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Category: Liszt

Piano Concerto no 3 in E-flat major, opus 75 – Tchaikovsky

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        gargoyle at Cologne Cathedral

                    ______________

if I’m including Tchaikovsky’s Third
and last, Piano Concerto in my survey, 
it’s not because of its excellence, it is, 
indeed, severely flawed, but because 
am a completist – if I’m visiting the 
Cologne Cathedral, ergo, for instance, 
I’ll make my way to the very top, 
however treacherous might be the 
stairs, the gargoyles being worth it, 
not to mention the view  

first of all, it’s incomplete, Tchaikovsky
died before finishing it, you can’t blame 
him for that, though he was, curiously, 
complicit in his own demise, but I don’t 
believe this composition and his death 
are that intimately interrelated

it has only one movement, but has 
nevertheless been termed a concerto 
on the, debatably unsound, strength 
of its intention

briefly, and this is my opinion, the
movement has no lyrical moment, 
no melting melody to float you out
of the recital hall as you exit
nothing to hum, nor to whistle as 
you wistfully wend your way back 
home, nothing to remember but 
flash, braggadocio, bombast, 
expert fingers strutting their 
dazzling, even, stuff, style over 
substance, I venture, won’t be
enough to whisk you into the 
following centuries

Chopin, the other towering Romantic 
figure standing between the spiritual 
bookends of Beethoven and Brahms, 
wrote two piano concertos, of which 
his Second suffers from, essentially,  
not being his First, however mighty 
his Second herefor instance, 
proves to be in this utterly convincing 
performance, watch, wow

Beethoven, in other words, wrote the
book, two works, Tchaikovsky’s First
and Chopin’s First, tower above his 
in the public imagination during the 
ensuing High Romantic Periodafter 
which Brahms closes the door on the 
era with his two powerful masterpieces 
for piano and orchestra 

of which more later

there are other piano concertos 
along the way, but Beethoven’s 
five, Tchaikovsky’s and Chopin’s 
one each, and Brahms two are 
the basics – but let me add, upon 
further consideration, and for a
a perfect ten options, Liszt, his 
own, of two, First Piano Concerto –
what you need to consider yourself 
comfortably aware of the essentials 
of music in the 19th Century, the 
culture’s predominant voice then, 
until art, painting, took over as the 
Zeitgeist‘s most expressive medium
with Impressionism

of which more later

R ! chard

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“Lament From Epirus” – Christopher King

breakfast-of-a-blind-man-1903.jpg!Large.jpg

   “Blind Man’s Portion (1903) 

          Pablo Picasso

                ________

though you’ll have to actively listen 
to Christopher King rather than 
merely hear him hereas you might 
have been doing with many of my 
suggested musical pieces, should 
you be at all interested in the history 
of music, he is fascinatingdates his 
investigations back millennia to very 
Epirus, Ancient, nearly primordial, 
Greece, to mirologia there, ancient 
funerary chants

some have survived, and have been 
recorded for posterity, onein 1926, 
by Greek exile fled to New York City,
Alexis Zoumbas, a year laterhowever 
improbably, by an Americanblind 
man, his own story inspirational, akin 
to that of Epictetus, one of the two 
iconic Stoic philosophers, the other,
incidentally, an emperorthough the 
blind man here, Willie Johnson, was 
never himself slave, but only, by a 
historical whisker, the emancipations 
of the American Civil War


Christopher King‘s comparison
of an Epirotic miralogi with an 
American one brings up, for me,
the difference between Mozart 
and Beethoven, notice how the
Willie Johnson version is more
rhythmic, the cadence is much 
more pronounced than in the 
Greek one, Johnson would’ve
got that from the musical 
traditions Europeans had 
brought over from their native 
continent, probably also from
Africa, Africans

Beethoven would’ve been 
surroundedmeanwhile, by Roma, 
perhaps called gypsies then, their 
music ever resonant in his culture, 
not to mention later Liszt‘s, and 
the Johann Strausses’ even, for 
that matter, Paganini also seems 
to have been imbued with it, it 
having come up from Epirus 
through, notably, Hungary – not 
to mention, later still, that music’s 
influenceand I’ll stop there, on
late 19th-Century Brahms


Christopher King, incidentally,
sounds a lot like someone you 
already know, I think, from his 
eschewing Gesundheit – cell 
phones, for instance, to his 
enduring preoccupation with 
death, not to mention his 
endearing modesty, indeed 
his humility, his easy 
self-deprecationdespite his,
dare I say, incontestable, and 
delightful, erudition

makes one wonder why that 
other hasn’t become also 
famous yet

what do you think


R ! chard

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

Cyprien Katsaris in Budapest

Katsaris-Cyprien-01

       Cyprien Katsaris

               ________

if there’s only one concert you see 
this week – I would’ve said this year 
but I have way too many irresistible 
concerts to promote – make it this 
one, like none I’ve ever seen before, 
Cyprien Katsaris, who wowed us in 
my last encomium, delivers, not one, 
but two concertos, when emotionally 
I can usually deal with only one

but you can pause between the pieces, 
like I did, to wipe a tear or two away 
after the adagios, which remind me,
always, of my beloved, John

but that’s another story

Katsaris starts with an improvisation,
which he elucidates as an art form 
much more expertly than I would, 
then delivers stunning rendition of
his mastery of that gift 

though I couldn’t identify the first part
of it, the melting melody in the last 
section of his homage to, essentially, 
the Romantic Period, rushed back 
memories for me of a piece I could 
never forget, the music from Fellini’s 
heartbreaking masterpiece La Strada 
– listen, listen – right out of Romantic 
Period idioms, its very story evenlike 
Dickens’ Oliver Twist“, his Little Nell 
from the The Old Curiosity Shop“, 
staples of my adolescence, married  
to a nearly mythic lyrical invention 

let me add that improvisations have 
been an integral part of concertos for 
a very long time, the cadenzas, an 
interpolation by the performing artist, 
hir riff, a strutting of hir stuff, late  
in the, usually final, movement, a 
consequence, incidentally, of the 
more forward, individualistic, 
18th-Century progression towards 
individual rights, some left to the 
performing artist, but many 
prescribed by the composer himself,
where, here, I must, gender sensitive 
myself, unceremoniously interject to 
explain my deference to the
designation above, himself“, to male 
merely composers, who were then the 
only ones, however culturally ignobly, 
to nevertheless shape our quite, 
think, extraordinary musical trajectory, 
for better, of course, or for worse

in this instance, I suspect Katsaris 
wrote his own cadenzas for the 
Mozart, notice his arm at the end of 
the first movement fly up in an 
especial transport, and in the last 
movement, watch his very 
exuberance mark the spot, but 
couldn’t put it past Mozart to have 
written something so historically 
visionary

Bach, incidentally, wasn’t doing 
cadenzas, so don’t look for them 

the two concertos that follow the 
improvisation, Bach’s, my favourite 
of his – you’ll understand why when 
you hear it – then Mozart’s 21st – 
everyone’s favourite – are both 
played transcendentally 

consider the difference in period, 
the earlier Baroque, with Bach’s 
notes skipping along inexorably,
the pace required by the 
harpsichord, which didn’t have 
hold pedals to allow notes to 
resonate, the music moves along
therefore nearly minimalistic tracks, 
a pace, and musical motif, that don’t 
stop, they keep on chugging, until 
they reach their destination, their,
as it were, station, or even their

stasis

Mozart’s music is as effervescent,
but conforms to a different cadence,
where a theme is presented, then a
musical, and contrasting, second,
with recapitulation, sometimes
merely partial, which is to say that
the call and response dynamic of 
the dance, or for that matter, by 
extension, modern ballads, is  
being established, codified, and 
elucidated

an era has intervened

then as an encore, Katsaris delivers,
not a cream puff, but Liszt, of all 
people, we’re used to performers
giving us trifles at this point, but not
Katsaris

then to top it all off, he plays the Chopin 
you thought you’d never ever hear again, 
but here immaculate and utterly 
inspirational

the orchestra alone performs after the 
intermission, works by Ravel and Bizet,
surprisingly similar, I thought, the two
composers, in their musical idiom, the 
use of the winds as metaphors, for 
instance, for originality, eccentricity, 
unmitigated poetry within the context 
of what is not unnatural

neither is either composer adverse to 
atonality, they work in textures, instead 
of melodies, all of which is very 
Impressionistic, see of course Monet
and others for historical reference

did I say I want to be Cyprien Katsaris 
when I grow up, well there, it’s said,
he’s lovely 


R ! chard

String Quartet in B flat, Opus 55, no 3 – Haydn

queen-marie-antoinette-of-france-1783.jpg!Large

                      “Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1783) 

                                Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

                                              ___________________

first of all, let me grievously repent an
egregious confusion I probably left
in my last diatribe, I said that the second
movement of the Opus 54, no 2 sounded 
to me like a minuet, I had, through 
embarrassing inattention, confused its,
however unmemorable, adagio with that
of this Opus 55, no 3, which I’d listened 
to in too quick succession, driven as I 
am by my thirst for epiphanies

the Opus 54, no 2 will do, but I’m not 
going back for seconds, nor to the 
Opus 55, no 3, though here’s where  
I flaunt nevertheless Haydn, not to 
mention Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, 
all the way to eventually Bruckner, 
Brahms, the extraordinary Richard
Wagner, passing through Schubert,
Mendelssohn, the Strausses, father
and son, and the unrelated Strauss,
Richard, another incontrovertible 
giant, and I nearly left out the 
unforgettable Liszt, all of them 
forefathers of our present music

you might have noticed that these 
are all Germanic names, obedient 
to the Hapsburg empire, with 
Vienna as its supreme cultural 
capital, and it was that 
Austro-Hungarian dynasty that
indeed nearly single-handedly 
secured our Western musical 
traditions

a few Italians are remembered,
from the 18th Century, Scarlatti 
maybe, Boccherini, Albinoni
but not many more 

no one from France, but they were 
about to have a revolution, not a 
good time for creative types,
though, incidentally, Haydn was 
getting Tost, to whom he was 
dedicating his string quartets for 
services rendered, to sell his stuff 
in very Paris 

then again, Marie Antoinette, I thought, 
was Austrian, an even archduchess, 
and would’ve loved some down-home 
music at nearby Versailles

so there you are, there would’ve been 
market

the English had Handel, of course,
who was, albeit, German, getting 
work where he could when you 
consider his competition, he was 
too solemn and plodding by half,
to my mind, for the more 
effervescent, admittedly Italianate, 
continentals, Italy having led the 
way earlier with especially its 
filigreed and unfettered operas

but here’s Haydn’s Opus 55, no 3
nevertheless, the best Europe had
to offer, socking it to them

Haydn’s having a hard time, I think, 
moving from music for at court to
recital hall music, music for a much
less genteel clientele, however 
socially aspiring, we still hear 
minuets, and obeisances all over 
the place, despite a desire to 
nevertheless dazzle, impress

then again, I’m not the final word, as
my mea culpa above might express, 
you’ll find what eventually turns 
your own crank, floats your own 
boat, as you listen

which, finally, is my greatest wish


R ! chard

Symphony no 14, opus 135 – Dmitri Shostakovich

portrait-of-shostakovich-1976-2.jpg!Large

      “Portrait of Shostakovich (1976)

            Tahir Salahov

                   _______

though I’d feared undertaking Shostakovich’s
14th Symphony – it would be a set of eleven
movements, each setting its own poem to
music, poems by Federico García Lorca,
Guillaume Apollinaire, Rainer Maria Rilke,
and one Wilhelm Küchelbecher, translated 
from their respective languages into Russian,
compounded by once again the fact that this
wasn’t either a symphony, but strictly speaking
a song cycle – I found the 14th Symphony to be,
counterintuitively, a triumph, all the issues I’d
earlier listed as compositional misadventures 
– the play of voice and instruments, the dangers 
of using a single singer, one pitch, to anchor an 
orchestral work – had been dealt with expertly, 
all the obbligatos, even, were back, I couldn’t 
wait to hear it again

Schubert had done several song cycles, 
Die Schöne Müllerin“, “Schwanengesang“,
Winterreise“, for instance, sad stories, 
steeped in Romantic torment, not unlike, 
still in 1969, Shostakovich the 14th  

Schubert, though, accompanies with just a 
piano


but a music cycle, without voice this one, 
no poems, just musical ones, of Liszt, his 
Années de pèlerinage“, his Years as a 
Pilgrim, three years, one, two, three,  
1835 through to 1838, travelling through 
Switzerland and Italy, is consummate, 
ethereal, exquisite, and goes on for a  
few utterly enchanting hours 

one New Year’s Eve, I sat before a cozy fire,  
comfortable on my fluffy sofa, cuddled up 
in the several picturesque melodies along 
the musical way, like station stops on a 
train

did the entire trip with him, nearly three 
hours, the music like a sonic looking glass
a hearing glass, a hearing film, not only 
transparent, but transcendental, into  
very wonderland, beyond even its mere 
incidental geography

that’s what art does, and music, when 
you look, listen

enjoy


R ! chard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Daniel Kharitonov, ll‏

Daniel Kharitonov

Daniel Kharitonov

_________

there ‘ve been extraordinary
performances since Maria Mazo‘s
defining reinvention of Mozart’s
21st Piano Concerto
, the “Elvira
Madigan”, at the XVth International
Tchaikovsky Competition
, worthy
of, believe me, fruitful commentary,
but for the sake of brevity and, of
course, indiscretion, I’ve refrained
from going on and on, and on,
about however many of them, all,
nevertheless, quite outstanding

but before even the end of Daniel
Kharitonov
‘s final and deciding
performance, of Tchaikovsky’s
indomitable 1st Piano Concerto,
followed by whatever by Liszt,
he has, like Maria Mazo, here
given us a new standard for
hearing these indelible musical
epics, she takes over from
Mitsuko Uchida, goddess of
Mozart, he takes over from very
Van Cliburn, you’ve got to go
back to 1958 to have heard
this commanding thunder

Kharitonov is sixteen, a bud
becoming a flower

wow, no matter who wins

Richard

psst: his Liszt, incidentally, will
restore your faith in Liszt

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Daniel Kharitonov‏

Daniel Kharitonov

Daniel Kharitonov

__________

Daniel Kharitonov will be 17 in
December, I think he could win

after the usual misconceived, to
my mind, Bach, which he ends,
however, with lengthened notes
that evoke the organ instead of
the more skittish, less ceremonial
harpsichord, giving credence to
some, at least, rubato in Bach,
for Bach wrote exceedingly for
the organ, he then not only
recaptures your confidence with
an unexpectedly sparkling
“Appassionata”, not easy after
so many, then polishes off his
laurels with virtuosic Liszt,
Chopin and Rachmaninov after
having played a lovely, aptly
contemplative, “Méditation” of
Tchaikovsky

Daniel Kharitonov is going places,
indeed has gone, Carnegie Hall, for
instance, in 2013, he would’ve been
14

watch

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – the program‏‏

"Beethoven, 1987" -  Andy Warhol

Beethoven, 1987 (1987)

Andy Warhol

______

you’ll probably have noted, if you’ve
been following the Tchaikovsky
Competition
, that, unlike the
Rubinstein, the selection of works
is much more constrained, though
the mighties nevertheless
predominate

after the third day and into the
fourth, only one contestant has
started with anything other than
Bach, a Tchaikovsky

but unfortunately none of them but
one had given us a Bach worthy of
his name, then followed through
with, not surprisingly, a quite
competent Mozart, the cultural
conditions being not yet all that
different, aristocrats were looking
for their own music instead of the
church’s, secular instead of
ecclesiastical, therefore a tune
rather than an oratorio, Beethoven
and the Revolution would change
all that

afterwards a sonata of Mozart,
Haydn or Beethoven, the Classical
triumvirate, after which Tchaikovsky,
appropriately at this competition,
then études, either “-tableaux”,
“transcendentales”, or plain and
simple, by Rachmaninov, Liszt, or
Chopin, that’s it, you get to hear
the “Appassionata” or the “Grandes
études de Paganini”
several times
that way, sharpening discernibly
your musical ear

one was riveting, Andrey Dubov‘s

another, Lukas Geniušas transfixed
me with his opus 2, no 3, of
Beethoven, a work I usually only
ever tolerate, sending it soaring
into the bard’s later mature, and
revelatory, period

others have been competent, even
admirable, several, however, not
ready for this trial, they’ve come
without adequate preparation for
the ball

though I’ve been watching it in
my pajamas, I should talk

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition‏ – Jeung Beum Sohn‏

 Jeung Beum Sohn

Jeung Beum Sohn

_________

in the second slot, on the second day,
Jeung Beum Sohn knocks the
competition to date right out of the
ballpark, his every interpretation is
not only flawless, but a revelation

his ostinatos, his agitatos, his
diminuendos, accelerandos, his
every stirring tremolando, are
precise, nuanced, utterly convincing,
his essential spirit more oracular than
merely ever only entertaining

can anyone win after such a
performance

I am impetuous, in my enthusiasm
I’ve promoted it seems already
undeserving contestants, all of
which have nevertheless excited
my undiluted appreciation, though,
apparently, ultimately unwarranted

it appears this competition is
holding out for utter stars,
wondrous elucidators of our
still profoundly influential cultural
heritage, in a manner I deem, and I
use the words advisedly,
determinedly transcendental

check it out

Richard