Page 103 of 110 FirstFirst ... 3539399100101102103104105106107 ... LastLast
Results 1,531 to 1,545 of 1644

Thread: Weekly quartet. Just a music lover perspective.

  1. #1531
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    5,152
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I caught up with the Guarneri 1970s recording and the Gaggini account courtesy of YouTube. The Guarneri account was excellent and boasted excellent playing, a lovely full sound and dynamics aplenty. Very impressive, indeed. The Gaggini performance was more subdued and pleasant enough but not characterful enough to trouble the best versions of this quartet. I'll round it all up tomorrow.

  2. Likes annaw, sbmonty liked this post
  3. #1532
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    7,670
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    I caught up with the Guarneri 1970s recording and the Gaggini account courtesy of YouTube. The Guarneri account was excellent and boasted excellent playing, a lovely full sound and dynamics aplenty. Very impressive, indeed. The Gaggini performance was more subdued and pleasant enough but not characterful enough to trouble the best versions of this quartet. I'll round it all up tomorrow.
    I think one essential thing with this quartet is that it is light, like a kaleidoscope of coloured feathers.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-30-2020 at 21:07.

  4. Likes Merl, annaw, Allegro Con Brio and 1 others liked this post
  5. #1533
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    5,152
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    I think one essential thing with this quartet is that it is light, like a kaleidoscope of coloured feathers.
    I agree Mandryka. What I was trying to say is that if its played too lightly it becomes a bit samey. I do like good use of dynamics here, especially in the 3rd movement. Others may prefer a lighter touch but that's fine too. I think that's why I really enjoyed the Auryn performance. Its beautiful and mesmerising in the andante and then they add some superb phrasing and dynamics in the final Allegro. It's never vulgar (far from it) but it adds a spice and richness that sets it apart from some of the others. Love the 'coloured feathers' analogy, btw.
    Last edited by Merl; Oct-30-2020 at 21:19.

  6. Likes annaw, sbmonty liked this post
  7. #1534
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Estonia
    Posts
    1,672
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    I agree Mandryka. What I was trying to say is that if its played too lightly it becomes a bit samey. I do like good use of dynamics here, especially in the 3rd movement. Others may prefer a lighter touch but that's fine too. I think that's why I really enjoyed the Auryn performance. Its beautiful and mesmerising in the andante and then they add some superb phrasing and dynamics in the final Allegro. It's never vulgar (far from it) but it adds a spice and richness that sets it apart from some of the others. Love the 'coloured feathers' analogy, btw.
    Merl, Mandryka, what do you mean by “light”? I think it should be atmosoheric, thoughtful, but still, at times, intense and heavy. That’s why I think it resembles Turner’s paintings. I see it as thoroughly Romantic and not so much a modern piece (but I have no musical education). It takes great insightfulness from the performers to give the music its real due. A wonderful quartet for sure!
    Last edited by annaw; Oct-30-2020 at 21:53.

  8. #1535
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    5,152
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    Merl, Mandryka, what do you mean by “light”? I think it should be atmosoheric, thoughtful, but still, at times, intense and heavy. That’s why I think it resembles Turner’s paintings. I see it as thoroughly Romantic and not so much a modern piece (but I have no musical education). It takes great insightfulness from the performers to give the music its real due. A wonderful quartet for sure!
    Annaw, light may not be the best word, in hindsight. I mean a cloudy, dreamlike atmosphere. I don't seem to be able to articulate anything today. I couldn't even say the word "capable" today
    I had about 3 cracks at it.

  9. Likes sbmonty liked this post
  10. #1536
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    7,670
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    More than the transformations of the material, as in Beethoven, more than the the colours and the sparkling of its setting, as in Ravel, it is indeed the light of the material that interest Fauré, The multiple harmonic lighting (modulations) that he brings to bear on it, and the polyphonic combinations to which he subjects it transcend the material, which then shines forth like an inner rainbow.
    This is from an essay in the Ysaye Quartet recording by Bernard Fournier.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Oct-30-2020 at 23:31.

  11. Likes sbmonty liked this post
  12. #1537
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Estonia
    Posts
    1,672
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    Annaw, light may not be the best word, in hindsight. I mean a cloudy, dreamlike atmosphere. I don't seem to be able to articulate anything today. I couldn't even say the word "capable" today
    I had about 3 cracks at it.
    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    This is from an essay in the Ysaye Quartet recording by Bernard Fournier.
    I see, now it all makes sense. And I agree with both!

    (Evidently, I cannot manage those polysemantic English words atm. )
    Last edited by annaw; Oct-31-2020 at 00:13.

  13. Likes Merl liked this post
  14. #1538
    Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2017
    Posts
    95
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Merl View Post
    What I was trying to say is that if its played too lightly it becomes a bit samey.
    I have had the thought that these three movements are much more alike than those of most other quartets. But this does contribute to the feeling of the piece being its own world.

  15. Likes sbmonty liked this post
  16. #1539
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    5,152
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    OK, so a week of Faure and I still love this quartet. It's been great listening to so many different approaches and recordings and these are are the most impressive recordings (IMO) I've heard. I've also got a slight top pick for this SQ but the ones below are equally impressive in their own way.

    Excellent

    Ebene - there's a reason so many people here flagged this one as an impressive recording. It's really well played and recorded. Superb and as close to the very summit as you can get. Their andante is just beautiful.
    Dante - such a well-rounded approach that's also well-recorded. More forceful when needed whilst not losing the delicate beauty of this piece.
    Miami - an excellent account which keeps to Fauré's dreamy soundscape. Ends beautifully with a great final movement.
    Guarneri (70s) - more gutsy than the other recordings here but not negatively and the ensemble playing is simply superb.

    But there has to be winner this time. It was close but the recording below shaded it for me.

    Top pick

    Auryn
    Apart from the fact that the whole disc is superb (the Ravel and Debussy SQs are crackers too) what really impresses about this one is the way the Auryn keep your interest with great phrasing and superb playing. The cello sounds particularly impressive here and the whole performance weaves an ideal and always engaging path through this meandering masterpiece. It's Tacet so sound quality is, as always, stunning but it's not just that. The whole thing oozes class (with a capital C). One of my favourite SQ discs of recent years.

    515+tV0yL1L._SL1500_.jpg
    Last edited by Merl; Oct-31-2020 at 21:09.

  17. Likes annaw, newyorkconversation, Knorf and 1 others liked this post
  18. #1540
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Posts
    1,893
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    So I guess I'm up for this week's quartet.

    I asked Allegro con Brio if my choice could be something other than a string quartet proper. He said it "if you have one outside the traditional mold that you’re really passionate about, go for it!" which I guess could be interpreted as "Yes". If you meant "No", ACB, well ......... too late!

    So this week's piece is:

    Wolfgang Rihm: ET LUX, for string quartet & vocal quartet/octet (2009)
    (the one recording in existence doubles up the voices into an octet, which Rihm is okay with)

    Score can be read here



    Below are two essays from the CD liner notes. The first was in German, so I had to run thru google translate and then check for accuracy, which took a while with my rusty German. I left out some irrelevant parts that I didn't have time for.

    You don't have to read anything below if you don't want to. I understand it's a lot to digest.

    Light -- not eternal rest! Consolation -- not reckoning and punishment! The musical meaning of the Latin mass for the dead has brought Wolfgang Rihm deep into reflection, soul-searching into the old text. What the listener has to banish from ET LUX, Rihm lets himself be challenged towards an existential answer to the threatening, frightening "Requiem aeternam". But his musical thinking desires for a reorganization of the traditional wording of the text. He inspects each of the text modules individually, he checks and turns them, he thins out the lines, he shifts their syntax. Other accents of words and meanings suddenly emerge. The sound form is surprising: even for the metaphors of the fear of death, Rihm finds a soft, quiet, almost weightless tone. And for the work title’s distinguishing feature, that brightness: that is already contained in a line in the Roman Requiem: Et lux perpetua luceat eis (and the eternal light shines on them).

    Wolfgang Rihm opens up a new horizon, freed from archetypes and conventions, of the much-celebrated rituals of the dead by writing music that creates transparent, yet strictly structured, sound relationships. In them, a basic message becomes noticeable, the profound anguish over the inescapable tragedy of life -- all life back towards death [alles Lebendigen zum Tode hin]. This music can, in its expressiveness, dispense with all rabid vocal and orchestral obsession: No fear- and terror-inducing "Die irae" waves breaking all over the listener, as in the Mozart or Verdi Requiems. Instead, the archaic Latin and its objectifying linguistic harshness becomes for the medium one of withdrawn gesture, over stretches [of the music] only whispered, fragile contemplation, a self-questioning.

    Such an emaciated sound language wants to dispense with the large choir and orchestra apparatus. But even still, it catches by surprise the unbending attitude of reduction -- that a Requiem composition can be taken up by just two times four musicians: For ET LUX, a vocal quartet and a string quartet is sufficient for the composer. Thus, a chamber music fabric arises, in which the sound images and gestures of old and new music alike come together symbiotically: specialists in Medieval and Renaissance music, such as the Huelgas Ensemble, play together with the Minguet Quartet. It takes no more than eight highly experienced, inspired solo voices -- with the Huelgas musicians here doubling their four voices -- in order to build up an inner sound intensification and spirituality with such meager external means, which in contemporary music is currently without precedent.

    Many years ago, Rihm was already thinking about the way in which language and music combine with each other, how "language as the occasion for music” can be possible. He saw three paths for the composer: first, "the text is underlined", second, "the text is crossed out", and third, "the text is dissolved". And Rihm adds the certainty that, at any rate, text and music form a living organism, which means something like -- "one through the other: something new arises in one another". The requiem composition ET LUX -- so much as one can speculate -- is, in a broad sense, a combination of the three possibilities of merging music and language. Since the beginning, Rihm has let such a lively "intertwining" of words, text and sound motion become music in numerous compositions, in all of the Lieder, Gesängen, Operas, “Abgesangsszenen”.

    ...
    ...
    ... (a brief timeline of Rihm's religious works)

    Das Lesen der Schrift ["The Reading of Scripture"] -- the title stands for the ability of this composer to engage with the texts with seismographic sensitivity. Only “reading” -- the literal understanding of text and textual layers -- is for Rihm (who, by the way, names “deciphering and learning the terms” as the prerequisite of every reading) the foundation of this [engagement], rather than a straightforward “musical setting”, in order to bring about that depth of focus on a pre-musical textual interpretation by its alteration and destruction, through the metamorphosis of words.

    In ET LUX, Wolfgang Rihm is simultaneously composer and exegete of the Latin Requiem text. He selects, he interprets it, illuminates the parts, he sets word and meaning accents. It is symptomatic of the composition that he neglects the "Sequence", which from Mozart to Verdi is spectacularly set to music with its shock images of the "Day of Anger". Rihm avoids the exalted boldness of "Day of Anger", taken from the outward appearance of brutal horror; he rather lets the music spring forth from the interior of the text, up to and including the dissolution of the text into the purely instrumental. Necessary is the formal idea of fragmenting/splintering of texts, so that the music can unfold, stand out from the text, accompany it, transform it, complement it, pause before it, unite with it or wait for it. Rihm sets word signals, for example: "et lux, lacrimosa dies illa, dona eis, luceat", at the end "perpetua, libera, et lux" fading in pianississimo.

    The polyphony of the sound current of such a double four-part composition becomes charged with tension through the somewhat brooding slowness of the movement of long notes, the punctually hard dynamics and the fragmented text components. Out of the calm flow of an extremely slow music, however, outbursts rise sporadically, in the densest phrases, pushing forte and fortissimo explosions upwards -- sforzatissimo explosions, as it were -- as musical signs for the releasing outcry. For the consolation and the deep concern that Rihm wants to let [the listeners] feel in the "layers of these words". Yet, the harmonic constellations play a large decisive role: The always changing intervallic references, with their harsh tonal frictions and constant modulations, produce a quasi-dizzying vortex of listening, by way of an internal tension, which in the "instinctuality" of constantly changing harmonic ambiguity continue the Renaissance music and daring artistry of Gesualdo da Venosa, without quoting them.

    Although the Latin Requiem texts clearly make themselves felt, they are allowed to vanish over and over into a musical stream that now unites early music and the present-day musical avant-garde towards a new Art.

    Wolfgang Schreiber
    To sing is to remember. This is so in the practical sense, of course, that singers must have learned what they sing -- must, at least to some extent, be singing from memory. But also, singing is a means by which memories of many different kinds, from different sources, are given voice. In and through what they sing, singers are projecting what they remember. And in and through what they create for singers to sing, composers, too, are giving expression to what they remember.

    This is true also when the singing is being done by musical instruments.

    Composed in 2009, and though unimaginable much before that date, Wolfgang Rihm’s ET LUX emerges as if from centuries before. The sound is that of a string quartet, pianissimo, the musicians playing with mutes, the three on upper instruments bowing very close to the fingerboard, so that the colour fades to that of the string instruments of former times. What we hear is a memory of a consort of viols.

    Or rather, it is not that memory but an approach to that memory. What Rihm presents is not a reproduction or an imitation, not a retrieval but the process of retrieving, the process of remembering. Music is remembering itself, trying to remember itself, trying to remember how it was, which it does not now know, but can only try to remember.

    What we have is not music remembered but music remembering. It begins on G, violins and viola in unison, the cello plucking a harmonic. The line goes on, up a tone, then up a tone again, faster -- or at any rate less slowly -- and at a higher level, a fourth above, so that a modal space beings to reveal itself, only for this vision to cloud over as the line repeats its whole-tone rise yet again a semitone below, superimposing a chromatic space on the modal.

    This chromatic space will remain. But so too will the modal, like the memory never to be reached but only now and then touched, by an act of remembering that is ceaseless and multiform. Music that is remembering is positioned simultaneously then and now, distant and direct, modal and chromatic.

    The viola stays as the violins go on, but only so that it can then follow them, monody giving way to canon, as it did when polyphony arrived, as it does in any fugue. Still there is this etiolated sound that speaks of long ago, even as the intervals continue astringent, until the quartet comes together again on the opening G, and the music re-enters its own memory. And so the line goes on into a second phrase, a second phase, with some of the same signals along the way, until that G is restored once more, the music squeezing back again into the point from which it arose, except that this is no longer the same point but rather the memory of that point.

    Into this memory space, voices are prompted to enter, and what went before redefines itself as introduction, or as a housing for a chorus – a chorus that, though depleted, is continuing, these few voices striving to remember where they should be, what they should do, how they can make use of this housing, if that is what it is, and not an open desert across which they must travel, by what means they can, with what means they have, with what means they did have, which include words, those of the Latin Requiem Mass, as they find what memory of theirs will match the memory already in motion.

    These voices are multiple, not only in that there are eight of them, and the memories are multiple. They are real singers, searching their individual memories and also the memory they share as a performing group, sifting their experience of music they have sung before for what relevance it has to music that is at once similar and new. Then they are the abstract voices of the score, four parts that are also moving through memory, through the whole memory of four-part music in the western tradition, creating as they go a music that is at once similar and new. Then they are actualized figments of the composer’s memory, drawing on what he remembers, actively and passively, of singing in choirs, and often of singing these same words, in other settings.

    All these voices, voices present and voices remembered, are prompted to enter on an E-flat major chord, fitting themselves to the strings, who, however, are already moving on, or moving away, so that the voices are instantly destabilized, and have to find their way within instability, have to find themselves within constant shift, breakdown.

    This is how things are.

    Soon the voices begin to discover their oldest consonance, the open fifth, and their oldest four-part cadences, on to such fifths. They begin to discover how they have so often shed tears in downward scales, and can do so again, in what may be more than a memory. They remember how it was, and find it still is. These voices have withdrawn into a narrow range, defined in one sense by how the top part was written for a counter-tenor, reaching only very rarely above E on the treble staff, and yet that E is still a moment of radiance, from which fall more tears.

    The tears of memory feel like real tears. We touch our fingers to our eyes.

    A Requiem is a remembering. This is a remembering of a remembering, or a remembering of a remembering of a remembering, on down the mirrored corridor of memory.

    We may feel we do not know now how to remember the dead. We have the words, the form, but are these more than the memory of the words and the memory of the form? To sing is to remember, but is it more than that?

    As it goes on remembering, the music strays into many memory sites, even simultaneously, Renaissance and Romantic, but in so straying it is finding itself, testing its progress as it makes progress, testing its limits as it discovers limits.

    The text begins to dissolve in the flow of time, as the separate prayers nestle into the one prayer, which is perhaps not a prayer at all, since it is addressed only to us, with some words re-echoing, again and again, while others -- DEUS -- have been lost forever, and the strings in response to the words and the absences of words may not always offer a sympathetic ambience or surface but may rise and jab in protest or exhortation.

    DOMINE may be a question, to which ET LUX is not (only) the answer. Yet the notion of perpetual light brings consolation in an arrival into C major, except that the extending of consolation moves into disturbance and questioning, for this perpetual light maybe blinding, may be searching, and the voices are stopped as the questioning and the disturbance and the consolation go on in the strings, after which there is anxiety, and more tears, and a viola solo, and a gasp, as the voices give out again, and then come back, all but the basses, with no words.

    Then the voices and the words will return, and sound as they did before, which can never be as they did before. The voices may go silent, to leave only the sopranos, or only the tenors and basses, or no-one at all but the strings, which may try to maintain the not-prayer, and fail, or they may question one another, there being no-one else to question, and question one another again.

    Fifths: the intervals that the strings have built into them and that the voices have long learned, and so important here the precise intonation.

    LIBERA ME: the call for liberation from what must not be named, until it must, after which comes the drama, and the music reroutes itself, re-roots itself, as the DIES IRAE arrives unannounced, and once more the voices seek comfort in the familiar, to be admonished.

    And there are times when the voices drift away from the text, after so many pulsing syllables, or the text drifts away from them, leaving from MAGNA ET AMARA only the panting A-A-A.

    LACRIMOSA, sliding in its own tears.

    Memory repeats in the hope that the words may be made to mean something again, or in the hope again that their meaning be annulled.

    Again and again, ET LUX, ET LUX, always to the outrage of time that wants to go on. And the clamour from the strings when the voices have frozen. And again ET LUX.

    Paul Griffiths
    Last edited by calvinpv; Nov-01-2020 at 03:51.

  19. #1541
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Apr 2015
    Posts
    1,893
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    And below is an introduction to Rihm’s music as whole, which I wrote I several weeks ago for the 1980-2000 listening group when presenting Rihm’s masterpiece Jagden und Formen. For those of you who already read it back then, I made a few changes for ET LUX but otherwise is the same.

    And just to be clear, you don’t have to read this if you don’t want to. I’m just posting this in case you’re interested in understanding Rihm a bit more, but the liner notes I posted above are sufficient for ET LUX (and you don’t even have to read those; ET LUX is a pretty easy work to digest).

    A Guide to Wolfgang Rihm’s Overall Style

    As with a lot Rihm’s music, ET LUX is built up from a complex network of interrelated techniques, philosophies, and aesthetic ideals. As someone who studied philosophy in college, I find this aspect to be most stimulating part of his music, because it challenges me to listen to music as a set of ideas manifesting themselves through sound as opposed to music as a neutral site of expression devoid of any belief, doctrine or ideology. But this aspect is also the most important in understanding Rihm because, unlike with other contemporary composers, these ideas are quite explicit. Even if you’re aren’t well-versed in music theory or performance -- I’m certainly not -- it might, nevertheless, be good to know some of the underlying philosophical positions Rihm holds. Because otherwise, what will happen is either you won’t understand the purpose of the work or you will have a pseudo-understanding and pigeonhole him into a bucket that does him no justice. So I’ve been reading around and have condensed what I learned into 5 main takeaway ideas (the words in bold below), with many examples. Hopefully all of this makes sense -- I apologize if this gets a little too deep into issues of epistemology and the philosophy of language. Of course, if you want to first listen to ET LUX with a blank slate, then do so.

    And for those of you new to Rihm and who liked ET LUX, a lot of the pieces I list below are great works to check out. They will certainly be more dissonant than ET LUX -- ET LUX flirts with tonality probably more than any other of Rihm’s pieces -- but they all adhere to the same fundamental concerns, and they all possess striking similarities in style.

    Semiotics: Though the post-structuralist philosophies of Derrida, Lacan, Foucault, Barthes, etc. failed to take root in Germany until much more recently, Rihm, as a young composer in the 70s and 80s, was still reading these philosophers from afar and drawing some basic lessons from them. Chief among them:

    1. The instability of meanings of signs and symbols. A "sign" is composed of two components: a physical object, or a written/spoken gesture, as well as the meaning that physical element points to. For example, a stop sign is composed of two parts: the physical octagon-shaped metal on the side of the road and the meaning, which is that you need to stop. So when a sign's meaning is destabilized, it's when the meaning is ambiguous or constantly shifting. Post-structuralist philosophers contend that all signs have this problem, if you were to tease out their meanings enough.
    2. How these signs have to be in a proper setting and context for them to even make sense. Continuing my stop sign example, the only reason the sign means "Stop" to drivers is because there was a governing body legislating a metal sign of that shape and color to mean "Stop", because there was a citizenry that agreed to that decision, because the signs are placed next to roads (over which the governing legislation has jurisdiction), because the signs are placed next to other signs that have analogous meanings ("Yield", "Go"), etc. If a stop sign were placed in the middle of a desert far away from any road, it would lose the meaning we normally associate it with because it's out of context. I know this is a weird non-musical example, but I'm trying to drive the point home.
    3. The inability to incorporate the irrational elements of our world into our systems of meanings.
    4. The way history, tradition, and the personal/collective memories of our past shape our present identities, expectations, and our roles in society. History, tradition, and memory, of course, are invariably intertwined.
    5. The struggle to free ourselves from the shadows of such identities, especially when they may be partly responsible for the 20th century catastrophes in Germany.
    6. The need to show that such identities are even in tension with themselves.

    Rihm uses his music as a medium to convey these ideas -- often in very creative ways -- and sometimes, one gets the sense that his music is secondary to the message.

    Examples for the first three points:

    1. In the third song of the Neue Alexanderlieder, traditional tonality -- and all the ways it assigns meanings and functions to chords – is in play until the final two chords for the piano, where first we have a major seventh chord on the tonic, a rarity in traditional tonality, followed by a minor triad on the dominant, another rarity especially since the key is major (specifically Ab). Moreover, these two chords are repeated for an awkwardly long time at fortississimo, suggesting the chords have lost their tonal functions and have become a physical bludgeon. Also, the misanthropic text cuts against the triumphant feeling of the music.

    2. In Sub-Kontur, a musical fragment reminiscent of Mahler -- labelled “adagio” in the score, almost as a nod to Mahler’s 9th -- claws its way to the surface of a music that is elemental and chaotic (the dearth of treble instruments also lends the music a murky color). Only twice does the fragment fully succeed, about halfway through the piece and again towards the end; other times it partly succeeds, and the rest of the time, the downward sloping melodic contour of the fragment is diffused throughout the chaos, unable to coalesce into something more refined and dignified. Thus, the fragment is always suggested but is never recognizable unless we hear it in a familiar form or context. For an interesting comparison, the more recent pieces Verwandlung 1 and 6 do the reverse of Sub-Kontur: an instantly recognizable melody at the beginning -- mostly made up of perfect fifths -- gradually gets dissolved into the structure of the work.

    3. In the opera Die Eroberung von Mexico, the Aztec king Montezuma lived and acted according to what the chronicles and omens prophesized, as opposed to any sort of utilitarian thinking. The upside: such a system breeds a sense of familiarity and comfort with the world around you because the same signs will yield the same meanings (e.g. if it’s prophesized to rain tomorrow for such and such reasons, it’s because the chronicles list past rain showers happening for the same such and such reasons). The downside: omens are completely useless for an unprecedented event. So the arrival and destruction of Cortez was a complete shock to Montezuma, since it was an event with no precedent in the chronicles. In the music, Montezuma’s lines are mirrored across two background vocalists and the orchestra, and they are very non-distinct: he is at one with the musical “world”. Cortez, however, is set to music and background vocalists at odds with his lines; his lines are also very rigid and militaristic sounding.

    Atavism: Though I believe Rihm doesn’t use this term himself, it’s a fitting description for that physical and violent aspect of his music that pokes its ugly head up from time to time. You can hear it in the sudden transitions and dynamic outbursts, in the use of extremely high and low registers simultaneously, in the trance-inducing yet irregular rhythms, in the mechanical repetition of a sound object that pulverizes its attributed meanings into oblivion (the Neue Alexanderlieder example above), in those passages that have no function whatsoever except to disrupt the flow of what came before, or in the guttural noises and screams mostly found in his theater music. For example, in ET LUX from 15:20-16:55 in the above video, after the voices sing “deliver … from the pains of hell” (taken from the Offertory), they let out a wordless sigh of relief followed by pulsing tremolos in the strings -- the first real tense point in the work -- and then followed by wordless screams from the voices, as if they were suffering in hell.

    There is a reason for all this, and it stems from his positions on semiotics in two ways.

    First, through these physical gestures, Rihm is making a statement on the ultimate fate of all signs. As meanings destabilize and new ones are acquired, old ones get discarded and recede into the distance of time; the older they are, the more alien and incomprehensible they appear until there comes a point where they are representative (in our minds, at least) of a primordial past beyond known history and hence come off as violent intrusions to our current systems. An obvious example: in much of Medieval and Renaissance music, the rhythms, church modes, melodic phrasings, liturgical texts, etc. had highly nuanced meanings and functions that are now lost on our modern ears; unless you are a specialist music historian who studies this stuff all day, the music will sound totally alien and the sense of beauty you feel borders on the mystical (compared to a more familiar and comprehensible beauty in, say, a Strauss tone poem). And hundreds of years from now, this music will be alien even to the specialists. To me, this is one of more interesting things I gleamed from reading about Rihm, and it’s a cool way to interpret the raw and austere gestures in his music.

    Second, though Rihm seems to possess a 19th century Romantic view of the artist, he also complicates the picture. The Romantic view believes that an artist is one of those rare individuals who can, through their work, reveal the sublime depths of our inner spiritual self in all of its completeness and profundity, or perhaps even the inner depths of the Spirit of Nature. Rihm may believe in the profundity of the inner self, but that profundity must include the body as well as the spirit, the body with all of those grotesque fluids, rhythms and gestures – gestures that are irrational to the inner spirit, yet nevertheless make their way into the music alongside the spirit. So instead of feeling fulfillment, we feel estrangement, wondering what part of ourselves did we manifest in the music, what taboo did we unlock. Rihm thinks Schumann (and reading between the lines, Janáček as well) is a composer who was gifted in tapping into this physical side, and his Fremde Szenen take Schumann’s Op. 110 piano trios as sources of inspiration, where he takes Schumann-sounding gestures and exaggerates them until he squeezes out their physical underside. In Jagden und Formen, the long solo for English horn seems to exist solely to provide rhythm. And in the concerto Styx und Lethe, the solo cello is like a twitchy, nervous subject that wants to unleash its libidinal energies over the orchestra that holds it down, and it eventually succeeds.

    Chiffre (cipher): This term really makes its way into Rihm’s lexicon in the 80s and could be considered a consequence of the previous two. If a sign is unable to retain a stable meaning or have a stable referent, then maybe there is something inadequate about the sign itself, that maybe it doesn’t fully encapsulate the referent it’s pointing to. That is to say, perhaps the solution for Rihm’s musical signs is not to inadequately express some tradition of the past but for them to be a tradition, for tradition to begin and end with a musical sign. Of course, it would be impossible to encapsulate hundreds of years of past music into a single gesture or sound space, so Rihm decides instead to create totally unique sound blocks à la Edgard Varèse’s sculptor-like approach to sound. These sound blocks, called “chiffres”, or “ciphers”, are free-standing because, again, the referent is fully present and in no need of an external crutch; in fact they can make up an entire piece of their own -- as in the case Nachstudie, a solo piano work extracted unaltered from the piano concerto sphere -- or they can co-exist with other ciphers in a single work, so long as they’re sufficiently differentiated. These sound objects, instead of leaving in the mind some faint impression of a historical music, deliver hard physical blows to the eardrums (if not literally, then at least figuratively speaking). And being free-standing, they will also create their own reality and, through the composer, can be molded and played around with at will without losing their unique musical identity. This approach to music composition also has connections to Stockhausen and his concept of “moment form”, where hermetically sealed “moments” can be placed in any order because they lack any premeditated connections to other moments.

    This concept is very clear in the Chiffre cycle as well as in a piece called Sphäre um Sphäre (this latter work is derived from Nachstudie). In Chiffre I, for example, the thin filigree texture of the piano often gets resonated by the other instruments with chords of the same pitch material; sometimes, these instruments will adopt the piano texture for themselves and will even play in rhythmic unison with it. In listening to the piece, one should get the sense of a single multifaceted sonority that lasts the whole 8 minutes. In Chiffre II, same thing with the addition of some long silences in between sections to further add a sense of isolated blocks. In Jagden und Formen, the chiffre concept presents itself differently. Instead of a single multifaceted block of sound, we hear multiple superimposed blocks that don’t seem to interact with one another. There is no question-and-answer type of exchange between blocks and no development of more fundamental cells (except in a couple of places, such as at the very beginning, where the pitch material of the strings is that of the woodwinds). In fact, the form of the piece is based almost entirely on the arrangement of blocks and less on any internal development within or between blocks. If such development can be discerned, it’s entirely by accident, though Rihm probably wouldn’t mind finding out about such things.

    Übermalung (overpainting): Though the concept of “cipher” doesn’t necessitate the superimposition of sound blocks, since they’re allowed to be heard in isolation like in the Chiffre cycle or Nachstudie, layering music does, admittedly, open up a whole realm of possibilities. For instance, the stratification of music into layers allows you to develop musical forms based entirely on how the layers rise and sink to and from the surface. The most obvious way of portraying this rising/sinking motion is to make one layer louder in volume over another. A less obvious way requires you to think horizontally instead of vertically: instead of layering two blocks simultaneously, you can splice one block in half and insert another block of a different nature between the two halves, giving you the impression of one block completely silencing another block without that being the case. Verborgene Formen is a great example of this, which is made up of a piece called Nucleus spliced into three sections in between which are new passages as well as the entirety of a piece called Pol; when listening to the work, you get the sense of Nucleus rising and falling to/from the surface (of course, you have to be familiar with Nucleus to hear this).

    The layering idea (called “overpainting”) derives from painter Arnulf Rainer, who would partially or completely paint over works or photographs by other artists, usually with thick layers of pigment so that the act of layering becomes part of the message the art is trying to convey. Rihm does something similar with his manuscripts: he cuts them up and glues photocopies of old manuscripts he wants inserted in between, and you’ll notice this if you read the scores. Cutting and pasting manuscripts together raises an interesting issue: is there an end to this process? Is there such a thing as a final work? Rihm says “No” and is challenging us to see the dialectic between the search for a form and the form itself. Musical forms are not derived a priori -- and never have been derived a priori -- but are derived from immersion in the musical material. And if you were to alter the material -- be it a chord progression, a melodic phrase, a rhythmic sequence or, in the case of Rihm, the arrangement of sound blocks -- the overarching form will also be altered. Form and content do not exist separately. The supreme example of this dialectic is in Jagden und Formen. Out of its 50 minutes of music, only 5 or so is new material; the rest is a collage of old material from Gejagte Form, Verborgene Formen, and Gedrängte Form. What’s most interesting about placing old material into a new context is that it acquires new functional roles and sheds old ones without any internal changes to the material itself. For example, bars 15-27 of Gejagte Form, which are part of an introduction, appear four times unaltered in Jagden und Formen: as part of a secondary subject at the beginning, as part of an accompaniment about 10 minutes in, as part of a development, and as part of a recapitulation.

    Fleuve (flow? river? flowing river? Hard to translate): This final point is nearly indistinguishable from “overpainting”, but it’s really the particular way he achieves "overpainting" over and above what he does with the splicing of manuscripts. It also explains the sense of momentum and energy you feel in pieces like Jagden und Formen, Vers une symphonie fleuve III, Verwandlung 1-6 or even in ET LUX. There are many instances in these pieces where blocks of sound are stacked in such a way so that, while one block is playing, the other is silent or sustaining a chord (e.g. ET LUX from 31:30-32:30 is a simple example). Or you’ll hear two simultaneous melodic lines often “hocketing” each other, preventing true silence from taking place. There is also a lot of layered pulsing in the dynamics in order to extend the lifespan of a (de)crescendo, and Rihm has a real gift for placing sforzando accents just where you, the listener, expect a climax to take place. The result of all these techniques is an organic, flowing, “vegetative” type of music (to use Rihm’s word) that seems to take its own meandering course like a river, sprouting like a fungus into unforeseen directions and carving out new territory with a spontaneity whose inner logic is inaccessible to us listeners and yet feels so natural. Many of these “fleuve”-styled works should vaguely remind us of the flowing symphonic music from the late 19th and early 20th century, especially Mahler, Strauss, and Berg. But don’t read an aesthetics based on the late 19th century flowing symphony as a retreat into conservatism. On the contrary, it’s the reflection of a philosophically rigorous composer who is interested in demonstrating how ideas that were latent in the past can be exploited to a potential far beyond what past composers even imagined.
    Last edited by calvinpv; Nov-01-2020 at 00:35.

  20. Likes Knorf, Simplicissimus, Iota liked this post
  21. #1542
    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2020
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    2,503
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    ^Looks fascinating! I think it will be great to have a non-traditional piece. Jagden und Formen is probably my favorite work we've done in the 1980-2000 Group so I think this should be another enlightening listening experience for me.
    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

    "Art, like morality, consists of drawing the line somewhere." - G.K. Chesterton

    "Ceaseless work, analysis, reflection, writing much, endless self-correction, that is my secret." - Johann Sebastian Bach

  22. Likes calvinpv liked this post
  23. #1543
    Senior Member Merl's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2016
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    5,152
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Jeez, that took me ages to read, calvinpv. Lol. After an explanation that long I simply must listen to this piece.
    Last edited by Merl; Nov-01-2020 at 10:27.

  24. #1544
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2017
    Location
    Toronto, Canada
    Posts
    3,867
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by annaw View Post
    (For those interested, here's a musical analysis of Fauré's quartet: https://conservancy.umn.edu/bitstrea...6/1/Childs.pdf)
    Thank you very much for the analysis! It is an excellent piece of work, better than I could have done as an undergraduate. Concerning Fauré's music there is more to be said about chromaticism and about counterpoint in terms of adapted Schenkerian analysis (which was taught at the master's level where I was studying.) As the young, brilliant teacher of Fauré at the Niedermayer School in Paris, Saint-Saens was up-to-date on Liszt-Wagner innovations in chromatic harmony, which Fauré quickly took up in his own way, not at all like the Germans', as a third resource along with modal and tonal harmony. The String Quartet is only chromatic in certain less predictable-sounding places, for example the development section of the first movement.

    P.S. Re: "Just a music lover perspective." Despite, or because of, all this analysis, I still love the piece. Though with some flaws, it's still a great work by the ailing composer. (O.K. no more Fauré)
    Last edited by Roger Knox; Nov-01-2020 at 04:11.

  25. #1545
    Senior Member annaw's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2019
    Location
    Estonia
    Posts
    1,672
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    After having had an absolutely crazy morning, I decided to listen to the Rihm. It's an interesting work. The sound world is quiet and sounds somewhat minimalist to me. It's even a bit subdued I'd say but I was positively surprised how accessible it is. I think that the eight singers shift the focus of the piece quite strongly to the vocal side - it would be rather fascinating to hear it with a less dominant vocal section (or a more dominant quartet section) as, if I understood correctly, Rihm had originally intended. I didn't follow the text, but still noticed a somewhat unusual connection between the music and the text. The connection is surprisingly loose - even during Dies irae you get an interestingly calm section with a few moments that are more intense. I must say one thing though. Maybe the work would be even more captivating and intense (like at 50:05) if it was shorter, but that's wholly my personal opinion. I liked the last part of the quartet most.

    Overall, I think it's definitely a fascinating work. There were some compositional moves which I didn't enjoy too much but, in general, this has certainly widened my horizons.
    Last edited by annaw; Nov-01-2020 at 16:57.

  26. Likes calvinpv liked this post

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •