My newly completed novel is The Fall of the Berlin Wall, about what happened to characters from my Hungry Generations fifteen years later; it's about musicians and particularly the intense, irrepressible daughter of the legendary pianist at the center of the previous novel. My 2015 novel, The Ash Tree, was published by West of West Books in conjunction with the April 24, 2015 centenary of the Armenian genocide; it's about an Armenian-American family and the sweep of their history in the twentieth century - particularly from the points of view of two women in the family.
There are three other novels of mine, One is Pathological States, about a physician's family in L.A. in 1962, which is as yet unpublished. Another is Hungry Generations, about a young composer's friendship in L.A. with the family of a virtuoso pianist, published on demand by iUniverse. A Burnt Offering - a fable (a rewriting and expansion of my earlier Acts of Terror and Contrition - a nuclear fable) is my political novella about Israel and its reactions to the possibility of a war with Iran (with the fear that it will be a nuclear war).
[These blog posts are, of course, copyrighted.]

Friday, March 1, 2019

Literature and Music - session 4 - Goethe, Liszt, Wagner, Nietzsche, Mahler

Goethe (1749-1832) Faust, Part One (1808) ‘in Faust’s Study i’ (Oskar Werner) [4:00]
excerpts from Faust, including Walpurgisnacht:
 Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Walpurgisnacht, continued: Mephisto Waltz No. 1 – 1859  [Van Cliburn, pianist):

Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
Wagner, Tristan and Isolde, Prelude – the Tristan chord (Solti and Vienna):
Liebestode, end of Act 3, Nina Stemme:

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900)
In the 1880s, Nietzsche produced a devastating critique of Richard Wagner, announced his rupture with the German artist, who had influenced him, and accused him of embracing the repellant German Volkish (folk nationalist) movement and Antisemitism. The operas are criticized as manipulative, seducing the audience and making them passive.  Wagner is seen as less than Bizet and, now, philosophically insignificant, and he has become a symptom of the broader "disease" affecting Europe: nihilism.
excerpt from The Twilight of the Idols:
excerpt from The Birth of Tragedy (1872):
also, Zarathustra's Midnight Song

Gustave Mahler (1860-1911) Symphony no. 3, 4th move, Zarathustra’s midnight song (Meier):

Symphony No. 1, 3rd movement:

Literature and Music - session three - Schubert and Romantic poems

See the previous post on Literature, Music, and Romanticism.
Coleridge (1772-1834): text of "Kubla Khan" and "The Eolian Harp"
Keats (1795-1821): text of "Ode to a Nightingale"

 Schubert (1797-1828)

Schubert – Goethe’s Der Erlkönig D328 (The Erlking, 1815) Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (baritone), Gerald Moore (piano) 

Goethe’s Gretchen am Spinnrade D. 118 (Grechen at the spinning-wheel, 1814) - Rika Shiratsuchi, Mezzo-soprano; Malcolm Martineau, Piano

ller’s Der Lindenbaum D. 911 (from Winterreise – The Linden-tree, 1827) –  Fischer-Dieskau and Alfred Brendel (Piano)

ller’s Die Leiermann D. 911 (from Winterreise – The Organ-grinder/The Hurdy-Gurdy Man, 1827) – Fischer-Dieskau and Brendel

Robert Schumann (1810-1856)


Dichterliebe op 48 no 10 (1840)Hör' ich das Liedchen klingen (1823) - Fritz Wunderlich (tenor), Hubert Geisen (pianist)

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856):
Hör ich das Liedchen klingen,
Das einst die Liebste sang,
So will mir die Brust zerspringen
Vor wildem Schmerzensdrang.
Es treibt mich ein dunkles Sehnen
Hinauf zur Waldeshöh,
Dort löst sich auf in Tränen
Mein übergroßes Weh.
I hear the little song sounding
that my beloved once sang,
and my heart wants to shatter
from the savage pain's pressure.
I am driven by a dark longing
up to the wooded heights;
there is dissolved in tears
my supremely great pain.

Chopin (1810-1843)
Fantasy on Polish Airs [Folk dance forms], op. 13 (1829) – performed by Kun Woo Paik, pianist:
Mazurka, Op. 17: No. 4 in A Minor (1831) [Horowitz, pianist]

Literature and Music -Romanticism - third in a series of essays

The wonderful cultural conjunction between the Enlightenment and early Romanticism yielded a sort of renaissance of artistic production, evident in the music of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven and in Goethe’s works. An irony in the history of the 1770s to the 1820s is that the ideas of freedom and fraternity proposed by thinkers of the period were generally opposed or resisted by the aristocrats and bourgeoisie dominating society. In addition, the scientific objectivity and mechanistic deism valued in the Age of Reason imprinted culture generally, and these led to a devaluing of the individual’s inner life, suppressing the individual’s capacity to experience spirituality and the exaltation of the sublime, to feel the range of emotion, and even to perceive. Romanticism rejected that devaluing and developed an alternative to those utilitarian concepts justifying a world of materialism and (to use E.T.A. Hoffmann’s phrase) of “uniformly manufactured products.” Opposed to the mechanistic notion of “a clockwork universe,” the Romantic alternative proposes an organic conception of existence and imagination, which illuminates perception and restores the emotional life.

Contact with nature is one means of such renewal, as experienced, for example, in pastoral epiphanies of Wordsworth’s Lake District or in the sublime, exalting vision of the Alps in Turner’s “Hannibal crossing the Alps” or Byron’s “Childe Harold,” reimagined in Berlioz’s “Harold in Italy” for viola and orchestra. A second access to the imagination in Romanticism is provided by the nativist folk base of culture, for example in the folk music produced by “the damsel with a dulcimer” in “Kubla Khan” or the Polish dance that forms the basis of Chopin’s mazurkas.  There was the additional imaginative promise in a revolutionary fraternity of humanity generally (heard, for example, in the Beethoven/Schiller “Ode to Joy”). In the decades after the French Revolution in 1789, the Romantic generation attempted to create “a new heavens and new earth” by rebelling against the conditions of the society’s “actual” empirical reality, with its resistance both to the fullness of being which the Romantic imagination promised and to the idea of the rights of ordinary citizens (with their alienation from the injustices in society).

Prevailing social conditions in this period were characterized by social rigidity and complacency, and in the face of such stasis and lack of openness to change, there was the danger in Romanticism of the loss of connection to normal, lived life, even – or especially – as composers and performers, artists and writers, strove to achieve the state of transcendence their art promised. In the same year Keats wrote of fading from ordinary existence as he listened to the transcendent song of the Nightingale, the reality of society in 1819 saw the British cavalry draw their sabers and kill dozens in a crowd of thousands, who were demanding labor reform, in the Peterloo Massacre. Keats’ “Ode” does not situate itself within the specific historical conditions (unlike the references to the French Revolution in Wordsworth’s “Prelude” and Shelley’s “Ode to the West Wind”), but it does evoke the “hungry generations” of history which remind him of his own present “forlorn” state; the poem celebrates, instead, an openness both to the ecstasy of the music he hears and to a death of the ordinary self: “now more than ever seems it rich to die…while thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad.” This alternative state of openness is related to what, in his letters, Keats calls “negative capability” – through which he inhabits the boundary-less world of pure imagination, of “being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts.”

More than twenty years earlier, in 1797, Coleridge wrote of music in the same spirit – about the damsel in “Kubla Khan” playing “on her dulcimer…and singing of Mount Abora.” Her folk music could lead to restoring the poet’s drug-induced dream-vision of the Khan’s “sunny pleasure dome with caves of ice” – “Could I revive within me / Her symphony and song, / To such deep delight ‘twould win me, / That with music loud and long, / I would build that dome in air [and] those caves of ice.” Later in the poem, the tension between the Romantic visionary state and social reality is explicitly present, as it was more subtly in the “Ode;” Coleridge suggests how the Romantic genius’ yearning for vision can violate communal bonds: “all who heard should see them there, / And all should cry, Beware! Beware! / Weave a circle round him thrice, / And close your eyes with hold dread, / For he on honey-dew hath fed, / And drunk the milk of paradise.” The figure of the creative genius can experience a “Romantic agony” as the result of the drugs, sexual extremity, and spiritualism involved sometimes in pursuit of sublimity and exaltation.

Music is, above all, associated by Coleridge with the joys of the imagination and what Wordsworth described as “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feeing…recollected in tranquility.” Resting with his wife in the pastoral setting of “The Eolian Harp,” Coleridge hears the sounds of the wind harp expressing “the one Life within us and abroad, / Which meets all motion and becomes its soul, / A light in sound, a sound-like power in light, / Rhythm in all thought, and joyance everywhere.” Linked to love, to fantasy, and to nature, the joy of music leads him to imagine the organic unity of music and nature: “what if all of animated nature / Be but organic Harps diversely fram’d, / That tremble into though, as o’er them sweeps / Plastic and vast, one intellectual breeze, / At once the Soul of each, and God of all?” These speculations, however, are presented as “untamed” and called “unhallow’d” by his beloved wife in the poem, for they put at risk the normal God-fearing bonds and compass of his life. Coleridge here combines an evocation of delight in musical beauty and its inspiring sublimity with a realism about the dangers arising from visionary exaltation, which can threaten to silence the bonds supporting the normal self.

Though the extraordinary potential of the Romantic imagination is realized in the poetry of the period (not to mention the philosophical prose, which for example shaped Coleridge’s thought, or the novel with its desire to embrace the full range of human experience), it is music which most powerfully and immediately embodies Romanticism; the musical form closely associated with it is the art song, for example the lieder composed in the hundreds by Franz Schubert. His first song is based on a passage from Goethe’s Faust Part One, “Gretchen at the Spinning-wheel.” The continual spinning sound of the piano accompaniment is hypnotic, and the intensity of her passionate longing, singing of Faust’s “noble frame,” his mouth and eyes, his speech and touch and kiss, is matched by the force of her bereft suffering: “Where I am without him is for me the grave.” The depth and control Schubert brings to this tension speaks to his masterful understanding of both music and the mind.

The next year, when Schubert was eighteen in 1816, he composed another lieder based on a Goethe poem, “The Erlking.” Here the piano’s continually hammered triplets establish the fateful urgency of the dramatic tableau with three voices uniquely evoked – the father’s as he carries his son through the night on horseback, the sick child’s voice, and the phantom spirit of the Erlking. All of these are brought together into a single frame, the opposing forces into a brilliant and powerful unity. And once more, the lyric beauty of the voices serves to convey profound psychological understanding. There is the desperate protectiveness of the authoritative father, there are the phantasms of the son’s fevered imagination, and there is the seductive beauty of the fantasied, magical spirit of the woods, with his daughters who will “rock you and dance you and sing you to sleep.” All three voices have parts in this drama of death, even the Erlking, who sings to the boy that “if you’re not willing” to come with him, “I shall use force.” At the end, the child’s devastating death abruptly terminates all imagined beauty or joy, and once again the fevered extremity of an imagined world has collided with the matrix that supports the ordinary human world.

A wanderer, grieving for lost love, is the single singer in Schubert’s last set of songs, Winterreise, completed at the age of thirty, the year before his death in 1828. These lieder make up a single, unified monologue and are the finest example of the form. The lyrical beauty of the songs continually serves their profound psychological expressiveness, and their hypnotic beauty achieves a transcendent sublimity. The direct simplicity and expressiveness of phrasing are poignant, and the piano accompaniment insightfully renders both the emotional content and the context of the song, whether it be a lullaby, a crow’s call, a winter storm, or the repeated drone of an organ-grinder on a lonely street. This last is the situation in “Der Leiermann,” the final song in the winter journey; it presents an encounter with a street musician who makes music on his hurdy-gurdy, though no one listens and “his little plate remains ever empty.” The encounter with a seemingly expelled folk figure, exiled and disappeared from the community, is of course a powerful tableau in Romantic art; it occurs in Wordsworth’s “Resolution and Independence,” and twentieth-century versions include Hughes’ “The Weary Blues” and even Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist.” The work has influenced many songs in the last half-century, and it is echoed in Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man.” Forlorn and barefoot, the organ-grinder never stops the drone of his instrument – sorrowful, beautiful, and hypnotic. The singer’s tragic eloquence finally joins with that repeated drone: “Strange old man, shall I go with you? Will you grind your music to my songs?”

In Romanticism, art is seen as positing the possibility of a transcendent world, and yet the beauty it creates can connect to forms of death. The elevation and exaltation of musical transcendence is dangerous and difficult to achieve, for it risks both calling into question the empirical reality of our lives and being expelled from that communal reality. Its music promises, however, the creation of a vital, new language for the life of feeling and thought. Schubert – with the composers who immediately followed him – cherishes the essential elements, gestures, and phrases of feeling; not unlike Beethoven’s building edifices in sound by paring music down to its essentials, Schubert’s achievement is to hallow the endangered emotional life by evoking its essential nuances of feeling in structures of sublime beauty. Romantic music aims to sustain the century-long legacy of harmonious beauty from Bach through Mozart and Haydn to Beethoven and Schubert, even in a society which denies the fullness and wholeness of the imagination.

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Literature and Music - Classical and Early Romantic - second in a series of essays

The movement away from the Baroque in classical music, after the deaths in the 1750s of Bach and Handel, reflected changes in society and culture emerging from the Enlightenment. In England, for example, the shared rule between the Aristocracy and the upper Bourgeoisie (the class of industrialists, owners, and some professionals) was well underway at the start of the eighteenth century, given the authority of Parliament and the increased power of industrialization. What language could help to unify and streamline communication among these contending parts of society? In the music of the new “Classical” era, the answer involved the appeal and usefulness of a more homophonic style, in which lines of music were not generally played against each other as in Baroque polyphony but, rather, placed more singly or together within simpler harmonic structures.

Two new forms were developed in this period. The sonata had existed before, but now it became the name of a new structure for instrumental music, particularly in the first movement; “sonata form” now meant that the melodic material of the initial theme occurred in the tonic, base key, and the second cluster of melody occurred in the dominant key, the nature of which drew it towards in part dramatic resolution in the tonic. In sonata form, the middle portion of the movement developed motifs from the statements of theme, sometimes exploring new combinations and harmonies but always returning to resolution in the tonic statement of the first theme in a recapitulation of the sonata’s beginning. At the core of this “classical” form is the capacity to project and then resolve dramatic tension between related keys and themes.

The second new classical form was the opera as drama. There had, obviously, been earlier operas (and the kindred masques and oratorios), but now the staging of dramatic story became foremost in classical opera, in which the individual voices of soloists fulfilled dramatic roles, clashing with each other and, often, with the community at large.

Both of these new classical developments of older forms emphasize cohesion and integration of the individual into the whole of society. In this way, music served to mirror the new modes of communication needed by the process of negotiation and debate among the contending parties in Enlightenment society. Such music was expressive, coherent, and harmoniously ordered as it both projected and connected individual voices to a communality. In the second half of the eighteenth century, classical musicians were supported – inconsistently, in Mozart’s case – by the stipends, roles, and commissions from aristocratic institutions and the upper Bourgeoisie, and yet partly as a result of its wordless nature or at its best, it was freed from the prosaic or didactic or explicit representation of the social order in the Age of Reason.

Mozart and Haydn were the most gifted composers in this period, and they excelled in different areas. Haydn was wonderfully productive and inventive in developing the new sonata style in over eighty examples of the string quartet, beginning in the mid-1770s, and over one hundred symphonies. His inventiveness involved continual experimental play with phrases, motifs, and conventions – always integrated into the classical mode of drama and resolution. Mozart’s scores of symphonies, concertos, quartets, and sonatas always present the music’s voices as engaged in sustained conversation whether in agreement or in contention, and always harmoniously resolved. While these ‘conversations’ also played with motifs and conventions, Mozart’s particular gift was to cast a light of beneficent acceptance on all he voiced, no matter how dark or disordered.

I’ll focus here  particularly on Mozart. His music contains a wondrous emotional range, from joy and kindness to defiance or lamentation, like that found in his final work, the Requiem’s “Lacrimosa.” It was Mozart’s range of affect that was seen by early Romantic listeners as forecasting the ethos and music of their own period. His early productivity in his twenties included his beautiful violin concertos, a dozen piano concertos, and dozens of symphonies and sonatas. His richest productivity occurred in the decade from just before his marriage in 1782 to his death in 1791 at the age of thirty-six. These most powerful and beneficent compositions took the form of his dozen greatest piano concertos, ten string quartets (six of them dedicated to Haydn, the pioneer in the form), nearly a dozen symphonies, and five operas (conceived and composed in this period which saw the American and French revolutions, though as viewed by the Viennese from the distance of the Hapsburg Empire). “The Marriage of Figaro,” for example, dramatizes the relations of servant to master, of the sexual mores and work conditions within an aristocrat’s household – presenting situations of harassment and exploitation there but avoiding revolutionary rancor by negotiating a comic, humane, harmonious resolution.

It is “Don Giovanni” that most powerfully dramatizes the transition and tensions between the world of the Enlightenment and that of Romanticism. The original Don Juan was the figure of the Renaissance libertine, first appearing in a Molina play from the Spanish Golden Age and then in Baroque dramas and fictions. Now in 1787, Da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist, emphasized the collision between the vulnerable “normal” world (of couples and family, extending from the aristocracy downward, with their mores about women and money) and the world of the unique individual, a figure possessing an intensity, charisma, and energy. The opera’s Don Giovanni invades the ordinary world, affecting its emotions and behavior, investing them with new energy, and leading them to participate in his fiction, in his self-created world of passionate expression. In the Enlightenment, such a figure must be controlled, either integrated into the customary world or expelled from it. From the point of view of Romanticism, he is the figure of the Romantic Genius, inspired and inspiring, living beyond good and evil.

At key moments of the opera, we can see the dynamic tension between these two conceptions played out. In the Overture, there is the slow opening, forecasting the Don’s final fate, with minor-key evocations of danger and terror amidst powerful orchestral exclamations, and this is followed by the conventionally affirmative allegro racing beyond the evocation of danger though driven by a sort of unstoppable energy, partly in reaction to what Don Giovanni has or will bring into the more ordinary world. One of his early arias, “Fin Ch’han dal vino,” projects his insatiable appetite for women, wine, and song with the expectation of adding the names of new conquests from all social classes to his “list” (rather like a diabolical Enlightenment dictionary of his sex life). Soon in Act I there is the sung recitation of Donna Anna, whose father has been murdered by Giovanni upon interrupting the attempted seduction of Anna. At a key moment in the recitative, her singing becomes passionately sensual as she describes “twisting, turning, and bending” as she attempts to resist the seduction. In this way, Don Giovanni intrudes on and stirs the emotional capacities of the human beings around him. In Donna Elvira’s Act II aria, “Ah, taci,” the new seduction shows his ability to invest stock social gestures with lyric force, wit, and compelling energy, seducing her even as he uses his side-kick Leporello as a stand-in.

Leporello is an emissary from the mundane world that the Don invades, and this man of ordinary capacities and expectations is recruited and manipulated in ways that reinforce our sense of how comically vulnerable the ordinary world is to the force of Don Giovanni’s spirit. In the opera’s final movements, the statue of the murdered father, the Commendatore, comes alive to condemn him and send him to the underworld; the dead father’s music of communal judgment and certainty confronts the lyric force of Don Giovanni’s rebellion and the refusal to repent in his repetitions of “No!” as a fiery death descends on him. Such was the end of the opera as staged in the Romantic period, but as produced in its initial years during the late eighteenth century, the sextet of the remaining living characters – including Leporello – returns to the stage to celebrate the restoration of the community.

The Romantic conception and staging of “Don Giovanni” is described in a Tale from 1820 by E.T.A. Hoffmann: “Nature endowed [him] with all the favors she heaps upon her darlings. He received every gift which, tending toward the divine, raises a man above the…workaday world and its uniformly manufactured products…His was a powerful and magnificent body, a personality radiating that spark which kindles the most sublime feelings in the soul, a profound sensibility, a swift and instinctive understanding…Fired by a longing which seethed through the blood in his veins, he was driven to the greedy, restless seizure of all the phenomena of this earthly world.” Such is the figure of the Romantic Genius, with his gifts, his impact, and his driven, costly vision.

Beethoven is sometimes seen as this representative Romantic figure, but the complexity and depth of the composer and his music cannot be so readily pigeon-holed. Born in 1770, he experienced his musical education and early career during the Enlightenment, and the compositions he produced in this period were profoundly shaped by Mozart’s and Haydn’s Classical works; when he moved to Vienna in his twenties, there were competitions in improvisation in which he triumphed through his fierce inventive play with motifs and his extraordinary emotional expressiveness, ranging from the ineffably lyrical to the overwhelmingly powerful. Throughout his career, Beethoven improvised with the essential Classical conventions, and more and more ambitiously, he focused on stripping down their motifs to the essential elements and developing these basic musical germs organically; the idea of development itself was at the core of his music.

Beginning in the second period of this work (from 1803 to about 1811), the passages of organic development can grow to overwhelming proportions. This period also saw Beethoven’s increasing deafness, about which he wrote to his brothers in the Heiligenstadt Testament of 1803; it was as if his need for their help and his isolation from the ordinary production of music coincided with his powerful, profound, and freed development of classical art. In the Appassionata sonata of 1805, for example, the development section in the middle of the first movement keeps generating arpeggios of greater and greater power as it moves abruptly from one arpeggiated chord to another, harmony to harmony, creating a destabilizing blaze of dissonance with layer after layer of dramatic, destructive-sounding force. All of this climaxes with a recapitulation of the sonata’s opening, but now accompanied by the agitation of a constantly repeated bass note.

Sonata form has here let loose the force of organic development, central in Romanticism and expanded now to overwhelming proportions, which challenge the listener with its expression of power. In the changing culture in which the sonata was composed, the increasingly empowered Bourgeois audience is shaken as it confronts an expression of individual will and freedom dwarfing the petty accommodations, violences, and self-interest built into the society. In this way, the sonata’s seemingly unbridled power confronts the unexamined faith shaping early nineteenth-century art and life. Of course, the sonata is in truth not unbridled but an extension of classical form, though extreme and unimagined in the eighteenth century. Similarly, Beethoven employed the classical variation form to project an encompassing vision of growth from the most basic elements; in his late period’s Diabelli Variations for piano, for example, a vastly varied structure emerges out of the simplest tune and develops to include allusions to much of the great music which had come before him, with homages toward the end to Bach, Handel, and Mozart. Beethoven invested Baroque-style fugues with his own sense of organic beauty and implacable force, particularly in the last decade of his life, the last period ending in 1827.

Beethoven’s late compositions include his piano sonatas opus 109-111 and his string quartets opus 127 through 135. In them, there is a serene and even abstract acceptance of all musical conventions even as they are radically disassembled and reimagined; reconciliation in his music accompanies his most radical innovations, which challenge the audience’s complacent expectations of conventions. The risk of pursuing his deepest goals is to isolate himself from the world around him. Ironically, it is this last period which gave rise to ageless works of art. Particularly the Ninth Symphony of 1824, this world-encompassing innovative music, has been embraced by human culture generally. Experimental versions of the classical forms can be found throughout the symphony – sonata, variation, fugue, and most radically a chorus and soloists, as if the symphony were an oratorio, though a pantheist and romanticist one. Schiller “Ode to Joy” is the fourth movement’s sung text, and it joyfully proclaims earthly life as the source of transcendent meaning. After one loud climax in the movement, a soft, simple carnival march sounds out; the love and joy Beethoven is voicing here embrace both the lowliest human and the celestial heights and, in this way, establish a bridge to the Romantic Period.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Literature and Music - session two - Mozart and Beethoven

Rise of the Enlightenment after the Baroque: shared rule of the Bourgeoisie and the Aristocracy. For example, in England, Parliament (including the class of industrialists, business owners, professionals) and Monarchy.

What language can help to unify and streamline communication among these contending parties? The Classical era, partly homophonic music: melodies now within simpler harmonic structures.

Invention of Sonata form: themes in tonic & dominant, midpoint development, recapitulation. Invention of the new Opera as drama opening up conflict between individuals and society.

The new Classical Forms emphasize cohesion and integration of the whole as a communality: coherent, harmoniously ordered, testing and connecting the individual’s relationship to society.

Music – though supported by both the aristocratic court and the owning class – is by its wordless nature freed from the prosaic & didactic, from explicit aristocratic or bourgeois social representation.

Mozart (1756-1791)– Don Giovanni (c 1789)

Act 1/15 ‘Fin ch'han dal vino’ (Hvorostovski)



Mozart’s gift is to cast a light of harmonious and beneficent acceptance on all he composes, no matter how dark or disordered.


Don Juan as a product of the Renaissance:

Tirso da Molina, El Burlador de Sevilla -the trickster of Seville and the stone statue

-a 1630 quasi-tragedy about the exploits & punishment of a Renaissance libertine.

Moliere’s play of Don Juan (1665) exposed the hypocrisy of the aristocracy.

Don Juan became the subject of a 1680 novel about a picaresque rogue.

Mozart’s librettist Da Ponte drew on many sources for his tragi-comic drama: collision between the vulnerable but finally triumphant “normal” world of couples, family, both aristocratic and middle-class mores about women and money

versus the figure of the unique individual sensibility, which can model and define the emotions and spirits of the community, investing them with new power and energy, inviting others to enter a new life, and yet which like Don Quixote can seem foolish and grotesque: this is the figure of the Romantic Genius, an intense force of energy and imagination, beyond good and evil, yet capable of inspiring.


Act 1, #10 Renee Fleming as Donna Anna, prelude to “Or sai chi l’onore”:

At 2:10 – “Silently he approached me and tried to embrace me. I tried to free myself but he seized me all the harder. I screamed, but no one came! With one hand he tried to quiet me, and with the other he seized me so hard that I already thought myself lost….Finally my despair, my horror of the deed so strengthened me that by dint of twisting, turning and bending I freed myself of him.”



Act 2/2 ‘Ah taci, ingiusto core’ – Donna Elvira (Carlos Alvarez, Anna Antonacci)

Act 2/14Finale: Commendatore (Samuel Ramey, Kurt Moll)

Ending of complete opera (Furtwanger, Salzburg, 1953) at 2:50:00

Requiem – (Peter Schreier - Staatskapelle Dresden)
           “Dies Irae”

Beethoven  (1770-1827) –

Music focused on developing the basic elements of the classical vocabulary - and also focused on projecting the power of the individual - in large upwelling passages displaying emotional force and zeroing in on play with elemental motifs.

Appassionata sonata – Barenboim:

Last sonata op. 111 – Trifonov:

Symphony No. 9, finale (1824) – [text 1785: Ode to Joy, by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)]
Anja Harteros, Waltraud Meier, Peter Seiffert, René Pape, National Youth Choir of Great Britain, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim (Royal Albert Hall, July 2012) [7:30-12:00]