“You must come to our house and hear a concert next Tuesday they are playing a quintet by Reicha.” from Les Employés by Balzac (translated)
This is the second time I’ve written about Ivan and all his badassery. This is also the second volume (of the anticipated five volume set) of Ivan’s Reicha recordings. You may ask yourself, what more can be said about Reicha or Ivan that I didn’t bring up the first time?
This album is made up of Reicha’s fugues. Reicha was deep into those fugues. To understand what a huge fucking undertaking Ivan has taken on, you’re going to need a little background.
Reicha and Beethoven were besties (ya, that motherfucker). But shit didn’t stay that way. Now, why would two great composers suddenly have such heavy beef that they would end a fourteen-year relationship? Did Beethoven fuck Reicha’s girl? Did someone fuck with the other’s wig? Did Reicha insult Beethoven’s mother? No, this classical bromance broke down because Beethoven saw Reicha as competition and because of fugues. Fugues! How petty is that shit? Beethoven thought himself to be the sole man to write fugues (talk about ego). But, why not hear this from the horse’s mouth in Beethoven’s gossipy fucking letter to the publishing house Breitkopf & Härtel?
“a certain French composer presented me with fugues après une nouvelle méthode, the method amounting to this, that the fugue is no longer a fugue, and so on—I have wished to draw the attention of those who are not connoisseurs to the fact that at any rate these variations are different from all others.”
What a douche bag. Don’t get me wrong, I love Beethoven. Dude is my jam. But that’s a total dick move. Getting dropped out of Beethoven’s crew didn’t just mean a loss of friendship for Reicha. You see, Taylor Swift has her squad, Leonardo DiCaprio has his wolf pack, Beethoven had (what Reicha called) his “kingdom”. Beethoven blew Reicha’s shit up.
You may want to take Beethoven’s side. Who wouldn’t? It’s fucking Beethoven. But, remember, Reicha wasn’t just some chump at writing fugues. Dude was boss as hell. King Louis XVIII make Reicha the Conservatoire’s professor on counterpoint and fugue, even though Reicha wasn’t French. He invented an entire, incredibly complex, fugue system. He wrote several treatises on harmony and counterpoint. Motherfucker studied math and read those wonderful fancy fucks like Aristotle and Kant. Guy was smart as hell. And Reicha’s highly contested goal for the fugue? To make it more than just some technical practice shit, but a work of art.
What kind of motherfucker looks over forgotten pages of a mostly unknown figure of classical music and decides to play that shit? Ivan, a man that studied mathematics and music at Berkeley. A tenacious pig-headed motherfucker willing to get down and dirty with each Reicha notation, line, break, treaties, autobiography, and obsess about them all incessantly. Someone able to see a highly empirical way of making music and make that shit shine gold. These volumes aren’t just about revealing an overlooked figure of classical music, it’s about the depth, time, and dedication it takes a pianist to perform them all to the best that can possibly be done. Best part? After all the struggles, past and present, this shit sounds fucking gorgeous.