Friday, January 27, 2017

Publicly Funded Artists as Government "Attack Pets" - Stefan Molyneux

Now Stefan is a jabber box and can talk and talk and talk before delivering his punchline, but in the meantime he is saying some of those things that really and honestly need to be said.  Whose responsibility was it for any of the Impressionist painters to challenge the "system" that existed at that time?  It was they themselves.  They went out there and certainly found their paying audience.  Ever wonder why there are so many paintings of little girls by Renoir?  Because he got paid to do them.  He got a reputation for it and he earned his living thereby.  The others had their struggles, but that is what makes true artists and true art apparently.  

My oldest and dearest friends are among musicians and artists of various kinds.  But they all manage pretty much to make a living on their own without too much public money required.  Frankly, a lot of them may be alienated from society and that's why they're artists.  There were according to a psychologist friend of mine from another lifetime ago, certain unhappy people in this world for which normal human life would often be a great burden; artists, psychics, homosexuals and mystics.  These people may or may not have other disabilities.  A huge percentage of the public suffers innumeracy as well as illiteracy and more than you think can't possibly write by now because of the technical devices we all use.  Imagine losing the ability to write or never having learned, but knowing enough about how to use texting to get away with it.  There are such people, I assure you. 

Of course, if artists really want to be artists, they have to figure out how best to get attention and to sell their work.  That goes for composers too.  How do arts and artists survive?  I think the first question any artist needs to honestly ask is whether their art is actually any good at all.  Can anything they think they're accomplishing actually stack up favorably against known masterpieces in whatever their field of art happens to be.  If you are copying or extracting from someone else of known fame and caliber, or some school that you might happen to like, will it seem to the people who know the market for such artifacts that your efforts are mere affronts to that original school?  Where there is anything less than some kind of objectification, even of arts and artistic mastery, then matters of artistic value are pretty impossible to value.

If there is any objective reality, and I assure everyone that life itself would be impossible without it, then any artistic venture has its necessary risks and where there are none or where patronage is wanton or proscribed for some political objective of the state paying for the art ... then frankly, a lot of trash is the usual result.  How can one tell the difference?  VERY easy.  If one hears someone play the piano or a guitar or sings or dances or has painted pictures or made sculpture or made anything of any known artistic product, the question is one of enjoyment: I liked that, I want to hear more of that, I enjoyed seeing that, I would be willing to travel many hundreds of miles from home to experience that.  You know what's artistic and makes money?  Summer arts festivals at all possible levels.  The most monetarily successful tell one the true state of most people's willing artistic tastes.  

Of course, if one really wants to plan ahead, one will need economic lifeboats.  We need a concerted effort to get this project off the ground as it is to ultimately make public funding for most things obsolete: HERE.

Be seeing you.           

Saturday, January 21, 2017

The State of Beethoven's Piano Concertos

In the world of classical music, some concerts can be recent and have happened 20 years ago. We'll hope to be more recent, but some things are pillars of the musical universe simply because they are indispensable. Beethoven is universal because we have periods in our own lives when we are young, when we are middle aged, when we are no longer young, etc. and he speaks to all those aspects of our lives so well. All that is truly and intimately humanly possible in Western musical terms Beethoven accomplished with surprising eloquence which is still appreciated today. Here we'll bring to attention some recent extraordinary performances.
First Martha Argerich plays Piano Concerto No. 1 in C major, Opus 15 which he wrote when he was a young man of 26 or 27 and just beginning to have the first premonitions of his coming deafness. Arguably Argerich plays this as well as it can possibly be done, especially the second movement, which she sings along with the orchestra. The piano chosen is a Steinway D with a remarkably sweet tone. The cadenzas she uses are extended. The one to the third movement sounds familiar, the one for the first movement did not. This appeared in July of 2014 but probably dates from 2009 with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe.
Second Martha Argerich plays Piano Concerto No. 2 in B flat major, Opus 19 which Beethoven wrote when he was between 17 and 19 years old and probably in Bonn, published after the first, so it became the second. In any event he gave it its first performance in Vienna when he was 24. It was a dazzling piece for a young man to play, many dashing episodic passages, most of it very young and lighthearted with a serious middle movement Argerich arguable again plays as well as it could ever be done. This performance from the 2009 season at Verbier Festival & Academy. Notice again the way Argerich sings the phrases in ways uncommon to most Beethoven playing, very effective all the way through. She has a nice Steinway D here as well: thinking it is in fact the same piano. Do I like the tone of this piano? Yes, indeed I do. She uses extended cadenzas here as well.
Third the Piano Concerto No. 3 in c minor, Opus 37 which dates from when Beethoven was rounding 30 years old and he himself introduced it to the world in his 33rd year. Here we hear from Fazil Say, building a reputation as one of the strong pianists of the day. He plays this with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra and this was placed on line in 2015, so the performance could have been very recent. The cadenza is very extended and unknown and might even be Say's own. He almost wants to make the link between Beethoven and Chopin or others of the romantics. It's effective and demonstrates Say's technique well. We have noticed the care and spirit given to playing the slow movements in these works and that's the case here as well. We have our modern pianos to thank for much of this; greater dynamics and sustain. They are capable of really singing the lines that Beethoven could have only imagined with the pianos available at his time; much of the power and depth of this music would have to wait until after Chopin had lived and died before we'd see modern pianos, imagine.
The fourth is, as many know my personal favorite among these pieces. For those who know it well, how about a chamber effort? Here is the Piano Concerto No. 4 in G major, Opus 58 which Beethoven wrote in 1805-6 when he was 35 or 36 but was first heard in public in one of the most important first concerts in all musical history. It took place on 22 December, 1808, as Beethoven turned 38. It marked his last appearance as soloist and certainly he was going deaf by then. It was at this concert that this concerto as well as his fifth and sixth symphonies and the Choral Fantasy were all played in one marathon performance for the ages at Vienna's Theater an der Wien, which dates from 1801 and still stands. We hear it here in a performance for piano and chamber strings, an arrangement by Vinzenz Lachner, performed at St. James's Paddington, London, probably soon before it appeared here in 2015. (We'd usually like to give performers credit where possible. Names were not posted as to who played what)
Beethoven's fifth piano concerto was later given the name “Emperor” which is superfluous. Anyway here is Seong-Jin Cho playing it with the Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra. Yes, Beethoven's music is very popular in the far east. Here then is Piano Concerto No. 5 in E flat major“Emperor”, Opus 73 which Beethoven wrote in Vienna between 1809 and 1811. Beethoven turned 40 in 1810 the year both Chopin and Schumann were born. This concerto was first performed by Beethoven's patron and pupil, Archduke Rudolf (yes, nobles could and did play pianos and violins back then) on 13 January 1811 at the Palace of Prince Joseph Lobkowitz in Vienna, followed by a public concert later that year on 28 November at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig under Johann Philipp Christian Schulz, the soloist being Friedrich Schneider. This concerto remains one of those pieces that honestly if you manage to hear nothing else at a live classical music performance, it will really make an impression. Of course most of Beethoven's greatest works certainly give one an unforgettable impression when heard live; something like, “I can't believe it's real,” or something fathoms deeper is the usual result. Beethoven frequently surprises one with, “Gee, I had no idea he was so great,” or “after all, he was Beethoven.”