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“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

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Fantasia in F minor, D.940 – Franz Schubert

Millais, John Everett, 1829-1896; The Princes in the Tower

 

        Princes In The Tower (1878) 
 
               John Everett Millais
 
                     ___________
 
 
flipping through the suggested list of 
YouTube videos that always accompanies
the main feature for a quite specific other 
quintet of Schubert, a work to compare 
chanced upon, by the very gleam of what 
it promised on the label, a Fantasia, rather, 
of Schubert for four-hand piano, in other 
words, two people, pups of the same 
family, it appeared in this instance, 
according to both their names, and the 
still picture
 
I wasn’t prepared to find two veritable
cherubs, dressed alike in black and 
white, not unlike those in the painting 
abovesit at the piano and deliver the 
very music of angels
 
written in May, 1828, Schubert died 
that November, age 31
 
the Fantasia is essentially a sonata
with all the breaks removed, it is 
played without interruption, this 
video indicates the three traditional
separations of the movements as 
they occur
 
you’ll find again tonality, tempo, 
and recapitulation rule, but the 
idiom is searching, clusters of 
notes are broken down, explored,
dissected, looking for some kind
of metaphysical solution, which
of course, can only be the quest
itselfimperceptible to the 
beseecher, who can only ever 
find it in the mirror of his or her 
own creation, in other words, the 
answer is in the process, we are 
ourselves our own metaphysical 
solution according to the life that 
we individually create, which, in 
this case, Schubert’s, is utterly 
magical, the very utterances of 
angels, Schubert must’ve been 
an angel
 
note the return of the original 
theme in the final movement, 
like a memory of something 
that started long ago, before 
the tumult and anguish of the 
intervening moments, the sigh
at the end, the very last note, 
a surrender, a submission, an
exhausted, and I use the word
advisedly, capitulation
 
 
if I’ve twinned the painting above
it’s that they are both expressions
of absolute innocence, unclouded
emotions before their either fate,
in one case, the message of 
Schubert, a very Annunciation
played appropriately by apt 
messengers, the other, dread 
before their direst of plights  
 
Edward, heir to Edward lV, King of
England, and Richard, his brother,
disappeared from the Tower of 
London after Richard lll had them,
ages 12 and 9, held there, no one 
has determined the true course of
events, apart from the fact that
Richard lll got the throne, 
however illegitimately 

 

note that the painting above is 
manifestly Romantic, 1878, though
late, Impressionism was taking 
over, but Millais, English, and not 
as controversial as the French, 
nor the Austrians, for that matter,
still delivered utter masterpieces
in the, however outdated, 
perspective 
 
the painting, at five feet by three,
is nearly life size, standing beside 
it is unforgettable, it is in a sober, 
dare I say, Protestant style, quite 
different from the Catholic 
Schubert and his more Italianate
sensibilities, it is spare in both 
colour and filigree, a consequence 
of strict rules established upon the 
arts after Charles ll, under William 
of Orange and Mary, 1689 -1702
 
the British will pick up again, 
artistically, but only marginally, in 
the 19th Century, they shine,
however, in the area of philosophy, 
mostly political, Adam Smith, for 
instance, significant in the shaping 
of the American Constitutionor 
empiricist, what there is to learn 
directly from experienceHobbes
BerkeleyLockeuntil it returns to 
Germany in the 18th Century with 
Kantconcerns more existential
does God exist, all the way up to 
Nietzsche in the late 19th Century
puts an end to Him, and the West 
prepares for secularism, separation 
of Church and State

 
the Princes“, like Schubert, are 
manifest in their horror, not 
stylized, but overt, flagrant
 
Jane Grey“, Delaroche, for the 
combination of drama, pathos,  
for Romantic attention to the 
plight of even regal personalities
 
 
R ! chard

 

String Quintet in C major, D. 956 – Franz Schubert

the-sistine-madonna-1513.jpg!Large

   “The Sistine Madonna (1513)
 
          Raphael


          __________ 

 

if you listen to only one piece of music  
this week, make it this one, Schubert’s 
a monument of Western culture, it’d be
like missing the Venus de Milo when 
you’re at the Louvre, or the Sistine 
Madonna of Dresden’s Zwinger 
the church of Saint Agnes Outside the 
Walls, transformative experiences

quartets, I couldn’t not next introduce
their very gold standard 
 
written in 1828, it was composed at 
the very height of the Romantic 
Period, just a little ahead of Chopin,
1810 – 1849, his other significant 
counterpart, apart from the ageing
Beethoven, 1770 – 1827, who still 
towered above all, despite his 
demise, and was universally 
admired 
 
but had Schubert lived longer than 
his 31 years, I suspect he might’ve 
been Beethoven’s equal, Schubert 
died even earlier than Mozart did, 
at 35, but of something that wasn’t
spoken of until much later, which 
is why we haven’t heard about the 
loss of this other musical giant
quite as grievously as we have 
about his somewhat more senior 
counterpart
 
but listen
 
it’s even hard to tell him apart from 
Beethoven, the passion, the urgency, 
the drama, even composing against 
the beat, a signature trait in 
Beethoven, like Alfred Hitchcock 
showing up in his own movies, or
Woody Allen, always introducing a 
work of art
 
a few things
 
though the frame is immaculately 
Classical, tonality, tempo, and 
recapitulation are not at all 
unobserved, the mood has changed 
from courteous, deferential, and 
respectful, to urgent, confessional, 
and private, the walls are there, but 
the furniture has changed, thanks 
of course here to Beethoven
 
and to the times
 
was writing her Sonnets from the 
Let me count the ways. – right about 
thenunfettered love poems to her 
beloved husband, Robertthe equally 
famous poet, who was remaining 
nevertheless, in his own work, more 
emotionally punctilious
 
I noted as well that the tempo in the 
second movement, one of the most 
beautiful adagios eversurely, 
lurches into an intemperate rebellion,
a second rhythm, up against the earlier 
mournful resignation of the poignant 
lament – note, in passing, that its 
stress of the dominant note is on the 
last beat not the first, like a weight 
that becomes, at every inching 
forward, intolerable, very path to a 
personal Calvary – before returning 
to that very fateful, though luminous, 
initial, stricken dirge

the next movement, the scherzo, does 
the reverse, fast, then slow, then fast 
again, to give the work in its entirety
eight rather than the four traditional 
tempi
 
the piece now has episodes, rather 
than merely a clockwork display,
drama has replaced the dance
entirely as the subtext for music
 
Schubert died two weeks after its
publication, for your info, I think 
his soul had been talking
 
 
R ! chard

psst: there’s a magical film I associate 
          with this music, The Company 
          of Strangers“, a Canadian 
          production, about several elderly
          ladies who get stuck in the 
          wilderness after their tour bus  
          breaks down in the middle of 
          nowhere
 
          you’ll never forget it

 

String Quintets – Mozart / Beethoven

3889-2014-2

 
           Claude Monet
 
               ________
 
 
concerned about presenting Beethoven’s 
Opus 59, the next significant string quartets 
of the early 19th Century, too early – 
Beethoven had, incidentally, at that point no 
rivals – I preferred to establish his credentials, 
rather than to enter his next phase, equivalent 
to the move from representational art to 
Impressionism in painting, a sea change,  
people would’ve balked at the very concept   
of an alternative vision, and indeed they 
were confused
 
this sea change, I should point out, challenged 
the very notions of what not only art should be, 
but also music, and literature, indeed very life 
perspectives, philosophies
 
therefore the Romantic Period, when 
expressions of personal epiphanies began 
to crowd the new democratic environment 
after the French Revolution, 1789, all of 
which would lead to, eventually, our own 
allegiance to, at least in the West, the 
concept of human rights
 
music was already, in other wordstalking,
and with Beethoven, indeed vociferously 
 
 
still adheres to Classical conditions, 
but bursts through them emotionally
 
written only 14 years earlier, one of six
of his
 
you won’t find them, perhaps, on the 
surface, to be very different, wouldn’t 
be able to even tell them apart in a
blind pinch 
 
but juxtaposing, as I always urge, 
sharpens one’s aesthetic pencil, ask
yourself, in this case, according to 
your senses, which of the compositions 
is earlier, you’ll find your senses have 
already told you
 
everything flows from that initial 
answer, when you ask yourself why  
you think that
 
 
I’d asked my mom at Belvedere, 
Vienna, whose painting hung across 
the hall we’d just entered
 
she demurred, of course, considering 
herself not up to the challenge, despite 
several visits together we’d had among 
a wonder of other European art galleries
 
I insisted
 
she tossed off, okay, Renoir, an easy 
answer, though it turned out to be a 
Degas, or the reverse, or whatever 
 
but upon reaching the painting, of 
course, Degas, she said, knowing full 
well it was himhaving lacked only the 
pluck and the confidence 
 
who’s that, I asked, turning to another
master
 
Monet, she replied, confidently
 
and was, as I’d anticipated she would 
becorrect, she can now tell her 
Rembrandtfrom her Courbets, her
Canalettos from her Vermeers also
 
we know of a lot more than we 
think we do
 
 
R ! chard

String Quartet in A Major, Opus 18, no 5 – Beethoven

adagio-1899.jpg!Large

      Adagio (1899) 
 
         Tom Roberts
 
            ________
 
 
                               for especially Kathy, who, 
                                   according to a mutual friend, 
                                       needs our prayers
 
                               please be generous 
 
 
from his Opus 18, among which there
are six, according to the Classical 
tradition, is still steeped in Classical
conditions, tonality, tempo, and 
reiteration, but is revolutionary for 
its brashness, its personal 
manifestation – hey, it says, I’m the 
Pied Piper, I’m not hiding in the 
courtly shadows any longer, my 
stage is now the concert hall, no 
more the aristocratic, however 
stately, chamber music, which has 
ceded, until now, to propriety and 
deference rather than, in a word,
genius, I’m Beethoven, Beethoven 
says, watch me
 
he doesn’t disappoint
 
written in 1801, is a very early work of
Beethoven, it’s nearly easy to confuse
him here with Haydn, with whom he’d,
incidentally, earlier studied
 
the era is still extricating itself from the 
Classical model, the Classical imperatives 
are there, tempo, tonality, and repetition 
remain rigid elements of musical 
construction in the 5th, they are nearly 
obsessive, though each movement 
imprints itself, by constant reiteration, 
on our minds, much like pop music
 
but I miss an adagio, the moral ground,
I think, of a piece of music, the place 
where your heart really takes over and 
begins to incorporate the work‘s 
humanity, I ascribe this unfortunate 
omission to Beethoven’s youthful 
exuberance, he would’ve been around 
30, and setting out, with verve and 
ambition, and he would be performing 
before general now, rather than 
aristocratic, audiences, he had a show 
to put on, not just background chamber 
music  
 
note that the second movement is a 
minuet, a sure sign of the Classical
Period, extinct in only a few further
years
 
note that the third movement, the 
andante cantabile, a leisurely walking 
pace, stepped up, rather than down, 
to a veritable clippety-clop in some 
instances, is a set of variations, to, 
incidentally, settle its theme into 
one’s very consciousness, I’ve been 
humming these movements for the 
past several days, not at all 
unprofitably
 
note also that you’ll probably soon 
be humming, too, this infectious
compositionin all its iterations, 
they are utterly captivating, after, 

still, even over two hundred years

enjoy 


R ! chard 

psst: thanks Collin, for Kathy

Cello Sonata no 2 in G minor, opus 5 – Beethoven

egg-on-plate-with-knife-fork-and-spoon-1964.jpg!Large

   Egg on Plate with Knife, Fork, and Spoon (1964) 

           Alex Hay

              ____

after my somewhat prolonged side trip 
into Bach country, though it is a land
of many more wonders, I’ll get back 
on track, more or less, here, with 
Beethoven’s Second Cello Sonata
the other half of his Opus 5

till then, the cello had served as 
accompaniment, essentially, for other 
more discursive, higher pitched, less 
sonorous, less stentorious  
instruments

but Beethoven puts the cello back 
into the hottest seat in the house, right 
next to the ubiquitous piano, a 
requirement in any instance following 
the neglect of the cello during the 
intervening Classical Period, despite 
Bach’s earlier luminous illustration of 
its incandescent potential

the Opus 5, no 2 starts, audaciously, 
with an adagio, not always a wise 
choice, as you’ve heard me repeat 
here before, it can be unentertaining

but Beethoven gives his adagio tension
by introducing breaks often, which,
rather than stultify, creates momentum,
therefore a narrative, a story to follow

the rhythm is no longer adjusted to 
dance essentially, such a spin as is
heard in the second and third 
movements, for instance, would 
surely sweep one off one’s feet

but the art is in the dance that 
Beethoven allows and creates between 
the piano and the cello, the first the 
filigree on the arm of the more grounded, 
more entrenched latter, the crystal, the 
silverware that adorn, symbolically, an 
however majestic oak table, the creamy
Hollandaise that makes an egg, however 
elemental, irresistible, the literary turns 
that might transform mere prose into, 
verily, poetry, icing on a cake, in a word,  
to complement, in stunning and equal 
cooperation, the inextricable 
counterpart

there is even a moral lesson transmitted
here

Beethoven can often be long-winded, 
I’ve found, but there’s always, always,
at the end of the road something 
entirely worth the extra minute, the 
even several extra minutes 

enjoy 


R ! chard

Cello Concerto no 2 in D major – Haydn

a-cello-1921.jpg!Large

         A Cello (1921)

        Louis Marcoussis

             ___________

between Bach’s transcendent Suites for
Cello and Beethoven’s reinvention of that 
instrument, two only cello works occupy
the last half of that century, both by
Haydn

his Second, however, Concerto, written 
several years later than his First, 1783, 
indeed nearly twenty years later, seems 
to me less accomplished, though ever, 
nevertheless, unimpeachably, and 
impressively, Haydn 

the first movement is long, long works 
only until you start thinking it’s long

the initial melody in the adagio, the 
second movement, struck me as artificial, 
saccharine, though Haydn weaves magic, 
not unexpectedly, still, and  
continuously, around it in its 
development, his elaboration of it

and the pace of the third movement, 
following the second, is disconcerting 
rather than surprising, rather than, 
were it effective, delightful

Mozart wrote a Cello Concerto too, 
apparently, but, if so, it is lost

otherwise we’re on to the next historical
epoch, Beethoven’s, after this inauspicious 
turn at this generation for the cello, lost 
for a while among the more assertive 
instruments of that prim, and proper,
Classical Era


R ! chard

Cello Concerto no 1 in C major – Joseph Haydn

st-george-and-the-dragon.jpg!Large

     “St. George and the Dragon (c.1470) 

                Paolo Uccello

                    ________

it isn’t easy for me to leave Bach behind
whenever I start listening to him, I could 
ride his musical train forever

but the middle of the 18th Century did, put 
him aside, for about a hundred years, until 
Mendelssohn rediscovered him

Bach’s Cello Suites were themselves only 
reinstated in the 1930s by, Pablo Casals,
the Classical 18th Century had considered 
Bach too fussy, his pieces, they thought, 
were technical exercises rather than 
actual entertainments, form was  
overtaking, for them, function 

there’s a wonderful book about all this,
The Cello Suites“, written by Eric Siblin, 
a Canadian journalist, which is not only 
amazingly informed and probing, but also 
beautifully written, it holds a place of 
honour on my bookshelf, along with other 
inspired, and inspiring, texts

not only was Bach set asunder, dismissed,
during the Classical Era, but all of the 
formative music also he had written, for 
cello, violin, keyboard, in other words,
their entire curriculum

which, since Bach’s reinstatement, has 
become, paradoxically, the very  
foundation for learning these instruments

imagine playing a tune with the right 
hand, then a few notes later, picking 
it up in the left hand while the right 
hand keeps on going on its merry 
way, imagine what that does to
your fingers, never mind to your 
mind, that’s what his Two-Part
Inventions are all about, fifteen of 
them, eight in major keys, seven 
in minor, consider the technical 
difficulties, intricacies, imposed 
both compositionally and upon 
the harried performer 

then Bach follows through with his 
Three-Part Inventions to top it all 
off, for the keyboard at least, and 
only for the moment – there’ll still 
be his transcendental Goldberg 
Variations” among other 
incandescent masterpieces – 
wherein one juggles three tunes at 
time, and all of them in the same 
assortment of fifteen contrasting, 
foundational, keys, the “Inventions
 – if you can do that, you’re on your 
way, one would think, to knowing 
entirely what you’re doing

but time marches on, that Classical
Era hits, Haydn takes over, not
unimpressively

the same thing happened in my 
generation to Frank Sinatra via 
the Beatles, not to mention, a little 
later, to either, with Pink Floyd

listen to Haydn’s First Cello Concerto,
note the bravura inherent in the 
composition, this is not Bach’s 
meditative music, the very Romantic 
Period is, through Classical reserve, 
expressing already its imminence, 
individual prowess is taking over 
from community, which is to say 
religious, affiliation, the same way 
the Renaissance artists, Duccio
GiottoFra AngelicoFilippo Lippi
Uccello had stood out, incidentally, 
from their brethren in the standard 
communal art schools dedicated to 
decorating the ever burgeoning 
churches sprouting out in the still
fervent European environment 

musical, though unaristocratic, 
talents, this time, were beginning, 
within German context, to flex 
their decidedly not unimpressive 
muscles, and gaining some 
significant purchase

and who wouldn’t when a Cello 
Concerto would’ve sounded like 
this, listen


R ! chard

Cello Suite no 5 in C minor – J.S. Bach

the-cellist.jpg!Large

        The Cellist (c.1917) 

              Max Weber

                 ______

what struck me immediately upon hearing
the bow’s very first strokes on the violin in 
this Fifth Cello Suite of Bach was that the 
mood was not only brashly Romantic, but 
quite specifically Russian Romantic, right 
up there with Dostoyevskyand Fiddler 
on the Roof, dark brooding colours at 
first, followed by long plaintive musical 
phrases, you can even hear the sound of 
the steppes, I thought, stretching out into 
the endless distance, this performance,  
surmised, is not, other than 
compositionally, Baroque, not to mention 
not even German 

yet as played by Mischa Maisky, it’s one 
of the best versions of the Fifth I’ve ever 
heard, and if it works, who’s to complain

but more context – Bach never gave not 
only textural indications, but not even 
tempos to his pieces, apart from the 
very dance terms that identify the 
movements, so what, therefore, is the 
specific pace, you’ll ask, of a courante, 
for instance, you tell me, I’ll reply

in other words, the modular terms were 
significantly looser in the early 18th 
Century than later, when metronome 
markings would begin to demand more
accurate replication of the artist’s 
explicit specifications – Beethoven 
especially made sure of that, by 
requiring accurate renderings of his   
mood or pace indications, largo,  
allegro, andante, for instance, still less  
strict than the stipulation later for exact 
musical beats per minute – trying to 
keep pace with a prerecorded tape, for 
example, as in again the industrially 
driven, which is to say emotionally 
indifferent, context of the seismic 
Different Trains“, masterpiece of a 
more technically conditioned era

I don’t think that Bach would at all have
been disappointed that the heirs of his 
fervent, though more genteelcreations 
might’ve morphed into something 
profound for other groups, be they 
national, or of a class, or of even a 
generation, of people, which is to say 
that these works have superseded 
their merely regional intent, and have 
reached beyond space and time, the 
very purview of music, to speak a 
common and cooperative, indeed a
binding, language

I said to my mom the other day that if
we all sang together, we could save
the world


R ! chard

psst: Maisky’s encore,, incidentally, is from  
          the Bourrée” of Bach’s Third Cello  
          Suitenote this contrastingmore  
          courtly – more refinement, more 
      reserve – rendition, you can even 
          hear, not to mention see, in this
          particular instance, not Russian 
          steppes, but European trees on 
          their baronial estates, if you lend  
          an attentive ear

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