A year ago I was in Vienna, and being Vienna always makes me happy. I was done with work, i.e. meetings at the Vienna International Center hosting several UN agencies, and I had time for a stroll through the municipal park. I was on my own, I sat on a bench and I enjoyed Mozart’s Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, KV 452. A beautiful piece and a remarkable one for Mozart had some very special ideas on his mind.
The commun columbine is one of my favourite flowers in our garden. Its shape, its colour, its robustness coupled with a delicate form make me look out for it every spring. In traditional herbal medicine the columbine was considered sacred to Venus, and the little poisoner’s manual tells me that all parts of it are poisonous though the dose would have to be very high to be lethal. Anyway, I do not intend to poison anyone. Each time I pass the columbines, I have to look at them. Each time I listen to Max Bruch’s Serenade in A Minor (op. 75), I marvel about the delicacy of the piece and its overall beauty.
There is a wood not far away from our house. Majestic oak trees, slender beeches, occasionally a birch. Towards the end of spring, the leaves form a green canopy and very little light penetrates through it. It gives the wood an eery atmosphere. It is one of the woods I imagined when my grandma told me a good-night story. It is one of the woods I imagined when I was reading the Grimms’ fairy tales or Gautier’s novel “Le Capitaine Fracasse”.
Arnold Schönberg himself considered the work as a turning-point not in his career, but in his conception of music. It was the beginning of new era, the emancipation from the Austro-German Romantic tradition and its musical language. Schönberg’s String Quartet No. 1 in D Major (op. 7) respects the formal layout inherited from Brahms – four movements – and also the “structural cogency and clarity” of Brahms’ chamber music, as Oliver Neighbour, Paul Griffiths and George Perle write in their reference work “The New Grove – Second Viennese School”. What is new, the authors note, is the fact that Schönberg casts the work as a pure work of expressivity, held together rather by a line of thought, an emotional consecutiveness, than by a set of formal laws.