Thursday, February 24, 2011

Recitative from the Shostakovich Aphorisms; A short meditation on February 25



1. Recitative

There is hope of a better time not farre off, for this in it selfe is little comfortable: and for the small pleasure that I find in it, I will this briefly conclude of it: It is the poor mans pick-purse, and the misers cut-throat, the enemy of pleasure, and the time of patience. Farewell.

Nicholas Breton understood February. This short quotation about February, from a work written just before he died in 1626, was called “Fantasticks.” Breton saw the cyclic year with immediacy, a wheel in turns tender and treacherous. Unsafe.

Dimitri Shostakovich wrote the opening movement of his Aphorisms, Op. 13 for solo Piano, on February 25, 1927. “I conceived these pieces in the beginning of February,” he confided, “while I was going to bed, in Berlin. During that time, I was thinking a great deal about a particular law of nature, that served as an impulse for composing Aphorisms, which are all united by the same idea. I don’t want to say right now what that idea was.”

"The waters now alter the nature of their softnes," wrote Breton "and the soft earth is made stony hard: The Ayre is sharp and piercing, and the winds blow cold."

Not from within the language of opera, Shostakovich's recitative sings the language of the unconscious: a series of cabaret gestures, broken toys, floating within a chromatic stream. It closes with syncopated dancing music. No point in articulating a unifying idea during February.

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