Longing for Italy, home of Beauty

Italy's Roman and Greek heritage attracted many 19th century artists. © Charles Thibo
Italy’s Roman and Greek heritage attracted many 19th century artists. © Charles Thibo

Let’s hear a song about spring, about a warm night in May, let’s hear about love and sorrow, the longing for home and the longing for Italy, where this composer felt at ease, far away from rigid Prussia, in a setting that gave birth to so many beautiful works: Fanny Hensel-Mendelssohn, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy’s talented sister. We have met Fanny already, an excellent pianist, an excellent composer, when I presented her piano cycle “Das Jahr” (H-U 385) and her Piano Trio in D minor (Op. 11) in an earlier post.

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Escape from daily life with the Mystery Sonatas

Von Biber performed his "Mystery Sonatas" during church services to remember the Stations of the Cross. © Charles Thibo
Von Biber performed his “Mystery Sonatas” during church services to remember the Stations of the Cross. © Charles Thibo

Every now and then I stumble by accident over music pieces that immediately catch my full attention. Here is one of my favorite examples: I was looking for recordings by the German viola di gamba (viol) player Hille Perl, whose play I like very much. She has recorded together with her husband, the lute player Lee Santana, a beautiful cycle of Baroque sonatas for violin and bass, in this case played by an organ, a harpsichord, an archlute and a theorbo, a kind of bass lute: the “Mystery (Rosary) Sonatas” composed in the 17th century by Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704).

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Dancing with the snow flakes in St. Petersburg

Memories of the Baltic Sea - here the harbor of Stockholm - made me reflect Tchaikovsky's "Winter Rêveries". © Charles Thibo
Memories of the Baltic Sea – here the harbor of Stockholm – made me reflect Tchaikovsky’s “Winter Rêveries”. © Charles Thibo

Several years ago, I spent some time in Stockholm. It was in the first half of December, it had snowed for several days and I walked along the Strandvägen. The sky was blue, the sun shining brightly and the city bathed in a golden morning light. Extraordinary! I thought of other cities on the Baltic Sea with a proud history: Hamburg, Lübeck, Tallinn, St. Petersburg. St. Petersburg! Tchaikovsky! His Symphony No. 1, Op. 13 “Winter Rêveries”! Continue reading!

Romantic transfiguration full of grace

Schumann's duets are a striking example of his excellent craftsmanship as a song writer. © Charles Thibo
Schumann’s duets are a striking example of his excellent craftsmanship as a song writer.
© Charles Thibo

If it hadn’t been for the cellist Steven Isserlis, I wouldn’t have written this post. At least not now. I follow Isserlis on Twitter, and a week ago, he pointed out an article he had written some time ago about the Romantic composer Robert Schumann for the Gramophone magazine. That intrigued me since I did not make any direct connection between Isserlis and Schumann. To my surprise, I found out that he is a keen admirer of Schumann, like me. Needless to say I was delighted. “There is no composer to whom I feel closer than to Schumann. He has been a beloved friend since I was a child; I remain as fascinated today as I was then by his unique blend of poetry, ecstatic strength and confessional intimacy”, Isserlis once remarked.

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