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Category: Mozart

String Quintets – Mozart / Beethoven

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           Claude Monet
 
               ________
 
 
concerned about presenting Beethoven’s 
Opus 59, the next significant string quartets 
of the early 19th Century, too early – 
Beethoven had, incidentally, at that point no 
rivals – I preferred to establish his credentials, 
rather than to enter his next phase, equivalent 
to the move from representational art to 
Impressionism in painting, a sea change,  
people would’ve balked at the very concept   
of an alternative vision, and indeed they 
were confused
 
this sea change, I should point out, challenged 
the very notions of what not only art should be, 
but also music, and literature, indeed very life 
perspectives, philosophies
 
therefore the Romantic Period, when 
expressions of personal epiphanies began 
to crowd the new democratic environment 
after the French Revolution, 1789, all of 
which would lead to, eventually, our own 
allegiance to, at least in the West, the 
concept of human rights
 
music was already, in other wordstalking,
and with Beethoven, indeed vociferously 
 
 
still adheres to Classical conditions, 
but bursts through them emotionally
 
written only 14 years earlier, one of six
of his
 
you won’t find them, perhaps, on the 
surface, to be very different, wouldn’t 
be able to even tell them apart in a
blind pinch 
 
but juxtaposing, as I always urge, 
sharpens one’s aesthetic pencil, ask
yourself, in this case, according to 
your senses, which of the compositions 
is earlier, you’ll find your senses have 
already told you
 
everything flows from that initial 
answer, when you ask yourself why  
you think that
 
 
I’d asked my mom at Belvedere, 
Vienna, whose painting hung across 
the hall we’d just entered
 
she demurred, of course, considering 
herself not up to the challenge, despite 
several visits together we’d had among 
a wonder of other European art galleries
 
I insisted
 
she tossed off, okay, Renoir, an easy 
answer, though it turned out to be a 
Degas, or the reverse, or whatever 
 
but upon reaching the painting, of 
course, Degas, she said, knowing full 
well it was himhaving lacked only the 
pluck and the confidence 
 
who’s that, I asked, turning to another
master
 
Monet, she replied, confidently
 
and was, as I’d anticipated she would 
becorrect, she can now tell her 
Rembrandtfrom her Courbets, her
Canalettos from her Vermeers also
 
we know of a lot more than we 
think we do
 
 
R ! chard
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Cello Concerto no 2 in D major – Haydn

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         A Cello (1921)

        Louis Marcoussis

             ___________

between Bach’s transcendent Suites for
Cello and Beethoven’s reinvention of that 
instrument, two only cello works occupy
the last half of that century, both by
Haydn

his Second, however, Concerto, written 
several years later than his First, 1783, 
indeed nearly twenty years later, seems 
to me less accomplished, though ever, 
nevertheless, unimpeachably, and 
impressively, Haydn 

the first movement is long, long works 
only until you start thinking it’s long

the initial melody in the adagio, the 
second movement, struck me as artificial, 
saccharine, though Haydn weaves magic, 
not unexpectedly, still, and  
continuously, around it in its 
development, his elaboration of it

and the pace of the third movement, 
following the second, is disconcerting 
rather than surprising, rather than, 
were it effective, delightful

Mozart wrote a Cello Concerto too, 
apparently, but, if so, it is lost

otherwise we’re on to the next historical
epoch, Beethoven’s, after this inauspicious 
turn at this generation for the cello, lost 
for a while among the more assertive 
instruments of that prim, and proper,
Classical Era


R ! chard

French Suite no 3 in B minor – Bach

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   “Dance of the Majos at the Banks of Manzanares (1777)

           Francisco Goya

                _________

upon reading up somewhat on the different
Bach Suites, I’ve provisionally concluded
that the earlier English Suites, 1715 to 1720,
were a modification of the established form 
of the suite, which would not have included 
a prelude, which isn’t, indeed, a dance

the Cello Suites follow, ahem, suit

but by the French Suites, 1722 to 1725, Bach 
is eschewing – Gesundheit – the prelude, but 
inserting, however, an air in his Fourth – an  
air is not either a dance – and mixing up  
their order in the later Suites, a minuet, for 
instance, in the last one of them, his Sixth,  
coming up after the gigue, which sports even
also a polonaise, where in his Fifth, Bach adds  
a loure, I ask you, a slow French gigue, to his  
bristling concoction

the terms French and English, incidentally, 
were added only after Bach’s demise, for 
diverse and uncorroborated reasons, so 
that these titles probably don’t mean much 
to a contemporary audience, who can’t tell, 
anyway, our gavottes from our bourrées

the music of Bach is like that of no other 
composer, he owns essentially the Baroque
Period, having, in fact, wrenched the Era 
from the painters, who’d established it in 
art to such a degree that it defined its
earlier historical phase

with Bach, the torch is handed over to 
music, from then on until the 
Impressionists, the period is defined 
by composers, both Classical, then 
Romantic, with some poets holding 
some sway 

the technique that dominates the music 
of Bach is that of counterpoint, where 
a tune is repeated in the harmonization
a few beats from its first iteration, 
vocally, we call that singing in canon

his music is introspective, as though 
the player were privately meditating,
it has the playfulness of Mozart, but
Mozart is expressive, not interior,
therefore nowhere near as spiritual,
Beethoven will return with a 
profundity that matches Bach’s, but 
with much more Sturm und Drang, 
tempestuous moral struggle, much  
less resignation, ouch, watch

listening to Bach for me is like getting 
on a train, and just letting the rhythm
of the wheels sustain me, as I watch,
indeed introspectively, the surrounding 
countryside, stopping at the musical 
journey’s several halts, its intervals, 
until its final destination, which 
despite, or even because of, taking 
sometimes hours, is nevertheless  
endlessly satisfying, and never  
ever less than, however improbably, 
inspiring

here’s Bach’s Third French Suite
you’ll note it includes an idiosyncratic 
“trio”, not strictly a recognized dance
either – leave it to the saucy French, I   
say, to consider interpolating a trio


R ! chard

English Suite No 3 in G Minor – Bach

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   “Suite Fibonacci (2003) 

           Charles Bezie

               ________

 
before I say much more about his Cello
Suites, let me point out that Bach has
some French Suites, some English 
Suites, on top of similarly structured 
Partitas and Toccatas, the French have 
their tout de suites, and hotels have, 
nowadays, their so named luxury 
apartments 

musical suites are sets of dance pieces, 
by the early 18th Century much stylized, 
with an introductory prélude, an allemande, 
followed by a courante, which is to say, folk 
dances, the first German, the next French, 
then a sarabande, Spanish, followed by a 
couple of galanteries, court dances, 
minuets, gavottes, bourrées, then a final 
English gigue

all of the markings are in French, which
leads me to believe that all of these 
dances must’ve originated at the court 
of Louis XlVth, the Sun King, 1638 to 
1715

but the suggestion is that Europe was 
becoming an integrated community
all of these dances were eclipsed by
the Classical Period, of Haydn and 
Mozart, apart from the minuet, which 
more or less defined, nevertheless, 
that new era

the minuet will die out by the time of
Beethoven, you’ll note, to be replaced
by the waltz, which had been 
considered much too racy until 
transformed by Chopin into a work 
of ethereal art

the Strausses, father and son, gave it,
only a little later, celebratory potency,
but that’s another story


here’s Bach’s English Suite, the 3rd
for context, the French ones are a 
little too salty, as it were, they do not 
quite conform to prescribed suite 
notionshowever might their 
propositions have been, ahem, 
sweet 

meanwhile, enjoy this one


R ! chard

what’s up in Pyeongchang / Bach

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      “The Cello Player (1896) 

              Thomas Eakins

                   ________

though I’d considered presenting all six
of Bach’s Cello Suites – your one stop
shopping for these extraordinary 
compositions – even one only of these
masterpieces floored me each time I
individually listened  

why the Suites, cause I couldn’t follow 
up on Beethoven’s Opus 5, for cello
and piano accompaniment, without 
saying more about the cello, by then 
an instrument of some significance, 
and who could argue, it’s resonance 
thrills you in your bones, in your very 
being

Frederick ll, King of Prussiaplayed it, 
earning for him tailored compositions, 
however controversial, from both 
Mozart and Haydn, but even earlier, 
Bach had composed definitive pieces 
for it, much as he’d done for the 
harpsichord, precursor to the piano, 
students of either still go to Bach for 
their basics, their intricate, exquisite, 
technical proficiency

the cello can play one note only at a
time, which means that, like a voice, 
you’re working without harmony, 
you need to make your own, 
otherwise your performance is 
boring, no one else, as far as I know,
has ever written anything else for 
unaccompanied cello, not even 
Beethoven

I find most performers lend Bach a 
more Romantic air, torrid emotion,
excesses of volume, pauses to the 
pace, ritardandos, rallentandos, 
which aren’t appropriate to the 
more genteel Baroque period,
something I usually find 
unwelcome

but in this performance, I’m sure 
not even Bach would object

I’m offering up first the Sixth Cello
Suite, D major, played by Jian Wang
someone I’d never heard of, in a 
dazzling performance in Pyeongchang
place I’d neither ever heard of, until 
only very recently

it appears both of these new kids on 
the block ought to be on the map


R ! chard

Mozart / Haydn in 1790

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                                 “Prussian Homage (1796)

                                       Marcello Bacciarelli

                                           ____________

it’s 1790, a year after the French Revolution, 
and both Mozart and Haydn are peddling 
their wares, Mozart to the King of Prussia, 
Friedrich Wilhelm ll, who’d commissioned 
some string quartets, as well as piano 
works for his daughter, but wasn’t paying 
Mozart off for them, where Haydn with the
help of Johann Tost, was hustling his stuff
in very, of all places, Paris 

Haydn’s, incidentally, own Prussian Quartets,
dedicated to the same King of Prussia, were  
sold to two different publishers, one in
Vienna, the other in England, commercial
transactions left essentially, for all it might 
matter to us, for lawyers, and potentates, I
expect, eventually to have resolved

it is my habit to juxtapose two things always
to be able to see each more critically, 
determining my favourite sharpens my 
aesthetic pencil, one looks more closely at
what distinguishes one work from the other

therefore Mozart’s String Quartet no 22 in 
B flat major, KV 589, up against Haydn’s 
no 53 in D major, opus 64, no 5, “The Lark”, 
both written in the same year

it’s like comparing apples with oranges,
different fruit from the same nevertheless
genus, my favourite being lichee, so go 
figure

it’ll be up to you to find your especially
preferred nutrient 

I‘ll just point out a few differences that
immediately set apart these, however 
similar, masterpieces for me, Mozart 
remains utterly Classical, relying on 
the established, by now, conditions of 
the string quartet, an entertainment for 
nobility, nothing at all controversial, 
where Haydn with his soaring notes 
for the first violin, followed by 
arabesques that define a personal 
agony, introduces drama into the 
equation, a music that speaks of 
sentiment, is pointing already towards 
the future, though I suspect he could 
never have imagined where, in the 
very next generation, Beethoven 
would take it

to look back, to look forward, that is 
the question, it’s not always an easy 
one 

but this is where art speaks to us, 
reminding us of our tendencies, 
defining, truly, eventually, who we 
veritably are, according to our 
individual choices, preferences, 
for better or for worse, rendering 
the world an ever effulgent garden 
rather than a dour mausoleum


R ! chard

Cyprien Katsaris in Budapest

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       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

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                      “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

Partita no 2, BWV 1004 – J.S. Bach

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         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

Easter Oratorio – J.S.Bach

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   “Easter Angel (1959) 

          Salvador Dali

               _______

                                  for Elizabeth, 
                                      who needs an oratorio right now,
                                           and who takes great comfort, 
                                                 she tells me, in this music


if The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour 
on the Cross is not a divertimento, it 
nevertheless didn’t come out of nowhere,
and a clue to its inspiration lies in the 
eventual transposition of the orchestra 
only piece to, a few years later, the piece 
with voice, its oratorio

Haydn had heard his original composition
rendered in a nearby provincial town, where
they’d added lyrics, however saccharine, to
the score, and he thought it entirely effective 
and appropriate, had new less sanctimonious 
lyrics composedand gave us what we now 
hear

oratorios go back quite a while, not 
surprisingly, they are quintessentially 
religious music, meant to inspire, a 
familiar convocational ploy, Bach and 
Handel made them especially immortal
in the early 18th Century

listen to Bach’s Easter Oratorio to see,
to hear rather, the connection to Haydn,
though you might not even notice much
significant difference, they’ve as many 
movements more or less, nine for Haydn,
Bach’s has eleven, but all the forces are 
the same, and in the same order

that Bach’s oratorio would be more 
joyous is not surprising, the occasion for 
the Easter Oratorio is one of celebration,
where The Words is more lugubrious, it 
describes a portentous demise, dance 
rhythms therefore are not in the former 
inappropriate

its dances, however, are rather gavottes
and sarabandes instead of the later 
minuets, a not not instructive alteration 
when you think that minuets not much
later than Haydn had become waltzes,
more about that later

in the Easter Oratorio“, the story is told
by the singers, whereas in The Seven 
Last Words“, the music is doing the 
telling, secured by the fact that the piece
was originally written without singers

The Words is more dramatic, more
use of contrasting volumes and tempi,
the piano hadn’t been invented at the 
time of Bach, long notes couldn’t be 
accommodated on the harpsichord,
which determined the pace of the plot,
the piano allowed with its soft pedal 
a moderation in volume, and with its 
hold pedal a moderation of a note’s 
resonance, which allowed for more 
expansive expression, which led 
eventually, nearly inescapably, to 
the Romantic Period, after passing, 
of course, through, Mozart and
Haydn

but listen to what Bach can do 
without these later interventions,
proof that a poet can inspire with 
merely matchstick, the second 
aria itself – My soul, the spice that 
embalms you shall no longer be 
myrrh – for soprano and baroque 
flute, spare as it is instrumentally, 
is manifestly entirely worth the 
priceless price of admission 


R ! chard