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Tag: Bach

Piano Sonata in C# minor, opus 80 – Tchaikovsky

the-sonata-1.jpg!Large

The Sonata 

              Childe Hassam

                     ___________

                            for Sarah and Rachel, the daughters
                              of the son of a dear cousin, after a 
                                belated lunch recently, two young 
                                  girls14, 16, in bloom, as Proust 
                                    would say, who speak not only 
                                      music, but French and English,
                                        fluently, I checked – perhaps   
                                          even German, their Oma  
                                            lives with them – they also  
                                              play the flute, the piano,    
                                                and sing, what could be
                                                  I ask you, more beautiful,  
                                                   two young girls ibloom, 
                                                     indeed in very blossom   
                                        
                               or am I being too French
 
the form of the sonata had been established 
decisively during the Classical Period, out 
of the rudiments of Bach’s own such pieces
Mozart and Haydn had given the concept its 
final shape, its structure, three or four 
contrasting movements, by definition all 
entertainments

Beethoven kicked the entertainment part 
right out of the ball park, made his show 
into a veritable transcendental meditation, 
rather than to merely applaud, audiences 
gasped, were meant to be awed, as I still 
ever am by his musical speculations

but by definition as well, a sonata is a 
piece for a single instrument, therefore
inherently introspective, whether the 
player has an audience or not, soloists, 
note, play easily on their own

even an accompanied sonata, as violin
sonatas often are, for instance, or this 
one for two pianos, would lose the 
intimacy of a solo piece, for having 
someone playing, however compatibly, 
over one’s shoulder  

in other words, a piano sonata is, by
definition, a monologue, a soliloquy,
where notes tell the story that words 
would intimately, even confessionally,
in poetry, convey

the emotions that are elicited from 
a piece are as real as they would 
be from any literary alternative, 
except that they’re quickened, like 
aromas, through the senses, rather 
than through divisiveby definition 
confrontational, logic

rosemary reminds me always, for 
instance, of one of my departed 
aunts, like the taste of a madeleine 
dipped in tea opened the door for 
Proust to an entire earlier epoch, 
the seed, the subject, of his 
disquisition on Time, À la 
recherche du temps perdu“, An 
Exploration into Elapsed Time“, 
my own translation, none of the 
published proffered titles   
having rendered the subtlety  
of the shimmering original
  
rosemary, in other words, speaks,
if even only to me

listen to Tchaikovsky’s First Piano
Sonata, in C# minor, opus 80, one
of only two of his, what do you 
hear, think, feel


R ! chard

String Quartet no 14 in C-sharp Minor, opus 131 – Beethoven

musician

        “Musician 

              Zaya

                 __

                                           for Ian, who surely 
                                              benefitted from my
                                                   intransigeance


after watching performed the first movement 
of Beethoven’s 14th String Quartet at home 
with a friend, I interrupted the piece and 
instead put on the one I’d found with 
computer graphics

not from the beginning, he said

yes, from the beginning, I retorted, a mere
six or seven minutes which’ll be worth it, I
insisted, and they were

four lines of music, the top one yellow for 
the first violin, red for the second, mauve 
for the viola, and blue for the cello, which 
individually advance according to the 
length of each instrument’s notes, the 
height, meanwhile, of the lines indicate 
pitch, top ones high notes, bottom lines 
low, it’s like watching a blueprint of 
what’s happening, and mesmerizing, a 
musical score in very motion, though 
without, admittedly, the bar lines, nor 
key and time signatures, clefs neither, 
for that matter 

the music meanwhile is transcendent

Beethoven here resolves all the issues
I brought up about his two early Late
Sonatas, grab bags of fine tunes but 
without a centre, cuts on an album, 
rather than the visionary 
pronouncements of the prophet I’ve
come to expect from Beethoven

Beethoven pulls out all the stops 
for his 14th, goes from a fugue in 
the first movement, a form 
reminiscent of Bach, who’d been 
completely obliterated during the 
Classical Period, masterful dance 
rhythms then, peppered 
throughout, referencing, indeed
honouring late 18th Century court
music, a set of variations in the
fourth movementand other 
classifications I won’t touch for 
their being too technical, but 
which all illustrate Beethoven’s 
mastery of every musical 
convention until his time, then 
pushes all of it further still into 
the future with this string quartet, 
supreme among all string quartets, 
his 14th

much later, Pink Floyd would pull 
off a similar stunt, take its own 
generation’s music to comparable 
heights with an equally cultural, 
which is to say historical, impact,
the comparison is, I think,  
noteworthy and instructive

Pink Floyd, incidentally, was also 
a quartet, for even more context

note that throughout, tonality, tempo,
and repetition have been strictly, 
though, admittedly, often 
eccentrically observed, the piece has 
been arresting, even riveting, however, 
for some, disconcertingly sobut 
never not understood, never foreign, 
the music isn’t at all alienating, as 
could besay, Chinese opera for most 
of us, we’re still here in our corner of 
the planet following faithfully in the 
Western musical tradition as it thus 
then evolved

I could say all of the above as well
again, by the way, about Pink Floyd  
in their own, ahem, Time


all of that said, this other version,  
by the Alban Berg Quartet, is the 
performance that you’ll remember,
it is still incomparable, the gold
standard

enjoy


R ! chard

mass appeal, or “Missa Solemnis”, opus 123 – Beethoven

Hofkirche (Dresden Cathedral) and the Elbe River, Dresden, Saxony, Germany

    from the centre, the Hofkirche, the Dresden Cathedral, across from the 
    Augustusbrückeor Augustus Bridge, extends into the Zwinger, one  
    of three only palaces in Europe, along with Versailles and Vienna’s 
    Schönbrunndistinctly horizontally to the right, not to be confused 
  with a crook in the Cathedralan intolerable, were it so, ecclesiastical  
   gaffe, it ‘s now become one of the most significant art galleries in  
   Europe, the green rooves, to the right still, are the Semperoper‘s, the   
  black roof, nestling before it, an unforgettable Italian
  restaurant 

  before it all, majestically, the Elbe

        _______

from the very Semperoper in Dresden,
where I’ll ever remember seeing the 
worst “Barber of Seville” I’ve ever seen,
first balcony, left of centre, Figaro came 
out on a motorcycle, I ask you, it was 
downhill after that, my mom, beside 
me, was falling even asleep, we left at 
intermission, soldiered on to a 
restaurant overlooking the Elbe, Italian
if I remember, but utterly more enjoyable 
than the disappointing operatic option, 
there might even ‘ve been a moon at our 
tableside window, picturesquely 
shimmering on the river

but, hey, we both would‘ve stayed,
incontrovertibly, for this performance
Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis“, a late, 
and towering, entry, 1823, in his opus 
– second definition of that word, which 
is to sayhis entire output, all 135 
opuses, first definition there, discrete 
compositions – plus all his works 
without opus – first definition again – 
numbers, WoO

the plural of opusincidentally, can 
also be, both meanings, opera, just 
to confuse things, I use either
interchangeably, according to my 
narrative rhythm

 
missae solemnes, plural of missa 
solemnis, are a particularly Catholic
form of music, going back to the 
very Middle Ages, at which point 
religious art was all that really 
mattered, anything else was entirely
peripheral, of no consequence 

but Catholicism, and its Protestant
offshoots, which is to say, their 
common Christianity, remained 
culturally entrenched during the 
process of their slow disintegration

Nietzsche would, later, take care 
of that, but that’s another story

Beethoven, Mozart, Catholics, if, 
either, only by name, delivered 
missae solemneswhile Bach, 
Handel, both Protestant, 
delivered oratorios, with some 
intermingling

about which, later

Catholic, Protestant expression still
find, even strong, exponents at 
present, though the form is, 
essentially, outdated, our anthems 
are national, now, mostly, if even 
somewhat, that, halfheartedly, when 
notparadoxically, searchingly, 
hopefully, and maybe even
revolutionarily, again, ideological

imagine Imagine for instance, as 
suchjust click


R ! chard

String Quartet in B flat, Opus 55, no 3 – Haydn

queen-marie-antoinette-of-france-1783.jpg!Large

                      “Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1783) 

                                Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun

                                              ___________________

first of all, let me grievously repent an
egregious confusion I probably left
in my last diatribe, I said that the second
movement of the Opus 54, no 2 sounded 
to me like a minuet, I had, through 
embarrassing inattention, confused its,
however unmemorable, adagio with that
of this Opus 55, no 3, which I’d listened 
to in too quick succession, driven as I 
am by my thirst for epiphanies

the Opus 54, no 2 will do, but I’m not 
going back for seconds, nor to the 
Opus 55, no 3, though here’s where  
I flaunt nevertheless Haydn, not to 
mention Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, 
all the way to eventually Bruckner, 
Brahms, the extraordinary Richard
Wagner, passing through Schubert,
Mendelssohn, the Strausses, father
and son, and the unrelated Strauss,
Richard, another incontrovertible 
giant, and I nearly left out the 
unforgettable Liszt, all of them 
forefathers of our present music

you might have noticed that these 
are all Germanic names, obedient 
to the Hapsburg empire, with 
Vienna as its supreme cultural 
capital, and it was that 
Austro-Hungarian dynasty that
indeed nearly single-handedly 
secured our Western musical 
traditions

a few Italians are remembered,
from the 18th Century, Scarlatti 
maybe, Boccherini, Albinoni
but not many more 

no one from France, but they were 
about to have a revolution, not a 
good time for creative types,
though, incidentally, Haydn was 
getting Tost, to whom he was 
dedicating his string quartets for 
services rendered, to sell his stuff 
in very Paris 

then again, Marie Antoinette, I thought, 
was Austrian, an even archduchess, 
and would’ve loved some down-home 
music at nearby Versailles

so there you are, there would’ve been 
market

the English had Handel, of course,
who was, albeit, German, getting 
work where he could when you 
consider his competition, he was 
too solemn and plodding by half,
to my mind, for the more 
effervescent, admittedly Italianate, 
continentals, Italy having led the 
way earlier with especially its 
filigreed and unfettered operas

but here’s Haydn’s Opus 55, no 3
nevertheless, the best Europe had
to offer, socking it to them

Haydn’s having a hard time, I think, 
moving from music for at court to
recital hall music, music for a much
less genteel clientele, however 
socially aspiring, we still hear 
minuets, and obeisances all over 
the place, despite a desire to 
nevertheless dazzle, impress

then again, I’m not the final word, as
my mea culpa above might express, 
you’ll find what eventually turns 
your own crank, floats your own 
boat, as you listen

which, finally, is my greatest wish


R ! chard

on art, its purpose

poet-with-flower-2008-jpgblog

                                Poet With Flower (2008)

                                          Stefan Caltia

                                                 _____

wherefore art, I’ve long and often wondered,
with only a wink to Juliet’s Romeo, for my
question dug deeper, why, indeed, itself art

we build our souls on the stories we’ve 
heard, the impressions we’ve received
from voices that spoke directly to our 
senses, painters with paint, musicians
with music, writers with words, poets 
with poems

it started with fairy tales, which told of
right and wrong, good and bad, courage,
kindness, responsibility, and dire 
consequences for discord

Biblical stories also took up a lot of my own
childhood, Jesus, Adam and Eve, Moses
and the Ten Commandments, this last 
reinforced by Cecil B. DeMille’s epic

but soon enough it was Oliver TwistLittle
Nell, and by an inescapable authorial leap, 
since these were all by an irresistible 
Charles Dickens for a guy my age, Sydney
Carton, who valiantly stands in for his
friend, Charles Darnay, at the guillotine, a 
quantum, even existential, leap from 
Peter Pan and Mary Poppins 

though I had the good fortune to learn to 
read and write music as a boy, play music, 
learn about Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, 
it didn’t take anyone else much more than
their enthusiasm to see what the Beatles
were similarly doing, the Rolling Stones, 
the Supremes, they were not only singing, 
but making history, shaping it, and us, we 
followed the questions they rose, their 
responses, the effects upon ourselves
for nothing is considered until it’s 
mentioned, spoken, made clear, and they
were those prophets

the same goes for art, we see as we see
cause Monet, Picasso, Warhol showed 
us how to see, what to look at

and of course poets, Shakespeare, 
RostandDanteGoethe, to inform, each,
their individual language, and culture

I have been Philip CareyScarlett O’Hara, 
Blanche DuboisGary Cooper in High
Noon“, both Martha and George in 
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf“, lately 
I’ve been even Hank Williams

as Babette would say, a French doll who 
gets abducted in Raggedy Ann and Andy:
A Musical Misadventure“, an animated 
movie from the Seventies, – oo aahrr yoo 

Richard

psst: all of them have been me too,
      incidentally

String Quartet no 1, “From My Life” – Bedřich Smetana‏

"Coucher de soleil sur le lac Léman" - Gustave Courbet

Coucher de soleil sur le lac Léman (1874)

Gustave Courbet

_________

paying attention to tenuti is not as
easy as all that, you’ll have found
probably that the music’s kept on
going and you’re not so sure if
what just went by indeed was a
tenuto, so brief, however stressed,
might’ve been the impression

rubati are easier, it’s hard to miss
them when they come round, for
being spread out through the
musical passage as a
consequence of being at the very
least three notes, usually
considerably more

tenuti happen on one note only,
one fleet fish in an ebullient river
rather than a more noticeable and
synchronous school

interestingly, not many of either,
rubati, tenuti, show up in music
history until the late Romantic
Era, the mid- to late 1800s, they’d
been only theoretically, and here
and there, part of the musical
vocabulary for having had no
purchase in music written for the
harpsichord, an instrument that
had allowed only minimal
resonance, though it laid the
foundations for composition,
and therefore dictated taste
into the very mid-nineteenth
century, a whole hundred years
after the invention of the piano,
by having entrenched the ideal
of strict tempo, the reflection,
note, of an ideal, and belief
then in a scientifically cogent
world

that was the Enlightenment

Romanticism came along to
express the ineffable reality of
the truths of the human heart,
in contrast to merely reason –
“Le coeur a ses raisons que la
raison ne connaît point”,
says
Pascal, “The heart has its own
logic which allows it to
understand what the rational
mind cannot”,
though he in a
somewhat other, much more
theological, context

but the shoe snugly fits, so I’ll
wear it, though with the same
consideration I’d render the
shoes, understand, of my
father

you can tell we’ve reached the
late 1800s when you start
hearing tenuti, ritardandi,
atonality, for that matter, and
also obscure and eccentric
repetitions

this pattern is probably more
evidenced in pictorial art,
where precision gives way to
individualized expression,
and the blurred lines of Early
Impressionism, see above

at the same time, the German
grip on the history of Western
music which it had held for a
hundred and fifty years, from
Bach to Brahms, began to loosen,
along with the idea, incidentally,
of a rationally, even irrationally,
conceived world, you can hear
it in the evolution of the tenuti,
the rubati, like canaries sense
altered conditions in a coal
mine

note however that music itself
is as indifferent to bald facts
as mathematics, it merely
describes, doesn’t comment

listen to Bedřich Smetana, a
Czech composer, his String
Quartet no 1, “From My Life”

follows in the footsteps of
the Germans, but with a
distinctively folkloric air,
there’s even a polka

tend the tenuti, relish the
rubati, if you can identify
them, they’re milestones
to the modern

but, more than anything,
enjoy

Richard

 

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Dmitry Masleev‏

"Portrait of the Composer Sergei Rachmaninov" -  Konstantin Somov

Portrait of the Composer Sergei Rachmaninov (1925)

Konstantin Somov

_____________

after two superb performances on
the last day, June 20, of the Round
1 competitions, I expected to close
up shop, not listen to another
deserving competitor, skipped a
trio of competent but otherwise
uninteresting contenders, and
readied to quickly go on to the
second round nominations

Dmitry Masleev, the very last
performer, wasn’t to go down,
however, without a fight, wowed
me, despite my initial sceptical air
he delivered from the beginning an
unimpeachable Bach, followed by
a “Farewell” Sonata to rival Shino
Hidaka
‘s, my queen, from there it
was nowhere but up, his final
Rachmaninov dotted the i’s,
crossed the t’s, of his brilliance,
a fitting hiatus to a powerful
and significant showdown

listen

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Shino Hidaka

  "The Musical Contest" -  Jean-Honoré Fragonard

The Musical Contest (1754-5)

Jean-Honoré Fragonard

______

with only four contestants to go,
I already crown Shino Hidaka the
winner of the XVth Tchaikovsky
Competition
, this kind of affinity
only comes around once in a
lifetime, her Bach was not only
perfect but inspired, probing,
her ensuing Chopin,
mesmerizing, the Beethoven
that followed aptly, though ever
unexpectedly, transcendental,
transcendence not ever
happening without absolute
mystical concentration, her
Tchaikovsky, an evocation
rather than a mere description
of a Russian village, her
Rachmaninov, on utter fire

Dmitry Shishkin, before her,
neither was un-brilliant, a
consummate technician,
however, rather than an outright
revelation, his spirited Bach was
a turning point for me, finally
someone who got it, his Mozart,
as frivolous and delightful as
Mozart would’ve wanted it to be,
the rest appropriately everywhere
dazzling, second, therefore, ever
so illustrious, nevertheless,
prize, bravo

neither, incidentally, milked any
of their notes, just played what
was written

Richard

psst: compare Fragonard, above, to
Mozart, a synaesthetic match,
where sight and sound are
interwoven, giving you social
intimations of the mid-18th
Century

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Daniel Kharitonov‏

Daniel Kharitonov

Daniel Kharitonov

__________

Daniel Kharitonov will be 17 in
December, I think he could win

after the usual misconceived, to
my mind, Bach, which he ends,
however, with lengthened notes
that evoke the organ instead of
the more skittish, less ceremonial
harpsichord, giving credence to
some, at least, rubato in Bach,
for Bach wrote exceedingly for
the organ, he then not only
recaptures your confidence with
an unexpectedly sparkling
“Appassionata”, not easy after
so many, then polishes off his
laurels with virtuosic Liszt,
Chopin and Rachmaninov after
having played a lovely, aptly
contemplative, “Méditation” of
Tchaikovsky

Daniel Kharitonov is going places,
indeed has gone, Carnegie Hall, for
instance, in 2013, he would’ve been
14

watch

Richard

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – the program‏‏

"Beethoven, 1987" -  Andy Warhol

Beethoven, 1987 (1987)

Andy Warhol

______

you’ll probably have noted, if you’ve
been following the Tchaikovsky
Competition
, that, unlike the
Rubinstein, the selection of works
is much more constrained, though
the mighties nevertheless
predominate

after the third day and into the
fourth, only one contestant has
started with anything other than
Bach, a Tchaikovsky

but unfortunately none of them but
one had given us a Bach worthy of
his name, then followed through
with, not surprisingly, a quite
competent Mozart, the cultural
conditions being not yet all that
different, aristocrats were looking
for their own music instead of the
church’s, secular instead of
ecclesiastical, therefore a tune
rather than an oratorio, Beethoven
and the Revolution would change
all that

afterwards a sonata of Mozart,
Haydn or Beethoven, the Classical
triumvirate, after which Tchaikovsky,
appropriately at this competition,
then études, either “-tableaux”,
“transcendentales”, or plain and
simple, by Rachmaninov, Liszt, or
Chopin, that’s it, you get to hear
the “Appassionata” or the “Grandes
études de Paganini”
several times
that way, sharpening discernibly
your musical ear

one was riveting, Andrey Dubov‘s

another, Lukas Geniušas transfixed
me with his opus 2, no 3, of
Beethoven, a work I usually only
ever tolerate, sending it soaring
into the bard’s later mature, and
revelatory, period

others have been competent, even
admirable, several, however, not
ready for this trial, they’ve come
without adequate preparation for
the ball

though I’ve been watching it in
my pajamas, I should talk

Richard