The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.
—Wallace Stevens (from Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird)
Stevens was a master of autumn. (Spring, he didn’t like so much, it seems.) Last year, in my Autumn Thoughts post, I quoted from Stevens’s An Ordinary Evening in New Haven. This year, ModPo is again in session, and the “leaves in whirlings” passage from An Ordinary Evening came to mind as I thought about Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird, the Stevens poem discussed in the course.
Autumn . . . all wind and whirling leaves and the one whirling blackbird, the whole of it communicating by signals and signs, by pantomime.
This time around, I’ve encountered a bit of a problem keeping up, even with my intention of auditing ModPo selectively. Not only did I undertake a “self-study” of the Shostakovich symphonies, but I enrolled in two other online courses: pianist Jonathan Biss’s Exploring the Beethoven Piano Sonatas (just about to end), and From the Repertoire: Western Music History Through Performance (recently begun; we shall see . . .). The listening list in part reflects these preoccupations.
The slideshow is of photographs taken on walks at Buttercup Farm, Innisfree Garden, and Montgomery Place in the mid-Hudson Valley in September, as the first glimmers of autumn began to appear. Now, it’s October. Fall here is coming into its full glory, and I must confess that sitting in front of a computer, no matter how engaging the subject matter, begins to lose its appeal . . .
On Spotify: Eve Beglarian’s Falling, Shostakovich’s Fourth String Quartet, Beethoven’s String Quartet, Op. 131, and Jonathan Biss performing Beethoven’s Piano Sonata, Op. 109.
On YouTube and SoundCloud:
I wondered how this trombone quartet got its name; From the Repertoire filled in the blank.
Leaves are falling steadily now, and acorns are banging on the roof. As protection against falling objects, Jeremy Podgursky offers a spell:
Shostakovich and Beethoven are represented by string quartets about which a classmate in Exploring the Beethoven Piano Sonatas noted a kinship between Beethoven Op. 131’s first movement and the Andantino in Shostakovich’s Fourth Quartet.
From Beethoven’s Op. 131, the First Movement
From Shostakovich’s Fourth Quartet, the Andantino
Biss eloquently communicated his understanding of and passion for Beethoven throughout the Beethoven Sonatas course. The final words and music go to him, with grateful thanks.
From the closing lecture in the course (my transcription from the video lecture):
The reason we come back to great music again and again as players or as listeners is that you can barely ever scratch its surface. That is truer than ever in the case of late Beethoven with its vision of the infinite. I have played Opus 109 for something like seventeen years now, and I feel that I have come only marginally closer to it with time. But there is more sense of fulfillment in inching towards this music than there is in playing just about anything else.
Biss playing the Adagio molto from Piano Sonata No. 5, Op. 10
Credits: The sources quoted are as indicated in the text.