Saturday, August 14, 2010

program notes in sixty minutes or less (vol. 1)

I think the title essentially sums up what is to come.

Excerpt from program for Mozart, Bach, and Brahms. August 15, 2010
Mozart’s 1783 Duo exemplifies the late eighteenth century classical style, specifically with respect to the salon: in its original eighteenth century context, K,423 would have been performed by amateur musicians in an informal setting as a facet of their classical education and cultural socialization. Indeed, in conjunction with the general characteristics of the salon (performances by dilettantes in a setting raucous and radical), a dialectic listening model can be applied to better understand the work. There are numerous moments throughout the work’s three movements wherein musical gestures signifying a conversation between violin and viola could also be understood as Hegelian dialectic (thesis/antithesis/synthesis) or Aristotelian logic (major premise/minor premise/conclusion).

Bach's English Suites offer the contemporary listener further evidence of Bach’s skill in synthesizing elegance and truth from ostensibly antithetical elements: lewd dance forms, and so-called “learned” counterpoint. Often misunderstood as quintessentially baroque, Bach’s music is indeed rife—but, importantly, not wrought—with counterpoint and it is this quality that contributes to the composer’s undisputed place at the front of the early eighteenth century avant-garde. Thus in this sense, the composer can be labeled as baroque, but we must also acknowledge his innovations. The aforementioned “synthesis” could be seen as a subtle signifier of burgeoning revolution: the interaction of “low” dances (the Sarabande and the Courante, for example) with learned musical forms symbolizes the erosion of class distinctions and the onset of the Enlightenment.


  1. Brilliant writing Clare!!! Thank you! Hope the concert went well! Wish I could have been there. :-)

  2. You are so sweet! The concert was really fun--Brahms and Mozart went well and Luke's Bach was beautiful. :)