethoven, his elder, was given the 
grace to probe longer his humanity,
however might it have been equally 
cruelly benighted, and to stretch his 
speculative reach into previously 
unimagined dimensions, beyond 
the limited temporal scope of the 
surely shriven since Schubert 

all of whose wonders have defied 
the harsh indignities of time, and 
continue still to profoundly and
indelibly reverberate

listen, marvel


R ! chard

a Beethoven / Schubert piano recital

charlotte-rothsch-baroness-anselm-de-rothschild-1828.jpg!Large

 “Charlotte Rothsch, Baroness Anselm De Rothschild (1828) 

       Ary Scheffer

           _______

since Beethoven wrote nothing of any 
great consequence for four-hand piano,
I thought at first I’d head towards another 
kind of pairing, but upon listening to the 
complete recital here of the two Jussen 
brothers, where Beethoven’s “Variations 
on a Theme by Count von Waldstein”, 
1792, a trifle, and his later “Waldstein” 
Sonata, 1804, for piano solo, an infinitely 
more accomplished work of his Middle 
Period, both dedicated to the same good 
friend and patronbookend a flurry of  
enchanting Schubert compositions, 
the contrast between the two composers, 
if not starkly evident, is at least 
discernable if you listen with some 
degree of attention

the difference is in the tone, the intention, 
Beethoven is brash, assertive, Schubert 
remains ever respectful, even often 
courtly

you’ll note that after the fall of Napoleon, 
the monarchy was restored in France, 
therefore throughout the whole of 
Europe, which had resumed its more 
genteel pretensions, as had, for instance,  
even Chopin himself, you’ll remember, in 
very Paris, where he’d relocated from 
Poland because of its political unrest

I’ve often said that a distinct characteristic 
of Beethoven is that he writes against the 
beat, rather than stressing the first note 
of the air he is developing, he accentuates 
the second, or third, the next still, or the 
very last

don’t go, I wish you’d stay here, he, for 
example, beseeches, if you transpose 
his notes in the last movement of the 
Waldsteinthe one after the lugubrious 
adagio, into words, don’t go, he strikes, 
I wish you’d stay, don’t go, I wish you’d 
stay here, don’t go, wish you’d stay, 
wish you’d stay, wish you’d stay,
accent each time on the stay 

in Schubert’s Fantasie for four-hand 
piano, written a generation later, in 1828, 
and admittedly powerfully influenced by 
Beethoven, though no more derivatively 
than Mozart would’ve been of Haydn, try, 
I hear a bird sing, I hear it sing, I hear it 
sing, it sounds so lovely, to the lovely 
melody at its very beginning, one 
composer is peremptory, the other is 
more subservient, confessional

this is what I mean by intention, and the 
difference between these two towering 
geniuses, who shaped together the 
music of their era, however might they 
have been otherwise total strangers

they are both musical giants upon 
whose shoulders our Western culture  
still stands, and swoons, before such 
an utterly transcendent legacy

listen


R ! chard

String Quartet in A Major, Opus 18, no 5 – Beethoven

adagio-1899.jpg!Large

      Adagio (1899) 
 
         Tom Roberts
 
            ________
 
 
                               for especially Kathy, who, 
                                   according to a mutual friend, 
                                       needs our prayers
 
                               please be generous 
 
 
from his Opus 18, among which there
are six, according to the Classical 
tradition, is still steeped in Classical
conditions, tonality, tempo, and 
reiteration, but is revolutionary for 
its brashness, its personal 
manifestation – hey, it says, I’m the 
Pied Piper, I’m not hiding in the 
courtly shadows any longer, my 
stage is now the concert hall, no 
more the aristocratic, however 
stately, chamber music, which has 
ceded, until now, to propriety and 
deference rather than, in a word,
genius, I’m Beethoven, Beethoven 
says, watch me
 
he doesn’t disappoint
 
written in 1801, is a very early work of
Beethoven, it’s nearly easy to confuse
him here with Haydn, with whom he’d,
incidentally, earlier studied
 
the era is still extricating itself from the 
Classical model, the Classical imperatives 
are there, tempo, tonality, and repetition 
remain rigid elements of musical 
construction in the 5th, they are nearly 
obsessive, though each movement 
imprints itself, by constant reiteration, 
on our minds, much like pop music
 
but I miss an adagio, the moral ground,
I think, of a piece of music, the place 
where your heart really takes over and 
begins to incorporate the work‘s 
humanity, I ascribe this unfortunate 
omission to Beethoven’s youthful 
exuberance, he would’ve been around 
30, and setting out, with verve and 
ambition, and he would be performing 
before general now, rather than 
aristocratic, audiences, he had a show 
to put on, not just background chamber 
music  
 
note that the second movement is a 
minuet, a sure sign of the Classical
Period, extinct in only a few further
years
 
note that the third movement, the 
andante cantabile, a leisurely walking 
pace, stepped up, rather than down, 
to a veritable clippety-clop in some 
instances, is a set of variations, to, 
incidentally, settle its theme into 
one’s very consciousness, I’ve been 
humming these movements for the 
past several days, not at all 
unprofitably
 
note also that you’ll probably soon 
be humming, too, this infectious
compositionin all its iterations, 
they are utterly captivating, after, 

still, even over two hundred years

enjoy 


R ! chard 

psst: thanks Collin, for Kathy

Cello Concerto no 2 in D major – Haydn

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         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

st-george-and-the-dragon.jpg!Large

     “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

English Suite No 3 in G Minor – Bach

suite-fibonacci-2003.jpg

   “Suite Fibonacci (2003) 

           Charles Bezie

               ________

 
before I say much more about his Cello
Suites, let me point out that Bach has
some French Suites, some English 
Suites, on top of similarly structured 
Partitas and Toccatas, the French have 
their tout de suites, and hotels have, 
nowadays, their so named luxury 
apartments 

musical suites are sets of dance pieces, 
by the early 18th Century much stylized, 
with an introductory prélude, an allemande, 
followed by a courante, which is to say, folk 
dances, the first German, the next French, 
then a sarabande, Spanish, followed by a 
couple of galanteries, court dances, 
minuets, gavottes, bourrées, then a final 
English gigue

all of the markings are in French, which
leads me to believe that all of these 
dances must’ve originated at the court 
of Louis XlVth, the Sun King, 1638 to 
1715

but the suggestion is that Europe was 
becoming an integrated community
all of these dances were eclipsed by
the Classical Period, of Haydn and 
Mozart, apart from the minuet, which 
more or less defined, nevertheless, 
that new era

the minuet will die out by the time of
Beethoven, you’ll note, to be replaced
by the waltz, which had been 
considered much too racy until 
transformed by Chopin into a work 
of ethereal art

the Strausses, father and son, gave it,
only a little later, celebratory potency,
but that’s another story


here’s Bach’s English Suite, the 3rd
for context, the French ones are a 
little too salty, as it were, they do not 
quite conform to prescribed suite 
notionshowever might their 
propositions have been, ahem, 
sweet 

meanwhile, enjoy this one


R ! chard

what’s up in Pyeongchang / Bach

the-cello-player-1896.jpg!Large.jpg

      “The Cello Player (1896) 

              Thomas Eakins

                   ________

though I’d considered presenting all six
of Bach’s Cello Suites – your one stop
shopping for these extraordinary 
compositions – even one only of these
masterpieces floored me each time I
individually listened  

why the Suites, cause I couldn’t follow 
up on Beethoven’s Opus 5, for cello
and piano accompaniment, without 
saying more about the cello, by then 
an instrument of some significance, 
and who could argue, it’s resonance 
thrills you in your bones, in your very 
being

Frederick ll, King of Prussiaplayed it, 
earning for him tailored compositions, 
however controversial, from both 
Mozart and Haydn, but even earlier, 
Bach had composed definitive pieces 
for it, much as he’d done for the 
harpsichord, precursor to the piano, 
students of either still go to Bach for 
their basics, their intricate, exquisite, 
technical proficiency

the cello can play one note only at a
time, which means that, like a voice, 
you’re working without harmony, 
you need to make your own, 
otherwise your performance is 
boring, no one else, as far as I know,
has ever written anything else for 
unaccompanied cello, not even 
Beethoven

I find most performers lend Bach a 
more Romantic air, torrid emotion,
excesses of volume, pauses to the 
pace, ritardandos, rallentandos, 
which aren’t appropriate to the 
more genteel Baroque period,
something I usually find 
unwelcome

but in this performance, I’m sure 
not even Bach would object

I’m offering up first the Sixth Cello
Suite, D major, played by Jian Wang
someone I’d never heard of, in a 
dazzling performance in Pyeongchang
place I’d neither ever heard of, until 
only very recently

it appears both of these new kids on 
the block ought to be on the map


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

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