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Tag: Anton Bruckner

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
‘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
, 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
at a party, however

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

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

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

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

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

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

bring your solemnity


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

“Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus” – Olivier Messiaen‏

Giotto - "Nativity" (1311-1320)

Nativity (c. 1311)



just in time for C***mas, a sublime
piece on the Nativity of Christ as
profound, dare I say, as any High,
or even Midnight, Mass

Olivier Messiaen, one of, to my mind,
the greatest composers of the XXth
Century, was also a devout Catholic,
the organist at the Église de la Sainte
in Paris, his music is imbued
with Catholic sentiment, the idea of

he seems to me a reincarnation, nearly,
of the great organist at the Augustinian
monastery of Sankt Florian
in Upper
Austria, Anton Bruckner, no other
composers, after Bach, have been so
inspired specifically by their religious

Bruckner builds cathedrals with his
music, notably out of his eleven

Messiaen, a century later, performs,
instead, sacraments, attends to the
intricacies of their consecrations

Vingt regards sur l’Enfant Jésus is
a succession of twenty perspectives
upon the child Jesus, linked by their
intention rather than by a common
musical theme, as would be the case
in a set of variations, the only other
form that would contain so many

it is atonal, arhythmic, and does not
present the evident repetitions that
Classically would have given the
music a sense of structure, it seems
to me to be trying rather to describe
the iridescence of starlight, the
majesty of the enveloping night,
the gathering, and worshipful
confederation, of the host angels



the 20 movements –

1. Regard du Père (“Contemplation of the Father”)
2. Regard de l’étoile (“Contemplation of the star”)
3. L’échange (“The exchange”)
4. Regard de la Vierge (“Contemplation of the Virgin”)
5. Regard du Fils sur le Fils (“Contemplation of the Son upon the Son”)
6. Par Lui tout a été fait (“Through Him everything was made”)
7. Regard de la Croix (“Contemplation of the Cross”)
8. Regard des hauteurs (“Contemplation of the heights”)
9. Regard du temps (“Contemplation of time”)
10. Regard de l’Esprit de joie (“Contemplation of the joyful Spirit”)
11. Première communion de la Vierge (“The Virgin’s first communion”)
12. La parole toute-puissante (“The all-powerful word”)
13. Noël (“Christmas”)
14. Regard des Anges (“Contemplation of the Angels”)
15. Le baiser de l’Enfant-Jésus (“The kiss of the Infant Jesus”)
16. Regard des prophètes, des bergers et des Mages (“Contemplation of the prophets, the shepherds and the Magi”)
17. Regard du silence (“Contemplation of silence”)
18. Regard de l’Onction terrible (“Contemplation of the awesome Anointing”)
19. Je dors, mais mon cœur veille (“I sleep, but my heart keeps watch”)
20. Regard de l’Église d’amour (“Contemplation of the Church of love”)

Mozart Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, K365‏

  Blind Man's Bluff - Jean-Honore Fragonard

                               Blind Man’s Bluff(1769-70)

                                               Jean-Honoré Fragonard
the spirituality that is everywhere in Bach, the
sense of musical exploration and ultimate solace,
will not be found again in the history of music
for another hundred years, in Anton Bruckner
then, 1824 – 1896, a profoundly devout Catholic
organist – Bach, 1685 – 1750, was Lutheran –
then for another hundred years again, in Olivier
Messiaen, 1908 – 1992, again a profoundly
devout Catholic organist, perhaps a
reincarnation, like a Dalai Lama 
already in his day Bach was being considered
old-fashioned, gasp, the new age was revelling
in courtly extravagance, see also for instance
François Boucher, and Fragonard, featured for
your convenience above
Mozart would fit right in, for a good time call
Wolfgang Amadeus  
Mozart takes the tools that Bach created, the
newly installed well-tempered clavier and does
what kids do with their parents heritage, play
with it, Mozart doesn’t explore, he entertains,
notes are the toys in his sandbox, and he makes
the very most of it, never leaving his kindergarten
sanctum, nor would anybody be as effervescent
again for, this time, another 150 years, with
Prokofiev, 1891 – 1953, even more outrageous,
though ultimately not for that more famous,  
being perhaps for many too out there, fun like
jack-in-the-box, too unnervingly unpredictable, 
Mozart, though eminently delightful, is
appropriately predictable for his epoch
of all of his works my favourite, is what I put
on for instant exhilaration
it never fails me



Anton Bruckner’s Symphony no 7‏

this is what it’ll sound like, I believe, when you enter
the gates of heaven, should you actually watch this
you’ll be forthwith, I’m sure, even transported
there, I always am

Anton Bruckner‘s Symphony no 7 is the high mass of
all concertos, this is where Bruckner, patriarch and
prophet, gives us his, our, musical description of

Celibidache makes the occasion august, and utterly

no need to genuflect, of course, only to partake and


psst: I believe it was Herbert Blomstedt among
conductors who said that Bruckner for him was
proof of God

though I wouldn’t completely agree I think he is a
very strong incentive, but I’d needed something
much more intimate and personalized, for me it
took Beethoven