Richibi’s Weblog

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Tag: Beethoven

how to listen to music if you don’t know your Beethoven from your Bach, XII – on rhapsodies 

Rhapsody, 1958 - Hans Hofmann

   Rhapsody (1958) 

           Hans Hofman 

                       _____

 

if, in my last instalment, I compared iconic

funeral marches, let me do the same for

a couple of iconic rhapsodies, another 

musical form that came and went, that’s

come and gone, but not forgotten

what’s a rhapsody

as far as I can make out, it’s much the 

same as a fantasia, if you can remember 

what a fantasia is, a free form composition, 

but with a Romantic, which is to say a 

heartfelt, twist, more pathos, less 

technical wizardry

 

Gershwin wrote his Rhapsody in Blue 

in 1924, you can hear New York, Times 

Square, Broadway, from the first wail 

of the languid horn

 

Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme

of Paganini, written in 1934, ten years 

later, gives you, however, Vienna, its 

Romantic Period, the traditions of, 

a century earlier, Beethoven, Schubert 

 

Rachmaninov is personal, introspective,

tragic, Gershwin is extroverted, social, 

fun

 

Rachmaninov looked back to his 

European, Old World, traditions, 

Gershwin augurs an entirely new 

voice 

 

listen, you can hear it 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard   

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

bits

 

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

listening

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

art in a time of crisis

prelude-to-alice-1955.jpg!Large

     “Prelude to Alice (1955) 

 

         Charles Blackman


               __________

 


in all the fallout from the very early 

reactions still to the present global 

crisis, self-isolation, a retreat from 

the, not only usual but consolidating, 

aspects of our communal interactions, 

there remain effective manners of 

dealing with this sea, this profoundly 

existential, change we are viscerally

experiencing

 

a social animal is being asked to 

eschew – Gesundheit – social contact, 

this is not an inconsequential ask

 

religions might’ve earlier been common

recourses for many believers, but the 

restrictions on assembly are already

impeding such solutions, we are left,

therefore, to find personal answers to 

our prescribed isolation – what do I do 

with my time, how do I subsist when 

my supports are disintegrating 

 

let me suggest immersion in the lessons

art has bequeathed us through the ages

 

it isn’t a bad time to review, for instance,,

the majesty of Homer’s Iliad, Ovid’s 

Metamorphoses, his interpretation of 

the origin of the world, its genesis, 

Shakespeare’s tragedies, Beethoven’s

transcendental music, since many of us 

are confined to our homes

 

rather than rue, bristle, use our time, I

suggest, to contemplate, learn, discover 

 


in looking for flowers recently, for a 

friend who’s undergone her own 

private agony, unrelated to the 

recent international medical crisis,

I fell upon, again, the magical 

inventions of this utterly inspired 

painter

 

like many other, even celebrated, even 

revered, artists, this, however insulated,

however apparently isolated, visionary,

with the strength of his inspiration, 

gives weight to the power of mere 

poetic passion, a thrust towards what

is thought of as beautiful, however

individual, suggesting that each our 

own aesthetic is of value, when

fervently followed, pursued,

check him out


meanwhile, I’m learning to sing, creating 

a repertoire, what have I got to lose

 


R ! chard

 


 


 

“Années de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year – Liszt

petrarch.jpg!Large

     “Petrarch (c.1450) 

 

           Andrea del Castagno


                     ___________

 

 

                                    for John, who would’ve 

                                                       been 60 today

 


though the suite might’ve started with

Bach’s string of dance pieces in the 

early 18th Centuryit becomes evident 

during the 19th Century, after a lapse 

of nearly 100 years, while it fell into 

disfavour, that its resurrection as a 

valid musical form might’ve kept the 

original structure, which is to say its 

several separate parts to make up a 

whole, its movements, but that it 

now was serving different purpose 

 

where music had, through to the early

Romantic Period, followed dance 

rhythms, or variations of tempo,

adagio, andante, allegro, and the like,

it now presented itself as a background

for settings, be it ballets, as in

Tchaikovsky’s, plays, as in Edvard

Grieg’s celebrated , Peer Gynt Suite“,

after Ibsen‘s eponymous play,

specific locations, as in Debussy’s

Children’s Corner“, or more  

expansively, both geographically

and in its compositional length,

these very “Années de pèlerinage” 

of Liszt

 

this is in keeping with the exploration

of consciousness of that era, which 

would lead to not only Impressionism, 

but to Freud, and the others, and the 

development of psychoanalysis

 

you’ll note that music seems much 

more improvisational in Liszt than in

Chopin, or Beethoven, prefiguring

already even jazz, more evocative,

less emotional, more personal, not

generalized, idiosyncratic, a direct

development of the newly acquired

concept of democracy, one man, at

the time, one vote, one, indeed, 

voice, however individual, however 

even controversial 

 

listen, for instance, to Liszt’s “Années

de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year, Italy 

 

   1. Sposalizio

   2. Il penseroso

   3. Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa 

   4. Sonetto 47 del Petrarca 

   5. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca 

   6. Sonetto 123 del Petrarca 

   7. Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia Quasi Sonata 

 

 

today you can listen to suites 

from famous films, for instance 

Blade Runner“, the beat, in 

other words, goes on

 

but note the renovations, find them, 

dare you, you’ll be surprised at 

your unsuspected perspicacity

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard  

on the third day of C***mas

les-musiciens-1952

   “Les musiciens (1952) 

 

        Nicolas de Staël

 

           ___________

 

on the third day of C***mas, I needed to 

ready myself for the onslaught, I was 

hosting, yikes, for someone from out

of town

 

I thought I’d had it all figured out, but 

obstacles occurred, of course, to my, 

nearly cowed, consternation

 

needed help

 

I’d anticipated more violin concertos 

to get me going, but, among my 

several bookmarks, King Crimson

came up, a group I’d admired 

tremendously in my formative years,

the 70s, when freedom of expression

prevailed, in all of its innocent

expectations

 

they are tremendous, if you like that 

sort of thing, entirely progressive 

rock

 

you’ll think me eccentric if I relate 

them to Classical considerations, not 

only are they rigorous about tempo, 

tonality, and repetition, essential 

Classical components, but reach 

further into even tribal configurations,

their minimalism – later formalized by,

incidentally, Beethoven – of infinitely

repeated rhythms, like thumping, 

intoxicating, essentially, thrusts,

heartbeats meeting heartbeats, very, 

in other words, primitiveprimeval

 

add to that, later, their superimposed 

atonal riffs – Jimi Hendrix meets the 

jungle – a direct reference to 

Schoenberg‘s breakdown of the 

orthodoxy of the musical scale, and

cadence, and reiteration, you’re left 

with a history of our culture’s sonic

aspirations in a single incandescent

concert, despite a couple of egregious 

commercial interruptions in the

download, a 21st-Century, it seems, 

corporate roadblock

 

watch, enjoy 

 

 

R ! chard

“Grand Piano Sonata” in G major, opus 37 – Tchaikovsky

blossoming-almond-branch-in-a-glass-with-a-book-1888(1).jpg!Large.jpg

  “Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass with a Book (1888)

       Vincent van Gogh

             __________

if Tchaikovsky’s 2nd Piano Sonata hasn’t
remained in the canon, if it isn’t one of 
the pieces you’ve heard if only through
the grapevine, it’s, I suspect, cause it’s 
essentially not an advance on other more 
prescient works in the form, other more 
oracular compositions

Beethoven had paved the way for the 
Romantic Period, nearly invented it,
established incontrovertibly the 
dimensions of the sonata, notably its 
purpose, its structure, Schubert had, 
however belatedly, confirmed it, with 
works equal to his, and even, here 
and there, superior, listen

but having reached the summit of 
what a sonata could say, the form 
little by little withered in its several
Romantic permutations, Tchaikovsky
here, for example, and became mere
elaborations upon a waning theme 
rather than exciting, and revelatory, 
productions 

the sonata would survive, but  
transformed by another era, 
Impressionism, Tchaikovsky would
as well, of course, but not through 
his sonatas

his Second, however, is not not 
worth a listen, would you pass, 
for instance, on a less celebrated
perhaps, van Goghsee above

Tchaikovsky’s, therefore, Second

 
R ! chard

Piano Sonata in C# minor, opus 80 – Tchaikovsky

the-sonata-1.jpg!Large

The Sonata 

              Childe Hassam

                     ___________

                            for Sarah and Rachel, the daughters
                              of the son of a dear cousin, after a 
                                belated lunch recently, two young 
                                  girls14, 16, in bloom, as Proust 
                                    would say, who speak not only 
                                      music, but French and English,
                                        fluently, I checked – perhaps   
                                          even German, their Oma  
                                            lives with them – they also  
                                              play the flute, the piano,    
                                                and sing, what could be
                                                  I ask you, more beautiful,  
                                                   two young girls ibloom, 
                                                     indeed in very blossom   
                                        
                               or am I being too French
 
the form of the sonata had been established 
decisively during the Classical Period, out 
of the rudiments of Bach’s own such pieces
Mozart and Haydn had given the concept its 
final shape, its structure, three or four 
contrasting movements, by definition all 
entertainments

Beethoven kicked the entertainment part 
right out of the ball park, made his show 
into a veritable transcendental meditation, 
rather than to merely applaud, audiences 
gasped, were meant to be awed, as I still 
ever am by his musical speculations

but by definition as well, a sonata is a 
piece for a single instrument, therefore
inherently introspective, whether the 
player has an audience or not, soloists, 
note, play easily on their own

even an accompanied sonata, as violin
sonatas often are, for instance, or this 
one for two pianos, would lose the 
intimacy of a solo piece, for having 
someone playing, however compatibly, 
over one’s shoulder  

in other words, a piano sonata is, by
definition, a monologue, a soliloquy,
where notes tell the story that words 
would intimately, even confessionally,
in poetry, convey

the emotions that are elicited from 
a piece are as real as they would 
be from any literary alternative, 
except that they’re quickened, like 
aromas, through the senses, rather 
than through divisiveby definition 
confrontational, logic

rosemary reminds me always, for 
instance, of one of my departed 
aunts, like the taste of a madeleine 
dipped in tea opened the door for 
Proust to an entire earlier epoch, 
the seed, the subject, of his 
disquisition on Time, À la 
recherche du temps perdu“, An 
Exploration into Elapsed Time“, 
my own translation, none of the 
published proffered titles   
having rendered the subtlety  
of the shimmering original
  
rosemary, in other words, speaks,
if even only to me

listen to Tchaikovsky’s First Piano
Sonata, in C# minor, opus 80, one
of only two of his, what do you 
hear, think, feel


R ! chard

First Symphony, “Winter Dreams”, opus 13 – Tchaikovsky

Tchaikovsky_6.jpeg

 Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1866)

            ______

                               for Elizabeth, who said she’d  
                                “be all ears once it happens“, 
                                     this first of my Tchaikovskys
                                               
the example of Beethoven was 
a hard act to follow, no one 
nearby, which is to say, in the
vicinity of Vienna, which had 
ruled the musical world for 
more than half a century, from 
Mozart to late Beethoven, 
would be able to match his 
eminence, not even the, 
however mighty, Brahms 

but in the East a star was born, in
1840, of extraordinary dimensions,
to tower above the High Romantic 
period, which shone with, were it 
not for its distance from the 
European central galaxy,  
comparable brightness  

Beethoven had written for every
instrument, every combination 
of instruments, every voice, 
every combination of voices, 
no other composer had, nor 
has since, done that but the 
incandescent Tchaikovsky
who’d ever ‘a’ thunk it

symphonies, concertos, string
quartets, sonatas, variations, 
ballets, operas, liturgical 
pieces, there wasn’t anything 
he didn’t touch, and transform 
into magic

here‘s an early work, his Opus 13
only, in order to get chronological 
perspective, and, as I pursue this 
compelling trajectory, a sense of  
his musical evolution, his First
Symphony, “Winter Dreams”*

listen for troikas flying across 
the steppes, hear the bells tingle 
from their fleeting carriages, be 
swept away by the exhilarating 
majesty


R ! chard

Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra,
      Joshua dos Santos, conductor

“Lament From Epirus” – Christopher King

breakfast-of-a-blind-man-1903.jpg!Large.jpg

   “Blind Man’s Portion (1903) 

          Pablo Picasso

                ________

though you’ll have to actively listen 
to Christopher King rather than 
merely hear him hereas you might 
have been doing with many of my 
suggested musical pieces, should 
you be at all interested in the history 
of music, he is fascinatingdates his 
investigations back millennia to very 
Epirus, Ancient, nearly primordial, 
Greece, to mirologia there, ancient 
funerary chants

some have survived, and have been 
recorded for posterity, onein 1926, 
by Greek exile fled to New York City,
Alexis Zoumbas, a year laterhowever 
improbably, by an Americanblind 
man, his own story inspirational, akin 
to that of Epictetus, one of the two 
iconic Stoic philosophers, the other,
incidentally, an emperorthough the 
blind man here, Willie Johnson, was 
never himself slave, but only, by a 
historical whisker, the emancipations 
of the American Civil War


Christopher King‘s comparison
of an Epirotic miralogi with an 
American one brings up, for me,
the difference between Mozart 
and Beethoven, notice how the
Willie Johnson version is more
rhythmic, the cadence is much 
more pronounced than in the 
Greek one, Johnson would’ve
got that from the musical 
traditions Europeans had 
brought over from their native 
continent, probably also from
Africa, Africans

Beethoven would’ve been 
surroundedmeanwhile, by Roma, 
perhaps called gypsies then, their 
music ever resonant in his culture, 
not to mention later Liszt‘s, and 
the Johann Strausses’ even, for 
that matter, Paganini also seems 
to have been imbued with it, it 
having come up from Epirus 
through, notably, Hungary – not 
to mention, later still, that music’s 
influenceand I’ll stop there, on
late 19th-Century Brahms


Christopher King, incidentally,
sounds a lot like someone you 
already know, I think, from his 
eschewing Gesundheit – cell 
phones, for instance, to his 
enduring preoccupation with 
death, not to mention his 
endearing modesty, indeed 
his humility, his easy 
self-deprecationdespite his,
dare I say, incontestable, and 
delightful, erudition

makes one wonder why that 
other hasn’t become also 
famous yet

what do you think


R ! chard

Sonata for Violin and Piano in F minor, BWV 1018 – Bach

four-amateur-of-prints.jpg!Large.jpg

    “Four Devotees of Prints

            Honoré Daumier

                __________

up at the crack of about nine this 
morning, I determined to get the 
ordeal of trying to print 
something out of the way, go 
over to my mom’s, a few blocks 
down the street, to use her  
printer, something I figured  
would probably present obstacles

though we followed the proposed
instructions, nothing would work,
print, pressed, delivered nothing

hoops were required, several of 
which I managed, got closer, and  
more prepped, but when they 
essentially seemed to contract
marriage, I withdrew – though I 
might‘ve inadvertently sworn a 
ring

flummoxed, even irritated, by 
the manufactured distress, I
determinedly decided to go 
back to paper, I am not a robot, 
I ascertain, as they often 
electronically instruct, to, 
mean really, confirm your 
identity


back home, I lit a candle for Collin, 
my friend, who ‘s just had a 
debilitating stroke, and listened to
Bach again, an absolute cradle

listen to how falling into the 
rhythmic pocket, beats landing  
on anticipated beats in a rocking 
motion, lets you slip into surrender, 
and even physical, solace 

hear, however, how the lingering 
notes of the violin transgress bar
lines, much like with Beethoven
in order to tell a more personal
story

Bach gets to look a lot more like
Beethoven every minute, or the 
reverse, I’m finding, like 
grandchildren resembling, atom 
for atom, their grandparents

stay tuned, there’s a lot more
to uncover 


R ! chard