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Category: Maurice Ravel

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

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Partita no 2, BWV 1004 – J.S. Bach

Leopold_von_Anhalt-Köthen_(1694_-_1728).jpg

         Leopold von Anhalt-Köthen

                      __________

if I haven’t spoken much about Bach
until now it’s that, although he is at 
the very start of our modern music,
having in fact set up its very alphabet,
the scale we’ve been using since, he 
is nevertheless as different from our 
own era in music as Shakespeare is 
to us in literature, both are stalwarts,
but we no longer say, for instance, 
thee or thou, nor write in iambic 
pentameter, nor do we dance 
gavottes at court, nor congregate 
at church to hear cantatas

the turning point is the Enlightenment,
also called the Age of Reason, when 
the concept of God was being 
questioned, if not even debunked, and
the mysteries of nature were being 
rationally resolved, handing authority
to knowledgeable individuals instead
of to popes

by the time of Mozart and Haydn, a
secular tone was gradually pervading 
all of the arts, devoid of any religious 
intentions, sponsors were private 
rather than clerical  

Bach had indeed been hired by a prince,
Leopold of Anhalt-Köthen, but was 
appointed court musician at his ducal 
chapel, Nikolaus l, Prince Esterházy 
wanted Haydn’s music, rather, for his 
court entertainment, and for himself 
as well, incidentally, as a fellow baryton 
player

Mozart was also employed by a prince,
but left when he wasn’t being payed 
well 

times haven’t changed much, see 
Trump, for instance

after the French Revolution, there was
not much call for religious music, 
human rights took the place of God, 
liberté, égalité, fraternité, and all that, 
not to mention the American Bill of 
Rights, and that’s the route we’ve 
been following ever since, for better 
or for worse 

but hey, we’re still reading Shakespeare,
and still listening to Bach, and loving 
both of them, some of us

here’s some more Bach for old times’
sake, his Partita no 2 for solo violin

a partita is just a series of dance suites 
– an allemande, a courante, a sarabande, 
a gigue, and a chaconne, in this case – I 
don’t think anyone other than Bach ever 
wrote some, but his are sublime

it’s kind of like my calling my own 
stuff prosetry, for whatever infinity 
that word might ever deliver, though
no one else might ever use that term
again

listen also to a transposition of its
celebrated last movement, the 
Chaconnefor left-hand piano, in 
this instance, as transposed by 
Brahms, a precursor to Ravel’s 
Concerto in G major for the Left
Hand, written for Paul  
Wittgensteinan already 
accomplished pianist – the much 
more famous philosopher, 
Ludwig‘s, brother – who’d lost his 
right hand during the First World 
War, and who’hopefully be 
inspired, by such positive 
reinforcement

art, music, poetry thrives on such 
heartfelt expressions of sympathy,
compassion, communion

art is the faith that we rely on now 
that God/dess is gone 


R ! chard

Symphony no 7 in C major, opus 60, the “Leningrad”- Dmitri Shostakovich

leningrad-in-blockade-sketch-on-the-theme-of-leningrad-symphony-of-d-d-shostakovich-1943.jpg!Large.jpg

Leningrad in blockade. Sketch on the theme of 
         “Leningrad Symphony” of D. D. Shostakovich. 
                                                                (c.1943) 

     Mstislav Dobuzhinsky

             __________

though I’ve been through the Seventh 
three times already, consecutively, it
doesn’t reach, for me, the heights the 
Fifth did, its first movement is
manifestly imperious, nearly even 
overwhelming, certainly unforgettable, 
I’ve been humming the ostinato in my 
sleep

but the following movements seem to 
me – not being Russian, nor having as
intimately incorporated their culture, 
where rhythms and history are 
inextricably intertwined – muddled 
about the reconstruction of its 
shattered world, melodies might be
lovely but are lost in a blur of musical
directions, there isn’t enough repetition 
of musical motifs to find solid ground, 
angry statements follow lyrical adagios
too often to get our bearings on what 
might be going on 

the first movement, however, remains a 
triumph, note the debt owed to Ravel’s 
Bolero in the rousing ostinato, the 
part where the same musical phrase 
obstinately repeats its peremptory and 
ever more vociferous mantra, its 
headlong incantation, an interesting 
blend in either symphonic work of the 
sinuous, the seductive, the beguiling,
turning into the overtly martial, all to 
do with pulse 

the Symphony no 7, the “Leningrad”,
was first presented in that very city 
during its siege by the Germans
which lasted from 1941 to 1944, 
however unbelievably, Shostakovich, 
already giant, was expected to deliver 
masterpiece by both the people and 
by the regime, imagine Bono doing a
concert for Syria 

Shostakovich doesn’t disappoint

players were culled from what remained 
of instrumentalists among the survivors
of both Stalin’s criminal purges and of 
the German siege itself left in the city, 
those who hadn’t survived the famine
there, Valery Gergiev, an exalted 
Russian conductor, describes them as
walking skeletonsmeagre from 
starvation, we’ve seen these before at 
Auschwitz

the world heard, and was moved, 
imperialism in any form was being 
vociferously condemned, going back 
to Napoleon even and his own failed 
invasion, if not also to Hannibal 
crossing the Alps, Caesar, his 
Rubicon

much of this symphony is about cultural 
resistance, the survival of a proud and 
resilient seed, any proud and resilient 
seed, hence its international standing

see Beethoven’s 9th Symphony for 
comparable fanfare, flourish, and 
circumstance, the only other work of
any such historical political importance
and, appreciably, still unsurpassed,

except for, maybe, Roger Waters
channeling Pink Floyd at the Berlin 
Wall, along with, not incidentally
thereagain Beethoven 


R ! chard

psst: the other great composer of the 
          20th Century, Messiaen, also 
          composed a commemoration of
          an awful moment in our history,
          the Holocaust, his Quartet for 
          the End of Time“, played originally
          in his very concentration camp by 
          similarly “walking skeletons”, does   
          for me everything Shostakovich’s 
          Seventh didn’t 

         

Bassoon Sonata, opus 168 – Camille Saint-Saëns

photo-this-is-the-color-of-my-dreams.jpg!Blog

                  Photo; This is the Color of My Dreams (1925)
 
                                                Joan Miró 
 
                                                   ______
 
 

 for  my sister

a competition program that pits
youngsters against each other,
but on a variety of instruments,
with some operatic voice, has
riveted us to our sets on Friday
evenings, seven o’clock local
time throughout Canada

out of the province of Quebec,
however, and therefore in
French

Virtuose lives up to its name
with extraordinary performances
from mere children, and some
adolescents, you can catch all of
the past episodes, and performers,
on their website

last week a young man delighted
us with a movement from a bassoon
sonata
, an unlikely instrument, of 

Saint-Saëns, his opus 168

my sister expressed surprise,
un basson, she marvelled

quickly I sought out, of course, the
full composition, it’s otherwise for
me like reading one chapter only
out of a book

it’s a short piece, no longer the
grand statements of the earlier
Romantic Period, but a series of
pastiches, fleeting impressions,
impromptu ruminations rather
than extended dissertations,
something like what I’m doing
here with these texts

you’ll recognize also a similar
approach in other composers of
the period, Debussy especially,
but too Satie, Ravel, Poulenc to
name only a few, the speed of
the new century precluded
extended musical peregrinations,
you’ll remark on the dearth of
symphonies, concertos,
composed during this epoch

the composition is in G major, my
cleaning lady had come over, was
already busy in an adjoining room
at the time, I was nearing the
end of the first movement, the
allegro moderato, a wistful
evocation of spring, I thought,
an innocent, fragile blossom
unfurling its delicate petals
with unaffected grace and
unconscious poetry

the final note sounded, the
bassoonist removed his lips from
the tube, but the note kept on
playing, coming, as I soon
understood, not from the video I
was watching, but from the other
room, Jo had turned on the
vacuum cleaner

o my god/dess, I uttered, hurried
over to where she was, subdued
my enthusiasm in order not to
unduly rattle her, as I brimmed
with my scintillating insight

your vacuum cleaner vacuums in
G, I gushed when she turned to
acknowledge me, it continued the
last note, I explained, of the first
movement of my sonata, Saint-
Saëns’ – say that three times with
a lisp, I interjected – until you
turned your vacuum cleaner off,
which is also, I pointed out, a
wind instrument

her delight was modest compared
to mine, however ever nevertheless
congenial, and quickly she returned
to her duties

I went back tickled pink to my
monitor and the following
movement, the sprightly and equally
enchanting allegro scherzando

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Maria Mazo

  "L'oiseau de feu" -  Leon Bakst

L’oiseau de feu (1910)

Leon Bakst

________

after playing Scriabin’s 4th Sonata,
in F# major, opus 30, a passionate
but poised performance of a work
dated 1903, Ravel maybe, or
Debussy, at first I thought, though
neither had ever been so furious in
my recollection, then a transcription
for piano of the last movements of
Stravinsky’s “Firebird”, a work as
obstreperous as the Scriabin, and
as revolutionary, relentless and
brash, much more audacity than
diplomacy however ultimately
treasured universally and celebrated,
Maria Mazo undertakes no less than
the mightiest of the mighty, gasp,
Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier”

she takes on the first two movements
at something of a clip, not an
unwelcome occurence so long as you
have the fingers for it, which on the
strength of her earlier numbers I
deemed she would, and did, which
only added to the gravitas of her then
largo, which thereby became
resplendent, luminous, utterly and
verily, indeed, transcendental, note
the cherubs twittering halfway
through, just before Beethoven
enters the portals of very Heaven
and is transformed into radiance and
incandescent light before your
very astonished sensibilities

Maria Mazo should win

Richard

the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International Piano Master Competition

Thomas Gainsborough - "The Blue Boy (Portrait of Jonathan Buttall" (1770)

The Blue Boy (Portrait of Jonathan Buttall) (1770)

Thomas Gainsborough

____________


if you’ve missed me lately, it’s because I’ve been
in Tel Aviv for the past week, virtually of course,
taking in the 14th Arthur Rubinstein International
Piano Master Competition
, and they’re not kidding,
every challenger to date has been at the very least
astonishingly dextrous, sparkling even, though
some have been hampered by their own dire
program, with the unfortunate added condition
that, for all, they must integrate one of two
commissioned works that, to my mind, are
completely uninspired

other performers have been astounding, lots
of Beethoven of course, Chopin, Liszt, the
technically utterly daunting

among the moderns Ravel takes centre stage
as an option, with too many, to my mind, of his
tedious pieces,“Gaspard de la nuit”, yawn,
“La [, yawn again] valse”

but Bartok pops up, and Prokofiev, a great set
of variations by Szymanowski, unexpectedly,
and, at one point, a completely irresistible
Ligeti, more of which later

Nikolay Khozyainov starts with the only Ravel
I’ve been able to sit through without getting
impatient, “Gaspard de la nuit” to my mind
should stay there, “La valse” should
immediately stop, but Khozyainov‘s “Pavane
pour une infante défunte”
, or “Procession for
a Deceased Princess” was everything you
would want in a dirge, solemn, transcendental,
transfixing

he follows up with a Liszt to knock your socks
off, “Feux follets”, “Fireflies”, fleet as the night
air, as mesmerizing

the final Rachmaninov sonata reminds us of
how wonderful Rachmaninov really was

watch, listen

Richard