Mourning the Best Violinist of Tchaikovsky’s Time

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Sweet pain. © Charles Thibo

Andante, 78 bars – a long introduction. A funeral music, and Pyotr Tchaikovsky knew exactly what he was doing. He was mourning a friend, Ferdinand Laub, the violinist Russian Musical Society’s string quartet (“Moscow Quartet”) who had performed Tchaikovsky’s first two string quartets at their premiere. This was the composer’s third string quartet in E flat minor, Op. 30. Tchaikovsky wrote it in a very short time span, in January and February 1876 “I rush at full speed to finish my quartet”, he wrote to his brother Modest on February 10, 1876. Eight days later the score was ready, the premiere took place on March 2 at the Moscow Conservatory.

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Beethoven, Ney and Germany’s Devastation

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Gotha 241318 FEB 1944.

For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the storm, it says in the Book of Hosea. Nazi Germany set the world ablaze after creating a climate of hate against Jews and anyone opposing the Nazis’ imperialist dreams. The German attack on Poland triggered World War II, and by February 1944 the Germans were reaping the storm, the storm of fire and destruction. On this day 75 years ago the Allied Command launched massive aerial attacks by day and by night, targeting the cities of Leipzig, Brunswick, Gotha, Regensburg, Schweinfurt, Augsburg and Stuttgart. More than 10,000 tons of bombs were dropped within a week on Germany to destroy its aircraft factories.

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Lust and Guilt and the Ghosts of the Past

Paul and Marietta. © Stefan Bremer, Finnish National Opera

A man in love. A man mourning his deceased wife. Paul and Marie. Paul has transformed his house into a shrine with pictures and other souvenirs of Marie and is completely absorbed by his memories of her. Frank, Paul’s friend, tries to reason with his him, to make him overcome his sorrow – and fails. Paul feels erotically attracted to another woman, the dancer Marietta, which he confuses with Marie, at the same time he feels guilt. Then his fantasies take control of him, and he sees the ghost of Marie stepping out of her portrait and he believes that a song sung by Marietta is actually performed by Marie.

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A Contemplation Inspired by Liszt

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Brilliance. © Charles Thibo

As you may well know, sometimes I stumble over a name that makes me curious or that makes me remember something  have read, I look a few things up and – oh boy! I find a little treasure. That’s what happened two weeks ago. I stumbled over the name of Sergey Lyapunov, I remembered he was part of Mily Balakirev’s “Mighty Five”* and I fell in love with his 12 “Etudes d’exécution transcendante”, Lyapunov’s hommage to Franz Liszt, modeled on Liszt’s own 20 “Etudes d’exécution transcendante”. However Liszt had planned to write such “Etudes” in all major and minor keys, a project he did not finish. Working down the circle of fifth* with parallel keys, Liszt reached as far as B flat minor. Lyapunov wrote his “Etudes” in the keys Liszt did not use.

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