“Never again have I been that daring and perky”, Anton Bruckner confided many years after he had written and rewritten what today is called Symphony No. 1 in C minor (WAB 101). The first movement starts on a few calm bars, but then the eight bars long main theme forcefully breaks free and this fervent, powerful element characterizes very much the entire work. The finale too is pushed forward by a radiant and majestic theme. Nevertheless the piece also has several song-like, melodious parts, a slow, solemn second movement, and a furious tutti at the end of the third movement – elements that would define all of Bruckner’s later symphonies.
What a gentle introduction – the warm light of the autumn sun bathes a rural landscape in soft yellow, orange and brown colours, but here, sharp, black patches, rocks, splintering dead wood – contrasts mark the Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 32 that the Russian composer Anton Arensky composed in 1894 from the first bars on. It closely follows the Romantic language of a trio that had deeply impressed upon the composer: Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s Piano Trio in A minor, that I have presented in an earlier post.
The harpsichord and the violin are a happy couple. What delighted princes and royal dignitaries in the Baroque era, gives me every year many happy autumn days. The Baroque repertoire for violin and basso continuo* is vast, every now I present rarities, little known composers like Heinrich I. F. Biber or Jacob Kirkman, and I am sure there are many more to be discovered by me as a listener or by musicologists and musicians as professionals.
Is this the echo of the Big Bang? A train rumbling down a tunnel? A not-too-well oiled machine? No, it’s not. It is… Rebecca Saunders. The UK composer is exploring unfamiliar realms of sound and she walks here at least partly in the footsteps of her teacher Wolfgang Rihm. Now, I am aware that the Neue Musik puts off some of you, the readers of this blog. However I listened to a few compositions of Mrs. Saunders and one struck me as a box of multiple surprises, a kind of benign Pandora’s Box. It merits a little attention, and be reassured, we will return to the more familiar classical music in no time at all. This is just a lovely escape into modernity!