YR3 Week1: chopin - 18 waltzes; ellington & coltrane



Seraphim Recording. Printed in the U.S.A. // Frédéric Chopin (1810-1849) // Waltzes 

Aldo Ciccolini, piano

18 Waltzes (the traditional “fourteen” plus four posthumously published waltzes

[...] strangers may esteem you more, reward you to the hilt, but they surely cannot love you more than we do. “” konstancya gladkowska in chopin’s farewell album, 1830

‘Rest of the Haymakers’ by Hans Dahl, date unknown

‘Rest of the Haymakers’ by Hans Dahl, date unknown

back at it again. as usual august is moving in a bit of a panic, a week into it and it begins to feel as if summer is on its last leg---when in fact the last day of the spree isn’t till the 23rd of september---certain measures are thereby needed as a reminder that summer is, aside from its frenetic energies, also a time for a bit of reclining. and for that purpose are these waltzes turning into a yearly routine, something of an anthem for the leisures and velliety, voluptuous pleasures of mid-day sipping and plotting, that come with an august sunday well spent... 

August is the Sunday of summer “” instagram account @highfiveexpert 

this is the fifth consecutive august now that i’ve begun with chopin’s waltzes, the month just fits so well with this collection of works for solo piano. perhaps that is because the intimacy of the scenes they paint are as vibrant and sociable as they are made for the small hours, slight evenings, a series of interconnected sighs like a week made only of sundays. my summer has been a bit on the hectic side thus far, but i think i’m grateful for the better part of it. much of it has been spent wrestling with my single-speed in order to get to the bottom of various rattling noises that, after several bike shops and diy attempts, seemingly originate from diabolic causes. most notable observation on two wheels this summers: i’ve been catching whiffs of the unmistakable Santal 33 with alarming frequency. elsewhere: i was very satisfied with the results of a feature article i wrote for The Dance Current (forthcoming publication in the Sept/Oct edition); i’ve been beyond elated at the invitation to join the very good people at MPMG Arts; and it appears some quite possibly supernatural forces have stepped in to ensure my return to school this september (oh it burns!). at any rate, this august is high time to put myself about a bit (put a bit of stick about as they say), but also time for a couple week-long-sundays.

I sat entranced, filled with wonderment, and if the room had suddenly been peopled with fairies I should not have been astonished. The marvellous charm, the poetry and originality, the perfect freedom and absolute lucidity of Chopin’s playing at that time cannot be described...I could have dropped to my knees to worship him. “” charles hallé, Life and Letters of Sir Charles Hallé

of all the adjectives available to describe chopin’s waltzes, lucid feels the most adequate. like sunlight seen through water from below, they are lucid in their dreamy depths and in the horizontal sprawl that they cast the listener. the images drummed up by their figurations are at times intimate, morose even, but their various postures are of the grand, mock-heroic and valliant type; symmetrically Classical and Romantic in parts. such was the musical bent of a composer who musicologist jan swafford praised for his ability ‘to make small things loom large’. and some of the more intimate settings unravel as if written in an open letter to a particular person, indeed the composer admitted as much: 

I, perhaps unfortunately, already have my own ideal, which I have served faithfully, through silently, for half a year; of which I dream, to thoughts of which the adagio of my concerto belongs, and which this morning inspired the waltz I am sending you. “” frédéric chopin, Chopin’s Letters (collected by henryk opienski, 1931)

which of these eighteen waltzes was he referring to? there’s enough evidence in letters and correspondence to confirm that the faithfully served ideal he had in mind was the polish soprano konstancya gladkowska, whose parting words to the composer is quoted above. the Waltz in C sharp minor is my best guess: its sudden rushes, absentminded haltings, wistful drifting through some half-realized expressions of desire...private and sincere whispers of affection, suggest as much. 

according to musicologist robert phillip, the composer eventually gave a much belated response to gladkowska’s comment in his album to the effect of: “they can, they can”.

(new download: Take the Coltrane - Duke Ellington & John Coltrane)

in 1962 duke ellington and john coltrane collaborated on a jazz album they named Duke Ellington & John Coltrane, with a quartet featuring a piano (ellington), saxophone (coltrane), drums and bass. i discovered the album against my will on a date sometime in august of 2015; she couldn’t get over a rather harmless comment i made earlier in the date (something to the effect of ‘I hate jazz’) and so the evening ended early with my being forced to listen to the entirety of ‘In A Sentimental Mood’ (the first song on the album) standing outside of bathurst station on her shitty Sony headphones. i’ve since fallen in love with that album, and couldn’t be more grateful for it as an introduction to the genre…(i still occasionally enjoy the fantasy that i’ll run into her while listening to a song on that album. but of course the city’s too big for that kinda thing but i “...can’t seem to loosen my grip on the past” (leonard cohen, In My Secret Life).

next week is going to be an exciting one on here as i’m very happy to be hosting the reviews and insights of three contributors as they take on the dance festival made in canada:fait au canada that runs from august 14-18 at the Betty Oliphant Theatre. 

be well till then!