3 November 2017 Concert:


When Brahms was shown the manuscript of Alexander Zemlinsky’s Trio, Opus 3, he immediately recommended the youthful work to his publisher Simrock, and Verlag N. Simrock did publish it.  It is fortunate that Brahms took the opportunity to peruse the young composer’s score in the last year of his life.  Simrock may not have taken Zemlinsky’s score quite as seriously as had Brahms; the score and parts are fraught with mistakes.  Fortunately, a new Henle edition shows a more respectful treatment.

Zemlinsky’s compositional style provides a most palpable through-line from the legacy of 19th c. Schubert and Brahms to the Viennese Classical School of Berg and Schönberg. What we hear in this work is unapologetic emotionalism that defines fin-de-siècle Vienna.  It’s hard not to conjure up images of paintings of Gustav Klimt when listening or playing this work.  Similarly, it is easy to hear a harmonic palette that would later be echoed in Mahler’s Rückert Lieder and Schönberg’s Verklärte Nacht.  Zemlinsky was quite prolific, having composed operas, ballets, orchestral works in addition to chamber music.

Zemlinsky (14 October 1871 – 15 March 1942) knew Alma Schindler before she became Alma Mahler.  In fact, we can add Zemlinsky to the list of her famed paramours:  Gustav Mahler, Oskar Kokoschka, Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel.  Zemlinsky was also Schönberg’s counterpoint teacher (later his brother-in-law).  There were many important artists of the time who supported his music; one wonders why he didn’t achieve greater international acclaim in his time.

Zemlinsky was among those who fled from the growing fascism in Europe.  Zemlinsky was born in Vienna to a highly multicultural family. Zemlinsky’s paternal grandparents were staunchly Roman Catholic.  Alexander’s mother was born in Sarajevo to a Sephardic Jewish father and a Bosnian Muslim mother. Alexander’s entire family converted to Judaism, the religion of his maternal grandfather, He and his family hightailed out of Vienna to Prague and then in 1938 to New York City and finally Larchmont, NY.

I realize as I write this that there is a through-line in this concert program; this had eluded me in the initial stages of planning the program.  It is very clear, somewhat personal, and hopefully pertinent to the reader of these notes.  As always, I apologize in advance for advanced meanderings, and will attempt ‘bring it home’ at some point:

The Cantorial Arias were written when I was first hired to play at High Holiday services at Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in NYC in 1988.  I wanted to create something a little different from Klezmer music.   Smitten as I had been for years by great cantorial singing, I pored through anthologies of cantorial arias from the 19th and early 20th centuries and rewove a few into solo clarinet pieces.   I had also just returned from Europe and had heard exquisite folk clarinet playing in Budapest that stayed in my ear when I was working on this project.  The 2 cantorial arias on this program are based on arias by Simon Weintraub.

My own exploration for other forms of Judaism – less Saturnian, less guilt ridden and less beholden to at least one off-planet god (who might be a psychotic demiurge, not the Creative Source or One found in other belief systems), in addition to others.  After 10 years at a valiant attempt to come back to Judaism at B’nai Jeshurun, I went on to other spiritual pursuits having studied Gurdjieff seriously, Gnosticism, and read much about comparative mythologies, and most recently, shamanic healing.   During this time, I also started paying attention to alternative media, which at first turned my world upside-down, and after a few years a new ‘sense’ emerged.

While I studied Gurdjieff, I learned about the attributes or affects of planets, similar to how astrologers and mythologists write about them, and moreover, how planetary attributes might correlate to tonalities in music.

A most obvious example is how that D-flat major (and its next of kins G-flat major (D-flat’s neighbor on the circle of fifths, c#-minor) is so often associated with the Moon – Clair de lune of Debussy, Moonlight Sonata (in its enharmonic c#-minor), Clair de lune of Fauré (b-flat minor to G-flat major (‘au calme clair de lune, triste et beau . . .).  I wasn’t finding exact corollaries, but one need only peruse the Nocturnes of Chopin to see that they’re almost all in flat keys.   The ones that are not are in E-major and B-major; these might be F-flat major or C-flat major masked as less cumbersome keys for composer and pianist alike .  Schubert’s Notturno (Nocturne), played on this program is in E-flat major, the middle section sparkles heroically in E-major (F-flat?) before returning home to E-flat major. I hear the section in E-major as the Neapolitan (flatted 2nd region) of E-flat major.

What occurs to me regarding Op. 101 is Brahms’ specific use of C-major, and how, similar to the 1st movement of this Trio, like the last movement of Brahms 1st Symphony and his Alto Rhapsody, it in a lugubrious, anguished c-minor and concludes in C-major.  Brahms’ use of C-major, at least to my mind seems to correlate to those attributes associated with Jupiter in Romantic and esoteric writing – benevolence, opportunity, warmth, hope, the antithesis of c-minor desolation and Saturnine it is in its affect.  Further thoughts led me to wonder why and how Brahms excerpted Goethe’s Harzreise im Winter (1777) as the text for the Alto Rhapsody. (He had excerpted 3 out 11 stanzas of the original Goethe poem.)

The questions I had begun to find answers when I was listening to my brilliant colleagues rehearsing Opus 101.  At some point in the rehearsal Eric Grossman began to play the theme of Brahms’ 1st Symphony, specifically, the C-major theme in the fourth movement.  We all felt the warm embrace of C-major and Brahms’ sensibilities in this particular tonality.

C-minor is Saturnine: autocratic, punishing, harsh disciplinary teacher, male, controlling, domineering.  This is also much like the affects of the god(s) of the Abrahamic religions.  So who are these off-planet god(s) who our ancestors bowed down to in fear of being smote?  Well, that’s a topic for another discussion.  I will say that Saturn gets the job done.  And Jupiter, its gas giant neighbor, balances it out.

One topic that seems to crop up often in world of alternative media is how modern Western ethnicities are reconnecting with their pre-Abrahamic roots:   The Scandinavians are finding runes and Thor, even America’s founding fathers were fascinated by Native American culture, which, interestingly enough, was a favorite topic of many of the Romantics – the last book Schubert read was Cooper’s The Last of the Mohicans.

It would seem from listening to many spokespeople in alternative media that the Jewish people have no such similar roots, or at least no non-Saturnine alternatives.  It took very little time to find just the opposite.   Here is a quote from renowned comparative mythologist Barbara Hand Clow:

The Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in AD 1947, which describe two Hebrew priestly lines that existed before Jesus was born — the Enochians and the Zadokites — but the Romans snuffed out the Enochians in the genocide of the Jews in AD 66, not the Zadokites.  Later the Book of Enoch was removed from the canon as mentioned.  [Awakening the Planetary Mind; She goes into great detail about the ramifications of this and what the Book of Enoch was about in several of her books]

Similar to the Gnostics, the Enochians were pursuing their own personal relationship with the cosmos, their own innate divinity, not unlike shamans of many world cultures and throughout history.  The Enochians saw the chariots of fire – who drove them?    As Hand Clow writes, they were ‘snuffed out’ and with their demise, these questions laid buried in the desert sands.  Goethe had a particular affinity for the Hypsisterians, another marginalized sect of Jews:

Born into a Lutheran family, Goethe’s early faith was shaken by news of such events as the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and the Seven Years’ War. His later spiritual perspective incorporated elements of pantheism (heavily influenced by Spinoza), humanism, and various elements of Western esotericism, as seen most vividly in Part II of Faust. A year before his death, in a letter to Sulpiz Boisserée, Goethe wrote that he had the feeling that all his life he had been aspiring to qualify as one of the Hypsistarians, an ancient Jewish-pagan sect of the Black Sea region who, in his understanding, sought to reverence, as being close to the Godhead, what came to their knowledge of the best and most perfect. He also had an affinity for Jews, writing “Energy is the basis of everything. Every Jew, no matter how insignificant, is engaged in some decisive and immediate pursuit of a goal. They are the most perpetual people of the earth.”

This last bit involved no more of a scholarly effort than a quick trip to Wikipedia.

And what does Wiki tell about these hypsters?:

The names Hypsianistai, Hypsianoi first occur in Gregory of Nazianzus (Orat., xviii, 5) and the name Hypsistianoi in Gregory of Nyssa (Contra Eunom., II), i. e. about AD 374, but a great number of votive tablets, inscriptions and oracles of Didymos and Klaros establish beyond doubt that the cult of the Hypsistos (Hypsistos, with the addition of Theos ‘god’ or Zeus (Jupiter to the Romans) or Attis, but frequently without addition) as the supreme God was widespread in the countries adjacent to the Bosphorus.

It is well known that Goethe had been working as a social worker and wrote Harzreise im Winter (A Winter Journey through the Harz Mountains) after encountering a shunned homeless man.

Here is the text, and I have attempted a translation (and I’ve emboldened the stanzas used by Brahms):

Before I get in the nitty gritty of this poem and Brahms’ treatment, I’d like to address the many references to railroads in this poem.  Unless words such as ‘Bahn’ meant something different in Goethe’s time, this poem is replete with references to trains, train cars, tracks, etc.  Railway construction began in the 1760’s in England.  This was an economic boon for some, and a source of trepidation for many early Romantics.  As soon as the first tracks were laid through the Black Forest of Germany in the 1830’s, red flags went up:

In the first half of the 19th century, opinions about the emerging railways in Germany varied widely. While business-minded people like Friedrich Harkort and Friedrich List saw in the railway the possibility of stimulating the economy and overcoming the patronization of little states, and were already starting railway construction in the 1820s and early 1830s, others feared the fumes and smoke generated by locomotives or saw their own livelihoods threatened by them.

As far as Harzreise is concerned, it begins with a bird’s-eye view of what the poem is about, more specifically, a vulture’s view.  There’s obvious metaphoric alignments set up in the poem –

the vulture/the angry mob of merry murderers, farmers with clubs/ – predators,
the scorned/the game hiding in the swamp/ – prey,

yet the one scorned becomes the scorner.  It’s an unfortunate cycle.

Then there’s the ambiguity of the word Psalter which can mean either an ancient Greek lyre-like instrument – and yes the Orphic lyre has been hanging around music and poetry since the Greeks plucked its strings, maybe longer; or psaltery: a book of psalms.  I would venture to say that it is easier to make a psalter string  produce a tone than a book.  And if a plucked instrument called a psalter is the correct reference, the question becomes is it necessarily ancient Greek or iconically ancient?

Goethe seems to question the Western Christian mindset by way of ‘Winter streams crash from the crags/Against his psalms, leading him to him up to a dreaded summit’ – nothing heavenly there; not even Magic Mountain.  It’s a desolate gathering place for those who are disconnected from their hearts.  So perhaps the meaning of ‘Psalter’ is left dangling in purposeful ambiguity.

Or perhaps not:  In rethinking this poem, I realize that I laid myself prey to other translations and other commentators’ thoughts on this poem.   For one thing, ‘ist auf deinem Psalter’ is mistranslated; it should read, ‘is there a tone [different from sound or pitch] which emanates from your psalter? rather than ‘is there not even one tone . . .’.

So further, my interpretation goes something like this:  Psalms are no match to the fury of Nature; she smashes them against her crags – should we then go further back in time, to the mindset of the ancient Greeks (and perhaps further into the past) to find what we need for solice and undertanding?  This could be a gnostic statement; the gnostic perspective embraces the credo that our planet is a living sentient being.

To quote Cave Sketches and this is a quote from John Lamb Lash’s Not In His Image:

Toward the end of Not in His Image, Lash cites three resurgences of paganism in Europe, namely

(1) the mediæval cult of amor courtois (courtly love) as shown in Cervante’s Don Quixote;

(2) during the Renaissance; and finally

(3) the rise of Romanticism in the 18th/19th c.   

The third and most recent wave of resurgence happened with the rise of the Romantic movement, timed to the American Revolution.  At the vortex of the movement a mere handful of men and women proclaimed a daring breakthrough for humanity, a reclamation of the divine endowment, imagination. One exemplar of the movement, British poet and mystic William Blake, equated the power of imagination with Jesus Christ in a way that suggests that Blake may have encountered the Mesotes2, [footnote: 2. Mesotes:  (‘medium’) A made-up word used in the Nag Hamadi Codices for a phantomlike presence in the atmosphere that mediates between humanity and other species.  Supports and facilitates the species-self connection.  It is essentially the means of instinct.]  if, indeed, he did not take tea and biscuits with it on a regular basis.  The stated aim of the Romantics was to reclaim religious experience free of doctrines, rituals, and institutions.  From 1775 to 1820 the movement flared white hot, and then slowly, painfully died burned out.  The grandiose proposals of Romantic visionaries in Russia, Italy, France, Spain, Germany and England were not fulfilled, and Romanticism went on the rocks, leaving more problems than it resolved.  Yet the inspiration it drew from the deep native roots of European soul-life continued to resonate well into the 20th c.

Mr. Lash goes on with a few concise paragraphs which focus on poetry and literature and he does great credit to Rilke, D.H. Lawrence and Yeats.   I wrote Mr. Lash about my younger colleagues who play in Vista Lirica.  I have had Zeitgeist experiences listening to them many times.  They are keeping the flaring torch of the Romanic movement white hot in the face of all odds. 

That’s a rather nice endorsement of Vista Lirica.

Brahms’ treatment of Goethe’s text starts in the gloomiest of c-minor intros, again, much like the intro to the 4th movement of the 1st Symphony and Op. 101.  ‘Aber abseits wer ist?’ – ‘who is it who stands alone?’  The scorned man who hides in the bushes away from predators away from society, simply away.

The text of the stanzas which Brahms’ sets to music only refers to father of love; it’s not necessarily a reference to a Christian god and can easily be construed as a reference to Jupiter.    Goethe’s poem has a reference to a god who presets the path (tracks) for the fates of  individuals, and seems to correlate to Goethe’s time, in other words, at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

As far as this argument is concerned, it is important to look at the term in Harzreise, also included in Brahms’ excerpted text:  Vater der Liebe (father of love).

It would easy to see this only as a reference to the Christian god or Jesus.   However, if you were to look at the poem to Kennst du das Land (Do You Know the Land) which opens Book III of Goethe’s epic novel, The Apprenticeship of Wilhelm Meister. Most musicians know that the text of Kennst du das Land has been set to music by Schubert, Schumann, Beethoven, Hugo Wolf, Liszt.

The story line at this point of Goethe’s novel goes something like this:  Wilhelm Meister comes from an upper middle class German family and leaves the comforts of home to join a  play troupe.    He finds a young girl, Mignon, a member of the troupe, who had been abused.   Wilhelm Meister supplies the comfort and protection she needed.   After the recitation of Kennst du das Land, Wilhelm asks her if she is referring to Italy.  She looks at him blankly; it is a place in her imagination.  She has never been to Italy.  It could be Italy; it could be Oz; it could be San Junipero.

The abused often seek refuge in other realms as means of protection, disconnecting from the horrors of their common consensus reality in favor of ‘somewhere else’.   (Shamans do this consciously, but not as a reaction to systematic abuse.)

I include this here for 2 reasons:   mainly, that there are 3 references to a near equivalent to Vater der Liebe (father of love):  my love; my protector; O father.  Secondly, to emphasize that this poem resonated so vastly that in inspired so many great composers to set it to music.

Obviously, these 3 references are not references to a deity, it is a reference to a man, namely Wilhelm Meister, and spiritually speaking, the similar reference in Harzreise – Vater der Liebe – is not at all necessarily a reference to a deity.

Mignon as well as the ‘First scorned, now the scorner’ both are dealing with violated hearts.  The means to restore one’s heart and reconnect to the planet can be Hypsisterian approach, or for that matter, by way of deifying of Roger Rabbit; it could matter less.      I am not vying for Jupiter necessarily; I am vying for an alternative to the Saturnian paradigm which has been in play for millennia.

The section which begins ‘ist auf seinem Psalter . . .   is in warm C-major, and to the Western mind it sounds very much like a hymn.  Musically, the piece ends with an amen cadence – Subdominant (F major chord) to tonic (C major chord) or simply IV – I rather than dominant (G major chord) to tonic (C-major chord) or V to I.   The text for those two chords has no reference to God or amen; it’s simply ‘sein Herz’ – his heart.  So the title – the beginning — of Goethe’s poem to the last words of Brahms’ Rhapsody is a modulation from Harz(reise) to Herz.

I believe that Brahms is teasing the listener with hymnal like music, on the one hand creating an ambiguity – once again, a favorite past time of the Romantics — and at the same time giving a wink and a nod to Goethe’s belief system.

In Cave Sketches by Isador Hillyer and aided and abetted by myself (soon to be finished), he talks extensively about Jupiter’s relation to the subdominant, how it acts as the modifier of Saturnian rule and what is its glyph?  ♃ and if the html symbol were more accurate, it would look more like the number 4 (IV – subdominant).   Hillyer goes into this by way of discussing the oft ignored movement from Schumann’s Op. 9 Carnaval, called Sphinxes (although ‘Sphinxes’ is in Hillyer’s mind the centerpiece of Op. 9).   I don’t know where he comes up with most of his stuff, but it’s always infinitely fascinating.

The message which remains over the century + from Goethe’s poem to Brahms’ Rhapsody is a universal one:   As soon as the Industrial Revolution started its relentless hacked out path through the forest primaeval, the Romantics responded by emphasizing Nature’s emotionality, and revisited older belief systems of bygone eras.  Their lyric view was prescient, and we should respect that.   As for our present time:  tick tock – this stuff is important,

That said, Jupiter like Venus in Gurdjieff’s philosophy (and that of many others) is a planet of emotions.   It is unlike Venus, which has attributes of personal, sexual love; Jupiter is cosmic in its affects.   Water, the universal symbol for emotions is well represented in Goethe’s poem – swamps and winter storms.

Saturn is an intellective planet, rules, structure and reason.   Its energies need to be balanced and its domineering affect needs to be checked; without that we’re killing ourselves with its influence.

Back to my personal spiritual sojounings:

I started to see much of the Saturnine ‘scorned becoming the scorner’ in the history of my people.  Most obvious is a nation of Holocaust survivors becoming the behmoths to the Palestinian population.   I wish mainstream media would highlight how many Jews (Israeli and non-Israeli) abhor the the stance of the Israeli government.  Yet, even among the many secular Jews, we are all linked to the Saturnian godhead – either wittingly or unwittingly – until we call it quits.

Two summers ago, I attended a very fun birthday party of a very talented young composer, Dalit Warshaw.   I had the pleasure of meeting and playing table tennis with her brilliant brother, Hilan Warshaw.  Hilan is a documentary filmmaker and had recently completed a work called Wagner’s Jews.

What follows is my response to a viewing of it, in the form of an email to Hilan:

I rented Wagner’s Jews on youtube last week, and would have watched it more than once, except the rental expired.  It was great to watch and it was extremely well done – bravo to you!! 

It brought up a bevvy of questions and thoughts as a good documentary should and I lay this bevvy out briefly:

There’s the expression ‘follow ones nose’ in pursuing such questions; I found myself following less my own nose than that of Cosima’s which was extremely prominent and not unlike the noses of many in my own mishpucha.  So, looking at her lineage up one generation, we find Liszt and Baroness d’Agoult; I remember having read that Liszt had something of an artistic awakening upon hearing a cantor in a Budapest synagogue.  And as for the Baroness (I remember Bernadette Peter’s portrayal of her in    ) – looking generations back, and we find the Bethmann banking family, and then in close association to the Rothschild banking family. As a tangential, we know that the Rothschilds made a whole lot of money from the anti-Semitic polarities of Wagner’s time and a whole lot more from the aggrandized polarities of WWII (in addition to building the Gare du Nord).

In my cursory research, I found nothing about the Bethmanns being Jewish or not, and I know that it was somewhat in vogue among the European elites, esp. the Brits, to take on Jewish or Biblical Jewish names, but Simon Moritz Bethmann?  If you saw that name without context, would you not think that was a Jewish name? 

Further research shows that Simon Moritz Bethmann was involved in Jewish emancipation in Frankfurt. 

I am inclined to think that the Bethmann’s either were Jewish and kept that bit of information somewhat under wraps and/or converts of convenience, like Felix Mendelssohn (Elijah and the Violin Concerto – hmmm), or were among the throngs of comingling Jewish-gentiles. 

This can touch on another level of complicated questions:

Was Cosima denying her heritage?  Were she and her husband involved in a hyperbolized ‘not-me’ approach in dealing with this issue?  Minna was cast out for raising her objections.

We know, for example, about how paternal Wagner felt toward the unfortunate and prodigal Carl Tausig, who couldn’t quite keep up on nature walks and then died at age 29:  In other words, there’s a lot of gray area we see in Wagner’s relationships that is made into polarized black and white – ink on paper – when Wagner (finally) uses his own name in his anti-Semitic essays.  But then, is it because he felt anti-Semitism so profoundly or was he a misguided opportunist riding the wave of anti-Semitism?

Then I started to think about the essence of Götterdämmerung, the cusp of change from pagan polytheism to monotheism by force.

This of course, is a huge topic and maybe we can have a longer conversation about this, but I would like to share this quote from comparative mythologist Barbara Hand Clow:

The Dead Sea scrolls were discovered in AD 1947, which describe two Hebrew priestly lines that existed before Jesus was born — the Enochians and the Zadokites [and I’m used to seeing the term ‘Tzadikim’ rather than ‘Zadokites’ and am assuming that they’re one and the same] — but the Romans snuffed out the Enochians in the genocide of the Jews in AD 66, not the Zadokites.  Later the Book of Enoch was removed from the canon as mentioned.  [She goes into great detail about the ramifications of this and what the Book of Enoch was about in several of her books] Why did the Romans take it from the Jews in the first place?  . . .

So, what is the connection between this quote and the subject of Wagner’s Jews?  My quick answer is a lot that we need to be thinking about, as difficult as it can be. 


OK, I’m getting maybe too much mileage out of this quote of Hand Clow’s but I have read most of her many books more than once.

More important to this bit of writing, we’re all in this Saturnine paradigm until we climb out of it collectively.   Does it matter whose side we’re on?  Not to the profiteers, not to Goethe, not to Brahms, and not for similar reasons.

Sein Herz.

IV     I      !

Three C-major themes of Brahms:   All direct, moving either step-wise or spelling out a basic underlying harmony, almost completely devoid of extra accidentals:  The opening of the themes below in the Symphony and Trio, the violin parts, start on an open G-string of the violin; the alto part also stays in the heart of the lower range of solo alto registration.

Brahms Alto Rhapsody, C-major theme ‘ist auf deinem Psalter . . .’

Brahms 1st Symphony, 4th movement C-major theme

Brahms Trio Op. 101, C-major theme (3rd line, 4th measure)





Brahms Trio Op. 101 C-major theme (part 2)