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Month: March, 2012

Franz Schubert – String Quintet in C major, D 956‏

"Schubert at the Piano" II (1899) - Gustav Klimt

Schubert at the Piano (1899)

Gustav Klimt


the Filarmonica Quartet, which I’d earlier described
as “not at all unimpressive”, show themselves here,
performing Schubert‘s otherworldly String Quintet
in C major, D 956
, to be the very sound of those
angels Schubert calls upon to perform his
miraculous music

their hometown Novosibirsk audience will continue
however to stubbornly, shamelessly, cough, in
scattered places, though the angels themselves,
the players, seem not especially distraught, they
play with great conviction, patience and tolerance
throughout superbly, caught up surely in their own
Schubertian Nirvana, a not uninstructive response

the Filarmonica Quartet of course will need a fifth
to play with them a quintet, who is, I think, the
extra cello at the front on the right, uncredited,
the piece calls for two violins, a viola and two
cellos, instead of the standard, at the time, extra
viola, surely for their greater and more resonant
chthonic character, which is to say, triggered by
the very earth

Franz Schubert, 1797-1828, died much too young,
only 31, this piece was completed not two months
before he passed away

it is also therefore a very haunting last testament


psst: D is for Otto Erich Deutsch

smelling the roses‏

why did the ducklings cross the road     

to remind us of our profound connection                                                                 with nature





Shostakovich’s String Quartet no 15, opus 144 (revisited)

on a day of commemoration, or at a moment even of
merely contemplation, perhaps it’s not a bad idea to
revisit Shostakovich’s String Quartet no 15, in E flat
minor, opus 144
, his flurry of mournful adagios, his
string of stately dirges, his penetrating meditation
on mortality

complete this time around, on one only site, though
just a short while ago indeed I said it wasn’t to be
found, March 28, 2012, again I was wrong

today it stood, perhaps not coincidentally, directly
before me as I clicked onto my list of music,
unadulterated, intact, complete, apart from an
irrtating audience member coughing at one point,
unforgivably, for marring so sincere an expression
of fervent string sounds, though only momentarily

by the “Filarmonica” Quartet, of Novosibirsk, Russia,
a city just north of Mongolia and Kazakhstan, the
players are not at all unimpressive

accompanying images are apparently of Russian
inspirational countryside nearby, and of
neighbouring Mongolia


“Le sacre du printemps”, then, and later

 Russisches Ballett (I) - August Macke

                            Russisches Ballett (I)  (1912)

                                          August Macke

Le sacre du printemps”, Stravinsky’s original, French,
title for “The Rite of Spring”, was choreographed by
Vaslav Nijinsky, a legendary ballet superstar of the
time, to sets, costumes and story by Nicholas Roerich,
a name essentially now forgotten 
Sergei Diaghilev, the equally legendary impresario,
produced the show for his hot then Ballets Russes,
which opened at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées
in Paris, May 29th, 1913, a hundred years but one
since, nearly to the hour
minus of course the Ballets Russes
here a celebrated alternate version, 1970, from
highly regarded choreographer mid Twentieth Century,
with dancers to prove it – this effort now considered
may springtime bring you also meanwhile myriad
other roses

“The Rite of Spring” – Igor Stravinsky (1913)‏

just in time for the season here is a deconstruction of
“The Rite of Spring”, Stravinsky, that will blow your
socks off, a clarification of a seminal moment in the
history of music and art that sheds light on history,
the history of music, the history of art, but the
history of our very own place in the pageant 
better than I could do Micheal Tilson Thomas,
conductor of note, explores our instincts, and
relation to music, aesthetically and anthropologically
through this most visceral music
stick around    
appropriate, I think, conductor, Pierre Boulez, of all
the most notably avant-gardist

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  

Brahms Violin Concerto – Kyung-Wha Chung (1985)

having had a yen for Brahms lately, his grand, sweeping
concertos, I put on again Kyung-Wha Chung last night,
with André Previn, 1996doing the Violin Concerto, a
good fit at under fifty minutes, while I simultaneously 
washed the dishes – the gods never granted me a
dishwasher, probably to keep me humble, wary of
potentially crippling, I think, hubris 
afterwards for the sheer exhilaration of it I wanted to
watch the whole thing over again, but another version
intrigued and beckoned, from 1985, when Chung was of
course younger, less assured, I suspected, her take maybe
less profoundly felt, not yet quite as definitive 
but she proved to be again Olympian, on fire, more fierce
in her attack, more defiant, Aphrodite, goddess of love,
beauty, pleasure, this time, still radiant, utterly authoritative
and convincing, paying glorious court to her host of equally
divine peers
this performance is of another, of an utterly transcendental, 
order, of the Brahms Violin Concerto you are not likely, nor 
are they, ever to see than either so illustrious a rendition