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Tag: rubato

Piano Sonata no 17, opus 31, no 2 “The Tempest” – Beethoven


    “Tempest on the Northern Sea (1865) 

             Ivan Aivazovsky


                               for Judy, who “glimpses“, she says,
                                   “a kinder world, that [my] missives
                                          provide” – thank you, Judy                            

just as I was being called on the 
carpet for my constant returns to 
Beethoven, none other than Glenn 
Gould should show up, in my 
cavern of wonders, to absolve me, 
or at least to stand stolidly by my 

let him talk

had I written, however, his 
observations, I’m sure you’d’ve  
balkedhe’s a product, after all,  
of the priggish pretensions that  
prevailed in my neck of the woods 
at the time, Southern Ontario, a  
product of British Imperialism  
of which I am myself, I avow,  
incontrovertibly subject, but due  
to the strength of his celebrity,  
one is likely to listen to Gould  
more attentively, I’m not 
sufficiently yetsuspect,  
significant, nor influential
he is, one way or the other, I concur,
absolutely right

about his Tempest“, though, I’ll say, 
even object, as Stravinsky and John 
Cage did, according to Gouldabout 
the commanding Beethoven, that 
Gould is dripping in Romantic
sentiment here, his rubato in the 
first movement tests the limits of   
our forbearance, and his second  
movement is so slow as to have 
one fall off the page

but his last movement, the allegretto,
is brilliant

Gould’s idiosyncratic, dare I say, 
eccentric, performance will 
throughout, nevertheless, 
astonish, indeed electrify, even,
I’m sure, inspire, watch, listen

and thanks ever, especially, for 
dropping by 

R ! chard

psst: here’s another version of the 17th,  
          to my mind, less self-indulgent, but 
          you be the judge, don’t think about 
          it, just ask yourself which one  
          would you want to hear a next time,  
          that’ll be your, gloriously personal,   


“Three Movements from Petroushka” – Igor Stravinsky‏

"Ballets Russes" - August Macke

Ballets Russes (1912)

August Macke


Donald, I said to my friend, the
musicologist, what’s the plural
of tenuto

I’d been lining up what I call my
“articles of pace”, the musical
notations that indicate tempo,

rubato, of course, for time stretched,
the bottom of a dip when your partner
pauses at the end of your arm where
you steal a private moment during
otherwise waltz time, or tango

rubato must be in the middle of a
bar cause a stolen moment needs
space to return to its more natural
rhythm, equilibrium

a ritardando, or rallentando, slows
down but at the end of a bar, or
musical statement, often at the very
end of a piece, for an introspective,
say, ending

an accelerando is its opposite,
speeding up the beat, and will
continue till it reaches its apogee,
climax, as it were

a tenuto holds, caresses, one note,
or one chord, only, before proceeding
any further

all of these words, incidentally, are
adverbs, not nouns, but through
usage have assimilated the idioms
of nouns, therefore singulars and
plurals, articles and adjectives

what’s the plural of tenuto, I’d

Donald, always a sport, answered
tersely, tenuti, grinning

you’re kidding me, I replied, boy,
will I have fun with that

two tenuti, three tenuti, four tenuti,
five, six tenuti, seven tenuti, eight
tenuti, jive, I continued, racking up
immediate levity, not to mention
momentum, and cadence

count the tenuti in this masterpiece,
Stravinsky‘s Three Movements
from Petroushka
a programmatic
piece, Petroushka is a puppet in love
with a ballerina, but she’s in love
with a Moor, more about Moors later,
maybe, it could get controversial

Petroushka, distressed, challenges
the Moor, but the Moor kills him

Petroushka returns as a ghost, but
ineffectually, cause he’s really only,
finally, a puppet

Vaslav Nijinsky played Pertroushka
in the original production with
Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes, June 13,
1911, in Paris, the rest is history

in 1921 Stravinsky wrote an arrangement
for virtuosic, he specified, piano, using
three scenes only from the ballet as

1 – Danse russe (Russian Dance)
2 – Chez Pétrouchka (Petroushka’s Room)
3 – La semaine graisse (The Shrovetide Fair)

they’re fast, very fast, prestississimo,
you’ll miss the breaks if you blink,
where you’d be likely to find, if any,

good luck


at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Bach‏

"J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)" -  Robert Strûbin

“J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)” (1957)

Robert Strûbin


if I’ve been getting on their backs
about their Bachs at the Tchaikovsky
, it’s that they’re playing
Bach as though he were mediocre
Beethoven, it’s like asking Duke
Ellington to be Pink Floyd, it’s just
a completely different generation,

Bach wrote for the harpsichord, a
precursor to the piano, it could not
control the volume, nor the length
of a note, the pianoforte came
along to resolve both issues

therefore before Beethoven, who
made full use of the new invention
and worked hard the pianissimos
and the fortissimos, to degrees that
often became either inappropriate
or too authoritative, indelicate or
obnoxious if you’re not in the mood
– I remember wanting to play his so
solemn 111 at my father’s funeral,
but realized late that the first
movement was not especially in
that situation warranted, nor even
parts of the transcendental, but not
always not obstreperous, adagio –
and thumbed thus his nose at the
aristocracy, who earlier, before
the citoyens had demanded their
rights and when the world had
been considered to be of a
rational, logical order, a clock,
and as regular, would never have
tolerated such impudence

Bach and Mozart do not sway
much from strict rhythm, neither
do they alter volume much at all

so that the constant display of
heartfelt Bach and passionate
Mozart becomes cloying, and
not at all what these Classical
and Baroque masters would
have approved of

nor Beethoven, nor Chopin, for
that matter, whose strict tempo
markings didn’t include much
rubato, ritardandos, which you
could think of as milking a note,
putting velvet on your canvas,
it doesn’t work, the composition
itself unaided by bathos, pathos,
delivers, check out, of course,
Glenn Gould

Andrei Korobeinikov sat me right
down the other night with his
arresting BWV868, thrilling,
followed by more dazzling
pyrotechnics, though he fizzled,
and fractured his Beethoven, the
very 111 I care so much for, I
couldn’t even finish, you don’t
need a velvet canvas behind the
111, neither cloying ritardandos,
just skill, nor tangles of notes,
for that matter


“Pictures at an Exhibition” – Modest Mussorgsky‏

You are definately (sic) now in Chopin mode!“, a friend
writes, much as the culture itself would’ve found
itself after a surfeit of Chopin, giving way to of
course newer inventions in art  
if there is an overview that would present the
fundamental outline of what was occuring at
the time it is that the heart was giving way to
the mind, late Romanticism still throbbed with
stirring passions, but a more exploratory
psychological perspective would begin to  
dominate, spurred on by a more analytical
approach to everything, even the arts
themselves to the arts themselves, science
had been unearthing revelations, painters
analyzed paint, writers parsed writing, 
composers deconstructed musical composition
all investigated potentiality and purpose within
the area of their field to discover if it still had
relevance, and if so, how and why
the first step in moving away from emotion in
music was through an attempt at notational
description, to have music become evocative 
of a scene rather than of sentiment through
orchestrations of sound, an intellectual appeal
to the more probing cerebellum rather than to 
the more facile and evident strings of a rhythmic,
ardently and compellingly pulsing, but primal 
and therefore unreasoning, heart
which could also easily become self-indulgent,
only the very best, Chopin, Elizabeth Barrett 
Browning, avoid it, let me add here the never
ever maudlin, always enchanting, Walt Disney,
who cuts mighty, mighty close to the saccharine
in his post-Second-World-War epoch, as do as
skilfully also indeed the other two in theirs
it’s all in the rubato, I think, where musical magic
is allowed to turn into pandering kitsch
here’s Modest Mussorgsky describing Pictures
at an Exhibition, each movement a particular
pictorial work, separated by the return of the
original theme, the “Promenade”, representative
of the amble forward, curatorial and monocled, 
I think, to the next considered instalment 
here’s the same thing again in a neat transcription
for guitar