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Category: music to ponder

Piano Concerto no 1, opus 15 – Beethoven

Jolson_black

      Al Jolson, in “The Jazz Singer” (1927)


              _________________

 


in order to abate my discomfort, my

consternation, after meeting up with

one of the candidates I considered

favouring in the upcoming election,

I put on Beethoven’s Firstwhich,

incontrovertibly, from the first few 

notes, did the trick, took me out of 

politics and the uncomfortable 

present, into metaphysical 

pertinence, and magic

 

I’d referred to the issue of blackface,

a searing issue at present in the 

media, I said, what about Laurence 

Olivier doing Othello, Placido 

Domingo doing the very same Moor,

not to mention Al Jolson doing,

unforgettably, My Mammy 

 

but picked up that neither the

candidate, nor his mentor, standing 

by his side, had any idea what I was 

talking about 

 

Placido Domingo, I said, one of The

Three Tenors, remember them

 

the aspiring representative indicated 

a dim recollection, his accompanist 

admitted to having nebulously heard

of him, them, somewhere

 

OMGess, I reared, I’m talking to the 

next generation, maybe even the 

generation after that, who have no

recollection, no understanding of

where I come from, it was, to say

the least,  unsettling, discomfitting, 

sobering 

 

there was no one at home with whom 

to commiserate when I arrived, 

answering machines only at the end 

of every line, I resorted, therefore, 

not unwisely as it turned out, to the

said Beethoven, who was, as usual, 

lifesaver

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

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“The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross” – Joseph Haydn

lord-s-crucifixion-1990.jpg!Large.jpg

     Lord´s Crucifixion (1990) 

 

           George Stefanescu

 

               ____________

 

 

my sister is not well, her situation, 

though blessed throughout with 

grace, is dire, in such moments I 

turn to music for consolation, for 

courage, and for a serene 

acquiescence to whatever might 

be the outcome, the hour that I 

spend thus with her becomes in

that light a meditation, a mass,

private prayer

 

I’ve lit a trinity of candles in her

honour, one nearby for our dad,

gone these already thirty years, 

on something of an altar I’ve 

fashioned, however all the while 

unconsciously, about my 

fireplace, by their flickering 

silence, I find a place for 

solemn contemplation 

 

The Seven Last Words of Our

Saviour on the Cross is to my 

mind Haydn’s greatest 

masterpiece, its subject is

self-explanatory, but you might

want to read again here what I 

wrote about it earlier for 

greater context 

 

it is sung in the Oratorio de la

Santa Cueva, the Oratory of 

the Holy Cave, in Cádiz, Spain

for which it had been originally

composed

 

it is transcendent

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

Symphony no 7 – Anton Bruckner

cathedral-1991.jpg!Large.jpg

   Cathedral (1991) 

 

          George Stefanescu

 

                          _________

 

 

it’s funny, upon the imminent demise of

of my only sister, I chose to listen to,

instinctively, for solace, Bruckner’s 

Symphony no 7, lighting candles,

everywhere in my apartment, at 

dusk, like settings, for my somber

reveries

 

listen, you might understand why

 

Bruckner was a profoundly Catholic

composer, composing liturgical

works expressive of his profound

beliefs, fit, aurally, for, indeed,

cathedrals, ceremonial, arresting

 

his 7th, grand and utterly convincing,

is not an ineffective consolation, is

not an easily disregarded promise 

of something, however ephemerally

manifested, beyond the meagre

aspirations of merely faith

 

and which finally produces an epiphany,

a human understanding, that just being,

just responding to our condition, within

the confines of our station, is, 

eventually, nothing short of grace

 

art, in other words, is praying

 

 

R ! chard

rhapsodies – Gershwin / Rachmaninov

rhapsody-1958.jpg!Large

  “Rhapsody (1958) 

 

      Hans Hofmann


          _________

 

if a sonata is a piece of music with more

than one section, by definition a rhapsody

is not a sonata, a rhapsody has only one 

section, only one movement, all that is 

required, therefore, essentially, of a 

rhapsody, is that it be – a subjunctive 

here, incidentally, the mood of aspiration, 

high hopes, ideals – that it be, I reiterate, 

rhapsodic

 

in the spirit of juxtaposition, here are two

rhapsodies, the first, George Gershwin’s 

Rhapsody in Blue“, the other 

Rachmaninov’s, his Rhapsody on a 

Theme of Paganini

 

how are they different, you tell me

 

I’ll just point out that the one seems, to 

my ears, steeped still in the Romantic 

Period, the early 19th Century, despite 

its publishing date, 1934, the other

earlier, composition, 1924, sounds like 

full blown, in comparison, 20th Century

America, the future 

 

Old Europe, in other words, meets the 

New World, however chronologically 

counterintuitively

 

listen, you can hear all of it, both are,

either era, extraordinary, time is what

eventually tells

 


R ! chard

 

Sonata no 14 in C minor, K457 – Mozart

dinner-at-the-ball-1879.jpg!Large.jpg

     Dinner at the Ball (1879) 

 

              Edgar Degas

 

                _________

 

 

a formal dinner among family and friends 

has traditionally consisted of a salad, 

followed by a main course, then by 

dessert, all of this by convention, it is not

forbidden to serve dessert first, just highly

unusual, and noticeably disconcerting

 

these primary courses have since evolved,

in more elegant places, to include an

appetizer, either added, or to replace the

salad, and cheese can do the same for 

dessert, so that five services can now  

outpace the original three

 

different cultural settings may change 

somewhat the above order, some

Europeans, for instance, have their  

salad after the main course, but in  

general, this sequence is fixed

 

you can say the same for the sonata,

and all its derivatives

 

 

a sonata was originally served in three

courses, called movements, the first

sprightly, the second, in contrast, more

somber, contemplative, probing, the last 

jovial again upon imminent farewells, for

the same reasons that applied to formal

dinners, to express opulence, 

magnanimity, and variety of invention,

which is to say, power, and eventually,

cultural influence

 

here’s Mozart’s Sonata no 14 in C minor

K457, in three movements, auditory,

rather than gustatorycourses, where 

our era’s musical parameters, their order 

of presentation, for better or for worse, 

all began 

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

a degustation

lemons-1929.jpg!Large.jpg

Lemons (1929)

Georges Braque

___________

watching one of my cooking competition
shows on television the other day, the
twelve contestants were called upon in
pairs to create, each couple, one of the
six elements in a degustation menu

a degustation menu – I raised an eyebrow
at that one – is the same as a tasting menu,
but at a finer, it is implied, restaurant

the theme was citrus fruit, each service
had to highlight one of them, a mandarin,
a lemon, an orange, a lime, a tangelo,
a grapefruit, in that order

my goodness, I thought, a set of
variations on edibles, I was delighted,
not to mention synesthetically
titillated, all my senses were alive

the first course was a mandarin-cured
prawn ceviche, with pesto, something
to tease one’s palate, leaving plenty of
room, however, for what was to follow,
the second course, an equally light
lemon-cured salmon with smoked
crème fraîche and decorative
translucent radish slices, in again but
polite allotments

the third service introduces the protein,
duck with the nearly ever requisite
orange, but with beets, in this instance,
on an underlying sheen of all their
accumulated and colourful juices,
bread, I would imagine, would’ve been
gluttonously required

beef then followed, to fill the second
of the more substantial and filling
elements of the meal, with a lime
reduction and beets

for dessert, the fifth service presented
a tangelo cup with a surprise chocolate
truffle meant to burst in one’s mouth
with iced tangelo flavour, refreshing
and unexpectedly delightful, followed
by a grapefruit sorbet with chocolate
ganache and meringue shards as a
finale

not all contestants reached the heights
wished for, but some were memorable,
much as in any set of, even noteworthy,
variations

here’s Glenn Gould playing Beethoven’s
Six Variations in F major, Opus 34, each
variation is comparable to a culinary
experience, but for piano

listen, compare

these are preceded here by a late, and
haunting, Beethoven bagatelle, his
Opus 126, however, after which the
variations themselves are conveniently
spliced in the editing process to help
distinguish each movement from the
other

Glenn Gould doesn’t hit a note wrong,
but I think Beethoven’s introductory
aria, upon which the variations are
built, and which is repeated at the end
after a coda, or final interpolated wave,
is slow, a more engaging opening
would’ve been, to my mind, more
effective

I also would’ve, however peripherally,
degusted especially the lime beef

R ! chard

psst: incidentally, all Bach’s Cello Suites
are in six segments, their common
theme is dance, each one is a
scintillating Baroque example

Concerto for Keyboard / Violin, BWV 1052 – Bach

2.jpg!Large.jpg

     “The Nightwatch (1642) 

 

                  Rembrandt

 

                       _____

 

 

                                for Barbara, who dutifully 

                                      kicked me in the psyche

 

 

there is apparent discussion about whether

the BWV 1052 of Bach was first a keyboard 

or a violin, concerto, I’ve only known it as a 

keyboard concerto till now, when looking 

for it for a friend, I happened upon this 

recently published rendering of an event 

that took place at the Rijksmuseum in 

Amsterdam in front of the very 

Nightwatch” of Rembrandt, historical  

epochs coming iconically together  

 

which is why, incidentally, I love Europe,

Disneyland for adults, where epochal

periods come together like fantasies,

tossing back at us their manifest, their

multifarious, and mythic glories  

 

 

what do you think, which came first, the

chicken or the egg,  the keyboard or the

violin

 

I think, however prejudicially, the 

keyboardbut what do I know  

 

enjoy either, they’re both riveting 

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: note how the painted faces and the real

          faces in the violin version look alike,

          Rembrandt‘s genius 

 

 

 

 
 

 

a juxtaposition of verb moods

 

       the-wanderer-above-the-sea-of-fog.jpg!Blog.jpg

           The Wanderer above a Sea of Fog (1818) 


                   Caspar David Friedrich

 

                         _______________

 

 

a cardinal rule, the juxtaposition of two 

things of the same sort will exponentially

increase the information gleaned of either

 

therefore the following

 

The Impossible Dream“, listen 

 

       To dream the impossible dream

       To fight the unbeatable foe

       To bear with unbearable sorrow

       To run where the brave dare not go

 

       To right the unrightable wrong

       To love pure and chaste from afar

       To try when your arms are too weary

       To reach the unreachable star

 

       This is my quest, to follow that star

       No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

       To fight for the right

       Without question or pause

       To be willing to march

       Into hell for a heavenly cause

 

        And I know if I’ll only be true

       To this glorious quest

        That my heart will lay peaceful and calm

        When I’m laid to my rest

 

        And the world will be better for this

        That one man scorned and covered with scars

         Still strove  with his last ounce of courage

         To fight the unbeatable foe

         To reach the unreachable star

 

and Climb Every Mountain, listen again

 

        Climb every mountain

        Search high and low

        Follow every byway

        Every path you know

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

        A dream that will need  

        All the love you can give

        Every day of your life

        For as long as you live

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

 

an initial similarity, they are both

inspirational

 

an initial divergence, the former is 

in the infinitive mood, which is to 

say that the lesson is for all time

in all places and for all people, 

while the second is an imperative,

in other words, an exhortation,

something only pertaining to the 

future, though the other conditions,

of place, and of person, can still 

apply  

 

note that the verse, in either, is in 

the indicative, in keeping with, in

each, the altered air, the second,

and contrasting melody, which in

both, note, personalizes, makes

the recommendation actual, no

longer merely idealized, the

indicative is the only mood which

deals in facts, the other moods

are all imagined, dreamed

 

let me point out that in comparison

with songs in the indicative, love

songs and the like, the show tunes

above find their source in medieval

religious music, hymns, liturgical

stuff, and more recently,

comparatively, specifically in

England after the Protestant

Reformation with Handel’s both

church and ceremonial music

 

in which England went on to

specialize, incidentally, while other

forms of music there, the racier,

secular European stuff, had been

demonized, deemed sinful, and

thus proscribed

 

England would only get its mojo back

in the 1960s with the Beatles

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

       

the indicative

grammar.jpg!Large

        Grammar 

 

              Gentile da Fabriano


                          ____________

 


since I’d only recently vaunted both the 

infinitive and the imperative moods of 

verbs in this venue, you might’ve 

expected that the indicative would 

soon follow

 

and here it is, the indicative, the mood 

of narratives, storytelling, the default 

mode, essentially, where most of our 

communication takes place, be it

oral or written

 

famous first lines of novels will attest

to that, lines you’ve probably heard 

before, however only incidentally, if 

not actually read

 

        It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

 

from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities


and the rest is so good, I can’t, in all 

consciousness, exclude it

 

        it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was 

        the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the 

        season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the 

        spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. 

 

or

 

        Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. 

 

from Daphne du Maurier’s eerily Gothic 

Rebecca“, heiress to not only Charlotte 

Brontë’s Jane Eyre“, but also to her 

sister Emily’s, to my mind, much more 

accomplished work, Wuthering“, and 

indeed wonderful, Heights“, whereupon 

I’ll refrain from continuing to follow the

sentences, however compelling, for 

lack of space and time

 

but

 

        I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

 

from Out of Africa“, Karen Blixen’s

unforgettable novel, however brilliantly

translated to film, must take its place

here among towering introductory

sallies 

 

       Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure. 

 

Proust’s answer to Homer, his “À la 

recherche du temps perdu“, his

Remembrance of Things Past  

 

      For a long time, I’d go to bed early.

 

which, as I read on, no less than

changed my life 

 

but that’s another story, however

totally engrossing

 


everywhere above, let me point out, 

the mood has been indicative, to a 

very verb, so unobtrusive you 

probably didn’t even notice 

 

in music, a counterpart for the 

indicative would be the allegro, 

the baseline, not too fast, not 

too slow, the tempo listeners 

would most easily respond to

 

but more about that only later, after

a traipse through the speculative 

conditional, then  the aspirational 

subjunctive

 

meanwhile, check this out, The

Heart of the Matter“, the Eagles, a

ballad, mostly indicatives, but with

here and there an infinitive, and a

peppering of conditionals, however

might these be signal, to utterly break 

your heart

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

the infinitive in Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be”

philosophy-and-grammar.jpg!Large

     Philosophy and Grammar 

 

           Gentile da Fabriano


                  __________

 


when I referred to Shakespeare’s 

perhaps most famous monologue,

To be, or not to be, in my most 

recent transmission, in order to 

shed light on the idea of tempi, 

that it would parallel Beethoven’s

Opus 111 in its philosophical 

significance, however might’ve I 

done so unintentionally, was

nevertheless quite spot on, it is

perhaps his most potent

disquisition, as is Beethoven’s

own masterpiece, on existence

 

but let me extrapolate

 

to be, or not to be, both infinitives,

which is to say that their form, their 

moodrelate to infinity, the infinite, 

etymological correlatives, which 

means that the actions, thus, are 

not localized, not specific, but 

belong to all places at all times and

for all people, the very stuff, let me

point out, of philosophy 

 

whether ’tis nobler in the mind to 

suffer, infinitive, the slings and 

arrows of outrageous fortune, or 

to take, infinitive again, arms 

against a sea of troubles, and by 

opposing end, bare infinitive,

which is to say, without the

preposition to, them  

 

as in  

 

to die, to sleep, infinitives, no more, 

and by a sleep to say, infinitive, we 

end the heartache and the thousand 

natural shocks that flesh is heir to, 

’tis a consummation devoutly to be 

wished, passive infinitive      

 

you’ll find that the rest of the 

soliloquy abounds in infinitives,       

the grammatical home, the 

territory, of philosophy

 

with this speech, incidentally, 

Shakespeare kicks off, in

literature, the Renaissance, much

as Beethoven with his Opus 111

firmly establishes, in music, the

Romantic Period


compare, meanwhile, thou shalt 

not kill, an imperative, the mood

the tenor, the register, is of 

commandments, it differs from 

the infinitive in that, though 

seemingly universal at first, there 

is an exception to its authoritative 

span, and that exception is the 

speaker, all others are called upon 

to abide, this is not philosophy, 

this is power 


 

much as in music, see in that context

my earlier text, one can read an awful 

lot between the lines

 

 

R ! chard