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Category: Mozart

“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audibly outdated – but you would be, 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

 

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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

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 “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

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   “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

 

String Quintets – Mozart / Beethoven

3889-2014-2

 
           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

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

dance-of-the-majos-at-the-banks-of-manzanares-1777.jpg!Large.jpg

   “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

suite-fibonacci-2003.jpg

   “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

the-cello-player-1896.jpg!Large.jpg

      “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