Private: Something Lost in Translation: Europeans Performing American Music for Europeans

Initial Comments

My experience in music is from the American perspective, so, given that the concert Eva and I attended was of American musical pieces performed in The Netherlands by European artists for Europeans, my comments may seem out of context or unfair. Nonetheless, I am bound to give my opinion, hoping that if I give offense my impertinence will at least be understood.

However critical of the production my words may seem, I give praise to the quality and professionalism of all performers involved, on 31 July, 2014 at the famed Concertgebouw Concert Hall in Amsterdam.

The Concert Hall

2014-07-30 Amsterdam-17

I have heard “Concertgebouw” throughout my life and never imagined I would visit this much-praised hall, but here I am in my latter years about to enter it (I did change into slightly more appropriate clothing).

In the café at the entrance, Eva and enjoyed a drink and a snack before the concert. On the walls overlooking the seated guests were large photographs of performers having appeared at Concertgebouw:

Cecilia Bartoli

Maria Callas

Riccardo Chailly

Miles Davis

Gustavo Dudamel

Ella Fitzgerald

Bernard Haitink

Thomas Hampson

Vladimir Horowitz

Janine Janson

Mariss Jansons

Jessye Norman

Sonny Rollins

Jaap von Zweden

I snapped this picture of the interior just before we were seated at the very front-right section, close to the stage.

The organ dominates the stage, but this is to be expected from a hall built 128 years ago

Because of its highly regarded acoustics, the Concertgebouw is considered one of the finest concert halls in the world, along with places such as Boston’s Symphony Hall and the Musikverein in Vienna.

The hall opened on 11 April 1888 with an inaugural concert, in which an orchestra of 120 musicians and a chorus of 500 singers participated, performing works of Wagner, Handel, Bach, and Beethoven. The resident orchestra of the Concertgebouw is the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, which gave its first concert in the hall on 3 November 1888.

The Main Hall seats 1,974, and is 44 metres (144 ft) long, 28 metres (92 ft) wide, and 17 metres (56 ft) high. Its reverberation time is 2.8 seconds without audience, 2.2 seconds with audience, making it ideal for the late Romantic repertoire such as Mahler. Though this characteristic makes it largely unsuited for amplified music, groups such as Led Zeppelin, The Who and Pink Floyd performed there in the 1960s. It hosts not only orchestral and operatic performances, but also jazz and world music. (Source).

The Program

Isabelle Georges

This was one of the Rebeco Summer Nights Concerts at Concertgebouw. Here’s a reproduction of the descriptive material:

Broadway’s Best: Conductor Fayçal Karoui is teaming up with vocalists Isabelle Georges and Frederik Steenbrink for this performance. (The orchestra was Orchestre Philharmonique Royal de Liège).

Tin Pan Alley, on the corner of Broadway and West 28th Street, was responsible for producing the songs at the heart of the Broadway Melodies, the unending flow  of well-known songs for musicals and films. It’s where composers like George Gershwin, Irving Berlin and  Jerome Kern laid the basis for the Broadway musical and the tradition of the great American song. With the arrival of talking pictures at the end of the 1920s, the musical moved to the silver screen and such films as 42nd Street and Singin’ in the Rain became popular, followed later by The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins. This in turn formed the basis  for the 1980s revival of the modern Broadway musical with composer such as Cy Coleman, Jerry Herman, and especially Stephen Sondheim, who, thanks to such hits as Send in the Clowns is known as the godfather of the modern musical.

Twenty-nine songs and medleys were presented (listed below). I was at a disadvantage in understanding how the selections may have fit into a general theme, or sets of themes. One or the other of the two main performers, the singers Georges and Steenbrink , spoke to the audience before every song, but neither Eva nor I understand the Dutch language. In looking over the program and in listening to the songs, most of which were familiar, I couldn’t discern what an overarching theme might be, other than a chronological recitation of Broadway songs.

There were three sets of performers: the two singers, the orchestra, and a jazz band. The latter consisted of percussion, piano, saxophone (alto, I think), and trumpet.

Frederik Steenbrink

Except for the pianist who was off to one side, the players in the jazz band sat in front of the orchestra with a transparent plastic partition behind the players, separating them from the orchestra and conductor. I assume it was to keep the music (and the hearing) of the small group from being overwhelmed by the orchestra. It was a visual distraction.

The jazz band did not play in all the pieces, but when they did play they were not convincing. The saxophone, in particular, was unimaginatively played; that is, without jazzy improvisation.  It could be that the notes were all scripted and therefore lacked spontaneity and spirit. The pianist was talented and roamed the keyboard widely (sometimes overly much), but as with the saxophonist, it seemed scripted and un-spontaneous. In general, any jazz band is at a disadvantage when on a stage in a large concert hall, especially when partnered with an orchestra. In my view, there should be one or the other on stage, not both.

The orchestra, in contrast, was convincing and well-led. I was particularly taken with their interpretation of music by George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein.

George Gershwin / Leonard Bernstein

The program was divided into to two sessions, with a pauze in between. I sensed that the two singers, who were the primary focus of the concert, did not fully connect with the audience until the last two pieces of of the first session: “Send in the Clowns” and a medley from West Side Story. This could be, in part, that the earlier songs were of the older vintage. This is where I felt the program was weakest. Some of the early songs were not interesting or memorable. And again, for me, there was no overarching reason to present the ‘uninteresting’ ones.

A personal note on the music of Stephen Sondheim who is regarded, according to the promotional material, as “the Godfather of the modern musical.” I find his music more like accompaniment to intellectual, sometimes silly, recitatives. His most famous “Send in the Clowns”  does have a catchy melody, but the words and the book are of characters who are idle and jaded. I prefer Oscar Wilde’s treatment of such characters.

One song should not be sung by a person who is not racially ‘black,’ or convincing in emulating an emancipated slave who is working as if still enslaved: Ol’ Man River. I’m sorry, Mr.  Steenbrink, you do not fit the role, no matter how great your talents. Here is the quintessential performance of this song: Ol’ Man River, sung by Paul Robeson. (In my conversation with a friend during the writing of this review, he asserted the Russian singer Feodor Chaliapin was equal to Robeson).

© photo Lot

As stated at the beginning, all the performers, including the singers, were highly skilled and professional in their singing, acting, and, in the case of Ms. Georges, tap dancing (a lovely evocation of the days of the Broadway stage and movies of the 1930s and 1940s, as I remember them).

Mr. Steenbrink was poised and polished but, in my opinion, lacked the verve and spirit I associate with the genre. Ms. Georges had plenty of spirit and bounce, but most of it had a European flavor, not an American flavor. It may well be that my expectations in this regard could not be reasonably fulfilled. On the other hand, I have experienced small-group jazz played by Swedes whom, if I closed my eyes, I could imagine playing in a venue anywhere from New Orleans northward to Chicago.

The audience reacted enthusiastically at the end of the concert, and the performers were ready with an encore which was also loudly applauded. Perhaps this is the best comment to be made here.

I’m glad to have experienced the Concertgebouw (literally, ‘concert hall’) whose artists I have heard all my life. And, I am glad, as well, to have experienced Amsterdam, a delightful city in all respects except, perhaps, the aggressiveness of the multitudinous bicycle riders.

The Songs

Overture to 42nd Street; music by Harry Warren
“Lullaby of Broadway;” Music and lyrics by Harry Warren/Al Dubin
“Steppin’ Out With My Baby” (from Easter Parade); Irving Berlin
“I Could Have Danced All Night” (from My Fair Lady); Frederick Lowe/Alan Jay Lerner
“Let’s Face the Music and Dance” (from Follow the Fleet); Irving Berlin
“Please Let’s Not Even Say Hello” (from December Songs); Maury Yeston
“No Moon” (from Titanic); Maury Yeston
“Usual Way” (from Nine); Maury Yeston
Mary Poppins Medley: “Chim Chim Cherie/A Spoonful of Sugar/Supercallifragilisticespialidocious:” Robert B. Sherman/Richard M. Sherman
“So in Love” (from Kiss Me Kate); Cole Porter
“Easy to Love” (from Born to Dance); Cole Porter
“Too Darn Hot” (from Kiss Me Kate): Cole Porter
“Le Jazz Hot (from Victor Victoria); Henry Mancini/Leslie Bricusse
“Ol’ Man River” (from Show Boat); Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein
Medley from Porgy and Bess; George Gershwin/Ira Gershwin
“Send in the Clowns” (from A Little Night Music); Stephen Sondheim
Medley from West Side Story; Leonard Bernstein
Pauze (Intermission)
“My Favorite Things” (from The Sound of Music); Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein
“Another Hundred People” (from Company); Stephen Sondheim
“Not While I’m Around” (from Sweeney Todd); Stephen Sondheim
Medley from Singin’ in the Rain; Nacio Herb/Arthur Freed
Medley from Irma la Douce; Marguerite Monnot/Alexandre Breffort
“Rhythm is My Business” (studio recording); Lou Levy/Sammy Cahn
“Over the Rainbow” (from The Wizard of Oz); Harold Arlen
“Use What You’ve Got” (from The Life); Cy Coleman/Ira Grasman
“I Wish I Were in Love Again” (Babes in Arms): Richard Rodgers/Lorenz Hart
“New York, New York” (On the Town); Leonard Bernstein
“Some Other Time” (On the Town); Leonard Bernstein
“That’s Entertainment” (The Band Wagon); Arthur Schwartz/Howard Dietz

Conductors and Orchestra (Source)

1895–1945: Mengelberg

In 1895, Willem Mengelberg became chief conductor and remained in this position with the organization for fifty years, an unusually long tenure for a music director. He is generally regarded as having brought the orchestra to a level of major international significance, with a particular championing of such then-contemporary composers as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss.

For approximately its first 75 years, the Concertgebouw Orchestra had a somewhat complicated roster of conductors. In addition to the chief conductor, the orchestra had conductor positions titled “eerste dirigent” (“first conductor”), who assisted the chief conductor with programming, and “tweede dirigent” (“second conductor”), who did “what he was told.” During Mengelberg’s time as chief conductor, several of these first conductors included Karl Muck (1921–1925), Pierre Monteux (1924–1934), Bruno Walter (1934–1939), and Eugen Jochum (1941–1943). Musicians who served as “second conductor” included the composer Cornelis Dopper, Evert Cornelis and Eduard van Beinum.

In 1945, because of the controversy over his relationship with the Nazi occupying forces during the German occupation of the Netherlands during World War II, Mengelberg was removed as chief conductor and subsequently banned from conducting. The ban was initially imposed for the remainder of his life, but after an appeal, reduced to six years, applied retroactively from 1945. Mengelberg died in 1951 just before the end of his sentence, thus never conducting the orchestra after 1945.

1945–1985: Van Beinum and Haitink

From 1945 to 1959, the orchestra’s principal conductor was Eduard van Beinum, who had debuted with the orchestra in 1929. He had become the second conductor of the orchestra in 1931, and co-principal conductor in 1938. One of his specialties was the symphonies of Anton Bruckner, and Van Beinum made commercial recordings with the orchestra of Bruckner’s Eighth and Ninth Symphonies for the Philips Records. Van Beinum served as sole chief conductor of the orchestra after World War II until his sudden death on the Concertgebouw podium from a fatal heart attack in April 1959.

Bernard Haitink made his debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra on 7 November 1956. After Van Beinum’s death, from 1961 to 1963, Haitink and Eugen Jochum shared the post of chief conductor of the orchestra. Haitink became sole chief conductor in 1963, and served in this post until 1988. At some point during Haitink’s time, the conductor system was simplified to have an assistant conductor instead of first- and second-conductors. Conductors who served in this capacity included Edo de Waart and Hans Vonk. The recording profile of the orchestra increased most dramatically under Haitink, with many recordings for the Philips Records, as well as EMI and Columbia Records. In the early 1980s, the Dutch government threatened the orchestra with reductions in its government subsidy that could potentially have led to the dismissal of 23 musicians from the orchestra. Haitink threatened to resign in protest, and the financial situation was eventually settled. In 1999, Haitink was named the orchestra’s Conductor Laureate.

1985–current: Chailly and Jansons

Riccardo Chailly made his debut with the Concertgebouw Orchestra in 1985, and was elected that year as their next chief conductor to succeed Haitink. As the first non-Dutchman to hold the post, Chailly served as chief conductor from 1988 to 2004. His recordings with the orchestra include complete Mahler and Brahms symphony cycles and several Bruckner symphonies. He is a strong advocate of modern music and recorded shorter works of Shostakovich, the complete Kammermusiken of Paul Hindemith, and the orchestral works of Igor Stravinsky, Olivier Messiaen and Edgard Varèse. After his departure in 2004, Chailly was named Conductor Emeritus of the RCO.

The Latvian conductor Mariss Jansons made his RCO debut in 1988 and was elected chief conductor on 22 October 2002. His tenure officially began on 1 September 2004, with an initial contract of three years. Premières during Janson’s tenure have included Hans Werner Henze’s Sebastian im Traum, a RCO co-commission. In April 2014, the orchestra announced the scheduled conclusion of Jansons’ tenure as chief conductor afer the 2014-2015 season.

Orchestra

The orchestra enjoyed a close relationship with Gustav Mahler and championed many of his symphonies, with an especially worthy festival of his music being the 1920 Mahler Festival. Other conductors who worked closely with the Concertgebouw Orchestra included Pierre Monteux, Eugen Jochum, George Szell and Kirill Kondrashin, who was the “permanent guest conductor” from 1978 until his death in 1981. More recently, Nikolaus Harnoncourt was named Honorary Guest Conductor of the RCO in 2000.

Another factor in creating the orchestra’s distinct character is that the Concertgebouw Orchestra has had only six chief conductors, setting it apart from orchestras of similar age and caliber. The nearly one thousand recordings that the orchestra has to its credit have also contributed to this reputation. The orchestra also serves as one of the opera orchestras for productions of the Dutch National Opera.

Jan Raes is the orchestra’s executive director, since 1 December 2008, succeeding Jan Willem Loot, who retired in November 2008. Past artistic directors of the Concertgebouw Orchestra have included Rudolf Mengelberg, Marius Flothuis (1955–1974), and Peter Ruzicka. The present head of artistic administration for the orchestra is Joel Ethan Fried.

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He was gifted, he suffered, he made great music

His most deeply felt pieces were sad, even tragic

Yet, ironic, for his tormentors were tone deaf

And those who knew could see through the façade

A dangerous game to play

He played the game that Stalin put in place

To control the people through control of the elite

The rules constantly changing, people disappearing

The speeches prepared for him betrayed the people he admired

Until Stalin died, he feared death every day, but as time advanced

He feared life even more than death

But lacked the resolve to end it

Because he had more music to make

He remained alive, suffering, suffering, humiliated

Writing for the Russian people

Giving them a spiritual touchstone

The Church being officially forbidden and suppressed

We need to remember our martyrs

Yes, ours, even those without the suffering Russian soul

We suffer too, without being able to name our suffering

Listen to Shostakovich and recognize it

Music speaks to suffering and redemption

More fully than any words can

He suffered for us, the martyr

Dmitri Dmitrievich Shostakovich (1906 – 1975)

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Irene Jane Baker and ‘Red’ Mike Eriksson Bring their Blues to Stockholm

I met Irene Baker seven years ago at a family gathering. She is aunt to the eldest of Eva’s four offspring. As she and I became acquainted, she told me of an upcoming concert at Sofia Church where she was to sing in one of the two choral groups which were jointly performing Sergey Rachmaninoff’s “All Night Vigil.” I wrote about the experience here.

The years unrolled; she and I were in touch here and there, mainly through Facebook. I learned that she is deeply rooted in the classical forms of music, plays various instruments, especially piano, and that she teaches music and the English and French languages. Further, she’s a poet and writer of stories. And, of course, a singer.

mike-and-irene

‘Red’ Mike Eriksson & Irene Jane Baker at ‘Bluesbaren’, Stockholm

Imagine my surprise when recently she publicly announced she and a musical colleague had made a pilgrimage to the southern portion of the USA to experience the roots of the music we know as blues, and other indigenous musical forms. Inspired by her experiences, she wrote original music and lyrics to commemorate and honor the music and musicians of the present and past in this region.

Then she and Red Mike got it together to take their guitars and her voice on a traveling show around Stockholm and other venues. I went to see them at Bluesbaren (The Blues Bar) on September 10. On the walls of the small bar are large photographs of blues legends, including (the largest photo) B.B. King. (I had met Mr. King in the 1960s. I was in Reno for a bit of modest gambling with some friends, and found myself standing behind him in the Keno line. I shook his hand and told him of my admiration for his music. He was then performing at this hotel/casino).

Each item on the menu at Bluesbaren has attached to it the name of American or Swedish blues artists: Howlin’ Wolf, R. L. Burnside, Albert King, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Bonnie Raitt, Nina Simone (I saw her perform in San Francisco around fifty-five years ago), Joe Bonamassa, Rolf Wikström, Big Mama Thornton, Beth Hart, Beverly Watkins.
I had arrived to the bar around a half-hour before the announced time of Irene’s appearance in order to get a good seat—right in front.

Irene soon arrived and we hugged a greeting. “Red” Mike arrived a bit later, and they set up their instruments and fiddled with the sound system to get everything just right—no hurry, relaxed like in the Southern USA.

The music was new, yet it was familiar. Each song evoked memories of music I have heard throughout my life. Red Mike’s expert guitar licks backed up Irene’s basic guitar strokes and her wonderful voice. Irene’s classical training in voice was evident in what I call the ‘trueness’ of her singing—always meeting the needs of the music and the listener’s ear.

I relaxed into the performance. A few songs in, Irene went into a falsetto ‘cadenza,’ as I call it. It was the blues, for sure.

To talk about music is completely inadequate—one can only encourage others to listen and decide for themselves. So, go listen here: Irene Jane Baker’s Soundcloud.

These are the songs I heard at Bluesbaren (note that one has a link to a performance on Youtube):

The State you Put me in
Waiting Blues
Peabody Blues
Beale Street Blues
My Juke Joint Song
There is Only You (A Tribute to Elvis)
Nashville Skyline River Crest
Love Song
Riverside Hotel Country Song
Walkin’ out that Door
Call and Response/Lemonhead
Doc from Zagreb

Currently scheduled performances:

Friday, 28 October at El Bocado, Axelsberg
Friday, 13 January at Bluesbaren, Stockholm

Look for a performance of ‘Lone Star Blues’ with Irene Jane Baker and ‘Red’ Mike Eriksson in your neighborhood.

mike-and-irene-3

“Warmin’ up the Strings”

 

 

 

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A Transcendent Experience

12715617_10153965844523914_2849377058625978738_nA few months ago the Stockholm International Rotary Club presented an unusual program, featuring a young artist and his music: Hugo Ticciati, violinist and leader of a new musical group in Sweden, “O/Modernt” (not/modern).

Hugo’s enthusiasm for his music and his musical projects, and his seemingly effortless mastery of the violin, made an indelible mark on my consciousness, so I have been alert to an opportunity to experience O/Modernt. The moment came last Sunday in a performance of chamber music at Stockholm’s Musikaliska, a “musical palace built in 1878”.

The program, Folklore, Fåglar, & Evigheit (“Folklore, Birds & Eternity”) was performed with four instruments:

Cello, Johannes Rostano
Clarinet, Chistoffer Sundqvist
Piano, Alasdair Beatson
Violin, Hugo Picciati

Before I get into the details and commentary, here is the source of the energy that is driving the writing of this article: I was blown away by the performance of the major piece, presented during the second part of the program.

The program, first part

Igor Stravinsky, L’Histoire du Soldat (“The History of a Soldier”, for clarinet, piano and violin)

“… (F)ull of the wit and humor of Stravinsky. The violin is guttural and raw, while the clarinet seems to have an erratic will of its own, often breaking in at ‘inappropriate’ moments and interrupting the violin. The piano acts as a combination of the rhythm section and a piano in a ‘honky tonk’ bar. The rhythms are always shifting and changing, and the music incorporates elements of jazz, Viennese waltz, and ragtime.” (Source)

Béla Bartók, Selected Duos from Opus 98 (for piano and violin)

“…(A)ll songs and dances included in this series are based on folk music from many Eastern Europe countries, but harmonic and rhythmic freedom is evident throughout the whole piece.” (Source). Although written for two violins, these duos were performed by one violin and the piano.

Béla Bartók, Romanian Folk Dances (for piano and violin)

These are six short dances based on folk tunes from Transylvania.

Comments on First Part

The first two offerings were unfamiliar, and not pleasant to my ear. This is not an unusual reaction to some music of these two composers; and, my ears do not function perfectly. The performers were properly energetic for the nature of the music, and seemed completely attuned to each other.

The third offering was one of my favorite sets of short pieces. I often play recordings of them. They are also arranged for orchestra which gives them a larger ‘appearance,’ but I prefer the two instruments and these were played as well as any that I’ve heard.

The program, second part

Olivier Messiaen, Quatuor pour la fin du temps (Quartet for the End of Time)
Where to start? This is one the moments when I become aware, as a writer, how inadequate words are, after all. This is the bane of us (metaphorically) ink-stained wretches, but we are compelled by our natures to try, even if our efforts bring us ignominy and vilification.

225px-Olivier_Messiaen_1930

Olivier Messiaen, 1908 – 1992

We must begin with the composer Olivier Messiaen, an extraordinary man. He was an organist, and an ornithologist as well as a composer. He wandered forests, writing pad in hand, recording the songs of birds which he would incorporate into his music. As the bio under the previous link details, he was also influenced in his music by his Catholic faith and by Indonesian, Japanese and ancient Greek music. Modern western musical influences include the composers Debussy, Mussorgsky, and Stravinsky among others. Other influences include Bryce Canyon in Utah, and the life of St. Francis of Assisi.

Put all these together in your brain, then add considerations of tone, color, rhythm, harmony, instrumentation—all uniquely employed by Messiaen—and you will have some foundation for understanding the tasks of the musicians in interpreting his music.

The ‘quartet’ in the name of the piece refers to the number of the musicians, not the form of the music. There are eight sections, the names of which I record here in English, rather than the original French:

  1. Liturgy of crystal
  2. Vocalise, for the Angel who announces the end of time
  3. Abyss of birds (for solo clarinet)
  4. Interlude (for violin, cello, and clarinet)
  5. Praise to the eternity of Jesus (for cello and piano)
  6. Dance of fury, for the seven trumpets
  7. Tangle of rainbows, for the Angel who announces the end of time
  8. Praise to the immortality of Jesus (for violin and piano)

Now to the words…

Imagine each of the eight pieces as beginning with a group of people entering into a prayer circle. They prepare by quietly sitting, all but the pianist facing each other, resting quietly until the musician with the lead instrument for the set gives a subtle signal to the others that he is ready to begin. They begin.

When the set is over, the last musician(s) to play slowly disengage(s) from the performance, seeming to enter a contemplative state. All the others are silent and motionless as well. After about fifteen seconds they awake and prepare for performance of the next set, as described above.

After the last set, the violinist slowly lifted his bow from his instrument, allowing it to flow gently toward the music stand and, finally, touch it, resting there for more seconds as the others remained as if performing Zazen.

Finally someone turned up the lights and we knew it was time to offer enthusiastic applause, in raucous contrast to the mood of the piece just performed.

(The following are translated quotations from Messiaen’s Preface to the score. Source.)

41oczoCrdqL._AC_UL320_SR214,320_1. Between three and four in the morning, the awakening of birds: a solo blackbird or nightingale improvises, surrounded by a shimmer of sound, by a halo of trills lost very high in the trees. Transpose this onto a religious plane and you have the harmonious silence of Heaven.

2. The first and third parts (very short) evoke the power of this mighty angel, a rainbow upon his head and clothed with a cloud, who sets one foot on the sea and one foot on the earth. In the middle section are the impalpable harmonies of heaven. In the piano, sweet cascades of blue-orange chords, enclosing in their distant chimes the almost plainchant song of the violin and cello.

3. The abyss is Time with its sadness, its weariness. The birds are the opposite to Time; they are our desire for light, for stars, for rainbows, and for jubilant songs.

4. Scherzo, of a more individual character than the other movements, but linked to them nevertheless by certain melodic recollections.

5. Jesus is considered here as the Word. A broad phrase, “infinitely slow”, on the cello, magnifies with love and reverence the eternity of the Word, powerful and gentle, “whose time never runs out”. The melody stretches majestically into a kind of gentle, regal distance. “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)

6. Rhythmically, the most characteristic piece of the series. The four instruments in unison imitate gongs and trumpets (the first six trumpets of the Apocalypse followed by various disasters, the trumpet of the seventh angel announcing consummation of the mystery of God) Use of added values, of augmented or diminished rhythms, of non-retrogradable rhythms. Music of stone, formidable granite sound; irresistible movement of steel, huge blocks of purple rage, icy drunkenness. Hear especially all the terrible fortissimo of the augmentation of the theme and changes of register of its different notes, towards the end of the piece.

7. Recurring here are certain passages from the second movement. The angel appears in full force, especially the rainbow that covers him (the rainbow, symbol of peace, wisdom, and all luminescent and sonorous vibration). – In my dreams, I hear and see ordered chords and melodies, known colors and shapes; then, after this transitional stage, I pass through the unreal and suffer, with ecstasy, a tournament; a roundabout compenetration of superhuman sounds and colors. These swords of fire, this blue-orange lava, these sudden stars: there is the tangle, there are the rainbows!

8. Large violin solo, counterpart to the violoncello solo of the 5th movement. Why this second eulogy? It is especially aimed at second aspect of Jesus, Jesus the Man, the Word made flesh, immortally risen for our communication of his life. It is all love. Its slow ascent to the acutely extreme is the ascent of man to his god, the child of God to his Father, the being made divine towards Paradise.

(End of quotations)

***

See what I did there? I avoided giving my own inadequate words in favor of those by the composer!

Nonetheless, I have to say further that this was a transcendent experience, due in equal measure to the God-given talents of the composer and of the four musicians.

Here is where you can see members of O/Modernt in the performance of Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, on Youtube.

 

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