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Category: recitals to ponder

“First Piano Concerto” – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

concerto-1975

      “Concerto (1975) 

               Jack Bush

                         _____

if there’s a piece that defines Classical music
for most people, encapsulates it, even for 
those who aren’t especially interested in 
Classical music, that piece would be, I think,
Tchaikovsky‘s First Piano Concerto

strictly speaking Tchaikovsky isn’t a Classical
composer, but a Romantic one, the Classical 
period in music having been transformed 
some years earlier into the Romantic period
by none other than Beethoven1770 – 1827, 
perhaps the most transformative composer 
of all time – Tchaikovsky‘s First Piano Concerto
was written in the winter of 1874 – 1875, pretty
well at the end of the Romantic Period, which 
then ceded to the Impressionists, just to get 
our periods right

what the Romantic Period added to the 
Classical Era was emotion, sentiment – note 
the use of tenuto, for instance, beats being 
drawn out, languidly, longingly, for pathos – 
what it maintained was the structure, the 
trinity of Classical conditions, rhythm, tonality, 
and repetition, which is why even the most 
uninformed listener will usually be able to 
sing along throughout the entire performance
the blueprint is in our collective blood, in the 
DNA of our culture

to remain present a piece must remain 
relevant to the promoter, an interpreter must
have reason to play it, substance surely plays 
a big part, but technical considerations play 
perhaps an even greater role towards a great
work’s longevityChopsticks“, for instance, 
is good but it won’t fill a concert hall  

unless, of course, it’s with Liberace

the “First Piano Concerto” of Tchaikovsky is 
the Everest of compositions, emotionally
complex and technically forbidding, nearly 
impossible, it would seem, were it not for 
those few who’ve mastered its treacherous 
challenges, conquered its nearly indomitable  
spirit

Van Cliburn put it on the map for my 
generation, with a ticker tape parade in 
New York to confirm it

Martha Argerich later on kept the ball rolling

and now Behzod Abduraimov, a mere youth, 
born in 1990 in UzbekistanTashkent, delivers 
by far the best performance I’ve seen since,
giving it new life for the new millenium
 
behold, be moved, be dazzled, be bewitched  

Behzod Abduraimov, watch

Richard

“Octet in F major”, D803 – Franz Schubert

schubert-at-the-piano-ii-jpglarge

     “Schubert At The Piano II (1899) 

              Gustav Klimt

                  _______

there are reasons why an octet, a 
piece for eight performers, would 
be a rare occurrence in our modern
world, the most flagrant being the 
sheer number of players to 
assemble, all with international 
commitments, and all, more 
specifically, working individually, 
or in smaller composites

duos can play any choice of 
instruments, trios as well, but
quartets are usually, which is to 
say traditionally, comprised of 
only strings, first and second 
violins, a viola and a cello, 
these three groupings, duos, 
trios, quartets, are often already 
formed, play or meet together 
regularly

also musical compositions for such 
groupings abound, the canon is 
replete with music written for two, 
three or four instruments

but at five participants, a quintet, 
the combinations are less stable, 
there isn’t enough in the 
repertoire for four strings and 
clarinet, say, to play, so that a
clarinettist must be invited in
for such an occasion, any 
other alternative accompanying 
instrument would be fit in as
incidentally 

with six, of course, and upwards, 
you get egg rolls, anything can 
happen

but at eight, an octet, you need 
friends, people who’ll gather from 
their individual busy schedules to 
perform specifically together out 
of sympathy, much as friends 
would’ve back in the Nineteenth 
Century, before television, when 
the form took shape, to socially 
cut up the rug
 
if indeed it did take shape, cause I 
can think of no other octet, off hand
after Schubert’s glorious one 

Schubert’s Octet, the composition, 
with this particular octet, the group, 
is probably the best you’ll ever hear 
of either ever, Schubert’s D803 in F
major is everything you want 
Schubert to be, and in a generous 
indeed six movements, while
Janine Jansen and her friends, the 
octet performing here, with the 
requisite four strings, plus a horn,  
a bassoon and a clarinet, are 
magisterial, dare I say definitive, 
the standard now to exceed 

octets, incidentally, don’t do 
encores, for obvious reasons

enjoy

Richard

psst: for a comparable congregation 
         of friends, see Roy Orbison’s 
         Black & White Night“, equally
         as improbable, epic

up my idiosyncrasies – Albertine‏

wing-seller-2006.jpg!Large

            Wing Seller (2006)

               Stefan Caltia

 

                        _______ 

 
what are you doing, a friend of mine
asked when he called 
 
I’m reading my Proust, I answered,
comfy enough with my textafter 
years waking up side by side, to 
use the possessive adjective 
 
what’s going on, he inquired
 
Albertine is lying on his bed, 
recounted, asleep, she’s been there 
for the past ten pages, and she’s 
just now turned onto her stomach
 
 
there is not so much story as 
paintings, in Proustdetailed 
descriptions applied like strokes of 
colour to a canvas, that of recovered 
time, colours that are specific to a 
place and a period, like photographs 
showing in their very fabric their 
ancestry, their lineage
 
but in the elucidation of what he 
sees, or, more accurately, of what
he remembers, Proust delivers 
a work of the very highest art, a 
mixture of poetry and philosophy,
Beethoven did as much, see his
 
 
Proust’s French is essentially 
immaculate, his tone, however 
intimate, always erudite, aristocratic, 
perspicacious, wise, penetrating,
embracing, which is to say, French,
though German can be also
incidentally, pretty cerebral, English 
is narrative, just the facts, please, 
though often, I think, hilarious
 
 
Albertine had been one of the “young
girls in bloom” he’d met at Balbec, a 
seaside resort, with whom he’d 
undertaken an illicit affair, but 
whose faithfulness he doubted
 
as she lay on his bed at his Paris
apartmenthe replays all the 
speculations his imagination could 
provide, an endless set of variations
on his anguish, which is to say, his
jealousy, worthy of a very Othello
 
for ten pages he paints a picture of 
infidelities completely of his making,
which, of course, becomes the world 
he will respond to
 
it is all in our little heads, I surmise, 
however informed, intelligent, that 
we create our little realities, they 
have never been nearly enough, 
though, indeed, our lives depend 
on themhowever dutifully
considered, however unconsciously,
and ever convincingly, contrived   
 
make them, I submit, good ones
  
I imagine myself a poet, for instance,
how’s that for a shot in the improbable 
dark
 
 
Richard

“Ebben? Ne andrò lontana” – Alfredo Catalani‏

diva-ii.jpg!Large.jpg

     “Diva II 
 
         Erte
 
       __
 
a fellow bloggerwho’s been inspiring
me with an array of diverse composers,
some obscure to me, others personally
transformational, unearthed a piece of 
music recently, on that composer’s
very birthday, that resounds in my 
spirit still, through, for me, its signal 
interpretationas though it were very 
yesterday
 
it was 1981, a French filmDiva“, had
taken the world by storm, precursor 
to Bladerunner“, the cultural 
phenomenon, made the following year 
 
like in Bladerunner“, the music was 
haunting
 
the antihero had stolen not only 
the dress of the sublime soprano  
he worshipped, but had also taped
surreptitiously one of her concerts,
something absolutely forbidden
 
corporations were avid to get a copy
of the tape, and the chase ensues 
throughout the streets of Paris, 
The French Connection“, but on 
Gallic drugs
 
the air is from Catalani‘s La Wally“,
a fraught opera, with the heroine 
eventually, and her beloved, dying,
separately however, in the same 
avalanche, which he’d set off by 
calling out, unaware of the sonic 
consequences, her name 
 
don’t ask
 
but at a moment of great despair, in 
those very treacherous mountains,
after her father has thrown her out 
of the house for wanting one of his 
very enemies, the wrong man, she
sings an air that will break your 
heart, Ebben? Ne andrò lontana“,  
 
sings it in the movie, you’ll 
quiver, thrill, at her clarity, her
purity, she’s a goddess, you’ll
see why Jules wanted her dress
 
but listen to Angela Gheorghiu,
as well, bring it up again a few 
years later, live in Prague, from 
her very Là fra la neve bianca“,  
There somewhere in the white 
snow“, I melted, after which I 
became burnt toast, if you’ll
pardon those clashing, however
forcefully compelling, metaphors  
 
nor would I ‘ve minded either her 
dress

 
Richard
 
psst: thanks, Kurt

“Easter Oratorio”, BWV 249 – Johann Sebastian Bach‏

ascension-of-jesus.jpg!Blog

 
                                    El Greco
 
                                      ______
 
 
                        for Martha and Chris, who still go to Easter 
                        Mass, and whom Martha calls therefore  
                        relics 
 
                        and for Staf and Annemie, who live in 
                        presently beleaguered Belgium, and 
                        who must, at this time of distress, 
                        need our prayers
 
 
having long ago lost track of the Christian
calendar, I only this week found out 
Sunday ‘d be Easter, therefore Friday
Good Friday, not that this would much 
change my daily routine, but it set me 
perusing pertinent art, I knew I could 
count on Bach for an oratorio, and sure 
enough I found it
 
an oratorio, as I earlier explained, is an
opera without sets or costumes, usually
associated with religious services, but 
Bach had one for every Sunday and 
every Christian feast day
 
after an instrumental introduction, 
reminiscent of Handel, I thought, 
Bach’s “Easter Oratorio” slips into a
lovely adagio, notable for its exquisite
oboe obligato, where the innocence 
and purity of that wind defines the 
movement
 
the ceremonial pomp of the earlier 
section then returns to include 
chorus expressing triumph, the 
realization that the Lamb of God 
has returned
 
but soon enough, Mary, the soprano 
of a quartet of singers, each of the 
four singing according to their own – 
alto, Mary Magdalene, tenor, Simon 
Peter, bass, John the Evangelist  
voices, and accompanied by an 
utterly transcendental transverse 
flute, sings 
 
      “My soul, the spice that embalms 
       you shall no longer be myrrh. Only
       a crown of laurels can soothe your 
       anxious longing.”  
 
and knocks your socks off 
 
 
this week at market, stuffing my 
organic red pepper and a bag of 
handcrafted chips, barbecued,
designer, into my bagat their 
express counter, collecting my 
coins, my receipt, my change 
purse, my wallet, and last but not 
least, of course, my self, I sensed 
something of mine drop, looked 
dutifully aroundcould find 
nothing, wondered, and made to 
go
 
excuse me, sir, I heard behind me, 
you dropped something
 
a little boy, an urchin, blond hair, 
blue eyes, right out of Charles 
Dickens, I thought, eight maybe,
nine, held out a quarter, apparently 
mine
 
why thank you, I replied, enchanted
 
and you know what, I asked, I’m 
going to give this back to you, and 
put the quarter back into his hand
 
the last time I did something like 
that, I saw an angel, I remembered
but that’s another story
 
thank you, he said back, gleaming
with the maturity of his interaction, 
though I’m not sure he wasn’t 
himself in fact also a very angel
 
 
later I thought I should’ve sent him 
for a crème brûlée, a piece of carrot 
cake, a pastry, or something, and 
berated myself for the paucity of 
my recompense
 
 
but there is a link to Easter in my 
tale, the idea of hope, revival, 
regeneration, in the possibility of
goodness reentering the world, a
task inherited by the children, and 
whom we must not lead astray
 
apart from its more traditional 
associations, for perhaps the less 
observant, people of other creeds 
and faiths, if Easter means anything 
still, or has ever, it is about just that, 
hope, revival, regeneration, nor must 
we ourselves betray those ideals   
 
happy Easter 
 
 
Richard

a rumination on rain‏

spring-rain.jpg!Blog

                                                 Spring Rain 
 
                                        Erte (Romain de Tirtoff)
 
                                                    _________
 
 
since last November the days have 
been short, and have not hastened 
since winter to be longer, not 
helped either by the most recent 
time change, more than anything 
a biannual irritant  
 
nor has the rain stopped, apart from 
a few clement days, its persistent,
often pounding, onslaught
 
that’s me, above, expressing my 
displeasure
 
 
as usual, in distress, I turned to art 
to see, or hear, what others might 
have to say about my current 
dilemma, my chagrin du jour, if you 
like, in this instance, the Erte on rain 
took the sting out of the raindrops
 
others had inspired, a Gauguin,
unexpectedly grey, but haunting,
a Monet, of course, equally sombre, 
who painted in all weathers
 
Constable, uncharacteristically 
angry, was looking a lot like 
Turner, but more direct, accessible,
less oracular, more matter-of-fact, 
sensible, reading only the weather 
in the weather
 
Winston Churchill, of all people, 
gives us, incidentally, something 
in between
 
 
especially to my sense of poetry 
among the artworks I perused, 
someone I’ll have to further, for his 
tender homage to perhaps other 
colours than orange, explore
 
to me unknown, does a similar thing
in, essentially, a monochrome, with 
a fine mist standing in for ethereality
 
Miró is ever up to his old tricks, 
find it  
 
but Erte catches best of all my desire
for irony, sardonicism, self-criticism
 
in music I couldn’t think of anything 
other than Beethoven’s Der Sturm
to temper the weather, despite the 
fact that rain hadn’t been ever his 
inspiration, the title came from his 
publisher to increase sales, 
Beethoven wrote pure music, 
abstract, never specifically literally 
to describe, what is called program
music, his descriptions, his 
evocations, came unadulterated,
untransliterated, from the heart 
 
 
in literature nothing beats Somerset 
Maugham’s short story, Rain“, 
masterpiece of intrigue as well as 
literary prowess, searing substance 
married to superb style
 
the book was duly made into film,
and several times, with Gloria 
Swanson in 1928, Joan Crawford 
in 1932, and Rita Hayworth in 1953
none of these slouches
 
 
the clouds have now coincidentally
dispersed, the metaphorical ones, 
not so surprisingly, have been 
meanwhile displaced by my retreat 
into art, a recourse I’ve found to be 
always dependable, and, yet again, 
in this otherwise grim environment,
diverting and trustworthily inspiring
 
 
I wish you consequently, also, for 
similar reasons, art, a salve along 
life’s often obstreperous journey 
 
 
Richard
 

Bassoon Sonata, opus 168 – Camille Saint-Saëns

photo-this-is-the-color-of-my-dreams.jpg!Blog

                  Photo; This is the Color of My Dreams (1925)
 
                                                Joan Miró 
 
                                                   ______
 
 

 for  my sister

a competition program that pits
youngsters against each other,
but on a variety of instruments,
with some operatic voice, has
riveted us to our sets on Friday
evenings, seven o’clock local
time throughout Canada

out of the province of Quebec,
however, and therefore in
French

Virtuose lives up to its name
with extraordinary performances
from mere children, and some
adolescents, you can catch all of
the past episodes, and performers,
on their website

last week a young man delighted
us with a movement from a bassoon
sonata
, an unlikely instrument, of 

Saint-Saëns, his opus 168

my sister expressed surprise,
un basson, she marvelled

quickly I sought out, of course, the
full composition, it’s otherwise for
me like reading one chapter only
out of a book

it’s a short piece, no longer the
grand statements of the earlier
Romantic Period, but a series of
pastiches, fleeting impressions,
impromptu ruminations rather
than extended dissertations,
something like what I’m doing
here with these texts

you’ll recognize also a similar
approach in other composers of
the period, Debussy especially,
but too Satie, Ravel, Poulenc to
name only a few, the speed of
the new century precluded
extended musical peregrinations,
you’ll remark on the dearth of
symphonies, concertos,
composed during this epoch

the composition is in G major, my
cleaning lady had come over, was
already busy in an adjoining room
at the time, I was nearing the
end of the first movement, the
allegro moderato, a wistful
evocation of spring, I thought,
an innocent, fragile blossom
unfurling its delicate petals
with unaffected grace and
unconscious poetry

the final note sounded, the
bassoonist removed his lips from
the tube, but the note kept on
playing, coming, as I soon
understood, not from the video I
was watching, but from the other
room, Jo had turned on the
vacuum cleaner

o my god/dess, I uttered, hurried
over to where she was, subdued
my enthusiasm in order not to
unduly rattle her, as I brimmed
with my scintillating insight

your vacuum cleaner vacuums in
G, I gushed when she turned to
acknowledge me, it continued the
last note, I explained, of the first
movement of my sonata, Saint-
Saëns’ – say that three times with
a lisp, I interjected – until you
turned your vacuum cleaner off,
which is also, I pointed out, a
wind instrument

her delight was modest compared
to mine, however ever nevertheless
congenial, and quickly she returned
to her duties

I went back tickled pink to my
monitor and the following
movement, the sprightly and equally
enchanting allegro scherzando

Richard

String Quartet in G minor, opus 10‏ – Claude Debussy

Il-ratto-di-Proserpina-Galleria-Borghese
                                        
                                    “Pluto and Persephone” (1522)
 
                                               Gian Lorenzo Bernini
 
                                                  ______________
 
 
if I’ve been away from my post for so long,
it’s either because my muse had left me, 
abandoned me to the rigours of an 
especially inclement winter, cold, driving 
rain, short somber days, weather for 
isolation, insulation, hibernation
 
or, like Persephone, I’d been abducted 
as to an Underworld, moral as well as 
meteorologicalhowever cosseted might’ve 
been there my stay, eiderdown pillows, 
blankets, books, Internet movies, concerts, 
plays, until by permission of Plutofateful 
consort, God of the Netherworld, by the
intercession of Mother Demeter, Queen of 
the Harvest, I’ve been allowed, even urged, 
to return for spring
 
where cherry blossoms are burgeoning, 
flowers bud in their variety of colours, 
birds sing, trees, like myself, begin to 
scratch out their brimming script onto 
the open-armed page of heaven
 
 
I’d left the string quartet evolving towards
Bohemia and Russia, in the capable hands 
of Smetana and Borodin respectively, from 
its solid roots in Vienna with Haydn and 
 
it would evolve westwards, of course, too 
to France eventually, as the centre of art 
shifted somewhat from Vienna to Paris in 
the late 19th Century, and spread, through 
paint mostly, the eye superseding the ear, 
wresting the cultural reins from music as 
oracle for the times, the new perspective 
of Impressionism
 
minor, his opus 10, a world away from 
the emotional seductiveness of 
Romanticism, but rather driving, electric, 
cosmopolitanteeming with traffic, it’s 
1893, the zeitgeist has changed
 
 
Richard

“Christmas Oratorio” – Johann Sebastian Bach‏

"Nativity" - Piero della Francesca

Nativity (1470 – 1475)

Piero della Francesca

__________

on the first day of Christmas, which
is to say December 25, 1734, the first
cantata of Bach’s Christmas Oratorio“,
“The Birth”, was presented at the
Nikolaikirche, or the Church of St
Nicholas
, in Leipzig

it was followed by five other cantatas,
each corresponding to its own
elaboration of the holy event

the Annunciation to the Shepherds, December 26, 1734
the Adoration of the Shepherds, December 27, 1734
the Circumcision – if you can believe it – and Naming of Jesus, January 1, 1735
the Journey of the Magi, January 2, 1735
and the Adoration of the Magi, January 6, 1735

the cantatas are usually played in
groups of three, or in their entirety,
to more easily accommodate too
either long, or short, performances
– the cantatas last only about 25
minutes – though Leipzig, and other
neighbouring communities might
still adhere to their more reverent
original position

an oratorio, of course, is an opera
without sets or costumes, usually
associated with religious services,
and, quite specifically, mostly, with
Bach’s, of whose manifestly prolific
output an astonishing 209 still
survive

a cantata is a work for voice and
instrumentation in several
movements, or contrasting musical
episodes, in Bach’s liturgical ones,
four voices, usually, cover the
ranges, soprano, alto, tenor and
bass, they tell the story, while the
choir stand in for the angels

this performance, conducted by the
eminent Nikolaus Harnoncourt, is
from the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig
itself, the Oratorio‘s very cradle,
its stunning altarpiece, flanked by
two mighty Christmas trees, is
glorious

incidentally the soprano and the
alto voices are taken over here by
cherubs, in the obvious guise of
prepubescents, you can tell by
their missing wings

their more stentorian counterparts,
tenor and bass, are aptly authoritative,
arresting, you’ll feel utterly blessed

here’s the text in English

Richard

psst: merry, incidentally, Christmas

 

December, 2015‏

"December" - Theodor Severin Kittelsen

December (1890)

Theodor Severin Kittelsen

__________

for Susan

several years ago, a friend of mine
invited me to a concert, Sir Edward
Elgar
‘s The Dream of Gerontius“,
to my mind, a double mountain to
cross, both English and ceremonial,
this is not music you can dance to,
nor even dream on, but music that
demands your allegiance, as well
as your attention

to my mind English music, nearly
an oxymoron, remained stagnant
from Purcell, 1659 to 1695, to the
Beatles
, 1960 to 1970, with very
few exceptions, never managing,
mostly, to hold, even, a tune

ceremonial music suffered much
from its rigid partisan bent,
whether political or religious, try
singing La Marseillaise or
The Stars and Stripes if you’re
not of those nations, you are
instantly sidelined, a mere
spectator, try How Great Thou
Art
at a party, however
inspirational

but the ticket was free, my friend
couldn’t think of anyone else she
could invite who’d enjoy the show,
she’d received the tickets in a
bundle

Gerontius, an old man – you’ll note
the Greek root, geron, as in
gerontology” – is dying, fears the
other side, friends comfort him and,
in particular, a priest sends him on
his way, that’s act one

act two, he’s on the other side,
wherein the dream of being on the
other side, should he still be alive,
or the actuality of being on the
other side, confront him, have I
died, he wonders

I could tell you something about
that

an angel appears to lead him to,
the programme boasted, no less
than God eventually, in a burst,
for the occasion, of musical
pyrotechnics

well, I wondered, let’s see what
they’re going to do with that

it was unforgettable, though my
friend was somewhat more
equivocal, perhaps not as intent,
quite yet, as I was, about meeting
her divine

in search of something lately to
commemorate the several recent
worldwide atrocities, I quickly
settled on the only work I could
think of, apart from anything,
of course, by Bruckner, to mourn
appropriately

I found this extraordinary production
from no less than London’s St Paul’s

though not an oratorio, according
to the composer’s strict intentions,
Elgar‘s The Dream of Gerontius“, a
concert piece, is played here in a
church, an Anglican, indeed,
cathedral, despite the flagrantly
Catholic story being told, Elgar had
converted to Catholicism, the piece
transcends, however, religions

an oratorio, incidentally – not to be
confused with Ontario, the Canadian
province – is an opera conceived
without sets or costumes, usually
associated with significant religious
occasions

the text of “Gerontius” is taken
from a poem of Cardinal John
Henry Newman
, 1801 to 1890,
a Catholic convert himself, only
recently beatified, as a matter
of fact, not yet, however, for
insufficiency of miracles, it
would appear, canonized

The Dream of Gerontius is
Cardinal Newman‘s retelling of
Dante‘s Divine Comedy“, our
original tour guide through
Purgatory, Heaven and Hell,
Newman‘s take on it is
particularly poignant, Elgar‘s
musical accompaniment not
any less

the conjunction of divine,
composer, sacred venue and
superior performers is an
extraordinary occasion,
despite, not least, a
scratchy recording, the
experience here is
profound

bring your solemnity

Richard

by the way: December is the end of
the year, 2016 is already act two, are
you ready to meet your own God/dess