Richibi’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Category: Mozart

Easter Oratorio – J.S.Bach

easter-angel-1959.jpg!Large

   “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

Advertisements

Divertimento no 17, K334 – Mozart

minuet-with-pantaloon-and-colombine-from-the-room-of-carnival-scenes-in-the-foresteria-1757.jpg!Large.jpg

Minuet with Pantaloon and Colombine, from the Room of Carnival Scenes
                                                                                                       in the Foresteria (1757)

     Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo

             ________________

already I can hear you asking, why is
The Seven Last Words“, with its nine
already movements, not a divertimento,
you’ll cry 

a divertimento is an entertainment, it 
doesn’t have the gravitas of Haydn’s 
composition, a sacred work, a 
divertimento is meant to delight

The Seven Last Words“, therefore,
by definition is not a divertimento,
it’s a completely different idea of a
piece with several movements, it 
has profoundly ulterior intentions,
following, rather, in the tradition of
Bach’s oratorios, though it had 
originally been conceived without 
words, the prelate in this work 
would be doing the talking

the piece gives itself a theme, a 
focus, a project, creating something 
like chapters in a book 

or think of the Stations of the Cross 
a metaphorically more apt, perhaps, 
unifying principle, instead of just a 
series of disparate airs, like singles 
were on albums until Pink Floyd 
similarly revolutionized music with 
a topic during my generation, The
Wall, with a little preparatory help
albeit, from the Beatles, earlier,
our friends

here’s Mozart, nevertheless, in order 
to compare, his Divertimento no 17,  
K334giving the aristocracy what 
they still, in 1780, wanted, something 
courtly

you’ll notice there are not just one 
but two minuets in the program, both 
with recapitulations, sure sign that 
we’re still in the Classical Era, though 
the minuet will die off as quickly as 
the divertimento will in the following 
decades, relics, both, of an earlier era

and indeed this is Mozart’s last for 
small orchestra, divertimenti would be 
composed from here on as merely 
tributes to an earlier period and its 
musical formulas

masses and oratorios would go the same 
way, incidentally, with some resurgence 
in the following centuries from a couple 
of Catholic organists who left profound 
influences individually on later centuries

but more about them later

meanwhile, here’s Mozart, feel the 
gentility, his genuflexion to propriety 
rather than to faith


R ! chard

String Quartet no. 38 in E♭major, Op. 50, No. 3 – Haydn

fullsizeoutput_3f4.jpeg         

         Frederick William II of Prussia

                      ______________

if there’s a difference that I can detect 
between both these “Prussian” string
quartets, the No. 21 of Mozart, Haydn’s
38th, the somewhat more boisterous 
voice of the youthful Mozart up against 
the more deferential, the more precisely 
filigreed, manner of Haydn, the more 
consummate courtier of the two via his 
actual, and constant, presence at the 
Esterházy court

Mozart is somewhat less genteel, less
mercurial, I think

both sets, six in each, were originally 
dedicated to the King of Prussia,
William ll, Haydn’s in 1787, Mozart’s 
in 1789, though each had unfortunate 
legal, and controversial outcomes 

it’s not so much the specificity of each
other’s talent at this point that settles 
their ultimate significance, but that 
their invention, the form, the structure,  
has lasted already two hundred years, 
the might of their prowess has inspired 
inexhaustibly our culture

Mozart and Haydn built the house that
our music now stands on, working, of 
course, from earlier, even glorious, 
standards, culture  – music, art, 
literature – is like a tree, growing 
organically from its local soil, our
Western earth has become 
historically especially significant,  
we could be listening to Chinese 
opera for instance now had we been 
born, however arbitrarily, in that 
culture, for better or for worse we are 
in our ever evolving ours, our 21st 
global century, and the Classical Era 
is pretty well where it all began for us 

it was also called the Age of 
Enlightenment, Mozart and Haydn 
were doing their particular part

let me add that the term “Classical”
applies only to the music of that 
period, it is not the period of 
Classical art, for instance, nor of
Classical literature, the term 
“Classical” refers to the originality
of the product and its historical
resilience, we speak of Classical 
Greece, for instance, for its 
sprouting of our Western culture,
our literature, our sculpture, our
architecture, our very philosophy

after the Age of Enlightenment, we 
get the Romantic Period

wait till you hear about that


R ! chard 

String Quartet no 19 in C major, K465 (“Dissonance”) – Mozart

queen-marie-antoinette-of-france-1783.jpg!Large

                    “Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1783)  

                              Louise Elisabeth Vigee Le Brun

                                           ______________

if Mozart’s 19th String Quartetthe last of 
his Haydn Quartets, the six he indeed 
dedicated  to Haydn, sounds less 
deferential than one would have thought 
for the period, it should be remembered 
that the American Revolution had just
taken place, in 1776, the French one was 
about to, in 1789, and even the more 
aristocratic houses in Europe would not
have been unaffected, Mozart was young,
29, and astir with confidence and bravura,
it was 1785

Haydn had had his moment earlier, his
Opus 20, which went on to revolutionize 
music if not countries, but had retreated 
to a less emboldened political stance 
as he grew older, while concentrating 
rather on his more important muse, and 
refining his ear for precise, pure music,
which is to say devoid of any but polite
sentiments, delight and lyrical 
melancholy only

in Mozart’s 19th String Quartet, even the 
minuet is peremptory, not something 
you’d especially want to dance to,
however musically accomplished

he starts the first movement with, of all 
things, an adagio, however briefly, which 
could’ve been disastrous, you need to 
know what you’re doing when you open
with a lament

incidentally, all the instruments in the
opening adagio are playing in different 
keys, resolved when the allegro kicks 
in, this is why it’s called “Dissonance”,
something in and of itself of a 
rebellious act 

the 19th is also twice the length of 
Haydn’s nearest earlier one, his Opus 42,
expansive rather than terse, for whatever
that might mean, the point is to keep us
throughout interested, which he does, 
they do

Mozart is prefiguring hereincidentally,
Beethoven, with his audacity, his 
sense of an ideological mission, and  
he’s mightily impressive

listen


R ! chard

String Quartet no. 14 in G major, K. 387, (“Spring”) – Mozart

the-musical-contest-1755.jpg!Large     
     “The Musical Contest (c.1754 – 1755) 

            Jean-Honoré Fragonard

                     ____________

right about this time, 1782 to 1785, Mozart 
was writing his Haydn Quartetssix of 
them, in the very fashion, not incidentally, 
of Haydnas a tribute to the master, the 
father, the very originator of the string 
quartet 

here’s the first of them, a not at all 
unimpressive tribute

Mozart follows the master in kind, the
number of movements, the selection
of tempi, there’s even again a minuet,
an aristocratic prerequisite, note even 
the delicate, the deferential, endings,  
to all, not just one, of the movements,
a trait indicative of Haydn, his courtly, 
courteous reserve before any too
personalized spotlight, however 
manifest his brilliance – noblesse, 
in other words, oblige

Mozart follows immaculate suit

you might find it difficult to distinguish
between Mozart and Haydn, I do, the 
differences are so subtle as to be 
nearly, for the most part, 
indistinguishable, their periods overlap, 
their contexts were not at all dissimilar, 
just even Vienna as their musical core

the aristocracy was still, evidently, in 
charge, however henceforth briefly, 
and paying the bills, and the mood 
required remained respectful, polite, 
unpolitical, which both composers
dutifully obliged, neither subjecting 
himself to any constraints around 
his higher manifest destiny, his 
irresistible muse, the pursuit of 
pure, and unadulterated, music

this will unfurl, see, for instance,
Shostakovich


R ! chard

String Quartet, Opus 33 no 3 – Joseph Haydn

the-music-lesson.jpg!Large.jpg

        “The Music Lesson (c.1769) 

             Jean-Honoré Fragonard

                       __________

by 1781, Haydn was, along with Mozart,
the most celebrated composer in Europe,
and via publication of his musical scores,
his compositions would’ve been played 
even in smaller communities, where 
string players would’ve blossomed 
everywhere for there being no television

only two generations ago, my own family
sported, if not violinists, remarkable 
fiddlers – see, for comparable example, 
Deliverance“, I have old movies at home 
of my own kin doing such wonders

the Opus 33, no 3 is no longer, you’ll note, 
especially courtly, this is music to heed,
pay attention to, not meant to be 
background

nor is it

in the first few bars of the very first 
movement, Haydn’s got you riveted,
you know you’re going to get your 
money’s worth, and you do, in 
exponential spades 

you’ll note there are no dance 
references, cerebral tempo markings 
only allegro moderato, scherzo: 
allegretto, adagio ma non troppo, 
finale: rondo – presto – which means 
the music will be entirely edifying, 
not carnal, sensual, music is 
specifically becoming an intellectual 
exercise, a new, as it were, language, 
no longer doing tribal tribute around 
bonfire, it’s speaking rather than 
pulsating

pay attention to the vehemence,
the stark contrast between the 
opening statement in the second
movement and its response, a
nearly unnerving juxtaposition

pay attention to what Haydn does 
to the entire first section of the 
adagio ma non troppo, the third 
movement, with the recapitulation 
of the themes by introducing very 
magic in the superimposed 
peregrinations of the first violin,
to entirely enchant and exalt the 
original musical proposition

and that final exit in the last
movement, after so fiery a
rondo presto, urgent and 
even confrontational

but ever so brilliantly, in the last  
few moments, rendered courtly, 
respectful, deferential, indeed 
the very Classical spirit of 
Haydn


R ! chard

String Quartet no 22 in G major, opus 17, no 5 – Joseph Haydn

rhythm-1956(2).jpg!Large.jpg

       Rhythm (1956) 

            Bice Lazzari

               ________

before I return to string quartetsand 
Haydn, here’s a divertimento, Mozart’s
First, I couldn’t let it pass, it sparkles 
from the very first instant

Mozart himself confounded his musical
definitions, he called his early string 
quartets divertimenti, before they were 
compiled by his own bibliographer, 
Köchel

notably, however, divertimentos were 
meant to be joyful, light, fluffy, no, in 
other words, adagios

this might create the problem of 
confusing movements, however, that 
have similar tempos, blending one 
indistinguishably into the others, so
that no particular theme stands out,
you leave the show not singing

dance rhythms help that, it’s not too 
hard to tell a jive when it follows a 
tango, or a polka, it’s something in 
our blood

but the more abstract tempos – 
andante, allegro, adagio – as musical 
prompts are cerebral concepts, and 
their airs more suited to singing, not
dancing

from the Baroque suites – sets of
musical dances, gavottes, minuets,
and so on, which were the model
for the string quartets, and indeed
divertimentos of the later 18th
Century – chamber music was 
evolving towards a more abstract 
level of musical conversation

Haydn and Mozart were setting up
the grammar for that, the Classical 
structure, and letting others take 
care of the nomenclature

note that though the performance 
here is electric, the piece, one you’d 
even pay for, you’ll wonder if Mozart 
even changed the music, or was it 
only the rhythms he altered, his 
middle andante wasn’t slow enough 
to make a dent in the general flow, 
the tenor, the mode, the mood of  
the composition

here’s Haydn’s String Quartet no 22,
opus 17, no 5, in G major to compare

though not as crackling as Mozart’s 
Divertimento in this, at least, particular
productionjust listen to what a little 
adagio can do for you, to anchor the 
entire experience in your heart

note also that the second movement 
is still a minuet, a dance step

this will change


R ! chard

String Quartet no 8 in E Major, op 2, no 2 – Joseph Haydn

the-music-lesson.jpg!Large.jpg

      “The Music Lesson (c.1769) 

           Jean-Honoré Fragonard

                ________________

Haydn’s String Quartet no 8 in E Major, 
op 2, no 2 is not an iconic work, but 
representative of what the period had 
on offer, which wasn’t at all shabby, 
however more entertaining than in 
any way inspirational, seismic, that’ll 
come later, Haydn was nevertheless 
not only composing delightful pieces, 
but setting the stage for an era, the 
Classical Period, along, of course, 
with Mozart 

the form is not quite settled yet for
the string quartet, with again five 
movements here mirroring each 
other across again a central adagio,
twice the length, incidentally, of the 
other sections, againthough not at 
all unpleasantly, which ought to tell 
you something

the call and response aspect of the 
music, like a verse and refrain, are 
manifest, and grounding, everywhere,
you know where you stand, or sit, be
it the allegros, the minuets, or the 
adagios, the tunes return and 
reassure like clockwork 

dance forms, you’ll note, still remain
in the titles, a vestige of the earlier
period’s suites, this will alter, with
headings turning to tempo markings
exclusively, a move towards the 
transcendental rather than the 
frivolities of gavottes, or minuets


transposition, meanwhile, of the
Opus 2, no 2 has beguiled me, the 
first violin has been replaced here 
with a guitar, same string quartet, 
but with an exquisite alteration

the guitar can only pluck, not glide
across a note, something akin to the 
harpsichord before the fortepiano, 
it makes for a completely different, 
though profoundly remembered, 
original

and delivered a particular zing to  
the strings of my heart

listen


R ! chard

String Quartet no 1 in G major, K80 – Mozart

mozart-2015.jpg!Large

        “Mozart (2015) 

             Bernd Luz

                ______

Mozart’s First String Quartet, in G major, K80,
is not at all equal to Haydn’s First, then again
Mozart was only 14 in 1770 when he wrote
it, Haydn in his early thirties when he 
composed his, in the late 1750s

the difficulties are flagrant, first of all, starting 
with an adagio is something to avoid, like
falling into your agonies before even saying
hello, it can be entirely dispiriting for your,
however forgiving, audience

unless, of course, the lament is poignant,
unlike here, I thought

the later movements are emotionally 
nearly indistinguishable from each  
other, despite astute changes in 
tempo, that sufficiently differentiate 
the several parts, but one leaves the 
recital, nevertheless, remembering 
nothing, essentially, though not not  
entertaining, the quartet is not 
memorable

but listen to his first piano concerto, in
D major, K175, called his Piano Concerto
no. 5 for esoteric reasons I won’t get into, 
he was only 17, and already he entirely 
seduces you, leaves you enchanted

he needs the piano, I think, for the lovely 
musical runs up the octaves he invents,
like birds lifting gently, light as air, from 
their branches, soaring, coasting, 
dipping, dropping, finding a nearby 
branch or eave upon which to rest for a 
moment, and cede to the strains of the 
restless orchestral windsand then fly 
off again, irrepressibly, towards another 
part of its musical wonderland

a string instrument can’t do that for the 
sake of the bow, which doesn’t have the 
extension

Mozart never outdoes Haydn at string 
quartets, though he learnt a lot from 
him about them, Haydn never bested 
Mozart at piano concertos  


R ! chard

Quartet 1 in B major (“La chasse”), op. 1 no. 1 – Haydn

louis-xiv-and-moliere.jpg!Large

        “Louis XIV and Molière (1862) 

              Jean-Léon Gérôme

                     ________

the string quartet didn’t come out of nowhere,
as nothing does – I think – but probably, I 
suspect, from the earlier period’s suites, the
Baroque’s, Bach’sfor instance

suites are a series of dance pieces, stylized 
for the purpose of the musical poet, a popular 
appropriation, an even natural one for 
composers

the aristocracy, by the middle of the 18th
Century, demanded erudite entertainment,
something that Louis XlV, the Sun King,  
had instilled, a little earlier, during his 
Radiant Reign – see Racine, Corneille
Molière, see above, as well, incidentally –
1643 to 1715, up at Versaillesas 
prerequisite for excellence in being a
monarch, a sovereign, sponsorship of 
culture, painting, poetry, music

dukes and counts and barons and 
princesses got onto the bandwagon 
and the arts consequently flourished

witness Haydn and Mozart then, still, 
now, giants 

here’s Haydn’s first, his Quartet no 1
in B major, (“La chasse”), op. 1 no. 1,
the first significant string quartet in 
our Western culture

you’ll note five movements, following 
the suite model described above, with 
mirrored minuets sandwiched between 
opposing mirrored prestos, and an 
adagio in the very middle, as though  
their crowning moment 

an adagio, to my mind, always gives 
away a composer’s worth, listen to 
this one, it’s melting

and he’s got 67 more to go through, I    
marvel, a veritable, and utter,
however improbable, musical
cornucopia 


R ! chard