Sunday, 17 September 2023

Jupiter Dialogues - VII.








Thoughts on a record.


 [Vivaldi - Ensemble 'Jupiter']


Nagy Csaba - lutenist.


... I remember when, many, many years ago, I was asked, perhaps for the first time, what Early Music is, this question then came up countless times at concerts, but then, I had a sharp image in me. I gave an atomically precise answer, so much so that it is I felt how lucky he was that he asked me. Because I know this very well now, I see it very clearly, he could not have asked a better, more knowledgeable person.
Then the years passed and, at one of the most recent concerts, [at 'Utas és Holdvilág' antiquarian bookshop], during the conversation, they asked me this question, and I don't even remember what I said, I just hesitated, I got caught up in too many things, I think.

Yes, I remember, yes, I don't know what you said either, but I noted to myself at the time that it was very far from a striking answer.

Yes, and for a week or so I was ashamed that nothing meaningful came out.

And on? What do you think?

I've been thinking about this a lot since then, and I think there's something like that that Early Music simply outgrew its own category.

[He looks at me, my brain is clicking, but I don't understand, I just don't understand. There are plenty of processors though. I really like this about Csaba, that sometimes I don't understand. This is a rare gift for me.:) Suddenly the beginning of the Karnevál jumps in, the dialogue between the director and the librarian:

"- I'm Ursinus, said the director. [the story takes place between 1880-1950; Ursinus lived at 4. century] Please sit down, are you smoking?
There must have been some sort of surprise on the redhead's face, because the headmaster immediately started laughing.
- You are surprised, I imagine -
- Much more than a surprise, said the red-haired assistant draftsman. I can imagine my face is not very intelligent -
- It was no less cool than the others, the director said, but no more so. Of course, you well remember the quarrel I had with Damasus at that time. - I unfortunately forgot the details -"]


Back when Early Music started as a movement, it was a specialty. Early instruments, old notations, old tunings, and what you like, the removal of sentimentality, a kind of straightness. It was a bit of an experiment. A lot of people didn't even like it. Then a few came. Savall. He simply swept away the previous fashion, remember that everybody listened to Mahler and such. And also raised Early Music to a new level of quality.
Those discs... a new category was born. Everyone started imitating him. Almost to this day.

Savall? - Constant maximum beauty.

Exactly. Aesthetics is very strongly present. But now, the situation is changing a bit.

Do you know that now  he is breaking his head on
Beethoven recordings?
So, will Early Music be historical performance instead of time classification?

No, that was always a separate topic.
Beethoven... a treatise on Don Giovanni by Kierkegaard comes to mind when he says that there are three levels of musical expression. He set up three stages. The aesthetic level is the first.

Vivaldi. Totally.

Yes. But there is more. The moral level. What do we do instead of what is prescribed in the Scriptures? We live like everyone else. Pharisee way.

Yes, because what we should do is written in black and white. But we don't. So, we are guilty.

This is it. That's exactly it. This is the moral problem.
The next level, he says, is the religious level. The Ascension. A kind of solution attempt. And this e.g. the music of late Beethoven.

You Csaba, I don't like Beethoven so much that I have to say, he is indifferent; here I see the appearance of an individual who is not very attractive to me. He gets involved in problems that he shouldn't, not musically at all. Vivaldi, in short, stayed with things that could be solved. At Beauty. At Absolute Beauty. Which is not burdened with any kind of moral qualms.

Yes. I also prefer many things to Beethoven, but let's backtrack.
And here I see that with this record, that Early Music has grown, that it will become contemporary.

Aging. Will it be ours? Our music? Like other contemporaries? Because they really aren't.

Yeah, with contemporary music, that's usually the main problem. That he is moving away, somewhere far, far away, terribly far from our world. Look at rock music. It's also contemporary music, isn't it? How honest and how concerned he was with the problems of the time. Early Music was also a bit academic. Up in the ivory tower, two dozen experts rejoice when F sharp minor sounds in one place, exactly where it should.

But the audience doesn't care. Audience never cared.

On this record, I can hear them opening up. They open towards us. For our life, for our time. So that someone who hears this, even if they don't know the author, hears that this is good music. It wasn't good music then, but now. Right now. Maybe there are some solutions, which were certainly not the case then.

Don't joke anymore! How would you know this? Can you imagine the Venice of that time? What a lavish standard it was in many areas of life? There were ten thousand courtesans in the city of 120 thousand, did you know? How could you see the musical solutions of the time?

You're right. It is possible that it was so after all. But it's not important. Because it shows something that is interesting now.

This is the next question. Why do I like this recording so reluctantly?
I have been asked many things here. Almost everyone noticed the rhythmicity, the rhythmic anomalies. For non-musicians a little better.

Yes. There is a kind of freedom in it. That the given rhythmic formula is not overwritten, but thought and adapted a little, just a little differently. [Hum an example.]

Yes, something like that, but not as strongly. Sure, I get it, you were just pointing it out. The strange thing is that the smaller the difference, the greater the effect. Too big a difference is revealed right away.

Yes, this small difference somehow seeps into our unconscious more.

Jupiter (NASA)

Freedom, isn't that what it's always about?

But yes. I mean, too. But think about it. When I started playing the lute, I had to learn after the guitar. And what is this 'lute' instrument anyway. And how it should be.
They?, another generation. They were born into it. They were born here. To the lute music. They were taught by Lislevand and Hopkinson Smith.

But you also know their performances. I think that's how you play.

But understand, it's a bit like our generation when we cross the border of the country. Customs officers. Stomach spasms occur even if the barrier has been lifted a long time ago. That's how we play, sure. [But not.]

With them? Max. 30 year old veins. They are shamelessly young. They don't even understand all this at the border crossing. Look how loose they are. Did you watch Dunford's instrument?, the rosette is broken... we would worry and blow and wipe it...

Look at the strings. Archiliuto, the instrument is double-stringed, is that him?, he caught himself. and he took it down and put on such a string as he liked. A whole row. And he plays Dalza on it, and early Renaissance composers, even though this instrument hadn't even been invented.

Yes. Taught by Lislevand, the effect is certainly strong. I like Lislevand a lot, sometimes even too much, but I have to admit, it sometimes swung towards the crossover. They don't.


This is extremely important. This generation seems to know exactly how far they can go to stay in the system. In Vivaldi, in classical music. Lots of little tricks and decorations, they are really, really good.
And what they do with rhythm and ornamentics is the improvisation itself.
So much so that it seems that when it is revealed, at that moment, it will be decided how to proceed.

Lislevand's influence again, isn't it? Of course, since he taught it, it's no wonder we run into it again; he writes that the real improvisation is not when we deviate a little, to the side, and insert something new, which is really new compared to the 'main material' - but actually according to a well-established template. But when it is pure, real-time creative activity is taking place.

Yes, but he really leaving the system many times. Which is fine.

Is it important that Dunford is the leader? The luthier, that it is his system, his ideas? (I'm thinking of Savall as the guest conductor of the Fesztiválzenekar, some weeks ago, where he was a puppet, nothing else, and the performance was unclassifiable)

Yes. I am especially glad that we are talking about it. Because what has happened up until now? Well, strings. Strings and strings and strings again.

This is classical music, isn't it? And here, a clear increase in the presence of pluckers can be observed. I'm sure it's a live audience demand. (me too)

The odd thing is that I detect something of a seldom-seen liking, especially among non music listeners, and even among non-classical music listeners. Do you think the album is revolutionary? Remember, 20 years ago, when Il Giardino came in, we just blinked, but everyone there knew, you and I, exactly what they were different. What the revolution was. There's something more subtle here.
What do you think?

I'm not sure that this particular record is revolutionary. Or it could be. There are a few more like it.  But something is really changing. And it's a generational thing, that's for sure.

And do you think that the age we are living in determines why we like a particular record so much now, and not fifteen years ago?

I'd like to think so, yes.
Because that's how the whole system moves.

You still have wine... ?



 2021. május 14.

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 Thank you for the images.

1. Novák Fanni's work