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how to read music – Cello Sonata in D major, opus 102, no 2 – Beethoven

head-in-black-and-green-1913.jpg!Large

     “Head in Black and Green (1913) 

            Alexej von Jawlensky

                    ___________

the line of music, the essential melody, 
is not resolved in Beethoven until several 
bars from the beginning in his Fifth Cello
Sonata, one note follows another without 
any specific reference to what preceded it 
but the tempo, and the voice, which is to 
say, its tonality

there is ever, however, though perhaps 
sometimes eccentric, a harmony, a 
convincing argument, we are speaking 
the same language

as in reading, one follows the musical 
line for those several bars, hanging 
onto each note for meaning, spotting 
even commas, semi-colons, periods, 
however unconsciously, until one 
reaches the end of the paragraph,
made evident by the recapitulation

therefore music
 
which doesn’t only, however, 
recapitulate, here, but elaborates, 
adding depth, dimension, local 
colour, to the already intricate 
story

Beethoven is challenging the very 
idea of music in this composition
much as later the Impressionists 
did, for instance, when they 
upended the entrenched idea of 
merely representational art – 
process I saw reverberating in my 
very own 1950’s, ’60’s, when even 
Monet, people objected, could’ve 
been managed by their children

Picasso, of course, was, at the time, 
nothing less than a joke, not to 
mention any of the Surrealists, or – 
gasp – the Expressionists, see
above


I prefer the very early cello sonatas  
of Beethoven, for their verve, their 
energy, the second movement, the 
Adagio con molto sentimento 
d’affetto” in this late oneoverdoes 
it, I think, a little, it’s like sitting with 
someone you can’t leavewhose 
sorrow is immense, and which you 
can barely handle, but must, out of,
if nothing else, chivalry, or common,
and insuperable, one hopes, human
compassion
consider, and duly, 
thus, proffer, ideally, grace

who hasn’t been there


R ! chard

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String Quartet in F minor, opus 95, “Serioso” – Beethoven

napoleon-bonaparte-in-his-study-at-the-tuileries-1812.jpg!Large

Napoleon Bonaparte in his Study at the Tuileries (1812) 

      Jacques-Louis David

              __________

first of all, let me resolve an issue I’d 
brought up recently, can there be music 
without repetition, recapitulation, of an 
initial musical idea 

no, I emphatically now state, otherwise 
one has a sentence, prose, thus 
reiteration must define as we 
understand it, music

until, of course, I’m made to eat my 
words

secondly, and to the present point
Beethoven’s 11th String Quartet, was 
nicknamed Serioso“, imagine how 
far that label would get one nowadays
but it was a different era, where fun,
levity, wasn’t, creatively, an essential 
component, that only began to happen, 
modestly, in the mid-19th Century, then 
full on in the 20th, after the First World 
War, see the Charlestonfor instance, 
Charlie ChaplinFred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers  

the 11th is the last string quartet of 
Beethoven’s Middle Period – and if 
you think this one is serious, wait
till you hear his Late ones

but don’t let me scare you, they are 
transcendental, very epiphanies,
you’ll verily leave the planet 

note that the music you’re listening 
to in the Serioso is not initially 
cadenced, a line of notes deliver, 
rather, a sentence, which is later 
restated, there are more than the 
four Classical tempi, also, to divide 
the movements, but several, which 
display, nearly indiscriminately, 
much like in literature, or movies, 
variety of emotions, here
however, without the words, one, 
even, specifically called serioso”,
delivered, expressed, spoken, in 
the language of, however, music

listen

I hope you’ll enjoy  


R ! 
chard

psst: note that there are no words in
          the Charlie Chaplin either, but 
          the information is transmitted 
          through the eyes, not the ears

at the movies – “Phaedra”

phaedra-and-hippolytus-1802.jpg

     “Phaedra and Hippolytus (1802) 

            Pierre-Narcisse Guérin

                   _____________

Phaedra, according to Greek myth, fell
in love with her stepson, and, of course,
ruined, for everyone, everything 

she’s been represented in music by
composers from, at least, Rameau,
1733, to, here, now, Benjamin Britten,  
1976by way of even Tangerine
Dream, 1973, however peripherally, 
and the hits just keep on coming

in literature, the story goes back to 
Euripides, 480 – 406 BCE, through
Jean Racine, 1639 – 1699, poet at 
the court of Louis XlV, the version 
that I studied in French Literature,
along with, in English, Shakespeare,
who was doing courtiers, rather, 
and royalty there, then, incidentally, 
instead of the Continent’s iconic 
Mediterranean figures – it remains 
my favourite play in my mother 
tongue, next to, for me, its only 
other equal, Cyrano de Bergerac

but I’d never seen a production of 
Phaedra until this searing, 
modern, rendition, set in, relatively 
contemporary, Greece, London, 
and Paris, with the irrepressible, 
the irresistible, Melina Mercouri
torrid temptress, the very goddess 
Herahereand Anthony Perkins
perfect as her suitor, a youth still, 
pulsing with a young man’s 
unbridled intentions

sparks fly, from moment to 
incendiary moment – I had often 
to pause to catch my breath – 
portents of an inescapable, and 
eventually epic, indeed mythic, 
apocalypse

watch, if you dare


R ! chard

why I believe in music, or “I Was Born For This” – Austin Wintory

joan-of-arc-on-corronation-of-charles-vii-in-the-cathedral-of-reims.jpg!Large

  “Joan of Arc upon Coronation of Charles VII in the Cathedral of Reims (1854) 

        Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

                ____________________

many years ago, while I was volunteering 
at our hospital’s palliative care unit, nearby, 
recently installed as a response to, among 
other pressing preoccupations, but most 
urgently then, the AIDS crisis, I was asked 
to sit by a lady in profound distress, her 
family, Western Buddhists, would go to 
lunch while I would sit by her to comfort 
her as much as I could

she was dishevelled, of course, completely 
disconcerted, all ajitter, lost, and evidently
confused, in her profound isolation, not to 
mention in the crumpled state of her 
harried bedunable to communicate, or
reason

I found a chair, sat by her with earnest 
concentration, my partner had died 
there, only recently, on that very unit, 
and I was expressing, to all of those 
concerned in his unparalleled care, 
my unlimited appreciation

I lay a hand gently upon her arm, to let
her feel, at least, the safety that my 
touch could allow, to let it settle on 
her, however removed might be her 
remaining consciousness, began to 
sing quietly a chant I’d been intoning   
from a creed I’d turned to for comfort 
in my own personal anguish, at the 
loss of my own friend, a call, an 
invocation, the continuous iteration 
of a line that brought solace, Om Nama
Shivaya, I prayed, over and over again, 
with the greatest intention, whatever
that phrase might’ve, I’ve forgotten, 
meant

she relented, found her space, little by
little she became, as though grace had 
descended upon her, calm, by however  
infinitesimal degrees, while I continued, 
now, my hopeful, helpful, it appeared,
manifestly mystical, intervention

she had become restful, I’d 
accomplished essentially, I gathered, 
my primary mission, though I 
continued, with some sense, perhaps
even a glow, of personal pridemy 
soulful incantation

then in a voice not much louder than a 
whisper, but much less distraught than 
a moan, she began to join in with row, 
row, row your boat, tunefully, over and 
over again, accommodating herself,
though, naturally, exceedingly weakly,   
to my rhythm, I felt I was experiencing,  
right there, and then, through the    
power of cadence, a miracle

when I looked back, upon hearing 
behind me a rustle, standing at the 
door was her family, wrapped in 
equal consternation 


here’s something with someone singing 
in several inscrutable languages for 
most of us, mostly, words from historical 
texts, in Greek, Latin, Olde English, 
Japanese, and French, I Was Born For 
This

that title, of one of the segments of 
longer work, Journey“, by a contemporary 
composer, Austin Wintoryis indeed a 
translation of Joan of Arc‘s words on the 
cross, “Ne me plaignez pas. C’est pour cela 
que je suis née.”, do not pity me, she says, 
I was born for this, Joan of Arc, my own 
personal Jesus

Shostakovich has an entire symphony,
his 14thcomposed of music to 
accompany classic poems, all in a 
variety of foreign, to him, tongues, but
translated back into Russian for his 
purpose in this particular, and not 
uncommon, instance, nevertheless 
pointed reference to music as superior
more direct, communication – note, here, 
the word, communication – it, the 14th,
is profound, extraordinary, read here 
first, then listen


R ! chard

a “Musical Offering” – Bach

bouquet-of-flowers-1946.jpg!Large

    “Bouquet of Flowers (1946) 

            Martiros Sarian

                _________

                                      for Collin

a friend, who lives too far from me 
to visit, but who is too close to my 
heart for me to do nothing, has just 
had a stroke, “His body, smile, motor functions are improving.The most affected area is his speech center. He is filling in the gaps, has surrendered to his situation, but is operating at about 25% comprehension and memory. He has to rebuild his language, and is getting his ideas across with a lot of help in translation. He will be doing a lot of speech therapy. His uncanny resilience will serve him well.“, 
I’ve been advised

should I continue to write to him,
I’ve wondered, maybe just a few 
cheery words a day, does he 
take the time to read his mail, 
can he, does someone do it for 
him, should I call, or when  
I thought, if not anything else, why 
not music, something I can easily 
send, something he can hear, 
surrender to, rather than pay any 
more cerebral attention 

yesterday, I sent him Bach, Bach’s 
Musical Offering“, 1747, Bach is
from a much more serene period
in music than Beethoven, my 
recent area of investigation here
Bach wrote a lot of ecclesiastical 
stuff, cantatas and such, masses, 
was indeed music director for the 
Lutheran churches in Leipzig for 
a time, the combination makes for 
reflective, often even transcendental 
music, Beethoven wouldn’t at all, 
in this case, ‘ve done, with all of
his Sturm und Drang

I’m lighting a candle a day for my
friend, I’ll also be sending him
internet flowers, till I think of 
what else I can do but pray, for 
his speedy recovery


thanks for dropping by

R ! chard 

String Quartet no 10, opus 74, “The Harp” – Beethoven

primavera-1478(1).jpg!Blog

   “Primavera (1478) 

         Sandro Botticelli 

                 ___________

it’s 1809 and Beethoven rules, essentially,
the musical environment, he’s setting the 
standard, the tone, for the century to 
come and no one is anywhere close to 
challenging his authority, music students 
will remember Carl CzernyMuzio Clementi
for instance, but none of these, however 
noteworthy, contemporaneous composers, 
are even part of, anymore, the recital 
curriculum, think of Salieri and Mozart, 
for instance, without their mischief, who’s 
heard recently of any Salieri 

we’re not in Kansas anymore, this is the 
start of the Romantic Era, four movements,
but not one of them is a minuet, a signature 
element in a Classical composition, nor 
could you, would you want to dance to 
any of them

and this is where Beethoven starts to talk
rather than sing, music that you don’t just
listen to but read, note the disjointed 
rhythms that interject rather than court,
if you’ll pardon the Classical reference, 
from the very beginning of each 
movement, of each, indeed, recapitulation, 
music that is not at all genteel, but rousing, 
commanding

how does he do this

note that his rhythms don’t fall on the 
anticipated beat, they’re off, and 
therefore disconcerting, you need to 
get your bearings

then a motive, a musical idea that, as 
the word suggests, motivates, like a 
key to start an engine, will have an
odd, rather than an even, number of 
notes, like trying to fit a square into   
a circle, or a circle into a square, a 
tricky combination for balanced, by
definition, bar lines, one’s intellectual 
functions are thus activated, one 
doesn’t rest in the comfort of a 
prescribed cadence, but confronts 
the rocky, though constantly 
astonishing, even miraculous, road 
of Beethoven’s invention, adventure, 
if, of course, one’s into that 

instead of Mary had a little lamb, in
other words, we’re hearing, little  
lamb has Marie, accent on the 
wrong syllable, though here we 
might call her Mary, she calls her 
lamb Mouton, not unsurprisingly, 
and it’s always, day after day, 
beside her, which Beethoven then 
sets, as idiosyncratically, to music

he’s, in other words, toying with 
tempo – note the caesurae, the 
pregnant pauses in a melody, the 
multiplication of tempi throughout 
the work as a whole, which imply  
a narrative, a story, especially 
without the traditional, and 
diversionary, dance element 

tonality remains essentially stable, 
despite unusual juxtapositions, odd
intervals – the tonal reach along the 
musical scale, A to G, between two
successive notes – which is to say, 
we’re not yet at Stravinsky

but I find it interesting to observe 
that recapitulation, the third 
Classical imperative, along with 
tempo and tonality, remains 
uninterrupted, not even 
questioned, indeed forcefully 
reinvented 

can there even be music without 
recapitulation, I wonder, whereas 
the other two have since lost their 
immutability – I’m not sure, I’ll have 
to check


thanks wholeheartedly for stopping 

by

R ! chard

Piano Sonata no 17, opus 31, no 2 “The Tempest” – Beethoven

tempest-on-the-northern-sea-1865.jpg!Large

    “Tempest on the Northern Sea (1865) 

             Ivan Aivazovsky

                  __________

                               for Judy, who “glimpses“, she says,
                                   “a kinder world, that [my] missives
                                          provide” – thank you, Judy                            


just as I was being called on the 
carpet for my constant returns to 
Beethoven, none other than Glenn 
Gould should show up, in my 
cavern of wonders, to absolve me, 
or at least to stand stolidly by my 
side

let him talk

had I written, however, his 
observations, I’m sure you’d’ve  
balkedhe’s a product, after all,  
of the priggish pretensions that  
prevailed in my neck of the woods 
at the time, Southern Ontario, a  
product of British Imperialism  
of which I am myself, I avow,  
incontrovertibly subject, but due  
to the strength of his celebrity,  
one is likely to listen to Gould  
more attentively, I’m not 
sufficiently yetsuspect,  
significant, nor influential
 
he is, one way or the other, I concur,
absolutely right

about his Tempest“, though, I’ll say, 
even object, as Stravinsky and John 
Cage did, according to Gouldabout 
the commanding Beethoven, that 
Gould is dripping in Romantic
sentiment here, his rubato in the 
first movement tests the limits of   
our forbearance, and his second  
movement is so slow as to have 
one fall off the page

but his last movement, the allegretto,
is brilliant

Gould’s idiosyncratic, dare I say, 
eccentric, performance will 
throughout, nevertheless, 
astonish, indeed electrify, even,
I’m sure, inspire, watch, listen

and thanks ever, especially, for 
dropping by 


R ! chard

psst: here’s another version of the 17th,  
          to my mind, less self-indulgent, but 
          you be the judge, don’t think about 
          it, just ask yourself which one  
          would you want to hear a next time,  
          that’ll be your, gloriously personal,   
          reply

          enjoy

Violin Concerto no. 1 – Paganini

portrait-of-paganini-1832(1).jpg!Large

   “Portrait of Paganini (1832) 

          Eugene Delacroix

               ___________

before you start thinking that, because 
of my recent comparisons, Paganini is
a nobody, look what I found, had 
stupidly forgotten about, among the 
multiplicity of wondrous examples
concertos have to offer 

this will attest, as well, to my fallibility,
which I unreservedly confess, in many,
even familiar, matters, I used to not 
much remember the last time I was 
wrong, but writing makes one more 
aware of one’s even egregious 
insufficiencies, I love, I must say, 
that it makes one humble

meanwhile, Paganini’s First Violin 
Concerto has absolutely no faults,
it’ll run through your cultural veins 
like water, you’ll probably be able 
to sing all the notes, apart, of course, 
from the cadenza, which, in this 
instance, is the soloist’s, not
Paganini’sa not unusual occurence, 
indeed a common one, though it’s 
nice when they tell you who wrote it, 
the composer or the player, as they 
do in this case, cause unless you’re 
a total nerd you mostly wouldn’t be 
able to tell the difference 

the cadenza is the part, incidentally, 
where near the end of a movement, 
any movement, though usually not 
the slow one – think about it – the 
soloist struts hir improvisational 
stuff, independently from the 
orchestra, till s/he signals it back in 

I’ve said before that Paganini’s 
Caprices are a series, essentially,
of cadenzas, not at all such shabby 
stuff

meanwhile, I think Paganini is back 
in the running, what do you think


R ! chard

twice upon a “Pastorale” – Beethoven

summer-pastoral-1749.jpg!Large   

    “Summer Pastoral (1749)

          Francois Boucher

                __________

on my way to my metaphorical 
Eiffel Tower, Beethoven’s Piano
Sonata no 15, the “Pastorale”,
his first to impress me, his 
Opus 28despite the notoriety 
of the earlier “Pathétique”, 
Opus 13and of the “Moonlight”
his Opus 27, no 2, splashy 
showpieces, those last twoto 
my mind, rather than revelatory,  
knew I was going to stop at the 
Arche de Triomphe, if you’ll 
allow me the developing allegory
to visit the other “Pastorale”, the 
6th, and my favourite, Symphony
one of the few works which he 
named, but where he also gives, 
apart from tempoin the usual 
Italian, descriptive headings in 
German, the culture that had 
taken over the arts, essentially, 
from the Italians, during the 
18th Century

Erwachen heiterer Empfindungen 
bei der Ankunft auf dem Lande, 
he, for instance, instructs, or
Awakening of cheerful feelings on 
arrival in the countryside, then
Scene by the brook, Merry 
gathering of country folk, Thunder. 
Storm, and finally Shepherd’s song. 
Cheerful and thankful feelings after 
the storm – five, unconventionally 
already, movements, instead of the 
usual three, or four, with headings 
that look a lot like stage settings,
cues for a play, chapters in a story

it’s evident that music has explicitly 
become, hereliterature, movements 
have been given a specific thrust, 
particular direction to follow, not  
dance, but emotive, appealing to the 
vocabulary of the senses, the 
grammar of the heart, music as 
graphic description, later we’ll even 
get tone poems 

sure, Vivaldi had written his Four 
Seasons“, 1723, but never, ever, 
as precisely rendered as here,
Beethoven brings to life an actual 
storm, bing, bang, pow, you hear, 
as thunder cracks, rumbles, 
crashesnot to mention the virtual 
call, chirp, twitter of the various 
birds he elicits bristling in the 
rustling leaves, you’ll even hear 
in the recovering countryside 
rainbow if you listen

music has become a language, a
medium of direct intelligent 
communication, enough, indeed, 
to verily inspire century, indeed,
as well, beyond


you’ll also fall in love with Leonard 
Bernstein here, who shows why 
Leonard Bernstein remains ever, 
indisputably, Leonard Bernstein,
beautiful, angelic, inspired

R ! chard

twice upon a dirge – Beethoven / Chopin

owl-on-a-grave-1837.jpg!Large

   Owl on a Grave” / “Eule am Grab (c.1836 – c.1837) 

          Caspar David Friedrich

                   _______

following my nose rather than 
my intellect in my exploration 
of musical treasures, like a very 
Aladdin uncovering at the click 
of my password a cave full of 
priceless wonders, I might find 
stuff out of sequence, but gems
nevertheless, and I can’t just 
whisk by without acknowledging 
them, however peripheral to my 
main task  

it’s like heading towards the Eiffel
Tower in Paris, and not stopping 
at the Arche de Triomphe

though I’d debated so soon 
presenting these two pieces, 
not because of their chronology 
especially, though also that, but 
mostly because of their dour 
content, I’ll point out that the 
move from Classicism to 
Romanticism is the transition 
from dance music, delightful 
music, to drama, passion, 
powerful emotions, dirges, 
therefore, are not out of place, 
however mournful

thus the two most famous 
funeral marches, Beethoven’s,
Chopin’s, the third movement 
in either of their home sonatas

the clincher for me was the 
immaculate performance of 
the Chopin herea revelatory 
moment, though the Beethoven
significantly earlier, the tune, 
1801, 1837, is nevertheless 
unimpeachable, however still 
underdeveloped – four variations 
only in the first movement, for 
instance, and all of them 
elementary – the caterpillar had 
not yet become the butterfly, the 
apple blossom the apple

note that each movement in the 
Chopin, apart from the last, has
two distinct tempi, executed 
effortlessly and nearly 
imperceptibly, a total of six, you 
can’t see, you can’t hear, the 
seams as you listen, which, with 
its virtual therefore episodes, 
conflicting and tortuous 
emotions, constitute collectively 
a drama, a narrative, music has 
become literature

the last movement of the Chopin
moves beyond even tempo – 
Beethoven’s also, incidentally, 
nearly – creating therefore 
very challenge to it, both trying 
to transcend tempi, an area to 
closely watch

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no 12

Chopin’s Piano Sonata no 2

take your pick

both are supremely, mark, 
instructive


R ! chard