I’ve begun composing three symphonies: Hungarian, Russian and French musical offerings.
One thing I’ve learned for certain, after 71 years on earth: nothing gets done in my retirement unless I have a variety of directions to concentrate upon.
I bore easily.
The newest addition, my French Symphony, dedicated to Maurice Ravel, took an unusually long time for me to surrender to.
Here is the composer in his fin de siècle days:
And here he is, much later, as the perfect Parisian sophisticate:
There’s a Camus and Casablanca-like, French Bogart hiding within the eyes of Maurice Ravel.
Of all the “Last Tangos in Paris,” none can surpass the immediate power of Ravel’s La Valse!
Humans dancing themselves to death with the same abandon Stravinsky had intended with his The Rite of Spring.
Click to see Leonard Bernstein conducting La Valse as if he were trained in The Method School of Conducting.
“Being” the music, so to speak.
I don’t think Bernstein could do otherwise, given the power of Ravel’s vision.
I certainly couldn’t.
At any rate, my French Symphony took an unusually long time to evolve.
I had originally planned a Symphony – In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky.
I thought to call it the French Symphony because of Stravinsky’s indelibly French fame and his legend’s umbilical connection to Paris and Sergei Diaghilev.
The Wary Eyes of Diaghilev as The Eternal Gambler
And here is Diaghilev’s Musical Houdini:
Igor Stravinsky utterly defies national boundaries!
This seemingly Mad Russian was… well… he was Igor Stravinsky!!
A combination of Russian, French and American… and irrepressibly beyond any normal descriptive categories.
Words like “ruthless” come to mind.
Music’s Genghis Kahn!!
Why is that?!
Only Bach seems to have demanded such an unswervingly rigid tempo.
There’s something almost robotic about the most effective and affecting Stravinsky performances.
For example, there is such a militantly rendered inevitability under the guidance of the Master himself, which can be witnessed here.
Something that rushes over you with unrelenting cruelty.
As they say in the theater before you go on stage: “Murder ‘em!!”
There is something as “doomed” and “damned” in Symphony of Psalms as there is in The Rite of Spring.
Meanwhile, my French Symphony is providing much-needed relief from the bone-dry and seemingly heartless demands of Igor Stravinsky.
It’s no wonder Paris erupted in rage over the unrelenting savagery within the Ballets Russes’ ritualized human sacrifice – Diaghilev’s utterly barbaric gamble.
Seemingly the essence of what is not or never could be called “sophisticated,” this particular Vaslav Nijinsky ballet became the absolute soul of Parisian sophistication!
Yet it would never fit into France’s School of Impressionism, neither musically nor pictorially.
The Impressionists and their Impressionism have an eternally dream-like quality.
However, the technical demands, for music in particular, can still reach impressive heights as in Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe.
Here is the Suite version of that ballet under the prodigiously gifted mastery of Gustav Dudamel.
Ravel’s divine mastery of melody, however, can tear at a listener’s soul with its own version of “impressionistic” savagery.
Daphnis and Chloe could only have arisen from the head of a French Apollo, so to speak, and only in Paris with that inveterately naughty volcano of the 20th Century performing arts: Sergei Diaghilev.
And only out of the composing pen of Maurice Ravel!
How can my French Symphony possibly rise to Ravel’s standards?!
I merely desire to pay loving tribute to the ecstasies that Maurice Ravel can so ruthlessly drown me in!!!!!
Lest you escape, here is Part Two of Gustav Dudamel’s rendering of Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe.