A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

To The Film Industry In Crisis
Saturday, August 09, 2014




Frank O'Hara by Harry Redl 1958


To the Film Industry in Crisis
Frank O’Hara, 1926 - 1966

Not you, lean quarterlies and swarthy periodicals
with your studious incursions toward the pomposity of ants,
nor you, experimental theatre in which Emotive Fruition
is wedding Poetic Insight perpetually, nor you,
promenading Grand Opera, obvious as an ear (though you
are close to my heart), but you, Motion Picture Industry,
it’s you I love!

In times of crisis, we must all decide again and again whom we 
love.
And give credit where it’s due: not to my starched nurse, who 
taught me
how to be bad and not bad rather than good (and has lately 
availed
herself of this information), not to the Catholic Church
which is at best an oversolemn introduction to cosmic 
entertainment,
not to the American Legion, which hates everybody, but to you,
glorious Silver Screen, tragic Technicolor, amorous 
Cinemascope,
stretching Vistavision and startling Stereophonic Sound, with all
your heavenly dimensions and reverberations and iconoclasms! 
To
Richard Barthelmess as the “tol’able” boy barefoot and in pants,
Jeanette MacDonald of the flaming hair and lips and long, long 
neck,
Sue Carroll as she sits for eternity on the damaged fender of a car
and smiles, Ginger Rogers with her pageboy bob like a sausage
on her shuffling shoulders, peach-melba-voiced Fred Astaire of 
the feet,
Eric von Stroheim, the seducer of mountain-climbers’ gasping 
spouses,
the Tarzans, each and every one of you (I cannot bring myself to 
prefer
Johnny Weissmuller to Lex Barker, I cannot!), Mae West in a 
furry sled,
her bordello radiance and bland remarks, Rudolph Valentino of the moon,
its crushing passions, and moonlike, too, the gentle Norma 
Shearer,
Miriam Hopkins dropping her champagne glass off Joel 
McCrea’s yacht,
and crying into the dappled sea, Clark Gable rescuing Gene 
Tierney
from Russia and Allan Jones rescuing Kitty Carlisle from Harpo 
Marx,
Cornel Wilde coughing blood on the piano keys while Merle 
Oberon berates,
Marilyn Monroe in her little spike heels reeling through Niagara Falls,
Joseph Cotten puzzling and Orson Welles puzzled and Dolores 
del Rio
eating orchids for lunch and breaking mirrors, Gloria Swanson 
reclining,
and Jean Harlow reclining and wiggling, and Alice Faye reclining
and wiggling and singing, Myrna Loy being calm and wise, 
William Powell
in his stunning urbanity, Elizabeth Taylor blossoming, yes, to 
you
and to all you others, the great, the near-great, the featured, the 
extras
who pass quickly and return in dreams saying your one or two 
lines,
my love!
Long may you illumine space with your marvellous appearances, 
delays
and enunciations, and may the money of the world glitteringly 
cover you
as you rest after a long day under the kleig lights with your faces
in packs for our edification, the way the clouds come often at 
night
but the heavens operate on the star system. It is a divine 
precedent
you perpetuate! Roll on, reels of celluloid, as the great earth 
rolls on!

From Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O’Hara. Copyright © 1957 by Frank O’Hara. 

Frank O'Hara by Harry Redl

Johnny Weissmuller by George Hurrell
 



Time, Beauty, Pleasure, Disappointment & Spats
Friday, August 08, 2014



Alexander Weimann & Matthew White



Of last night’s Early Music Vancouver extravaganza performance of Handel’s Il Trionfo del Tempo (1707) I could write of the superb sound of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra and its director (and stand-up organist) Alexander Weimann. Or I could salivate about the two sopranos Amanda Forsythe (to my disappointment she covered up her beauty mark on the right hand side of her mouth) and that passionate Magyar Krisztina Szabó. Or (and I will) write about tenor Colin Balzer with his diction and “I am here” presence and of countertenor Reginald L. Mobley of whom I can one describe his male’s voice as exquisite without any reservation.

Sitting dead centre on the front row I saw everything except what was blocked by what I call José Verstappen’s baroque organ (the former Artistic Director of Early Music Vancouver fought long and hard to have it made and I have not forgotten). 

Which one? Time, Beauty, Truth or Pleasure.

It didn’t take long before my following of Benedetto Pamphili’s libretto transported me away from the Chan. I was suddenly in a spacious room in which two women and two men (most unlikely had it been in ancient Greece) were reclined on divans and drank Massalian wine. They were served by Illyrian slaves. The four were discussing life through their individual lives as Platonic Essences of Beauty, Pleasure, Time and Truth (an essence close to our idea of the disappointment that reality and experience bring to our dreams).

The libretto, in spite of a slight flowery (and why not it's baroque) structure sounded purely existential and very modern.

Reginald L. Mobley, Colin Balzer, Kristina Szabó & Amanda Forsythe

Our crafty Cardinal did not bring his religion and God until the very end of the libretto in a “this is my reality now” aria confession by Amanda Forsythe:

You, high minister of Heaven,
Shall no longer see
Faithless will or vain desires.

And as I lived ungrateful to God
you, custodian of my heart
will offer him a heart made new.

This sudden mention of God brought back to me Pierre Teilhards de Chardin (a crafty French Jesuit) who does not mention the Creator until the end of his monumental The Phenomenon of Man.

Up front I was able to see how the happy-go-lucky and beautiful Beauty (Amanda Forsythe) slowly but surely aged before my eyes as the initial image of herself in front of a mirror begins to deteriorate in spite of false indications to the contrary by a dishonest Pleasure (Kristina Szabó). I expected at any moment towards the end that the two would indulge in a huge cat fight. I was wonderful to not on Beauty’s face her transformation from the despair of knowing her youth would fade to finally realizing there is more to life than skin. 


She realizes this through the doubts that come her way via Time (Colin Balzer) and Truth (Dissingano or disappointment is a better word). The back and forth banter between the women and the men of Handel’s oratorio seemed to me to be a magical representation, a sort of precursor, of the philosophy of another George Frideric, that of Georg (Wilhelm) Friedrich Hegel’s dialectics. 

Colin Balzer & Reginald L. Mobley

By being close to the singers I could see how the music influenced their emotion and how this emotion was manifested in their faces. These singers, in spite of being in an oratorio and not a full blown opera are good actors in their own right. I watched how Time would get up from is seat and look back on Beauty with the disdain of experience. Disinganno was softer in his resolve to make her see the truth. In fact I thought, when the performance ended, that the truth of the oratorio is really a combination of time and disillusion.

That experience is truth.

Feeling sober, in spite of all that Massalian wine, about that existentialist angst I decided that I might have a short chat with the two men (who in spite of all the wonderful arias sung by the sopranos) were in my opinion the cornerstone of the evening's performance.

Verstappen's baroque organ & Sylvain Bergeron's lute

In their dressing room I had little time to ask too many questions. In fact I only asked one, a deeply philosophical one. To Reginald Mobley I asked, “Why spats?” His answer (and I must report that indeed he is a charming and sweet man) was a direct, “And why not?” He then explained that spats is the short word for the correct name a male’s apparel, spatterdash. And he further commanded me (so gently) to mention that he purchases his spats in San Francisco at Spatterdash.

One last comment that I cannot force myself not to make. I watched concertmaster Chloe Meyers play her violin with a passionate and sweet virtuosity as she accompanied Beauty in her last aria Tu del ciel. I thought of what I had learned from the pre-concert talk with Matthew White and Alexander Weimann. I had heard the same the day before with Ellen Hargis in her talk at the UBC School of Music, Handel in Italy. The magical fact is that in that first performance of Il Trionfo del Tempo in 1707 in Rome the concertmaster was no less than Arcangelo Corelli.

Just imagine that! 

The dashing lutenist Sylvain Bergeron







Brussels Lace
Thursday, August 07, 2014








 When my remontant roses wane in August the flowers in our garden are the hydrangeas. One of my favourites is an extremely slow growing and almost dwarf Hydrangea paniculata ‘Brussels Lace’. Not written in books about hydrangeas is that the paniculatas and Hydrangea quercifolia all have a delightful honey scent at this time of the year. In the evening the scent wafts through the whole garden. Some gardeners ignore hydrangeas as they are easy to grow. Some will survive even in deep shade. And in my garden they have no pests or diseases. What more can I ask for?  





My Mother's Baroque Pearls & Il Trionfo Del Tempo
Wednesday, August 06, 2014






As a little boy I often watched my mother take out her metal jewel box to fish for the jewels she might wear that evening for a concert or cocktail party. One of her favourites was this string of pearls she called “my baroque pearls.” She made baroque rhyme with rock. She did explain that they were so called because of their irregular shapes.

It has only been in the recent years that I have come to understand their significance. In fact baroque comes from Spanish and Portuguese and the word is used to describe irregular shaped pearls.

In trying to explain why someone in the 19th century (so violinist Marc Destrubé told me) would have called that musical period beginning in the 17th century and roughly ending with the death of Bach in 1750 as the baroque period I have had some internal questions.  I have grasped at the idea that baroque meaning not smooth or predictably shaped might describe the church altars of the age and in particular those of the Catalan architect José de Churriguera whose churches were sometimes given the name of Spanish Rococo. I saw many churches in this style in Mexico not knowing of their connection to the baroque period.

It was in such a church in Mexico City that I first heard the music of Girolamo Frescobaldi back in 1962.

I grieve and at the same time I am in delight at being able to listen to tomorrow Handel’s early (1707) oratorio Il Trionfo del Tempo tomorrow at the Chan. The performance is part of Early Music Vancouver’s 2014 Vancouver Early Music Festival and features our very own Pacific Baroque Orchestra. I grieve because my mother never go to listen to all the performances of music that she only saw as sheet music.

One of the vovalists of tomorrow’s performance male alto Reginald L. Mobley, in this age where Bach is God, says in a recent interview this about Handel:

Developments in science and technology has given us the ability to look on something as complex as the human body and other forms of life, and view its basic components to better understand how it works. We can now see cells, molecules, and even atoms. From those basic "building blocks" we can see how we are put together. Yet, with that, we still don't know how life truly begins. We have no idea how these vessels contain a soul. To me, Bach has put the mystery of life behind him. Years ahead of his time, he has translated cells and sequenced DNA into a score, and in every performance once can sense a soul. In his pursuit to glorify God and his invention, Bach has reproduced life.

Despite my devotion to what Bach has achieved, I feel Handel points out the folly in this. Why marvel over the achievement of an opposable thumb if you never use it to pick a flower? In Handel's music, there is a focus on using our God-given senses to experience and enjoy the rest of his creation. There's no pressure to explore anything other than the wonder and beauty that is around us. His music is extroverted and profound in its simplicity. I can vibe with that. It forces me to not focus on the journey, but instead just to enjoy a moment. I guess what I'm trying to say is, whereas Bach shows humanity in design, Handel shows humanity in execution."

I am looking forward to tomorrow’s concert to get some more of that exquisite humanity. My mother will be with me in spirit and both of us will smile.



Snakes, Syringes & Alice Cooper
Tuesday, August 05, 2014






It was around 1964 that I had a friend with whom I attended philosophy classes at the University of the Americas in Mexico City. His name has slipped from my memory but I remember that he was a real fan of Ella Fitzgerald. One day he asked me, “Have you heard Carmina Burana?” My answer was an embarrassing, “No, who is she?”

In 1973 while teaching 9th graders at a Mexico City school for wealthy Americans and foreigners I was asked, “Mr. Hayward, have you heard Alice Cooper?” My guess is that if you have gotten this far you can predict what my answer was!

Of late I have been suffering the random effects of an accelerated heart and my cardiologist it would seem is attempting to have my heart accelerate on demand. They put me on a treadmill a couple of times and they have strapped both a heart beat and blood pressure monitor box on me. But to no avail my heart has been happily ignoring him.

They did get my blood pressure to go up suddenly in one of the tests. They left the room and came back with a hypodermic needle. They say my pressure jumped. I had told them that I had a phobia for needles.

This phobia had begun in my extreme youth in Buenos Aires when every year we were subjected to a diphtheria vaccine at school. This vaccine was administered on the spinal column. When I knew of the date for this I tried to tell my mother that I was sick. She knew and sent me to school. I have had a pathological fear of injections since and when I have the option of an injection or less effective pills I always opt for the pills.

My psoriatic arthritis medicine is something called Humira which I must administer myself every two weeks. It is an injection capsule that looks like Doctor McCoy’s but it still hurts. Every week I must also inject myself with Methotrexate. For this I use a conventional syringe and I am in panic for days in a terrible anticipation. This coming week I am going back to the less effective pills.

I also have a phobia of snakes but not of spiders except tarantulas with their singularly independent 8 hairy legs.

It was not too long ago that my phobia for snakes met up with my ignorance on things Alice Cooper. I remember that she lived in Burnaby and that’s about it.  

Bull pythons, bugs & golfers



Vanitas Vanitatum Omnia Vanitas
Monday, August 04, 2014

Vanitas Naturaleza Muerta - August 1, 2014


Monday I gave a talk at Gessler Hall in the UBC School of Music called The Most Transitory of Things. With the projection of some rose scans I attempted to somehow connect the baroque music being showcased in this year’s 2014 Vancouver Early Music Festival. The last concert of the festival is this August 9 and the title is Vanitas Vanitatum.

A few weeks ago that double Latin would have left me flummoxed. But that is not the case now.



Adriaen van Utrecht (Antwerp, 1599–1652) c. 1642

I was further impelled to write this today Tuesday as in today’s NY Times Science Times (every Tuesday) I read the following introduction and two first paragraphs:

Books – Jascha Hoffman
Working in the Medium of Science
Colliding Worlds
How Cutting- Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art
By Arthur I. Miller

An argument that the passion of artists is little different from the quest for data and logic.

Scientists are logical, making observations and running experiments, then building theories that explain the data. Artists are emotional, working in solitude and by intuition. Or so we are told.

In Colliding Worlds, the historian and philosopher Arthur I. Miller argues that artists and scientists have always had the same mission to “fathom the reality beyond appearances, the world invisible to our eyes.” And he argues that after drifting apart during the Enlightenment, the twin branches of understanding have been coming back together over the last century, a reunification that is accelerating in the digital age.

At one time that last paragraph might have confused me or left me cold. That was not the case.

In trying to find a connection between my rose scans which are mostly of complex multi-petalled old or ancient roses and baroque music I thought of the Age of Enlightenment.


This period of history that began somewhere in the middle of the 17th century and saw the light (el siglo de las luces) in the 18th century was brought on by Copernicus, Newton, Leibnitz, Descartes, Voltaire, Hume and a volley of explorers. They believed that reason (the period is sometimes called the Age of Reason) would make a better world.

I found that at odds with the complex baroque music. Some of it was mathematical but a lot of it, particularly the French Baroque was emotional. I thought of Mexican Baroque churches in the Churrigueresque style (named so because Catalan architect José de Churriguera had pioneered this overly elaborate baroque sometimes called Spanish Rococo.)

How could the elaborate and serpentine (particularly Bach’s canons) live side by side with the logical, mathematical and direct?

I found my answer in two quarters. One was to note that the so-called 30 Year’s War (1618-1648) with about 8 million deaths had left what was then what we would call Germany today in shambles along with most of the rest of Europe. The Dutch saw this as a kind of hopelessness. Religion had failed and earthly pursuits were useless. It was almost as these Dutch (many were artists) prefigured Søren Kierkegaard’s proto existentialism by almost 200 years. This movement was called Vanitas. This Latin word means "vanity" and loosely translated corresponds to the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.

Vanitas art showed still lifes in which death was always present in some sort of decay. It could be a plant and flower or a skull. All put there to remind us of the impermanence of life.

A few days ago I decided to make my own Vanitas using my Fuji b+w Instant film. I threw in some roses, past their prime to represent that decay.

I look forward to being wonderfully depressed and marvelously inspired by the music of the August 9 concert Vanitas Vanitatum.  

The composers will be for me new kids on the block:

Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674)
Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (1580-1651)
Girolamo Frescobaldi (1538-1643) him I know!
Marco Marazzoli (1605-1622)
Luigi Rossi (1597- 1653)
Domenico Mazzocchi (1592-1665)
Biagio Marini (1594-1663) him I know!




Haydn French Style & The Violone Player Got Extra Pay
Sunday, August 03, 2014

Curtis Daily, Vancouver, August 2, 2014


Three men made our Sunday, August 3d evening and enlightening one. My Rosemary and I sat front row, centre at the UBC School of Music’s Roy Barnett Hall for Early Music Vancouver’s “Matin, Midi, Soir”: Early Haydn Symphonies (6,7 &8) and (very important) Haydn’s Concerto for Harpsichord in D-Major Hob XV111:11.

Before I explain let me diverge. In 1973, when I was living in Mexico I was an opinionated younger man (I have softened a tad with old age.) and I had a blanket taste for baroque music and a distaste for 20th century compositions. I did not like the romantics and for me the only difference between Haydn and Mozart was that Haydn seemed to be keen on the kettle drum.  

Rosemary and I had some friends from New York City, Milton and Jean Glasser. He was a retired dentist who often told me, “I still tickle the ivories,” by accompanying his wife who was the first violinist for the University of Mexico Symphony Orchestra. Milton told me that one day I would change my mind and my tastes for music (then only jazz and baroque) would expand. He played some piano music by Darius Milhaud that was inspired by visits to Brazil. And of course I knew that Milhaud had influenced Brubeck. The walls containing my minute musical tastes began to crumble. The couple played Fritz Kreisler's "found" compositions by imaginary composers. I was charmed.

Since being in Vancouver (1975) my tastes have expanded lots. Thanks to the Vancouver Opera I began to love Mozart. The Turning Point Ensemble pointed me into the direction of another Frenchie, Olivier Messiaen, particularly to  his exquisite Quartet For the End of Time. Important, the violinist of that performance was Marc Destrubé.

 I slid into liking Haydn by Marc Destrubé’s collaboration with the Pacific Baroque Orchestra of three Haydn concertos for violin and strings. Here was intimate and sweet music played with period instruments (more subtle, less loud) and as far as I could tell there was not kettle drum to be heard. The other man singly responsible for making me like Haydn was listening to Pinchas Zukerman and the National Arts Centre Orchestra play Haydn's Symphony No. 22. Its very long and deceptive repetition of a theme in its first movement adagio reminded me of Steve Reich.

I believe that the Early Music Vancouver Mentorship Orchestra (smallish and not full bore) made up of  UBC faculty members and students (not quite as most are professionals who want to supplement what they know with period instruments) headed by concertmaster Marc Destrubé rendered Haydn in a way that surprised me and delighted me.

For one, from Destrubé down they were all in smiles, obviously having fun playing together. After having heard baroque music in previous concerts, part of this year’s 2014 Vancouver Early Music Festival, I could discern the baroque influence in the first movement Adagio of Haydn’s Symphony no. 6 “Le Matin”.


Matthew White & Marc Destrubé

We were on the front row but the decibel levels were comfortable. I felt like I was Prince Paul Anton Esterházy himself listening to my orchestra. I had a sudden urge for strong coffee with sweet whipped cream.

Destrubé brings what seems to be a kinder, gentler, French influence into Haydn.  I like that lots.


Haydn - French Style
Now for the second man I mentioned in the introductory paragraph. This is the quiet, almost self-effacing violone (a baroque gut string double bass) player, Curtis Daily, who is a member of the Portland Baroque Orchestra. You must thus suspect that he has to be especially good as his boss is no other than Monica Huggett the reigning queen of the baroque violin.

I asked EMV Artistic Director Matthew White why it was that he had brought Daily to our city for this special concert. It seems that that these three symphonies (ordered by Esterházy to mimic the idea of a theme as the Prince had returned from a diplomatic trip to Italy and had brought back Vivaldi’s score of the Four Seasons) have three Menuetto e Trio (third movements) that feature a double bass solo. White told me, “It had to be a bass with gut strings for the sound.”

This amateur listener must now report that White’s description of those three bass solos was not exaggerated. The third one in Symphony no. 8 “Le Soir” had Rosemary and me whispering to each other that it sounded like her big cat Casi-Casi sauntering on the lawn. It was beautiful but somehow it made us smile, too.

Rosemary has yet to catch up to the fact that her husband, thanks to Alex Weimann, Richard Eggar, Michael Jarvis, Byron Shenkman, Christopher Bagan and a few more have finally helped me appreciate the instrument. But faculty member and Dutch virtuoso harpsichordist, Jacques Ogg (the pronunciation of his name you will have to ask him as I did!) who played his harpsichord up front, about five feet away from us, might just have eased Rosemary into liking it. I must here reveal a little known fact of perhaps not much importance. Ogg was born in Maastricht. Important to me, Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d'Artagnan died in a siege to that city. He, Ogg, was our third man of the evening.


Jacques Ogg - The Third Man

There is another reason why I enjoyed that harpsichord concerto. I imagined Haydn himself playing it as he accompanied Lady Hamilton. My mother (who was a piano player) told me many years ago of this. Lady Hamilton, her husband William and Admiral Horatio Nelson were traveling together back from Italy. In every town they stopped they created a scandal as everybody knew that William had horns. When they stopped in Vienna they were invited by Esterházy to visit him in Eisenstadt. Esterházy provided a partridge shoot, fireworks and a ball. Lady Hamilton was invited to sing. This she did. She sang the alto part to Arianna. The prince was a diplomat and it seems he clapped and so did everybody else. Sometime later Haydn gave Nelson a pen (a quill pen?) with which he said he had written his Missa in Angustiis (now called the Nelson Mass). Nelson then gave Haydn the watch he had used in the famous battle of Aboukir Bay. It is interesting to note that Nelson did not look too good. He had bad teeth and had lost an arm. Lady Hamilton was chubby as she was pregnant (Nelson’s soon to be born son).

At this point in this too long an account I cede the space to Curtis Daily.


The Viennese violone, and why I'm not playing one tonight.
Curtis Daily



The term violone is Italian, and simply means 'large viol'. In the 16th to mid 17th century in Italy, where the viol and violin families originated, this term was used to describe any large stringed bass instrument, including what we now call the violoncello (cello). Only in the 3rd quarter of the 17th century was the cello first referred to by its current name. Also around that time in Italy the term violone fell into disuse, being replaced by the term contrabbasso for the instrument that we know now as the double bass, contrabass, upright bass, bass fiddle, bull fiddle, or dog house. At this time the instrument began shedding strings, with most Italian contrabbassos having four strings, and the larger models usually having three. This was all about sonic volume. A three string bass is far louder than a six string bass, because the strings can be farther apart, allowing more room to attack with the bow, and there is less pressure on the table of the instrument. A three string bass is very, very loud, and clearly, even back then they liked the bass to be loud.



The term violone, though, had made its way north into the lands now known as Germany and Austria, along with the instruments themselves, and in those places the term stuck. In those regions violone eventually came to describe a very particular instrument; in Germany this was the six string instrument which is the largest member of what we now call the viol family. There are two sizes of violone; large, and larger, one tuned in G and the other tuned lower in D. These are very characteristic instruments, strung in the same fashion as the rest of the members of the viol family, having the same general shape, and have 7 frets.



In the regions around Vienna, sometime in the early to mid 18th century, a variant emerged, which is called the Viennese violone. This instrument is unique to the region and has 5 strings and 7 frets. To the average viewer it would not look much different than what we now know as a double bass, and other than having frets, it isn't all that much different….except for the tuning. The Viennese violone is tuned F'', A'', D', F#', A'. Those who are musically oriented will notice that the bottom three strings are a D minor triad in first inversion, and the top three strings are a D major triad. How this tuning came to be is not known, but I'll take a guess. The Viennese violone bears a remarkable physical resemblance to the Venetian six string violone of the mid 17th century with tuning of D", G", C', F', A', D, and because of the relatively easy passage from Venice to Vienna, one could speculate that the Venetian instrument eventually made it's way to Vienna and became the model for the violones that were made in and around Vienna in the mid 18th century.



Much to do with tunings back then had to do with string technology and availability, so a basic reason for the tuning could be as simple as players not being able to find strings in Vienna that would tune down to the more common D" or E" for the low string, so the low string was tuned up until it had good tension, to F".

Why the upper three are tuned in a major triad can be partially explained also by the idea that the instrument started out as a six string violone with a high D, but the top string became unneeded due to the more specialized nature of the bass line in the mid 18th century, which was more about having louder low notes than easily accessible high notes. Removing the top string would make the instrument louder and would allow for more space between the strings so that more pressure could be applied to the string, just as the Italians had decided about 75 years earlier. These hypotheses don't explain everything, but are a reasonable guess at some of it.



What we do know is that having a major triad in the top three strings created the opportunity for composers in that area at that time to write some very flashy sounding, but easily played, triad oriented passages for the Viennese violone across those three strings, but are very difficult to play on the double bass tuned in the more standard E", A", D', G'.



Haydn obviously had a first class bass player in his new orchestra because he wrote bass solos in the trios of each of the symphonies 6, 7, and 8. It's also been noted somewhere that players in the Esterhazy orchestra got extra pay for solos, so he could have also been giving a little bonus to the bass player for some reason. Also, as far as I know, these are the first specifically dedicated bass solos in an orchestral work. In the trio sections of each of the three symphonies is stated 'violone solo'.

Two of the three solos play very well in the conventional tuning that I use, but in the "Midi", Haydn exploits the triad tuning of the upper strings and writes a little passage that his bass player would have had to merely hold down his index finger across the top three strings while crossing the strings back and forth with the bow, while I have to do some serious shifting on my top string to even have a chance at playing them well. If I get lucky, no one will notice anything, and almost no one will question why I'm not using the Viennese violone.



But why am I not using a Viennese violone? Simply because I don't have one, and to re-string my bass, put frets on it, and learn the tuning for one passage of one movement was more than I could accomplish in the midst of a busy schedule.



My instrument is Italian and is tuned in a common tuning for contrabass in Italy and other regions in that era, so maybe it's best to think of me, historically speaking, as an Italian tourist contrabbassista passing through Vienna back then with my bass, and getting an opportunity to play these amazing symphonies with a Viennese orchestra.

Back to me.  



Centre, Marina Hasselberg, right Rainer Zipperling

Three men might have made my evening at the Haydn concert. That was not all.  I also noted two enthusiastic players who had prominent parts in the evening. One was faculty cellist Rainer Zipperling and violist Peter Lekx who had juicy parts. I wonder if Haydn had extra money for this pair in the original performance of  the three symphonies. And hidden by many chairs and instruments I noticed cellist Marina Hasselberg's interesting shoes and her divine little black dress with a plunging lacework back. And finally my mother also told me that when Haydn was 14 he was a very good member of a boy's choir. The choir master persuaded the young boy that the only way to conserve his fine voice was to sever the little bag between his legs. An hour before the operation, Haydn's father found out and stopped it. Had that not happened Mozart might not have then called him Papa Haydn.

Next EMV event

G.F. Handel: “Il Trionfo del Tempo” (1707)




     

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4/9/06 - 4/16/06

4/16/06 - 4/23/06

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