how to listen to music if you don’t know your Beethoven from your Bach, cont.

by richibi

The Stolen Kiss, 1788 - Jean-Honore Fragonard


        The Stolen Kiss (1788)


       Jean-Honoré Fragonard





if you listened to the couple of pieces I

recommended in my last commentary,

you would’ve indeed recognized, if

even only subconsciously, that the

first work wasn’t composed by the

composer of the other, that different

spirits infused either


a visual representation of the same

thing might be to juxtapose a

contemporary painting of the one

epoch with a corresponding painting

of the other


over a hundred years had passed

between Mozart and Prokofiev,

Mozart’s Piano Sonata no 18, K576

– his last piano sonata, incidentally,

he died a short two years later –

was written in 1789, the year of the

French Revolution, a still safe

distance from Vienna, where

Mozart could still cater to an,

however endangered, species


Jean-Honoré Fragonard, a contemporary

painter, 1732 – 1806, had been doing the

same thing, The Stolen Kiss, 1788, for

instance, a mere year earlier, see above


meanwhile, over a hundred years later,

inches only away from the First World

War, Matisse is doing in art what

Prokofiev is doing in music, taking the

temperature of his own time, Seated

Riffian (1911 –1912) – a Riffian, a Berber,

a North African tribesman – see below,

to corroborate Prokofiev’s equally

emblematic vision of their shared era


you can hear this in the music


mostly through the difference in the use

of volume, languorous softs, thunderous

louds, but also in the more expansive use

of pace, fast, slow, the rapidity of some

notes, the embrace, the extended caress,

of others, in the later composition


which, in a word, follows the development

of the piano from harpsichord to the

instrument we’re used to today


Mozart still had the harpsichord in his ear,

he was writing for the fortepiano, which

evolved, through the pianoforte, to the

piano we know of today, no flexibility of

pace, no flexibility of volume then, listen,

hearyou can hear it in the juxtaposition


we hear a lot more than we think we




R ! chard





Seated Riffian, 1912 - 1913 - Henri Matisse


        Seated Riffian (1911 – 1912)


                Henri Matisse