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Category: paintings to ponder

Cello Suite no1, in G major – Bach


        “Homage to J.S. Bach (1912) 

              Georges Braque


                                      for Lynne, who’s been catching up
                                                         on her Bach, recently
the cello had been a peripheral instrument,
supplying accompaniment, merely, until 
Bach gave it wings, in new employ as 
Kapellmeister for Leopold, Prince of 
Anhalt-Cöthen, a Calvinist, who decried 
music in his churches, Bach turned to 
secular music mostly during this period,
instead of to the cantatas and oratorios,
the ecclesiastical stuff, he’d in earlier 
services been composing, not at all, 
however, unproductively, for he produced 
during this new period the template 
essentially for the entire modern epoch – 
the “Well-Tempered Klavier”, all of his 
piano literature, the Two- and Three-Part 
Inventions, his Toccatas, his Partitas, the 
sublime Cello Suites, his equally profoundly 
inspirational Sonatas for Unaccompanied 
Violin, are the basis upon which our 
contemporary music still stands, these 
pieces are still the Everests to climb for 
contemporary instrumentalists, you need 
only to listen to know why, by a semi-tone 
a cellist can fall apart, destroy the entire 
experience, distort an otherwise 
transcendental possibility, like a climber 
can tragically lose hir life

listen to Mischa Maisky, to my mind the 
very Zeus of 20th-Century cellists, 
perform Bach’s 1st Cello Suite, and
deliver incontrovertible proof of that,  
however Olympian, claim

R ! chard


up my eccentricities / the Ides of March


        “The Death of Caesar (1798) 

               Vincenzo Camuccini


in looking up a requiem to commemorate 
the Ides of March, today, a date imprinted  
on our collective consciousness since 
Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar”, act l, 
scene ll –

    Soothsayer:   Beware the Ides of March.

    Julius Caesar:   What man is that?

    Marcus Brutus:   A soothsayer bids you beware the Ides of March.

    Julius Caesar    Set him before me, let me see his face.

    Cassius:   Fellow, come from the throng, look upon Caesar.

    Julius Caesar:   What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.

     Soothsayer:   Beware the Ides of March.

    Julius Caesar:   He is a dreamer, let us leave him. Pass.

– I found an entirely appropriate work,
though with more contemporary, and 
consequently more immediate, 

but first, let me say more about both 
Julius Caesar and Shakespeare

Caesar died on the Ides of March, 
notoriously, and ignominiously – 
though ruthless in his own way, 
not to mention also flamboyant,  
Caesar had been a ruler conscious 
of his constituency, and therefore 
socially responsive, giving, for 
instance, citizenship to residents 
from far away, a contentious issue 
still nowadays, and support for 
veterans, another hot political 

he was also the lover of Cleopatra, 
among apparently many other trysts, 
not to mention, it has been suggested, 
of King Nicomedes lV of Bithynia

regardless, he is the template for 
modern rulers, eclipsing Alexander
the Great by a long shot, who else 
has a very month, July, named after 
him, apart from Augustus, Caesar‘s
heir and successor

his complete literary works have only 
recently come out in English, an
apparently, and most undoubtedly,
significant enterprise, Caesar would 
be, of course, subjective, therefore
probably indifferent to, or more 
unforthcoming about, his less savoury
excesses – he’d apparently cut off the 
hands of soldiers he had conquered,
something he never mentioned  

should we consider the impunity of our 
own 21st-Century autocrats – who will
blithely destroy communities with 
lethal chemical agents, and even, in
like manner, specifically target 
individuals – with less condemnation
and horror

nobody cared, by the way, about the 
Ides of March, until Shakespeare 
suggested, for all time, that we 
should beware of it

and we’ve been doing so ever since 

March 11th, 2011, was the date of the
Japanese tsunami, the earth shook, 
thousands died, the devastation was 
unimaginable, including nuclear 
radioactive explosions

Tōru Takemitsu‘s Requiem, written
in 1957, though not specifically 
related to that national tragedy, is
not at all unrelated to their agony

and through the power of music to
bring souls together, manifestly, 
here and now, his thoughtful
evocation, however dissonant, 
however arhythmic, however 
unhinged from Western Classical 
musical precepts, which might 
very well, I remark, be the point, 
brings souls, if you’ll listen
demonstrably together

R ! chard

psst: did I mention that the words 
          “Tsar” and “Kaiser” are 
          derivations of the name 

what’s up in Pyeongchang / Bach


      “The Cello Player (1896) 

              Thomas Eakins


though I’d considered presenting all six
of Bach’s Cello Suites – your one stop
shopping for these extraordinary 
compositions – even one only of these
masterpieces floored me each time I
individually listened  

why the Suites, cause I couldn’t follow 
up on Beethoven’s Opus 5, for cello
and piano accompaniment, without 
saying more about the cello, by then 
an instrument of some significance, 
and who could argue, it’s resonance 
thrills you in your bones, in your very 

Frederick ll, King of Prussiaplayed it, 
earning for him tailored compositions, 
however controversial, from both 
Mozart and Haydn, but even earlier, 
Bach had composed definitive pieces 
for it, much as he’d done for the 
harpsichord, precursor to the piano, 
students of either still go to Bach for 
their basics, their intricate, exquisite, 
technical proficiency

the cello can play one note only at a
time, which means that, like a voice, 
you’re working without harmony, 
you need to make your own, 
otherwise your performance is 
boring, no one else, as far as I know,
has ever written anything else for 
unaccompanied cello, not even 

I find most performers lend Bach a 
more Romantic air, torrid emotion,
excesses of volume, pauses to the 
pace, ritardandos, rallentandos, 
which aren’t appropriate to the 
more genteel Baroque period,
something I usually find 

but in this performance, I’m sure 
not even Bach would object

I’m offering up first the Sixth Cello
Suite, D major, played by Jian Wang
someone I’d never heard of, in a 
dazzling performance in Pyeongchang
place I’d neither ever heard of, until 
only very recently

it appears both of these new kids on 
the block ought to be on the map

R ! chard

on, however exuberant, ambition


         “The Chess Players (1902)

                  William Orpen


                                      for Joselyn, my Ariel

pumped as I was by my most recent
exegesis about longevity, a dear, 
dear friend, used to, and infinitely 
tolerant, of my, apparently often, 
according to her, exhortations 
about my significant literary abilities, 
sighed when I told her I’d make her 
famous with my artalso my mother,
as well as other influential and 
cherished characters, and produced 
a Scrabble word over our game to, 
in an instant, overwhelm me with 
seven letter concoction, at the very 
last moment, leaving me with a row, 
furthermore, of unused tiles, with,
however trivial, still annihilating, 

ouch, I said, girlfriend

but I’m not giving up on my promise
to her, I’m reaching for the stars

what do you think

R ! chard

comparing divas


        Diva I 



comparing two extraordinary performances,
as I am wont to do with any coupled exhibits,
which render always more than the sum of 
their parts, let me let you consider an 
historical record of a legend already with 
that of one who is about to become one,
Bette Midler, 1971, doing the Continental 
Bathsopposite Vesselina Kasarova at the 
Schwetzinger Festspiele, 2005

the voices in either case are impeccable,
the only difference is the context, you 
choose what you’re into

but let me tell you that Vesselina Kasarova
doesn’t give an inch, she puts on a show 
that makes your jaw drop, trust me, it all 
depends on your mood

Vesselina comes from a different epoch,
despite her contemporary production,
polite, flirtatious, modest, the 18th

but her staccatos, followed by verily,
and however improbably, organic 
legatos, indeed fervent, and  
unmitigated, fermatas, are stunning,  
a touras they say in such instances,  
de force, indeed de maîtrise, de  
mastery, wait till you hear the final 
moments of her surely definitive 
Glück, utterly, and incontrovertibly, 

Bette is brash, in your face, needs to 
get the attention of guys in towels, 
1971, intent on more prurient 
peregrinations than merely watching 
superstars, however in the making, 
strut their show-stopping stuff

both Vesselina and Bette achieve, I 
think, their goal, each strikingly, and 
unforgettably, each declares herself 
indestructible, a very force of
propulsive nature

watchwatch, which, in your opinion, 

ouch, both, either, I think


R ! chard

the time change / March 11, 2018


   “Clock with Blue Wing (1949) 

           Marc Chagall


with the unruly sleeping patterns of the aged,
mostly, disquieting midnight hours awake, 
fretting ever about not enough proper rest,
even though the next day might be fraught, 
in retirement, with plenty of time to recover, 
I wondered, as such a person, at the 
relevance of this semiannual time change, 
especially among seniors, those dripping in 
time to squander, one day following the next, 
often nearly indistinguishably

all it means to me, I said to my mom, is that
I’ll be falling asleep, instead of at two, at three,
in the morning 

she hasn’t answered yet

R ! chard

pension protest, à la Russe


  Miriam dances (1931) 

       Marc Chagall


a couple of retired Russian ladies spoofed 
a video that student airline pilots had 
performed, that shocked their academy,
who wanted the boys expelled

in protest, other Russians started sending
in their own versions of the dance, but these
two ladies, nothing at all like Tina Turner
turned out to be the Internet sensation

read all about it here, click on each of the
videos there, the girls’ and the boys’, you’ll
love ‘em

R ! chard

String Quartet in F major, opus 77, no 2 – Joseph Haydn



   Masked Harlequin Violinists (1944) 

              Ossip Zadkine


the Opus 77, no 2, of Haydn is the last
full string quartet of his, his very last  
remaining unfinished, the Opus 103,
written in 1803

Haydn died in 1809, the Opus 77, no 2
was composed in 1799, he would’ve 
been 67

but by then, he had established the 
form that music would take for the 
next over two hundred years

call, response, and recapitulation is 
the house that Haydn built, and verily 
cemented, you can hear it in our own 
period’s Love Me Tender“, for 
instance, if you’ll also permit me here
its irresistible elaborationto today’s 
top hits, like my own most recent 
favourite such contemporary iteration,
released in 2014, Photograph

we could be listening otherwise to 
Bach right now, counterpoint, 
fugues, intricate, linear music, 
however powerfully transcendental, 
instead of recurring music, call,  
response, as I said, and 
recapitulation, something like how 
a clock works

but already Haydn is testing the 
waters, in the Opus 77, no 2, the
andante, a step up from an adagio, 
is in third place, something we 
haven’t heard before, and not, to 
my mind, especially effective, like 
his mixture of tempos in the Opus 
54, no 2, which was disconcerting, 
however masterfully resolved we 
find those to be in this very Opus
77, no 2notably in the second 
movement’s “Minuet, Presto – Trio”, 
where the tempo change is nearly 

art works on contravention, but 
the affronts are to established 
conventions, which are very 
hard to overturn 

watch Haydn here continue to 
do just that, for better or for 

R ! chard

psst: listen to Bach hereincidentally,  
          put his largo, or slow movement, 
          right where he wants to, at the 
          very top of the bill, does it work,    
          you tell me, a trivial pursuit,  
          you’ll ask, I say not, you are    
          defining your own aesthetic  
          sensibility, something 
          profoundly, think, important, 
          who it is, with perspective, you 
          want to be   

String Quartet, opus 77, no 1 – Joseph Haydn


      The Red Cape (Madame Monet) (c.1870) 

              Claude Monet


                                              for my mom

that’s a lot of Haydn, I said to my mom, 
when I saw the list of my transmittals in
her hotmail, hm, I wondered, maybe it’s 
too much

then I said, but it’s like when we’ve 
toured, for instance, our European 
art galleries, me propounding on 
the paintings, as I am wont, however 
incorrigibly, to do, but now, note, you 
can tell the difference between your 
Monets and your Klimts, however 
similar their perspectives

or like your tour guide taking you
recently through Argentina, 
highlighting spots, in the space of 
a month only, the same amount of 
time I’ve spent for the music of 

pronounced, incidentally, I specified, 
like “hidin'” in English, not “maiden”, 
just sayin’

I gathered that she’d ‘ve sensed by 
now, if she’d been listening, which she 
said she had, mornings over her 
coffee, what a string quartet is, four
movements, different tempos, fast
at first, a joyful introduction, 
followed by a lament, then a spirited 
third movement, for countereffect, 
then a big fourth movement finish

also, the internal structure of each 
movement would’ve been internalized,
theme, a counter theme, a 
recapitulation of both, or either, all of 
it, probably unconsciously, which is 
how art fundamentally works till you
meticulously deconstruct it

the string quartet is the work of Haydn, 
the house that Haydn built, from 
peripheral aristocratic entertainment, 
like modern day artists sporting their 
wares in noisy restaurants, to the 
glamour of taking on, in concert halls, 
Europe, Brunelleschi did a similar, 
sleight-of-hand thing with his dome 
in Florence for its oracular Cathedral

remember that the string quartet lives 
on as a form, where no longer does 
the minuet, for instance, nor the 
polonaise, nor even the waltz, not to 
mention that concertos, and  
symphonies have become now  
significantly subservient to movies, 
secondary players

watch the instrumentalists here live 
out, in Haydn’s Opus 77, no 1, their 
appropriately Romantic ardour,
something not at all promoted in 
Haydn’s earlier Esterházy phase, to 
raise their bow in triumph, as they 
do at the end of most movements
is already an indicationnot at all 
appropriate for the earlier princely 
salons, that times have changed

Haydn was a prophet, but also an
elder, with an instrument to connect 
the oncoming, and turbulent, century 
to the impregnable bond of his 
period’s systems, the legitimacy of 
the autocratic, clockwork, world, 
Classicism, the Age of Reason, the 
Enlightenment, for better or for 

we are left with its, however ever 
ebullient, consequences


R ! chard

String Quartet in C major, opus 76, no 3, “Emperor” – Joseph Haydn


    Francis II as Holy Roman Emperor (1874)

          Ludwig Streitenfeld


Haydn’s String Quartet, opus 76, no 3
is nicknamed the Emperor cause the 
second movement, the poco adagio;
cantabile, is a recapitulation of an 
anthem Haydn had earlier written for 
Francis ll, the Holy Roman Emperor
– not, incidentally, for Napoleon, the 
Emperor of the moment, who was to 
defeat Francis lleventually, at the 
Battle of Austerlitz, December 2, 1805, 
thereby dissolving that Holy Roman 
Empire, which had been established 
by Leo, the very Pope, lll when, on 
December 25th, 800, which is to say 
preceding Austerlitz by a thousand 
years, he crowned Charlemagne its 

Haydn must’ve been a monarchist

you’ll recognize that second movement
as the present day anthem of Germany

but listen to how Haydn makes it glisten, 
explicitly, with articulations and filigree 
that render it utterly irresistible

the adagio is usually the moment that
remains immutable, if the composer
is doing hir stuff, it’s the one you walk 
home singing, the faster movements,
however histrionic, are nearly a dime 
a dozen, though ever nevertheless 
often dazzling 

this adagio is utterly Romantic, though
I’m sure Haydn didn’t know what he 
was doing, cause despite their push
against the democratic surge, even 
monarchists, princes, dukes, dutiful 
composers, were finding, and voicing, 
their personal, and individual, which 
is to say, their democratic, opinions, 
however aristocratic their pedigree

artists had done a similar thing when 
their personalities began to single 
themselves out as especially gifted 
when the Renaissance was 
happening, it was now music’s hour, 
individual voices were staking their 
claim, Haydn’s manifestly superior 
based on talent and, after widespread 
economic affluence, audience appeal, 
Haydn’s commercial boots were made 
for walking, and he filled them both
magnificently and incontrovertibly

the poco adagio; cantabile is not 
courtly music, it reaches for not
merely elegance, but the heart,
we’ve entered another 
transformational generation, 
something like the revolution 
that triggered change in the 
cultural upheaval of the1960s 

our first step then was the Beatles, 
theirs was Haydn, or rather Elvis
Presley shoring up the Beatles, 
Beethoven was more aptly John,
Paul, George and Ringo 

but watch the rapture on the players’ 
faces, Francis ll would’ve been 
appalled, much like parents in my 
generation facing the pill, drugs, 
unorthodox sexual couplings, and, 
of course, raucous and unruly rock 


today, under the spell of the 
Romantic Period, and encouraged
by that very Sexual Revolution, the
Calidore String Quartet’s Elysium
their evident blissemotionally 
manifest, and utterly arresting, sells 
tickets, for better orhopefully not, 
for worse

but you call the shots, to decorum or 
not to decorum, that is the question

watch, wonder, listen 

R ! chard