Time to say good-bye with Chopin

Sunset over the Atlantic. © Charles Thibo
Sunset over the Atlantic. © Charles Thibo

What did I say about Frédéric Chopin’s “Nocturnes” at the beginning of the year? You cannot listen to this music by daylight. It doesn’t work. The music doesn’t transmit its inherent magic at daylight. This also holds true for his “Ballades”. Here I sit, it is past 11 pm, the house is asleep and I am reading up on Chopin, his life, his works. As far back as I can can go in memory, I usually listen to Chopin’s music at night. Strange, isn’t it?

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Romanian folk and the temples of Tamil Nadu

 Nyman fuses tradition with modernity. © Charles Thibo
Nyman fuses tradition with modernity. © Charles Thibo

We all know what experimental music is, right? It’s horrible to the ear, dissonant, no structure, no sense, so why bother? But what if you blend experimental composing techniques with folk dances? What if this would be done by a composer well-known for his movie soundtracks (Drowning by Numbers, Gattaca, The Piano)? What if this would culminate in extraordinary creative, stimulating and powerful string quartets?

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On tolerance or being a pawn of politics

trjrtiojio © Charles Thibo
In a chess game, the knight’s only defense is tactical mobility. © Charles Thibo

Those of you who have followed this blog for some time, know that I am infatuated with Russian music. A gifted high school teacher ignited my love for Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s music (see my very first post), and over the past weeks, I have discovered the extraordinary richness and beauty of Dmitry Shostakovich’s works. Without any doubts, both composers are acknowledged on a global scale as two of the greatest Russian artists. Russia’s appreciation of the two men always was ambiguous and still is. We are speaking about tolerance of diversity, of freedom of expression or rather the lack of both in Russia – then and now.

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Light and darkness, faith and doubt

Christ in a Dominican monastery in Rome. © Charles Thibo
Christ in a Dominican monastery in Rome. © Charles Thibo

Today, Luxembourg celebrates its national holiday. For decades, this day has been marked by cherished traditions: fireworks, a military parade and a solemn mass with an even more solemn Te Deum. Lully, Bach, Händel, Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Berlioz, Kodaly, Britten… many composers have set this early Christian hymn of praise to music. But one of the most impressive versions I know has been written by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, who turned 80 last year. I have a wonderful record released by the German label ECM recorded by the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and the Tallinn Chamber Orchestra conducted by Tonu Kaljuste.

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