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Category: people to ponder

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

 

 

 

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

 

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 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

tempo in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no 32, Opus 111

charleston-couple.jpg!Large

      Charleston Couple 

                Erte

                   _

 

 

                                     for Lajla, who wondered 

                                        where I’ve been these past 

                                             few weeks

 

 

if music is a communication, as I firmly  

believe it is, even listing it as one of my 

languages on all of my formal   

applications, it should have, much as 

in any other communication, a set of  

rules, a structure, a grammar, which  

indeed it does  

 

where the mood of a verb, for instance,

in English, indicative, I am, conditional, 

if I were, subjunctive, that I be, infinitive,

to be, or, indeed, again infinitive, not to 

be, that is, indicative once more, the 

question

 

whether ’tis, indicative, nobler in the 

mind to suffer, infinitive, the slings 

and arrows of outrageous fortune, 

or to take, infinitive, arms against a 

sea of troubles, and by opposing, 

participle, end, infinitive, them – but 

you get my drift, in music we have 

tempo, adagio, andante, allegro, 

presto, among others, to set, 

indeed, the mood 

 

as chamber music, an entertainment 

for aristocrats, moved from the dance 

rhythms of their salons during the 

Classical Period to the more diverse 

beats, the more varied and evocative 

tempi, especially with Beethoven, 

into the Romantic Era, music began 

to speak, evoke rather than lilt 

 

listen to Beethoven’s 32nd Piano

Sonata, for example, his Opus 111

in two contrasting movements, 

one fast, nearly even frenetic, the 

other slow, resigned, subdued, 

introspective, the first, angry, 

chaotic, frustrated, a burst of 

fulgurating intensity, resolving, 

in the second, into quiescence, 

submission, calm, if ultimately 

miraculous incandescence, one 

the antithesis of the other

 

Beethoven juxtaposes fury, 

tranquility, loud, soft, short, long 

– the serene adagio is twice 

length of the boisterous allegro 

– and by extension, war, peace, 

man, woman, strong, weak, hope,

despair, yin, in other words, yang, 

indissoluble dichotomies, a 

veritable musical existential 

philosophical tract, Beethoven’s 

treatise on existence

 

you can’t dance to it, though, 

don’t ask him

 

but you can thoroughly enjoy,

be inspired

 

 

R ! chard

“Années de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year – Liszt

petrarch.jpg!Large

     “Petrarch (c.1450) 

 

           Andrea del Castagno


                     ___________

 

 

                                    for John, who would’ve 

                                                       been 60 today

 


though the suite might’ve started with

Bach’s string of dance pieces in the 

early 18th Centuryit becomes evident 

during the 19th Century, after a lapse 

of nearly 100 years, while it fell into 

disfavour, that its resurrection as a 

valid musical form might’ve kept the 

original structure, which is to say its 

several separate parts to make up a 

whole, its movements, but that it 

now was serving different purpose 

 

where music had, through to the early

Romantic Period, followed dance 

rhythms, or variations of tempo,

adagio, andante, allegro, and the like,

it now presented itself as a background

for settings, be it ballets, as in

Tchaikovsky’s, plays, as in Edvard

Grieg’s celebrated , Peer Gynt Suite“,

after Ibsen‘s eponymous play,

specific locations, as in Debussy’s

Children’s Corner“, or more  

expansively, both geographically

and in its compositional length,

these very “Années de pèlerinage” 

of Liszt

 

this is in keeping with the exploration

of consciousness of that era, which 

would lead to not only Impressionism, 

but to Freud, and the others, and the 

development of psychoanalysis

 

you’ll note that music seems much 

more improvisational in Liszt than in

Chopin, or Beethoven, prefiguring

already even jazz, more evocative,

less emotional, more personal, not

generalized, idiosyncratic, a direct

development of the newly acquired

concept of democracy, one man, at

the time, one vote, one, indeed, 

voice, however individual, however 

even controversial 

 

listen, for instance, to Liszt’s “Années

de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year, Italy 

 

   1. Sposalizio

   2. Il penseroso

   3. Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa 

   4. Sonetto 47 del Petrarca 

   5. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca 

   6. Sonetto 123 del Petrarca 

   7. Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia Quasi Sonata 

 

 

today you can listen to suites 

from famous films, for instance 

Blade Runner“, the beat, in 

other words, goes on

 

but note the renovations, find them, 

dare you, you’ll be surprised at 

your unsuspected perspicacity

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard  

two suites – Debussy

clair-de-lune.jpg

     “Clair de lune” 

 

      Jean Cocteau

 

        __________

 

 

two suites 

 

      Debussy’s Suite bergamasque

 

      his “Children’s Corner

 

how are they similar

how are they different

 

you tell me

 

a couple o’ clues

 

      “Suite bergamasque

 

             Prélude

             Menuet

             Clair de lune

             Passepied

 

      Children’s Corner

 

             Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum

             Jimbo’s Lullaby

             Serenade for the Doll

             The Snow is Dancing

             The Little Shepherd

             Golliwog’s Cakewalk

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: if you said, there are no dance

          pieces in Children’s Corner“,

          and only three of the four 

          movements in “Suite

          bergamasque” are dances, 

          you’d be right, the others all

          have evocative titles, nothing 

          to do with the cadence, the 

          step

 

          but that begs the question, 

          what happened to the traditional

          suite, a string of dances preceded

          by a prelude

 

          well, time, and the vagaries of

          language, intentions, essentially, 

          Debussy did to the suite what

          Chopin had done to the prelude

      changed its meaning, took away

          its original purpose, for better or

          for worse, a suite is now, in a

          similar transformation, a piece

          of music, merely, any kind of music,

          with several segments, without

          even, necessarily, gasp, a

          prelude

 

          you can never step into the same

          river twice, in other words, the

          current just keeps on inexorably

           moving, even immutable,

           apparently, concepts fall by the

           wayside, see democracy, at

           present, for  instance

Études – Chopin /Debussy

edgar-degas-the-ballet-class.jpg!Large.jpg

   “The Ballet Class (1871 – 1874) 

 

          Edgar Degas

 

             ________

 

 

ballet dancers will attach weights 

to their ankles during exercises 

to add lift to their legs when they 

are on stage, such is the point of 

études for a piano player, a 

workout for the fingers before 

public performance 

 

Chopin, however, made them, by

themselves, works of great art,

followed by, among others,

Debussy

 

here’s Chopin, his Opus 25

 

here’s Debussy, his own Études

pour piano, Livre 1“, or Book 1

 

how are they different

 

you tell me

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: this is an easy one, Chopin is

          Romantic, Debussy, manifestly,

          is not, Debussy is Impressionistic,

          it is a new perspective, you can 

          hear it, it’s textural rather than 

          emotional, indeed, it’s even

          abstract

 

          but nearly a century has gone by,   

          and Impressionism is the new  

          aesthetic, the new preoccupation

  

          which belongs to not only the  

          painters, let me point out, but to  

          all the arts, for better, once again, 

          or for worse

Études, Opus 10 – Chopin

studies-for-the-apotheosis-of-homer-1827.jpg

Études pour l’Apothéose d’Homère” /

             

                “Studies for The Apotheosis of Homer (1826 – 1827) 

 

      Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

 

             ____________________

 

 

what’s an étude

 

 you tell me

 

 here are 12, all by Chopin, his first

 set of two, his Opus 10

 

in English, étude is a study

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

 psst: if you said they’re technical 

          pieces, warm-up exercises, 

          in preparation for more 

          substantial stuff, you’re on

 

          it should be noted that Chopin,

          after the more rudimentary

          undertakings of the earlier 

          Czernyfor instance, or Clementi

          say, added the required substance,
          the missing transcendental
          element, turning his otherwise
          mere digital pyrotechnics into
          utter poetry, into prestidigitatorial
          magic

          listen