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Category: music to ponder

“The Story of Phaeton” (II) – Ovid

the-sun-1916.jpg!Large

   “The Sun (1911 – 1916) 

 

            Edvard Munch

 

                _______

 

 


                    The Sun’s bright palace, on high columns rais’d, 

 

The Sun, Helios / Phoebus / Apollo


                    With burnish’d gold and flaming jewels blaz’d;
                    The folding gates diffus’d a silver light,
                    And with a milder gleam refresh’d the sight; 

 

since the folding gates of the bright

palace shimmered with a silver light 

rather than with the glow of the gold 

and flaming jewels of the palace itself,

their milder gleam was easier on the 

eyes, refresh’d the sight


                    Of polish’d iv’ry was the cov’ring wrought: 

 

the palace was covered with polish’d

wrought ivory


                    The matter vied not with the sculptor’s thought, 

 

the execution of the palace was  

everything that its sculptor, its

architect, had had in mind to 

create


                    For in the portal was display’d on high
                    (The work of Vulcan) a fictitious sky

 

Vulcan, god of fire, metal, smiths, 

metalworkers

 

at the entrance to the palace, the

portal, Vulcan had painted the ceiling, 

he’d display’d on high … a fictitious 

sky, I suspect Dryden must’ve had 

Michelangelo and his ceiling of the  

Sistine Chapel in mind during his 

translation of this passage of Ovid

 

                    A waving sea th’ inferiour Earth embrac’d, 

 

inferiour, Earth, surging from under the 

greater masses of water dominating it, 

especially after the flood, is, therefore, 

beneath the waving sea, inferiour to it


                    And Gods and Goddesses the waters grac’d. 

 

remember that Ovid is describing a 

painting here, on the ceiling at the

entrance, the portal, to the palace 

of the god of the Sun


                    Aegeon here a mighty whale bestrode; 

 

Aegeon, marine god, god of storms,

note the similarity of the name with 

that of the Aegean Sea, but which 

came first, the chicken or the egg, 

the god or the expanse of water, 

remains, as far as I’ve been able 

to determine, undetermined

 

                    Triton, and Proteus (the deceiving God) 

 

Triton, another god of the Sea, you’ll 

remember him coming to the aid of 

Neptune, his father, in settling the

waters after the flood at the request 

of Jove / Jupiter / Zeus

 

Proteus, still another sea god, 

described as deceiving, for his 

ability to effortlessly, and 

spontaneously, change his shape, 

from which, incidentally, we get 

the adjective protean, for easily 

changeable, or versatile 

 

                    With Doris here were carv’d, and all her train, 

 

Doris, sea goddess, and all her train,

her following of nymphs, the Nereids,

her fifty daughters, if you’ll remember,

are carv’d, etched, given graphic 

representation

 

                    Some loosely swimming in the figur’d main, 

 

figur’d, painted, depicted, drawn

 

main, the open ocean, but, probably 

also here, the main, or central, part 

of the painting itself


                    While some on rocks their dropping hair divide, 

 

their hair divide, they loosen strands 

of their wet hair 


                    And some on fishes through the waters glide: 

 

sea gods and goddesses are often

shown riding sea creatures, dolphins, 

seahorses, even whales, see Aegeon

above

                    Tho’ various features did the sisters grace,
                    A sister’s likeness was in ev’ry face. 

 

the sisters, the Nereids, all have different

features, but a family resemblance, sister’s 

likeness, can always be detected in each

individual sibling’s rendering

 

                    On Earth a diff’rent landskip courts the eyes, 

 

Earth doesn’t look, court[ ] the eyes,

at all like what’s painted on the 

palace’s ceiling

 

landskip, landscape


                    Men, towns, and beasts in distant prospects rise, 

 

distant prospects, from a distance, one 

can see [m]en, towns, and beasts 

appear, rise, arise


                    And nymphs, and streams, and woods, and rural deities. 

 

nymphs, consigned, it appears, to 

earthly duties, streams, and woods, 

are not a feature of the Sun god’s 

palace


                    O’er all, the Heav’n’s refulgent image shines; 

 

the Heav’n’s refulgent, brightly shining,

image, expression, is manifest [o]’er all,

everywhere, the rays of the sun cast a

light on everything

 

                    On either gate were six engraven signs. 

 

again I’m reminded of a Renaissance

wonder, Lorenzo Ghiberti‘s gilded bronze 

doors for the Florence Baptistery, which 

Michelangelo himself called the Gates of

Paradise, a work nearly as famous, then 

and now, as his own Sistine Chapel ceiling   

 

Ovid would never have known of these 

masterworks, of course, having lived 

over a millenium earlier, but I suspect 

John Dryden, a cultured man, a couple 

of hundred years later than these 

cultural icons, would no doubt have 

been fully aware of them, much as we, 

however disinterested we might be, 

can’t help but have heard of, say, 

RembrandtChopinCharles Dickens,

for instance, though they be, similarly, 

centuries separated from us 

 

my point is that, without knowledge of 

the original Latin, Dryden‘s cultural

heritage must’ve slipped, I think, 

consciously or not, into his 

translation, for better, or for worse

 

it should be remembered, however,

that Dryden was writing for an early 

18th Century audience, much as I 

am presently doing myself with 

Dryden for a 21st, and maybe also

similarly skewing his idiom to better 

adapt it to our own time, for better, 

also, or for worse 

 

                    Here Phaeton still gaining on th’ ascent, 

 

gaining on th’ ascent, going faster 

and faster, climbing higher and 

higher

 

                    To his suspected father’s palace went

 

suspected father, Phaeton doesn’t

yet know if Helios / Phoebus / Apollo

is indeed his father


                    ‘Till pressing forward through the bright abode,
                    He saw at distance the illustrious God:
                    He saw at distance, or the dazling light
                    Had flash’d too strongly on his aking sight. 

 

had Phaeton not been as far, at

distance, from what he was seeing,

the illustrious God, the dazling, or 

dazzling, light would’ve hurt his 

eyes, hurt his aking, or aching, 

sight

 

                     The God sits high, exalted on a throne
                    Of blazing gems, with purple garments on; 

 

Tyrian, surely, purple, a hue we’ve 

seen here before, indicative of 

stature, of imperial, if not even

divine, as in this instance, 

pedigree


                     The Hours, in order rang’d on either hand,
                    And Days, and Months, and Years, and Ages stand.
                    Here Spring appears with flow’ry chaplets bound;
                    Here Summer in her wheaten garland crown’d;
                    Here Autumn the rich trodden grapes besmear;
                    And hoary Winter shivers in the reer. 

 

this is no longer a picture, but the 

real thing, Phoebus / Apollo / Helios

sits high, exalted on a throne /  Of 

blazing gems, with purple garments 

on, while Time and all of the Seasons 

hold court around him


                     Phoebus beheld the youth from off his throne;
                    That eye, which looks on all, was fix’d in one. 

 

Phoebus, who sees everything, who 

looks on all, beholds, fixes his eye on, 

his son


                     He saw the boy’s confusion in his face,
                    Surpriz’d at all the wonders of the place;
                    And cries aloud, “What wants my son? for know
                    My son thou art, and I must call thee so.” 

 

Phaeton, according to Phoebus / 

Apollo / Helios‘ forthright admission,

is truly his son


                     “Light of the world,” the trembling youth replies,
                    “Illustrious parent! since you don’t despise
                    The parent’s name, 

 

despise, refute

 

                                                some certain token give,
                    That I may Clymene’s proud boast believe,
                    Nor longer under false reproaches grieve.” 

 

your word is good, Phaeton allows,

but incontrovertibly, now, prove it, 

some certain token give, he 

challenges 


                     The tender sire was touch’d with what he said,
                    And flung the blaze of glories from his head, 

 

flung the blaze of glories from his head, 

reduced the intensity of his presence,

the impact of his charisma, took off 

his dazling crown, if only, maybe,

metaphorically, to be father to his son


                    And bid the youth advance: “My son,” said he,
                    “Come to thy father’s arms! for Clymene
                    Has told thee true; a parent’s name I own,
                    And deem thee worthy to be called my son.
                    As a sure proof, make some request, and I,
                    Whate’er it be, with that request comply;
                    By Styx I swear, whose waves are hid in night,
                    And roul impervious to my piercing sight.” 

 

an oath upon Styx is incontrovertible, 

like swearing on a Bible, as earlier 

noted


                     The youth transported, asks, without delay,
                    To guide the sun’s bright chariot for a day. 

 

Phaeton wants to drive his father’s 

car, the sun’s bright chariot, how 

contemporary, how immediate, 

how timeless 

 

stay tuned

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

“The Afternoon of a Faun” – Debussy / Nijinsky / Nureyev

397px-Faun_merse

      Faun and Nymph (1867)

 

              Pál Szinyei Merse               

 

                      ________

 

 

to take a break, for a moment, from the

travails of Io, a heifer still, though her

father, Inachus, is aware of the situation,

and Hermes, messenger of the gods, is 

out, on the orders of Jove/ Jupiter / Zeus

to save her, and, at the same time, 

inspired by the music Hermes tells Argus

her many-eyed keeper, Pan, god of the

wilds, has been playing, with reeds he’s 

been left with of Syrinx, the nymph he  

would’ve loved had she not been 

transformed into rushes, as imagined by 

Debussy in his evocative Syrinx for solo 

flute, as highlighted in my last instalment

I could not not remember Debussy‘s 

other similarly mythological, and intimately

related, work, his Prelude to the Afternoon 

of a Faun, as modified itself by Vaslav

Nijinsky, legendary dancer and 

choreographer, into an event that verily 

shook the early 20th Century 

 

retitled, L’après-midi d’un faune, The

Afternoon of a Faun in English, the 

performance captures everything one

would gather from Ovid’s myths of its 

primitive, primal, sensibilities

 

the faun, needless to say, is representative 

of Pan, god of the wild, woodlands, a satyr, 

part instinct, part man, see above 

 

watch Rudolf Nureyev, then, his equally 

celebrated successor, take on the role

Nijinsky made famous, without any 

alterations made to the original 1912 

production, however improbably, 

though entirely successfully, we’re in 

Paris, May 29, though transposed,

faithfully and superbly, to New York,

Broadway, 1979 

 

proceed, however, at your own discretion, 

The Afternoon of a Faun is steaming, it’s 

about what happens when a young buck’s 

fancies, implacable and irrepressible, turn 

to love, not for the scrupulous, where does 

love begin, it asks, and lust retire, or is it 

the other way around, where does yin, in 

other words, meet, become, yang

 

these are questions that more and more 

begin to come up, you’ll find, in Greek 

and Roman, and most other ancient, 

for that matter, mythologies, something 

that isn’t at all touched upon in the 

Abrahamic traditions, Christanity, Islam, 

Judaism, monotheistic, though they’re 

at least as old, where nature, the place 

of animals, vegetation, land, water, our

intimate interconnection with them, 

don’t much, for better or for worse, 

come up

 

I miss the wonder of the more 

pantheistic, the pagan, perspective 

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

The Transformation of Syrinx into Reeds

pan-and-syrinx-1619.jpg!Large

   Pan and Syrinx (1617 – 1619) 

 

           Peter Paul Rubens

 

                 __________



               Then Hermes thus: 

 

Hermes, messenger of the gods,

addresses Argus, keeper of Io

who’s been transformed by Jove

god of gods, into a heifer, though 

she remains daughter, ever, of 

Inachus, river god, to tell the

story of his rare, beguiling reeds

 

                                             A nymph of late there was
               Whose heav’nly form her fellows did surpass. 

 

here we go again with nymphs, 

beautiful, irresistible, however 

ever innocent, prey, due, indeed,

to their very beauty, their very

innocence, to lustful, inordinate 

desires, in these instances, 

markedly divine 

 

deities, I point out again, make 

up their own rules


               The pride and joy of fair Arcadia’s plains, 

 

Arcadia, apart from being an 

actual area of Greece, is also 

the ideal, in our historical 

imagination, of an utopia

much as is the lost island of

Atlantis 


               Belov’d by deities, ador’d by swains:
               Syrinx her name, by Sylvans oft pursu’d, 

 

Sylvans, could only be, though

I’ve been unable to find actual 

confirmation of my opinion, 

wood spirits, forest entities, 

satyrs, goat men, and such

 

               As oft she did the lustful Gods delude: 

 

Syrinx could often, or oft, delude, 

or fool, ward off, the lustful Gods

 

               The rural, and the woodland Pow’rs disdain’d; 

 

satyr yourself, Syrinx would’ve 

impudently taunted

 

               With Cynthia hunted, and her rites maintain’d:
               Like Phoebe clad, even Phoebe’s self she seems, 

 

Cynthia, is Phoebe, both also known

as Dianagoddess of the Hunt, you’ll

remember Phoebe / Diana from her

connection to Daphne, who earlier

here was transformed into a laurel 

 

Syrinx sounds an awful lot, incidentally,

like another version of Daphne


               So tall, so streight, such well-proportion’d limbs:
               The nicest eye did no distinction know,
               But that the goddess bore a golden bow: 

 

the only difference between Syrinx

and Cynthia / Phoebe / Diana was 

that Syrinx didn’t have, bear, 

golden bow


               Distinguish’d thus, the sight she cheated too. 

 

had she borne a golden bow, Syrinx

[d]istinguish’d thus, would’ve cheated 

the sight, looked identical, to the 

beautiful, it is inferred, goddess 

 

               Descending from Lycaeus, Pan admires
               The matchless nymph, and burns with new desires. 

 

Pan, god of the wild, woodlands

 

Lycaeus, Latin spelling of Lykaion,

is a mountain in Arcadia


               A crown of pine upon his head he wore;
               And thus began her pity to implore.
               But e’er he thus began, she took her flight
               So swift, she was already out of sight.
               Nor stay’d to hear the courtship of the God;
               But bent her course to Ladon’s gentle flood: 

 

Ladon, a river in Arcadia 

 

flood, rushing, though gentl[y], 

water, rhymes in the preceding 

verse, you’ll note, with God


               There by the river stopt, and tir’d before;
               Relief from water nymphs her pray’rs implore. 

 

Syrinx, once by the river stopt, seeks 

the help of, assistance, [r]elief from, 

the nearby water nymphs, her 

consorts  


               Now while the lustful God, with speedy pace,
               Just thought to strain her in a strict embrace, 

 

Pan, like Phoebus / Apollo, or 

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus before him,

is, as well, and characteristically,

a lustful God


               He fill’d his arms with reeds, new rising on the place.
               And while he sighs, his ill success to find, 

 

his ill success, his thwarted, 

ineffective, enterprise 


               The tender canes were shaken by the wind;
               And breath’d a mournful air, unheard before; 

 

the reeds that Pan gathered in his arms, 

shaken by the wind, create a mournful 

air, a melancholy music


               That much surprizing Pan, yet pleas’d him more. 

 

though Pan might’ve been much

surpriz[ed] by the sorrowful sounds 

he heard, he was more pleas’d by 

them than startled

 

               Admiring this new musick, Thou, he said,
               Who canst not be the partner of my bed,
               At least shall be the confort of my mind: 

 

Thou, Syrinx


               And often, often to my lips be joyn’d. 

 

in a kiss of consolation 


               He form’d the reeds, proportion’d as they are,
               Unequal in their length, and wax’d with care,
               They still retain the name of his ungrateful fair. 

 

the instrument Pan devised from

the tender canes he fashioned

from the unaccommodating reeds, 

what we now name the Pan flute

was called in Ancient Greece a 

syrinx, in honour of the 

recalcitrant nymph 

 

listen, coincidentally, to Debussy 

tell the storyfor solo flute,

however, which is to say, on a

modern instrumentfor our having 

long ago abandoned at a 

professional level the original pipe, 

though it remains, apparently, as a

folk instrument in more agrarian,

communities around the world, for 

shepherds, one would imagine, to

while away the hours while tending

to their, however wayward, sheep 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

“Apollo e Dafne” – George Frideric Handel

800px-George_Frideric_Handel_by_Balthasar_Denner

     “George Frideric Handel(1726 – 1728) 

 

              Balthasar Denner

 

                   __________

 

 

supposing that there would probably 

be a musical interpretation of the 

myth of Apollo and Daphne, I wasn’t 

surprised to discover that Handel 

had written one, in 1709 – 10, cantatas

on mythic subjects was the type of 

thing he did, don’t forget the 

Renaissance, the renewed, and 

probing fascination, starting more 

or less in the 14th Century, with 

Classical Greece and Rome, affecting 

everything, even as late, 1685 to 1759,

as the 18th Century for this composer

 

I must admit that I’m not particularly

partial to Handel, his rhythms are

way too elementary for my taste, 

plus he never achieves the depth 

of emotion Bach, his contemporary, 

does, 1685 – 1750, so that I’ve put 

him aside pretty well completely 

 

but here’s an Apollo e Dafne that

I found compelling from beginning 

to end

 

Apollo e Dafne is not an opera, but

a cantata, which means a piece 

for voice and orchestra, but with 

several movements, like tunes in

a Broadway show

 

this production, however, has 

incorporated a scenario with 

singers in costume acting 

out a plot

 

it has no subtitles though, but 

you can read the translation 

here, should you need to

 

Handel’s libretto, note, is a 

reworking of Ovid’s texttherefore 

not an exact reproduction of the 

version I’ve been highlighting, 

Dryden’s translation of 1717, 

written a few years, you’ll want to 

consider, after Handel’s own 

composition, but the essential 

story is there, she eventually 

turns into a tree, no surprise, 

you knew that already from Ovid’s

very title, The Transformation of

Daphne into a Lawrelas 

inscribed, however archaically 

now, by Dryden 

 

I’ll just point out that Cupid’s in 

red, doesn’t sing, just delivers 

atmospheric context, and you 

might find some later scenes 

quite, even shockingly, I did, 

explicit, be advised

 

otherwise, enjoy, be delighted

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

on love – “Nature Boy”

99_9

    unidentified

 

       _______

 

                               for Danielle and Joe

 

a few nights ago, friends came over, a 

young couple, in the bloom of youth,

relatively speaking, half, approximately, 

my age, I’m seventy, for a glass of wine

 

during a conversation about the many

knickknacks scattered about my 

apartment, pictures, paintings, 

assorted paraphernalia, memorabilia,

they asked, was there one piece of 

information I could give them, 

something not just physical, but 

metaphysical, that could lead to a  

good and meaningful life

 

after cautioning that any answer would

be way too complex, the question way 

too broad, I nevertheless trotted out, 

convivially, a few words of ready 

wisdom, a couple of trusted and true 

maxims I hold in store for such 

occasions, personal precepts, 

however seemingly flippant, I 

faithfully and diligently live by

 

pray for grace, for instance, make sure 

your tie’s on right, the only two 

practicable positions in any 

predicament, I’ve found

 

 

later, after privately thinking more 

about it, I realized there is indeed a 

specific answer, I’d been singing it 

already for a while, to help me deal 

with recent, and even accumulated, 

loss, it is the punchline to this 

wonderfully enchanted 

composition, called Nature Boy

 

      the greatest thing you’ll ever learn,

 

it knowingly advises 

 

      is just to love, and be loved in return 

 

words eminently worth retaining

 

listen

 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

on Beethoven’s Symphony no. 6, the “Pastorale”

the-sound-of-the-flute.jpg!Large

      The Sound of the Flute 

 

               Xu Beihong

 

                 ________

 

 

                                    for Susan, who urges

                                               me ever to write

 

 

a friend wrote recently, extolling a

performance of Beethoven’s Sixth

Symphony he’d just seen, a 

noteworthy conductor conducting 

 

then again, how can you go wrong, 

I wrote back, with that already 

enchanting music, sent him, in

return, a version I’d ferreted out,

tried out for him, had been duly

enchanted, had laughed, had cried, 

taken shelter from the storm, come 

out the other side transported, again  

 

I wondered about the power of music, 

during my intermittent musings

throughout the variegated movements, 

as the peregrinations ambled on along 

their own magical explorations, long 

irrepressible arpeggios running up or 

down the scales, performing 

arabesques at their peaks, rumbling 

tremolos at their grumbling bottoms, 

before returning to the more stable 

middle ground of the melody

 

where, wondered, does it all find its 

source

 

sounds, individual sounds, would 

have been signals of danger, 

originally, a single note from a horn

warning of strangers on the way to

a community of otherwise peaceful

cohabitants if not only family, twig 

cracking in the forest when you 

believe you’re all alone

 

individual sounds would’ve picked

up meaning beyond their own pitch

and volume, resonance, reverberation,

rotundity, through Darwinian, even, 

time

 

a mother’s voice, for instance, 

identified immediately, upon a single

note, perenially, by any of her brood

 

 

it’s a long way from there to a symphony

but those are its roots, why we laugh, why

we cry, take shelter from the storm, and 

come out the other side transported

 

notes are written, emblazoned, on 

our consciousness, our lives depended,

depend still, on it 

 

listen

 

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: interestingly, our Darwinian evolution

          has produced pitch as an identifying

          factor for our species, a female voice 

          is higher than a male’s, this has 

          allowed us, as a species, to sing

“The Boulevard of Broken Dreams”

lipstick-1908.jpg!Large.jpg

    Lipstick (1908) 

 

          Frantisek Kupka

 

               __________

 

 whenever my heart is broken, I’ve recently 

noted, I’ve learned to sing a corresponding

song, it didn’t happen by design, but  

organically, it seems, as a response to my 

periods of anguish, a song would come up, 

each time, to contain the dimensions of my 

rue 

 

I need to learn the notes, which are usually 

tonal and melodic, with the characteristic

that they pretty consistently span a vocal

range that requires some intimate attention, 

work that tears me away, studiously and 

diligently, from my own private concerns

in order to consider, through his, her, very 

articulated lyrics, those of another, not to

mention the response of my proposed 

audience

 

I have developed quite a repertoire 

 

recently, this has been my aria

 

 

I was especially impressed by the 

irony in the composition, the 

songsmith laughing at himself, 

melodramatizing his sentiments, 

taking the sting out of his despair, 

if you’ll pardon the allusion
with over-the-top, it must be 
admitted, metaphors, allegories 

I mean, I walk along a street of

sorrows, a boulevard of broken 

dreams, you need a big floppy 

hat, and very red lipstick to pull

that one off

 

you ought to see me

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard  

 

 

   

“Orfeo ed Euridice” – Christoph Willibald Gluck

6-orpheus-leading-eurydice-from-the-underworld-plein-air-romanticism-jean-baptiste-camille-corot.jpg!Large

   Orpheus Leading Eurydice from the Underworld (1861) 

 

           Camille Corot

 

              _________

 

the question of the afterlife comes up

in several places in art history, from

very Homer to the present, my very

favourite is Gluck‘s opera Orfeo ed 

Euridice“, 1762

 

Orpheus, because of the sweetness 

of his music, his ability on the lyre, 

is granted, by the rulers of the 

Underworld, the return, among the 

mortals, of his recently deceased 

beloved, Eurydice 

 

the condition is that he not turn back

to look at her as he leads her back 

to the world of the living, our 

sensate world

 

it’s a journey I’ve taken often for its

utter enchantment and inspiration,

you’ll find it irresistible

 

watch, listen 

 

you won’t want to not go back,

I didn’t


 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

“Requiem” – Antonin Dvorak

1024px-Notre_Dame_de_Chartres.jpg


        Chartres Cathedral – View from south-east


                           _____________________

 

                                               for Donna

 


a few days before a dear friend was due 

to pass away, which is to say with medical 

assistance, I had taped from television, 

whether coincidentally or not, Antonin 

Dvorak’s “Requiem”, though I hadn’t yet 

listened to it

 

on the day of the procedure, I lit candles, 

put the music on, and sat in attendance 

as its flights of angels s[a]ng [her] to

[her] rest

 

the piece is somber, probably reserved for

somber occasions, but upon their instance, 

the work is glorious, and salutary

 

here, it is performed at the Cathedral

of Chartres, suffused with the solemnity 

and the splendour appropriate to such 

a fateful moment   

 

may you journey forth in peace, 

dear friend

 

 

R ! chard 

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 4, Opus 58 – Beethoven

music-painting-and-decoration-of-a-piano-1920.jpg!Large.jpg

     Music (Painting and Decoration of a Piano) (1915-1920) 

 

          Konstantinos Parthenis

 

                    __________

 

like with Shakespeare, some of Beethoven’s

work doesn’t reach the heights I find in their 

utter masterpieces, his Fourth Piano Concerto

is, to my mind, such a piece, though it’s not at

all not impressive

 

my complaint is that the musical motive, the

original theme, the cluster, merely, of notes

that make up the matter of the ensuing 

harmonic explorations, in all of the three 

movements of the Fourth, is lost in his 

excessive elaborationsone is distracted by 

the soloist’s dazzling showmanship rather 

than by the work’s metaphysical magic, as 

is conversely the case rather in Beethoven’s 

sister concertos, his OneTwo, Three, and 

Five 

 

most notably, the Fourth‘s slow movement,

the andante con moto, slow, but not unduly,

passes by in an instant, nearly imperceptibly,

but for the conspicuousness of its plodding 

rhythm, you wonder what just happened,

what did I miss

 

the first movement, the allegro moderato, 

or slightly slower than allegro, begins highly

unconventionally with the soloist at the helm, 

setting up the conversation, as it were, the

subject of the matter

 

that an individual, a commoner, would’ve  

dared to initiate a dialogue of purported 

significance in a culture where subjects

would have known their place, like later,

for instance, a woman asserting her 

position in a patriarchal society, would’ve 

been shocking, and highly controversial

 

but Beethoven raps out a rhythm, four

quick notes followed by four quick notes

followed by the same four notes again,

ra ta ta tat, ra ta ta tat, ra ta ta tat, like

someone knocking at a door, however

plaintively, requiring attention, before the

orchestra responds, determinedly and

categorically, though the soloist will ever 

remain the prime, and manifest, mover

 

this is not a tune, this is a statement

 

this is also the 18th Century’s introduction 

to the Romantic Period, where individual 

voices were stating their answer to the 

question of the disintegration of the

aristocratic as well as the religious 

ideals which had prevailed throughout 

the earlier Christian centuries, when 

their controlling dogmas, however still 

entrenched, were being questioned, 

and rejected, as evidenced by both the 

constitutional dictates of the American ,

and the French Revolutions, which 

were installing, codifying for their 

progeny, their individual continents,

and for very history, the idea of Human,

as opposed to the traditionally assumed

Divine, Rights

 

secular voices would consequently

sprout in myriad profusion 

throughout the ensuing 19th Century 

in order to people with personalities, 

as distinct from omnipotent, whether 

secular or ecclesiastical, established 

figures, to shape the ideologies of the 

impending future, for better or for 

worse

 

but I digress, exponentially

 

the third movement of the Fourth Piano

Concerto reminds me, in all its urgency,

of the finale of Rossini’s William Tell

Overture, of which I suspect it might  

have been an inspiration, the work

better known to many of my generation

as the theme to The Lone Ranger

 

Lone Ranger indeed, Beethoven was

already leaving his indelible, not to

mention generative, mark on our

present, 21st Century, culture

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard