Richibi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

Month: March, 2015

a grab bag of love songs‏

 "The Scale of Love" - Antoine Watteau

The Scale of Love ( c.1717)

Antoine Watteau


a clutch of other pop songs that have
moved me in March

for its unabashed servility, Mon Dieu – Johanne Lefebvre

please, God, she says, let my lover be
with me still even for a short time, time
to tell each other of how we adore each
other, time to create for ourselves
memories, six months, three months,
two, one month only, let him remain,
time to begin or time to end, time to
glow or time to even suffer, please,
God, don’t take him away

for its irresolute resolution, I’ve Been Loving You Too Long
Emmanuel Nwamadi

for its recriminations, self-flagellation, Jealous Guy – Kevin Bazinet

for its out-of-control hormones, Sing – Liana Bureau
and Dominic Dagenais


Beethoven Cello Sonata no 3, opus 69 – Gould/Rose‏

 "A Day in March" - Robert Spencer

A Day in March(1918)

Robert Spencer


hot upon having seen a tremendous recital
by two internationally renowned interpreters
of the cello sonatas of Beethoven, neither
could I find their own renditions on the
Internet but their individual performances
only of works by other composers, some
astounding, others not, nor performances
by other artists of the same works I could
wholeheartedly recommend, even the big
ones, sometimes they have an off night

but with Beethoven, Glenn Gould never
lets you down, he is, quite simply, ever
transcendent, watch his Cello Sonata
no 3 of Beethoven, opus 69
, with cellist
Leonard Rose, up as well to so august
a challenge, be unequivocally
transported, don’t not watch, just click,


the cadenza, from Mozart to John Mayer

"Dancing Senegalese Figures" (1967) - Gerard Sekoto

Dancing Senegalese Figures (1967)

Gerard Sekoto


ain’t no sunshine since you’ve gone,
I wrote Apollo, who’s been in Mexico
for already nearly two weeks, turned
my yearning into thereby something
groovy, listen

again I was reminded of the role of
art in our lives, to not only entertain,
inspire, but to even comfort, heal,

note the Classical structure of the
, a driving and inflexible
rhythm, repetition of the theme, a
tonal melody, something you can
sing along with, Classical music’s
foundational Trinity

except for the cadenza, the solo
part, now described as a riff, but
which was already part of
concertos even by Mozart, which
is to say the late 18th Century,
listen to his 20th piano concerto
for instance, with cadenzas by no
less than Beethoven – between
11:50 and 14:15, then again between
30:05 and 31:30 on your time strip –
characteristically deep, intensely
personal and probing

the cadenza allowed the soloist in
a concerto to extrapolate, take
off in any direction singly,
sometimes written in by the
composer, but just as often not

in his cadenza, John Mayer breaks
two of the Classical imperatives,
tone, repetition, his cadenza is one
unrepeated riff, no repetition at all

but his rhythm remains unswerving,
categorical, Classical, get your cue
from the dominant drums,
irrepressible here as clockwork

for atonal similarities compare
Berg’s Violin Concerto throughout

for music, in other words, we’re still
reacting to the Classical framework
established by Haydn and Mozart,
variations on these rules are still
what we think of as music, we’re
standing on their shoulders,
working according to their
parameters, only the instruments
have changed, the guitar has taken
the place of the piano

but that’s another story


“Primavera” – Sandro Botticelli‏

Sandro Botticelli - "Primavera"

Primavera (1478)

Sandro Botticelli


on the right, Zephyrus, god of the west
wind, and messenger of spring, having
prised Chloris from his brother, Boreas,
the icy north wind, ravishes her, the
naked nymph, who is being transformed
into Flora, goddess of flowers, note
Chloris‘ hand dissolving into Flora‘s

but listen to Ovid tell it

“‘I, called Flora now, was Chloris: the first letter in Greek
Of my name, became corrupted in the Latin language.
I was Chloris, a nymph of those happy fields,
Where, as you’ve heard, fortunate men once lived.
It would be difficult to speak of my form, with modesty,
But it brought my mother a god as a son-in-law.
It was spring, I wandered: Zephyrus saw me: I left.
He followed me: I fled: he was the stronger,
And Boreas had given his brother authority for rape
By daring to steal a prize from Erechteus‘ house.
Yet he made amends for his violence, by granting me
The name of bride, and I’ve nothing to complain in bed.
I enjoy perpetual spring: the season’s always bright,
The trees have leaves: the ground is always green.
I’ve a fruitful garden in the fields that were my dower,
Fanned by the breeze, and watered by a flowing spring.
My husband stocked it with flowers, richly,
And said: “Goddess, be mistress of the flowers.”
I often wished to tally the colours set there,
But I couldn’t, there were too many to count.””

Fasti, Book V, May 2 – Ovid


I love “It would be difficult to speak of my
form, with modesty”

go, girl, indeed goddess

on the left of the painting the three Graces,
Aglaea, Euphrosyne, and Thalia dance

on the far left, Mars, whence, incidentally,
our name for the month of March, is god
not only of war, but of also agriculture

Venus, who needs no introduction,
presides at the centre, accompanied
by her prankish son, Cupid, fluttering

“Love looks not with the eyes, but
with the mind”, Shakespeare says,
“And therefore is winged Cupid
painted blind” *

as he is in the painting above

no painting has yet replaced Botticelli‘s
Primavera as a universal symbol of

may yours be equally timeless,


* A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Act 1, scene 1, lines 234 – 235

– William Shakespeare

Paganini’s First Violin Concerto – Akiko Suwanai‏

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres - "Niccolo Paganini" (c.1819)

Niccolo Paganini (c.1819)

Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres


for Apollo, who alerted me to my error

having egregiously misspelled “Akiko”
in my recent commentaries about Ms
Suwanai, since, however, corrected, I
can only heap upon her greater praise
now for again an immaculate
performance of, this time, Paganini’s
First Violin Concerto
, itself an event,
as atonement

not only does she play this thrilling
with precision and
consummate artistry, this is the
performance with which she wins
the Tchaikovsky Competition, the
one Van Cliburn had secured so
illustriously back in the late Fifties,
at the height of Soviet Communism,
she in 1990, moments only after its
fall, a full, now, 25 years ago

it astounds me that such a talent
would’ve taken so long to reach my
ears, which have been attuned to
Classical music and its
peregrinations for as long as I can

then again there was no ticker tape
parade for Ms Suwanai when she
, the world has changed,
it seems such excellence is no longer
so universally paraded, not even
much advertised

the Paganini Violin Concerto was
composed around 1818, late
Beethoven, early Chopin, Paganini
defines for the violin the Romantic
Period, what Chopin did for the piano,
Beethoven had given them the push

if you can get past your astonishment
you’ll note that the foundation of the
is Classical, tight tempi, tonality,
no discordant notes, and repetition
always of the themes, still the triple
pillars of our understanding of music,
its Trinity, despite some strong forays
into their deconstructions, see, for
instance, the haunting George Crumb

what Paganini adds to Classicism is
personality, Romanticism, same as
Beethoven did, and at about the
same time

aristocratic formality was giving way
to the voices of the crowd, some highly
articulate, representative, formidable,
as the shackles of servitude fell with
the French Revolution and human
rights became central, and


Bruch Violin Concerto in G minor‏, opus 26

Max Bruch

Max Bruch


still under the spell of the captivating
Akiko Suwanai, it didn’t take me long
to search out this enchantress further

as a follow-up to the perhaps tonally
discomfiting Berg I earlier highly,
nevertheless, recommended, I found
this utterly thrilling Bruch

Max Bruch, a Late Romantic, a
composer of the full flowering of the
Romantic Age, before Brahms, for
instance, Impressionism and the turn
towards social grievances rather than
the merely personal, Karl Marx, and
the rush towards isms, Capitalism,
Fascism, Communism, even indeed
Impressionism – is famous for
especially his Violin Concerto in G
, his first of three, and Kol
, a setting for the introduction
of a Jewish service, suggesting
Bruch might’ve been Jewish, which
he wasn’t

I’ve always been indifferent to the
Kol Nidrei“, perhaps because I’m
an utterly lapsed Catholic

but the Violin Concerto is something



psst: compare the Bruch to the Berg
for powerful historical insight
into the evolution of music in
the West

“The Voice”‏

"Their Master's Voice" - Michael Sowa

Their Master’s Voice

Michael Sowa


The Voice, a program which has gone
international from its roots in, of all places,
Holland, in 2010, sets out to find big talent
among its contenders

and several can really contend

the contestants are not necessarily local,
a Canadian, for instance, Leona Philippo,
won the Holland competition in 2012,
bravo Leona

the program has proliferated, counting
replications around the world, from, if
you can believe it, Afghanistan to
Australia, Croatia to Cambodia, Canada
to, even, Azerbaijan, I’m not alone in my
enthusiasm, music, it appears, binds the

blind auditions are held, wherein the
contestant sings before four eminent
judges whose faces are averted, but
who’ll individually turn should that
voice stir, excite, inspire

should more than one turn, the singer
must choose the mentor who’ll move
him, her, or them along, duos are
eligible, see here already for an

each judge ends up with twelve acts

in the battle rounds, the judges divide
their teams into couples, who’ll sing
the same song against each other,
leaving the team with six, judges are
allowed to steal two from the other
three teams who might’ve lost out,
after which the rules become too
byzantine for me to get into, you’ll
have to watch to figure it out, all
available on your computer

my pick of the UK battle rounds pits
Classical Reflection, ethereal twins,
against Emmanuel Nwamadi, a
chthonic, elemental force, they sing
Mike and the Mechanics’ – who,
honey – “The Living Years”

at “La voix”, from Québec, Dominic
Dagenais and Liana Bureau show you
how to incontrovertibly sing “Sing”

hey, as Liana would say, do it

wow, and wow



Alban Berg Violin Concerto‏

"Little Girl in Blue," - Chaim Soutine

Little Girl in Blue (c.1934-c.1935)

Chaim Soutine


though Apollo had offered the two
complimentary symphony tickets
he’d scored to my sister and my
mom, my mom bowed out and
suggested I, an adept, should
instead go along, though I needed
to know more about the content,
who and what would be on, no
one knew

meanwhile my sister, preferring not
to leave her husband alone, opted
to cede her ticket to Apollo so he
could accompany me

after some research, when I gushed
that Akiko Suwanai would be playing
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D
minor – his only one, I cried – Apollo
reconsidered, would, he said, come
along, my enthusiasm having struck
apparently a reverberant chord, a key,
maybe his D minor

once at the concert, to our surprise
and delight, my sister and her
husband, under the spell also of that
maybe bewitching key, had got rush
tickets for essentially, as it were,
a song, so that serendipitously we
all attended the superb performance

Dad does concert tickets too, my
sister exulted

Suwanai was transcendent, lifted me
from my seat at the very first touch of
her exquisite bow, I floated, though it
might’ve been also the magic chocolate
I’d bought at the corner, this is Vancouver
after all, known also, not inappropriately,
as Vansterdam

you’ve heard rapturous versions of
Beethoven’s Violin Concerto on at
least one of my earlier blogs,
Anne-Sophie Mutter’s there, Joshua
, but I couldn’t get any of Akiko
Suwanai’s renditions on the Internet

found instead for you this wonderful
, also his only violin concerto

Berg is of the Second Viennese
School, along with Schoenberg and
Webern, this is no longer Beethoven,
the advent of the First World War in
the Western world had fundamentally
altered everything, the arts were
reflecting this transformation, idioms
were abandoned in every creative field,
as well as in borders and forms of
government, rudiments were being
questioned, tested, see what Soutine
does, for instance, to traditional
representation above, to perspective,
colour, proportions

you’ll note that Berg’s Concerto
doesn’t stipulate a key, part of the
disintegration musical theory was
undergoing, twelve-tone music,
rather than the traditional eight,
was eliminating the subordination
of sharps and flats within scales,
atonality became dominant,
sounding a lot like the cacophony,
I think, of Twentieth-Century traffic

you won’t mistake however the
utterly Romantic sensibility beating
through Berg’s composition, midst
all the discord and the dissonance
you can’t miss his pulsing and
ardent heart, his wistful, dare I say,

there are two movements to the
concerto, the first representing life,
the second death and transfiguration,
Berg had written this, his last work,
for Alma Mahler’s daughter, Manon,
after she died of polio at the age of
18, Alma Mahler had been Gustav
Mahler’s wife, a musical giant, Berg
dedicated the piece, he wrote,
“to the memory of an angel”

Berg died later that same year,
Christmas Eve, 1935, he was 50


psst: the first part of the programme
had been a bust except for a
lovely piece for violin and koto

what’s a koto, I asked Apollo

it’s what you wear when you’re
coldo, he replied

a koto is a bit like a xylophone,
but with strings instead of
wooden bars, the performer
had dressed in traditional
Japanese garb for the special
Japanese occasion

“La voix”‏

Quebec, Canada’s distinctly French
province, produces disproportionately
for its size extraordinary talents

La voix“, it’s version of “The Voice”,
vaunts proudly and confidently
performances of the very highest

worth noting, as showings that could
make your day, listen to Karine and
rival Willie Nelson‘s original
version of the wonderful “You Were
Always on My Mind”

or watch what Annabelle and Lili-Ann
do to the indomitable Tina Turner‘s
“River Deep, Mountain High”

you tell me who’s hot

Sundays on TVA


March: “Black March” – Stevie Smith‏

"The Frozen Pool, March" - Willard Metcalf

The Frozen Pool, March (1909)

Willard Metcalf


in this wonderful film about Stevie Smith,
Glenda Jackson is the celebrated poet,
whose poem, “Black March“, I’ve chosen
to introduce the new month

you’ll love also Mona Washbourne in it,
as Stevie’s beloved aunt

the site presents the film in numbered
episodes, which seamlessly flow if you
don’t touch your dial, but should you,
just click on the episode number, one
of eleven, when you return


psst: you might also want to compare
this story with that of Emily
Dickinson in The Belle of Amherst“,
another, unconventionally then,
unmarried woman, for which Julie
Harris got a richly deserved Tony
in 1977

read all about it in one of my recent


Black March

I have a friend
At the end
Of the world.
His name is a breath

Of fresh air.
He is dressed in
Grey chiffon. At least
I think it is chiffon.
It has a
Peculiar look, like smoke.

It wraps him round
It blows out of place
It conceals him
I have not seen his face.

But I have seen his eyes, they are
As pretty and bright
As raindrops on black twigs
In March, and heard him say:

I am a breath
Of fresh air for you, a change
By and by.

Black March I call him
Because of his eyes
Being like March raindrops
On black twigs.

(Such a pretty time when the sky
Behind black twigs can be seen
Stretched out in one
Cambridge blue as cold as snow.)

But this friend
Whatever new names I give him
Is an old friend. He says:

Whatever names you give me
I am
A breath of fresh air,
A change for you.

Stevie Smith