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Category: Mozart

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

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
, but I couldn’t get any of Akiko
Suwanai’s renditions on the Internet

found instead for you this wonderful
, 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,

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


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


“Le Jazz Hot” – Henry Mancini‏

  John Cage - "Mozart Mix" (1991)

Mozart Mix (1991)

John Cage


in a movie,“Victor Victoria”, that should’ve
gotten more Oscars than it finally did,
Le Jazz Hot sizzles, Henry Mancini
received one for the music, Lesley Anne
Warren should’ve too for her incandescent

lock the door, she says to Julie Andrews,
in an otherwise compromising moment,
a line one should never forget

in Julie Andrews’ category, who could’ve
taken it away from Meryl Streep for
“Sophie’s Choice”

but jazz here is a misnomer, jazz merely
dolls up in this number an otherwise
entirely Classical structure, the melody
is right out of Mozart, rigid rhythm,
unflinching tonality, and repetition after
repetition, you can sing along just as you
can for Mozart, try doing that with anyone
after him, try to hum along with real jazz

but I’ll entirely agree that this
whatever-it-is is hot, steaming

catch the astounding vocal glissando
at the very end, just before the final
whispered recitative, riveting


my reply to BookInhabiter, a.k.a. Brain

a reader writes

“Hello Richard,
Recently I’ve been watching up on many dance competitions. I knew of the existence of piano competitions but never thought that they would be filmed. I must listen to the top contenders. How did you hear about this competition?”

here is my, admittedly extended, answer, with pertinent links



I haven’t missed So You Think You
Can Dance
Brain, for 11 years, so
we’ve probably been watching the
same “many dance competitions”

“piano competitions” aren’t much
different, just another art, judged
here by professionals throughout,
rather than entire publics

the competitions are fierce, to a
person the competitors are world

the music is often sublime, utterly
transcendent, though more rigorously
intellectual than popcorn – pace
Mozart – this puts some people off

much as you probably find covers of
songs you like, I go out looking for
sonatas, string quartets, concerti I
already know of and admire, I check
out the big names, Chopin, Beethoven,
Rachmaninov, see what might be up

the Internet abounds with nearly
anything you might want to find, the
only obstacle is the quality

the Van Cliburn competition, from
Houston, was dreadful, enough to
put me off it, but looking for musical
counterparts to pieces of interest, I
found the Rubinstein one in Tel
offering sterling performances

I quickly flew across the globe,
virtually, of course, speaking

the experience has been well worth
it, I heard miracles of music, haven’t
had so much fun since reading Proust,
in French of course, but you must
understand I’m an inveterate egghead,
totally chronic

this week I started Edward Gibbon’s
The Decline and Fall of the Roman
, text and, to my delight,
audiotape, its reader is extraordinary

check out the Chopin Competition
for, up to this point anyway in my
investigation, only Chopin, but he’ll
do for a significant while, his music
is consistently breathtaking

I’ll also check out the Russian
Tchaikovsky Competition, which Van
Cliburn made famous for us in the late
, by winning it, despite the rancours
of the Cold War, with a still paramount
rendition of Tchaikovsky’s own
monumental First Concerto

wow, I’ve been hooked ever since

thanks for stopping by my blog, Brain,
you’ll find, incidentally, a lot of excellent
performances highlighted there, several
of the best, in fact, from the most recent
Rubinstein Competition
, none of which,
to my utter consternation, managed to

other recommendations follow, check
it out

I think your blog is wonderful, keep
it up


Maria Mazo‏

if Mozart had written nothing other
than his piano concerto no 21 in C
, he would have still been
famous, its adagio is resplendent,
written even in our DNA, time stops,
one enters an epiphany

Maria Mazo could win the Rubinstein
for her interpretation of
this iconic piece


watch, just click


from Beethoven to Pink Floyd

in juxtaposing inadvertently recently
Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”
with Beethoven’s String Quartet no 14
in C# minor, opus 131
, I was once again
struck by how one resembled implicitly
the other, both had achieved structurally
an operatic concert, an original musical
form for each their epoch, a piece of
instrumental music – with, even with
Beethoven eventually, voice – see his
9th Symphony for that – in the form of

stay with me

songs started off as ditties, see, for
instance, in our time, She Loves You“,
the Beatles, in Classical music that’s
the equivalent of a Mozart sonata,
quick, easy to hum along with, and

then MacArthur Park came along, in
1968, with a song twice the length,
seven minutes and some, of anything
heard before, check out Jimmy Webb,
Richard Harris, and the process

that sounds a lot like Beethoven, I
thought, throw in extrapolations of
symphonic proportions and that
sounds a lot like Beethoven too,
saying, this is not just pretty, people,
it’s potentially momentous, listen

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club
then put several compositions
together, without breaks, to give us
the first concept album, an
uninterrupted flow of various musical
ideas held together by an, however
inexplicit, theme

or MacArthur Park“, in other words,

in 1826, it had been Beethoven’s 14th,
where all this started out, no one had
ever done this sort of thing before,
confounded so intimately contrasting
musical forms, but he’d got it from
the Christian Mass

thus Beethoven, a secular prophet

and thus, in his eminent footsteps,
Pink Floyd, solely, among
contemporary artists, addressing

it all seems nearly inevitable today,
but it was 1968 then, a time of, if
you’ll recall, revolution

and all of these had been, for better
or worse, once again, our rallying
cries, anthems, towards a better


Mozart piano sonata no 11, in A major, K 331

again my especially musically erudite friend,
Norm, has returned with a catchy morsel, a
popularized version this time of the third
movement, the Alla Turca“, of Mozart’s
piano sonata no 11, in A major, K 331
possessed by the glitzy spirit, in this
, of Las Vegas

these whet my appetite always for the entire
meal, the source from which these playful
tidbits originate, like an ebullient tributary
returning to its more elementary, and
profound, as it were, spring, a lost child
needing to return to its place of origin
for direction and validation

Mozart, you’ll note, is not Beethoven, though
he might be a not inconsequential Mozart, I
think of his stuff as music for the nursery,
toy soldiers and rocking horses, dairy maids
and cuckoo clocks, not at all to inform but to
delight, the musical structure is foursquare,
lilting ever, and entirely comprehensible,
Mozart just wants to have fun, with here
and there a nod to melancholy, perfect, I
would think, for a powdered and pampered,
though pilloried eventually, indeed
guillotined then, court

the first movement, you’ll remark, is a set
of variations, a bit of a novelty still during
this period, 1778 to 1783 approximately,
the date of composition is not precisely
known, which allowed for, of course, a
variety of styles, voices, to be flaunted
in one only section of a work, instead
of the usual call and response of,
ordinarily, the traditional movement,
extending already, incidentally, the
possibilities of the sonata form, which
later composers would make much
use of

neither of the next movements are
slow, Mozart, as I said, just wanted
to essentially enjoy himself, or his
sponsors did, music did, that’s
what they payed him for

but the times they were a’ changing

as indeed they still are


psst: thanks Norm

Schubert – Piano Sonata D959‏

to my utter surprise when I checked I’d never
but only once in the many months I haven’t
been able to shut up since I started spouting
my bristling endorsements, like a very rushing
river gushing with the overflowing bounty of
an inveterate spring, mentioned Schubert, an
incandescent voice from surely heaven

it was about his String Quartet in C major, the
D956, not surprisingly, it is utterly enchanting,
D for Otto Erich Deutsch still, incidentally

here’s an alternate version of it, an utterly
inspired one

but if I’ve reintroduced Schubert it’s specifically
this time to compare him with Beethoven, they’re
easily confounded, I even did it once myself, to
my crushing embarrassment, in erudite and
unflinching company, oof, I cringe to even
remember it

the D959, moments only after the 956 of course,
has all the idioms of a Beethoven, and exercises
them as expertly, the beat, however, is always
on, unlike Beethoven, whose beat is always off,
contrary, rebellious, against the prevailing

though this variance might seem slight, one
senses already in the younger and later
Schubert a return to form, elegance, and civility,
the First Empire had indeed taken hold during
the transformation of Napoleon from hero of
the Revolution to a different incarnation of
Emperor, Chopin as well would be beholden
to later similarly reinstated French courts

so seemingly trivial an alteration speaks
volumes when one attentively listens, one
must do this with one’s heart

such a return to aristocratic principles is not
uncommon, incidentally, we seem, indeed, to
thirst for dynasties, if you’ll note the return of
late, of the Bushes, the Clintons, and most
recently the Canadian Trudeaux

Putin is another, though arguably somewhat
less democratic, version of that principle

Beethoven is off the beat then, Schubert on, you
won’t find much else that’s different upon first
listening, you’ll note only that their music is very
much the same, rigorous beat, tonal, essentially,
harmonics, and the return eventually of the
melodies, Classical imperatives, but with the
distinction of the new Romantic,
transformational however, sensibilities

Schubert might’ve even outpaced Beethoven
had he survived, I think, but he didn’t, he died
much too young, at the most tender age of
only 31, younger even than the more
celebrated Mozart, famous for succumbing
prematurely at the still early age of 36

may they rest, may they all rest, Schubert,
Mozart, and the somewhat longer-lived
Beethoven, still early deceased at 56, in
eternal peace, for they have brought us
but wonders


psst: here’s a movie to go with the earlier
, The Company of Strangers“,
the very best film Canada has ever had
to offer, bar none, a gaggle of old women
are stranded in the Laurentians after their
tour bus breaks down, Schubert would’ve
loved it

and been honoured

Beethoven piano sonata no 28 in A major, opus 101

Erte - "The Angel"

The Angel



Beethoven’s piano sonata no 28, opus 101,
in A major
, is the first of what is considered
to be his late piano sonatas, as opposed to
early and middle, three entirely distinct
periods that are easily recognizable upon
closer listening, the early ones are bold,
even headstrong, with Beethoven’s ever
characteristic vigor and Promethean authority,
the length themselves of his early works are
a testament to his sense of his own great
personal validity, the first four, to my mind,
go on much longer than often enough they
should, a typically youthful presumption on
his part, and are musically at best trite, I find,
after their first expositions, the repeats come
as redundant, and tolerable merely, surprises,
even the famous 8th, the Pathétique“, opus 13,
is, I think, too brash and impudent, however in
this manner, nevertheless admittedly, entirely
effective, listen

the Pastorale“, of the middle period, opus 28,
no 15
, is where I deem the music to become
henceforward sublime, it has a settled
confidence that brims with not only technical
wizardry but with also positively enchanting
and entrancing musical ideas, bursting like
very flowers in springtime, with colour and
inspired, effervescent, imagination

the late period is where Beethoven becomes,
however, a sage, a prophet, and indeed a
hierarch in the new secular order of a
reconstituted Heaven, after all, someone
had to take the place of the now discredited
angels, Nietzsche called them Übermenschen,

the 28th sonata starts out slowly, or rather,
more slowly than the earlier forthright ones,
already a sign of less physical, more
measured and considered reponses, my
impression here is of a grandfather visiting
his granchildren, jovial but not too disportive,
merely jaunty, always cheery but for a moment
of haunting melancholy, at the adagio, before
becoming congenial and avuncular again,
with then a big, boastful ending, snapping
staunchly his patriarchal suspenders,
getting the last, and traditional, word, with
a firm, which is to say, a foursquare-major-
chord, finish, the aural equivalent of turning
out the lights

musically, however, the progressions are
exploratory, incremental, more and more
layered with possible, and often apparently
rejected outcomes, in order to try out
something more fitting, maybe, more
accurate, a deconstruction, in other words,
of musical ideas, an investigation, in search
of a viable musically cohesive path

in the 28th sonata Beethoven, I think, is
doodling, however, coming up with the
methods of his great addresses, the
language here is not yet philosophically
precise, a smattering merely of pianistically
plausible ideas, musical sketches, the first
stirrings here, you’ll gather, of formal jazz

in the next sonata, the 29th, the still
unsurpassed “Hammerklavier”, he writes
the definitive book, speaking for music in
the forthcoming history of the world, and
determining its future path, we are still
moving along on his transcendent carpet,
no one ‘s come along still to give us a
more assured ride, kind of like Homer,
some would say Shakespeare, others
Albert Einstein, other, incidentally,
post-Christian, post Revolutionary

who do you presently pray to, who are
your angels, who your Superwomen,
towards what do you aspire,
towards whom

Superwomen, -men, incidentally,
cultivate their own efflorescence,
manifest their own, I think, destinies,
or, if you like, their own Heaven

much as I believe angels also do

Mozart’s Fantasy in C minor on the
same program
shows him in a nearly
Beethovenian mode atavistically, much
more somber than he usually is, but he’s
nevertheless easily distinguished by
his much less intricate musical
accompaniment and his much more
rigorous melodic line, you’re more
likely to hum it

Mozart also composes from the nursery,
I find, the exhilaration of playful discovery,
you can see the toy soldiers, the golden
tresses on little milkmaids in dirndls with
red circles for cheeks

Mozart’s pieces are like nursery rhymes

Beethoven progresses to literature

before you judge me too harsh on Mozart,
by the way, consider that my favourite
piece of the two in this program is the
Mozart, it’s like comparing apples and
oranges, though, it depends on your
mood that day which you’ll favour



psst: just in case you missed it, this version
of the Pathétique is the best I’ve ever
heard, indeed, of all the pieces here
the most extraordinary, don’t miss it

Rachmaninoff: Piano Concerto no 3, in D minor, opus 30

fully 150 years after Mozart the concerto was still a thriving
musical form though it had undergone some modifications,
you’ll hear a more passionate account in Rachmaninoff than
the more lyrical, less emotionally overt compositions of
Mozart, the variations in volume, tempo, tonality, the play
of harmonization and discords, all incidentally within a single
movement, show the passage of time, of Beethoven, of Chopin,
of Debussy between Mozart and the more Romantic, Impressionistic
Rachmaninoff, note the sweeping ritardandos, where the beat is
drawn out, stretched for pathos, a Chopinesque insinuation into
music not found in earlier stuff, one imagines torrid expressions
of fervent sentiment, note the evanescent flurry of notes passing
by like the fleeting glitter of stars, the ephemerality of an
incorporeal idea that Debussy originated and brought to music,
and of course note the irrepressibility, the authority, the masculinity
of a volcanic Beethoven underpinning the lot, you can hear them all

the Vladimir Horowitz Piano Concerto no 3 of Rachmaninoff at
Carnegie Hall, January 8, 1978, with Eugene Ormandy leading the
New York Philharmonic Orchestra is, after Van Cliburn’s historic
1950s account, May 19, 1958, again at Carnegie Hall but under Kiril
Kondrashin this time, and the now defunct Symphony of the Air,
don’t ask, the one I then grew up with, it was riveting even without
the pictures

with pictures here he is again a few months later at Avery Fisher
Hall in New York, September 24, 1978, under Zubin Mehta with
again the New York Philharmonic, so good you’ll even forgive
Mehta his usual sentimental excesses

incidentally Horowitz was 74 at this concert, he is astounding

Vladimir Horowitz, colossus and legend, 1903 -1989

enjoy, be transported, be transfixed, you have been warned