CLASSICAL OPUS no.33

Arnold Schoenberg: “Piano Concerto op.42”

アーノルド・シェーンベルク:「ピアノ協奏曲op.42」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 21 minutes

This pioneering concerto is an openly impulsive attempt to reconcile atonality with romantic expression and even with traces of classical structure.  Its complexity is almost purgatory; it repeatedly crushes any expectations with its all-encompassing, visionary, cubist inventiveness.  Mitsuko Uchida’s testimony in the second video is priceless.

 

MUSIC

 

 

INFO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_Concerto_(Schoenberg)

 

A REFLECTION

I am not I

I am this one

Walking beside me whom I do not see

Whom at times I manage to visit

And whom at other times I forget

Who remains calms and silent while I talk

And forgives, gently when I hate

Who walks where I am not

Who will remain standing when I die

 

Juan Ramon Jimenez – “I Am Not I”

Published in: on November 28, 2018 at 4:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

CLASSICAL OPUS no.34

Hildegard von Bingen: “Symphonie”

ヒルデガルト・フォン・ビンゲン: 「交響曲」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 62 minutes

This emphatic, scintillating liturgy of unaltered, transparent fluidity comes from the most enigmatic of medieval figures.  She left behind hymns, psalms and sophisticated antiphonal textures (neither monophonic nor polyphonic), frequently broken down into small choruses.

It is so ironic that the most ancient composition in this series comes from a woman.  Over centuries, male control of musical creativity proved stronger and more enduring than in any other form of artistic expression.  Music had to wait till the 20th century to unleash on us the geniuses of Nadia Boulanger, Grażyna Bacewicz, Thea Musgrave, Sofia Gubaidulina, Kaija Saariaho, Pauline Oliveros or Karen Tanaka.  But how much of their work do you know?

 

MUSIC

 

INFO

https://sequentia.org/projects/hildegard.html

 

A REFLECTION

Hail, O greenest branch,

sprung forth in the airy breezes

of the prayers of the saints.

So the time has come

that your sprays have flourished:

hail, hail to you.

 

Hildegard von Bingen: “O Viridissima Virga”

Published in: on November 27, 2018 at 3:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

CLASSICAL OPUS no.35

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov: “Scheherezade op.35”

ニコライ・リムスキー ・ コルサコフ:「シェヘルザード37」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 52 minutes

This sonic fresco strikes as expansively maverick in its sedately sibilant solos, but the undulating imagery of open spaces remains forever compelling.  The composer manufactured a veritable pinnacle of symphonic synesthesia, but he did it in a starkly representational art form – a meticulous, graphic poem resonating with the sounds of the steppe.  Subversively, this Lansdschaft for our ears has remained lively and relevant, unlike, say, Sergei Bondarchuk’s long forgotten movies, which were intended as pictorial tributes to those endless vistas.

 

MUSIC

 

INFO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scheherazade_(Rimsky-Korsakov)

 

A REFLECTION

Night, snow and sand make the form

Of my slim fatherland

All silence is in its long line

All foam emerges from its marine beard

All coal fills it with mysterious kisses

 

Pablo Neruda: “Discoverers”

Published in: on November 26, 2018 at 3:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

CLASSICAL OPUS no.36

 

Maurice Ravel: “Pavane pour une enfante défunte”

モーリス・ラヴェル:「死んだ子供のためのパヴァネ」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 7 minutes

Nostalgic, artful and deceptively brittle, this poem nebulously envelops theme-less daydreams with pastel mirages and insistent rêveries.  But the forlorn bouquet offered by the brooding, patient orchestra is not laid on a funeral stone.  Rather, the composition was prompted by Velazquez’s canvas that still haunts us in one of El Prado’s most celebrated halls.

 

MUSIC

 

INFO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pavane_pour_une_infante_d%C3%A9funte

 

A REFLECTION

No worst, there is none.  Pitched past pitch of grief,

More pangs will, schooled at forepangs, wilder wring.

Comforter, where, where is your comforting?

Mary, mother of us, where is your relief?

My cries heave, herds-long; huddle in a main, a chief

Woe, wórld-sorrow; on an áge-old anvil wince and sing —

Then lull, then leave off.  Fury had shrieked ‘No lingering!

Let me be fell: force I must be brief.

 

Gerald Manley Hopkins: ”No worst, there is none.  Pitched past pitch of grief”

Published in: on November 25, 2018 at 2:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

CLASSICAL OPUS no.37

Sergei Prokofiev: “Peter and the Wolf”

セルゲイ・プロコフィエフ:「ピーターと狼」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 29 minutes

This playful, craftily eloquent carnival of diminutive forms utilizes elusively inventive melodicism and fingerpoints at a myriad of fancies.  The narrative style of the lowly born composer is made even more explicit in this recording by the conductor’s clumsily clobbered, yet elucidating commentary.

 

MUSIC

 

My Italian friend suggested also this hilarious version, starring Claudio Abbado with the inimitable Roberto Benigni (e non solo per quelli che capiscono l’italiano):

 

 

INFO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_and_the_Wolf

 

A REFLECTION

Despite the geologists’ knowledge and craft,

mocking magnets, graphs, and maps—

in a split second the dream

piles before us mountains as stony

as real life.

 

Wisława Szymborska: “Dreams”

Published in: on November 24, 2018 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

CLASSICAL OPUS no.38

Guillaume de Machaut – “Kyrie from Messe de Notre Dame”

ウィリアム・マカウト – 「キリスト・オブ・ア・レディー」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 7 minutes

This otherworldly and metaphysically desconsolate tapestry of plaintive themes gently bathes us in spiritual introspection.  What was the first polyphonic setting to a complete mass cycle emerges here masterfully intertwined in seductive isorhythms.  Timeless.

 

MUSIC

 

INFO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messe_de_Nostre_Dame

 

A REFLECTION

O let your mind and tongue

dwell among divine phrases

For God has given this reward for the

effort, a little light

even to see some hidden thing, or, best,

to be spurred on by the pure God’s

awesome commands.

 

Gregory de Nazianzus – “Poems on the genuine books of divinely inspired Scripture”

Published in: on November 23, 2018 at 2:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

CLASSICAL OPUS no.39

Camille Saint-Saëns: “Carnival of Animals”

カミーユサン=サーンス 「動物のカーニバル」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 27 minutes

This dreamy, meditative collection wafts almost hushed in its soothing quality.  Two parts engross us in particular: ‘Aquarium’ (at 10:50 mark) and ‘The Swan’ (22:23), with its sailing quality of aquatic expanses.  In this corner, Debussy was Saint-Saëns’ only competitor.  I enclosed two different ensemble versions.  Note the second video with Martha Argerich accompanied by an all-star crew in Japan.

Finally, for those still in search for lysergic nostalgia, there’s Clara Rockmore’s theremin version of ‘the Swan’.

 

MUSIC

 

INFO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Carnival_of_the_Animals

 

A REFLECTION

He who wants to do good knocks at the gate;

he who loves

finds the gate open.

 

Rabindranath Tagore – “Stray birds”

Published in: on November 22, 2018 at 2:46 pm  Leave a Comment  

CLASSICAL OPUS no.40

Alberto Ginastera: “Piano Concerto no.1, 4th movement”

アルベルト・ギナステラ:「ピアノ協奏曲第1番、第4楽章」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 6 minutes

From the start, we are confronted with a breathtakingly epileptic tumult, exercised with savage flamboyance.  Unlike most South America’s modern composers, Ginastera eschews here folk-derived traditionalism.  That could be attributed to the fact that he penned the concerto during his late, neo-expressionist period.

Incidentally, this piece is dated a couple of months beyond our 1950s cut-off, but I could not resist inserting it into the list, for some uniquely chauvinist reason.  Ginastera was buried in the same cemetery as Jorge Luis Borges, in Geneva.  They both died there in 1980s, like Arthur Rubinstein…

 

MUSIC

 

INFO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_Concerto_No._1_(Ginastera)

 

A REFLECTION

Happy are the beloved

Happy the lovers

And happy those who can do without love

Happy are the happy

 

Jorge Luis Borges: “Apocryphal Evangelist”

Published in: on November 21, 2018 at 12:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

CLASSICAL OPUS no.41

Fryderyk Chopin: “3rd sonata op.58, B minor”

フリードリヒ・ショパン:「第3ソナタop.58、マイナーB」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 9 minutes

This chameleonic riddle is renowned as a tour de force of labyrinthine dimensions.  A conglomerate of moods, alternatively sober and luminous, cogitative and lambent, alert and diffident, it never settles, unlike many other compositions written by this pianist.  Regrettably, we don’t have moving pictures here, but, hey, it’s Arthur Rubinstein’s recording.

 

MUSIC

 

INFO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_Sonata_No._3_(Chopin)

 

A REFLECTION

When I die, I will see the lining of the world

The other side, beyond bird, mountain, sunset

The True meaning, ready to be decoded

What never added up will add up

What was incomprehensible, will be comprehended.

 

Czesław Miłosz: “Meaning”

Published in: on November 20, 2018 at 1:51 pm  Leave a Comment  

CLASSICAL OPUS no.42

Isaac Albeniz: “Asturias”

イサク・アルベニス:「アストゥリアス」

 

TIME COMMITMENT: 6 minutes

The hasty, insolent, unnerving attacks are richly interspersed with pastoral vistas.  Feared as a challenging piece to play, this sonically nationalistic symbol ushered a century of European fascination with peninsular traditions.  Others would follow.

 

MUSIC

 

INFO

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asturias_(Leyenda)

 

A REFLECTION

White cloud stained by the blood

of the sun piercing the earth to be born again

in another world of its kingdom. 

White as the cloud, the spray of heavens,

celestial cumulus which waters the earth.

 

Published in: on November 19, 2018 at 2:04 pm  Leave a Comment