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Tag: adagios

Piano Concerto no 2, opus 19 – Beethoven


     Allegro con brio, Bourke St. West (1890) 


                Tom Roberts





a concerto is a movie, but for the ears,

one listens, rather than looks, for one’s 



quite specifically, Beethoven introduces

drama into his inventions, where earlier 

there’d been merely an invitation to the 

dance, minuets, for instance, gigues, or 

disparate, disorganized, appeals, 

otherwise, to our more interior, whether 

secular or mystical, emotions, see in 

this context, for instance, early adagios, 

heart-wrenching, melting often, odes


these, or the even slower largos, fit 

neatly, however, into Beethoven’s 

compositional scheme of things,  

between the introductory allegros,

often con brio, and the closing, 

and equally spirited rondos, by 

becoming the pivotal element in 

his intended musical evening, the 

core of his narrative presentation, 

the plangent centre of his three 

part play, film 


here’s his Second




R ! chard






Piano Concerto no 21 in C major, K 467 – Mozart


    Andante (Sonata of the Pyramids) (1909) 


           Mikalojus Konstantinas Ciurlionis





much like adagios, andantes, the 

next step up with respect to pace

in musical compositions from 

adagios, are rarely intended to be 

alone, are part, most often, of a 

larger creative intention, though 

they must appear singly here and

there somewhere in the literature, 

though where, I don’t yet know


and I’ve looked


but here’s an andante you’ll surely 

remember, a Mozart, not surprisingly, 

he was young and exuberant, adagios

would’ve been not immediately given

to so youthful an artist, consequently 

less prevalent in their music, nor his,

Beethoven would be more ripe for 

adagios, indeed crushing adagios,

eventually, in a more conflicted time, 

but that’s another story 


it’s the middle movement of his

inspired 21st Piano Concerto, no

less, itself, a monument to Western 

culture than its iconic central piece

work that for my generation most 

defined the essential Mozart




note that the anguish, at even this

accelerated tempo, from the 

foundational adagio, is crushing

still and, still, utterly unforgettable


R ! chard

String Quartet no 15, Opus 144 – Dmitri Shostakovich


     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



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





R ! chard




   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

“Daffodils” – William Wordsworth (an epitaph)


     “Wild Poppies, Near Argenteuil” (1873) 

             Claude Monet


                                                  for Pat

a dear friend passed away recently, 
Pat, the mother of my partner, who
passed away himself nearly 30 years 
ago, was already of a certain age at
which death follows closely tripping 
us up with itches and cramps and 
dire debilities as we walk along the 
winding road that isn’t that long any 

she’d already acquired Alzheimer’s 
though she read stillunderstood, 
even poetry, though she could not 
remember what had happened 
yesterday even, however traumatic, 
that she’d fallen the day before, for 
instance, and bore still corroborative 
angry scratches escaped her, left 
her puzzled, though never rattled,
ever compliant

you can forget all you want, Pat, I’d
said to her earlier in her prognosis,
but don’t ever forget I love you

since, during our regular Internet
encounters, along with her husband
on her end, she’s left the conversation
to him, but wraps her arms around 
herself and tells me she wants to hug
me, we always end our visit with I love 

when I went to visit her in hospital, 
where she’d ended up following more 
falls, which indicated eventually dire
complications, I brought her a teddy 

here, Pat, I said, I can’t be here always 
to hug you, but you can think of me 
when you hug this bear

she died a few days later, the last 
words we said were, I love you, I
love you, before I flew back home 
to Vancouver from Victoria

I was sad, I lit candles, then a day 
later I thought, how do I get out from
under this somber cloud, I should  
listen for her, I remembered

talk to me, Pat, I’ll hear, I entreated

when my dad died, I’d said, talk to 
me, Dad, I’m your son, I’ll hear, and 
I did

when his sister died, a beloved aunt, 
I’d lit a scented candle inadvertently
in commemoration, when the air 
suddenly filled with the aroma of 
rosemary, which had wafted in on the 
exhalations of the candle to fuse with 
my own reveries in epiphanic, verily 
transcendental, conversation 

adagios, also, always remind me of 
John, Pat’s son

talk to me, Pat, say something, I 
said to the ether, and listened

last Thursday, at the service, turning
to the last page of the programme
which had been provided, I began to
read her favourite poem

I wandered lonely as a cloud, I read
but couldn’t make it through the next
line, tears welling up in my eyes, my 
mom, who was with me, holding my 

thank you, Pat, I said, overcome with 
emotion, this poem would be her 
teddy bear to me




I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

                         William Wordsworth

“A Little Touch of Schmilsson in the Night” – Harry Nilsson‏

when I was much younger, and still beset
by the unruly vagaries of love, finding my
way through its thorny thickets, this is
what I’d listen to as I’d fall asleep   
psst: all adagios, you’ll note, each and
        every one a lullaby
        Harry Nilsson (1941 – 1994)

Dmitri Shostakovich – String Quartet no 15, opus 144

several years ago when an angel I knew passed away
I read at his commemoration something I had written
for him, adagios, I said, always remind me of John

only a few days later, after I’d spoken, an adagio in
the distance was weaving its magic spell as I
abstractedly washed perennial dishes, a pivotal
spot, it would appear, for me, in my mystic
wanderings, my spiritual peregrinations

gradually I recognized the presence I’d apparently
inadvertently evoked with my unsuspecting but
thoughtful and caring script, opening a key, like
Ali Baba, it would transpire, to the very undiluted
infinite, something I’d wished for from my dad,
who’d died just a few months earlier, promising
me he’d speak to me if he could, though by then
I hadn’t yet heard from him

later when I was browsing for music to get into
to while away my pensive hours I happened upon
some Shostakovich in a nearby record store, I’d
recently been exploring his stuff, having reached
forward from the Romantics and even the
Impressionists, and looked to a relatively more
recent touch, the early Twentieth Century

which is to say the atonalists, Schoenberg, Berg,
Stravinsky and so forth, of which Shostakovich,
I would argue, has proven to be the most
significant voice, his music being that of a
desperate, nearly broken people enduring
the atrocities under Stalin

he is the most important composer of the
Twentieth Century, I think, along with Olivier
Messiaen, who survived a German prisoner of
war camp, two tough, even heroic, spirits

and here were not one, not two, not even three,
but six adagios in his 15th String Quartet, when
anything faster was too much for me to bear,
otherwise it would have to have been silence,
I was elated

I was not let down, Shostakovich’s 15th String
Quartet, opus 144, is a masterpiece, and helped
me through my rigorous Calvary with compassion,
grace, and ultimately golden hope, to health and

it is not an easy piece, you might find it
overwhelming, but it is the last word in adagios,
and for me it means the world, I couldn’t leave
it out

I found the distribution awkward however, I
haven’t found the quartet complete anywhere
on the Internet, you’ll have to access the movements
separately, pee breaks are therefore allowed, there
are six movements, not usual but we’ve seen
Beethoven do five already for his Sixth Symphony,
so not entirely unexpected

the first movement, Elegy (Adagio), is played by the
Rubio Quartet, but with only an image of war torn
Leningrad to inspire visually

the second, Serenade (Adagio), by the Borodin String
Quartet, perhaps Shostakovich’s best interpreters, are
also presented visuals inert

the third, fourth, and fifth – Intermezzo (Adagio),
Nocturne (Adagio), and Funeral March (Adagio molto)

in that order, are played live by the Shostakovich
Quartet, named of course in the composer’s honour

and the sixth, Epilogue (Adagio), again by the Borodin

may you be granted the poise and profound grace
of the adagio



a friend writes,

I thought I could rely on you to call an adagio by it’s right name! If not you, I ask, who can I trust? Certainly not Colin. I asked him about andante and he thinks it is slightly undercooked pasta! In all seriousness though Richard, we do forgive you and we do most enjoy you subllime cultural offerings.
yes, and thank you, and adagios are of course very long
Spanish goodbyes, as in “adagios amigo”  
they don’t often stand alone, they’re usually part of a greater
composition, Classically in the middle, between two more
sprightly movements, and the form didn’t especially change
even through the later, Romantic, Impressionistic, and more
modern even musical periods 
when they have stood alone they’ve usually been excerpted
from a composer’s larger composition for its individual
potency and mass appeal, intact, or sometimes modified,
and often modified even further, time begins to tell 
two adagios stand out in musical history  
Albinoni’s, 1671 -1751, would’ve been the middle movement
of a trio sonata – three instrumentalists playing three individual
pieces as a musical unit – according to Remo Giazotto, musicologist
1910-1998, who’d found fragments, he said, in the burned out
remains of an archive in Dresden after the Second World War
later it was determined to be Giazotto’s very own composition,
not at all Albinoni’s  
wow, man
Barber’s Adagio for Strings, was lifted from his String Quartet,
Op. 11, again from the customary middle, and arranged for string
orchestra, to universal approbation, a bud turned into an oracular 
flower, speaking for millions 
adagios are slow, usually mournful affairs, often transformed
into profound, even transcendental, reverence 

Mozart’s Piano Concerto no 21, K 467 (1785)

to my astonishment, not to mention my embarrassment,
upon learning just now, with this video, that the andante
to Mozart’s Piano Concerto no 21, K. 467, is not an adagio
as I’d been informing anyone I’d been trying to enlighten
about that tempo, breaking into, no, gently acceding to,
ever, the delicacy of the bucolic music in a voice that
had already often rendered the tune’s lyrical, incandescent, 
curves to the best of my fervent ability, I had to cede
years and years of my false assumption to the cold
irreversible judgment of black fact, I was wrong, I had
been wrong, am wrong, March 13, 2012
it doesn’t happen often, therefore the date
meanwhile beware of my pronouncements, where possible,
where pertinent, check your facts 
though that andante really feels like an adagio, don’t you
this middle movement had been the theme to a celebrated
movie when I was young – a Swedish movie, “Elvira Madigan“,
about a tragic couple who hadn’t survived the rigours of love,
a true and compelling story – and had become known through
this film, thereby introducing Mozart culturally to an entire
generation nurtured on movies
the andante is now probably again recognized as primarily
a work of Mozart’s, I’ll wager because of the film still now
his most famous, the film itself, “Elvira Madigan“, not having
had the shelf life of essential art, having become a historical,
though circumstantial merely, curiosity     
you won’t hear the fury of Brahms or Beethoven in
Mozart, he is of an another, earlier era, of courtesy and
controlled emotions, there is tenderness of course, but
never overt imperiousness or passion, just courtly music,
razzle dazzle and panache, that has lasted unscathed,
not at all blemished nevertheless for already 250 years