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Category: recitals 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

 

 

 

The Transformation of Syrinx into Reeds

pan-and-syrinx-1619.jpg!Large

   Pan and Syrinx (1617 – 1619) 

 

           Peter Paul Rubens

 

                 __________



               Then Hermes thus: 

 

Hermes, messenger of the gods,

addresses Argus, keeper of Io

who’s been transformed by Jove

god of gods, into a heifer, though 

she remains daughter, ever, of 

Inachus, river god, to tell the

story of his rare, beguiling reeds

 

                                             A nymph of late there was
               Whose heav’nly form her fellows did surpass. 

 

here we go again with nymphs, 

beautiful, irresistible, however 

ever innocent, prey, due, indeed,

to their very beauty, their very

innocence, to lustful, inordinate 

desires, in these instances, 

markedly divine 

 

deities, I point out again, make 

up their own rules


               The pride and joy of fair Arcadia’s plains, 

 

Arcadia, apart from being an 

actual area of Greece, is also 

the ideal, in our historical 

imagination, of an utopia

much as is the lost island of

Atlantis 


               Belov’d by deities, ador’d by swains:
               Syrinx her name, by Sylvans oft pursu’d, 

 

Sylvans, could only be, though

I’ve been unable to find actual 

confirmation of my opinion, 

wood spirits, forest entities, 

satyrs, goat men, and such

 

               As oft she did the lustful Gods delude: 

 

Syrinx could often, or oft, delude, 

or fool, ward off, the lustful Gods

 

               The rural, and the woodland Pow’rs disdain’d; 

 

satyr yourself, Syrinx would’ve 

impudently taunted

 

               With Cynthia hunted, and her rites maintain’d:
               Like Phoebe clad, even Phoebe’s self she seems, 

 

Cynthia, is Phoebe, both also known

as Dianagoddess of the Hunt, you’ll

remember Phoebe / Diana from her

connection to Daphne, who earlier

here was transformed into a laurel 

 

Syrinx sounds an awful lot, incidentally,

like another version of Daphne


               So tall, so streight, such well-proportion’d limbs:
               The nicest eye did no distinction know,
               But that the goddess bore a golden bow: 

 

the only difference between Syrinx

and Cynthia / Phoebe / Diana was 

that Syrinx didn’t have, bear, 

golden bow


               Distinguish’d thus, the sight she cheated too. 

 

had she borne a golden bow, Syrinx

[d]istinguish’d thus, would’ve cheated 

the sight, looked identical, to the 

beautiful, it is inferred, goddess 

 

               Descending from Lycaeus, Pan admires
               The matchless nymph, and burns with new desires. 

 

Pan, god of the wild, woodlands

 

Lycaeus, Latin spelling of Lykaion,

is a mountain in Arcadia


               A crown of pine upon his head he wore;
               And thus began her pity to implore.
               But e’er he thus began, she took her flight
               So swift, she was already out of sight.
               Nor stay’d to hear the courtship of the God;
               But bent her course to Ladon’s gentle flood: 

 

Ladon, a river in Arcadia 

 

flood, rushing, though gentl[y], 

water, rhymes in the preceding 

verse, you’ll note, with God


               There by the river stopt, and tir’d before;
               Relief from water nymphs her pray’rs implore. 

 

Syrinx, once by the river stopt, seeks 

the help of, assistance, [r]elief from, 

the nearby water nymphs, her 

consorts  


               Now while the lustful God, with speedy pace,
               Just thought to strain her in a strict embrace, 

 

Pan, like Phoebus / Apollo, or 

Jove / Jupiter / Zeus before him,

is, as well, and characteristically,

a lustful God


               He fill’d his arms with reeds, new rising on the place.
               And while he sighs, his ill success to find, 

 

his ill success, his thwarted, 

ineffective, enterprise 


               The tender canes were shaken by the wind;
               And breath’d a mournful air, unheard before; 

 

the reeds that Pan gathered in his arms, 

shaken by the wind, create a mournful 

air, a melancholy music


               That much surprizing Pan, yet pleas’d him more. 

 

though Pan might’ve been much

surpriz[ed] by the sorrowful sounds 

he heard, he was more pleas’d by 

them than startled

 

               Admiring this new musick, Thou, he said,
               Who canst not be the partner of my bed,
               At least shall be the confort of my mind: 

 

Thou, Syrinx


               And often, often to my lips be joyn’d. 

 

in a kiss of consolation 


               He form’d the reeds, proportion’d as they are,
               Unequal in their length, and wax’d with care,
               They still retain the name of his ungrateful fair. 

 

the instrument Pan devised from

the tender canes he fashioned

from the unaccommodating reeds, 

what we now name the Pan flute

was called in Ancient Greece a 

syrinx, in honour of the 

recalcitrant nymph 

 

listen, coincidentally, to Debussy 

tell the storyfor solo flute,

however, which is to say, on a

modern instrumentfor our having 

long ago abandoned at a 

professional level the original pipe, 

though it remains, apparently, as a

folk instrument in more agrarian,

communities around the world, for 

shepherds, one would imagine, to

while away the hours while tending

to their, however wayward, sheep 

 

 

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

 

 

“Requiem” – Antonin Dvorak

1024px-Notre_Dame_de_Chartres.jpg


        Chartres Cathedral – View from south-east


                           _____________________

 

                                               for Donna

 


a few days before a dear friend was due 

to pass away, which is to say with medical 

assistance, I had taped from television, 

whether coincidentally or not, Antonin 

Dvorak’s “Requiem”, though I hadn’t yet 

listened to it

 

on the day of the procedure, I lit candles, 

put the music on, and sat in attendance 

as its flights of angels s[a]ng [her] to

[her] rest

 

the piece is somber, probably reserved for

somber occasions, but upon their instance, 

the work is glorious, and salutary

 

here, it is performed at the Cathedral

of Chartres, suffused with the solemnity 

and the splendour appropriate to such 

a fateful moment   

 

may you journey forth in peace, 

dear friend

 

 

R ! chard 

 

 

 

Sonata no 14 in C minor, K457 – Mozart

dinner-at-the-ball-1879.jpg!Large.jpg

     Dinner at the Ball (1879) 

 

              Edgar Degas

 

                _________

 

 

a formal dinner among family and friends 

has traditionally consisted of a salad, 

followed by a main course, then by 

dessert, all of this by convention, it is not

forbidden to serve dessert first, just highly

unusual, and noticeably disconcerting

 

these primary courses have since evolved,

in more elegant places, to include an

appetizer, either added, or to replace the

salad, and cheese can do the same for 

dessert, so that five services can now  

outpace the original three

 

different cultural settings may change 

somewhat the above order, some

Europeans, for instance, have their  

salad after the main course, but in  

general, this sequence is fixed

 

you can say the same for the sonata,

and all its derivatives

 

 

a sonata was originally served in three

courses, called movements, the first

sprightly, the second, in contrast, more

somber, contemplative, probing, the last 

jovial again upon imminent farewells, for

the same reasons that applied to formal

dinners, to express opulence, 

magnanimity, and variety of invention,

which is to say, power, and eventually,

cultural influence

 

here’s Mozart’s Sonata no 14 in C minor

K457, in three movements, auditory,

rather than gustatorycourses, where 

our era’s musical parameters, their order 

of presentation, for better or for worse, 

all began 

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

a degustation

lemons-1929.jpg!Large.jpg

Lemons (1929)

Georges Braque

___________

watching one of my cooking competition
shows on television the other day, the
twelve contestants were called upon in
pairs to create, each couple, one of the
six elements in a degustation menu

a degustation menu – I raised an eyebrow
at that one – is the same as a tasting menu,
but at a finer, it is implied, restaurant

the theme was citrus fruit, each service
had to highlight one of them, a mandarin,
a lemon, an orange, a lime, a tangelo,
a grapefruit, in that order

my goodness, I thought, a set of
variations on edibles, I was delighted,
not to mention synesthetically
titillated, all my senses were alive

the first course was a mandarin-cured
prawn ceviche, with pesto, something
to tease one’s palate, leaving plenty of
room, however, for what was to follow,
the second course, an equally light
lemon-cured salmon with smoked
crème fraîche and decorative
translucent radish slices, in again but
polite allotments

the third service introduces the protein,
duck with the nearly ever requisite
orange, but with beets, in this instance,
on an underlying sheen of all their
accumulated and colourful juices,
bread, I would imagine, would’ve been
gluttonously required

beef then followed, to fill the second
of the more substantial and filling
elements of the meal, with a lime
reduction and beets

for dessert, the fifth service presented
a tangelo cup with a surprise chocolate
truffle meant to burst in one’s mouth
with iced tangelo flavour, refreshing
and unexpectedly delightful, followed
by a grapefruit sorbet with chocolate
ganache and meringue shards as a
finale

not all contestants reached the heights
wished for, but some were memorable,
much as in any set of, even noteworthy,
variations

here’s Glenn Gould playing Beethoven’s
Six Variations in F major, Opus 34, each
variation is comparable to a culinary
experience, but for piano

listen, compare

these are preceded here by a late, and
haunting, Beethoven bagatelle, his
Opus 126, however, after which the
variations themselves are conveniently
spliced in the editing process to help
distinguish each movement from the
other

Glenn Gould doesn’t hit a note wrong,
but I think Beethoven’s introductory
aria, upon which the variations are
built, and which is repeated at the end
after a coda, or final interpolated wave,
is slow, a more engaging opening
would’ve been, to my mind, more
effective

I also would’ve, however peripherally,
degusted especially the lime beef

R ! chard

psst: incidentally, all Bach’s Cello Suites
are in six segments, their common
theme is dance, each one is a
scintillating Baroque example

a juxtaposition of verb moods

 

       the-wanderer-above-the-sea-of-fog.jpg!Blog.jpg

           The Wanderer above a Sea of Fog (1818) 


                   Caspar David Friedrich

 

                         _______________

 

 

a cardinal rule, the juxtaposition of two 

things of the same sort will exponentially

increase the information gleaned of either

 

therefore the following

 

The Impossible Dream“, listen 

 

       To dream the impossible dream

       To fight the unbeatable foe

       To bear with unbearable sorrow

       To run where the brave dare not go

 

       To right the unrightable wrong

       To love pure and chaste from afar

       To try when your arms are too weary

       To reach the unreachable star

 

       This is my quest, to follow that star

       No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

       To fight for the right

       Without question or pause

       To be willing to march

       Into hell for a heavenly cause

 

        And I know if I’ll only be true

       To this glorious quest

        That my heart will lay peaceful and calm

        When I’m laid to my rest

 

        And the world will be better for this

        That one man scorned and covered with scars

         Still strove  with his last ounce of courage

         To fight the unbeatable foe

         To reach the unreachable star

 

and Climb Every Mountain, listen again

 

        Climb every mountain

        Search high and low

        Follow every byway

        Every path you know

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

        A dream that will need  

        All the love you can give

        Every day of your life

        For as long as you live

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

 

an initial similarity, they are both

inspirational

 

an initial divergence, the former is 

in the infinitive mood, which is to 

say that the lesson is for all time

in all places and for all people, 

while the second is an imperative,

in other words, an exhortation,

something only pertaining to the 

future, though the other conditions,

of place, and of person, can still 

apply  

 

note that the verse, in either, is in 

the indicative, in keeping with, in

each, the altered air, the second,

and contrasting melody, which in

both, note, personalizes, makes

the recommendation actual, no

longer merely idealized, the

indicative is the only mood which

deals in facts, the other moods

are all imagined, dreamed

 

let me point out that in comparison

with songs in the indicative, love

songs and the like, the show tunes

above find their source in medieval

religious music, hymns, liturgical

stuff, and more recently,

comparatively, specifically in

England after the Protestant

Reformation with Handel’s both

church and ceremonial music

 

in which England went on to

specialize, incidentally, while other

forms of music there, the racier,

secular European stuff, had been

demonized, deemed sinful, and

thus proscribed

 

England would only get its mojo back

in the 1960s with the Beatles

 

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

allegros – Mozart / Schubert quintets

trout-and-reflected-tree.jpg

                     Trout and Reflected Tree (1985) 


                                    Neil Welliver


                                       ________

 

allegros are ubiquitous in the repertory,

you can find them everywhere, so I won’t

say much about them but that they’re 

the next step up from andante, therefore 

sprightly, energized, they’ll often start, 

or end, sonatas, and their derivatives, 

string quartets, concertos, symphonies, 

et cetera, engaging listeners, at first,

then wishing them a cheery farewell, 

after an often melancholy middle spell, 

they’re here again in the two following 

quintets, not unexpectedly, at the 

beginning of each, and at their end

 

Mozart’s Clarinet Quintet in A major,

KV 581

 

           l – Allegro

          ll – Larghetto 

         lll – Menuetto

         lV – Allegretto con Variazioni

 

allegretto is slightly slower than 

allegro

 

larghetto, meanwhile, is slightly faster 

than largo, largo is slower even than 

adagio, so that larghetto is somewhere 

between the two, you’ll melt, believe 

me, at this one

 

Schubert’s Piano Quintet, also in

A major, D 667, “The Trout”

 

           l – Allegro vivace

          ll – Andante

         lll – Scherzo (Presto)

         lV – Theme and Variations (Andantino)

          V – Allegro giusto

 

thirty years have elapsed between 

them, from 1789 to 1819, listen for

the Classical Period becoming the

Romantic Era

 

a clue, you can sing along with the

Mozart, you can’t anymore with the

Romantics

 

a quintet, incidentally, was usually 

comprised of a string quartet,

however varied these strings, note,

might have been, with whichever 

instrument would make up a fifth, 

according to which the quintet was 

identified, thus a clarinet quintet was 

clarinet with a string quartet, piano 

quintet, a string quartet plus a piano

 

other variants will follow

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: the theme in the fourth movement 

          variations of The Trout is from a

          lied, or song, Schubert had earlier

          composed around a poem of

          Christian Friedrich Daniel Schubart

          hence the quintet‘s nickname