Discovering Small Things in Music, in Life

Composition of sorrel and moss. © Charles Thibo

The bigger picture – apparently that is what we have to look at in order to understand what’s happening around us. But is that true? By constantly looking at the bigger picture, we may well miss the little details that matter to take an informed decision. And we may also miss those little details that make an ordinary day an exceptional one.

I was able to shoot that lovely picture illustrating this post because I was on the lookout for something special, something simple yet beautiful while hiking through the Austrian Alps last summer. A certain light, a special plant or ideally both combined. And I found that something: common wood sorrel and moss on a sun-bathed rock, the wood being the greater picture – and totally irrelevant.

Moszkowski on Twitter

One of my followers on Twitter, @exnocte, acquainted me with a composer previously unknown to me. Another little detail in the big picture of virtual reality: a tweet, a name, a link – and I discovered a whole new world. Moritz Moszkowski (1845-1925), a German musician of Polish descent, wrote a very nice piece for piano and violin: 4 Morceaux, Op. 82. It has been recorded by  Nazrin Rashidova (violin) and Daniel Grimwood (piano).

Moszkowski was early recognized as a talented pianist, but he also played the violin well. At the age of 11, he entered the Dresden Conservatory. He continued his studies in Berlin, but he increasingly suffered from stage fear. This was to be fatal for his career as a pianist, and he focused on composing and conducting. However his initial reputation was considerable, and apparently he was celebrated as the worthy successor of Frédéric Chopin.

Jewish references?

Op. 82 is a set of four pieces, hence the name: Les nymphes, Caprice, Mélodie and Humoresque. The first piece is lyrical, gently swaying, unobtrusive, delicate without being of a superficial brilliance. And curiously it conjures in my mind the picture of a Jewish shtetl. Has Moszkowski used some of his Jewish cultural heritage? I haven’t found any reference, but I am tempted to believe he has.

Caprice: A lively, little piece, dominated by the violin. The recording made me discover the Azerbaidjani-born violinist Nazrin Rashidova as a talent to look out for. Both Caprice and Mélodie give her an opportunity to let the warm sound of her violin invade and overwhelm you. She is exceptionally gifted and very active: In 2008 she founded FeMusa, Great Britain’s first female chamber orchestra in sixty years. The Humoresque is true to its name: full of humour. The composer mocks himself and the rest of the world.

An old Jewish saying goes: It’s better to die of laughter than of fear. Moszkowski certainly would have agreed with this, at least until 1909, the year this piece was published. Shortly afterwards he lost his wife, his daughter, his fortune and the favour of the public. His style was no longer in demand. He spent the years up to his death in poverty and lived a secluded life, remembered only by a few friends. Carpe diem – and celebrate small joys.

© Charles Thibo

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de Chareli

Writer, photographer, piano student, music enthusiast. And a lot more. You are welcome to follow my blog.