Michael Krams Vignettes & Theorems

Michael Krams

Frescobaldi Cubed

For samples, go to the following links:

Orpheus & Eurydice

Clavi-Organum

Dialogues

Conception

Genesis

Frescobaldi – Harpsichord, Clavichord, Organ(our first attempt, not yet part of the “CUBED” series, but with some phenomenal “Fiori Musicali”, recorded on Peter and Rosalinde’s 50th wedding anniversary)

Background:

I. Girolamo Frescobaldi, first titular organist in St Peter in Rome. His first book of Toccatas published in 1613, the second in 1627.
II. 300 years later: Fernando Germani, titular organist in St Peter in Rome in the 1950s.
III. Rosalinde Haas, then his student in Rome, not interested in Maestro Germani’s attempts to interest her in the intricacies of interpreting his predecessor’s music.

60 years later: Three instruments in one room:
I. A pedal harpsichord (Sperrhake, 1961)
II. A clavichord (Sperrhake, 1984) and
III. An organ with 12 stops (Johannes Klais, 1963).

Peter Krams proposes to record all of Frescobaldi’s toccatas, each played on three instruments, with three dimensions in mind
I. The music
II. Paintings that Frescobaldi may have been exposed to, as organist in Rome
III. Stories under the umbrella of a theme, allowing to group toccatas by topic rather than chronological order.

We call the project “FRESCOBALDI CUBED”.
Volume 1: Orpheus & Eurydice
Rosalinde Haas projects the music onto stories inspired by paintings of Michelangelo and Botticelli.
Toccata III (primo libro): Orpheus has lost his beloved Eurydice, who died after a snake bite poisened her. In search of his beloved, Orpheus travels to the underworld and pledges with Hades and Persephone to allow him to return back to the world together with Eurydice. But he does not manage to live up to the condition they impose on him, to NOT look at Eurydice until they both reach the upper world, and hence looses her again, forever. The music describes Orpheus’ desperation, his singing to the guardians of the underworld, Beatrice’s reply, a short dialogue of re-found happiness, only to be followed by renewed damnation.

Toccata IV (primo libro): Dante and Vergil promenading through the underworld, watching Michelangelo’s “Last Judgement” (Sistine Chapel). On their walk, in a distance Dante recognizes his love, Beatrice, and engages in a dialogue of love with her. But fate is separating them again, with Chaeron beating Dante back to where he belongs… The beats of the 16 ft harpsichord represent the apocalyptic figure of Chaeron in the right lower corner of the painting, note how he uses his rudder as a gigantic bat, beating man into submission (cover of the CD).

Toccata X (primo libro): Botticelli’s Primavera (CD booklet inside): Venus in the center, above her Amor, sending arrows of love into the three Graces to the left. Mercury, with winged shoes, and sword, as guardian of the garden of Venus. To the right Primavera, throwing flowers into the wind. And importantly, in the right uper corner, the dark figure of Zephyr, god of the winds, portrayed in the music by dark somber sounds of the 16ft (on the CD itself, forcing them to turn and turn and turn, in a never ending pursuit of love and happiness).

Volume 2: Clavi-Organum

The common denominator of the toccatas presented here is a hypnotic “organ point”: long deep notes played by the organ, in stark contrast to the virtuoso keyboard expositions played by harpsichord, clavichord or organ. Rosalinde Haas projects the music onto stories inspired by

Toccata V (secondo libro): the water fountains of the Villa d’Este in Tivoli (CD booklet inside)

Toccata Chigiana: The Colonnades of Saints, St Peter.

Toccata VI (secondo libro): Raffael’s “The School of Athens” – philosophers in fervent debate, outlining competing perspectives, Plato and Socrates, Archimedes, Peter and Rosalinde…. (CD cover)

Toccata VIII “durezze e ligature”: The despair of a mother who has lost her son – Michelangelo’s Pieta (CD tray inside).

As an encore: Girolmeta (just on harpsichord): Imagine a Venetian carnival, disguise, laughter, happiness.

Volume 3: Dialogues

Toccatas V-VIII (primo libro) were composed in Rome around 1615. Rosalinde Haas’s interpretation builds non-binding associations between the toccatas and paintings or dramas and proposes “Dialogues” as subtitle for this CD:

Toccata V: Leonardo da Vinci’s Anna Selbdritt, the dialogue between Anna, Maria and the children (CD cover).

Toccata VI: Giovanni Bellini’s “Melancholia”: deep, somber notes, despair painted on three different instruments (CD booklet inside)

Toccata VII: Giovanni Bellini’s “Prudentia or Vanitas” (CD booklet inside)

Toccata VIII: Shakespeare’s dialogue between Desdemona and Othello (recognize Orson Welles on the CD itself, turning and turning and turning? “I cannot help it: it is my nature…”), The opening presents Desdemona claiming her innocence, over and over again, ultimately resigning into not being able to convince her beloved. The music then shifts into Othello’s wild accusations, working himself into a frenzy, and culminates in his desperation.

Volume 4: Conception

From idea to completed oeuvre:
* The CD cover shows an early sketch of a Leonardo da Vinci painting. The finished painting is featured in the inside of the CD tray.
* The CD contrasts Toccatas written by Frescobaldi in 1613 (conception), with Toccatas written in 1627 (“the finished painting”?).
* All paintings featured on this CD are by Leonardo da Vinci: On the inside of the cover, his “anunciation” – but here is a different take on it: The angel as seducer (note the position of his eyes, higher than in real life, angel or wolf?), lulling the shy and naive Mary into a story involving God, immaculate conception, before making love to her himself, with an incredible climax indicated by the volcanos positioned in the background. The “Anunciation” and “Conception” is contrasted with da Vinci’s “Last Supper”, on the CD itself, showing the wild gesticulations of the disciples, and a totally detached Jesus – from idea to completion.

Volume 5: Genesis

The anthology of toccatas of this CD is inspired by the creation of the universe (Genesis 1, 2): Out of an incomprehensible void emerges extreme energy (big bang), followed by the development of an ever expanding universe. The title cover shows the creation of Adam (Michelangelo) superimposed over a photograph of a distant galaxy. The inside of the title cover has the same photograph of a distant galaxy superimposed over the wild energy of a tsunami wave, just fractions of a second before it breaks, as a symbol of “parting the waters” (Genesis 1,9). Printed onto the CD the void of the universe, as viewed from the hubble telescope. On the satellite photo of our planet earth (jewel case, underneath the CD) we recognize Europe, Italy and Rome, the places where Frescobaldi worked.

Toccata IV (secondo libro) da sonarsi alla Levatione: The incomprehensible void prior to the creation of the universe

Toccata VII (secondo libro): The “parting of the waters” (Genesis 1,9), but also water as an enabler of life (Genesis, 2,6&10).

Toccata I (secondo libro): The genesis of humanity (Michelangelo, Genesis 1,26)

Toccata IX (secondo libro): The many dimensions of our world.

Volume 6: Panta rhei

The final volume of our anthology of Frescobaldi’s toccatas (“Frescobaldi Cubed”). Here a preview of Toccata I (primo libro), inspired by Piet Mondrian’s “The Sea”.

Panta rhei – Alles fließt
Rosalinde Haas greift mit den Toccaten dieser CD auf die Vorstellung „Alles fließt“ des griechischen Philosophen Heraklit (544-484 v. Chr.) zurück. In diesem Sinn verwendet sie Bildvergleiche aus verschiedenen Stielepochen: Die „Einheitlichkeit in der Vielfalt“ künstlerischer Gestaltungen dienen dem gegenseitigen Verständnis.

Toccata II (secondo libro)
Fließende Motive umrahmen die improvisatorisch wirkenden Bewegungen.
Wie im raketenartig herabschwebenden Engel (Raffael) so bestimmt diese Toccata mit ihren gewichtigen Rahmenteilen und ausdrucksvollen Zwischenspielen das Motto dieser CD.

Toccata II (primo libro)
Aus den Grundharmonien entwickeln sich vorhaltsträchtige Motive und verbindende Tonleiterfiguren. Nach einem rhythmisch bewegten Mittelteil erscheinen in der Schlussphase wiederum fließende Tonleitermotive. Die allegorische Gestalt „Überfluss oder Herbst“ (Botticelli) entspricht mit ihren schwungvollen Linien und den sprechenden Gesten aller Bildfiguren dem überschwänglichen Ausdruck dieser Toccata.

Toccata XII (primo libro)
Ihr verhaltener Beginn mit kühnen Modulationen und chromatischen Motiven mündet in einen imitatorisch beschwingten Mittelteil. Den Abschluss bildet der Rückgriff auf die Struktur des ruhigen Einleitungsteils. Die fantasievolle „Ansicht von Toledo“ (El Greco) mit ihrer an die wechselvolle Geschichte der Stadt erinnernden dunklen Beleuchtung von stilisierten Baulichkeiten vermitelt die verhaltene Stimmung dieser Toccata.

Toccata I (primo libro)
Fließende Imitationen und ausgedehnte wellenförmige Läufe schmücken die Harmonien aus. Das abstrakte Bild „Meer“ (Mondrian 1914) symbolisiert die Weite und Tiefe des Wassers und dieser Musik.

Toccata X (secondo libro)
Alles fließt in dieser Toccata: Plätschernde Motive lösen sich aus dem Grundakkord und laufen in Sechzehntelfiguren aus. Rhythmisch profilierte Zwischenspiele leiten in den lebendig bewegten Fluss zurück. Van Gogh gelingt es, mit Punkten und Strichen diesen belebten Fluss nachzuzeichnen.

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