Thursday, December 09, 2004

A cellist's smile...

Lately it is not an entire quartet that I remember after an evening of chamber music. It is a few measures here and there that are memorable and give reason to keep going. There is much to praise in the music of the great 18th and 19th century string quartets. The integrity of their structure. The richness and diversity of their harmonic language. But I have reached a point where musical incidents and details are what, for me, count the most. A simple approach perhaps...but it works for me. I will leave the structure and harmonic issues to musicologists and theorists. I'm just a simple viola player.

Last night the "incident" was about eight seconds of music towards the end of the first movement of Haydn's Opus 76 no. 1. The second subject of this movement is particularly tuneful. When it returns after the recapitulation is is accompanied in the cello by a drone. Charming enough. But when that second subject repeats itself and that rustic drone happens again, the drone itself is ornamented by the addition of a grace note at the begining of each measure. For me it is a completely inimitable moment; an ormamental touch delightful beyond measure. The cellist, who has played this music with me before must have remembered how fond I am of this grace-note ornamented drone. Because as she played this music, she briefly took her eyes off the page and gave me a smile.

A fine moment... Haydn, a drone, a scattering of grace note, and a cellist's smile.



Blogger Elaine Fine said...

Yeah. I know the place, and I know the smile. Thanks for reminding me of it.

6:42 AM

Blogger Gus said...

Thank you for your response...and you bring up something that I have been thinking about lately...that is: you, like me, know the place and know the smile. In other words, at least two of us have shared a common musical experience brought about by a specific compositional "occasion" or "incident". But the chances are quite good that generations of chamber musicians who, like us, have an ear for such things, have also taken pleasure from the exact same moment. Both of us today, then, are sharing a subtle experience with people like us who are long gone from this life. What is the significance of this? When you look out from the rim of the Grand Canyon, you could claim something of the same thing.... generations of people have experienced and have been moved, by the same view...but somehow I think our shared musical experience is a bit more "special." than the Grand canyon people. Why I think this, I have yet to articulate...but I'm working on it...


10:45 AM


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