Richibi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

Month: November, 2011

a haiku by W.H. Auden‏

He has never seen God
but once or twice he believes
he has heard Him
                    W.H. Auden  
in trying to find this poem on the Internet after I’d come
upon it in the New Yorker, November 14, 2011, I settled
upon this unlikely site which gave the work enormous 
Colin Keenan pays heartfelt tribute to his friend, Wes
Wehmiller, both of them to me unknown
in preparing us for the poem Keenan says, 
                  Auden came to understand that the essence
                   of prayer is not to talk to God, or to ask for
                   something, but to listen. I think that faith is
                   simply the ability to understand the language
                   that is spoken.” 
I think it is a profoundly insightful comment, it’s how I
listen in fact to music, for its easier access to the too
often too evanescent otherwise sublime, the mystical,
the miraculous

a couple of Mozart sonatas

if a symphony is a concerto without a soloist, a sonata
is a concerto without an orchestra, the soloist plays
alone, must deliver the same enchantment 
there are nevertheless always therefore the prerequisite
several movements, otherwise no sonata
the sonata, as we know it, originated in the mid-18th
century with more or less Mozart, earlier the term
applied to other structural notions in music
to still my consternation they were often not continuous,
movements were performed indiscriminately among other
eclectic acts in an evening of diverse entertainments, it
was Beethoven who put a decisive stop to that, though
the fame and popularity of Haydn and a few other
contemporaries, Clementi, Salieri, as well of course as
himself Mozart, had probably settled the matter for all
practical purposes somewhat earlier
Beethoven among his other theoretical principles codified
that, indeed wrote the book on it, like Moses delivering
the commandments, except that Beethoven presented
horizons in his mythology, miraculous and infinite,
instead of castigation and luxurious sin
his understanding of music, still now unsurpassed, is
demonstrable in his works through all the musical
innovations that have since, through all the very ages,
transpired, down to even his bagatelles, musical trifles,
which I’ll approach later, if you’ll stick around
but it starts essentially with Mozart 
Mitsuko Uchida, who is unsurpassed in Mozart, plays
Ludwig von Köchel, who catalogued finally, in 1862,
nearly a hundred years after Mozart’s death, in 1791,
the complete works of the master, other works have
been intermittently added since so that several
revised editions have dutifully followed, lettered a, b,
c according to the revision, the last Köchel number is 
Mozart’s music is sprightly, effervescent, magical, but
not especially intellectually challenging, I think of toy
soldiers and candy cane, innocence and a child’s delight
in the infinite possibilities of creation, Creation  
Alfred Brendel  who stands shoulder to shoulder with
the iconic Glenn Gould when it comes to Beethoven,
of 18 piano sonatas, the D major K.576 above, was
his last 
Brendel is too commanding to play authentic Mozart,
though his technique is irreproachable, admirable,
spotless, wonderful 
he is Beethoven playing Mozart however, an uneven
comparing the two interpretations is instructive, Brendel
will dazzle, inevitably, but Uchida will make you fly
don’t believe me, count on it 

an original composition‏

here‘s an aria, a musical composition for one voice, of
great tonal and rhythmic complexity, with an equally
challenging part for the piano
totally 21st century 
you’ll love it








Ravel’s “Boléro”, somewhat deconstructed‏

where the players, one by one, take up their positions out
of the crowd and deliver their unexpected and exhilarating
it was of course a hit, but at only under five minutes it
had been severely truncated 
it should last between 15 and 18 minutes according to the 
composer’s not quite determinate instructions, Tempo di
Bolero, moderato assai, he wrote, bolero tempo, very
moderate, though he preferred ever, it is reported, an
especially moderate, assai, pace    
here’s Barenboim conducting it, to my mind too fast, 
while remaining exhilarating nevertheless throughout,
rousing and bombastic, incontrovertibly thrilling, for
the person on the move perhaps just the ticket, but
for me it’s like speeding up the “Minute Waltz” to
anywhere under a minute, it isn’the point
like Strauss’ Burleske“, the “Boléro” has only one movement,
therefore it is not called a symphony, but by it’s own generic
name, this is Ravel defining the bolero, a bolero according
to him, which with his authority he’s defined for us, and
for very history, as it turns out, as well, indeed nearly
patenting the word itself to mean his own music, much
as Strauss did for his “Burleske“, both maintaining,
incidentally, individual cultural spellings and lingual
it’s essence is in its rhythm, unremitting, unyielding, unerring,
it is the rhythm of the heart, thumping, insistent, primordially
ever present, a Classical conception, a throwback to the
standards, the musical expectations, of Beethoven, Haydn, 
Mozart, which nevertheless remain never defunct despite
their unmodern though always relevant antiquity   
rhythm talks  
it is first of all sensuous, I am reminded of houris, any one of
the harem of virgins provided believers in their anticipated
heaven, shimmering in silks and translucent veils, languidly
seducing, undulating   
later it seems a march of Caesar’s legions coming irrepressibly
forth unto their final, decisive, confrontation 
the second movement of Schubert’s Ninth Symphony, has the
same particular dichotomy, the link between seduction and
this piece could have been a tattoo structurally were it not
for the melodious instruments, the drums, timpani, their
incontrovertible throb, press irrepressibly onward, their
final surge valiant, military, against the sinuosity of the
accompanying lyrical step 
but it is indeed a bolero, a dance of seduction and love 
I think the connection is in the pulsations, rhythmic,
throbbing, persistent, of a comparably palpitating 
love, passion, ambition, depend on the fervour of their 
common vibration 
this could have been also a mystic chant, compelling,
insidious, entrancing, rhythmically hypnotic, verily
like a swelling mass, were it not for the more carnal 
associations with blood, lust and war  
what does that say, would you think, about rites around
religious reverence
psst: thanks Norm

Brahms Violin Concerto – Kyung-Wha Chung‏

if, may the gods forbid, you see one concerto only ever in
your lifetime, let it be this one, Kyung-Wha Chung does the
Brahms Violin Concerto incontrovertibly, such performances 
as this one are why composers write music, for interpreters
such as she to narrate their musical thought, to speak it
nearly verbally, indelibly, to bring it to unmistakable and 
categorical life, to transcendence then even perhaps, as in
this case, to our ineluctable, ineradicable consciousness,
and thereby then to our stars 

Kyung-Wha Chung sets the standard here to be achieved for
all artists, in my lifetime she has been the one to displace,
no one, not even the greatest, with the sole exception of
the inimitable of course Glenn Gould, has had the authority,
the brilliance, to outpace her, to outpace them, she is
Minerva, goddess of wisdom, poetry, magic, in outright
and unequivocal command, she is unquestionably and
irrevocably empress here, awesome, she is the highest
expression of music, utterly and irrevocably iridescent, 
incontestably and utterly sublime  
André Previn, with the Kölner Rundfunksinfonie Orchester,
the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Cologne, December, 1996,
supports ably, even admirably, he will make me eat my
earlier not especially flattering about him words 

Beethoven’s Symphony no 6, in F major, opus 68, “Pastoral”‏

symphonies are not my preferred musical form, they are
generally too broad, grand, impersonal, they are nevertheless
the other most impactful order of presentation among musical
instruments, along with the concerto
a symphony is a concerto without a soloist, or it might be more
appropriate to say that a concerto is a symphony accommodating
a soloist, or soloists, in either case the musical elements remain
the same, you don’t have a symphony without movements   
a symphony is also of course another name for that very orchestra,
just to confuse you
despite my indifference to that particular form of entertainment 
some symphonies are nevertheless still for me impressive, some
even meaningful, poignant, several of Beethoven’s, most of the
works of the transcendental Bruckner, Brahms’ magnificent Fourth,
most others you can keep, as far as I’m concerned, I need a firm
anchoring principle, not the amorphous peregrinations of an
unbridled, often cacophonous crowd 
those that I love however have touched me deeply, Beethoven’s 
Sixth for instance, wherein through its second movement a loved
one spoke to me unmistakably from heaven, there and then made
me believe in an afterlife and angels, I remember the day clearly
and cherish still that powerful metaphysical moment  
in the “Pastoral” Beethoven apotheosizes nature, the movements
themselves, of which there are an unconventional five, are named
after rural settings, like paintings
I imagine Beethoven channeling the idyllic Classical Fragonard, or
prefiguring the bucolic and more Romantic Constable, Beethoven
straddles triumphally both epochs 
you will hear the birds sing, the rippling of the brook, it is as fresh
as ever springtime, as profound and expansive as itself time
Beethoven here speaks as clearly as actual language, and thereby
suggests that music is indeed itself an expressive tongue, earlier
it had been, though moving and undeniably evocative, essentially
an entertainment, a courtly device, though often enough sublime,
see Haydn, Mozart
Beethoven is not courtly, he is bold, assured, and mighty, of a new
breed of colonizers of the new and exhilarating democracy, the
French Revolution had just happened and their aristocracy was
dead and gone, indeed guillotined, a new day had dawned for
the common people, the idea of human rights
Beethoven spoke to these as a prophet, Moses at a secular Mount,
declaring the ideals of the Age of Reason, of which we still carry
the torch, to the multitudes and to their ensuing spawn
Klemperer at first seemed slow to me, nearly tired, but little by
little established a mesmerizing solemnity
by the end of the piece I’d again been touched by heaven