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Category: Mozart

the milonga

for-a-better-life-iii.jpg

   For a Better Life III 

          Fabian Perez

             ________

milonga, a song with a syncopated 
beat, is the musical form that gave 
birth to the tango, I wondered what 
one could be after my mom brought
my attention to one in a program for 
an upcoming event in our cityI had 
to look it up 

my only clue was that it was by 
Astor Piazzolla, the Argentinian who 
in the 20th Century reinvigorated the 
tango nearly all by himself, but in 
translation from Spanish to English,
milonga still came up milonga, what 
could milonga be, I asked 

here then, by Astor Piazzolla, is
what we’d be hearing

you’ll want to pay attention too to  
the paintings of Fabian Perez, also 
an Argentinian, which visually 
accompany the music, they are 
equally as seductive as the 
irresistible Piazzollan rhythms  

on the program as well, for a 
completely different musical 
experience, is Mozart’s Clarinet
Quintet, a piece I wrote about 
several years ago here, but must 
revisit, there is no more beautiful 
clarinet quintet, in my estimation,
and not many musical pieces are 
either as beautiful 

I won’t say a word about the other 
piece on this eclectic upcoming
programbut to say that I’d arrive 
after the intermission

R ! chard

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an homage to the victims of the Titanic

the-fighting-temeraire-tugged-to-her-last-berth-to-be-broken-up-1839.jpg!Large

  The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up (1839) 

          William Turner

                _______

while I’m on the subject of threnodies
which is to say “song[s] of lamentation
for the dead”, as I earlier statedlet me 
bring your attention to this extraordinary 
piece, an homage to the victims of the
Titanic
 
it doesn’t even have a title, much as 
Mozart and Haydn didn’t before music 
went mainstream, into public forums 
rather than merely aristocratic salons, 
and when an identifying moniker 
instead of a number became manifestly 
more practical, especially when the 
emerging Middle Classes were 
becoming the ones who were paying 
the composer’s bills, at the opera 
houses and the other sprouting 
concert venues, when some composers 
had even up to 32 sets of piano sonatas 
to remember, three and four often to 
a single set, opus number, as many as 
there are movements in a very sonata

and that’s not counting the numbered 

symphonies and string quartets of 
theirs, left to similarly calculate, 
decipher, extricate

it doesn’t have a title, I think, because
to my knowledge, it is the first of its
kind, a composition created by 
computer, for computer, an entirely 
self-contained digital work of, 
manifestly, art – I’d been waiting, 
diligently, for one – and like Beethoven, 
after the work was done, the artist(s)
just felt the title best left to the 
wordsmiths, thus – you’re welcome –  
Threnody for the Victims of the 
Titanic

sure, computers have done practical
things before, admirably, but never 
told a story, and certainly never one 
as profound as this one

these are the last moments of the 
Titanic, digitally reproduced, in real 
time, 2 hours and 40 minutes, they
are mesmerizing, you don’t want 
to miss a thing

there are no voices, apart from a 
few radio transmissions at the 
start, spotting the iceberg, calling 
out commands to beware, stop 
the engines

afterwards only silence, and the 
sound of the waves, the churning
of the engines, which have been 
restarted, sounding as rhythmic, 
incidentally, and numbing, as the 
wheels on the railroad tracks of
Steve Reich‘s Different Trains“,
another powerful threnody 

later the flash and crack of flares,
the crunch of the ship sinking  

the pervasive, however disrupted, 
silence and the inexorable passage 
of ever ticking time combine to be, 
thereafter, transfixing, meditative, 
ultimately transcendent, a fitting 
setting for a threnody 

I know of only another work to take
you to that venerable place,
Beethoven’s opus 111

and often enough Pink Floyd, for 
that matter, and the visionary 
Alan Parsons Project, of course, 
discoursing on inexorable Time 

and, now that I think of it, Elgar‘s
The Dream of Gerontius, whose 
character goes from his deathbed 
in the first act, to his afterlife in 
the second, effecting transcendence
for us by, yes, ingenious 
metaphorical proxy

but I digress

what I call Threnody for the Victims 
of the Titanic is a narrative with 
sound, not a movie, not a television
program, it has more commonality 
with a musical production than 
anything else but painting in art 
history, though its means are 
intuitively literary, ship stories go
back to The Odyssey through
Gulliver’s TravelsTreasure 
Island and to one of my very 
favourites, Ship of Fools“,
relatively recently

I could add Mutiny on the Bounty“,
Moby Dick“, “The Caine Mutiny 

in art, a precedent would’ve been set
in our collective consciousness by 
William Turner‘s celebratedThe 
Fighting Temeraire …, but I would 
mention as well Caspar David 
Friedrich‘s The Wanderer above 
the Sea of Fog for its existential
pertinence

a few literary points I’d like to stress
to back up my overt adulation, I find  
it impressive that the Classical rules
of tragedy have been maintained, 
unity of action, time, and place, 
prescriptions going back to 
Aristotle‘s Poetics in our cultural 
history, to profoundly express 
tragedy, iconic, epic, misfortune

not to mention the Classical musical
imperatives of tempo, tonality and 
repetition, none of which can be 
faulted here in this consummate 
composition

there is a no greater leveller of tempo 
than time, larghissimo here*, in the 
largest sense of that word, the 
cosmic, the inexorable pace of 
temporality in our brief heavens

a greater leveller of tonality neither  
is there than the rigorously impartial 
hum of the imperturbable Cosmos 

nor is there greater repetition than 
uniformity, however disrupted by  
however fervent ever human 
intervention, see Sisyphus, or 
Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia
Woolf for iconic disrupters

R ! chard

*   Shostakovich had asked the 
     Beethoven Quartet to play the first 
     movement of his 15th String Quartet,
     “Elegy: Adagio“, so that flies 
     drop dead in mid-air, and the 
     audience start leaving the hall from 
     sheer boredom  

     well this inspired elucidation is even  
     slower than that

“Is Art Truth?”

paradise-jpglarge

  “Paradise” 

        Hieronymus Bosch

                   __________

Is Art Truth?“, a friend asks after speaking of 
its benefits, “Art accepts and tells the truth-Is
that it ?“, she inquires, wonders

art, like truth itself and beauty, is in the eye 
of the beholder, I submit, and therefore my 
definition is, once again, entirely personal, 
though I’ve rigorously plumbed it

it requires background

art died for a thousand years, it was 
essentially unrecorded, dormant from 
the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, nor 
promoted but for Catholic purposes, 
hence the majestic cathedrals and the 
magisterial altarpieces, works produced 
by, however, communities until eventually 
certain artisans were recognized as more 
inspired than others, and given autonomy

enter Duccio, for instance

in time these new, necessarily idiosyncratic
perspectives – see Hieronymus BoschDante
Alighieri – dominated, veering in their search 
for truth in their art and beauty – selling points,
incidentally – towards less strictly orthodox 
utterances

see above

art, and its contemporary science, were 
chipping away at ecclesiastical dogma

till God died, and artists continued their 
prescient march forward, shaping our 
zeitgeist, our spirit of the times, with 
their pronouncements for lack of any 
other guides

but the voices grew personal, see Mozart
often profound and prophetic, see 
Beethoven, till the confluence of disparate 
realities gave us secularism, each soul for 
itself as a tenet, a credo, a belief, a truth

what did they have in common

I believe it was their quest for beauty 
through truth, their quest for truth 
through beauty, with a nod here to 
the salient Keats 

art is prayer, a search for, as well as a 
manifestation of, one’s personal 
identification with the sacred

it is not truth, it is not beauty, it is the 
fervent intention itself, linked with a 
correspondent workmanship, craft, 
which inspires 

see for instance van Gogh for this, who, 
remember, nevertheless shot himself, 
artists are mortal, merely, messengers, 
ever, therefore, fallible, unsure, fearful 
even, often, of their, perhaps 
Promethean, fire

for consolation, or even maybe 
transcendence, see again,
pertinently here, Beethoven  

listen

Richard

psst: thanks, Joan

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 – Maria Mazo, ll‏

"Elvira Madigan"

a still from the movie “Elvira Madigan

________________

there’s been a second round of
recitals, enough to make you
weary of sonatas, unless you’re
stalwart, devoted, primed

the prizes have been awarded,
the results posted at the site,
so that any mystery, excitement,
has been chilled, had you been
in any way excited about your
choices

they certainly rained on my
parade

by now most of my favourites
have gone down, others have
been perfunctory, to my mind,
but three, which surely I’ll
cover, but presently let me
start with Maria Mazo, a
wonder, who’d wowed me
earlier with her
transcendental Beethoven

here, with an orchestra, she
takes on a monument of the
20th Century, Mozart’s 21st
Piano Concerto, better known
since the mid-20th Century as
the theme to the movie,
Elvira Madigan, a forgotten
film now, however enchanting,
but this is where a generation
learned about Mozart

Maria Mazo sets the new
standard here, this is how
you’ll hear this concerto from
now on, it is magical, it is
mystical, it is extraordinary,
it’s right up there with the
greatest, who are presently
handing over to her our
musical reins

thank you, Mitsuko Uchida,
with the greatest admiration

strangely Maria Mazo didn’t
even place

who could ‘a’ ever thunk it

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Shino Hidaka

  "The Musical Contest" -  Jean-Honoré Fragonard

The Musical Contest (1754-5)

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

______

with only four contestants to go,
I already crown Shino Hidaka the
winner of the XVth Tchaikovsky
Competition
, this kind of affinity
only comes around once in a
lifetime, her Bach was not only
perfect but inspired, probing,
her ensuing Chopin,
mesmerizing, the Beethoven
that followed aptly, though ever
unexpectedly, transcendental,
transcendence not ever
happening without absolute
mystical concentration, her
Tchaikovsky, an evocation
rather than a mere description
of a Russian village, her
Rachmaninov, on utter fire

Dmitry Shishkin, before her,
neither was un-brilliant, a
consummate technician,
however, rather than an outright
revelation, his spirited Bach was
a turning point for me, finally
someone who got it, his Mozart,
as frivolous and delightful as
Mozart would’ve wanted it to be,
the rest appropriately everywhere
dazzling, second, therefore, ever
so illustrious, nevertheless,
prize, bravo

neither, incidentally, milked any
of their notes, just played what
was written

Richard

psst: compare Fragonard, above, to
Mozart, a synaesthetic match,
where sight and sound are
interwoven, giving you social
intimations of the mid-18th
Century

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Bach‏

"J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)" -  Robert Strûbin

“J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)” (1957)

Robert Strûbin

________

if I’ve been getting on their backs
about their Bachs at the Tchaikovsky
Competition
, it’s that they’re playing
Bach as though he were mediocre
Beethoven, it’s like asking Duke
Ellington to be Pink Floyd, it’s just
a completely different generation,
era

Bach wrote for the harpsichord, a
precursor to the piano, it could not
control the volume, nor the length
of a note, the pianoforte came
along to resolve both issues

therefore before Beethoven, who
made full use of the new invention
and worked hard the pianissimos
and the fortissimos, to degrees that
often became either inappropriate
or too authoritative, indelicate or
obnoxious if you’re not in the mood
– I remember wanting to play his so
solemn 111 at my father’s funeral,
but realized late that the first
movement was not especially in
that situation warranted, nor even
parts of the transcendental, but not
always not obstreperous, adagio –
and thumbed thus his nose at the
aristocracy, who earlier, before
the citoyens had demanded their
rights and when the world had
been considered to be of a
rational, logical order, a clock,
and as regular, would never have
tolerated such impudence

Bach and Mozart do not sway
much from strict rhythm, neither
do they alter volume much at all

so that the constant display of
heartfelt Bach and passionate
Mozart becomes cloying, and
not at all what these Classical
and Baroque masters would
have approved of

nor Beethoven, nor Chopin, for
that matter, whose strict tempo
markings didn’t include much
rubato, ritardandos, which you
could think of as milking a note,
putting velvet on your canvas,
it doesn’t work, the composition
itself unaided by bathos, pathos,
delivers, check out, of course,
Glenn Gould

Andrei Korobeinikov sat me right
down the other night with his
arresting BWV868, thrilling,
followed by more dazzling
pyrotechnics, though he fizzled,
and fractured his Beethoven, the
very 111 I care so much for, I
couldn’t even finish, you don’t
need a velvet canvas behind the
111, neither cloying ritardandos,
just skill, nor tangles of notes,
for that matter

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 – June 16, 2015

Emmanuel Rimoldi

Emmanuel Rimoldi

__________

perhaps was I precipitous in my prompt
appraisal of a promising participant on
the first day of the XVth International
Tchaikovsky Competition, for every
other pianist, but two, was not
unequal to the plaudits I’d earlier
pronounced for this powerful
preliminary performer

it appears there are, indeed,
several

after an egregious error in her
Beethoven, a rhythmic miscalculation
that erupts like breaking wind at a
formal function, and needs to be
recovered by something, someone,
who will, which will, overwhelm the
unwelcome air, Maria Mazo quickly
rallies and delivers a Beethoven
you’re not likely to forget, followed
by a bouquet of other marvellous
concoctions

but Emanuel Rimoldi eventually
wins the day, June 16th, to my mind,
with a resplendent, and revelatory
Mozart, followed by other equally
dazzling interpretations

check them out

Richard

Alban Berg Violin Concerto‏

"Little Girl in Blue," - Chaim Soutine

Little Girl in Blue (c.1934-c.1935)

Chaim Soutine

________

though Apollo had offered the two
complimentary symphony tickets
he’d scored to my sister and my
mom, my mom bowed out and
suggested I, an adept, should
instead go along, though I needed
to know more about the content,
who and what would be on, no
one knew

meanwhile my sister, preferring not
to leave her husband alone, opted
to cede her ticket to Apollo so he
could accompany me

after some research, when I gushed
that Akiko Suwanai would be playing
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D
minor – his only one, I cried – Apollo
reconsidered, would, he said, come
along, my enthusiasm having struck
apparently a reverberant chord, a key,
maybe his D minor

once at the concert, to our surprise
and delight, my sister and her
husband, under the spell also of that
maybe bewitching key, had got rush
tickets for essentially, as it were,
a song, so that serendipitously we
all attended the superb performance
together

Dad does concert tickets too, my
sister exulted

Suwanai was transcendent, lifted me
from my seat at the very first touch of
her exquisite bow, I floated, though it
might’ve been also the magic chocolate
I’d bought at the corner, this is Vancouver
after all, known also, not inappropriately,
as Vansterdam

you’ve heard rapturous versions of
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto on at
least one of my earlier blogs,
Anne-Sophie Mutter’s there, Joshua
Bell’s
, but I couldn’t get any of Akiko
Suwanai’s renditions on the Internet

found instead for you this wonderful
Berg
, also his only violin concerto

Berg is of the Second Viennese
School, along with Schoenberg and
Webern, this is no longer Beethoven,
the advent of the First World War in
the Western world had fundamentally
altered everything, the arts were
reflecting this transformation, idioms
were abandoned in every creative field,
as well as in borders and forms of
government, rudiments were being
questioned, tested, see what Soutine
does, for instance, to traditional
representation above, to perspective,
colour, proportions

you’ll note that Berg’s Concerto
doesn’t stipulate a key, part of the
disintegration musical theory was
undergoing, twelve-tone music,
rather than the traditional eight,
was eliminating the subordination
of sharps and flats within scales,
atonality became dominant,
sounding a lot like the cacophony,
I think, of Twentieth-Century traffic

you won’t mistake however the
utterly Romantic sensibility beating
through Berg’s composition, midst
all the discord and the dissonance
you can’t miss his pulsing and
ardent heart, his wistful, dare I say,
heartstrings

there are two movements to the
concerto, the first representing life,
the second death and transfiguration,
Berg had written this, his last work,
for Alma Mahler’s daughter, Manon,
after she died of polio at the age of
18, Alma Mahler had been Gustav
Mahler’s wife, a musical giant, Berg
dedicated the piece, he wrote,
“to the memory of an angel”

Berg died later that same year,
Christmas Eve, 1935, he was 50

Richard

psst: the first part of the programme
had been a bust except for a
lovely piece for violin and koto

what’s a koto, I asked Apollo

it’s what you wear when you’re
coldo, he replied

a koto is a bit like a xylophone,
but with strings instead of
wooden bars, the performer
had dressed in traditional
Japanese garb for the special
Japanese occasion