Saturday, March 30, 2013

If you have learned to read you may recall that writing was an important affirmation of your skill as a reader. The best affirmation of that in music is probably Bartok's well-documented ongoing attempt to notate the singing of Hungary's mountain dwellers.

It came to mind the other evening hearing a splendidly piercing reading of Schumann's Kreisleriana by Marc Ponthus. Extreme at both ends of the spectrum of impetuous and lyrical, it proclaimed Schumann as the consummate modernist that I have always felt him to be, having written down what in fact cannot be written down. Ponthus played it as I'm sure it was conceived: fearlessly, wildly, intimately, unforgettably.

The real difficulty with that music is that it is presented to us in metered bars. It has to be the sounds themselves that propel the motion inward or outward.

The sounds themselves...


Haydn has given us a piano piece: Capriccio in G.  I have never seen it programmed or heard it played.  At first reading I find it less than compelling.

Hey!  Wait a minute!  Haydn?  Less than compelling?  Who do you think you are!

I take another look this time paying attention to the note values and the "repetitions" -- oh! how he loved repetitions!

I begin to get it.

Next time I pay attention to my own gut reactions.  I begin to hear the tonal non sequitors that call for extraordinary reading. 

I go back to the title and, newly empowered by my observations, let the piece rip.

It is a riot.

Maybe that's why it's one of the two late works after which he wrote "Laus Dei."