Do you remember this strange composer who created a whole world around himself and declared “I am God”? Alexander Skryabin, the mystic among Russia’s most famous composers. I love his piano sonatas and to greet this beautiful day, I invite you to listen to Piano Sonata No. 2 in G sharp minor, Op. 19. It has two movements and a defined tonality – Skryabin wrote it between 1892 and 1897 while he was still a young man and remained loyal to the musical conventions of the 19th century. By the time he would write his tenth piano sonata, that we have discovered in an earlier post, he would have left all this behind.
A young French aristocrat. A cavalry officer. And a resounding name: Viscount Marie-Alexis de Castillon de Saint-Victor. And above all a man deeply in love with music and fully devoted to the promotion of this wonderful art. Alexis de Castillon, as he is commonly known, was born in 1838. At the age of 11, parallel to his school studies, he started to take piano lessons. He also learned to play the organ in his hometown Chartres. Following a family tradition he continued his studies at the prestigious military academy of Saint-Cyr.
Can you imagine two rivers flowing one inside the other? For clarity’s sake let’s say one is a dark blue, slow and heavy, thick stream while the other is a light blue, fluid and blubbering spring flowing in and above the other one. Can you picture these two flows in your head? Good. This is what Gabriel Fauré’s Cello Sonata No. 2 in G minor, Op. 117 would look like if I were to paint it. I guess I am a better writer than painter, but this picture immediately formed in my head when I listened to this sonata for the first time.
Infinite solitude. A certain reluctance to live an adult life. The man is 22, his professional future uncertain, there’s trouble at home. A father-son thing. He spends the summer away from Vienna, traveling with a friend, a baritone singer. He needs time to think, time to consider his options, time to take a step back and sort out all those conflicting emotions. He loves his family, but his family doesn’t seem to understand him.