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Category: Johann Sebastian Bach

Piano Sonata in C# minor, opus 80 – Tchaikovsky

the-sonata-1.jpg!Large

The Sonata 

              Childe Hassam

                     ___________

                            for Sarah and Rachel, the daughters
                              of the son of a dear cousin, after a 
                                belated lunch recently, two young 
                                  girls14, 16, in bloom, as Proust 
                                    would say, who speak not only 
                                      music, but French and English,
                                        fluently, I checked – perhaps   
                                          even German, their Oma  
                                            lives with them – they also  
                                              play the flute, the piano,    
                                                and sing, what could be
                                                  I ask you, more beautiful,  
                                                   two young girls ibloom, 
                                                     indeed in very blossom   
                                        
                               or am I being too French
 
the form of the sonata had been established 
decisively during the Classical Period, out 
of the rudiments of Bach’s own such pieces
Mozart and Haydn had given the concept its 
final shape, its structure, three or four 
contrasting movements, by definition all 
entertainments

Beethoven kicked the entertainment part 
right out of the ball park, made his show 
into a veritable transcendental meditation, 
rather than to merely applaud, audiences 
gasped, were meant to be awed, as I still 
ever am by his musical speculations

but by definition as well, a sonata is a 
piece for a single instrument, therefore
inherently introspective, whether the 
player has an audience or not, soloists, 
note, play easily on their own

even an accompanied sonata, as violin
sonatas often are, for instance, or this 
one for two pianos, would lose the 
intimacy of a solo piece, for having 
someone playing, however compatibly, 
over one’s shoulder  

in other words, a piano sonata is, by
definition, a monologue, a soliloquy,
where notes tell the story that words 
would intimately, even confessionally,
in poetry, convey

the emotions that are elicited from 
a piece are as real as they would 
be from any literary alternative, 
except that they’re quickened, like 
aromas, through the senses, rather 
than through divisiveby definition 
confrontational, logic

rosemary reminds me always, for 
instance, of one of my departed 
aunts, like the taste of a madeleine 
dipped in tea opened the door for 
Proust to an entire earlier epoch, 
the seed, the subject, of his 
disquisition on Time, À la 
recherche du temps perdu“, An 
Exploration into Elapsed Time“, 
my own translation, none of the 
published proffered titles   
having rendered the subtlety  
of the shimmering original
  
rosemary, in other words, speaks,
if even only to me

listen to Tchaikovsky’s First Piano
Sonata, in C# minor, opus 80, one
of only two of his, what do you 
hear, think, feel


R ! chard

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String Quartet no 14 in C-sharp Minor, opus 131 – Beethoven

musician

        “Musician 

              Zaya

                 __

                                           for Ian, who surely 
                                              benefitted from my
                                                   intransigeance


after watching performed the first movement 
of Beethoven’s 14th String Quartet at home 
with a friend, I interrupted the piece and 
instead put on the one I’d found with 
computer graphics

not from the beginning, he said

yes, from the beginning, I retorted, a mere
six or seven minutes which’ll be worth it, I
insisted, and they were

four lines of music, the top one yellow for 
the first violin, red for the second, mauve 
for the viola, and blue for the cello, which 
individually advance according to the 
length of each instrument’s notes, the 
height, meanwhile, of the lines indicate 
pitch, top ones high notes, bottom lines 
low, it’s like watching a blueprint of 
what’s happening, and mesmerizing, a 
musical score in very motion, though 
without, admittedly, the bar lines, nor 
key and time signatures, clefs neither, 
for that matter 

the music meanwhile is transcendent

Beethoven here resolves all the issues
I brought up about his two early Late
Sonatas, grab bags of fine tunes but 
without a centre, cuts on an album, 
rather than the visionary 
pronouncements of the prophet I’ve
come to expect from Beethoven

Beethoven pulls out all the stops 
for his 14th, goes from a fugue in 
the first movement, a form 
reminiscent of Bach, who’d been 
completely obliterated during the 
Classical Period, masterful dance 
rhythms then, peppered 
throughout, referencing, indeed
honouring late 18th Century court
music, a set of variations in the
fourth movementand other 
classifications I won’t touch for 
their being too technical, but 
which all illustrate Beethoven’s 
mastery of every musical 
convention until his time, then 
pushes all of it further still into 
the future with this string quartet, 
supreme among all string quartets, 
his 14th

much later, Pink Floyd would pull 
off a similar stunt, take its own 
generation’s music to comparable 
heights with an equally cultural, 
which is to say historical, impact,
the comparison is, I think,  
noteworthy and instructive

Pink Floyd, incidentally, was also 
a quartet, for even more context

note that throughout, tonality, tempo,
and repetition have been strictly, 
though, admittedly, often 
eccentrically observed, the piece has 
been arresting, even riveting, however, 
for some, disconcertingly sobut 
never not understood, never foreign, 
the music isn’t at all alienating, as 
could besay, Chinese opera for most 
of us, we’re still here in our corner of 
the planet following faithfully in the 
Western musical tradition as it thus 
then evolved

I could say all of the above as well
again, by the way, about Pink Floyd  
in their own, ahem, Time


all of that said, this other version,  
by the Alban Berg Quartet, is the 
performance that you’ll remember,
it is still incomparable, the gold
standard

enjoy


R ! chard

Piano Sonata no 29 in B♭ major, opus 106 – Beethoven

Front_views_of_the_Venus_de_Milo

       Venus de Milo

            _______

here and there, an artwork has presented 
itself to me as transcendent, which is to 
say that in its presence, I quivered, 
experienced verily cosmic transmission 
of energy, a sacred communication 

the Venus de Milo, in the Louvre, who
breathed, existed, as I turned a corner
and beheld her, imperiously presiding,
holding undying, immortal court, as a 
goddess indeed should, would, and
there profoundly did, and does, I  
suppose, still 

the Sistine Madonna“, in the Zwinger
in Dresden, mesmerized me from a 
distance as I approached her, along  
a long row of corridors, towards a 
resplendence that was 
incontrovertible, a very epiphany, I 
still reverberate recollecting her  
incandescent majesty

Beethoven’s Opus 106, his 
“Hammerklavier”, is such a work, 
not evident perhaps before the third 
movement, the “adagio sostenuto”,
which will, I suspect, stop you dead 
in your tracks, arrest you from its 
very first mystifying moments
magical, miraculous   

Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” is 
the first piece of his to have moved
from being descriptive, narrative, 
to being philosophical, meditative 
in its motivation, emotions are 
evident, but evoked only in the 
context of exploring something 
grander, something metaphysical, 
you come out the other end having 
gone to church, having explored a 
spiritual environment, you exit
perhaps not absolved, but 
somehow understood, reassured
comforted, counted

a lot, incidentally, like Bach, note, 
plying his cantatas and oratorios, 
not to mention his introspective 
fugues, a not to be unremarked 
atavism, how grandchildren 
resemble, even imitate, however 
unconsciously, their grandparents, 
I even have such pictures

more about all of which later 


R ! chard

psst: something I found cute as I 
          brushed my teeth between 
          the movements, the 
          “Hammerklavier”  is in the 
          same key as my electric 
          toothbrush, B-flat major, a
          robust, I assure you, way 
          to greet the morning

mass appeal, or “Missa Solemnis”, opus 123 – Beethoven

Hofkirche (Dresden Cathedral) and the Elbe River, Dresden, Saxony, Germany

    from the centre, the Hofkirche, the Dresden Cathedral, across from the 
    Augustusbrückeor Augustus Bridge, extends into the Zwinger, one  
    of three only palaces in Europe, along with Versailles and Vienna’s 
    Schönbrunndistinctly horizontally to the right, not to be confused 
  with a crook in the Cathedralan intolerable, were it so, ecclesiastical  
   gaffe, it ‘s now become one of the most significant art galleries in  
   Europe, the green rooves, to the right still, are the Semperoper‘s, the   
  black roof, nestling before it, an unforgettable Italian
  restaurant 

  before it all, majestically, the Elbe

        _______

from the very Semperoper in Dresden,
where I’ll ever remember seeing the 
worst “Barber of Seville” I’ve ever seen,
first balcony, left of centre, Figaro came 
out on a motorcycle, I ask you, it was 
downhill after that, my mom, beside 
me, was falling even asleep, we left at 
intermission, soldiered on to a 
restaurant overlooking the Elbe, Italian
if I remember, but utterly more enjoyable 
than the disappointing operatic option, 
there might even ‘ve been a moon at our 
tableside window, picturesquely 
shimmering on the river

but, hey, we both would‘ve stayed,
incontrovertibly, for this performance
Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis“, a late, 
and towering, entry, 1823, in his opus 
– second definition of that word, which 
is to sayhis entire output, all 135 
opuses, first definition there, discrete 
compositions – plus all his works 
without opus – first definition again – 
numbers, WoO

the plural of opusincidentally, can 
also be, both meanings, opera, just 
to confuse things, I use either
interchangeably, according to my 
narrative rhythm

 
missae solemnes, plural of missa 
solemnis, are a particularly Catholic
form of music, going back to the 
very Middle Ages, at which point 
religious art was all that really 
mattered, anything else was entirely
peripheral, of no consequence 

but Catholicism, and its Protestant
offshoots, which is to say, their 
common Christianity, remained 
culturally entrenched during the 
process of their slow disintegration

Nietzsche would, later, take care 
of that, but that’s another story

Beethoven, Mozart, Catholics, if, 
either, only by name, delivered 
missae solemneswhile Bach, 
Handel, both Protestant, 
delivered oratorios, with some 
intermingling

about which, later

Catholic, Protestant expression still
find, even strong, exponents at 
present, though the form is, 
essentially, outdated, our anthems 
are national, now, mostly, if even 
somewhat, that, halfheartedly, when 
notparadoxically, searchingly, 
hopefully, and maybe even
revolutionarily, again, ideological

imagine Imagine for instance, as 
suchjust click


R ! chard

Sonata for Violin and Piano in F minor, BWV 1018 – Bach

four-amateur-of-prints.jpg!Large.jpg

    “Four Devotees of Prints

            Honoré Daumier

                __________

up at the crack of about nine this 
morning, I determined to get the 
ordeal of trying to print 
something out of the way, go 
over to my mom’s, a few blocks 
down the street, to use her  
printer, something I figured  
would probably present obstacles

though we followed the proposed
instructions, nothing would work,
print, pressed, delivered nothing

hoops were required, several of 
which I managed, got closer, and  
more prepped, but when they 
essentially seemed to contract
marriage, I withdrew – though I 
might‘ve inadvertently sworn a 
ring

flummoxed, even irritated, by 
the manufactured distress, I
determinedly decided to go 
back to paper, I am not a robot, 
I ascertain, as they often 
electronically instruct, to, 
mean really, confirm your 
identity


back home, I lit a candle for Collin, 
my friend, who ‘s just had a 
debilitating stroke, and listened to
Bach again, an absolute cradle

listen to how falling into the 
rhythmic pocket, beats landing  
on anticipated beats in a rocking 
motion, lets you slip into surrender, 
and even physical, solace 

hear, however, how the lingering 
notes of the violin transgress bar
lines, much like with Beethoven
in order to tell a more personal
story

Bach gets to look a lot more like
Beethoven every minute, or the 
reverse, I’m finding, like 
grandchildren resembling, atom 
for atom, their grandparents

stay tuned, there’s a lot more
to uncover 


R ! chard

“Capriccio on the departure of his beloved brother” – Bach

music-1904.jpg!Large

     “Music (1904) 

           Thomas Eakins

                  _______

music cannot lie, when it caresses 
you, your very senses on the alert 
for what, or what does not, inspire, 
from one note to the next, and, of 
course, from one sensation to the 
other

words are subject to all kinds of 
interpretations, visual arts can be 
manipulated, tell varying versions 
of an, even imagined, event, see, 
for instance, Surrealismwith its
distortions as multifarious as the 
imagination

but music cannot not tell the truth, 
one hears music with one’s senses, 
and responds to it with the same 
primitive instinct as, nearly, smell, 
another powerful truth teller, ask 
dogs, or ask a young man’s fancy 
when it turns to thoughts of love”,
in spring, there is no surer compass


here’s more Bach, Capriccio on the 
departure of his beloved brother“, 
from their family home, a marvel I’ve 
recently discovered 

  • Arioso: Adagio — ‘Friends Gather & Try to Dissuade Him…’
  • (Andante) – ‘They Picture the Dangers Which May Befall Him’
  • Adagiosissimo (or Adagissimo) – ‘The Friends’ Lament’
  • (Andante con moto) – ‘Since He Cannot Be Dissuaded, They Say Farewell’
  • Allegro pocco – ‘Aria of the Postilion’ (Aria di postiglione)
  • ‘Fugue in Imitation of the Postilion’s Horn’ (Fuga all’imitazione della cornetta di postiglione
 

do you love it


thanks, sincerely, for dropping by 

R ! chard

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 

Piano Concerto no. 9 – Mozart

clown-with-flowers-1963.jpg!Blog

   “Clown with Flowers (1963)

           Marc Chagall

                _______

                                with the greatest respect for all
                                     who read me, and especially 
                                         for those who are least 
                                             convincedthe way also, 
                                                 I note, to a conscious, 
                                                    and entirely personal,  
                                                          aesthetic


let me once again insist that my 
commentaries here are not at all
the last word on any of what I’ve 
discussed, they’ve been merely 
my opinion, according to my own 
particular aesthetic, my comments 
have been rather to excite curiosity
about, for some, an esoteric topic, 
to awaken interest in a field, to my 
mind, strewn with marvels, and 
never to dictate, art, as I often
remind, is in the eye of the 
beholder

I think of myself as company in 
an art gallery, viewing a 
succession of works, musical 
here, expressing notions, either 
specifically to do with the exhibit
or, personal, but somehow related, 
then moving on, just enough to 
whet the appetite, or, of course, 
not

here’s an instance

I’d been waiting for the sales clerk 
to box some fresh pasta for me I 
was buying at an eatery down the 
street when a line of piped in music 
from their overhead system swept 
me off my disconcerted feet, which 
I recognized to be Mozart, but as
I’d never heard him, ever

can you tell me who’s playing that,
I asked the cashier, many stores 
played their own tapes back then,
some still indeed even do, 
19-eighty, at that time, something

he replied, Mitsuko Uchida
what she’d done was to not stress
the bar line, the natural beat, to, 
in fact, eliminate it, so that a flight
of notes went on like an unfettered 
and iridescent miracle, prompted 
by its own irrepressible momentum,
I was flabbergasted

Beethoven later on would do that
nearly consistently

where Glenn Gould would remove 
his foot from the sustain pedal to 
channel Bach while he played 
Beethoven, an atavism, Mitsuko
Uchida was reversing the process
and using Beethoven‘s own 
unleashing of rhythms to shed 
light on her Classically otherwise 
bound Mozart, a telling 
anachronismI nearly screamed

here, in the event, is the next work 
of musical art in my idiosyncratic 
gallery, the richibi galleri, I call it, 
Mitsuko Uchida herself illuminating 
gloriously, as ever, Mozart, his 
splendid, as she reminds us, Piano
Concerto no 9 

thanks so much for stopping by


ever 

R ! chard

Piano Concerto no. 5, opus 73, “Emperor” – Beethoven

v1.bTsxMTIxMTMxNztqOzE3ODE0OzEyMDA7MTEyNTsxNTAw

     All About Eve (1950)

            _______

while I’m on the subject of concertos,
there’s one concerto that cannot be 
overlooked, the very epitome of 
concerti, their summit, apex, their 
very pinnacle, Olympus, compared 
to other less mighty compositions,
Beethoven’s Fifth Piano Concerto,
the piece I would take with me to a 
desert island, used to even walk 
along the seashore in the privacy of 
my headphones nights, after dinner, 
taking in its cadences, its wisdom,
under the moon, the stars, along 
the, however temperamental, 
ocean waters, transported 

indeed this very version of it, Glenn
Gould’s, Beethoven’s, in my mind,  
oracular equal

Beethoven made literature out of 
music, progressed to the point of
delivering a very philosophy, 
Gould took the prevailing 
Romantic aesthetic of the time,
Arthur Rubinstein being a prime
example, for instance, and gave 
us the music of the Information 
Age, the mathematical precision 
of computers, people could hear 
it, perhaps not even knowing how,
why

briefly, Gould eschews – Gesundheit
the hold pedal, the sustain pedal, on 
the piano, he’d grown up on Bach, 
made him his specialty, but Bach
had no sustain pedal on his 
harpsichord, Gould transferred this 
process to later, more rhythmically 
malleable, works, making obvious 
thereby their inner workings, 
something like reading blueprints, 
his interpretations give us the bare, 
and revelatory, bones of these later 
masterpieces, without the sometimes 
facile effects of Romanticism, think 
of rubato, for instance, the ability to 
stretch a note, not possible on the 
harpsichord, but often overused in 
Romantic renderings, a cheap trick, 
like paintings on velvet

Gould would have none of that, he
shows you the composer’s 
compositional brilliance, without 
fanfare, just the facts, no pedal, 
which at the time was completely 
revolutionary, much like computer 
science was thenand algorithms 

here’s something else about Gould,
more savourymaybe, he was called 
in at the last minute to perform this
piece when the planned pianist, of 
considerable renown, wasn’t able to 
make it, Gould hadn’t played it in a 
number of years, but showed up the 
next morning to deliver, the rest is,
as they say, history

that’s All About Eve up there, but 
for pianists, Glenn Gould is Eve 
Harrington, though without her
predatory instincts, nobody now 
remembers the other pianist
unless you were there, interested,  
listening, piano’s Margo Channing, 
even if I named himhowever 
consummately accomplished he 
might’ve been, a man I profoundly 
admire, remains, cruelly, essentially 
unremembered 

imagine


R ! chard

off my top – from Bach to Beethoven

6.jpg

    “Alice in Wonderland” 

             Mary Blair

               _______

when I listen to Bach, I feel like I’m 
on a train – from Leipzig to Dresden, 
say, his territory – the constancy of
his rhythms, modified only by 
accidentals along the way, the 
particular condition of the rails, that 
indeed decorate an otherwise 
monotonous clockwork progression, 
beat upon beat, there is neither an 
increase in volume, which hadn’t been 
formally invented yet as a principal 
musical implement – and I’m only 
partially joking here – the music is 
horizontal, not focused on reiteration, 
but on getting there, accomplishing 
mission, upon which the outcome is
even spiritual – it’s Dresden, I get off 
at the Neustadt Station, am not only 
refreshed but utterly inspired, 
reminded of my position in the world, 
and my place in this novel, but
ordered, and pious, environment 

listen to Bach, his Sonata for Violin
and Piano, B minor, BWV 10141717 
to 1723 approximately, for instance

with Mozart, I get on a merry-go-round,
at a carnival, the clockwork has become 
circular, you can sing the tune, and sing 
it again without a problem, the wooden
horses fly by, one after the other, entirely 
recognizable, though ever magical and
entertaining, but you get off at exactly 
the same untransformed station, 
however delightedly

Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano,
no 18 in G major, K301, 1778, say

with Beethoven, though, it’s like going 
through the looking glass, if you’ve ever 
been through one, the direction is 
horizontal again, you might try singing 
along, but get only so far, until you’re 
utterly confounded, what happened, 
where am I, you wonder, when 
suddenly a Mad Hatter comes along, 
or a Queen of Heartsand speechless, 
you hold onto your seat, it’s 
Disneyland, but without the usual 
safeguards

later, after however many movements,
you’re returned to, if you’ll permit in 
its American transliteration, Kansas, 
from Oz, and Dorothy’s tornado, her 
equally transformational journey, 
safe and wondrously sound, but with 
extraordinary benefits, mystical, 
even transcendental 

but, o my goodness, you think, it’s 
late, I’ve got to get the supper on, 
and, did that really just happen, a 
blip in the order of consciousness, 
a very illumination, a transcendence, 
however secular, however 
non-denominational a take on the 
question of our shared fate, our 
shared humanity, our manifest 
and sublime glories, our profound 
and wrenching tragedies, as 
probing, and indeed as oracular 
as the words of any of the other 
propounding pastors, indeed 
philosophers, then, in a world 
coming to grips with the debate 
around God, and by extension,  
I might extrapolate, my own 
God/dess

for by this time, that had become
a concern, Science, which is to say, 
the Enlightenment, the Age of 
Reasonhad provided a convincing 
counterpoint to the various takes on 
an, even just Christian, Supreme 
Deity, Who’s very viability was up,
in the 18th Century, for grabs

Beethoven provides the first 
personal option, his version of the 
Ten Commandments, for the later
non-denominational ages, our 
souls, our individual agonies, he 
demonstrates, are enough of an 
argument for our unconditional 
salvation, our personal, and 
resplendent souls are not not to
be discounted, their poetry, their 
truth and beauty, are the heaven 
towards which we can existentially 
all aspire, for better, of course, or  
for worse

Beethoven, his Sonata for Violin 
and Piano in G major, no 10
Opus 96, 1812, listen 


R ! chard