Richibi’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Category: Johann Sebastian Bach

a degustation

lemons-1929.jpg!Large.jpg

Lemons (1929)

Georges Braque

___________

watching one of my cooking competition
shows on television the other day, the
twelve contestants were called upon in
pairs to create, each couple, one of the
six elements in a degustation menu

a degustation menu – I raised an eyebrow
at that one – is the same as a tasting menu,
but at a finer, it is implied, restaurant

the theme was citrus fruit, each service
had to highlight one of them, a mandarin,
a lemon, an orange, a lime, a tangelo,
a grapefruit, in that order

my goodness, I thought, a set of
variations on edibles, I was delighted,
not to mention synesthetically
titillated, all my senses were alive

the first course was a mandarin-cured
prawn ceviche, with pesto, something
to tease one’s palate, leaving plenty of
room, however, for what was to follow,
the second course, an equally light
lemon-cured salmon with smoked
crème fraîche and decorative
translucent radish slices, in again but
polite allotments

the third service introduces the protein,
duck with the nearly ever requisite
orange, but with beets, in this instance,
on an underlying sheen of all their
accumulated and colourful juices,
bread, I would imagine, would’ve been
gluttonously required

beef then followed, to fill the second
of the more substantial and filling
elements of the meal, with a lime
reduction and beets

for dessert, the fifth service presented
a tangelo cup with a surprise chocolate
truffle meant to burst in one’s mouth
with iced tangelo flavour, refreshing
and unexpectedly delightful, followed
by a grapefruit sorbet with chocolate
ganache and meringue shards as a
finale

not all contestants reached the heights
wished for, but some were memorable,
much as in any set of, even noteworthy,
variations

here’s Glenn Gould playing Beethoven’s
Six Variations in F major, Opus 34, each
variation is comparable to a culinary
experience, but for piano

listen, compare

these are preceded here by a late, and
haunting, Beethoven bagatelle, his
Opus 126, however, after which the
variations themselves are conveniently
spliced in the editing process to help
distinguish each movement from the
other

Glenn Gould doesn’t hit a note wrong,
but I think Beethoven’s introductory
aria, upon which the variations are
built, and which is repeated at the end
after a coda, or final interpolated wave,
is slow, a more engaging opening
would’ve been, to my mind, more
effective

I also would’ve, however peripherally,
degusted especially the lime beef

R ! chard

psst: incidentally, all Bach’s Cello Suites
are in six segments, their common
theme is dance, each one is a
scintillating Baroque example

Advertisements

Concerto for Keyboard / Violin, BWV 1052 – Bach

2.jpg!Large.jpg

     “The Nightwatch (1642) 

 

                  Rembrandt

 

                       _____

 

 

                                for Barbara, who dutifully 

                                      kicked me in the psyche

 

 

there is apparent discussion about whether

the BWV 1052 of Bach was first a keyboard 

or a violin, concerto, I’ve only known it as a 

keyboard concerto till now, when looking 

for it for a friend, I happened upon this 

recently published rendering of an event 

that took place at the Rijksmuseum in 

Amsterdam in front of the very 

Nightwatch” of Rembrandt, historical  

epochs coming iconically together  

 

which is why, incidentally, I love Europe,

Disneyland for adults, where epochal

periods come together like fantasies,

tossing back at us their manifest, their

multifarious, and mythic glories  

 

 

what do you think, which came first, the

chicken or the egg,  the keyboard or the

violin

 

I think, however prejudicially, the 

keyboardbut what do I know  

 

enjoy either, they’re both riveting 

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: note how the painted faces and the real

          faces in the violin version look alike,

          Rembrandt‘s genius 

 

 

 

 
 

 

“Années de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year – Liszt

petrarch.jpg!Large

     “Petrarch (c.1450) 

 

           Andrea del Castagno


                     ___________

 

 

                                    for John, who would’ve 

                                                       been 60 today

 


though the suite might’ve started with

Bach’s string of dance pieces in the 

early 18th Centuryit becomes evident 

during the 19th Century, after a lapse 

of nearly 100 years, while it fell into 

disfavour, that its resurrection as a 

valid musical form might’ve kept the 

original structure, which is to say its 

several separate parts to make up a 

whole, its movements, but that it 

now was serving different purpose 

 

where music had, through to the early

Romantic Period, followed dance 

rhythms, or variations of tempo,

adagio, andante, allegro, and the like,

it now presented itself as a background

for settings, be it ballets, as in

Tchaikovsky’s, plays, as in Edvard

Grieg’s celebrated , Peer Gynt Suite“,

after Ibsen‘s eponymous play,

specific locations, as in Debussy’s

Children’s Corner“, or more  

expansively, both geographically

and in its compositional length,

these very “Années de pèlerinage” 

of Liszt

 

this is in keeping with the exploration

of consciousness of that era, which 

would lead to not only Impressionism, 

but to Freud, and the others, and the 

development of psychoanalysis

 

you’ll note that music seems much 

more improvisational in Liszt than in

Chopin, or Beethoven, prefiguring

already even jazz, more evocative,

less emotional, more personal, not

generalized, idiosyncratic, a direct

development of the newly acquired

concept of democracy, one man, at

the time, one vote, one, indeed, 

voice, however individual, however 

even controversial 

 

listen, for instance, to Liszt’s “Années

de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year, Italy 

 

   1. Sposalizio

   2. Il penseroso

   3. Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa 

   4. Sonetto 47 del Petrarca 

   5. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca 

   6. Sonetto 123 del Petrarca 

   7. Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia Quasi Sonata 

 

 

today you can listen to suites 

from famous films, for instance 

Blade Runner“, the beat, in 

other words, goes on

 

but note the renovations, find them, 

dare you, you’ll be surprised at 

your unsuspected perspicacity

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard  

two suites – Debussy / Ravel

minuet-1756.jpg!large

    Minuet (1756) 

 

           Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

 

                                   _________

 

two pieces

 

          one by Debussy, his Pour le piano

              or, in English, For the Piano 

 

          a second, by Ravel, his Le tombeau 

              de Couperin“, or Couperin’s Coffin

 

 how are they similar

 how are they different

 you tell me

 

a couple o’ clues

 

          Pour le piano 

 

                  Prélude

                  Sarabande

                  Toccata

 

          Le tombeau de Couperin

 

                  Prélude

                  Fugue

                  Forlane

                  Rigaudon

                  Menuet

                  Toccata

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: both these works are suites, in

          the manner of Bach, compositions 

          with more than one segment, the

          first a prelude, followed by, at

          least, two dance pieces  

 

          the form had remained fallow for

          nearly two hundred years until it

          was revived, atavistically, during

          the Impressionist Period  

 

           if you can’t tell your sarabande

          from your rigaudon, your forlane

          from your toccata, don’t fret, they

          are now defunct dances, not to

          mention that they’ve always been

          stylized, these suites, in other

          words, weren’t made for dancing,

          as the saying goes, but for

          performance, listening

 

Chopin / Debussy – Preludes

prelude.jpg!large

       “Prelude (1909) 

 

               Willard Metcalf

 

                         _________

 

 

what’s a prelude

 

something that, by definition, 

precedes something else

 

which it had been, formally, 

before Chopin made it stand 

alone as musical form, 

much, incidentally, as he 

later did the scherzo 

 

a prelude, earlier, had preceded

several other dance pieces in

suites, Bach’s Cello Suites, for 

example, all start with a

prelude

 

or fronted fugues, in, again,

notably, Bach’s celebrated 

Preludes and Fugues sets, 

more of which, for their 

complexity, later

 

here’s Chopin, however, with 

his array of 24, his Opus 28

one for each key, incidentally, 

much in the manner of Bach’s 

template pieces, the Preludes

and Fugues

 

here’s Debussy’s Book 1

picking it up for the 20th 

Century, with his tonally

indiscriminate 12 

 

what’s the difference

 

you tell me

 

R ! chard

 

psst: apples and oranges, I think,

          depends on my mood that 

          particular night, whether

          meditative or melancholy

Piano Concertos 2, 3, 4 – Beethoven

the-liberty-leading-the-people-1830.jpg!Large

     “Liberty Leading the People (1830) 

             Eugène Delacroix

                    _________

                               for everyone, with great gratitude, 
                                  who reads me, I mean only to 
                                     bring poetry, which is to say,
                                        light

though I’d considered leaving the 
Romantic Piano Concertos behind
to explore other areas of the period
in this survey, it seemed unfair,  
indeed remiss of me, not to include 
the three among my top ten that I 
haven’t yet highlighted, Beethoven’s 
2nd, 3rdand 4th Piano Concertos
Opuses 1937and 58 respectively,
after all, these are where the spirit 
of the age, the Zeitgeist, was 
constructed, like a building, with 
walls, windows, a hearth, all of 
which would become church, 
then a Church, and by the time of 
Brahms, a very Romantic Cathedral 

the foundation had already been laid 
by Mozart with his 27, but music had 
not yet become anything other than 
an entertainment by then, or 
alternatively, an accessory to 
ceremonial pomp and circumstance, 
see Handel and England for this, or 
liturgical stuffsee, among many 
others here, Bach

but with the turn towards 
independence of thought as the 
Enlightenment progressed, cultural 
power devolved from the prelates, 
and their reverent representations, 
to the nobles, who wanted their own 
art, music, which is to say, something 
secular, therefore the Classical 
Period, 1750 – 1800, in round figures

then in the middle of all that, 1789, 
the French Revolution happened, 
and the field was ripe for prophets, 
anyone with a message of hope, 
and a metaphysical direction, midst 
all the existential disarray – the Age
of Reason had set the way, 
theoretically, for the possibility of a 
world without God, something, or 
Something, was needed to replace 
the The Trinity, the Father, the Son, 
and the Holy Ghost, Who had been 
seeing Their supremacy contested 
since already the Reformation 

Beethoven turned out to be just
our man, don’t take my, but history‘s 
authentification of it, see the very
Romantic Period for corroboration

in a word, Beethoven established 
Faith, a Vision, not to mention the 
appropriate tools to instal this new 
perspective, a sound, however
inherited, musical structure – his 
Piano Concertos TwoThreeand 
Four, for instance, are paramount 
amongst a host of others of his  
transcendental revelations

briefly, the initial voice, I am here, in 
the first movement, is declamatory, 
even imperious, but ever 
compositionally solid, and proven, 
tempo, tonality, recapitulation, the 
materials haven’t changed from the 
earlier Classical epoch, just the 
design, the interior, the 
metaphysical conception

his construction is masterfully
direct, the line of music is 
throughout ever clear and concise, 
despite flights ofoften, ethereal, 
even magical, speculation, you 
don’t feel the music in your body 
as you would in a dance, as in the 
earlier eraof minuets, but follow 
it, rather, with your intellect, you,
nearly irresistibly, read it

but the adagio, the slow movement, 
the middle one Classically, is always, 
for me, the clincher, the movement 
that delivers the incontrovertible 
humanity that gave power to the 
Romantic poet, who touched you 
where you live 

Beethoven says life is difficult, and
eventually, at the end of his Early, 
Middle and Late Periods, life may 
even have no meaning
 
but should there be someone, he 
says, who is listening, Someone – 
though implicit is that one may be 
speaking to merely the wind – this 
is what I can do, this is who I am
 
and while I am here, however 
briefly, am not insignificant, I 
can be worthy, even glorious, 
even beautiful, I am no less 
consequential, thus, nor  
precious, than a flower

for better, of course, or for worse


R ! chard

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

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