The Baltimore Poetry Scene- 1964-2007
+ The Balto Poetry Scene- '64-07- Cuddy and Eberhardt- originally pub in Loch Raven Review
Following are the reminiscences of two
DC: Realizing that many of the readers of this article may not be from
Since this is the age of quasi-journalismthat assertion is proven by any airing of TV news and/or chain newspaper storieswe are adopting a radio panel-like format. The initials before a paragraph identify a change of author. Just think of it as Public Radios Car Talk or another such show with two hosts. We also want to identify the guilty party who voices an opinion or point of view usually mute in solemn and press agent prose. We, the authors, are two hand-held cameras doing our cinema verité best, catching what we can of the
To give you some background on
Compared with the other Eastern seaboard cities just named,
The future of
DE: When I came to live in
The career that I had pondered as an English major and poetry editor at
Alans father, at least, did not take the attitude towards our poetic ambitions as did the father of
I cant speak for the lady poets, but there is a generation gap thing that a lot of we male poets faced. Then too, read this and- realise that there are many shades of grey/ay!
"It wasn't a repudiation of his father," Moomau says. "His father was a hero to him. From all of David's accounts, he was accomplished, driven, an amateur boxer, the son of Eastern European immigrants. David respected him and was always looking for his approval. He never thought [his father] got it. And he wanted to be buried next to his parents."
David was a performance poet, not just a poet on the page-it gives me pause that he died alone? in his room? i say- get my priorities straight- humor- enjoy life, live life to the fullest-friends- follow a review of the memorial and a memorial poem by moi.
was David Franks something else?- and yet- u couldn't know it at the time- unless- unless- u were specially prescient-
Franks is the kind of poet that was famous after his death
but that was then .....
he was ahead of his time
but- i wonder if there is enuff lov of poetry now to redeem him?- for history? not that it matters to him- he's dead-
his range- his excellence in many areas- Chris Toll read a poem by him that has never been published- and i think Chris has the only copy and Chris's own poem, in response was also great
to us who still treasure poetry- what does it matter whether we draw big crowds
some one tells me, you never get a feel for the whole person except in retrospectives like this- more's the pity-the person of David Franks came to life in this event more than in any similar event i've been to
he was a startling poet- like Rimbaud, Patti Smith-a humorous poet, a radical poet
in one poem he mentions his influences- Creeley, Berrigan, O'Hara, - poets who include the chance, include the lost material- poets who "didn't know what they were doing"- i'm sure David would include John Asberry- altho for me- these poets - as was David- can be annoying in their lack of meaning- I still luv em to death
Dave would never have been published in Poetry Magazine or the New Yorker- and i have a problem w that-one of his poems ends "May I call you penus?" (this was read by Betsy Boyd)- if we can't include such poetry as great- where are we?
In the Constellation Eeyore in memory, David Franks
Who are you, who do you think we are?
Its all so far, so far, so far.
Start in the constellation Eeyore- that guide star .
Pin a tail on it- go from there south in the southern sky
That shadow had not looked that way before,
And since Im asking why:
Vast forests to the north, bor-
eal taiga, the last time I saw my father,
Spoke to him- I cant remember now.
There could be meaning, could be some how
Like the overtones to a piano string,
The clouds keep changing now that you mention it.
My pa liked cheese and crackers, that I know.
The forests of the night sky, forests of stars
Where you can go a long way before you meet another.
Its all so far, so far, so far.
Who are you, who do you think we are?
In 1964, it might have been said that there were two tents in the sleepy little camp of
The long day sped:
A roof; a bed:
Lizette Woodworth Reese (1856?) (why the colons?)
The definitive book on the
Speaking of links to the past, Mencken introduced R. P. Harriss, who had dated Lizette Reese, to his future wife. Mr. and Mrs. Harrisss daughter is none other than present-day doyen of the
Professor Richard Macksey, who had a distinguished career directing Johns Hopkins Universitys Humanities Department, told me of two poetry festivals held at the University in the ��s, which had involved the centurys redwoods (as he called them): T. S. Eliot, Dylan Thomas, e. e. cummings, and lesser known figures.
Clarinda Harris reports that her undergraduate alma mater and sometime employer,
Harriss points out, Somehow the Goucher records missed Robert Duncan and John Ashbery. I know they came to campus. I was teaching at Goucher from 1967when Dickey first appearedthrough 1990, when Ginsberg read, and I not only heard both Duncan and Ashbery, but actually hosted the pre-reading little dinner for Duncan, the guy whose ethereal beauty, Anaïs Nin raved about in a diary entry. He ate an entire pork loin all by himself; thank God, I had another one cooked that I had been saving for my kids Sunday dinner.
Harriss claims Ashbery helped ameliorate her compulsive writing habits, perhaps even saved her from becoming a hermit, by insisting he loved interruptions, especially the phone ringing while he was working on a poem. Of all the poets whom she helped host, the most generous, most fun, and most compliant with student requests (big requests, like an additional reading, which he gave, wearing a yamulke, in the Goucher chapel the day after his scheduled reading) was Alan Ginsberg. The most difficult to deal with? Womanizing? Mums the word, Harriss says. (I hereby declare Clarinda Harriss to be the den mother of all the
I became friends with redoubtable African-American poet Sam Cornish, who taught at
These women (in black
Allow me to mention the following to give a bit of context. I poured blood on draft files in 1967 as a protest to the Vietnam War, for which I did 21 months in federal prisonmostly at Lewisburg, Pennsylvaniaalthough I stayed for a short while at the federal facility at West Street, Manhattan, New York City, as did renowned poet Robert Lowell (see Lowells poem in Life Studies Memories of Lepke and West Street. My stay in prison was relaxing compared to the turmoil on the streets and I spent my time writing. At last, I had something to write about! Poets really do need something to sayand the path I was taking was a political and radical one.
I found while doing my time that prisoners, with a lot of time on their hands, actually respect poetry. One asked me to do a greeting card for him.
I got out of prison in 1971 and began a career by founding a
In 1974, O.A.R. had its
A 1995 Washington Post article on poetry readings quoted the Roman poet Martial who, when asked in the second century A.D. why he would not read his verses, replied So I wont have to hear yours. Another great Italian writer, the 19th Century author Leopardi, stated, I believe there are very few things that reveal the puerility, human nature and the extreme blindness, indeed, stupidity, to which self love leads a manand which also reveal the illusions we have about ourselvesas does this business of reciting ones own writings. This was to a degree an apt description of
Michael Egan (whose daughter, Moira, is also a great poet) was, along with Daniel Mark Epstein, a poetry mentor of mine at the time. In the 70s and early 80's,
I'm Nobody! Who are you?
How drearyto beSomebody!
How publiclike a Frog
To tell ones namethe livelong June
To an admiring Bog
I like that livelong June. And note that the poet has had the thought, maybe it would be nice to be somebody. Do you think she ever said to herself, If only I. . .? I know she did. But! She got over it.
I felt it best to read when the spirit (or when the spirits, i.e., alcohol, moved me and only then, or if I was invited to read (which I seldom was!). I thought it unseemly to invite myself to this or that reading or publication, but still, I couldnt stay away. Poetry, to me, should be a place of utter honesty (of course, self-promotion is an honest enough effort also). Shyness is also an honest trait. Part of me doesnt like having to perform poetry. Is that what it takes to be a professional poetbe a performer? (I have heard some well-known poets read boringly and poorly). I am a purist who believes in spontaneity. I feel relieved to be working in an honest trade, i.e., helping inmates. The very idea of making poetry, writing it, speaking it for money or fame seemed ridiculous and wrong. Poetry should be spontaneous and inspired (and may best exist privately.) Does one need an audience? But we all like to share our enthusiasms.
At most readings, after the featured reader, here would be an open mike for any and all to sign up and read their work. Ours was an open and democratic trade after all.
DC: Besides some of the
Does Ms. Jacobsen leave a legacy? Hopefully she will not be like Lizette Reese, who was revered in her day, but later in the twentieth century relegated to garden party readings and reminiscences. The poetry is too good to waste on the shelves of some historical society or perpetually twilit library section where only ghosts and scholars breathe dust.
Today, Ms. Jacobsens memory is kept alive by poets such as Elizabeth Spires at
If Josephine Jacobsen was the secular muse of poetry in this city, Sister Maura was its religious muse. Oh, she may have looked holy, and saintly, the pale complexion of innocence and the cloister, but that was illusion. This womans poetry rolled up its sleeves. In a poem titled Julie she writes:
When, after college class, she tutored in the inner city,
She was silent about broken bottles, leering whistles.
Once she said the boys eyes were loud as cavities
Exposing the nerve.
Sister Maura was no shrinking violet, but engaged the world in her poetry. Perhaps her role as nun somewhat limited her circulation in the rough and tumble of literary politics, but her students at the College of Notre Dame often placed high in the Atlantic Monthly literary contest for students.
Occasionally in a used bookstore one may still come across Sister Mauras book, Walking on Water. It contains both traditional and modernistic poems. Thirty years from now, sixty years from now they will still be readable, and, if they dont excite the reader, that reader has no head, no heart, no tinder in their imagination.
If one has to admit that they have experienced euphoria, and that is not a thing to be admitted lightlyfor it is a madmans emotion as well as a poets and a mysticsI must admit that in 1997 two literary events had me soaring with happiness, or, at least, illusions of grandeur. The first was the Baltimore Book Festival. Beautiful autumn light, no humidity, which meant no dirty urban haze, and the temperature was cool but without bearing a chill. You felt alive. In
For me a second grand event was the Word Up CD reading held at the Westminster Presbyterian Church on whose grounds Poe was buried a century and a half before. Blair Ewing was the force behind the CD. Under the auspices of the Maryland State Poetry and Literary Society, Blair created this coming together of poets and dedicated the CD to his deceased mother. I had a poem that I recorded on it. I was happy to be included. Although not all the famous and the famous-in-their-own-minds writers were included, a great diverse selection was. Each poet read at the altar of poetry that nightliterally the altar of poetry in that church: Mary Knott, Alan Barysh, Alan Britt, Lynda Joy Burke, etc., etc. Mark Strand read three poems. Josephine Jacobsen and Reed Whittemore also lent their voices to the choir of eclectic
Joe Cardarelli (a photo)
DE: Throughout the 70s and 80s until his untimely death in 1994, Joe Cardarelli at the Maryland Institute College of Art was a huge force in the city. He favored the beat or
Joe was one academic in town who gave readings. Some did, some didnt. Few poets from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars ever did. It was as if they were above all that. Dont get me wrong, the Writing Seminar poets, such as Coleman, Allen Grossman, Peter Sacks, and David St. John, were darn good. But they did not participate in the local scene like Clarinda Harriss and other teachers, and my conclusion was, they wrote for books and not for people so much.
DC: One unfortunate phenomenon about the poetry scene is its amnesia.
David St. John taught in the Hopkins Writing Seminars. Does the
In the dictionary of sapphires
Only the rain confesses its regrets.
Even the Venetian courtier asleep
At the end of the bed forgets
The naked jewels at his fingertips.
Still, in our own prosaic silence
Even a simple breath upon the ear
Is a kind of violence.
Then, beyond the facets of sex,
Level as moonlight, some lost aspect
Of solitude touches your shoulders,
Still bare and glistening with sweat,
The soft white of new ice & fragile as air;
& so I know I must take care.
If a poet who could write such verse graced the city even for a month, is that poets presence here not worth remembering? It is not the writers name, degrees, honors, or even his personality: it is the work, the magic of creation, that should be remembered. It elevates the history of
DE: The poetry crowd I knew in the 1980s was a friendly crowdespecially James Taylor (who was to become my editor), Mike Fallon, Gary Blankenburg, Sam Schmidt, and Alan Reese (an even later publisher). You could say that we were minor, fairly half-assed poets, that we were wannabes, but so what: we were poets! What did it take to be an established poet in the
DC: When looking at poemsyou can see good and badif they reach a certain level. It is just how you look and how much something speaks to you. I remember Billy Collins poem The Death of Allegory in Poetry magazine in the late 80s or early 90sbefore Collins hit it big. The poem in its clarity was such a welcome relief from all the clutter in the poems around it. True, today, Billy Collins has become somewhat of a parody of himself, but that is due to overexposure.
I guess all of us will be ignoredexcept for the few on the national scale. Our little flights of imagination will be so much wrinkled paper in the waste can. It is often exciting to write. Is it exciting to read? We can find value if we have an open mind and are not too cynical. I think all of us as poets dream that what we are doing has value beyond ourselves. It might be an illusion, but it is not one we will, or perhaps should, give up easily. And what is sublime or good or better than good? Tastes varythere are some standards. But look at contemporary art. I enjoy reading poems that relate to me and my world view, or that, because of their power and/or beauty can change my world view.
DE: Many of the young readers at the myriad poetry readings I attended in Baltimore in the ��s and ��s were reading or performing prosein my opinion, prose with no content. I knew from experience, poetry was an easy way to make ones mark, a way to socialize. All one needed was a pen or pencil and an audience. The many
I would go to readings and come away relieved that no one was good enough to supplant me in my own fantasy world of greatness. But at every reading you could find glints and glimmers of greatness. Then, too, at most of the small readings you went to, the audience consisted mainly of other poets who ignored your stuff and fantasized their own careers as they waited to read. Of course, we did, also, genuinely enjoy each others work and got something out of it.
In 1987, Dolphin Moon Press published my first little chapbook, The Tree Calendar. I could claim that it was not from a vanity press... in a sense. Only problem was, I had to pay for the 1,000 copies we printed (it ran about $1,400) and the book sank like a stone. We had a publication party for it at the Cultured Pearl, a popular hangout in Sowebo, southwest Baltimorethe host being poet Teddy Goetzle. You are not going to make money at poetry!
In the 90s, the scene morphed again into the poetry competition or slam movement. The scene democratized even moreeveryone and anyone could be a poet. The poets in
In March 1995, I read twice with my old pal from the peace movement days, Father Philip Berrigan, at the Raven Bookstore in Hampden and at the Halcyon Gallery in Fells Point. These readings were high points of the decade for me, the 90s being otherwise a pretty dry stretch. It helped to ride Phils coattails. In 1998, I had submitted poems to a book that would be a memorial to Margaret Diorio, a local poet who had also been interested in peace and justice.
I wasnt invited but I did not want to recognize that the fact that I had been overlooked had nothing personal about it. Do you have to be stroked? Do you have to be noticed to be a poet? If you want that kind of success you have to work hard at it no matter how talented you may be. You need tons and tons of patience, and tons and tons of promotion. And dont assume that Americans in the main are interested.
Artscape had always been a place for me to touch base back with fellow poets. In summer 1999, I almost didnt go. And yet, when I did, some of my old friends were still there. Not my friend and publisher of my chapbook The Tree Calendar, James Taylor. He was now involved in a magazine and later with the
I considered entering a poetry slam at the Artscape of 2000. But, wasnt the concept of a slam antithetical to the art of poetry? My first thought was that I would read my poems on sex, drinking, and violencebut might I come off looking like a fool? I was succumbing to the make it popular mindset. But who doesnt want to be popular? If we couldnt be rich as poets, could we at least be popular?
The slam was not what I expected. It turned out that the new generation had reinvigorated the poetry sceneit always will! The slam was a delightful event. Yes it was competitive, but full of energy. Poems were recited from memory; poets were passionate; they were full of rhyme. They were political; the room was mostly blacks but there were whites there also. Each poet was given three minutes; for two minutes there was a green light, the light turned yellow for the last minute, and at minute three it turned red like a game show.
Unfortunately, the honchos of Artscape decided in 2003 to move their focus on the literary arts to the Baltimore Book Fair in September and to abandon the official readings and the large literary tent at Artscape. A spokeswoman told me, It was hard for literature to compete with the food, the visual, and musical arts. Which was true. But I think there was still room for literature at Artscape. Indeed, Julie Fisher organized a tent of exciting readings at the 2007 Artscape.
DC: Before the Baltimore Book Festival, before City Lit at the Pratt Library in April, there was Artscape. True, the literary arts took a backseat to the visual arts and to music, but the literary organizations in town saw Artscape as the focal point of the year. It gave them a chance to showcase and sell their wares to a wider public than was usually available to them. I worked for both the Maryland Poetry and Literary Society and Lite at many an Artscape. It was always held during the hottest weekend of the year (and it often rained as well!).
There was an annual competition that was fairly prestigious at the time. Poetry, fiction and playwriting were the categories judged. The winners received publication of their work through the auspices of the Artscape Organization, and they were presented an award and given a ballyhooed reading at a large
At its height in the 90s and early 00s, Artscape gave most of the literary organizations a chance to nominate poets for the literary contests. Of course, there was only one winner per category, but each of the nominees had a chance to read their work before friends, peers, and the stray members of the public who were looking for air-conditioning and relief from the broiling sun. Why did the literary organizations fall out of favor with the Artscape movers and shakers? Local poetry and novels arent as sexy as bands on a stage. The new generation of the spoken word, which was an outgrowth of rap and the poetry slams, brought a genre and semblance of literary art to public festivals, and drew crowds. Drawing crowds and selling food and doing PR for civic groups is what Artscape had become. It is now a street festival, with music headliners and an opportunity for other musicians to entertain, and get exposure. There is art for sale, and there is art on display at the Maryland Institute, but Artscape is now basically about community and PR and free music. Now, dont get us wrongits still pretty groovy.
There was a great range of poetic styles in this reading, from mousy novices to suit-and- tie bourgeois types. The audience was well integratedthe slammers were represented. Clarinda Harriss was there, and I remarked to her how far she and I went back. Also, there was a magnificent spread: a Mexican-style bean dip, a cheese spread, nicely rolled sandwiches, and a beautiful cake! (Some wine would have been nice.)
I ran across Gary Blankenburg in the bathroom. In one of the poems he read, he referred to going off Prozac. I asked him, Are you still off it? We discussed the anti-depressants for a while, for I share the ailment of depression (who doesnt), and he told me that he has found Viagra to be helpful for his love life. I tell him about some joky, generic names for Viagra-like dixafix, or mydixadrupin or ibpokin, etc. Heres a little semi haiku for you (you who are cognescenti):
We are getting gray and fat, he laments- my fellow poet.
How are the ailanthii trees
doing in the alleys?
Two old poets in the bathroom
Lao Chen and Hamzi
but the urinals are eternal.
(note the internal rhymes)
In 2003, the great Irish poet Seamus Heaney gave a reading at
I asked, I know you disavow political poetry, but what do you think are the best political poems, not just in English, and what makes good political poetry? Is it possible? I was lobbing him a softball for Heaney doesnt really disavow political poetry. He responded that it has to be in contexthonest, not preachy. Part of the reason I had poured blood on draft files was to be able to write political poetry! Any modern poet of worth considers the question of political poetry. After the wars of the 20th century could they not?
Heaney praised Ginsbergs Howl and a poem by Neruda about socks. He elaborated on Wilfred Owen. The poet had returned to the front and died with his men, and that there was no sanctity in Owens verse. Exactly.
I have always been interested in the intersection of poetry and politics. I find a lot of poetry to be a bit too self-absorbedeven my own. My father advised me not to gaze at my own navel.
In 2003, I held several readings at the City Jail for my work in Programs and Activities, some with local African-American poets such as the charming Olu Butterfly or Min Ra and with inmate poetesses, some of whom were very talented. One recited charmingly about her different types of automatic weapons. Heres an example of verse by an African-American inmate:
The Actress: Dress me up and take me out / I can play any part you like. / I can be thugged out, buzzed out / or even slightly drugged out/ if youre paying tonight. / I can be prim and proper, / a real heart stopper / if the mood is right. / I can be educated or mis-educated / however you feel./ I can be low key or high profile / depending on our deal. / I can be the itch that you cant scratch. / I can be your morning blast. / I can be many things, just ask. / Just dont ask me to be myself. / I never played that part before. / I dont even know who she is anymore!B. H.inmate #? Now, do you see poems like this in any national magazine or in any literary arts magazine? So poetry can take place most anywhere!
dan's letter to me cut per his request:
For me, what with Epstein's knowledge of music and, especially, poetry, this bio of Bob Dylan- The Ballad of Bob Dylan, is probably definitive.
Epstein neatly chronicles BD's life with four concerts as guideposts.
I had accepted the media myths created for BD (Dylan) - that he is the prickly, uncooperative, but an iconic hero of the 60's. That bugged me because I know many other greater heroes of the 60's.
Turns out Bob is hardworking and generous. While he may not been have been forthcoming or political enough for my tastes- it's clear that while BD reflected the 60's, he did not comment upon them, as much as we may have wished some one to do so (see Howard Zinn)!
The dvd documentary on Phil Ochs ("There but for fortune") shows clearly that Phil spoke more clearly than Bob about the 60's... but were his songs better? no way!! Jonh Lennon and Gil Scott Heron spoke much more clearly about the 60's! In fact- so did Nina Simone!! But Bob joined Phil for the concert in honor of the Chilean singer, Victor Jara, who was killed by Pinochet's thugs. And how much more of a protest song could our generation want than "Masters of War"?
BD is, after all, a composer, poet and musician. You are sucked in by his harmonies, his cadence changes- and then come the dynamite lyrics: "Here's to those that came w the dust and are gone w the wind"- simple but unforgettable.
BD has (w integrity) stubbornly refused to be pigeonholed as other than a song and dance man- following in the footsteps of a Johnny Cash. So what if he has not had the edge of certain others- his lyrics clearly support the humanity of a generation trying to change things for the better.. he channels Woodie Guthrie- he channels so many other persons who had something to say!.he is a good artist for our generation- we don't tolerate fools gladly. It's clear enough where his sympathies lie. The fact that BD has obfuscated interviewers often is a credit- they ask such stupid questions, don't they?
You can see that if Bob respects the film maker- as a Scorcese- he tells it like it is!
Hopefully, artists like BD (and film makers like Scorcese) will be even more honest and political in the future!
To me, "the answer my friends/ is mass movement for social change; the answer is mass movement for social change"- but that has no poetic ring.
When I hear that Bob collects cars or real estate- that reminds me of a Hugh Hefner; I would like Bob to be MORE- but...the fact that he is not? (I also wish other great composers- Mozart and Wagner were more political- guess what?!?!? they're not!)
Noes added later (7/19/11) upon watching the Scorcese documentary on Dylan- "No Direction Home"- Bob is not evasive talking to Martin- I realize my initial negative reaction (see above letter and refutation by Dan) was juvenile and foolish. The harmonic changes alone draw you into Bob's music- and THEN- then there are the lyrics. For a protestor like myself? "Masters of War" is as great a protest song as you could like.
"I hope that you'll die/ and I hope it comes soon/ I'll stand on your grave and make sure that you're dead!"
"Here's to those that come w the dust and are gone w the wind"- was that enough for poetry? or "How does it feel- to be all alolne- no directgion home, like a rolling stone?"- right up there w the stones "All of the things that you used to do- if they're done now, well they're done by you!"
A great documentary on Phil Ochs- "There but for Fortune" has just been released, and one could be tempted to say, Phil suffered at Bobby's hands. But didn't Bob join Phil at the tribute concert to Victor Jara- Chilean folk singer shot in the back by Pinochet's thugs in Chile?
Liam Clancy tells Bob: "Remember Bob- no fear, no envy, no meanness."
Liam Clancy: Presente!
Another reunionthis one sadly a memorial readingon November 11, 2005, at the Maryland Institutes new, modern Brown Building. A Hail to Joe Carderelli night brought out many old friends and older poets such as Daniel Mark Epstein, David Franks, Ed Sanders (now living in New York), Anselm Hollo (now Colorado-based), and Andrei Codrescu. I felt like a star-struck kidmaybe also a jealous oneI got their autographs.
( a photo-Baltimore poets photographed at Poes grave for a
Also present were David Beadouin, Kendra Kopelke, Clarinda Harriss, Gary Blankenburg, Tom DiVenti, and John Giordano (from
Clarinda mentioned to me a 1981 Sunpapers photo of
Fast forward to 2006. The publisher for my new book, Blue Running Lights, Alan Reese (a wonderful local poet) hips me to the Poetry in Baltimore (PiB) website run by Julie Fisher. Julies site has all the latest news. The website, begun in 2005, is fantasticmany bells and whistles. She is doing a lot to promote poetry in
DC: I have been involved with the Maryland State Poetry and Literary Society for 25 years or so. Originally in the mid-1980s, the Society which is less of an old-style garden club and more an organization seriously devoted to the art of poetry, had the publishing of the Maryland Poetry Review (MPR) as its chief goal. Michael Fallon, Rosemary Klein, and Gary Blankenburg were the founding editors. Eventually, Rosemary Klein became the sole editor and continued publishing the well-received magazine until the Millenium. Rosemary was interviewed on a page of Judson Jeromes Poets Market Annual. The MPR published many of the local lights as well as those nationally recognized. No, it wasnt the equal of Poetry Magazine or the American Poetry Review, but it was more than just a locally published zine or amateur production. Both in content and layout and artit stood out.
DE: The grizzled poet, Blaster Al Ackerman, is he one of the owners of Normals bookstore, who works there with fellow poet Rupert Wondolowski (both of the Shattered Wig Review stable of fine poets) gave me a tip on how to get more publicity for my little book. He knew of an artist who had gone to
The Baltimore Book Festival of 2007 took place with many exciting poetry venues and readings. The Maryland State Poetry and Literary Society tent was especially active with readings. At Gregg Wilhelms tent, sponsored by the Baltimore Literary Project, I met my old friend Baari Shabazz and was reminded of how much he invigorated the African-American poetry scene in the early ��s.
DC: One of the events at the Creative Café was a memorial reading of many of the poems in Barbara Simons book, The Woman from Away, by a number of family, friends and colleagues. [See separate review of Ms. Simons book by Dan Cuddy in this issue of Loch Raven ReviewEditor.] Her poems make what passes for poetry in the many university and commercial bookstores pale in comparison. They are lyrical, humane, straightforward and moving. The imagery is accessible to any educated person. I dont know if she would have liked the comparison, but Barbara Simon is Billy Collins with a heart rather than a quip. Here is a short poem, Traveling, from The Woman from Away:
We were young together and we believed
The world to be young like us, unlikely
The we in the green wood of youth would
Burn out, yet unwittingly, we bent
To the worlds wants, genuflected
At the altar of all we once believed
We could not honor. In the irony
Of years, marriages, careers, even our children
Grow old. One day awareness, like a splatter
Of rain on the windshield, sounded alarm.
Suddenly, the road behind was clear, a long
Dark fissure curving back to history, days
And stories only our siblings recall. Ahead,
The horizon lifts out of the storm, so close
Its as if we could touch eternity.
Second, on the night of November 3, a rare annual event: an appearance of The Tinklers at the Load of Fun Gallery on
DC and DE: Here are some other Baltimore poets we must mention: Christopher T. George, Devy Bendit, Marta Knobloch, Mary Azrael, Julia Wendell, Roxie Powell, Mark Hossfield, David Hilton, Roland Flint, David Bergman, Paul Lake, Michael Salcman, Jessica Locklear, Richard Sober, Bean, Greg Mosson, Bal Tim Ore, Marion Buchman, Joyce Brown, Del Marbrook on Baltimore poetry in the Potomac Review, Roger Kamenetz, and Barbara de Caesare; there are also L.A.N.G.U.A.G.E. poetry readings at Claytons Bookstore on Charles Street, and we need to pay homage to the many great African-American poets beside the already mentioned avatars of the black poetry scene, Sam Cornish, Michael Weaver, Baari Shabazz, and Lucille Clifton. Thus, let us mention, for example, Ja Hipster, Gayle Danley, Petula Caesar, Rebecca Dupas, Tayree, Archie the Messenger, Bleek, and Fredlocks.
DE: Dan and I have barely scratched the surface, and, if you have been left out, believe me, there is a reunion going on tomorrow that you should be at but you wont be. Get over it. We bow down on our knees and acknowledge our omissions. We dedicate this to the funky, quirky
To paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, who with Zelda once lived in
And so we beat on,
Boats against the current,
Borne back ceaselessly
Into the past.
But NOOOOOOOO- he had to write a whole book!
© Dave Eberhardt and Dan Cuddy. Loch Raven Review.
addendum to poetry essay
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IVY Bookshop reading- 10/5/12
Some additional notes- not necessarily relevant to the Balto scene (I draw from two essays- additions to the "Baltimore Poetry Scene" and "How I want my poems to be"): In the 60's, at a poetry reading at the Y in
Auden confessed, "Frawnkly I don't knew what a variable foot is", and Marianne Moore, predictably (given her association with Wm. Carlos Williams and her use of the variable foot), said she thought it had been beneficial, words to that effect. I believe that while Pound may not have introduced the variable foot, at least he popularized it. It has been a liberating influence. Great things have been done with it- in Eliot,
I could not escape the thought that in poetry- the great poets are marked special more because they have something to say than the fact that they say it specially or differently (Pound's "Make it new"). Come to think of it- what did Pound have to say? And thus he remains, especially compared to Eliot, a minor poet!
the state of poetry in the late 20th, early 21st century?: A poet stands up in a crowded cross town bus and declares " Hey, everbody, I'm a poet;" The others rejoind: "Shut up and sit the f k down; we're all poets too".
To continue from where the above essay left off- I would go into the web site Poetry in Baltimore- on which I posted many poems and got great feedback- enough poems to make another volume after Blue Running Lights. I was able to review many readings- often ones in which I had participated. In 2009 and 10, a good friend, William Hughes, had put me on you tube as I read- Bill posted a great many videos- mainly on politically radical events. You can find these poems in the last chapter on this site- entitled "Poems from PIB". end of +
I find much poetry today is really prose-
people cut lines off a la wm carlos wms or pound- w no sense of rythm- try just
running lines together w much poetry and see if it makes any difference- it
doesn't. too little music- academic, or as i say it- adaeemic (as in anemic
poetry) most also lacks passion-
look at poems in the new yorker, poetry mag or apr- no passion- acadeemic
robt creely had a cupla good poems in the carlos wms vein
language poets- armantrout? ashberry? seem febrile to me
the grt poems- say, stevens' sunday morning, or hart crane (occasionally) and dylan thomas (much) have music and meaning- who tries to grab that ring now
nobody writes pol,tical stuff- maybe amiri baraka and ntozake shange and alice walker
don't get me wrong - i luv poets as persons
my fav- jack gilbert just died- rip
I realize sending this out I may not endear myself for furute publication- these are sweeping statements- if it does not apply to you- you may excuse yrself (we will meet soon)
My poop actually smells kind of seet also
Dave eberhardt- baltimore
Examples of good poetry
For my taste, these are some examples poetry having the right stuff: Robert Herricks line: Whenas in silks my Julia goes,/Then, then, methinks how sweetly flows/ The liquefaction in her clothes, or in Blake, What is it men in women do require?/ The lineaments of Gratified Desire, or his poem Jerusalem that begins, And did those feet in ancient time, (the whole poem), or Emily Dickinsons hair raising poem:
Emily's room - Amherst- photo by de (me) (note ghostly figure in the window)
should also put in my photos of E's garden- see the facsimile of her Herbarium
Safe in their Alabaster Chambers
Untouched by morning-
And untouched by Noon-
Lie the meek members of the Resurrection-
Rafter of Satin-and Roof of Stone!
Grand go the Years-in the Crescent-above them-
Worlds scoop their Arcs-
Soundless as dots-on a disk of Snow-
Shine out, fair sunns, with all your heate,
Show all your thousand-colored lighte!
Black winter freezes to his seate;
The graie wullff howls he does so bite;
Crookt age on three knees creepes the street;
The boneless fish close quaking lies
And eats for cold his aking feete;
The stars in icicles arise:
Chorus: Shine out, and make this winter night
Our Bewties (apparently, this is a name) spring, Our Prince of Lighte
(was this not really, secretly by Dylan Thomas?) (No- it is by George Chapman- 1559?-1634 or John Marston?) from his "The Masque of the 12 Months") ,
This one of the greatest poems by an English author. It is the opening number in the composer Benjamin Brittens Spring Symphony, where I first heard it singing at Oberlin College under the direction of Robert Fountain. One reads that this is from the ? century and one is shocked and amazed. The rest of the Masque does not measure up to this- I wonder afresh where this sprang from?
Or Blake: My mother groaned/my father wept/into the dangerous world I leapt/ Helpless, naked, piping loud/ Like a fiend hid in a cloud (I love his choice of the word fiend). Blake is generally a gold mine of poetic ideas, as in, There are spirits around us but we dont see them, or, Thou shalt not bind w briars/ my joys and desires, or, a simile of love, simile of deceit, and these two meet,also the one about how he is glad he didnt have to go to school. And Blake is indebted to our greatest poetic source: the King James Bible!
I love Wallace Stevens, several whole poems: Soliloquy of the Interior Paramour or The Bird w the Coppery, Keen Claws, The Idea of Order at Key West, Poems of Our Climate, The Emperor of Ice Creametc., etc.
The James Russell Lowell poem which was turned into a hymn: Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide- the whole poem but especially these lines which haunted me, By the light of burning martyrs, Jesus bleeding feet I track, etc. See my remake on pg: "Blue Running Lights"
Or all of Lewis Carrolls Jabberwocky in French and German as well as English.
The following lines have special significance for me which they may not for another; heres another example- even in a very literal translation from the Russian, this verse, a folk song, has meaning for me which makes it poetic:
Across the river, swift river, over the foot bridge,
Elderberry, over the steep bridge, rasberry,
A drake crosses the foot-bridge,
Elderberry, he crosses, raspberry,
He leads a gray duck, a gray duck,
Elderberry, he leads, raspberry,
The gray duck got frightened, frightened,
Elderberry, she flew away, raspberry!
The drake stands weeping, stands weeping,
Elderberry, he stands weeping, raspberry!
A commentary that goes with this song on the record jacket (it was set to music by Rachmaninoff) says that the duck is shy. Somehow, to me, this is a VERY sad situation, and the juxtaposition of the break up of the duck marriage with the rushing stream and the beautiful berries is moving. But to others, it might be quite ordinary. If this had not been set by my favorite composer, Rachmaninoff, would it mean that much to me? No.
Another wonderful poem set to wonderful music- a song setting by Maurice Ravel of the Epigram by Clement Marot-On Anne Throwing Snow at Me" ( this may be my oldest (in time) wonderful poem!!- or is the "Shine out" older?)
Anne playfully threw snow at me
That I thought would surely be cold.
But it was fireI felt it
For I was suddenly set aflame
Since fire lodges secretly
Within snow, where can I turn
To avoid burning? Anne, only your mercy
Can quench the fire I feel so keenly;
Not with water, with snow, nor with ice,
But by feeling a fire similar to mine
Ravel set this and another epigram, On Anne Playing the Spinet to music perfectly.
In some parallel universe, has Anne yet to throw
The snowball to enflame my heart and Marots? coda by dme
dave on Ravel's piano- a Pleyel- at his house in Monfort l'Amaury- am i in paradise? look at the expression on my face!
Your way all alone
God grant to you his strength as you'll kneel at his throne
As you'll kneel at his throne
If you are in heaven now waiting for me
In heaven for me
And we shall meet again love and never parted be
And never parted be!
check this out on you tube as sung by (the most beautiful name in the world)- Aulikki Rautawaara (pronounced Owe Leeky Row tah roar rah)
There are the two greatest villanelles- Dylan Thomas Do not go gentle, Elizabeth Bishops One Art. I find this form more perfect than the sonnet.
Naturally, et naturellement, the greatest prison poetry: for example: from Andre Chenier's "Iambes"- St. Lazare prison awaiting execution:
On vit; on vit infâme. Eh bien? il fallut l'être;
L'infâme aprè tout mange et dort.
Ici même, en ses parcs, où la mort nouse fait paître,
Où la hache nous tire au sort,
Beaux poulets sont écrits; maris, amants sont dupes;
Caquetage, intrigues de sots.
On y chante; on y joue; on y lève des jupes;
On y fait chansons et bons mots;
L'un pousse et fait bondir sur les toits, sur les vitres,
Un ballon tout gonflé de vent,
Comme sont les discours des sept cents plats bélîtres,
Dont Barère est le plus savant.
L'autre court; l'autre saute; et braillent, boivent, rient
Politiques et raisonneurs;
Et sur les gonds de fer soudain les portes crient.
Des juges tigres nos seigneurs
Le pourvoyeur paraît. Quelle sera la proie
Que la hache appelle aujourd'hui?
Chacun frissonne, écoute; et chacun avec joie
Voit que ce n'est pas encor lui . . . Iambes VIII
We live, we live degraded. What of it? It had to be. Degraded, you still eat and sleep. Even here, in its pens, where death puts us to graze, where the axe draws lots for us, fine love-letters are written; husbands, lovers are duped; tittle-tattle, intrigues of fools. There is singing, gambling, skirts are lifted; songs and jokes are made up; someone sends up and bounces on the roofs, on the panes, a balloon swollen with wind, like the speeches of the seven hundred dreary imbeciles, of which the wisest is Barére.
Another runs, another jumps; 'politicians' and discussers bray, drink, laugh; and on their iron hinges the doors suddenly grate. The purveyor of our masters the tiger-judges appears. Who will be the prey which the axe calls for today? Each shudders, listens, and each with joy sees that it is not yet he. . .
And Iambe VIII:
...Quelle sera la proie
Que la hache appelle aujourd'hui?
Chacun frissonne, écoute; et chacun avec joie
Voit que ce n'est pas encor lui:
Ce sera toi demain, insensible imbécile.
(...Who will be the prey
On whom the ax will fall today?
Everybody shivers, listens, and is relieved to see
That the one called out is not yet he.
It will be you tomorrow, unfeeling fool.)
Chénier's last Iambe [IX] sums up his themes: a tenderness toward life, the defense of virtue, justice, and truth, the poet's role as witness of his times and of history, and a last shout of defiance.
Comme un dernier rayon, comme un dernier zéphyre
Animent la fin d'un beau jour,
Au pied de l'échaufaud j'essaye encor ma lyre.
Peut-être est-ce bientôt mon tour.
. . . . .
Ma vie importe à la vertu.
Car l'honnête homme enfin, victime de l'outrage,
Dans les cachots, près du cercueil,
Relève plus altier son front et son langage.
(Like a last ray of light, like a last summer breeze
Color the end of a beautiful day,
At the foot of the gallows once more my lyre I seize.
Perhaps I'll soon be on my way.
. . . . .
My life is Virtue's concern.
A decent man, whom outrage has fed,
In prison, awaiting his turn,
Lifts higher his speech and higher his head.)
(when you think of Chenier having to put up w the boolshit of the public safety committee and this degradation- any one underfire to this degree- it becomes all the more impressive- him reciting Racine? Andromache? on the way to the guillotine?)
and our own dearest Oscar Wilde:
"Each narrow cell in which we dwell/Is a foul and dark latrine,/and the fetid breath of living Death/Chokes up each grated screen,/And all, but Lust, is turned to dust/In Humanity's machine.
I know not whether Laws be right,/Or whether laws be wrong,;/All that we know who lie in jail/Is that the wall is strong;/and that each day is like a year,/a year whose days are long.
I walked, with other souls in pain,/within another ring,/and was wondering if the man had done/a great or little thing,/when a voice behind me whispered low,/"That fellow's got to swing."
At 6 o'clock we cleaned our cells,/at 7 all was still./but the sough and swing of a mighty wing/the prison seemed to fill,/for the Lord of Death with icy breath/had entered in to kill."
immortal ditties: "Take out the can/here comes the garbage man" or "My bonnie lies over the ocean;/ My bonnie has only one lung;/ My bonnie dries blood in a bucket;/ and dries it and chews it for gum/ Dentyne; Dentyne...."
I think that all editors of all poetry magazines should be forced to send out more specific rejection slips- to send out reasons why the poem is rejected....like "we're only printing lesbian writers" or, your not big enough of a crony"- the whole business stinks!
Asides and Fragments
more on music:I can remember three moments when music first possessed me- in the 40's my folks went to one of the Carmel, Calif, Bach festivals- we were in a back balcony- the Brandenburg # 2 where the tumpet takes off? I can remember my brain being brought to attention- as was D H Lawrence's at Taos :
Terraces in Bach-
O more terraces!
Terraces where the trumpets
Keep going higher!!!
Never high enough!!!!
"Donna Nobis Pacem
"Et in terra pax" (see my interview w JSB under Bach chapt. later down the road)
another seminal moment- again I am in my teens or before- my father is driving on the Saw River? Cross County? Xpressway in New York? Connecticut? state? a Mozart piano concerto comes on- which one? the lofty terraces , the descents - it's never left me- but I don't know which one! (I now realise it may have been the slow movement to the Hayden # 11- was he the first to make such devine descents? This one certainly influenced Mozart (have to check dates).
3- the "Auferstehn" last mv't (w chorus) to Mahler's 2nd? - which I have sung- at one point near the beginning where the basses sink to a (is it?) b natural- this whole mov't- composer has been possessed! Imagine Mahler conducting Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto in New York? Imagine being there and realising the conjunction? which probably few people did?
There is more on music in my Essay 2 chapter- especially Bach
+Homage to Rachmaninoff or Fantasia On a Rakmaninov Theme, etc.
i try to upload the photo of rachmaninoff leaning over the piano editing- w Yefim Bronfman's signature on the keyboard - with print Free webs can be ok- but w photos? it is insanely infuriating- and a lot of the time with the print- it's just "you get what you pay for"
signed on the keyboard by "Fima", being Yefim Bronfman, after a masterful performance of the 3rd -
finally i am able to upload the one below which is magnificent- R as a teenager under a pix of tchaikovski- there is another one of r at Ivanovka w another dog that looks sort of like a St. Bernard!
and Tchaikovsky and Mozart (?)
I could never be bored in my life; for I could always turn to Chopin and Rachmaninoff for enlightenment and entertainment. R is helpful in that the more I listen to him, the more I am relieved and calm, realising that DEATH DOES NOT MATTER. R, like Beethoven, has the highest standard of entertainment, in that when he keeps himself entertained by the changes he makes from measure to measure in his pieces- he keeps me and you entertained- so much more than other composers!
two moments- the triplets in the horn parts in the 1st Brandenburg Concerto? how they propel the movement- ? the way the cadenza slides back into the orchestra part in the 1st movement of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto? I have died and gone to heaven!!!
and that is Rachmaninoff- that high level of inspiration....
(the following piece originally published in the Rachmaninoff Society Newsletter) Forgive me, dear Newsletter (this was submitted to the Rachmaninoff Society Newsletter) readers if I waver between the spelling Rakmaninov and Rachmaninoff. You probably know how silly seem the transliterations of one language into another, for example, in the Russian made movie on Chaikovski (and you have seen this also spelled Tchai...etc.), the Russians were pronouncing his name "Chickovski". Go figure.
For a while I worried about the autograph which I have signed by Rachmaninoff (I'll just refer to him as R). It appeared that the two f's at the end did not go up like other signatures I have seen. Kindly Mr. Canmer of La Scala Autographs (and scores) told me it was a "hurried", dashed off autograph, and yet upon long scrutiny (I look at this at least once a week), I noticed that in the blurb under which he signed, he was referred to as Rakmaninov. So maybe he was just copying his name as spelled in the blurb. (The autograph is on a page torn from a book about composers- the page that deals with the R's- Raff is also listed).
In his "Symphonic Dances" R borrows from himself, especially in the Second Movement where there are quotes or resonances from several previous works- "Isle of the Dead", "Second Symphony", etc. I was surprised that Peter Gosling did not mention this in his interesting piece in the Number 40, October Newsletter; there are direct quotes or resonances from many previous works, "The Isle of the Dead", the "Second Symphony", etc. It is like a reprise, a summing up- valedictory, as Mr. Gosling says.
If I love a composer, I want to know everything I can about his or her music, I want to see the music, the scores, even in piano reduction. How did he do it? With any good thing, I want to see if I could do it myself! Because I want to hear more of his music, I seek out my favorite's pupils, whom he influenced. Also I search for antecedents in previous composers, knowing that few spring full-born from nowhere; there's almost always a prior influence, a master, a source, in some composers more so, in others less.
To get at the roots of R, you have to go back to Rimski. Loving both Rimski and R as I do, I was excited to discover such an obvious pointing ahead to R in Rimski. The pointing ahead is in Lel's theme. Listen to Lel's theme from Rimski-Korsakov's "Snow Maiden". It's like the sun rising, so positive, such a typical Rimski modulation. Had you asked R, did you steal this motive from Rimski, he'd probably smile back knowingly. When von Bulow remarked that Brahms' First Symphony was Beethoven's Tenth, noting a similarity in themes, Brahms' response was something to the effect that "that's obvious".
There's a telling, tolling theme/motif,motto in R I like to call the "wobble theme" , it's an up and down motif: "bee doo be doo be doo be doo" that you hear in so many R pieces. What, I wondered, does it mean (I wonder that about all my favorite musical themes)? Maybe, it means to R the same thing it meant to Rimski where it is Lels's theme (I think)- the pipes of the player, the composer's reed, his instrument, his Pan, the voice of the shepherd's flute...(At least I believe that it is)(I believe that in the Ybertsiev memoir on Rimsky the composer told him it was from a Russian folk song) (I also realize that it's perfectly possible that this theme in Rachmaninov has no extra or special meaning.)
We find the "wobble" theme set many times in R music, like a particular vein of gemstone in the rock (in the "Rach"?). You know I almost prefer that two piano version of the Symphonic Dances (I have a performance by Vronsky and Babin), to the symphonic version, except that they leave parts out. But the "Symphonic Dances", you'll be saying, ...this is one of R's grimmest marches...this is the angry, martial, death is coming R. But then R gets to the "wobble" theme. The first lyrical theme in the "Symphonic Dances", the theme played by the saxophone (cor anglais) comes just after or is set up by the wobble motif's last appearance in R's music (ex. # 2). As death approaches (the march, maybe), he returns to the wobble used so often to set up a lyrical theme all the more poignantly. He knows it will not be coming his way too many more times (oh, many times in his head, but not on the staves on the score)... he looks back (perhaps) to the earliest source of his inspiration, the pipes of the shepherd...the simple Lel in Rimski.
One sure guide to the meaning of this musical theme is how the composer uses the motif to set words- a chorus, a song, and with the wobble theme. I think this is an instance, the song which opens with the wobble theme played by the piano:
"The Muse", Op. 34 #1
The piano enters alone at first then come the words:
"From childhood's early days her grace she gladly showered.
To play the seven fingered flute my hands empowered;
She listened smiling to the measure in surprise,
The simple piping notes my cunning could devise,
What time, to clumsy touch, no method would surrender,
The ancient hymns of Gods, with artistry to render,
Or some poor peaceful shepherd's song in Phrygian mode (some poor shepherd ...(like Lel?!) (my parentheses)
From morn til eve in sheltered
Informed with quick desire to profit by her schooling;
And when my spirit flagged, to rouse my ardor cooling,
She brushed her hair aside that on her brow was blown ),
Reached forward for the pipe (in R's case the piano) and gave me of her own.
With breath of life endowed, in melting tones resolving.
The reed subdued my heart, my soul to tears dissolving. "(my emphasis).
"The Muse" by Pushkin translated by Edward Agate
"My soul to tears dissolving"... the muse could make you cry, she hands over her song to you, inspiring you directly, showing you how to do it, this is R's tribute to the muse! If you or I experienced this power, I reckon we'd be composing wobble themes for the rest of our lives too (or poetry in Pushkin's case).
Another use of the wobble motif is in the left hand, sped up, in the Etude Tableaux, Op 39 # 2 (?). R likes to float a gentle lyrical theme over it as he does here.
Of course, there are other prominent themes in R: think for a moment about the line, "my soul to tears dissolving". The slowly descending in four notes "Tears" theme in the 1st Suite for two pianos (ex. # 3), is the old woman's theme in "The Covetous Knight", Rachmaninoff's early one act opera. This is I think a "pity" theme- pity at the lamentable situation for so many, or just sadness over the misfortunes of the world. Think of the way Bach reuses motifs- to suggest hurrying, or joy, for example- in the choral music
Along with so many others, I discern a sadness or melancholy overall in R's music in the harmonies he uses, not just the motifs. R's music seems to call out to the emotion of sadness within us (the quote by ?- "the music inside us that hears music"). It may be, ultimately, sorrow about the passing of time. It is a wistful sadness, filled with beauty and tenderness. It has to do with memory... it almost seems memory speaking, to steal a phrase from Nabakov in his beautiful memoir, Speak Memory.
R does very well with this mood, it is his distinguishing mark, setting him apart. It isn't a new mood in music, we have heard it before, notably in Chopin, a wistful sadness, a "blue" harmony (diminished 9ths?)- I think Chopin's word for it was "zal". R adds new "notes", as the word is used in perfumes, he adds to sadness at times a tenderness, at times an anger, at times a passivity, a resignation. A perfect example is the "Romance" for piano, Op. 10 #6.
This music, wistfully sad, seems close to speech, it seems like two persons talking, arguing with each other or maybe one person arguing with him or herself. To me it sounds like a conversation I've had, which a lot of R does. What are the two voices saying. There is definitely a resigned character to some of this, a quality of, "You're right, I admit it, well, that's the way it has to be" (Beethoven's "Muss es sein, es muss sein"), but, to return to my point, there is sadness. There are tears. R puts many different twists on the theme, the mood of tears/sadness/melancholy.
Many listeners have noticed the "Dies Irae" theme again and again in R. Those dreadful steps downward, "da dum da dum". This theme has a threatening demeanor, bordering on anger. For those of us who dote on R's oeuvre, the "Dies Irae" bit is almost overdone, except that it is always so wonderful: It is in the "Variations on Theme of Paganini", the Symphonies, the Piano Sonata # 1, the "Symphonic Dances", "Isle of Dead", "The Bells", etc., etc.
R's signature emotion is sadness or melancholy, there's one picture of him, the one used on the album cover to the Ashkenazy version of the piano concertos on London that brings this out, showing R's face to have two very different sides, one that looks stoic, another about ready to cry! (Where did I read about Rs facial neuralgia?) R's music is purposefully revealing. It strikes a chord because of that revealing. Who, before R, showed this sadness we all feel so well?
Another emotion R does very well is repressed anger: the march at the beginning of the "Symphonic Dances" is a good example.
Let me end my homage by mentioning R's dying falls (what is the word for this in music? some other member please help me- where the phrase is repeated on a lower level on down) (descending cadences I guess- there is no one word or phrase); they are the best falls in music since Mozart, these "sinkings" are so ravishing. They end many of R's pieces.
Rachmaninoff for ballet, a proposal
R's relationship to water...the so insistent and grimly terrifying lullaby/ lulling 5 beat lapping in the "Isle of the Dead" and, by the way, the way this music does So go with the painting by Brocklin, which R supposedly saw in
The Isle of the Dead" seems to rise from emotional peak to emotional peak until it reaches an awful moment of realization/ acceptance. There the Dies Irae comes in in the muted, bitter strings. I can definitely feel that at one point a woman appears, as if following a man, there is the presence of a woman and I wonder if R had Orpheus in mind or is he just talking about his wife or some lover? There is alot of to and fro, back and forth as there always is in R, and possibly at bar 313, the man looks back or in some other fashion finally loses the woman, these were my initial thoughts about the piece. As I listened to it more and more, a scenario began to take shape in my mind and here it is. I think this would best be done to ballet, although a Disney esque cartoon treatment might be powerful It's hard to imagine it though because the score is so human and dance would seem to be the best medium.
Up to bar 115 I see the boatman, Charon, ferrying a couple to the land of the dead. At first it is one couple as they sing to one another, beginning in bar 25, second answering in bar 38, then one is made aware that there other couples (47, 51) and other boatmen- it dawns on one, as it did to Dante, that there are many dead! At 57 awful rivery, lake winds blow, were one being funny one could say that the pizzacato strings at bar 98 are some underworld river mosquitos (forgive me for this comic intrusion- basically this piece DOES NOT HAVE ANY HUMOR) (go to Ravel for humor). Some of the answering voices could be birds of the underworld and, to me, the music gives an echoey quality- as if voices (from birds or "the dead") are coming off terraced cliffs- or the music represents the cliffs in the vicinity of the awful river.
At bar 115 one can make out a couple coming back OUT from the underworld towards the sun- Orpheus and Eurydice. This is the pleading, terraced going upwards theme in the violin- representing a special couple- one to whom we will pay attention (although the ferrying over to the underworld continues- these two have a chance to make it out, metaphorically speaking). At bar 133 the two call out to each other. (The female- or to be none sexist- a male- coming behind should be subtly realized- one doesn't see him/ her at first. Maybe at bar 133 he/she becomes apparent- speaking to the first lover (Orpheus in the myth). Through ensuing bars up to the climax of this first section at bar 259, the couple coming out perhaps gives hope to the ones going in (the dead) and there is toing and frowing (as well as rowing by the boatmen) (imagine the fun of representing them- would they be Darth Vader like personnages to represent the underworld- skeletal death's heads? or would they be gentler bureaucrats- collecting tickets and so on? or both?) The couples going over (and would there be single passengers as well?) would be steadily moving towards Hades as the favored of the gods couple (the Orpheus and the Eurydice) are moving out back towards life (one would think they were moving upwards BUT remember this is a river).
At bar 253 begins Part 2, and in my mind here Orpheus is tempted to look back. From bar 260 'til bar 341 the music is more positive and seems a recounting of the lovers' happier days (above ground- could have positive scenes here). At the end of this he is more and more tempted to look- she perhaps tells him not to, or the other couples tell him not to and then, a the horrible and crunching bars of 343 approximately, HE DOES LOOK BACK and she sinks back from him along with the dead, BACK to the underworld grave. As the music builds to a climax- 360's and 70's he is perhaps arguing with the boatman as she floats back away until bars 383,4 and 5 where the boatman says NO and, at bar 387, it is definitely over and the "furies"/ demons come to claim her (or him if we are not being sexist (and we might do a gay thing and have two men separated, although that would go against the Greek myth). The ballet could do alot w the demons. flickering violins.
At bar 387 begins Part 3 and the "Dies Irae" theme. I see a Part 4 at bar 402 where Orpheus is in shock or is saying "You're kidding" to the boatman who tells him "You had your chance and you blew it" up until the Chorale at bar 410 where Orpheus must stand alone- a representative of all of us- knowing that there is no second chance and that SHE is GONE!!
At bar 415 begins Part 5, the final part- where Orpheus accepts his fate and must continue out back across the river- back towards life and daylight (although the new dead lovers continue going to the underword the other way). He gets closer and closer to the real world. At bar 456 perhaps he sees daylight again. At bar 460,1 he looks back- imploringly and at bar 462 he reaches ths shore or a door of some kind closes. He is back and does his ferryman let him off? At the end, he may be in daylight, but he stands alone, utterly.
I finally got the two piano version. Anyone who wants to play it w me? please contact!
note- there is a Rachmaninoff midi site that supplied me with printed out two piano versions of the three symphonies! a must for Rocky fans!!s
The Rock 3- Being a limited survey of recordings of the Rachmaninoff 3rd Piano Concerto (at least the 1st movement (we didn't want to bite off more than we could chew)- the mighty 3rd
1) Volodyia Horovitz (e.g. Horowitz): M'vt.1: tortured, labored, mannered, abrupt, bizarre, sad- I thought H was a great painist? Actually I know H WAS a great pianist- but not so much in this piece- seems almost to be a lack of rhythm- had H eaten some bad fish? (I understand he liked sole)? He tries to hit every note compulsively, tries for "poetry" but doesn't hit the mark- tempos are mawkish and feverish- everything is rubatoed out of existence and reality. Shall I go on to the 2nd movement? Could I stand to?
2) Rachmaninoff playing it himself: This is clearly the best. There is the usual fleet approach by the master- was he trying to fit this onto one side of a record? A very feathery touch. It's as if he says, yeh, I wrote it and can play it faster than anyone; or, I want to get over it and go have a cigarette. One senses the same impatience?, cavalier attitude? is R's comments about cutting variations in recitals of the "Corelli Variations", or his willingness to cut in general- when audiences started to cough! Is this modesty or a genuine dissatisfaction with the performing life?
It seems TOO FAST, it makes me wonder, did R really rather want to compose and didn't like being a dog and pony show? We get to the lyrical theme (at bar 107 "a tempo espressivo"). One of the advantages of playing so fast is that when R slows up, it really means something, just as one of the advantages of playing so evenly is that when he wants rubato, it counts. Horowitz's rubato is "all over the map". If R pauses to enjoy a passage, we get the message! There are annoying rhythm "hiccups" where R almost seems to want to syncopate a passage- why is he doing this? A Joke? But the whole seems, again, TOO FAST. The recitativo sections really seem like speech in R's capable hands; when he does a passage of reminiscence or retrospection- we get the point. He returns to the opening theme even faster. I get the feeling when the trumpet passage comes near the end of this movement that R is very hard and cynical- and yet I know that isn't true. It is a paradox in his playing- a sort of joke by R, or, he tells us as Yeats did on his tombstone- that great message- "Horseman, ride by". R hears the onwards rushing of time better than most; I like to think that he hears the expanding universe better than any others! or, as -was it Tolstoy said on hearing R who had gone to him for some encouragement- "how well this young man listens to silence."A+++
3) Jean Phillipe Collard: an A+ version; starts off humbly- this will be level headed-the "lyrical theme" played delicately, rubatos moderate and appropriate- why didn't Rachmaninoff play it this way? the playing is precise, unmannered, C makes the cadenza sound like an orchestra- get a sense of the greatness of the piano as an instrument-the filigree passages just right- R would have approved- I realize that a good performance does not leave the critic much to say.
4) David Helfgott (just kidding- but movie helped "the cause")
5) Ashkenazy: Even more relaxed than Collard's version, I'm changing my benchmark performance (besides Rachmaninoff's own) to this one; legato, purling, quiet sounds- a wonderful touch by A- a quiet mood, subdued- A catches that so basic shyness and modesty of R's- a bit of the "let's be done with all the fuss- A is not sharp or bangy like Horowitz. As for the lyrical theme- he lingers over it- is at times slow-a hushed and respectful manner. A clearly loves the music and shows us; but, he maintains the propulsive, organic movement. One senses how much more "languid" R is than say, Strauss, or Bach. A++ I listened to the version with Andre Previn in the
6) Van Cliburn: Opening theme is subdued- Texan shows some of the necessary "shyness"- so far, so good. Straight ahead playing- get to the lyrical theme- done nicely- cadenza poses problems- bit muddy, bangy, splatting, all over map- merely an "OK" performance.
7) Volodos and Levine : super
8) Lang Lang : super
9) Like to hear Ponti
10) Stephen Hough: super
11) Yefim "Fima" Bronfman: (heard (finally) live! 6/12/9) at Meyerhoff in Baltimore - Marin Alsop conducting. "Fima" is magisterial- completely accomplished, business like, few mannerisms, a joy- reminds of R himself. I get the feeling that those who can play this at this level are all pretty good- they wouldn't attemp it if they were'nt.
12 Leif Andsnes (his Russian debut on U tube)- Wonderful- he talks about Horowitz's making it his own w firewords and that he wants to bring out a more symphonic element.
13) Marta Argerich- very clangly piano- I see another version w Marta and she is playing it insanely fast- as if to show disdain for the music (like R does ( of course- he can- he wrote it- but her- no) - it's as if she is tryinb to show off her technique- and the version is truly horrific- what is wrong w her? Is she a bit "off"? The conductor- Ricardo Chailly comes off as a pompous showboat- a very wrong headed you tube bunch of crapola.
14) Kissin- 1st mov't (U tube)- starts very slowly, then takes off- paino too bangy, fast passages FASH- almost too much- yes we know you are a virtuoso- seems to hold fingers wide (or has big hands) very spidery- big rits and rubs- unexpected slownesses- cadenza almost ponderous, folk toon (not the opening chant) lovingly caressed and slow, at times languid- an interesting approach
15. I get an email from Scott Colebank of the Rachmaninoff Society who mentions: Wild, Janis, Weissenberg, "The Horowitz/Argerich recordings have too many eccentricities".
16. Pletnev- possibly the best!...muscle, steel! Listen to the cadenza?- he is the only only who gets it right!
I note that R's "peak moment" would have to be at the two "Un poco meno mossos" right near the end- but, again, I don't know why R stated that unthinking bit of crap.
A similar list might be made of performances of the Prelude Op 23 #5- on UTUBE-- again- R's clearly the best with many rubatos all contributing to a heightening of the drama. Gilels is there and I first saw his very military version in a film on the great pianists which convinced me that his performance of this prelude for Russian soldiers on a platform in World War 2- with fighter planes flying overhead is a great example of political music! Unfortunately, Gilels performance remains very bangy and military- contrasted to R's delicate version. On UTUBE- you can also see Horowitz, etc. (aside) do you think UTUBE will put concert halls out of existence and we will just sit at home w popcorn and order up a Concerto?
a dialogue with up and coming pianist- Valentina Lisitsa (she w the fleet fingers!) and her version of R's Etude Op 39, #6- check her out on YOUTUBE!
Valentina responded to a comment I made about R's describing this as "Little Red Riding Hood"- which I took as a put on, a sarcastic joke by him- it is so far removed from a child's tale. V writes, "What an innocuous title- "Little Red Riding Hood." Let's look at a cliche pervasive in horror flicks. Somebody, usually a young girl, is spooked by something terrible and inexplicably runs outside into the darkness. What follows is usually a chase through a heavily wooded area, during which she trips on some branches, falls to the ground, and is murdered or eaten. This is a perfect script for this two minute piece." (DE- I agree, now that you point it out so). All the primordial fears of darkness, the forest, wild beasts, and the unknown are present here. The scenario couldn't be depicted more vividly in a horror movie that starts with a glistening set of sharp teeth followed by a trembling little creature running with a muscular carnivore behind her, unhurried in its superior strength but who suddenly charges with dizzying speed. No happy ending here, only another flash of bloody teeth.
DE: Valentina, please, please, I'm worried about you.
Ms. Lisitsa is sponsored by Bosendoerfer. (this is the kind of factoid I love- shows how much of an insider I am)
to Rashme Cardoza- responding to her question about Prelude Op. 32 #12: In the liner notes to Michael Ponti's playing of this piece Darrell writes, "it is likely that the composer had in mind some kind of 'program' or 'story' or scene for most if not all of these preludes." This may or may not be true but, naturally, one is tempted, one likes to think so #12, as in other of R's pieces, begins with a melody under a bobbling obliggato on top- the drawn out theme underneath suggests speech. Of course it would be Russian speech. To me, this prelude, besides being beautiful music suggests two persons speaking to each other- perhaps a man and a woman or some one talking to him or herself. Typical R, the theme descends a half note, then rises- but there are no great leaps- note similarity to the theme that opens the R 3rd Concerto.
We go as far as measure 6 with speaker 1; in that measure 2 answers, or is this just some kind of after thought by speaker 1? Are the two quarreling, pleading, sobbing, crying- are they lovers? We want to make a drama out of it- it's the way our brains work. On the other hand, maybe the composer only heard the piece in his head and wrote it down regardless of any imposed drama- maybe it composed itself so to speak. I think R actually said this of his music- I think it was of the theme that begins the R 3re Concerto. But to continue in our fantasy, at measures 9 and 10, the first voice speaks again- as if to emphasize, or in desperation.
Note the breath taken at measure 4 at the "ten". Speaker 1 restates his/her message in bar 10; speaker 2 answers in measure 13; in 16 a new episode; in 20 speaker 1 comes back in the treble- pleading?; in 24, 2 reasons w 1; perhaps in 31, 2 says: "I SAID NO" but, 1 is insistant in 32; gets even threatening or menacing in measure 34,5,6; 1 is pleading in 38; 2 closes in 43,4, etc. with 1 or even a third person agreeing, going away? In the last 3 measures there is the marvelous upwards figure- a going away doppler affect like a mournful train whistle. It seems like something in nature- a wind? or a sigh?
Whether this little drama reflects R's state of mind at all- who knows. The piece has several great climaxes- measure 43 and the arpeggio in left and right hands. R liked to say that every piece has a
Fragments on R
R is the one composer that can make me cry/weep....automatically- hence to me he is most powerful.
For a long time I had not heard the fabulous "Spring" Cantata, about which Rimsky supposedly said it had a lot of winter or sadness in it. How could Rimski have panned the first Symphony?!?. Probably had to do with the performance....was it the same performance horribly conducted by Glazanov that sent R into depression?
I visit R's burial site in the Kensico Cemetary, not far from
In November of 1998, there came out a CD with the Ampico tapes computer enhanced on a Bosendorfer which made R sound fantastic, very real. A second CD came out in the spring of 2000 and was equally wonderful.
I find Van Clibern's version of the 2nd sonata for piano the best, so far- got to sit on stage at Shriver Hall as Helene Grimaud (she who loves wolves) played it w all the excised parts added back.
the way R plays Schumann's "Carnaval"- I don't think there is another piece of music with as much rubato- slowing downs, speeding ups. R's version is far and away the best.
(aside) The Number 13 in this piece, entitled "Chopin" - S's portrait of Chopin- is one of the greatest accomplishments of music. S actually inhabits his fellow master- the music is not only beautiful, it COULD WELL be BY Chopin!
One point Rachmaninoff makes with which I would respectfully disagree: that each piece has a sort of peak or
Besides my autograph, I have a collection of Rachmaninoff items- the best of which is my autograph, and first editions- 1st edition of the 1st Piano Concerto (Gutheil) (I have the VERY first version- before the 1919 final one!)- and I have the 1919 one (G) , the Cello Sonata (G) and 2nd ed (Tair) of the Corelli Variations, one of the Etudes Tableaux, one of the Preludes both in G, some of the songs in G, the Piano Trio Op 9 (G), the 2nd Piano Sonate in G thru Britkopf & Hartel, quite a few of the Charles Foley US published transcriptions. (dave need complete list) I treasure my Catalogue of the Compositions with a longish letter from author Robert Threlfall. I have most all the books abt R- some first eds. I had numerous old programs including a 1911 appearance in London where some one has written in "pianist unknown to me", quite a few old ads and photos, numerous old records including an Edison disc and 78s, and a couple of piano rolls. I had much of the scores and published piano music and almost all of the music on records, tapes and cds. I even had a Rach t shirt.
Aside on Medtner: worth listening to for the many reminiscences of Rachmaninoff- kind of a Rachmaninoff as if written by Brahms. I love the way the piano is swallowed up by the orchestra in the same way as w R- but why couldn't M write a memorable melody? He comes so close- the 3rd Concerto has one- that's abt. it. Michael Ponti's performance of the Sonata #3-wow. R plainly borrows from M to create his famous 18th Paganini variation - from one of of Medtner's Piano Concerto slow movements- or does he?- since this variations is an inversion of the main Paganini theme- maybe R just came upon it by himself.
I start to listen to Rubenstein's 3rd Piano Concerto- it seems mostly bombast- I hear an Arensky Concerto (was there more than one?) and it reminds me of Chopin. Seems pretty nice, but there's nothing special- so many gestures- nothing new in the progressions, the harmonies as in Rachmaninoff. I wonder, though, if I would have been able to pick R out as special from all these fairly contemporary concertos? Medtner, tho', is on a higher level- the his creativity.
R: "Music should reveal, as simply as possible, the emotions of the heart". Doesn't this sort of say it all? After so much involvement w R., I came with delight to Scriabin, especially the Preludes. Must search out the Busoni set.
Fitting that Rs last composition is his arrangement of Tchaikovskis Lullaby- a valediction- in the version w R playing he takes lots of rythmic liberties- lots of hiccups.
?/8/08- I notice that Chopin's Prelude #- 20-C Min.-- the funereal one- the one R did the Variations on clearly prefigures the opening of R's Ŗnd Piano Concerto".
Note- way R plays the last m'vt of Chopin's Sonata #2- the "wind rustling leaves over the grave " bit? I think this could be an audition piece for all the greatest pianists- how one plays this truly "separates the men from the boys"...or, "the ladies from the girls"...or, to be politically correct, the more prescient gay persons from the less.or the elderly and more knowledgeable transvestites from the younger ones . Where do you pause? Where do you take a breath? Knowing Chopin, I see this as one of his jokes- he is issuing a challenge? I see this movement as a secret to Chopin- if you can understand how he wrote this after the funeral march- then, you understand GENIUS! Imagine what it would be worth to hear him play this? Me? I might trade my life for it. (Since it, merely, equals the B minor Messe (and so much shorter?!?).
Review needed of - Revision Process in Rachmaninoff's 1st Concerto by Morley Grossman:
I think Rachmaninoff, upon reflection- would have stood back from his several statements about how being an exile from Russia cost him- how he missed his native country- or, how it might have made him better in some way to be back there. Look at Shostakovitch! A more thoughtful statement (and be sure- R was thoughtful!)would be- my homw is in my creative brain- the west has allowed me to be paid for that- I think you- the west. Certainly, Ivanovka was an idyllic spot!
photo dave and gertrude in Sergei's old apt.:
"The home musicale isn't disappearing, it's just high on the list of endangered nice things. But what better way to commemorate a great pianist and composer than to have a series of musicales in the New York apartment in which he lived.
The man in question, Sergei Rachmaninoff, would probably approve, as he would the idea that a pianist, GERTRUDE BARLOW, and her husband, LOU BARLOW, an artist, took over his Upper West Side apartment after his widow, Natalia, died in 1952.
Rachmaninoff died in California on March 28, 1943. Mrs. Barlow and CONSTANCE KEANE, both pianists and teachers, will begin their tributes to him tomorrow with a musicale for 25 friends. On the 50th anniversary of the composer's death they plan gatherings for about 100 friends and students. Ms. Keane will play "Variations on a Theme of Corelli," and the two women will perform Six Pieces for Piano Duet. JOSEPH MACHLIS, the music historian, will speak.
Living in a historic apartment has its surprising moments. About six months ago, Mrs. Barlow opened her door to find a Russian film crew, wanting permission to come in. What could she say? "They filmed the floors, ceilings, through the windows, everywhere!" Mrs. Barlow said.
Incidentally, great music isn't always appreciated. When she moved into the building, Mrs. Barlow was told that whenever Rachmaninoff played, a neighbor could be heard, saying, "There he goes again."
My first composer love (in my twenties), my first obsessed-with composer, composer of my youth, of the piano who could write as well (well, not really) as compose (who better combines the two arts of poetry or literature and writing and music? (altho it turns out that S does not reveal much of himself in his writings- he is mostly writing reviews of others- like Kalkbrenner, etc.) (there is more of S on himself in his letters) , him of the quirky, antic, yearning lyricism- he who strikes a different note- not just in the harmony but overall- a note of humor, narrative, reference to feelings heretofore unexpressed- his enthusiasm? What is it about Schumann- the playfulness, or is it the fear? I mean looking back on what happened to him his music always seems threatened- there is an awareness of madness which is well documented- his fear of upper stories (lest he jump out of them), and I can relate to the mental illness stuff- S definitely manic depressive at least (or what would his Axis IV diagnosis be?)!
But Schumann embodies PLAYFULNESS and sunshine and first love and gratitude for the following marriage (Widmung). He embodies childishness in the best way (Scenes from Childhood)- although these are more observations on childhood by an adult- you want childishness in S- try "The Happy Farmer", not "Kinderszenen") . Who else but Ravel in his opera- "Mother Goose"? He also embodies yearning.
Or then again, THEY ARE from the child's point of view:- the "Entreating Child" and "Happy Enough" in Kinderszenen are picture paintings in the most explicit terms: one can hear the child whining, why not?- and at bar 5 and again at bar 9 "Why not!!" again, more insistent- I don't care if it's "bittendes" auf Deutsch or it's in English, French, whatever!!!! In English it would be, phonetically: "wanh....wanh!" Any parent has heard it and just has to laugh at how they do not give in.
....something in S harmonies that makes his music more emotional- what? (the pain of being close to mental illness?) (or is it that it appeals to my emotional makeup?). We progress up the trail from Schumann through Tchaikovski to Rachmaninoff- o the sights: a "stop over" ("scenic overlook"?) at Brahms, for sure..T's playfulness and varying owe much to S- take the second, variation- m'vt of T's Trio- the "fairy interlude" - then T's music high up, tinkling, music boxish- wind up which is also in the "Nutcracker" , celesta-ish owes to Brahms) (T did not like Brahms but maybe it WAS Brahms who started this music box stuff? and of course Ravel has the best one with his Waltz in the "Waltzes, Sentimental and ?") T
orchestrated pieces from the Symphonic Etudes. Just look at Ts
Piano Concerto 2- he has imbibed RS. Ravel orchestrates "Carnival"!!- Rachy's tribute to T in his "Trio Elegaique" - the trails from one composer to another give fabulous vistas, overlooks- just like driving from one place to another...Brahms' menacing, stomping scherzos? a lot of composers have copied them....the progression of S's thought- does any one else hear the menace in his music- the slow movement to the Second Symphoney- how everything could, just might FALL APART....and then, in his life, it finally does!
Why does this site change the font size to smaller????? and the margins???Among other compositions,Schumann's Overture, Scherzo and Finale keeps recurring in my brain- I finally got a first ed. (Kistner) ق a 4 hand piano version- its gallumphing syncopations and crying out lyricism- one beautiful theme after another.
(aside from the author- the way this web site plays w the margins is irresponsible. I guess you get what you pay for, but , really!!!
The Piano Concerto is one of the few chestnuts that I do NOT tire of listening to- the first movement (ay the whole thing) is so organic, so propulsive, so passionate- it definitely anticipates and influences not just Tchaikovski but Rachmaninoff The first movement piles passionate idea onto passionate idea, reaching a paroxysm of passion in the cadenza and then mellowing out. The second is like that arietta movement in the Beethoven Sonata that some one called a mountain flower between two abysses- it is so light- so effervescent; the last movement tries to out do Chopin w runs up and down and exercise like, knuckle busting finger work. You could say, (I as a pianist would not, that the Chopin and Rachmaninoff works lie easier under the hands, fit the fingers better than do Brahms and Schumann- one is tempted to say that- but they are all of them difficult.... and then theres Liszt! The last mov't of the S Piano Concerto and passages (towards the end, bar ?) from the later Introduction and Allegro, Op. 92 - are fiendishly difficult. The Piano Concerto is like an Everest among the other mountains in Schumann's range- it is so majestic- arises so toweringly above the rest. Throughout there are the elements of sweetness and suprise.
In the Concerto, S has risen to a zone and a peaking which he does not sustain elsewhere, usually- except w most of the early paino works, the song, Widmung Symphony 3, the piano quintet first movement, or the Piano trio (1st movement?), and in Manfredand the Overture, Scherzo and Finale. Every movement of the Rhenish Sympony- his third- is superlative like the Piano Concerto. He rises to another level.
I love Ss favorite trick of mordant (or is it hemiola) (that turn) or his harmony achieved by two notes right next to each other- whatever the technical name for that may be- he creates an awful tension.
The best performances?: Arrau, Argerich, Uchida, Lupatti, Richter, Gilels. The great pianist Mitsuko Uchida speaks about the Concerto on You Tube- that it is a big reference to Clara and I am blessed to hear Ushida do the "Fantasie" and "Davidsbundler" at Strathemore at Rockville, Md.. I note that with all the slow up/speed up- this is a concerto where the pianist really controls the orchestra- not the other way around. Cortot's the usual mannered- on the brink of disaster but o so passionate.
Dave tries to capture the mercurial moods of Schumann in the 3rd mv't: bom bom! ba ba ba bap, bom bom!: Schumann the decisive steps forth- he is militant! he goes into Chpin style riffs; morphs into a stealthy, sneaky, elvish march; morphs into a dreamy march; more Chopin riffing, always propulsive- leaning forward like S does so idealistically; manic; starts a fuge' dreamy obligato; BAP BAH, ba ba ba Bap, bom bom- the declarative again interrupts; Beethovenly riffing; growling in bass; full orchestra makes main theme even more joyous; (this is not easy to play- like Brahms, does not lie easily under the fingers) (there's a German word for it" back comes the mincing march; back comes dreamy march; this whole concerto glistens like a ETA Hoffmanish dream- is it all a dream? Schumann imitates Chopin in his fingering here- he can imitate Chopin- as in "Carnival" but no one can imitate S!
the different versions of the 2nd Piano Sonata on You Tube - first movement versions very telling- "as fast as possible"? Stratosloav Richter's takes S at his directions and it is just...hollow. Apparently there are two versions of the F Minor Sonata!
One can definitely hear Ss disintegration in the late works- even the Cello Concerto (in its paucity of themes)- although Stephen Isserlis makes a compelling case for it in his brilliant DVD where he accuses Clara for throwing out 4 of Schumanns cello pieces- I imagine she knew what whe was doing. Most of the Overtures and quite a few other works- the Faust- the Peri, the Requiem some piano works; again,. may I say I know where it comes from- the mental illness- most likely depression (severe and immobilizing depression that, as in Van Goghs case, modern SSRIs or the manic depression, bipolar, schizophrenia drugs- like Zyprexa could have helped). Especially the Violin Concerto is one of the saddest pieces ever written- with it's pathetic stabs at meaning and coherence and failure to achieve same.
One wishes to have been able to protect S, to reassure him, had one been there. One wishes for modern medicine, for psychiatry, psychology!! Bring him OUT of the asylum, normalize him! For Gods sake. The thought of Schumann at the asylum is very, very creepy to me and immensely sad to me personally!! Mental illness- its still scary- I know from first hand experience. My life always w a shadow- from Aunt Helens suicide- my grandmothers? The handless clock, the clock where the hands are about to cut off David's head, in the haunting movie about two mental patients in an asylum,David and Lisa. In a perfect socialist state, he would have been recognized as a treasure and evyerthing done to provide round the clock care and keep him in his home.
Sometimes, as in the Fandango first movement of the Piano Sonata, or the Cello Concerto, or the slow movement of the Second Symphony, one senses an almost-being-buried-beneath- a tremendous weight of sadness or yearning in connection with sadness. And the technical name for this in composition is suspension?, suspended 9ths?- what? I guess its two notes right next to each other- dissonance resolving that S does over and over again.
Candidate for the greatest song ever?- "Widmung"-and yet, there is also: "Solveig's Song" (especially sung by the Finnish lady with the most beautiful name in the world: Aulikki Rautawaara- owe leaky row tah roarer). "Widmung" is the most optimistic, "Solveig" the most hopeful. S also embodies sincerity...no guile.
I hear "Paradies and the Peri"- Oct., 2010 at U of Md?- it is merely an adequate composition- little inspiration of note. Schumann sets out to write in all genres and, with this "Oratorio", proves that he can- but... the later "Faust" seems severely flawed- in my opinion...also mediocre.
Where is the genius of the early piano narratives? like "Carnival, Davidsbundlertanze, Kreisleriana"? the organically flowing build up in those 3- especially "Carnaval" has never been surpassed- altho- it has been often attempted- of course Chopin has a narrative with the "Preludes"- but that is a much more mysterious matter.
Schumann writes : "Let the Well Tempered Clavichord" become your daily bread- then you will become a solid musician".
Interestingly, Clara S in her A Minor Concerto- copies Chopin more than her husband...well...he was truly one of a kind.
thot after concer of S Manfred, Symp.1 & 2 w a discussion afterwards - Maestra Marin Alsop and psychiatrist Kay R Jamieson- a specialist on bipolar disorders- I ask the ?, wouldn't be nice if S had been mainstreamed instead of having to go into that lonely asylum and get some nice meds- like zyprexa- Jamieson agrees- says he had no choice- was miserable
absurd factoid- did you realize that the opening of the Rach 2nd Piano Concerto opens with the same fanfare as does the S Second Symphony? both after severe depressions?
the "Widmung" ? best singer- Jessye Norman. best Liszt version piano player? Lang Lang (slow)
fragment- Benjamin Britten
Talk about compositions with two notes nxt to each other? Thank you BB for never compromising: bitter, acerbic, astringent intervals and chords but in an understandable way...think the Venice of Stavinski's funeral with the # of "Requiem Canticles"- with the xylophone- the opening chords of Korngold's "Violetta", evoking the light over the canals- and the mysterious city of the bells I guess we could go back to Liszt and Wagner being ferried by gondola over to the cemetery- (please let me be buried there?) - the water laps, the waves crush- always the sea- "I was lost on the infinite sea"- Capt. Vere- "Billy Budd"- think "Death in Venice"..."Thadeus, Thadeus- o gamelon, o percussion, must beauty lead to chaos? ,,,, "no nostalgia, no bitterness, just intense despair"... and Peter Pears speaks of sadness at the end: "at leaving me, his friends, responsibilities"....but BB led a wonderfully full life!
If I could write poetry the way Britten composes- I'd b getting somewhere!
see dvd on BB
Homage: Erich Korngold (more on K in Essay 2)
Sun in the corners,
Even in the corners...
Forsythia yellow- "Van Gogh yellow",
Gingko leaves on the sidewalk in Fall yellow:
Fourth interval upwards-
and the 2nd mv't of the violin concerto-the romanze- K lets himself go like Rach in the slow mv't of the 2nd sonate- it reminds me of autumn leaves, a mush of automn leaves in a stream drift- yellow leaves, of course! I think of how big a contrast this is to Berg- the endless howling/screeching in "Lulu"!
ginko leaves dme
and of course- while we're doing Van Gogh yellow- let's not forget the sunniest, goldenest of them all- Ravel- especially the 3rd waltz in the "Valse Nobles et Sentimentales"- ultimate delicacy, refinement and gentility, harmonies of sunshine and happiness- 2 notes nxt to each other and diminished 7ths? 9ths?- which Messaien later ran into the ground; and I got to play on his piano!!!!!!!!!!! also, looking out on his Japanese garden from his balcony at Montfort d'Ameury- I thought of "Sheherezade" sp- and the fact that Ravel could see the Orient from here- in his pen and as he wrote the notes....
the Shreker Chamber Symphony- gossamer sinkings of sickening progress towards atonality- his libretto for Die Gezeightneten- fabulicious decadence. Music is, finally, the key....the long lost door in the mtn.
a fantastic quote of Beethoven's- interviewed by Schlosser:
Did B repress his sex?
Women didn't mind
being with him
(If maybe for $?)
But where did all that energy come from?
B is sexy
His music all about
speeding up, slowing down,
wind up; wind down/ LUST
Yes, bangy, impatient
(not like Ravel)
Soft to loud
could be a good way
to talk abt
yr necessary death e.g.:
* "O welche lust"
(Prisoners' chorus- "Fidelio").
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