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Category: Mozart

String Quartet no 10, opus 74, “The Harp” – Beethoven

primavera-1478(1).jpg!Blog

   “Primavera (1478) 

         Sandro Botticelli 

                 ___________

it’s 1809 and Beethoven rules, essentially,
the musical environment, he’s setting the 
standard, the tone, for the century to 
come and no one is anywhere close to 
challenging his authority, music students 
will remember Carl CzernyMuzio Clementi
for instance, but none of these, however 
noteworthy, contemporaneous composers, 
are even part of, anymore, the recital 
curriculum, think of Salieri and Mozart, 
for instance, without their mischief, who’s 
heard recently of any Salieri 

we’re not in Kansas anymore, this is the 
start of the Romantic Era, four movements,
but not one of them is a minuet, a signature 
element in a Classical composition, nor 
could you, would you want to dance to 
any of them

and this is where Beethoven starts to talk
rather than sing, music that you don’t just
listen to but read, note the disjointed 
rhythms that interject rather than court,
if you’ll pardon the Classical reference, 
from the very beginning of each 
movement, of each, indeed, recapitulation, 
music that is not at all genteel, but rousing, 
commanding

how does he do this

note that his rhythms don’t fall on the 
anticipated beat, they’re off, and 
therefore disconcerting, you need to 
get your bearings

then a motive, a musical idea that, as 
the word suggests, motivates, like a 
key to start an engine, will have an
odd, rather than an even, number of 
notes, like trying to fit a square into   
a circle, or a circle into a square, a 
tricky combination for balanced, by
definition, bar lines, one’s intellectual 
functions are thus activated, one 
doesn’t rest in the comfort of a 
prescribed cadence, but confronts 
the rocky, though constantly 
astonishing, even miraculous, road 
of Beethoven’s invention, adventure, 
if, of course, one’s into that 

instead of Mary had a little lamb, in
other words, we’re hearing, little  
lamb has Marie, accent on the 
wrong syllable, though here we 
might call her Mary, she calls her 
lamb Mouton, not unsurprisingly, 
and it’s always, day after day, 
beside her, which Beethoven then 
sets, as idiosyncratically, to music

he’s, in other words, toying with 
tempo – note the caesurae, the 
pregnant pauses in a melody, the 
multiplication of tempi throughout 
the work as a whole, which imply  
a narrative, a story, especially 
without the traditional, and 
diversionary, dance element 

tonality remains essentially stable, 
despite unusual juxtapositions, odd
intervals – the tonal reach along the 
musical scale, A to G, between two
successive notes – which is to say, 
we’re not yet at Stravinsky

but I find it interesting to observe 
that recapitulation, the third 
Classical imperative, along with 
tempo and tonality, remains 
uninterrupted, not even 
questioned, indeed forcefully 
reinvented 

can there even be music without 
recapitulation, I wonder, whereas 
the other two have since lost their 
immutability – I’m not sure, I’ll have 
to check


thanks wholeheartedly for stopping 

by

R ! chard

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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

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

Minuets in G – Bach / Mozart / Beethoven

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    The Minuet (1866) 

          John Everett Millais

                  _________

having pointed out that the minuet 
and the waltz were historically 
related, let me somewhat 
extrapolate

they are both in 3/4 time, which is 
to say, three quarter-notes to the 
bar, which means that when 
you’re dancing, your beat is one,
two, three, one two three, with 
the accent, usually, on the first 
note

so what happened, how could two
identical frameworks turn out so 
differently 

here’s Bach, 1725, his Minuet in G
the first thing you’ll think is, o, so
that’s what that is, it is an iconic 
number written on our collective
consciousness

the second thing you’ll notice is
that it is choppy, however delightful, 
that it is written for a harpsichord,
and that it’s probably not ready, 
despite it’s 3/4 time, to be a waltz,
too many curtsies

here’s Mozart, 1762, his Minuet in G
though you might not want to admit 
it, I suspect this number is much
more present in your subconscious
than you’d think, see if you don’t 
find yourself later on humming it

but it’s still way too polite to be a
waltz, you can easily imagine the 
partners, hands held high together
around their imaginary maypole,
courting, but there’s a touch more 
fluidity in the progression of the
notes, it is written for a fortepiano,
an instrument that has added the
hold, or the sustain, pedal to the 
harpsichord to increase a note’s
resonance, a loosening of the 
earlier constraints of that 
quintessentially Baroque 
instrument, a cannily apt 
metaphor, take into account, for 
the unfolding cultural r/evolution

here’s Beethoven, 1796, his Minuet 
in Gyou’ve heard this one too

the Revolution has taken place, 
but entrenched in the music of an
earlier era, the beat remains the 
same, this is not a waltz, despite 
it’s 3/4 progression

you’ll note, however, more spin 
to the cadences, more give, more
elasticity, much of this has to do 
with the development of the 
central instrument, which was 
about to become a pianoforte,
instead of a fortepiano, but 
‘nough said about that, I’ll let 
you feel it

here’s Chopin, 1833, his Grande 
valse brillante, Opus 18, written
for itself, the piano, it is indeed 
a waltz, the difference is in the 
piano’s ever evolving flexibility, 
again a metaphorical expression 
of, or an avatar for, the unleashing 
of personal freedom, an idea spun 
ineradicably from the lessons of
the French, and the, incidentally, 
nearly simultaneous, 1776, 1789, 
American Revolutions

for better or for worse 


R ! chard

a short history of the waltz

waltz-1891-1.jpg!Large

  “Waltz (1891) 

    Anders Zorn

       ________

inadvertently, during my last comments
I let slip, perhaps, prematurely – cause I
thought I’d explore earlier Romantic 
pieces first, more Beethoven, more 
Paganini – the word waltz, when I 
referenced the “Minute Waltz”, a dance 
which expressed a sea change in 
Western cultural history made 
manifest through music 

though the waltz was already the rage
in lowlier social circles in the late 
1700’s, the minuet still held sway in 
the more aristocratic salons, whose 
young swains nevertheless would 
skip out to ferret out the servants’ 
quarters, as young swains do

slowly the dance, for its more 
informal aspects, not to mention 
its sensuous intimacy, became so 
astonishingly mainstream as to 
define pretty well the very century, 
Chopin and the Strausses, Father 
and Son, would take care of that, 
the last two making a carnival out 
of very Vienna

but until the late 1820’s, not much 
was heard of the waltz in the 
musical curriculum, at which 
point it’ll come in with a vengeance  

not much from Beethoven, who, in 
his fifties, was probably about as ,
interested in waltzes as I am in hip 
hop, a ditty only, a trifle, this one,
1824, one of only two waltzes 
from him 

here’s Johann Strauss l, however, 
his Carnival in Venice, 1828, is a 
waltz in Carnival clothing, like 
cadenzas, for instance, in the 
guise of Paganini “Caprices”

here’s Johann Strauss ll, the son,
with his Wiener Blut“, “The Spirit 
of Vienna“, electrifying, 1873, the 
late already 19th Century

but here’s Chopin doing his stuff
1847, right in the middle of both, 
from far away Paris, which was 
going through its list of Empire 
changes right about then, his
Waltz in C-sharp minor

Chopin’s waltz is a more decorous 
composition, more courtly, more 
also introspective, contemplative, 
private, indeed Romantic

note how strongly the Classical 
unities still apply here, tempo, 
tonality and repetition, even more 
markedly than in Beethoven, Chopin 
is Mozart, but with more sentiment, 
and perhaps more rubato, stretching 
the rhythm in composition to 
accommodate a dancer’s presumed 
dip, in his otherwise meditational 
compositions 

the waltz will undergo trials and 
tribulations later, as the world 
turns, but I’ll keep those 
reflections for later

meanwhile, choose your partner


R ! chard

“Caprices” for Solo Violin – Paganini

musical-f-te-1747.jpg!Large

    “Musical Fête (1747) 

           Giovanni Paolo Panini

                        ____________

though by now you must be assuming 
that Beethoven had been defining the
entire early Romantic Period all by 
himself, 1803, let’s say, to, say, 1810, 
when Schubert, 13 by then, started 
kicking in, however immaturely, with 
his D1 – D1, note, not D960, over a 
thousand compositions later, a work 
imbued, so early, not unexpectedly,  
with the irrepressible spirit of Mozart, 
and therefore, by thenincidentally, 
audibly outdated – but you would be, 
we would  be, overlooking the extraordinary  
influence of a maverick, a relic of the  
earlier Italian domination of the arts, 
from the Renaissance, at least, on – 
Paganini – the wizard of the 
violin, who’d sold his soul, like Faust,  
to the devil, it was susurrated, for his
extraordinary gift
 
Bach had not only changed the course 
of musical history, in the early 18th
Century, but shanghaied the very 
language of art as oracular expression,
and substituted music as the voice that 
spoke for the people, music will define 
henceforth, for a time, the period
 
there is the Italian Baroque, of course,
utterly masterful paintings, sublime
even, see abovebut it has been 
supplanted in our 21st-Century 
popular imagination by the Baroque 
of the German nations, their music, 
Bach’s, transcendental then, though 
ever so intricate, descriptions of his 
particular epoch 

this dominance will migrate to Paris, 
eventually, and back to art, painting, 
after over a hundred tumultuous, 
and impermeable, years, with the 
Impressionists, in the late 19th 
Century

meanwhile, Paganini will get in the 
way, 1780 – 1840, an exact, more or 
less, contemporary of Beethoven, 
1770 – 1827, and show off what 
Romantics can do, unleashed, 
before a newly enfranchised, and 
thrilled, as you will surely be, 
audience  

watch, be dazzled


R ! chard

psst: the Caprices are essentially
          cadenzas, the improvised solo
          sections in concertos, where 
          instrumentalists get to show 
          off their stuff, and riff, however
          exponentially, on their subject

          Paganini, makes an art form 
          of that, as do others, whom 
          I’ll bring up, trust me, later

          stay tuned

 

Mozart / Haydn piano sonatas

Portrait_of_Princess_Friederike_Luise_of_Prussia_(1714-1784),_Margravine_of_Brandenburg.jpg

    Princess Friederike Luise of Prussia (1714-1784), Margravine of Brandenburg

              ____________

if you had trouble distinguishing your
Schubert from your Beethoven, you’ll
probably have trouble as well telling
your Mozart from your Haydn, though
you won’t find it difficult, if you listen,  
to tell the earlier two from the latter

both the Haydn here, and the Mozart,
were written in 1789, the year of the 
French Revolution, something akin 
to our 9/11, the world changed from
one moment to the next 

the first two were still doing parties,
which is to say, salon music, stuff 
for elites, you can hear it, frivolities,
with, however magical, elaborations
– Liberace, I thought – nothing ever 
as confessional as the two later 
composers, who, with the new 
fervour around individual opinion, 
in the wake of questions even about 
the validity of God, would create the 
very Romantic Era 

Mozart and Haydn explore songs,
ditties, Beethoven and Schubert 
investigate very fundamental 
musical constructions, they’re 
down to the very essence of 
tonal possibilities, something 
that happened to the pictorial 
arts in the 1950’s, as artists 
probed the cerebral implications 
of colour, see for instance, 
Rothko

their probe itself becomes more 
powerful than their apparent 
subject, the tune, though the 
melody proves to be, ever, the 
cement that keeps the meditation 
together

what it says, what they say, is
that confronting our destiny, 
we remain the only arbiter, its
outcome will be as beautiful 
as we make it, for better or for 
worse, the creation of 
something beautiful, a work 
that can be so beautiful, much
like a life, seems to be a reply 
that can somewhat, at least, 
existentially satisfy a sense 
of purpose 

what, otherwise

  
R ! chard

psst: Mozart’s piano sonata was written 
          for Princess Friederike Luise of
          Prussia, pictured above 

what’s up in Frankfurt – Piano Sonata in F minor, “Appassionata” – Beethoven

the-conversation-of-napoleon-and-francois-ii-1808.jpg!Large

  “The conversation of Napoleon and Francois II (1808) 

        Pierre-Paul Prud’hon

________

it’s 1804, Beethoven has entered his
Middle Period, left the more formal 
constraints of the Classical Period, 
Mozart and Haydn, behind, though
perhaps not essentially, the 
structure remains, hardwiredbut 
its spirit is entirely different, 
revolutionarily different, thanks to
Napoleon

and Beethoven is as opinionated 
as the revolutionaries, boisterous,
adamant, peremptory even, he is 
Zeus, and not undeservedly, at 
the top of Olympus’ musical 
mountain, where, incidentally, 
he still prevails, harmony’s very 
Homer

by his Opus 57, the Appassionata” 
– a name not of his own invention, 
but, however discriminately, ascribed 
later – he isn’t as metaphysical as 
Schubert is in that later poet’s D960
Beethoven is still writing descriptive 
texts, torrid novels, however 
masterfully illustrated, more than 
the philosophical stuff he’ll later 
undertake, even topping, when that
takes place, Schubert’s, ever, 
nevertheless, transcendental D960
if you can believe it

but Schubert remained a stripling, 
Beethoven, his elder, was given the 
grace to probe longer his humanity,
however might it have been equally 
cruelly benighted, and to stretch his 
speculative reach into previously 
unimagined dimensions, beyond 
the limited temporal scope of the 
surely shriven since Schubert 

all of whose wonders have defied 
the harsh indignities of time, and 
continue still to profoundly and
indelibly reverberate

listen, marvel


R ! chard

a Beethoven / Schubert piano recital

charlotte-rothsch-baroness-anselm-de-rothschild-1828.jpg!Large

 “Charlotte Rothsch, Baroness Anselm De Rothschild (1828) 

       Ary Scheffer

           _______

since Beethoven wrote nothing of any 
great consequence for four-hand piano,
I thought at first I’d head towards another 
kind of pairing, but upon listening to the 
complete recital here of the two Jussen 
brothers, where Beethoven’s “Variations 
on a Theme by Count von Waldstein”, 
1792, a trifle, and his later “Waldstein” 
Sonata, 1804, for piano solo, an infinitely 
more accomplished work of his Middle 
Period, both dedicated to the same good 
friend and patronbookend a flurry of  
enchanting Schubert compositions, 
the contrast between the two composers, 
if not starkly evident, is at least 
discernable if you listen with some 
degree of attention

the difference is in the tone, the intention, 
Beethoven is brash, assertive, Schubert 
remains ever respectful, even often 
courtly

you’ll note that after the fall of Napoleon, 
the monarchy was restored in France, 
therefore throughout the whole of 
Europe, which had resumed its more 
genteel pretensions, as had, for instance,  
even Chopin himself, you’ll remember, in 
very Paris, where he’d relocated from 
Poland because of its political unrest

I’ve often said that a distinct characteristic 
of Beethoven is that he writes against the 
beat, rather than stressing the first note 
of the air he is developing, he accentuates 
the second, or third, the next still, or the 
very last

don’t go, I wish you’d stay here, he, for 
example, beseeches, if you transpose 
his notes in the last movement of the 
Waldsteinthe one after the lugubrious 
adagio, into words, don’t go, he strikes, 
I wish you’d stay, don’t go, I wish you’d 
stay here, don’t go, wish you’d stay, 
wish you’d stay, wish you’d stay,
accent each time on the stay 

in Schubert’s Fantasie for four-hand 
piano, written a generation later, in 1828, 
and admittedly powerfully influenced by 
Beethoven, though no more derivatively 
than Mozart would’ve been of Haydn, try, 
I hear a bird sing, I hear it sing, I hear it 
sing, it sounds so lovely, to the lovely 
melody at its very beginning, one 
composer is peremptory, the other is 
more subservient, confessional

this is what I mean by intention, and the 
difference between these two towering 
geniuses, who shaped together the 
music of their era, however might they 
have been otherwise total strangers

they are both musical giants upon 
whose shoulders our Western culture  
still stands, and swoons, before such 
an utterly transcendent legacy

listen


R ! chard

String Quintet in C major, D. 956 – Franz Schubert

the-sistine-madonna-1513.jpg!Large

   “The Sistine Madonna (1513)
 
          Raphael


          __________ 

 

if you listen to only one piece of music  
this week, make it this one, Schubert’s 
a monument of Western culture, it’d be
like missing the Venus de Milo when 
you’re at the Louvre, or the Sistine 
Madonna of Dresden’s Zwinger 
the church of Saint Agnes Outside the 
Walls, transformative experiences

quartets, I couldn’t not next introduce
their very gold standard 
 
written in 1828, it was composed at 
the very height of the Romantic 
Period, just a little ahead of Chopin,
1810 – 1849, his other significant 
counterpart, apart from the ageing
Beethoven, 1770 – 1827, who still 
towered above all, despite his 
demise, and was universally 
admired 
 
but had Schubert lived longer than 
his 31 years, I suspect he might’ve 
been Beethoven’s equal, Schubert 
died even earlier than Mozart did, 
at 35, but of something that wasn’t
spoken of until much later, which 
is why we haven’t heard about the 
loss of this other musical giant
quite as grievously as we have 
about his somewhat more senior 
counterpart
 
but listen
 
it’s even hard to tell him apart from 
Beethoven, the passion, the urgency, 
the drama, even composing against 
the beat, a signature trait in 
Beethoven, like Alfred Hitchcock 
showing up in his own movies, or
Woody Allen, always introducing a 
work of art
 
a few things
 
though the frame is immaculately 
Classical, tonality, tempo, and 
recapitulation are not at all 
unobserved, the mood has changed 
from courteous, deferential, and 
respectful, to urgent, confessional, 
and private, the walls are there, but 
the furniture has changed, thanks 
of course here to Beethoven
 
and to the times
 
was writing her Sonnets from the 
Let me count the ways. – right about 
thenunfettered love poems to her 
beloved husband, Robertthe equally 
famous poet, who was remaining 
nevertheless, in his own work, more 
emotionally punctilious
 
I noted as well that the tempo in the 
second movement, one of the most 
beautiful adagios eversurely, 
lurches into an intemperate rebellion,
a second rhythm, up against the earlier 
mournful resignation of the poignant 
lament – note, in passing, that its 
stress of the dominant note is on the 
last beat not the first, like a weight 
that becomes, at every inching 
forward, intolerable, very path to a 
personal Calvary – before returning 
to that very fateful, though luminous, 
initial, stricken dirge

the next movement, the scherzo, does 
the reverse, fast, then slow, then fast 
again, to give the work in its entirety
eight rather than the four traditional 
tempi
 
the piece now has episodes, rather 
than merely a clockwork display,
drama has replaced the dance
entirely as the subtext for music
 
Schubert died two weeks after its
publication, for your info, I think 
his soul had been talking
 
 
R ! chard

psst: there’s a magical film I associate 
          with this music, The Company 
          of Strangers“, a Canadian 
          production, about several elderly
          ladies who get stuck in the 
          wilderness after their tour bus  
          breaks down in the middle of 
          nowhere
 
          you’ll never forget it