Venice and Vienna – two focal points of European culture. Venice and Vienna – two towns that play a major role in the life of the Italian composer Antonio Salieri, the famous counterpart of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Vienna. Who would write the better operas? The established master from Venice or the ambitious young man from Salzburg? Who would win and keep the favour of the Emperor? Whose name will last and whose name will be forgotten? One is tempted to say that Mozart gained the upper hand, but that would not be true. Salieri has precisely not been forgotten, because Mozart, his most fierce competitor, became so popular.
Two years ago, when I had just started this blog, I presented Felix Mendelssohn incidental music to William Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Since I first read this play some 20 years ago on a bus stop in Scotland, my vision for the setting of this play has remained the same: a forest with mysterious colored lights twinkling in the darkness, the heavy sweet of smell of flowers in the air, meteorite showers illuminating the nocturnal sky and – music! At that time I was not aware of Mendelssohn’s masterpiece, but once I had heard it my reaction was: Oh yes, this is it, very much so! Mendelssohn set my vision to music.
Are you familiar with the Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus? Father and son were held prisoner on the island of Crete and since Crete’s ruler, King Minos, controlled the land and sea routes, Daedalus built artificial wings for himself and his son in order to flee. Before take-off, Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high, because the sun would melt the wax that held the wings together, nor too low, because the sea foam would soak the feathers. Once in the air, Icarus, exhilarated by the experience of flying, forgot his father’s warning and soared higher and higher. The heat of the sun melt the wax, the wings fell apart and Icarus drowned in the Aegean Sea.
Back and forth, back and forth, back and forth – gently the boat rocks and rolls in the bay, pushed by a light sea breeze, swayed by the rippling waves. While I did not intend to blog during my summer vacation1, a picture I shot a few days ago in Brittany reminded me of Maurice Ravel’s piano piece “Une barque sur l’océan” (A boat on the ocean). A beautiful piece Ravel wrote in two versions: one for the piano (1904/05) and a fully orchestrated one. The first one has been recorded by Pierre-Laurent Aimard the second one by the London Symphony Orchestra, two amazing productions.