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Category: people to ponder

“The Afternoon of a Faun” – Debussy / Nijinsky / Nureyev

397px-Faun_merse

      Faun and Nymph (1867)

 

              Pál Szinyei Merse               

 

                      ________

 

 

to take a break, for a moment, from the

travails of Io, a heifer still, though her

father, Inachus, is aware of the situation,

and Hermes, messenger of the gods, is 

out, on the orders of Jove/ Jupiter / Zeus

to save her, and, at the same time, 

inspired by the music Hermes tells Argus

her many-eyed keeper, Pan, god of the

wilds, has been playing, with reeds he’s 

been left with of Syrinx, the nymph he  

would’ve loved had she not been 

transformed into rushes, as imagined by 

Debussy in his evocative Syrinx for solo 

flute, as highlighted in my last instalment

I could not not remember Debussy‘s 

other similarly mythological, and intimately

related, work, his Prelude to the Afternoon 

of a Faun, as modified itself by Vaslav

Nijinsky, legendary dancer and 

choreographer, into an event that verily 

shook the early 20th Century 

 

retitled, L’après-midi d’un faune, The

Afternoon of a Faun in English, the 

performance captures everything one

would gather from Ovid’s myths of its 

primitive, primal, sensibilities

 

the faun, needless to say, is representative 

of Pan, god of the wild, woodlands, a satyr, 

part instinct, part man, see above 

 

watch Rudolf Nureyev, then, his equally 

celebrated successor, take on the role

Nijinsky made famous, without any 

alterations made to the original 1912 

production, however improbably, 

though entirely successfully, we’re in 

Paris, May 29, though transposed,

faithfully and superbly, to New York,

Broadway, 1979 

 

proceed, however, at your own discretion, 

The Afternoon of a Faun is steaming, it’s 

about what happens when a young buck’s 

fancies, implacable and irrepressible, turn 

to love, not for the scrupulous, where does 

love begin, it asks, and lust retire, or is it 

the other way around, where does yin, in 

other words, meet, become, yang

 

these are questions that more and more 

begin to come up, you’ll find, in Greek 

and Roman, and most other ancient, 

for that matter, mythologies, something 

that isn’t at all touched upon in the 

Abrahamic traditions, Christanity, Islam, 

Judaism, monotheistic, though they’re 

at least as old, where nature, the place 

of animals, vegetation, land, water, our

intimate interconnection with them, 

don’t much, for better or for worse, 

come up

 

I miss the wonder of the more 

pantheistic, the pagan, perspective 

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

“Apollo e Dafne” – George Frideric Handel

800px-George_Frideric_Handel_by_Balthasar_Denner

     “George Frideric Handel(1726 – 1728) 

 

              Balthasar Denner

 

                   __________

 

 

supposing that there would probably 

be a musical interpretation of the 

myth of Apollo and Daphne, I wasn’t 

surprised to discover that Handel 

had written one, in 1709 – 10, cantatas

on mythic subjects was the type of 

thing he did, don’t forget the 

Renaissance, the renewed, and 

probing fascination, starting more 

or less in the 14th Century, with 

Classical Greece and Rome, affecting 

everything, even as late, 1685 to 1759,

as the 18th Century for this composer

 

I must admit that I’m not particularly

partial to Handel, his rhythms are

way too elementary for my taste, 

plus he never achieves the depth 

of emotion Bach, his contemporary, 

does, 1685 – 1750, so that I’ve put 

him aside pretty well completely 

 

but here’s an Apollo e Dafne that

I found compelling from beginning 

to end

 

Apollo e Dafne is not an opera, but

a cantata, which means a piece 

for voice and orchestra, but with 

several movements, like tunes in

a Broadway show

 

this production, however, has 

incorporated a scenario with 

singers in costume acting 

out a plot

 

it has no subtitles though, but 

you can read the translation 

here, should you need to

 

Handel’s libretto, note, is a 

reworking of Ovid’s texttherefore 

not an exact reproduction of the 

version I’ve been highlighting, 

Dryden’s translation of 1717, 

written a few years, you’ll want to 

consider, after Handel’s own 

composition, but the essential 

story is there, she eventually 

turns into a tree, no surprise, 

you knew that already from Ovid’s

very title, The Transformation of

Daphne into a Lawrelas 

inscribed, however archaically 

now, by Dryden 

 

I’ll just point out that Cupid’s in 

red, doesn’t sing, just delivers 

atmospheric context, and you 

might find some later scenes 

quite, even shockingly, I did, 

explicit, be advised

 

otherwise, enjoy, be delighted

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

“Metamorphoses” – Ovid, 101

primavera-1478(1).jpg!Blog

   “Primavera (1478) 

 

       Sandro Botticelli

 

             _________

 

 

a friend expressed some interest in Ovid’s

Metamorphoses recently after I’d sung for 

a few moments its praises, had told her I 

was revisiting it after some time with the 

intention of duly, this time, completing it, 

given that, hey, we’ve got lots of time, at 

present, all of us, on our hands, by very 

mandate  

 

it sounds wonderful, she briefed me after 

I’d sent her the appropriate link, but there 

are some parts I don’t understand

 

I’ll help, I said, only too eager to share 

the delights of this inprobable treasure,

a gift nearly two thousand years old, 

with the magic still of very revelation

 

Metamorphoses is a creation story, the 

equivalent of the Bible for those who 

revered the Roman deities, the same 

deities that the Greeks revered, but 

transplanted, renamed, to Roman 

stock, like the Puritans did their  

Christian seed at Plymouth Rock  

 

Ovid, 43 BC to 17/18 AD, was a Roman

poet, paying fealty to Augustus, Emperor

of Rome, 63 BC to 14 AD, therefore his 

Roman goddesses, gods, and his, 

contemporary, Latin

 

which was translated into English early 

in the Renaissance, but found its best

expression, to my mind still, in the 

eminent hands of Sir Samuel Garth,

John DrydenAlexander PopeJoseph

AddisonWilliam Congreve, among 

others in, already, 1717

 

listen 

 

The Creation of the World

 

       Of bodies chang’d to various forms, I sing:
 

Ovid is saying my topic is transformation, very

metamorphoses, plural of metamorphosis


       Ye Gods, from whom these miracles did spring,
       Inspire my numbers with coelestial heat;
       ‘Till I my long laborious work compleat:
       And add perpetual tenour to my rhimes,
       Deduc’d from Nature’s birth, to Caesar’s times. 

 

poets have traditionally called upon their related

muses to inspire them to accomplish their task,

Ovid invokes his Gods, compare Shakespeare’s 

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend / The

brightest heaven of invention, his prologue to 

Henry V   

 

“Ye Gods”, Ovid says, from whom these 

miracles did spring”, those everyday wonders 

that surround us, inspire me, he asks, that I 

might “compleat”, which is to say complete, 

his poem, this long laborious work”

 

his “numbers” are his years, “coelestial”, or

celestial, “heat”, is inspiration

 

“tenour to my rimes” means rhythm, weight, 

to his poetry

 

“Nature’s birth”, or the beginning of time, to

“Caesar’s time”, Ovid‘s own period under

Augustus

 

Ovid asks the Gods to fuel him with the

fire to tell the story of the world from its 

very beginning to his own epoch,

Caesar’s 

 

how’s that for a project

 

 

enough for now

 

but stay tuned for, to follow, the Creation,

capital C, I tell you 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

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