Since I have not time for writing having a few practical problems to solve (even Manius at my new blog has been neglected but now I know where the heck he is in Ancient Britannia thanks to Richard.)
And since a few readers seem to have dug my ‘autumnal’ pieces, here is Fall Music num 2 based again on improvisation. It is dedicated to them.
Fall, ok, but with a stormy twist.
A Roman being a Roman, what did you think …
PS. The sheer joy of having like an immense organ with thousands of sounds to choose from (even imaginary instruments …) is hard to describe.
Unfortunately I can’t play a keyboard any more.
This is also autumnal.
Here are two musical ramblings to disprove the stereotype that Italians are always happy.
Meant as soundtrack music I have no idea if they have an independent life. Certainly, heavy they are.
I was younger when I could have fun with my Korg 01/W synthesizer and my Protei 1 & 2 and I certainly miss those days for such ability I’ve later lost but, as the Poet wrote:
Ehmals und jetz
In jüngeren Tagen war ich des Morgens froh,
des Abends weint’ ich; jetzt, da ich älter bin,
beginn’ ich zweifelnd meinen Tag, doch
heilig und heiter ist mir sein Ende.
Once and Now
In my younger years I had joy in the morning,
tears in the evening; now that I am older,
I start doubtful my day
but it is sacred and serene its end.
I find these verses by the Poet so full of beauty.
The final part of a much longer Fantasia I spare you.
An autumnal piece, based on improvisation.
Mozart’s works – according to Ferruccio Busoni (an Italian-German pianist, composer & writer) – faced a curious indifference in 1917. He wrote in that year:
To the Wagnerian generation Don Giovanni’s text and music seem like simpleton stuff. “The baroque splendour – he continued – has made the world insensitive to the pure lines of the ancients.”
Here’s a choice of Busoni’s earlier aphorisms on Mozart published in 1906 in Berlin’s Lokal Anzeiger. A good conclusion in our opinion to our series on ‘what is classical’.
“So denke Ich über Mozart”
So denke ich über Mozart:
Thus I think of Mozart:
Seine nie getrübte Schönheit irritiert.
His never-clouded beauty irritates.
Sein Formensinn ist fast außermenschlich.
His sense of form is nearly supernatural.
Einem Bildhauer-Meisterwerke gleich, ist seine Kunst – von jeder Seite gesehen – ein fertiges Bild.
Similar to a sculptor’s masterpiece, his art – seen from every side – is a finished picture.
Er hat den Instinkt des Tieres, sich seine Aufgabe – bis zur möglichsten Grenze, aber nicht darüber hinaus – seine Kräften entsprechend zu stellen.
He has the instinct of an animal, setting himself his tasks up to the utmost of his limits, but no further.
Er wagt nichts Tollkühnes.
He dares nothing venturous.
Er findet, ohne zu suchen, und sucht nicht, was unauffindbar wäre – vielleicht ihm unauffindbar wäre.
He finds without seeking and does not seek what would be unfindable–perhaps what would be unfindable to him.
Er besitzt außergewöhnlich reiche Mittel, aber er verausgabt sich nie.
He possess extraordinarily rich resources, but never uses them all.
Er kann sehr vieles sagen, aber er sagt nie zu viel.
He can say very much, but he never says too much.
Er ist leidenschaftlich, wahrt aber die ritterlichen Formen.
He is passionate, but preserves the chivalrous forms.
Seine Maße sind erstaunlich richtig, aber sie lassen sich messen und nachrechnen.
His measurements are surprisingly accurate, but they allow to be measured and calculated.
Er verfügt über Licht und Schatten; aber sein Licht schmerzt nicht, und seine Dunkelheit zeigt noch klare Umrisse.
He has light and darkness, but his light does not hurt, and his darkness still shows clear contours.
Er hat in der tragischen Situation noch einen Witz bereit – er vermag in der heitersten eine gelehrte Falte zu ziehen.
In a tragic situation he doesn’t lose his sense of humour – in the most cheerful he can insert an erudite word.
Er ist universell durch seine Behendigkeit.
He is universal through his spryness.
Er kann aus jeden Glase noch schöpfen, weil er eins nie bis zum Grunde ausgetrunken.
He can still drink something from every cup, since he never drank any to the bottom.
Sein Palast ist unermeßlich groß, aber er tritt niemals aus seinen Mauern. Durch dessen Fenster sieht er die Natur; der Fensterrahmen ist auch ihr Rahmen.
His palace is huge, but he never leaves its walls. Through its windows he sees nature; the windows frame is also nature’s frame.
Heiterkeit ist sein hervorstechender Zug: er überblümt selbst das Unangenehmste durch ein Lächeln.
Gaiety is his most distinct trait: even the most unpleasant he adorns with a smile.
Sein Lächeln ist nicht das eines Diplomaten oder Schauspielers, sondern das eines reinen Gemüts – und doch weltmännisch.
His smile is not that of a diplomat, or of an actor, but that of a pure heart – and yet worldly.
Sein Gemüt ist nicht rein aus Unkenntnis.
His soul is not pure out of ignorance.
Er ist nicht simpel geblieben und nicht raffiniert geworden.
He has not remained simple and has not become raffiné.
Er ist ein Freund der Ordnung: Wunder und Teufeleien wahren ihre 16 und 32 Takten.
He is a friend of order: miracles and devilries keep their 16 and 32 bars.
Er ist religiös, soweit Religion identisch ist mit Harmonie.
He is religious as long as religion is identical to harmony.
Das Architektonische ist seiner Kunst nächstverwandt.
Architecture is the art closest to his.
Previous posts on ‘classic’ and ‘classical’:
And the second half of:
After aperitivo at the bar the conversation continues to unwind at our home while we consume a simple dinner made of spaghettoni al ragù, cheese with a side dish of boiled vegetables, all washed down with Chianti and some Grappa as digestivo.
Classicus and King Servius Tullius
Extropian: “In my Calonghi Latin dictionary classis means both ‘fleet’ and ‘social class’; classicus is both a ‘sailor’ and ‘a member of the first Servian class of citizens’, out of the five tax classes set up by the Roman King Servius Tullius.
Giorgio: “It implies some timeless worth, it is known. Less known perhaps the origin of the notion. In the 2nd century CE Aulus Gellius, a Roman grammarian, [see image below] in his Noctes Atticae (Attic nights) – I just found out – was the first to mean by classicus ‘a writer of the first Servian class’ (classicus scriptor). He was the first to connect via a metaphor 1) literary and 2) social excellence. Classicus to him was a first-class & exemplary writer.
Extropian: “Well, it somewhat reflected the elitism of antiquity.”
Flavia: “Yes, but I’d say excellence is excellence. Horace and Virgil were of humble background (Horace – read a reply to Sledpress on him – was even the son of a freed slave,) but were revered as excellent (and timeless) as soon as their works came out.”
Giorgio: “Horace himself refers to his Odes as timeless. But people didn’t call them classici. The new meaning didn’t immediately spread. In the 5th and 6th centuries CE authors such as Martianus Capella, Fulgentius and Boethius began to reconsider earlier pagan authors as models of style and thought, although again no use was made of the term classicus in the sense Gellius did.”
Extropian: “I see.”
Classicus to Renaissance People
Giorgio: “And throughout the Middle Ages too we have the concept but not the word for it. Until we get to the Renaissance men, in 1400s-1500s CE.
In their Latin classicus refers again to something seen as timeless and as a standard of excellence: to the people of the Renaissance [see a Palladian villa above] the Greek and Roman past was THE classicus exemplary model in all fields.”
Mario: “In fact we still say ‘Classical Antiquity’. Of course the Renaissance is neoclassical ante litteram since it found inspiration in Antiquity and looked down upon the Middle Ages.
By the way, wasn’t the second half of the 18th century labelled as neoclassical?”
Rome and the Grand Tour
Flavia: “It was. Giorgio and I recently visited the exhibition Rome and Antiquity. Reality and vision in the 18th century.
At the end of the War of the Austrian Succession (1748) a long period of peace ensued in Europe. Winckelmann arrived in Rome in 1755. He there conceived his master-work History of Ancient Art (1764) which influenced the entire neoclassical attitude from that year onwards and basically blew the minds (to mention the Germans only) of people like Hölderlin, Goethe, Lessing, Herder, Heine, Nietzsche etc. The marriage and the tyranny of Greece over Germany started with him.”
Giorgio: Those were the days of the Grand Tour. People flocked to Italy and especially to Rome to study classical culture. Rome with all her statues etc. also became a huge workshop of copies purchased worldwide. Bartolomeo Cavaceppi was the best sculptor to make casts, copies and fakes.
Cavaceppi’s studio was in via del Babbuino, close to Caffè Greco (opened in 1760, see above,) to via del Corso (where Goethe lived at num 18 between 1786 & 1788,) to Piazza di Spagna: all popular places among the expatriates of the time. Cavaceppi’s shop was a must-see. Goethe was there and Canova himself was greatly impressed by Cavaceppi’s atelier. Goethe bought a cast of the Juno Ludovisi [see the last big picture below] but I forgot from whom though.
Anton Raphael Mengs, Jacques-Louis David, the Scottish architect Robert Adam, Canova, Piranesi with his efforts to build a map of Ancient Rome: surely a great period for our city.”
[The exhibition catalog is now on the living room table. Grappa is unfortunately served. Art and Bacchus are a perfect match since Homer, what did you think ...]
Giorgio: “Last (but least) Italians played the guitar quite a lot during the 18th c. before the Spanish took over. I am studying Mauro Giuliani and Ferdinando Carulli who composed delightful classical pieces for this instrument, mixing sober taste (Giuliani) or brilliant grace (Carulli) with rationality.”
Extropian (reading the catalog): “New archaeological discoveries fuelled the Roman and Greek frenzy. A great number of statues and mosaics were unearthed and reproduced. Décor and clothes were created in the neoclassical style in Europe and in the New World. Also Nero’s Domus Aurea wall paintings – at that time thought to belong to Titus’ thermae – were reproduced on mansions, on decorative furniture etc.
The spirit of the Ancients and of the Enlightenment (Age of reason) splendidly matched. Classical triumphed and influenced the French and American Revolutions.”
Classicism as a Concept. Mere Chance?
Extropian: “Classic, more generic for valuable, is related to classical … Wait a minute. Such fundamental concept going back to this Aulus Gellius, an almost unknown, second-rate Roman writer? Something is wrong here.”
What would modern aesthetics have done for a single general concept that could embrace Raphael, Racine, Mozart, and Goethe, if Gellius never lived?
Extropian: “Or if Servius Tullius didn’t divide Rome into 5 classes! I wonder whether we know the exact connection Gellius-Renaissance, but certainly goddess Fortune plays her tricks when making ideas successful or not, as Curtius also suggests.”
Grappa is making all blurred at this point.
That is, we have traced some origins but couldn’t define that general concept that can embrace Horace, Mozart, Mauro Giuliani, Haydn, Raphael, Schubert, Pindar, Canova, Racine, Goethe, Jane Austen and many elements of British and American Georgian culture.
Next time Ferruccio Dante Michelangelo Busoni‘s aphorisms (big name, I know) on Mozart might help us hopefully.
Busoni’s aphorisms are in German since Busoni was Italian & somewhat German too [following Philippe's advice we try to expand language variety in this blog.]
See you then.
Late evening in a cozy bar of our rione where we wash down Spanish tapas with Cartizze Prosecco.
Our before-dinner aperitivo, once in a while.
Mario: “You recently wondered how come far eastern little girls, hence culturally ‘alien’ in some way, can perfectly play European ‘classical music’ (in the narrow sense.) You also added that such music (from 1750 to 1830 roughly) originated in that crossroads between Germania and Italia, once the ancient frontier or limes of the Roman Empire which separated the Roman from the non Roman.”
Flavia: “Your associations are bizarre.”
Giorgio: “Allow me to be bizarre at least in my blog amore.”
Extropian: “I remember you saying at the end of a post on music that Mozart who came from that area perfectly combined Italian taste with German knowledge.”
Giorgio: “Yes, a perfect fruit of that cross-way region, although Schubert shouldn’t be ignored either.”
[A classic lied by Schubert I owe to Sledpress]
Flavia: “Despite the big difference in greatness and time? Ti stai rintronando il cervello?”
What do We Mean
Mario: “Now the problem arises: what the hell do we mean by classic? Entire generations of students have been plagued by this aesthetic notion.”
Giorgio: “You know I don’t like clear definitions. That’s what dictionaries are for, not blogs (not mine in any case.)”
We leave the bar. Roma may not be Canada, but winters get damn cold here too sometimes.