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Category: pictures to ponder

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

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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

a contemporary haiku, on wine

haiku-poet-and-his-poem

     “Haiku Poet and His Poem (?) 

            Yosa Buson

               ________

a glass of wine, I sing,
two, in German,
go figure

R ! chard

“Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave”

hank-williams-1

                        Hank Williams

                              _______

halfway through The Last Picture Show
recently, a celebrated movie from the early 
Seventies I was watching, about the early
Fifties, I was sidetracked by the Hank  
Williams soundtrack till I was out and out 
stopped by its fervent Cold, Cold Heart 

I put the film on pause 

another love before my time, I warbled,
made your heart sad and blue, and so 
my heart is paying now, I wallowed, for 
things didn’t do, in anger unkind words
were said, I rued, that made the teardrops 
start, why can’t I free, your doubtful mind, 
I fretted, and melt your cold, cold heart 

but I wanted to hear Hank Williams do
it too, live if I could, and lo and behold 
got it

but listed as an option among other 
options nearby was also a longer  
feature purporting to be a 
representation of a concert he 
never  gave the night, December 31, 
1952, he died, the movie is called,
not inappropriately, Hank Williams:
The Show He Never Gave

the actor who plays Williams steps
right into his shoes, he’ll break your 
heart, you’ll need a lot of Kleenex

one of he best film biographies I’ve 
ever seen 

watch it

Hank Williams died of a heart attack
on the night of December 31, 1952

he was 29

may he rest in everlasting peace

Richard

me in the key of B major – 60 Jubilee East, the bathroom‏

Numériser 3
me, at 54 Jubilee East, by the woodpile
___________

réveillez-vous,
 les enfants, my mother
would call, wake up children, it’s time 
to get ready for school
 
we’d scuttle down the stairs from our 
the vent that crouched between the 
toilet and the wall that enclosed, at 
a ninety degree angle to the toilet, 
the tub 
 
the vent allowed hot air to come up 
from the oil furnace my dad ‘d only
recently put up in the basement, the
foundation for the house he would 
slide the old chicken coop from the 
back of the property onto, to build  
our new home
 
where the bathroom would be, there’d 
been a wood stove, we children would 
dress there, beside the hot oven, then,
while my mom got ready for work, the 
lady up front, in the only house that
had been there at the start of all this, 
54 Jubilee East, now rented from my 
folks, and took care of us while both 
my parents were working
 
I very vaguely remember this, but I 
remember well heading towards the 
heat, putting on my socks, 
underclothes, there, until the chill 
fell out of the morning
 
often my sister got there first, but I did
so also often, there was never any 
dissension, we were two consensual 
peas in a pod, each the other’s keeper
 
 
my mother had had to chop wood, she 
told me, and haul water, during the winter
my dad had gone north to work, up near 
James and Hudson Bays
 
she’d heat the water on the stove, there 
was no electricity, nor power tools, my 
aunt, her sister, had had to chop the 
wood cause my mother couldn’t 
manage, the axe ‘d bounce off the 
block she’d be trying to chop
 
my dad ‘d set up timber against our
meagre living quarters, what I’d later 
callsardonically, our manger, to 
supply my mom for the winter he’d 
be gone
 
my mother couldn’t’ve been more than 
twenty years old, then, her sister a few 
years younger, my own sister had barely 
been born, would’ve been not one 
 
this could explain why my mother cried 
 
I would’ve
 
 
Richard

me in B major – 60 Jubilee East, the attic‏

IMG_7745.jpg

I’m the one on the right

____________

been a door originally, from which 
they would’ve swept out hay, I’d
think, where chickens might’ve 
roosted, but my dad had built a 
couple of bedrooms for us there, 
my sister and I, one at either end 
of what would’ve been that attic
 
much of this is conjecture, I don’t 
remember living in the chicken
coop, though I remember living
in the garage, there’d been an
outhouse behind it, and men
would come over to clean it out
every so often
 
there was also a milkman, who led
horse and milk wagon, and for 
whom we’d clean out and return 
the bottles
 
also in summer, a man with a pony
for kids took pictures, I still have
ours imprinted on a cup
 
 
between our bedrooms, my dad had
built a closet, where we could both 
hang all our clothes, and beside it,
on either side, a row of shelves we
could individually use adjoining our 
separate bedrooms, hers was pink, 
mine was blue, baby blue, this was 
probably already more than most 
other kids had, though I would’ve 
been too young to be aware of it  
 
behind the closet, there was a door 
into a confined area under the roof,
with beams and an itchy brush that
served as insulation, we were 
curious but ever too afraid to go in 
there, where confinement lurked, 
nor had I wanted to get into the dryer 
down in the basement for the same 
reason, I might, I told myself, lock 
myself in
 
a short staircase towards the back of 
the house led onto a landing, where
a window looked out onto our back 
yard, if I remember well, and beyond 
that to the brush that preceded the 
forest, and a rocky elevation
 
a longer staircase in the other direction
took us downstairs, into the main living 
areas
 
 
my sister and I were only a year apart,
I was older, protective, she was younger,
trusting, this has never changed
 
 
Richard

Mendelssohn – Opus 13, String Quartet no 2 in A minor‏

           "Caricature of Felix Mendelssohn" -  Aubrey Beardsley

Caricature of Felix Mendelssohn

Aubrey Beardsley

____________

my music teacher on the Internet,
a woman of impeccable credentials,
said about Mendelssohn that his
music was “instantaneously
recognized”

I raised a quizzical eyebrow, and
thought, not to me, honey, despite
my erudition I’d never even heard
of Mendelssohn’s Opus 13, String
Quartet no 2 in A minor

it was full of atonalities, you could
be forgiven, I thought, for thinking
it might be even after Brahms, by
you I mean, of course, me

but an incontrovertible tenderness
and courtesy runs like blood through
it, enough to anchor it to the very
engines, entrails, gut, if you’ll permit
me, of Romanticism, it was 1827

but there wasn’t a single tune I’d
ever heard, in contradiction to my
nevertheless highly respected
teacher, however ever pleasant,
however ever amazing the
number

I was surprised, I’d expected some
Proustian, which is to say, inchoate,
reminiscence, encounter

Mendelssohn was 18 when he wrote
this, sowing his oats, some oats

Richard

Grieg, Piano Concerto in A minor‏

Arthur Rubinstein

Arthur Rubinstein

_________

inspired by a favoured blogger of
mine who’d highlighted an obscure
composer who’d written an
unforgettable cultural ditty we’d
all heard but never further thought
of, Hugo Alfvén, I was reminded of
another Scandinavian giant, Grieg

stop, watch, don’t just listen, to
Arthur Rubinstein make history
with Grieg’s A minor Piano
Concerto
, he is the very
representation of all of the
proprieties of a late 19th-Century
aesthetic, noble, aristocratic,
austere, yet authentic, capable,
firm

André Previn’s orchestral
accompaniment is unobtrusive,
and disappears, for all intents
and purposes, behind the sheer
dedication, conviction, of the
true maestro, the veritable muse,
the instigator, Arthur Rubinstein,
watch him leave all of them behind
in flurries of electrified inspiration

this performance bursts beyond
all literal expectations, expect
nothing short of transcendence

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Maria Mazo

  "L'oiseau de feu" -  Leon Bakst

L’oiseau de feu (1910)

Leon Bakst

________

after playing Scriabin’s 4th Sonata,
in F# major, opus 30, a passionate
but poised performance of a work
dated 1903, Ravel maybe, or
Debussy, at first I thought, though
neither had ever been so furious in
my recollection, then a transcription
for piano of the last movements of
Stravinsky’s “Firebird”, a work as
obstreperous as the Scriabin, and
as revolutionary, relentless and
brash, much more audacity than
diplomacy however ultimately
treasured universally and celebrated,
Maria Mazo undertakes no less than
the mightiest of the mighty, gasp,
Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier”

she takes on the first two movements
at something of a clip, not an
unwelcome occurence so long as you
have the fingers for it, which on the
strength of her earlier numbers I
deemed she would, and did, which
only added to the gravitas of her then
largo, which thereby became
resplendent, luminous, utterly and
verily, indeed, transcendental, note
the cherubs twittering halfway
through, just before Beethoven
enters the portals of very Heaven
and is transformed into radiance and
incandescent light before your
very astonished sensibilities

Maria Mazo should win

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Daniel Kharitonov‏

Daniel Kharitonov

Daniel Kharitonov

__________

Daniel Kharitonov will be 17 in
December, I think he could win

after the usual misconceived, to
my mind, Bach, which he ends,
however, with lengthened notes
that evoke the organ instead of
the more skittish, less ceremonial
harpsichord, giving credence to
some, at least, rubato in Bach,
for Bach wrote exceedingly for
the organ, he then not only
recaptures your confidence with
an unexpectedly sparkling
“Appassionata”, not easy after
so many, then polishes off his
laurels with virtuosic Liszt,
Chopin and Rachmaninov after
having played a lovely, aptly
contemplative, “Méditation” of
Tchaikovsky

Daniel Kharitonov is going places,
indeed has gone, Carnegie Hall, for
instance, in 2013, he would’ve been
14

watch

Richard