"The bristly in life, the shrivelled over the abyss..."
(Tim) For best effect, read this out loud following a late supper (and while taking a little wine for the stomach).
Decades have come and gone while Church of the Good Shepherd elder and ClearNote Pastors College instructor David Canfield has bought and sold classical vinyl. Until he (sort of) closed his store, Ars Antiqua, a couple years ago, he had the largest classical record inventory in the world. For years he produced the definitive price list used by dealers and collectors. Last week in David and Carole's dining room with a good snow falling and loved ones around the table, we told jokes and laughed outselves sillier. In the mood, David went back to his office and returned with a thick folder filled with stuff that had struck his funny bone through the years.
For instance, here are the program notes transcribed exactly (spelling and punctuation) as they appear in an “English” translation from the original Slovenian notes on a long-playing record on RTV Ljubljana LD 0540. David suggests someone might find these notes good fodder for a doctoral dissertation. Religious Studies would be the logical match.
Well, I'm shivering over the abyss. On to the notes...Primož Ramovš – COMPOSER
He was born in Ljubljana on the 20th of March, 1921. After Secundary School he studied at the Faculty of Phylosophic Sciences as well as the Conservatorium and later on at the Academy of Music in Ljubljana. As a student of Slavko Osterc he graduated in 1941 in composition. His musical knowledge was enriched by studies in Siena and two years of private lessons with Alfredo Casella in Rome. His creativene3ss expands from initial classicism via dodecaphony to a world of sound entirely his own.
He received several prizes and rewards not only in his own land but abroad as well.
Stating that Primož Ramovš is today already such a musician that has never before existed in Slovene orchestral music, in the art of symphonic composition, we state neither anything precocious nor do we state too much.
The music of Ramovš is like a steep future against which a net of ways and steps turns: the uncertain and the brave ones, the stubborn and the anxious ones, the bristly in life, the shrivelled over the abyss. The one who at all wants to discover one single word in the vocabulary of that music, must, above all in a sublime manner, with a particularly indefatigable funeral ceremony, take leave from pop-music aesthetics, from his own expectations that music has to be something “beautiful”, that “mood” ought to benevolently caress his prejudices, and that the fingers of music should suitably arrange themselves among the expectations of “good” melodies, round rhythms, gallantly upright cadences, and all other similar built-in channels in pop-music aesthetics. Simply, Ramovš should be heard and listened to such as he is.
His music, a voluminous succession of scores, in fact moves within little contents, basic subjects. But therefore it lives their life each time with a new and different illumination. In this music there is a steep and interwoven way, followed by a brilliant, clear exit. It simultaneously challenges disconsolation, imperfectness, however, it is right this contradiction, that a similar experience is the immanent reality, the splendid vividness of his music, that the listener must first accept as a value, as an existential musical necessity. In the music of Ramovš it incredibly often happens that it shoots out of knowledge, connoisseurship, experience which is quite horribly bright concerning that what he knows, and afterwards it moves only within antigravitations, it is interested in something excitingly else; between the starting point and intention there cannot be found anything tercet, any flattering compromise.
The listener who will find the message unions of Sinfonietta and both the concerti to be of a surprisingly equal root will be already close to Ramovš. If, because of uncertainty, a critical inquisitiveness as to what was going on in other Ramovš’s works has risen in him, he has understood even more.
It is not difficult to “recognize” Sinfonietta as music today. It is determined by neo-classical brilliancy, by mastery extension of forms, firm orchestrational bases; in a stylistic interlacement, led everywhere firmly, with a knowledge that is rare, and imagination, there appear stresses, in as indefatigable way and with a strong vehemence, the significatory points which thoroughly convince that it is not just a successful work from the numberless past of neo-classical literature, but a creation that is an original complement to its language and a promise of the author’s revolutionary future.
Particularly in the sound structures, the “resting” and the “circulating” ones and the others—the “dinamic” ones, i.e. in both the extreme ones and in the slowlier part of Sinfonietta, a trace of the “constant” and the later Ramovš can be found. Sinfonietta will soon be thirty years old (1951). The two concerti have been created in the recent past. They match one another as a diptych: in the Concerto for violoncello, the individual is in fatal conflict with the group, in the Concerto for violin and viola, the soloists do not live in a clear completion, but on some kind enough and tolerant parallel, as two alien worlds, indeed. Ciril Škerjanec has with firm stoke brought forward the stubborn obstinacy of the individual sound which is seeking its word against the powerful unchangeable level sounds the “law” of power. What is it actually that those lost battles of the cello want? They do not draw their power from that what they want, they are only aware of what that they do not want. How little sometimes those flights of the cellist lack, those flights from his own models, starts, in order to go astray from that thicket of figures, panic slopes of glissandi into an orderly virtuosity, to the solution of the melody. However, that is what this music does not want; it does not want to be pleasant, consumptively calmed, it does not want to gild the sleeping-pill to quiet the universe. Consequently, it does not want to acknowledge the programme which it jointly so kindly whispers to the individual, the eternal powers for the eternal equipoise.
The music of Ramovš is here rarely and enviably consequent in its resistance to the established “values” of a musician, which represent to it sings of a fatal artistic and human lie. Is thus singing possible for it at all, that is to say, creative satisfaction in all music? The Concerto for violin and viola somehow gives balance to the Concerto for cello, with its “singing” meditations.
The violin and the viola of Dejan Bravničar and Bogomil Kosi hit the right distance between the world of sound of the orchestra and the one of their own which is not totally away from the classical duet.
Peter Kušar, translated by Staša Briški