A student’s reverence to Dmitry Shostakovich

Passion © Charles Thibo

“Nature gives me more than useless layers of fossilized academicalism”. To whom Edison Denisov may he have referred too? Certainly not to his teacher Dmitry Shostakovich. To the “Union of Soviet Composers” who ostracized him for the influence of Western contemporary classical music on his work? Denisov’s music did not intend to charm the ear and certainly not to conform to the official doctrine of Socialist Realism. It did rather intend to express the composer’s ideas and feelings about the Socialist reality in the Soviet Union, an ambition that the Communist party could not tolerate.

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A delicate, poetic scent from Fanny’s garden of songs

Unobtrusive beauty. © Charles Thibo

Four voices. Nature as the inspiring element. Silence and peace as one of the central themes. Purity. Beauty. Harmony. “Unfortunately I have nothing for you except my part-songs and I would appreciate if you could play them for Cécile, always a well-meaning audience for me […] I associate a very pleasant time with these songs and I prefer them over my other songs”, writes the composer on February 1, 1847. Fanny Mendelssohn is the author, and in 1847 she sent a copy of the Gartenlieder, Op. 3 (Garden Songs) to her brother Felix. Cécile of course was Felix’ wife and the two women kept in touch regularly through letters. Fanny stayed in Berlin, Felix and Cécile in Leipzig where Felix led the Gewandhausorchester.

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A serene morning stroll with Johannes Brahms

Vienna. © Charles Thibo

An early morning in Vienna – what a gift! The city was already on the move, but the serenity of a peaceful night still lingered over little streets north and east of the Stephansdom. I had woken up early and could spare an hour between breakfast and my appointment at the United Nations to stroll around, to spend a moment or two inside the dome, accompanied by my good friend Johannes Brahms. Over my iPhone I listened to the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig under Riccardo Chailly performing Brahm’s Symphony No. 4 in E minor, Op. 98. The opening reminded my of a short prayer, later the first movement features waltz-like elements – Good morning, Vienna!

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A story of two Bachs and a suite in G major

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Flooded by sunlight. © Charles Thibo

Bach – that’s not just a composer’s name. It’s a whole dynasty of excellent musicians! We have already met Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, one of Johann Sebastian Bach’s sons. Today we will explore a work written by Johann Bernard Bach, a cousin of Johann Sebastian. He was born in Erfurt in 1676 and died just a year before his famous cousin, in 1749. Johann Bernard Bach held the position as organist in Erfurt from 1695 on and moved into a similar position in Eisenach in 1703, where he was appointed as a court harpsichordist and later as the Kapellmeister of the court’s orchestra.

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