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Category: pictures to ponder

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

String Quartet no 15, Opus 144 – Dmitri Shostakovich

title-page-and-key-monogram-of-the-mountain-lover.jpg!Large

     Title page and key monogram of “The Mountain Lover” (c. 1895)

                                         

          Aubrey Beardsley

 

               ___________

 

 

after John passed away, I read, at a

gathering we had for him, something 

that I’d written in his honour, it began,

adagios always remind me of John,

John was a dancer, he walked like

one

  

a few days later, immersed as I

was in memories of him while 

mechanically washing some 

dishes, I heard, from symphony 

I’d put on in the background to

keep me company in my reverie,

its adagio

 

I dried my hands, put my arms

around myself, and we danced

to the end of the movement, I’d  

found, I understood, utterly, I

believed, miraculously, a key to

the very hereafter, adagios

would henceforth always

remind me of John

 

some time later, flipping aimlessly

through string quartets, of

Shostakovich among others, I  

happened upon this one, his 15th

String Quartet, Opus 144, which

had, to my astonishment, not one,

not two, not three, not even four

nor five, but six whole adagios,

this was John talking, I knew,

I’ve loved it ever since

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst:

 

   String Quartet no 15, Opus 144

 

        l – Elegy: Adagio  

      ll – Serenade: Adagio  

     lll – Intermezzo: Adagio

     lV – Nocturne: Adagio

      V – Funeral March: Adagio molto

    Vl – Epilogue: Adagio

 

                              Dmitri Shostakovich

Swan Lake / Swan Lake Suite – Tchaikovsky

1024px-Swan_Lake_prodution_2008_at_the_Royal_Swedish_Opera

    from a 2008 production of Swan Lake at the Royal Swedish Opera


        _________________________

 


did you know that the girl in Swan Lake

is called Odette, my mom asked when I

told her I’d been looking it up, my mom’s

name is Odette

 

I’m the one who told you, I said, and

incidentally, I continued, she’s not a 

girl, she’s a swan, which left my mom, 

of course, flummoxed, indeed mum

 

a day later, we watched it 

 

there she is, I pointed out, when Odette

made her appearance, fluttering in on

tiptoes from the wings, every single 

inch a swan

 

as was equally the prince, in this

magnificent production of the Kirov, 

every single inch a prince

 

watch

 

 

here’s the Swan Lake Suite“, however

 

how is it different

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: if you said the Suite is a collection

         of miscellaneous excerpts from

         the ballet strung together but with 

         instruments only, no sets, no 

         costumes, no dancers, you’re right, 

         the Suite can give you a taste of 

         the complete work, though it 

         stands magnificently enough, 

         thank you very much, on its own 

 

         enjoy

nocturnes / scherzos, Chopin

joke-of-putti.jpg!Large

    Scherzo di putti 

 

          Giovanni Battista Piranesi

 

                        ______________

 

 

what is the difference between 

 

        one, a nocturne

         two, a scherzo

you tell me

both by Chopin

 

nocturne, incidentally, is a French 

word for night music

 

scherzo is an Italian word for joke, 

something humorous

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

psst: if you said the pace, the tempo, 

          however comparably, in all the 

          instances, elastic, you’re 

         absolutely right, the rest is

         ever entirely Romantic, which

         is to say, by definition,

         introspective

First Symphony, “Winter Dreams”, opus 13 – Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky_6.jpeg

 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1866)

            ______

                               for Elizabeth, who said she’d  
                                “be all ears once it happens“, 
                                     this first of my Tchaikovskys
                                               
the example of Beethoven was 
a hard act to follow, no one 
nearby, which is to say, in the
vicinity of Vienna, which had 
ruled the musical world for 
more than half a century, from 
Mozart to late Beethoven, 
would be able to match his 
eminence, not even the, 
however mighty, Brahms 

but in the East a star was born, in
1840, of extraordinary dimensions,
to tower above the High Romantic 
period, which shone with, were it 
not for its distance from the 
European central galaxy,  
comparable brightness  

Beethoven had written for every
instrument, every combination 
of instruments, every voice, 
every combination of voices, 
no other composer had, nor 
has since, done that but the 
incandescent Tchaikovsky
who’d ever ‘a’ thunk it

symphonies, concertos, string
quartets, sonatas, variations, 
ballets, operas, liturgical 
pieces, there wasn’t anything 
he didn’t touch, and transform 
into magic

here‘s an early work, his Opus 13
only, in order to get chronological 
perspective, and, as I pursue this 
compelling trajectory, a sense of  
his musical evolution, his First
Symphony, “Winter Dreams”*

listen for troikas flying across 
the steppes, hear the bells tingle 
from their fleeting carriages, be 
swept away by the exhilarating 
majesty


R ! chard

Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra,
      Joshua dos Santos, conductor

what’s up in Amsterdam – Piano Sonata in B flat major, D.960 – Franz Schubert

the-doll-1934-5.jpg!Large

      “The Doll / Die Puppe (1934) 

                 Hans Bellmer

                     ________

should you be concerned about telling 
your Schubert from your Beethoven,
don’t fret, I myself, though considered 
by some in this area to be omniscient, 
however manifestly, as you’ll note here, 
erroneouslyupon watching a film last 
night – the splendid Ex Machina”,  
about a robot in the form of Alicia
Vikanderviscerally commanding in 
neon blue, which is to say, incandescent, 
with stainless steel and wires for body 
parts – arms, legs, stomach – as part of 
her more human, and curvaceous, 
attributes – face, chest, and pelvis – who 
fears she might be disassembled when 
her purpose is served, and a new, and 
better robot might not only take her 
place, but also her very physical and 
metaphysical components, and concocts 
to save her life, if that’s what you’d call it, 
however convincing, sophisticated, might 
be her replication – confused the Schubert
sonata that filtered through the score for 
one of Beethoven’s, though can you 
blame me, when the sci-fi tale had been 
so otherwise gripping 

the D960, Schubert’s 23rd and last piano 
sonata, was written in 1828, shortly before 
he died, it is extraordinary, and entirely 
worthy of being compared to Beethoven,
of being held, indeed, in equal 
consideration

but you be the judge 

you’ll note again Schubert’s reserve, his 
courtesy, he is philosophical, rather than 
combative, his reply to Fate is acquiescent, 
though never subordinate, his response to 
the challenge of Life is to display the 
colours, sounds, and other, however 
humble, ephemeral, perhaps even
inconsequential, attributes of his existence, 
with the grace of a very flower, whose 
essence we still, today, have not ceased
to acknowledge, and to profoundly admire 

this is our only answer, he states, our 
ever so resplendent, however individual, 
humanity, which it is our very salvation 
to recount, to relate 

Beethoven would surely have agreed,  
and applauded

listen


R ! chard

 

“Something for Everyone” – an intermission

Neuschwanstein_castle

 Neuschwanstein Castle

                   __________

to my mind, the already formidable 
then Angela Lansbury, 1970, 
should’ve been at least nominated 
for an Oscar, not to mention won 
it, for her indelible impression of
Countess von Ornstein, an 
aristocrat if there ever was one,  
in the delightful Something for
Everyone

she has no money left after the 
Second World War, but lives still 
in her castle, which remains, as 
stipulated in the relevant 
documentation, in the family 
into perpetuity

but she has trouble getting the 
strawberries which she feels 
are her right still, among other 
threatened entitlements, out of 
her sheer nobility 

the young Micheal York, as Konrad,
on a bicycle trip through Austria, 
sees the castle – Neuschwanstein,
in actuality, Ludwig ll‘s pied à terre
in Bavaria, standing in for the one 
supposed to be in Austria – and sets
out to transform it into his own 
domain 

there’s yodelling, and dirndls, and 
lederhosen aplenty, not to mention
a great deal of skullduggery, but it’s
a fairy tale, and, as such, leads to a
happy, of sorts, ending 

don’t miss it


R ! chard

on the harmonica – Slim Harpo

SlimHarpoSmoking

 Slim Harpo (1924 – 1970)

          ______

                                           for Barbara

having read my musings on the guitar‘s 
superior practicality, easy portability,  
as a carry-along instrument on the range, 
a friend replied, “how about a cowboy
with a harmonica“, and mentioned Slim
HarpoI told her I’d look into it, how 
could I not, though I’d never at all 
ever heard of Slim Harpo

here’s Slim Harpo, he’s a treat

but a harmonica, finally, is too brash
an instrument to easily fashion out 
of it love songs, so I’ll hold onto my
guitar 

you’ll note that despite the entirely 
different style of music from the 
Classical stuff I’ve been bringing 
up, the three essentials, tonality,
tempo, and reiteration still apply,
this trinity is the foundation of all 
of our Western musical culture,  
the output changes only according
to geographical place and time 
within those European parameters 

Asia has its own, indeed several, 
distinct musical idioms 

Slim‘s is manifestly the American  
Deepest South

enjoy


R ! chard

Symphony no 13 in B-flat minor, opus 113, “Babi Yar” – Dmitri Shostakovich

Babi_Jar_ravijn

             the ravine at Baby Yar 

                     ___________

Shostakovich’s Symphony no 13
“Babi Yar”, to me is not a symphony, 
it’s a cantata, a text with accompanying 
orchestra, which is what we have here

does it matter, perhaps not that much, 
but it’s like going to a restaurant where 
you’re looking to enjoy what they’ve 
posted on their website but when you 
get there they tell you they’re out, you 
can only have what they’re serving 

unless it’s sensational, you’re put out 

Shostakovich’s Symphony no 13
“Babi Yar”, is not sensational, not only 
too mired in local history, no matter
how horrid, how very horrid, but too, 
musically, not inspired 

note that with voice to concentrate the
composition, the orchestra becomes
just backdrop, no more of 
Shostakovich’s signature obbligatos, 
that gave distinction and significance 
to individual orchestral players’ lone,
often poignant, complaints

the choice of a bass to anchor the 
enterprise is especially, I think,
unfortunate, like putting all your eggs 
in one basket, that basket lugubrious
and forbidding – I thought of Taras 
Bulba, or Alberich, the gnome in
Wagner’s “Ring”, singing – the jokes in 
the second movement, “Humour”,  
go flat, people wouldn’t laugh, but 
tremble rather before the domineering 
patriarch, oligarch, the composition
needs the grace, the lightness, the 
breath, of a female figure, voice


Bach is famous for cantatas, but what
came up for me was Carl Orff‘s 
incomparable Carmina Burana“,
written in, coincidentally, 1937, from 
medieval texts the composer had 
found, in Latin, describing, in lurid 
lyrics, the spirit of cloistered monks
during the Medieval Era 

you’ll enjoy the translation of the 
Latin into English here, something I 
hadn’t experienced before, giving 
a whole new meaning to the word
“monastery”


R ! chard

on Billy Collins – “Safe Travels”

Photo on 2016-05-24 at 6.31 PM.jpg

          me, May 24, 2016

               __________

I save all the New Yorker poems  
to read after I’ve been through
everything else in the issue, 
like dessert after a meal, icing 
on the cake, sometimes too 
heavy, sometimes too light,
sometimes too rich, sometimes
just right

today, I found my favourite poem,
period, this year, stepped right 
into its shoes, like old slippers, 
the only difference being my 
walls are painted a variety of
contrasting colours, studded 
with memorabilia, treasured 
artefacts, see above

also, no one’s translating my 
poems, though even our metre
is the same, try it, sing us out 
loud, you’ll dance 

R ! chard

_____________

Safe Travels

Every time Gulliver travels
into another chapter of “Gulliver’s Travels” 
I marvel at how well travelled he is
despite his incurable gullibility.

I don’t enjoy travelling anymore
because, for instance,
I still don’t know the difference
between a “bloke” and a “chap.”

And I’m embarrassed
whenever I have to hold out a palm
of loose coins to a cashier
as if I were feeding a pigeon in a park.

Like Proust, I see only trouble
in store if I leave my room,
which is not lined with cork,
only sheets of wallpaper

featuring orange flowers
and little green vines.
Of course, anytime I want
I can travel in my imagination

but only as far as Toronto,
where some graduate students
with goatees and snoods
are translating my poems into Canadian.

Billy Collins

__________

psst: I said just recently to a poet 
          acquaintance that what poetry 
          needed in the 21st Century is 
          humour, the only art form not 
          catching up with the rest,
          otherwise it’ll die of, indeed
          succumb to, its own 
          lugubriousness

          thank you again, Billy Collins