Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Thirteenth Interview - Aware and Bugging In

Well, Hello!
How are you?
Not sure, to tell the truth.
What's New?
Not sure anything is.
What's been bugging you?
Maybe it's a kind of slow burn out. But on another level, it's been like a slow burn, like I'm smoldering just on the point of fire, but it's all just under the surface.
What have you been doing?
Following the real time reality show America Pick A President 2016 and its aftermath.
You know, I'd have preferred not to pay any attention at all.
So what got your attention?
What most got my attention were the allegations regarding ritual satanic child abuse and satanic rituals among people in high places. Everything else really pales in comparison. I had personal awareness of this issue from the 1980's when I was living in New York City. It is very real.
OK. So, you decided to step out of the …
I decided to vote for Trump. He's not perfect, but we can and will put his feet to the fire and already he seems fully aware of the real divide and everyone expects him to act quickly accordingly.
You are basing this on what?
Let's put it this way, I never knew my father in law who was a famous builder in New York; he was responsible for building some big projects there. His mother owned and ran their company. I'm certain she knew Trump's father. All the personal allegations against him I knew to be lies, totally false, libelous and trash talking. I knew so because of direct personal contacts I had with his employees long before we ever heard of him running; they all highly respected him. In fact the level of loyalty I encountered everywhere regarding Trump was and is surprising anywhere but especially in New York.
You have more to say about this? (Didn't think it important)
Well, I just have never seen the like in my life. Trump's performances before the public have been nothing short of astounding. He seems to run almost without script, he hasn't much of one anyway, and is the only politician I can ever remember asking his audience to love him, to love this country, etc.
Well, so what? (mild disgust showing)
I guess we're all so jaded that love for much of anything seems …
To have grown cold? Yes we know. So what are you hot about?
Well, you know I was cursed with a mission; to get people to start using other money. I seem to have been spending as much time writing on this subject here and watching the present system trying to survive or scheduling its next inevitable crash on the next president's watch, while meanwhile for the last 25 years the whole economy has sucked, unless you were lucky enough to catch a trend and even then it was very short lived. Where's the economic traction? There isn't any. I have some pity for those of my grandchild's generation, if we don't have something better.
Don't you trust Trump? (derisive tone)
Trust him to do what? To fix what cannot be fixed? No. I voted for him only because the other candidate was criminally objectionable. But nobody deserves any trust that isn't earned. He's certainly no different in that regard than anyone else.
And music? (brighter tone)
Still Chopin and only Chopin. Looking forward to more practicing and might even have some piano students in the new year.
Well, that's encouraging.
I also renewed contact with Andrew Violette.
Oh? (More hopeful)
He's written a new symphony. It was difficult music but I honestly understood it. He's stuck to traditional forms and put them to a kind of kaleidoscopic or prismatic harmony with rapidly changing tonal centers so you don't ever quite know where you are and yet the entire thing is actually tonal. There are real melodies, real episodic development and some barely concealed slapstick and satirical gestures. Andrew seems as ever a composer who intends to get his audience to laugh. This may in fact be a quintessentially American contribution to formal composition. Other romantic composers can and do get their audiences to cry, sometimes from spellbound joy and other times for the suggestion of intense grief or profound sorrow. But few have set out to intentionally make their audiences laugh. I think it a very important detail worth mentioning.
Can we hear it too?
Why yes. It's here   Andrew calls it a Sonata but he's being modest. It even has four movements, is of appreciable length and I think/hope that it becomes known as his First Symphony and may he write many more. I bet each one following this one will be even more tonal than this one. It's a kind of trajectory he might be taking.

You think there is anyone who could play this?
Oh yes, there probably are people who could and the live performances of these kinds of things are even more revealing than mere recordings of the raw synthesized source sampled sounds at click rate tempi. I already advised Andrew to slow down the second movement enough so that the more vigorous figures that later show up in it stand out more. It's really a remarkably wonderful piece. I appreciated and applaud the wittiness and fun scattered throughout, and why not? Music should make us laugh some too.
So, any chance of Andrew and you teaming up on anything?
Nothing except for me promoting him as much as possible. There aren't many daring to do what he does these days, or for that matter as well as he does it.
OK, so what else is going on in your life?
Well, I have had a budding partnership that may have just died on the vine, we'll see.
What can you tell us?  Come on, how do you really feel about her?
I will always love her. I cannot not love her in fact. When I love, I love for keeps. But that doesn't mean one can keep what one cannot have for whatever reasons. Love is real. Elections, no matter how intensely fought -and this one was probably the most intense I have ever seen- cannot ultimately separate us from those we truly love.
Are you sure?
I certainly hope so. There ARE good people everywhere. Everyday life usually confirms this. Life does and will go on.
Do you feel better?
A little.
Good. I'm sure that time will heal all.
I sure hope so. Thank-you.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The First Mozart / JC Bach Concertos K107

Johann Christian (JC) “John” Bach 1735-1782 47 years
This article refers to Mozart's three keyboard /piano concertos K107 which are NOT NUMBERED among the usual order of his 27 concertos. These were sometimes called Divertimenti: diversions. This music was actually intended to be background music for events held by the well to do or nobility. As the eighteenth century rolled along toward the French revolution, this was “society” for everyone from the nobility down through the higher castes of the growing middle class towns-people. The peasants and poor might watch from a distance or be employed as porters or servants. Mozart and Bach would have been accorded a slightly better than servant status.

So Mozart wrote for one keyboard or more and accompaniment, exactly 30 concertos. One has to start somewhere, even if one is talented and more importantly, diligent. The reason we have things is because others who went before us managed to work hard enough at it to set it all down on paper for someone else to come upon and adopt for their own use. We are fortunate at all to have these as windows through which to view the best of times past.

These pieces began as elaborate keyboard sonatas. Well, they may have been quite different in their originals. Why don't we find out? The three we are interested in are the 2nd, 3rd and 4th. J.C. Bach (son of J.S. Bach) who was known as the London Bach or John Bach wrote six sonatas for his Opus 5 which was published in 1765. Amazingly, if you wanted you could get a photocopy online of the original publication and study these works directly from that score. There are probably better available as well. Such as this one.

Johann Christian Bach 6 Sonatas Op 5 [1765], Sophie Yates Harpsichord

Sophie Yates does yeoman work here: these are great performances. She's playing one of the large two keyboard five octave French/Flemish harpsichords. They didn't have pianos in wide use in the early 1760's when these pieces were written or in the 1770's when Mozart turned three of them into his concertos. They had harpsichords. Listen to these at a comfortable volume, not too loud and realize that this was probably as loud as anyone can hear this music. Even so, in Mozart's creations after some of these works, you can almost hear in places the desire of a keyboard instrument with more sustain.. It makes some difference. You'll be able to tell right away the difference between nearly ancient and modern, because the pianos we use now would have seemed stupendous to Mozart. But we're not there yet. First we hear them all with harpsichord, and they're still way ahead of what we've just heard, especially the last sonata in a minor key which harkens back to the styles of John Bach's father's era..

First we have all three of them played by a complement of strings and harpsichord.

WA Mozart - Three Piano Concertos after J.C. Bach, K. 107 [complete]
Tom Koopman and the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra
Now what happens when we substitute a piano for a harpsichord? You see, this was about the time when the transition was under way between the two instruments, and we would still have to wait until the 1850's before we'd finally have the modern grand piano with cast iron plate, etc. and by that time both Beethoven and Chopin had passed. All of Mozart, almost longingly looks forward to the greater possibilities for sustain of the modern piano. We are indeed blessed to have all of this music and to be able to hear it right now.

Finding performances of these with piano rather than harpsichord proved difficult. Here's one that demonstrates very well the sonic differences between the latest greatest harpsichords that we've just heard with the first real piano-fortes which were all wood framed and had far less volume as they were very much lighter strung and the actions were much smaller direct blow actions with smaller hammers, etc. Nevertheless, especially in the cadenza, you can see the future of pianism anticipating Beethoven demonstrated.

Mozart, Piano Concerto after J.C. Bach K107 #1 Allegro
David Owen Morris and Sonnerie from 2007

We're suggesting of course that what's required is a revisit of these concertos using modern instruments and modern performance techniques. We'd expect the effect to be stunningly sleek and in places ultra-modern. Surprising.  Oh, and it seems if you look for them, all three are available on line for nothing.  Someone should get busy. LOL.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

George Winston - December

It's always been one of my favorite albums and I play it around this time of year as it fits everything so well.  Enjoy!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Camille Saint-Saëns Second Symphony

This peculiarly delightful work was written in 1959, the same year as his opera Sampson and Dalila. The composer was just 24 years old.

There were perhaps calls for orchestras to champion new material occasionally, usually but not always from someone none had heard before. Well, we have heard of this fellow, the Frenchman with the difficult name.

Cah-MEEL San Soen. The two tiny n's are barely pronounced.  He was really quite clever and gifted. Listen to the fleet or perhaps sleek orchestration he comes up with. The emotions are intended to be picturesque rather than very intense or deep, but we have an excellent group here and they catch every little playful trick. Their orchestral tone is exquisite throughout. They have captured the playfulness of what Saint-Saëns – as academic as it is in most instances – was still quite capable. We have the St. Paul Minnesota Chamber Orchestra under Thomas Zehetmair to thank. This work would make a splendid opening work on any modern orchestral program. The work is as follows:

Symphony No. 2 in A minor, Op. 55

1. Allegro marcato
2. Adagio
3. Scherzo. Presto
4. Prestissimo

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Saint-Saëns at 18 in 1853

Jean Martinon - Orchestre national l' O.R.T.

There are certain years in musical history where one can get a sense of the truly international character of the enterprise of making great music succeed. In the year 1855, Steinway & Sons was established in New York City, Johannes Brahms had written and published all three of his piano sonatas and was getting ready to take up with the Schumanns. Schumann himself was at the height of his powers. And in and around Paris, the young Camile Saint-Saëns, who certainly will figure in many pages of this blog, came upon the scene. 

He was in every way a remarkable prodigy. He was gifted with a great general intellect and a good long life, in fact one of the longest in professional music. He is often passed over because the quality and depth of his art are rarely appreciated.

That which was in every way French at the middle of the 19th century was featured in this work. Though much of it derives as said from Schumann and Mendelssohn, other ideas come from Beethoven, but the spaces inside the music, the depth, the scenic quality of the orchestral sound, all choirs neatly displayed and cleverly flanked against each other, all that is the uniqueness of Saint-Saëns.

The work is scored in four movements: 
1 - Adagio,allegro
2 - Marche,scherzo : Allegretto scherzando 
3 - Adagio 
4 - Finale : Allegro maestoso

Senses of immense spacial distances and vastness suggesting natural phenomena in light and air, especially in the third movement, though certainly derivative of Beethoven (his 9th symphony 3rd movement) are unique to Saint-Saëns.

We owe a tremendous thanks that this performance is up here. Now we need more people around the world to champion it. The last movement is very “national” and military. We will witness many pieces that fall into this category as we survey the music of Western civilization through the 19th into the 20th centuries.

This symphony closes with a climactic grand fugue. This symphony deserves a good solid revival!