October, 2010 Archive

Bonding with Beethoven (5)

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

At the Mayoral Candidates Forum, I run into Craig R. the composer. I ask him about the fingering of the Opus 127 Adagio.  He says everyone has to figure it out for themselves.  Depends on your hands.  One “rule of thumb”: keep thumbs off the black keys.  When Chad drops by to pick up a precinct, I ask him to look at the fingering I’m working on.  He’s a good pianist but he’s stumped.  After two more days of trial and error, I arrive at a sequence my fingers can follow. I see where the strains within the melody begin and end, where they repeat and vary, where they accelerate and retard, rise and fall, build up and trail off.  The words click into place.

 

Audio [new window]

If we could find…
The key to unlock beauty’s hidden clue
Then…we might learn to reach
The love of life we sometime knew.
Then we might escape
Our lonely shell
We might arise out of our hell
Grow wings to fly into the air
And float free from care

But there’s no chance
That such release will ever
Be felt while we are here
Unless we can recall
From whence we came

Yet I am hopeful
(And so are we)
I’m truly hopeful
(And we are too)
I hope our lives
Can be the way
We want
The way we want
The way they truly should have been
Once more
Once more
Once more

Bonding with Beethoven (4)

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

In order to really understand the 127 Adagio, I’ve got to come up with some lyrics. But I cant do that in my head. The melodic curve is too long. It must be hammered out on an instrument. The four-flats key signature and the full two-octave pitch range rule out my playing it on the recorder.  I need a keyboard.  I search Craigslist and find one for sale by a student in Laguna for $35.  It takes a week to track down the missing power supply. Now I will enter the dark world of the black keys that scared me away from piano lessons in grade 5.

How to finger those notes scored for the first violin?  I google “four flat scale” and find it’s A Flat major and come up with several different recommendations for fingering it.  I try them all, writing and erasing numbers above the first few measures.  None tells me which finger to use when the melody skips successive notes or makes its breathtaking leaps.

 

Bonding with Beethoven (3)

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

Health is returning.

Piano Concerto #4 now playing—the last movement’s opening theme:

Bump ba da bump ba ba bump/bump bump bump/
bump bad a bump bump bump/
bump bad a bump bump bump/.

Audio [opens in new window]

I search for words that could correlate with the notes, lyrics to enable my weak memory to recall the tune.

While Ian was at Karate yesterday, I walked around the parking lot listening to the Waldstein sonata. As the wind swept through the tops of the eucalyptus trees by the creek, I imagined hearing it in the opening of the third movement.

Audio [opens in a new window]

Wikipedia calls it “a sweet and consoling tune.”

Today driving around putting up “Elect Jan Marx” signs, words for the first phrase pop into my head: “Sing sing the wind is blowing.” At home I play with rhymes.

Sing, sing, the wind is blowing
Dance dance the fluttering leaves
Ring ring the bells are tolling
Earth now new life conceives

I check the performance and the score:

 

My last line ignores the shift from a simple repeat to an extended variation in the third and fourth lines of the stanza.

I look in the top line of the score for the theme and cant locate it.  Then I notice that the treble and bass clef have been deviously reversed to indicate right and left hands being crossed.  I correct the lyrics:

Sing, sing, the wind is blowing
Dance dance the fluttering leaves
Ring ring the bells are tolling
With news that earth receives, conceives, believes
And having heard no longer sighs and grieves

I don’t care that they don’t make much verbal sense; they help me remember the strain that shapes the later wild variations.

Bonding with Beethoven (2)

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

I’m sick in bed with a recurrent sinus infection. I listen to the quartet, watch movies– ”Eternal Beloved” and  “In Search of Beethoven”—and study the criticism.  I’m frustrated by the incomprehensible music theory but the scholars’ descriptive language helps me grasp the elusive central theme of the Adagio.  Lewis Lockwood calls it a “long and winding melody,” Michael Steinberg “a rapt and expansive melody,” Joseph Kerman “a famous miracle of beauty.”  Awakened last night by a violent cough, I sat up on the couch and for the first time recognized bits of the core theme in the six subsequent variations. I thought of Beethoven’s struggle with disease, deafness, isolation, and self-loathing.  His creativity transformed his suffering into beauty. It saved him from suicide.