Walter Mencken 9:23 a.m., Oct. 10
Four repeated notes. Four b flats one right after the other resolved by a descending 3rd to a g flat. Pure, musical, poetry.
Go to any keyboard and play four b flats in a row--it's the black key just below middle c.
It doesn't seem like very much to work with.
Now consider Schubert's Impromptu Op. 90 No. 3. This is how it starts. Four repeated b flats.
Add the human intention of a pianist and these four pitches become a musical phrase of subtle beauty.
This is one of music's enduring mysteries. It is impossible to say that one pitch is better than another or that one rhythm is superior to the rest. It would be silly to say that a b flat is better than a g flat.
However, the combination and sequence of pitches, harmonies, and rhythms creates music that we love. The combination creates music that we hate or music that we argue about.
The music Schubert has written here is music that I love. On some days, Schubert is my favorite composer.
Schubert was a sensitive composer whose best music was written for intimate settings.
That is exactly what this particular piano piece is. It is intimate and almost tender.
However, it requires immense skill to play it. On top of the skill it also demands considerable musicianship to make the phrases sing.
This is what makes a musician into an artist. When the technical skill is matched by an emotional intelligence, we get art.