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Category: Amsterdam

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

The Potato Eaters, 1885 - Vincent van Gogh

            The Potato Eaters” (1885)


                   Vincent van Gogh




where do you start with Chopin, he is

in our Western cultural bloodstream,

as identifiable in music as, say, van

Gogh is in painting, you don’t need 

to be interested in any kind of art to

have not been given even only a

whiff of these iconic artists


nearly anything I might present here

of Chopin you’ve probably already

heard somewhere before, if only in



of van Gogh, well, he goes back in

the public imagination to at least

Vincent1971, the song, no one

doesn’t know about him, when I

heard it playing in Amsterdam at

the museum, with the first piece I

saw, The Potato Eatersdominating

the first wall, insisting on van Gogh’s

vision, his prophecy, his profound

compassion, I cried, I understood

what art is, see above


Chopin exerts a different kind of,

however equally potent, magic


Mozart might sound like Haydn,

Beethoven might sound like

Schubert, all of the Impressionists

sound like all of the Impressionists,

be they Ravel, Debussy, Satie, or

Saint-Saëns, to the untrained ear


but no one sounds like Chopin,

he’s, culturally, a North Star


here’s one of his nocturnes, the

moonlit one, in E flat major  


here’s a polonaisehere’s an étude,  

in English, a study, a finger exercise,

an iconic, here, prestidigitation


here’s an impromptu, his very,

indeed, Fantaisie-Impromptu, just

to get your categories going


consider its construction, having

some information already about

fantasias, a work of the imagination,

open to any experimentation within

the confines of one movement, with

an impromptu, something purported

to have been created on the spot,

also in one movement


the answer requires you to sharpen

your aesthetic pencil, always a

delight – an impromptu, a

spontaneous invention, a fantaisie,

a work of the imagination, how do

they differ, which part is a fantaisie,

which an impromptu, how do they

nevertheless coalesce


this exercise is the first step in






R ! chard

Concerto for Keyboard / Violin, BWV 1052 – Bach


     “The Nightwatch (1642) 







                                for Barbara, who dutifully 

                                      kicked me in the psyche



there is apparent discussion about whether

the BWV 1052 of Bach was first a keyboard 

or a violin, concerto, I’ve only known it as a 

keyboard concerto till now, when looking 

for it for a friend, I happened upon this 

recently published rendering of an event 

that took place at the Rijksmuseum in 

Amsterdam in front of the very 

Nightwatch” of Rembrandt, historical  

epochs coming iconically together  


which is why, incidentally, I love Europe,

Disneyland for adults, where epochal

periods come together like fantasies,

tossing back at us their manifest, their

multifarious, and mythic glories  



what do you think, which came first, the

chicken or the egg,  the keyboard or the



I think, however prejudicially, the 

keyboardbut what do I know  


enjoy either, they’re both riveting 



R ! chard


psst: note how the painted faces and the real

          faces in the violin version look alike,

          Rembrandt‘s genius 






what’s up in Amsterdam – Piano Sonata in B flat major, D.960 – Franz Schubert


      “The Doll / Die Puppe (1934) 

                 Hans Bellmer


should you be concerned about telling 
your Schubert from your Beethoven,
don’t fret, I myself, though considered 
by some in this area to be omniscient, 
however manifestly, as you’ll note here, 
erroneouslyupon watching a film last 
night – the splendid Ex Machina”,  
about a robot in the form of Alicia
Vikanderviscerally commanding in 
neon blue, which is to say, incandescent, 
with stainless steel and wires for body 
parts – arms, legs, stomach – as part of 
her more human, and curvaceous, 
attributes – face, chest, and pelvis – who 
fears she might be disassembled when 
her purpose is served, and a new, and 
better robot might not only take her 
place, but also her very physical and 
metaphysical components, and concocts 
to save her life, if that’s what you’d call it, 
however convincing, sophisticated, might 
be her replication – confused the Schubert
sonata that filtered through the score for 
one of Beethoven’s, though can you 
blame me, when the sci-fi tale had been 
so otherwise gripping 

the D960, Schubert’s 23rd and last piano 
sonata, was written in 1828, shortly before 
he died, it is extraordinary, and entirely 
worthy of being compared to Beethoven,
of being held, indeed, in equal 

but you be the judge 

you’ll note again Schubert’s reserve, his 
courtesy, he is philosophical, rather than 
combative, his reply to Fate is acquiescent, 
though never subordinate, his response to 
the challenge of Life is to display the 
colours, sounds, and other, however 
humble, ephemeral, perhaps even
inconsequential, attributes of his existence, 
with the grace of a very flower, whose 
essence we still, today, have not ceased
to acknowledge, and to profoundly admire 

this is our only answer, he states, our 
ever so resplendent, however individual, 
humanity, which it is our very salvation 
to recount, to relate 

Beethoven would surely have agreed,  
and applauded


R ! chard


my Amsterdam, January 12, 2013‏

Rusland and the Kloveniersburgwal

“right across from those two bridges”

Amsterdam, Holland


upon reaching our rented apartment after
our cab crawl through the Friday night
streets of bustling Amsterdam, hemmed
in and harried wherever we went by its
canals, bikes and rickety cobblestones,
all festooned in the neon glitter of, at
seven already of a November evening,
its multicolour nightlife, I looked around
to get my bearings, we found ourselves
on a little lost street standing on uneven
ground in the darkness between a row
of doors and some water

up the short street, as I looked around,
a bridge crossed from our street over
the stream that passed before our
lodgings, and on the other side of that
bridge another crossed another canal
that ran perpendicular

in my mind cobblestones, canals and
bridges incontrovertibly led to fairy
tales, around me I foresaw, in the
pregnant darkness of our secluded
street, adventure, and I would be
its Alice in Wonderland

and verily there appeared, as though
like magic, right across from those
two bridges, two coffee shops and a
restaurant, my two essentials, nothing
else but moonlit buildings, otherwise
only bicycles loomed, and the
occasional pedestrian

of the two coffee shops I chose the
one that was the least pretentious,
seemed to me the least a nightspot,
though it had its own smoky den at
the back, as it turned out, where they
did indeed serve coffee, made friends
with Francesco and Danielo the first
night, who were easy and engaging,
as they rolled me some take-out coffee,
little trumpets of the best, of course,
Columbian, or something, enough for
a couple of days

further up the further street a neon
sign read “Radisson“, which was
perfect, we wouldn’t have to look
for dinner, a noted hotel is always
an excellent place to find fine fare

and that night that’s all we wanted

we weren’t disappointed, the room
was nigh empty, the service right, and
the delicacies good enough to come
back for seconds, which we did

later as we walked home churchbells
rang the late hour, soon, they tolled, Read the rest of this entry »

my Amsterdam, December 29, 2013‏

Amsterdam 071

The Amsterdam Canal Apartments


our trip from Bruges to Amsterdam was
circuitous, instead of a direct, unimpeded
journey, something that, incredibly I
thought, wasn’t even up for sale between
these two significant cities, we were made
to change trains in both Antwerp and
Rotterdam, with too long a wait at one,
and too short at the other, too brief to
tote comfortably our luggage there
such an inconvenient distance

I perspired, Mom worried about my heart,
not to mention my irascible impatience

Amsterdam Centraal was a replay of the
fall of Saigon, but with just a little bit more
order, a cab driver took our bags and crept
along the overflowing Friday night streets
and their contiguous, oddly moderating
canals, placid, constant, immutable, to
our, as they say in Europe, pied-à-terre

only a walk away from the train station,
I gathered, not carrying our luggage of
course, about the spot where the driver
dropped us off, the rest of the pertinent
city must be consequently nearby, I
supposed, as indeed it was

the driver put our bags on the
cobblestones, he’d driven up one
side of the canal, crossed a bridge
and returned along the one way
other, and stopped before our
own gingerbread house
, scrunched
up between several others, our host,
the owner’s representative, who’d
been waiting on the stoop later than
our proposed arrival hour was gentle,
gracious, efficient and helpful, but
spoke essentially maybe seven words
of English, just Spanish, being from
Venezuela, and Dutch

could we blame him

would we expect our host to speak
Dutch in Canada if we couldn’t speak
its English, I asked Mom, who’d, out
of surely the day’s distress, I decried,
was resorting to peevish indignation

I enunciated all of my concerns
throughout to our ever attentive squire,
repeated my words carefully, spoke
them ever louder, one by ardent one,
pointed, spread out my arms, became
a back-up act performing grandly my
own instructions

all, I commend, were met eventually

let me help change the beds, I offered,
he’d had to set up for a mother and son
rather than the more connubial pair he’d
expected, no, he replied, or something
similar that I could comprehend, and
wouldn’t hear of it in any language

he gave us the keys, after which we
could rest, and did, until two days later,
not including nearby dinners, of course,

the place was what you would expect
of a gingerbread house, beams, uneven
corners, but spotless and ready to take
on our colours, long instead of wide, a
Dutch particularity, with all the up to the
minute conveniences

there was however no bath, but a
generous shower stall I could easily live
with, and gloriously did for that month

outside a few cars were parked by the
barges, homes some of them, along the
canal, another canal ran perpendicular
to it away from us between two rows of
houses lined each with their tree, also,
incidentally, their garbage, but that’s
another story

it was night already, everywhere street
lights twinkled, as did their glistening
reflections on the onyx water

on the quarter hour church bells rang

dreams, they tolled, and told over and
over again, were possible


my Amsterdam, November 7, 2013‏

    Canal in Amsterdam - Claude Monet

                                      Canal in Amsterdam(1874) 

                                          Claude Monet
in the morning we sit by the large
paned double windows that frame
the masterpiece that sits before our
eyes, beyond a little cement and
wrought iron bridge that crosses
our canal another canal runs 
perpendicular and away from us
between a row on either side of 
trees, their leaves pale yellow
mostly, from late fall, with patches
here and there, like incidental
brushstrokes, of less vivid, or
weathered, if you like, greens 
cobblestone paths along either bank,
charming but precarious, serve
pedestrians, cyclists in their dozens,
and the occasional adventurous car 
willing to tackle the more lackadaisical
pace and unpredictability of bicycles,
people and everywhere watery
roadblocks, Renaissance gingerbread
houses hold the fort on either side of
the canvas, geometrically ceding to,
and doing a master class in,
in the distance, of course, the obligatory
steeple, infallably sounding on the quarter
this morning a flight of what looked
to me like doves, so I’ll call them
doves, to touch up anyway with white
and peaceful thoughts my story, cast
magic by fretting in flocks vertiginously
between the parallel lines of trees, just 
ahead of our front row seats   
a symphony, I said to my mom, though
for the birds it must’ve been tumultuous,
a  rash, maybe, anthropomorphismbut
their tumult has only ever translated for
me as immutably grace
people were taking pictures with their
smartphones, whirling skyward to the
avian poetry
we counted our blessings as we 
breakfasted on coffee, bread and
later we’re off to the Rijksmuseum 
to witness other visual wonders