I like this time of the year. The morning light is very special. I see myself on a Sunday morning sitting in the kitchen. The house is calm. I sit at the table and the first sunbeams are penetrating the morning haze hanging over the vineyards. They plunge the kitchen in a warm, welcoming light. On the right I see the river, on the left I see the leaves of a vine as they turn from green to red – a beautiful red I enjoy every autumn. In a few days all the leaves will be flaming red and hide that old cracked wall that leads to the garden.
Music takes control of my brain
I sit in the kitchen and I imagine listening to Zoltan Kodaly’s Duo for Violin and Cello, op. 7, performed by my favourite violinist Julia Fischer and the cellist Daniel Müller-Schott. I lose myself in incoherent thoughts. Gradually, the music takes control of my brain and my emotions, my thoughts start to focus. The music is looking back to the summer with a little melancholic regret. It was warm, at times hot, and very dry. I spent a lot of time outside, enjoying the lush green of the garden, the cool atmosphere of the forest nearby.
The music is somewhat apprehensive of the season ahead, winter. It might turn out to be cold, harsh, with icy winds. I will spend many an evening by the oven, reading a book, enjoying the company of family and friends. And then again Kodaly’s duo seems to describe this very season I like so much. A time of transition from green to red, from warm to cold, from friendly to unfriendly. A time of promise too. Summer, autumn, winter – and spring. It will come, no matter what. The leaves will turn brown, fall to the ground and new leaves will grow.
Beyond the Romantic style
Zoltan Kodaly was a Hungarian composer living between 1882 and 1967. His reputation as a composer grew in the shadow of the better known Bela Bartok. Together with Bartok, he was one of the creators of a new Hungarian style based on folk music, but he was more conservative in his approach to post-romantic music. He started to compose during his childhood and learned to play piano, violin, viola and cello without much guidance from any teacher. In 1898, one of his first compositions, the Overture in D minor for full orchestra, saw its premiere.
Op. 7 was written in 1914. By then Kodaly had written a PhD thesis on Hungarian folk music, travelled to Germany and France to familiarize himself with other music styles, i. e. Debussy’s music. He had been appointed professor at the Academy of Music in Budapest upon his return to Hungary and performed regularly at home. The composition of the duo fell into a period of Kodaly’s life when he was pursuing a scientific classification of folk material, those elements that he and Bartok wanted to become the base of a new Hungarian school. He was as much a composer and a musician as he was an ethnomusicologist.
The more I listen to that duo, the more I appreciate it. And I have trouble to decide whether I like the Fischer/Müller-Schott recording really better than another earlier recording made by Jerry Grossman and Daniel Phillips.
© Charles Thibo