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Category: paintings to ponder

Piano Concerto no 3 in C minor, Opus 37 – Beethoven

fishing-boats-on-the-deauville-beach-1866.jpg!Large.jpg

    Fishing Boats on the Deauville Beach (1866)

 

          Gustave Courbet


              ___________

 

if you’ve listened to the first two 

Beethoven piano concertos here

you’ll find the Third to be very 

similar in structure, the first 

movement is an allegro, which is 

to say it’s fast, and in the manner 

of Beethoven, brash, tempestuous,

exhilarating, the second, slow, an

adagio, or a largo, is plaintive,

melancholy, mournful, the third, 

brisk, ebullient, commanding, is

again an allegro

 

the form is descended from Mozart 

and the Classical Period, of which 

Beethoven is the tail end, but the 

entrails of his pieces are entirely

upended and revolutionary

 

Beethoven demands your attention,

his music is no longer the backdrop

for social gatherings of the 

aristocracy, but performances for 

intent audiences

 

compare, for instance, Mozart’s 

24th Piano Concerto, a more 

demure affair, however 

impressive

 

there are several similarities, both

pieces are in C minor, a downcast

key traditionally, but most notably,

the intial musical motive, or idea, 

at the top of either concerto, their

first few introductory notes, are

the same, you’ll recognize them

 

but Mozart is never in your face,

insisting upon your attention with

eccentric rhythms and jerky 

musical progressions, not to

mention loud and aggressive

passages such as Beethoven

presents, but lulls one, rather, 

into his reverie with an ever  

polite discourse from a 

deferential soloist, courteous 

and beholden, however ever

illustrious, from the first note

to the last

 

in the visual arts, it’d be like 

comparing a Courbet, say, to a

Monet, it’s a question, given 

their overlapping time periods, 

of accent, and sentiment

 

you’ll need in either case, of 

either, a keen ear, a keen eye

 

listen 

 

now listen

 


R ! chard

 

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Piano Concerto no 2, opus 19 – Beethoven

allegro-con-brio-bourke-st-west-1890.jpg!Large.jpg

     Allegro con brio, Bourke St. West (1890) 

 

                Tom Roberts

 

                    ________

 

 

a concerto is a movie, but for the ears,

one listens, rather than looks, for one’s 

information

 

quite specifically, Beethoven introduces

drama into his inventions, where earlier 

there’d been merely an invitation to the 

dance, minuets, for instance, gigues, or 

disparate, disorganized, appeals, 

otherwise, to our more interior, whether 

secular or mystical, emotions, see in 

this context, for instance, early adagios, 

heart-wrenching, melting often, odes

 

these, or the even slower largos, fit 

neatly, however, into Beethoven’s 

compositional scheme of things,  

between the introductory allegros,

often con brio, and the closing, 

and equally spirited rondos, by 

becoming the pivotal element in 

his intended musical evening, the 

core of his narrative presentation, 

the plangent centre of his three 

part play, film 

 

here’s his Second

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

“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

 

 

 

on our magnificence

allegory-of-magnificence-1654.jpg!Large.jpg

   Allegory of Magnificence (1654) 

 

      Eustache Le Sueur

 

           ____________

 

we have only our magnificence to 

counteract the indignity of our 

incarnation

 

a flower is itself its only existential 

defence, its effervescence of 

attributes – colour, grace, 

intoxicating aroma – its 

validating glory

 

we are such things as dreams 

are made of, its a question of 

choosing one’s dreams

 

 

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

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

impression-sunrise.jpg!Large

Impression, Sunrise” (1873)

Claude Monet

________

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

much like Elizabeth Taylor as Martha
in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”,
my answer is, I am, George, I am

the subjunctive is an esoteric mood,
even more abstruse in English than
in other languages, where the verb’s
conjugation highlights its presence,
in English, it’s nearly identical to the
indicative, the mood everybody
instinctively speaks in, facts

the subjunctive is about aspiration,
like the conditional, abstract, not
real, but its intention, rather than
the conditional’s inherent
impediment, a condition, shoots
for the stars, isn’t introspective,
but adamant, imperative

it is necessary that one be, it is
urgent that one have, it is
important that one effect, a
particular thing or event, all
subjunctives after the
doorkeeper word, “that”

one finds the subjunctive in
Shakespeare, master of grammar,
perhaps unparalleled in English,
a lot – O, that this too solid flesh
would melt, / Thaw and resolve
itself into a dew!
– and follows
with Elizabeth Barrett Browning –
Pardon, o pardon that my soul
should make, / Of all that strong
divineness which I know / For
thine and thee …,
for instance,
who is so profoundly indebted to
Shakespeare for her aesthetics

one wondrous day, I realized that
Proust’s entire À la recherche du
temps perdu
, his “In Search of
Lost Time
“, my Bible, was set in
the, French however, subjunctive,
the mood, there as well, of
possibility, therefore rather than
the definitive recreation of an
earlier time, Proust was
describing a sensibility, a personal
interpretation of a previous reality,
however bolstered by intimate and
apparently precise recollection of
shimmeringly imprecise, though
personally accurate, impressions

note here the similar preoccupations
of Proust’s contemporaries, the, aptly
named, Impressionists

everything, Proust was saying, as
were also the Impressionists, is in
the eye of the beholder

the subjunctive is the mood that
sets this instinct in motion

R ! chard

psst: Somerset Maugham I remember
being noteworthy as well for his
immaculate use, in his South
Pacific tales, of the subjunctive,
extremely elegant in its refined
construction, even with its
English austerities, like making
lace out of mere cloth, impressive
despite its impracticality, or
perhaps even because of it