Introduction and Welcome

Welcome to All Things Bright and Beautiful. If you are new to this site, I would recommend that you read my very first entry - which is an introduction and welcome to this blog. You can view it here

Thursday, February 26, 2015

John Constable - Wheat Field, Felix Mendelssohn - String Symphony No. 4 in C Minor, Elizabeth Barrett Browning - A Child Asleep

This painting by John Constable reminds me of Millet's "The Gleaners" painting. 
The Gleaners - Millet
Harvesting crops is so different today with our huge tractors and combines.  This picture makes harvesting wheat look like quite the social event for the whole family.  How has modernization changed the way we work and relate?

John Constable Wheat Field
This link for an enlarged view of this painting....

String Symphony No. 4 in C Minor by Felix Mendelssohn

For your background listening here is a link to the The Best of Mendelssohn.

I've started a biography of Mendelssohn and would like to recommend it for you and/or your older students.  On Wings of Song A Biography of Felix Mendelssohn by Wilfrid Blunt.  As well as writing beautiful music, Felix Mendelssohn unlike many other composers lived an upright and worthy life so it follows that his biography will make for worthy reading.  I remember some years back reading a book of biographical sketches of composers and being disgusted because so many of their lives were wasted in immorality and folly, many dying early because of their lifestyles.  Felix Mendelssohn's life stands out in contrast to these.  Here is a paragraph from the foreward:
"Yet it seems to me that in this permissive age it may be pleasant for a change to read about a composer who thought music more important than sex and who found his own wife more attractive than his neighbour's.  His life was interesting if undramatic, and his voyage through it not always quite so calm as his earlier biographers, by their well-intentioned but foolish suppression of certain passages in his letters, would have us believe.  He knew Weber, Berlioz, Schumann, Chopin, Liszt and Wagner; and as a child he was much hugged by the aged Goethe.  He described in delightful letters the musical and social life of London, Rome, Paris, and the principal cities of Germany, and illustrated the accounts of his many travels with competent and sometimes amusing sketches.  In 1829, when he was only twenty, he was responsible for the first performance of Bach's St Matthew Passion since its composer's death in 1750 - a revival that was to have far-reaching repercussions.  As a virtuoso pianist he fell little short of Liszt and Thalberg, and he was generally acknowledged to have been the finest organist of his day.  He was a brilliant improviser, and he had a prodigious musical memory, astonishing his London audiences by conducting without a score and, incidentally by using a baton- both then novelties in English concert halls.  So surely the time is ripe to persuade all but the irredeemably prejudiced and the totally unmusical that Mendelssohn, at his best, was a superb Classical-Romatic composer." 
     This biography is more advanced reading but is interesting and sprinkled throughout are lovely paintings and sketches.

If you're only going to read one biography this semester, however, I still recommend The Silver Answer by Constance Buel Burnett, a romantic biography of Elizabeth Barrett Browning.  It's a wonderful read-aloud for the whole family.

A Child Asleep by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How he sleepeth! having drunken
Weary childhood's mandragore,
From his pretty eyes have sunken
Pleasures, to make room for more---
Sleeping near the withered nosegay, which he pulled the day before.

Nosegays! leave them for the waking:
Throw them earthward where they grew.
Dim are such, beside the breaking
Amaranths he looks unto---
Folded eyes see brighter colours than the open ever do.

Heaven-flowers, rayed by shadows golden
From the paths they sprang beneath,
Now perhaps divinely holden,
Swing against him in a wreath---
We may think so from the quickening of his bloom and of his breath.

Vision unto vision calleth,
While the young child dreameth on.
Fair, O dreamer, thee befalleth
With the glory thou hast won!
Darker wert thou in the garden, yestermorn, by summer sun.

We should see the spirits ringing
Round thee,---were the clouds away.
'Tis the child-heart draws them, singing
In the silent-seeming clay---
Singing!---Stars that seem the mutest, go in music all the way.

As the moths around a taper,
As the bees around a rose,
As the gnats around a vapour,---
So the Spirits group and close
Round about a holy childhood, as if drinking its repose.

Shapes of brightness overlean thee,---
Flash their diadems of youth
On the ringlets which half screen thee,---
While thou smilest, . . . not in sooth
Thy smile . . . but the overfair one, dropt from some aethereal mouth.

Haply it is angels' duty,
During slumber, shade by shade:
To fine down this childish beauty
To the thing it must be made,
Ere the world shall bring it praises, or the tomb shall see it fade.

Softly, softly! make no noises!
Now he lieth dead and dumb---
Now he hears the angels' voices
Folding silence in the room---
Now he muses deep the meaning of the Heaven-words as they come.

Speak not! he is consecrated---
Breathe no breath across his eyes.
Lifted up and separated,
On the hand of God he lies,
In a sweetness beyond touching---held in cloistral sanctities.

Could ye bless him---father---mother ?
Bless the dimple in his cheek?
Dare ye look at one another,
And the benediction speak?
Would ye not break out in weeping, and confess yourselves too weak?

He is harmless---ye are sinful,---
Ye are troubled---he, at ease:
From his slumber, virtue winful
Floweth outward with increase---
Dare not bless him! but be blessed by his peace---and go in peace.

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