Wednesday, October 5, 2016

in memoriam, Kate Yule

Yesterday afternoon many of us lost a spirited friend, a wonderful mind and captivating personality, curious, incisive, intelligent, witty, and an ideal mate for her David. They bore her long illness as a shared burden, together.

As I alluded in an earlier post, I went up to Portland to see them last Monday. Kate's state was grim, but she was hanging in there. I've done my share of vigils by the bedsides of people dying of cancer, and from those experiences I could tell from this, and from the reports David has been posting, that the end was near, though of course I said nothing of the sort, hoping that I was wrong. Even I didn't expect that it was quite this near.

I may have been the last person outside of family and caregivers to see her walk - she could only manage a few steps - or to have an actual conversation with her - a bit abortive in getting words out, but the voice was the same and one could feel the same mind behind it. These finalities are chilling and sad, but also make me even more certain than I was at the time that taking the extra leg on my trip was the right thing to do.

On that occasion I did something I'd been meaning to do for a long time. A few years ago Kate wrote of attending a classical concert with Tchaikovsky's Serenade, and wishing that classical music came with a road map, to tell you what was going on and where you were. I could help with that. I brought along a CD of the Serenade, and we played the first three movements - one at a time, with breaks - as I narrated the events of the music. There wasn't time for the finale, so I promised to send that in written form by e-mail when I got home.

I did, but I doubt she was able to listen to it. So you can do it for her. Here's the recording I linked to of the finale of this piece she enjoyed, played by my local favorites, the New Century Chamber Orchestra, with my road map to the music.
0.03. Begins with the same high note with which the previous movement ended.

0.12. SLOW INTRODUCTION, theme. This is actually a Russian folk song, a Volga boatmen's song.

0.39. Repeat, now with the theme in cellos, and the violins playing counterpoint on top.

0.52. Here you can start hearing, embedded in the theme, the three falling notes that began the introduction to the first movement. Remember I said at that point that they'd be important later.

1.02. Here, closing off the theme, are those three notes open by themselves.

1.10. Now they're being repeated with smaller, less emphasized notes added between the main notes. What's actually happening here is that the introductory theme is being metamorphized into:

1.30. The MAIN THEME of the movement. This is fast and bouncy, and it includes those three notes in its opening phrase. This is another Russian folk song, so rather than being built out of the three notes, the three notes were actually extracted from it.

1.42. Repeat, louder.

1.52. Repeat in cellos, with the other strings playing pizzicato.

2.02. SECOND THEME, more lyrical. This one is a Tchaikovsky original.

2.20. Since that appeared first in the cellos, this time the repeat is in the violins, with the cellos playing the curlicues underneath.

2.34. Now it's beginning to close off into the coda of the exposition, reintroducing phrases from the main theme.

3.09. DEVELOPMENT section. This is an important part of sonata form that was left out of the first movement. Here bits and pieces of the themes are played around with and varied in different keys. Listen for bits of the second theme being played over bits of the first theme.

3.22. The second theme opening phrase being played over in higher and higher pitches to increase tension. Very typical Tchaikovsky development style.

3.48. Now it mixes the first and second themes together and rises to a climax.

4.27. And it merges into the RECAPITULATION, the return to the original themes.

4.53. Second theme.

5.28. And closing off into the coda, except it's more elaborate this time, because it's the end of the entire movement. Except not quite, because:

6.10. Surprise, the return of the FIRST MOVEMENT INTRODUCTION, original and unaltered.

6.50. But what's it doing now? It's metamorphizing into the main theme of this movement again. Remember how they began with the same notes? So even though they're in different styles, they're really the same theme. And that leads directly to

7.20. The real end of the movement, and of the entire work.

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